The best test prep teachers always stand out - but why?

As founder, lead instructor, and current manager of Love the SAT! Test Prep in Austin, it’s my responsibility to develop the criteria we use to select our newest tutors, and to train them in the ways and techniques that originally made us popular around Austin!

The first and most important question for me is: how can we stand apart from other companies? And then I ask myself: how can we bring something to the table that no one else has? How can I know that I’m choosing tutors that kids and parents will remember only as incredibly positive influences?

Follow me through my checklist, and by the end, you’ll see how you can be sure that Love the SAT! has it’s own unique standard for great instructors and how that works to set us completely apart from the rest.


#1: Top Test Scores –

A perfect score is a rare thing. We respect that.

A perfect score is a rare thing. We respect that.

This one is easy! One reason our tutors are so great in our niche is because we start with the right foundation. Every tutor at Love the SAT! goes through in-depth study of hundreds (and eventually thousands!) of test-prep questions and explanations until they can write new ones on the spot and predict a student’s mistakes with their eyes closed and back turned.

The “Mr. Miyagi of test prep,” we were once called. That image of the skilled karate master inspires us. A calm mind under intense pressure and complete mastery of the material is where each instructor begins.

We see it as a professional requirement to be so fluid with the tests we teach, that nothing interferes with the ability to transparently pass that information along to our students. At the critical moment of explanation, any hesitation can be fatal to a student’s understanding.

Our tutors know the test prep material inside-and-out, backwards-and-forwards, up-and-down-and-around-the-corner, before they ever step foot into the classroom.


#2: High Energy –

We know from experience that high school kids have long days and long weeks. They are driven so hard these days, pulled in every which direction to stay active, to succeed, and to maybe even have a bit of fun 🙂

Sports. Piano lessons. Dance. Cheer. AP classes. Honor Societies. Orchestra. By the time kids make it to SAT tutoring, they can be completely exhausted already. And believe me, for some kids, test prep can be one of the hardest parts of the day. They want to focus and engage, but they’re just… so… sleepy…

That’s one of the many places our instructors can help! Selecting test prep tutors with high energy helps kids wake up and engage after all they’ve already done that day. It’s a key skill for transmitting energy and motivating our students throughout the week.


#3: Instantly Trustworthy –

There’s a lot of trust that goes into picking a tutor. Although we at Love the SAT! believe in the inherent goodness of most people, it’s still critical for us to pick reliable tutors that are not only trustworthy, but even better than that, instantly trustworthy.

Parents and students should know from the first handshake and smile that they are in good hands. For our team of instructors and proctors, being on time is being early. Being available to help is expected. Each Love the SAT! tutor is someone you can count on like family.

Our tutors are selected and trained for trustworthiness.


#4: Cool Hobbies to bond over with kids:

Tron Motorcycle

Motorcycle from TRON not included.

My hobbies are entrepreneurship, motorcycles (don’t worry, I wear a helmet!), guitar, classical piano, and world travel–well, with all the teaching I’ve been doing, looking at pictures of world travel anyway!

I love art, reading, hiking, camping, architecture, education, electronics, video games, movies, TV, and culture of all kinds… and we only select other tutors who are just as engaged with the world around them.

I believe that behind every great teacher is an interesting person with interesting experiences.

Why? Because living an interesting and passionate life makes it easy and natural to keep kids interested. It gives a wealth of opportunities for mentorship and shared experience.

Don’t think for a second that our tutors are bragging on themselves all day - just that, when the moment comes to impress your kid with how “cool” we are, we are ready and willing to do so! 🙂

And believe me, in the right circumstance, it helps get results when students understand that you can get good grades and test scores and still have a “life” to respect outside of lessons!


#5: A Tutor that loves reading and using words –

Trust a pro - this simple trait, loving to read, speaks volumes about a tutor! Not only is this a guarantee that their love for reading will be contagious, but this quality also helps tutors naturally convince their students of the importance of vocabulary and of having a deep knowledge of the meaning of words.

What’s more, a tutor with the gift of gab knows how to avoid awkwardness and make friends fast. Who would your kid rather study with? The invisible, anonymous, squawky, teacher from “Charlie Brown”, or a talkative tutor who loves to ask about your kiddo’s day and weaves in hilarious stories from real life, and pop-culture references they both understand?


#6: Not afraid of the math sections –

Indiana Jones: Braver than math

While a love of words (#5) is definitely essential, there are actually cases in which a distaste for math can be effective for a tutor to have! Sounds crazy, I know - just one of many “counter-intuitive” things about standardized test prep!

I mean - we’ve all been there at one point or another… think back to high school… forgetting the crucial formula in a moment of weakness, or tearing our hair out feeling “stuck” and not even knowing where to start on a math problem. Lots of us have “emotional” reactions to math. We say we are “terrible” at it or we “hate it” or we “had a bad geometry teacher.”

Personally, I love the math sections (although I definitely had a bad geometry teacher), but it’s not mandatory that every tutor feels the same way. In fact, I think students and tutors can bond over their frustrations with math!

But here’s what really counts - is this tutor unafraid of the math sections? Because that’s what really matters - an ability to carry the torch forward and prove to the student that math is not that hard after all, math is not the enemy - to banish the shadows through repeated acts of courage, much like showing your kid that there aren’t any monsters under the bed.

In my experience, student’s math problems are so often about fear and emotion, not necessarily skills and logic. Great tutors understand that fear has to be overcome before progress can be made.


#7: Time-Management and Long-Term Planning Skills –

Time management is hard for high schoolers, and it’s hard for parents. I think everyone feels better when tutors are selected for good planning skills. From timeliness and punctuality at each lesson, to medium-term planning (for example, making outlines for a series of twelve weekly lessons), to long-term planning - our tutors are always thinking about how best to use the available time to meet your test prep goals.

Also, test prep can become very “seasonal” and requires an element of foresight and experience to pull it off efficiently and effectively. For example, students can get “rusty” over summer - do you have a plan in place to deal with that? Our test-prep tutors do!!


#8: Compassion –

Test Prep and Sibling Bonding

Sometimes compassion means you just gotta sit up on the roof and talk it out 🙂

Without which, none of the other skills have any real use.

No matter how strong a performer one may be, without compassion, it will all go to waste.

The ability to read my student, to moderate my energy to how they feel today…

Is something on your mind? Do you want to talk about it?

I call this “treating my students like my little siblings.” With this mindset, it’s always easy to support them and think of ways to help them.

A tutor with compassion ties together all the previous skills and is the ultimate key to getting work done as a two-person team.


These top 8 skills for SAT and ACT tutors help me guide our hiring and training decisions.

Only Love the SAT! keeps these standards and this type of culture. We’re different because we’re more fun, we’re more personal, and we just care more.

If you’re like me, you’ll agree that there’s no better way to do test prep. We believe it’s hard enough as it is - let’s make it a little more fun. Let’s have our kids look back on their test prep and say, “I learned more than just how to calculate circumference - I enjoyed learning from my teacher!”

Ready to take the next step? Make sure to contact us today, or at a bare minimum, join our mailing list!

You definitely want to start sooner rather than later and there’s no such thing as “too early” when it comes to test prep. So let’s stay in touch so we can prove just how this list of eight test prep tutor skills can be put to work for you!

Additional Resources:
Conquer SAT Vocabulary Video Course

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