Justin Paul Van Wely,
I'm Justin Van Wely, founder and CEO of Perfect Score Tutoring & Test Preparation.
In my experience, improving your scores on standardized tests can be an absolute game changer--it can literally change the outcome--opening doors to elite universities that provide the best degrees, internships, and transfer programs, which in turn can substantially increase the student's starting out salary after graduation.
Over the years, I've had the opportunity to meet and work with hundreds of wonderful kids from shy (initially!) to energetic (always a plus!) to highly inquisitive. I have been blessed to be able to make a career out of teaching test-taking strategy, something I am passionate about and have always been thoroughly entertained by. In fact, as a self-proclaimed test prep nerd, I find the only thing I love more than taking tests is teaching others how to take them. This is why many of my students have found immense success on these exams, some students increasing their scores as many as 460 points between administrations of the SAT and 16 points on the ACT.
While point increases may vary, though, one thing that stays the same is that all students who work with me find my love for these tests infectious.
As the essayist Donald Miller explains in Blue Like Jazz:
"I never liked jazz music. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music."
To do well in something, I believe you have to love it a little. And, sometimes, the only way to love a thing is to watch someone else who loves it, first. It is like this with standardized exams, which is why I make it my personal goal to get students to enjoy test taking--in general, treating each exam as a challenge to overcome, a puzzle to solve, a game they can win. Most students eventually do find they love taking these tests once the proper methods are in place.
Truth be told, I live for that "Ah ha!" moment, the moment when all the blurred out beauty of the connected world comes into focus like a Magic Eye and everything seems not just clearer but impossibly simple. I firmly believe that no standardized exam is too difficult for anyone to master so long as the student has a good teacher and the drive to succeed. If I can be that teacher for you (or your child) I am happy to work with you to help you achieve excellence in your future.
Justin Van Wely
Frequently Asked Questions About My Private Tutoring Service
Q. WHAT SECTIONS DO YOU TEACH?
A. I teach all sections of SAT, ACT, SAT II, SSAT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT. I also help students in understanding core curriculum (i.e. academic tutoring) but, in recent years, my tutoring has been predominantly in the sectors of pre-college and graduate school exams. Extra Advice: Be wary of hiring anyone who can only teach one "area" of a test or just the SAT but not the ACT and vice versa.
Q. WHAT MATERIALS DO YOUR STUDENTS USE?
A. All of my SAT/ACT students work with only real College Board or ACT Inc. approved tests. Once the prep begins, the student will have access to my full complement of course materials designated for that program, including The Official SAT Study Guide of the College Board "blue book," or REAL ACT Prep Guide "red book," my own workbooks, and my own reference guides. I only use official GRE, LSAT, and GMAT books, as well. Call directly to find out what materials I use for each tutoring program. Extra Advice: Be wary of hiring anyone who uses non-official material--i.e. The Princeton Review or Kaplan or Barron's--for TEST material: these tests are not the same and create a false understanding of the test and false assessments.
Q. DO YOU TEACH STRATEGIES, CONCEPTS, OR BOTH?
A. While much of the prep will involve learning the test content, I also teach my students how to efficiently navigate the specific exam, including how to use a host of smart time-saving techniques to solve more difficult questions. I teach my students to think of such “shortcuts” not as a way to circumvent learning the content but rather as tools that can help them avoid silly mistakes and keep them within the high-pressure time constraints. Extra Advice: Be wary of hiring anyone who claims they can teach you how to answer questions without learning the required material: these are almost always canned tactics that don't work on real exams. Furthermore, these tactics do not prepare students for success in college or beyond.
DO YOU ONLY DO INDIVIDUAL TUTORING OR DO YOU WORK WITH GROUPS TOO?
A. I am willing to work with up to five students at one time, provided the students are all at similar test-taking levels. Each student will have a separate prep plan, goals, and homework assignment that fits with that student's needs. Extra Advice: Be wary of hiring anyone who claims to have a one-size-fits-all program. Private tutoring should be tailored to meet an individual's specific needs.
Q. WHERE DO SESSIONS TAKE PLACE AND HOW LONG IS A TYPICAL SESSION?
A. In-person tutoring sessions are typically two hours based on need, and I am almost always willing to meet my students directly at the home (I operate within a 20-mile radius of Glenmont, N.Y.), although most students prefer to meet at a more convivial location, such as a Starbucks or Panera Bread. I also have an office with a whiteboard and overhead projector that can be used to add an extra dynamic to the prep.
If travel is a problem or a student is learning at a distance, I usually meet via Skype or Google Hangouts. The rate for a Skype session is the same as the rate for in-person. For online sessions, I use two screens so that I can project my work while still being face-to-face with the student.
Q. HOW MUCH DOES IT COST FOR ONE-ON-ONE TUTORING?
A. Big box chains in the area charge anywhere from $165/hour (for 36 hours) to $285/hour (for one hour). An extensive course of prep with me typically runs between $2k - $4k. Most students who work with me from PSAT to final SAT will invest about $2,800. GRE, LSAT and GMAT students will typically invest about $2k.
Q. DO YOU OFFER BULK DISCOUNTS OR PACKAGES?
A. While I do offer package tutoring, I always like to stress that the overall goal is to help my students reach their target scores whereby increasing their chances at gaining acceptance to their top-choice schools. For some, this may mean 10 hours of prep, and for others it may mean 30 or 40. There really is no set amount of test prep that fits every student. My programs offer between 10 and 20 hours of individual prep and some of my SAT/ACT programs even include access to our SAT or ACT courses, hosted by our affiliates Prowess Test Prep, LLC..
Note: With my programs, you are only paying for the time we spend in one-on-one tutoring. While the package for your prep may include one or more classes, these are not built into the cost of the prep and attendance is optional (but very much to your benefit).
Q. SO, WHY INCLUDE THE CLASSES IN THE PROGRAMS?
A. In short, the more the better. Over the years, I have found that students who supplement 1:1 SAT/ACT prep with the classes, or sign up for one of the classes and also add a few hours of private tutoring with it, do markedly better on Exam Day. There are a few reasons for this: 1) The classes teach a lot of basics in test strategy, test format, and section-specific methods - by learning these here, we can save our tutoring time for fine-tuning and deeper concept attainment; 2) Some students will take the class at the same time as they prep so that they can get further clarification on something that was discussed during the course but that they didn't completely understand or just wanted extra practice with - a lot of students like to go over the class homework or the class practice tests during our 1:1 tutoring time; 3) The class provides a great review option for students who want to take the tests again after the one-on-one prep is over - being able to sit through just a few of the classes can help keep the important information about how to take the test fresh in their heads.
Note: the classes and private tutoring are NOT identical. For starters, the class is taught by my business partner, James Addeo, not me, and the company who teaches these classes is Prowesss Test Prep LLC, not Perfect Score, so the student will be using different material and getting a different perspective. However, I did help create the programs for these classes, so there will absolutely be no conflict between the two, private tutoring methods and class-taught methods.
Q. HOW SOON DO YOU USUALLY START WITH A STUDENT ON SAT OR ACT PREP?
A. In order to have the best chance of obtaining outstanding results (what I've seen to be 300 - 400 point increases on the SAT and 8 - 10 point increases on ACT), students are encouraged to take their first diagnostic the summer going into their junior year or earlier and to prep consistently for at least six months prior to their first actual exam. Highest scoring students will have taken a number of practice tests before the actual thing and will have been exposed to every type of question they are likely to be asked on test day.
I recommend setting enough time aside before the last available exam so that the student can meet with me long enough that they are consistently scoring in their target range. For some, this will be a few weeks; for others, it may be months or even a year—the length of prep should simply depend on goals and distance from diagnostic to goals.
Q. WHAT TYPE OF STUDENT DO YOU TYPICALLY WORK WITH?
A. I work with a wide range of students. For all my students, however, a must have is high motivation—students must want to succeed and be prepared to work hard to succeed just as much as I want to see them succeed. I find these students gain the most out of the prep and have the most enjoyable time during our sessions.
Q. HOW OFTEN DO YOU ASSIGN HOMEWORK?
A. Homework is assigned after every session as a way to reinforce the lessons learned. For the typical students I take on, homework is usually not an issue and done on time. I try to always assign a fair amount of work for the busy high school or college student (usually a practice test section or two) just to keep them actively engaged in their work when studying over an extended period of time.
Q. WHAT DOES A TYPICAL TUTORING SESSION INVOLVE?
A. Each session after our introductory session will begin with a review of the homework to make sure the student understands the concepts we went over in the previous lesson. Afterward, I might show a short 5 – 10 minute PowerPoint presentation on a topic, discuss a new concept, or have the student take notes on a formula, etc. We always build new, more complex understanding on top of firm foundations of previous knowledge. In each lesson, for example, we will look to understand simple ideas deeply, to find the familiar within the abstract, to continue a process until a pattern emerges, etc. It is true that much of the prep will involve answering real test questions on and off time; however, these fundamental skills of efficient thinking will always be reinforced. My background in the Union Graduate College Master’s in the Art of Teaching and Harvard University’s Teaching Mathematics programs has taught me that true understanding arrives through analogy, pattern recognition, repetition, and new application. In every session, my students will learn to be better thinkers by understanding both the details and how those details fit together to form the bigger picture.
Q. HOW MUCH DO YOUR STUDENTS TYPICALLY GO UP FROM EXAM TO EXAM?
A. While score improvement depends on a number of factors, including how many times the student and I meet, where he/she was already scoring, how well he/she takes to the methods and if he/she is regularly practicing these methods outside of our prep sessions, etc., almost all of my 20-or-more-hour SAT students have increased their scores from baseline to final exam at least 230 points with many increasing 350 points or higher. A good estimate of increase has been shown to be 100 points per ten hours of prep for SAT and 2 composite points per ten hours of prep for ACT. Extra Advice: Be wary of hiring anyone who claims outlandish average score increases, as the term "average" can be misleading. For example, if you had a strong student who blew the timing on an exam and scored 400 the first time, then scored 1300 afterward and you also had two other students who recorded zero-point increases, you still have a 300-point average increase. Don't be fooled by shady statistics.
Q. DO YOU HAVE REFERENCES?
A. Yes. I have a number of references which can be found on my testimonials page and more recent ones can be obtained via e-mail. Just send your request to Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org. The fact is I cherish the relationships I form with my students, and I tell them to keep in touch with me long after the sessions are over to let me know if I can help them in any way through the rest of the journey. Over the past several years, I’ve bought a t-shirt from the various schools my students have been accepted into (and enrolled in) so that I can wear them proudly to support these students (I have a lot of shirts now and my wife is always saying the laundry is piling up from all the t-shirts!). In short, I truly love what I do, and I believe I have the best job in the world being able to meet and work with so many interesting new students each year.
Q. DO YOU OFFER A GUARANTEE?
A. Yes. Because I only work with highly-motivated, hard-working students, I am as committed to seeing them do well on the tests as they are themselves. Occasionally, I will meet a student additionally for free if I feel they just really missed something or if they were simply close to their goal and I wanted to make sure they got there. The decision to do so is almost always based on how hard the student has worked with me and how important reaching that goal is to them. The specific terms of each guarantee is based on the package chosen, and that is something typically discussed during our in-person or over-the-phone consultation.