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Prepping for high-stakes exams: How one of our top instructors prepared for the MCAT.
  • Calendar Apr 18, 2019
  • User Jared Wells
  • Category In Uncategorized
  • Comments 0 Comments

Jordan Setayesh, one of our fantastic instructors, recently took some time off to study for the MCAT. When he came back to work, we talked about what his preparation process was like, and I was so impressed with it, I decided to record a conversation about it. I think that our students (and our instructors!) can learn a lot about how to prepare for high-stakes tests (like SAT’s, AP’s, and finals) from this conversation.

Here are some of the most important takeaways from our conversation:

You have to start with a study plan.

What is a study plan? According to Jordan, it means getting clear about your goals, then determining what actions

-Will ensure that you achieve those goals

-Are actually sustainable and realistic (planning to study 10 hours a day for a month is not realistic!)

When a student is getting ready for an AP test, for example, the amount of material to cover is enormous. Just cracking open the book and starting to read is not going necessarily lead to a successful outcome (though it’s better than nothing!)

The first thing that a student needs to do is to get a list of topics that they need to know, and from that, decide which items are high and low priority, and which items the student feels more and less confident. Every topic should be reviewed at least once, but some topics will need further review. Once the student understands what needs to be reviewed, the student should make a day-to-day plan about what actions need to be taken that are realistic, but will help the student achieve their goals (in the video we talk about a few different ways Jordan reviewed the material, and those aren’t the only methods a student can use!)

Take practice exams!

It’s one thing to understand a fact in your AP US history book. It’s another to be able to USE that fact to answer a question on the test. Taking practice exams can help you identify holes in your knowledge (especially in areas that you felt strong in!) It can also help you get a sense of the pacing you need to keep, and the stamina you need to have (these are long tests!). Make sure that you really dig into the questions that you miss. What about the answer you picked was incorrect? Why didn’t you notice the correct answer? Make sure you do more than just look at the right answer. Review the concept and its context.


What I mean by that is that students should not be satisfied with recognition. With barely understanding. That level of understanding is not going to last until the test, and isn’t going to hold up under the pressure of a high-stakes test. Students should aim to understand the material to the point that they can teach the concept to other students. Study groups are a great way to facilitate this (not to mention, scheduling time to study is a great way to make sure that studying happens!)

How can a tutor help?

The most important roles that a tutor can play are:

  1. Coach. Tutors can help make sure that students have a study plan that will work, and that they are sticking to it.
  2. Subject matter expert: Sessions with a tutor should, ideally, be about reviewing the material that the student has already studied, with the goal of a) answering questions the student has and b) determining whether the student understands the material as well as he or she thinks!

Give us a call to schedule some time with one of our instructors to start getting ready for the upcoming AP exams!


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