Gracie is a student we once had a few years ago who had gotten 22 on her ACT. The family decided to buy a 50-hour package after talking with us about the benefits to a longer tutoring package. Below is a session-by-session breakdown of the progress she made, the subjects she was taught, and the practice exams that she took. Gracie ended up heavily improving and got 34 on her real ACT exam, fully exemplifying the success she achieved with the help of Victory Step Education!
The introductory session involves the Victory Step Education tutor meeting Gracie, getting to know where she is at in terms of study habits, what her preferred and weak subjects are, and to give an overview of the ACT. The structure of the exam, how important the timing is, and a brief outline of each section is included in this overview. Chapter reading along with some practice questions in the provided textbook are given as homework.
Starting the second session out, as with many subsequent sessions, is a review of the homework from the previous session. Any questions Gracie may have are answered by the tutor in detail, allowing her to see what mistakes she might have made and how to avoid them in the future. From here on, they start running through different sections of the exam, breaking down strategies and subjects to study. More reading in a textbook and practice questions are given as homework.
In this session, the tutor goes over homework from the previous session and the rhythm of the tutoring is set from here on with reviewing first and new material second. After that, Gracie and the tutor start focusing on evidence-based reading questions, correct punctuation and sentence structure, and the basics of algebra. Similar reading with sample questions, as well as some online modules, are assigned. Victory Step Education utilizes online modules and resources to their greatest extent to maximize the student’s success.
Branching from the last session, they go more into detail about evidence-based reading and how to spot important details in a passage relating to questions, further practice about punctuation leading into colons, semi-colons, and dashes, and more basic algebra rules to remember. Gracie asks many questions which are answered by the tutor. Encouraging questions from the student is paramount to a productive tutoring lesson. Reading chapters and practice questions in the textbook are assigned.
The first proctored exam is a practice exam designed to gauge where Gracie is and will be utilized to guide her from there on certain subject areas she may be weak in and reinforce ones she is strong in. Her score has slightly improved from 22 to 23. Question and topic analytics from each of the sections will be provided with this and every following exam.
After the first exam, Gracie loses a bit of confidence, not improving as much as she wanted to. The tutor assures her this is a gradual process that takes time, dedication, and practice, practice, practice. They both go over the exam she took over the weekend and question by question, review what she did right and what she did wrong, emphasizing process of elimination, healthy timing tactics, and reinforcing strategies she is already implementing effectively. Online diagnostic quiz modules are assigned as homework.
After reviewing her homework, the tutor and Gracie start head on with reading, her worst subject from the last exam. At Victory Step Education, targeting weaknesses and elevating strengths is a key tutoring strategy to boost student performance. The lesson emphasizes putting each answer in a reading passage in context with the sentence, paragraph, or passage in question. Homework for the next session is to do an entire reading section from a practice test in the book.
Reviewing the reading homework gleams some flaws in Gracie’s test-taking and critical reading skills, which they intend to address. The first part of the session is the tutor pointing out and rectifying many of the problems Gracie has such as not going through every answer. The rest of the session is a English lesson about transition words, sentence flow, and the relationship between sentences. This time the homework is an entire English section from the book as well as a math section.
With the English and math homework review underway, the tutor and Gracie see a few mistakes here and there like how she sometimes doesn’t read the entire paragraph in a sentence rearranging question or isn’t completely sure on exponent rules. The latter half the session is a math lesson that teaches her about systems of equations, their graphs, and how to solve them. Homework is simply reading some chapters in the book focused on how the ACT sections are structured.
The second practice follows an increased amount of advanced material and test-taking strategies. These practice exams are meant as a benchmark for how she has progressed with Victory Step Education as well as solid practice for the real deal. She gets through most of the questions in the exam, but doesn’t get to check all her answers again. Her score improves from 23 to 25.
This time around Gracie’s mood has improved along with her score. As progress is being made in her skills and knowledge, so too is her confidence growing. The tutor points out that having a good attitude during study time, practicing, and especially actual exams is a key factor. After all, if one believes they will do poorly, they probably will. However, a positive attitude isn’t the only factor in getting a good score, so they review the exam from the weekend like last time. Online modules about words in context and evidence-based reading are assigned.
After going over the modules from last session fairly quickly, Gracie and the tutor jump into the topics of the day: science and English. Those are Gracie’s weak points still, so going over subjects in those sections is quite beneficial. The science lesson is all about the main purpose of the experiment/article in question and how to distinguish between data points, their meaning in relation to other pieces of data, and what a control is. The English lesson is about identifying correct word choice and utilizing vocabulary in tone and style with the passage. Homework is a full exam, untimed, to test Gracie on endurance.
The majority of this session is going over the homework exam from last time. Gracie did quite well on it, much better than her practice exam. That is to be expected as the stress of time wasn’t a factor in this case. The tutor makes a point to teach how practicing healthy test-taking strategies and going at a comfortable, yet brisk, pace are extremely important things to do in any exam. Focusing on test-taking and timing skills is a cornerstone of Victory Step Education, as the way a student takes an exam is as important as the exam’s content. Again, homework is a full exam, untimed.
The first half here is Gracie and the tutor reviewing the homework, which she has improved quite a lot especially in terms of English and reading. Math is her most comfortable subject, but just to make sure she doesn’t stay complacent in that subject, the rest of the session reinforces ideas like teaches linear equations, their different forms, graphing them, solving them, and identifying their parts. The science section has a lot of overlap with the reading section, albeit having many figures and graphs attached to its passages, so they go over that as well.
This next exam sees Gracie really clicking with the lessons she’s been studying for the past couple of months. Taking a practice exam gives her insight into how the actual ACT will feel like and hands on experience. She has extra time at the end of each section to review answers she wasn’t completely sure about, fixing them and gaining some more points. Her score has greatly improved from 25 to 28.
Now Gracie’s tutoring sessions are really showing their benefit as she hits her stride fully with her test-taking. This session there aren’t enough wrong questions to go over in the exam to take up the entire time, so the tutor reviews some concepts that Gracie would like to go over again for practice and reemphasis. Online modules about trigonometry and other geometry topics are assigned.
Seeing as Gracie has improved so much, this session starts with the tutor going over the homework from last time, but also sees a shift in how their lessons will go from here on. Rather than straight lectures or questions about specific topics, they go through practice exam after practice exam, covering the wide range of topics as they progress. The bread and butter of Victory Step Education is how their tutors can break down an exam to its core concepts, strategies, and structure and impart that onto their students. Homework is a now timed practice test that can be taken piece by piece.
The now timed homework shows that Gracie has gotten better at all the topics at hand. This session the tutor answers questions that she has about the author’s intent in reading passages, sentence and idea flow in English passages, and a multitude of ideas in trigonometry and geometry. These include trigonometric functions, circle functions and graphing them, and special triangles. Another timed practice test to be taken section by section is assigned as homework.
Once they have gone over Gracie’s homework from the last session, the tutor decides that, before the next practice test at the Victory Step Education office, they will review some test-taking strategies. They go into depth about process of elimination, skipping harder questions in favor of completing easy questions first, and making sure to show her work and mark down evidence.
Utilizing the previous few sessions’ increased focus on timing and process of elimination, Gracie also follows a trend of building up test-taking endurance. Practice exams are meant to be taken as endurance challenges and as a way to give students the confidence they need. This time, Gracie blazes through the English and math sections but takes her time on reading to comfortably soak in the information the passages have as she reads. Her score improves a lot again from 28 to 31.
Another successful practice exam gives Gracie even more confidence and her parents are elated at the success the tutoring sessions have been. They recommend Victory Step Education to all of their friends and family, but more importantly, Gracie reviews her practice exam with the tutor and shores up on all the small mistakes or even repeated mistakes she has made for a while now. Breaking bad habits is a huge part of learning and making mistakes and recognizing them is the best way to learn! Online modules on subject-verb agreements, sentence placement, and systems of equations are assigned.
Going over the homework is a routine by this time; both Gracie and the tutor are in a rhythm of reviewing questions, explaining them in detail, and confirming understanding of the concepts. After that, Gracie wants to focus on reading sections, so they exclusively do reading and science passages this session. Topics like anticipating how a character or person might react, interpreting graphs and figures in conjunction with a passage, and singling out evidence are reviewed. The homework is another practice exam, fully timed.
The practice exam that was assigned as homework seemed to be much harder than usual or Gracie had an off day. In either case, the tutor explains that sometimes this happens, which is why she should take the ACT multiple times to get a good amount of chances to score big. The rest of the lesson is pouring into the homework exam, picking apart how and why Gracie missed this quadratic formula problem, that conjugation question, or some evidence-based reading question. A worksheet the tutor has prepared with topics specific to Gracie’s weaknesses is assigned.
Gracie says the worksheet helped quite a lot in pointing out where she still needs to study and practice. Tutor engagement in a student’s learning is incredibly important. In more specific terms, a tutor has to put in a good amount of work as well as the student. Any good tutor must learn how the student studies, why they answer questions in a certain way, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Identifying and addressing these things helps the student immensely and having a great tutor is part of why Gracie has found such success so far.
At this point, Gracie is very used to the questions at hand, finishing every part of her exam with time left over. This gives her ample opportunity to go over her answers and possibly get extra points through reevaluation. Additionally, she headed into the exam room and left it with her head held high and assuredness draped on her shoulders. Tutors at Victory Step Education pride themselves on instilling confidence, positivity, and knowledge in students. Her score improved from 31 to 33.
After her last practice exam, Gracie is fully ready to take on the ACT in just a few weeks. From here, the tutor and her plan to go over a few topics that she wants to double check on before the big day. Reviewing the test from the weekend takes no time at all and they proceed to review topics like tone and emotion in reading passages, probability and central tendency, and some miscellaneous English strategies. A final batch of online modules are assigned, this time with much harder questions.
Taking some time to focus on the high-level problems that the online homework had, Gracie and the tutor find that there are some math questions she sometimes misses. Therefore, they think that dedicating the rest of the session to mathematics is the way to go, showing how Victory Step Education zeroes in on mistakes and makes them learning experiences. They review factoring, the distance formula (and how it’s actually just the Pythagorean Theorem), exponent rules, logarithms, and synthetic division, just to name a few. Another practice test to be taken timed is assigned as homework.
A good number of sessions ago, Gracie ran out of material in her original ACT book. The tutor had to recommend and provide her with a new book so that they may continue tutoring lessons unabated. Again, they are starting to run out of material in this new book; they are near the end of the tutoring package, so it is good timing. This session is all about Gracie asking for clarification on specific questions she either got wrong or wasn’t sure how she got right in her book. Clear and concise explanations by the tutor as well as a full practice test assigned as homework follow.
After going over homework as usual, the tutor offers a different kind of session this time. Instead of specific topics, Gracie will ask general questions about the exam, its structure, how to game the questions, and what scores will be good for what colleges. A review of healthy test-taking strategies and time saving tips follows that. Additionally, they practice a few science passages for good measure. The tutor assigns the last homework of the package and it’s a huge surprise: another timed practice test!
Once they’ve examined the homework from last time, the final session is an overview of how much progress Gracie has made since the beginning and is an opportunity for the tutor to give more holistic tips on taking the exam. Get to sleep early, eat healthy every day but especially before and the morning of, drink lots of water and bring a snack and drink to the exam, and most of all, stay positive. The rest of the session the tutor answers any last-minute questions her now prepared student might have.
Gracie took the ACT shortly after her last session and got a 34, helping her get a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania! She and her family were extremely receptive, welcoming, and grateful to Victory Step Education and her tutor!