Helm Tutors offers test preparation and academic tutoring in a number of formats, from 1-on-1 private sessions to class-based group sessions. Our private instruction takes place either in person – with in-home service anywhere in the greater NYC metro area or Westchester – or entirely online – using advanced software that lets tutors do everything that’s possible in person, plus more. Our online system is cutting-edge and our tutors are trained to adapt their unique skills to a technological environment while maintaining the high standards of traditional education. Tutoring programs range in duration, from short-term (4 or 10 weeks) to long-term (one or two years) depending on the students needs, exam dates and academic level.
Every tutoring program begins with a diagnostic test, which lets us assess the student’s strengths and weaknesses and design a program that works accordingly. As tutoring begins, the initial emphasis is on making the student familiar with the material he or she will encounter on the actual SAT and presenting overarching strategies and techniques for tackling questions. Over time, a student learns and can independently implement a strategy that involves critical thinking and discipline, customized to the demands of each section of the test. A student develops confidence as he or she attempts a large number of questions and eventually feels the material is familiar, even intuitive. Homework, problems sets and quizzes supplement learning and provide a measurable assessment of the student’s improvement over time. Confidence, understanding and organization skills improve as well, providing the student with critical skills that help with the SAT and all areas of life.
Our approach focuses on teaching students how to approach the material found on the test as well as how to be better test-takers. For the former, we focus on reading skills, mathematical thinking and problem solving, English grammar and vocabulary, and the best way to organize and write essays. For the latter, the emphasis is on time-management, critical thinking, educated guessing and strategies that simplify choices, such as process of elimination. We have sophisticated course materials that reflect our deep understanding of the SAT and the way it is written.
For the Math section, we help the student navigate through a wide variety of material and questions types and help him or her see patterns, implement standard problem solving strategies and condense the material into manageable categories. We stress an understanding of the mathematical concepts behind the questions and give the student tools to simplify questions and work in the fastest, most effective manner. We know the test in and out and our tutors know how to teach every question on its own, with a nuanced and unique explanation, and as part of a whole, with general links to similar questions he or she will encounter. Our materials are fully equipped to give the students ample guidance and practice in their process of mastering SAT math.
For the Critical Reading section, we focus on improving the student’s knowledge and usage of advanced vocabulary and ability to analyze and understand what he or she reads. Reading skills are essential for understanding one sentence or multiple paragraphs, both of which are tested on the SAT. Students recognize patterns and practice strategies until the process becomes intuitive and automatic. By learning vocabulary and reading advanced texts for homework, students acquire the raw information and practice necessary to excel in this section.
For the Writing section, our approach distinguishes between the essay, which is a timed written composition, and the multiple-choice questions that form the remainder of this section. For the essay, the key is to remain faithful to the question asked, providing a relevant, clearly articulated answer that is supported with concrete evidence. Though the question changes with each test, the approach the student can take is always consistent and we stress development of this skill and understanding. For the multiple-choice portion, the key is in understanding English grammar, which we teach and reiterate consistently with a variety of practice questions. Students learn to identify these critical points on their own, helping them to perform better on the test and write better in daily life.
Our SSAT tutoring program is aimed at a younger student group; specifically, those seeking admission at private middle and high schools. For this exam, our standards remain the same, with an approach catered to the needs of younger learners with less experience in test preparation and time management. Broken into three levels – Elementary (grades 3-4), Middle (grades 5-7), Upper (grades 8+) – the SSAT covers a wide range of ages and therefore a wide range of academic levels.
The question types of the SSAT fall under the sections: Quantitative (Math), Verbal Reasoning and Reading Comprehension, making it in some ways similar to the SAT in what it covers. An essay is also administered, which is not scored but is seen by the schools the student applies to. To test a student’s knowledge of vocabulary, the exam makes us of synonyms and analogies. The reading passages span a variety of genres, including poetry, and test the student’s ability to read, analyze and interpret text.
With a diagnostic test, our tutors can assess a students level in each of the three sections. As the test is taken by students of varied grade levels, tutors strive to familiarize themselves with the relevant material students simultaneously learn at school. In this way, the test prep program is synchronized with the academic curriculum a student is currently engaged with. In return, the test prep can then help a student with school subjects he or she is already encountering and often struggling with.
Like the SAT, a student learns a series of strategies and techniques for most effectively taking the test. As younger students have less experience in this area, in some cases our tutors spend extra time to develop such skills, emphasizing the importance of being organized and consistent when working through a test. By learning how to manage time, think critically and organize thoughts in clear and effective way, the student already has an upper hand with SAT test prep when the time comes for it. He or she can focus more on learning the material rather than how to best take a timed test.
Our tutors also teach the SHSAT, which is specifically used for admission to private high schools in New York City. Like the SSAT, our approach is customized to the demands of the test and the specific needs of the students that take it.
As the name suggests, the PSAT serves as a precursor to the SAT exam, and is viewed as such by most schools. It is a nationwide, multiple-choice test taken by high school students, mostly sophomores and juniors. The PSAT is not taken into consideration for university applications but is the determining factor for National Merit Scholarships, whereby the best performers can earn funds toward their college education.
In many ways, it is a shorter, simpler version of the SAT, consisting of similar math, critical reading and writing questions. With no essay section or advanced math content, the PSAT offers an opportunity to transition into SAT prep gradually, covering the same essentials without the same intensity and difficulty. It is over an hour shorter in length and less repetitive than the SAT, with the same style of questions.
Not all students choose to take the PSAT, but those that do put themselves at an advantage. Our tutors see the value of linking a PSAT tutoring program with an SAT one and make every effort to discuss a long-term approach with the student and his or her parents, one that culminates in acceptance to the university of their choice. By starting with PSAT diagnostic tests, the student gets an accurate sense of how he or she will perform on the SAT. And taking the actual PSAT is a perfect opportunity to feel the pressure of taking the actual SAT, but without the consequences. Performing less than ideally on the PSAT has no real repercussions but performing well can have great benefits.
SAT Subject Tests
The SAT Subject Tests, or SAT II, are short, multiple-choice exams in different subjects aimed at testing a student’s knowledge in areas more advanced or not covered by the SAT. Spanning twenty individual subjects, the tests are one hour in length and are often used in conjunction with the SAT when assessing a student’s application to a university. Subject tests can pertain to math (two levels), literature (English), foreign languages, sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) and history (U.S. & World).
On an SAT testing date, a student may take up to three SAT Subject Tests instead of the SAT exam. It is common for students to take the SAT in one month and SAT subject tests in the following month, especially in cases where the subjects test pertain to math or literature. In preparing for the math and English sections of the SAT, the student covers a substantial amount of the material appearing on the relevant subject tests. Like the PSAT, an SAT subject test program can and should be linked to an SAT program, with emphasis on long-term planning and results.
Many students take one or both of the subject tests in Math (Levels 1 & 2). In addition to testing material from the regular SAT math, each level also introduces more advanced content, such as Advanced Algebra, Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus. It is common for a high school junior to prepare for a spring SAT, such as the one in May. In the course of practicing the SAT math, he or she acquires knowledge about relevant math material, problem-solving approaches and test-taking skills relevant to math, all of which can be used on the SAT Math Subject Test. This means that in June of the same year, the student can be ready to take the Math Subject Test, needing only one month of additional tutoring.
Whatever the subject of the test, our highest priority is to match the student with a tutor that is an expert in that area. Therefore, it is not uncommon to have a student working with one tutor on the math, another tutor on history and yet another on a science exam. We utilize the full resources of our team to create a relevant program that can best ensure our student’s success.
In many ways, the ACT is the main alternative to the SAT – a different entrance exam for colleges and universities. Compared to the SAT, it has a different style and structure and some students feel it better suits their abilities. The main difference is the emphasis on science; specifically, the ACT consists of four sections: English, Reading, Math and Science, as well as an optional half-hour writing test.
In preparing applications for universities, an important question for any student is whether to take the SAT or ACT. Our team can consult a student and help him or her to arrive at the optimal decision. The following key points should be taken into consideration when making a choice:
- Questions on the ACT are usually more direct, presenting information in a familiar way.
- A strong knowledge of vocabulary is more important for the SAT.
- The ACT places emphasis on knowledge of science whereas the SAT does not.
- The level of math tested on the SAT is generally less advanced than that of the ACT.
- The writing portion of the ACT is optional but required by many schools.
- The SAT is broken up into more parts, allowing for a different mode of concentration.
- The overall score on the ACT is more valued than the scores on individual parts.
Our tutors often help in the decision-making process by administering diagnostic tests for both exams, to see the student’s reaction to and overall comfort with each. Having the chance to compare in professional, supportive environment can help to demystify the process and bring clarity in a short time, setting the path to better long-term planning.
AP exams are administered at the end of year-long AP courses, which are effectively courses in academic subjects at an advanced level, following a specific curriculum. These courses take place in the junior and senior years of high schools and thus reflect academic subjects common to that age group, such as Calculus in mathematics. Most AP exams are a combination of multiple-choice and free-response questions and are graded on a five-point scale. The subjects for AP tests include Art History & Practice, the Sciences, Advanced Mathematics, Foreign Languages, History, Politics, Economics and other Humanities.
Scores on AP exams can be an important component in a student’s application to a competitive college or university. In addition to admissions, it is not uncommon for colleges and universities to grant credit based for high scores – usually a score of 3 or higher is necessary for credit to be granted. A score of 5 on some exams can even waive up to one year of prerequisite courses in the relevant subject.
Every AP exam is as different as the subject it pertains to but the overall structure, for the most part, remains the same. AP Calculus, for example, comes at two levels – AB & BC – with the former corresponding to the first semester of college level Calculus and the latter corresponding to the first two semesters. Questions can be challenging, especially in the free-response section, but our tutors have years of experience with this material and can masterfully reduce complex problems into a series of simpler ones, while providing overall strategies for how to approach and work through every problem.
We endeavor to make AP preparation both a matter of achieving a high score and thoroughly teaching the academic subject presented throughout the course. In this sense, as programs usually run parallel with the courses they pertain to, AP preparation is something of a blend of test prep and academic tutoring. Students leave the program not only with strong scores but the satisfaction of knowing an essential academic subject in its entirety.
Our tutors know how to get a student the ideal score. But more importantly, they know how to teach the underlying subject in a way that enriches the student’s learning experience and has long-lasting benefits. With academic tutoring, our tutors truly stand out, bringing their love of the subjects they excel in to the student. In parallel to a course at the elementary, high school, college, and professional level, we can customize an academic tutoring program that draws from and enhances the student’s school experience.
For mathematics, our tutors can cover everything from Arithmetic to Advanced Mathematics. This includes: Algebra, Geometry, Advanced Algebra, Trigonometry, Statistics, Pre-Calculus and all levels of Calculus. These subjects, as well as all others, can be covered on a regular or accelerated level and can be tied in to specialized programs such as AP (Advanced Placement).
For the sciences, we offer tutoring in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Computer Science. With English, the emphasis is on improvement in Vocabulary, Writing, Reading, Grammar and Literature. History pertains to the U.S., Europe and World and can follow under Social Studies, Government and Politics. We also offer instruction in the different areas of Economics. Our Foreign Language instruction is diverse, covering major European and Asia languages, Latin and Ancient Greek. Lastly, we can offer assistance in Art Practice and Theory.
We know a variety of teaching styles and curricula, in New York, nationwide and internationally. That means we know the challenges a student can face within their school-based learning environment and we make every effort to rectify those challenges and adapt our style to a student’s needs and context. Academic tutoring can be challenging and results are sometimes less measurable than those of test prep. But the rewards are guaranteed and will carry soundly through a student’s educational and professional career.