Tanya has been tutoring for 25 years. In college, she first pursued a major in math/science; however, she missed the humanities and made the switch to history. She also trained to teach and tutor the GRE and SAT CR and M for the Princeton Review.
After earning an education degree and a teaching certification, she pursued a 10 year career teaching reading, interpretation and writing in social studies classes, including AP US History. She continued to tutor math on the side and in Ridgewood, she worked as a teacher’s aide in Chemistry, Geometry and Alg 2 classes.
Tanya and her husband moved to Ridgewood (her hometown) with their two children and started The Ridgewood Tutor in 2012. She took official SATs at local high schools and earned an 800 in CR, a 790 in Math, and an 800 in Writing over the two times she took the test in 2015.
Strong scores don’t always necessarily translate into good teaching–that’s where those ten years of teaching have helped her develop the necessary planning skills. She has organized lessons for the SATs, ACTs and GREs from wonderful resource material that she hand-picked after much trial and error.
Educational/certification details: National Board Certified and state certified in social studies education by NJ and NY, she also holds a Masters Degree in Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Good to know: Tanya gives presentations featuring SAT and ACT tips several times during the year at the Ridgewood Library. Check out the home page of this site for upcoming presentations, or follow her twitter feed (which also features general college prep retweets).
Tell us about your company.
My all-subject test prep programs are unique among one-tutor small test prep businesses. I’ve been tutoring for 25 years, and The Ridgewood Tutor LLC was created in 2012.
As an adult, I took official SATs at local high schools and earned an 800 in CR, a 790 in Math, and an 800 in Writing over the two times I took the test in 2015. I earned a 36 on the ACT in 2018.
Educational/certification details: State certified in social studies education by NJ and NY, I also have a Masters Degree in Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. I earned National Board Certification as a public school educator. I taught Social Studies and privately tutored math in middle and high school for ten years.
How did you get started in tutoring, and what’s your favorite part about it?
I actually started tutoring while I was a high school student. In Social Studies, I was seated next to a friend who was often lost during a lesson; I would re-explain a teacher’s spoken or written lesson to him, and then feel relief as he started finally taking notes. I knew already that teaching was a rewarding field. Officially, I started tutoring when I took a job for the Princeton Review while I was attending college.
What do your students find most challenging, and how do you help them overcome it?
The students are stressed about decoding the language of the tests, especially that of the math word problems and reading questions of the SAT.
I help them see what the most important parts of a sentence are- where we can quickly grab the core meaning of the sentence. In reading, I help them rephrase the SAT questions so that they have verbalized what specifically they are looking for. If they just search for those 1-2 specific terms, they can locate the answer zone.
On the ACT, students always stress about timing first. One sure way to improve one’s timing is by practicing the questions through workbooks that break up the preparation into “question types”. Once students feel confident that they know how to handle those types, they automatically move faster through a section on the test.
For the ACT and SAT math section, I encourage them to train themselves to move quickly through the easier math problems and to be aware of their strengths as they choose an order of difficulty for the 2nd half of the test. I let them know that, while the curve does vary, it’s possible to get a 30 on the ACT math section by getting 49-50 questions out of 60 correct. So I encourage students to leave those that are personally most difficult for them for last.
What’s the biggest improvement you’ve ever seen a student make?
I’ve had a few students make a 7 point improvement on the ACT from a proctored practice test to official test. On the 2400 point SAT, a student went up 700 points from test to test as well.
What changes, if any, have you seen in the test-prep process since you began tutoring?
Interesting question! A few things come to mind. First, more parents are asking me to have students take both tests to learn which the student prefers, which is great. It used to be that parents didn’t trust that all schools consider the ACT equal to the SAT. Next, I’ve also had tutoring requests for younger and younger students over the years. Last summer I worked on an SAT with an upcoming 7th grader for the first time. And finally, I’ve also seen an increase in clients requesting tutoring for the graduate school exams like the GRE and GMAT. For example, I used to have just one GRE student per week; now I have four per week.
What’s your most important piece of advice for students? For parents?
For students and parents: don’t fall for the “I’m just not a good test-taker” idea if your scores are on the lower side. It really just takes practice, practice, practice. The tests are not written by your teachers, and you need to learn their language. Once you do, since they repeat their question types over and over, you’ll be all set! Get a good workbook (like those from Erica Meltzer) and practice away.
And hang on tight, there will be an end to this college application madness!