Stellar test scores lay the foundation for success in the world of elite college admissions, and Command Education’s expert Senior Tutors are committed to helping students earn their ideal scores. However, test-taking anxiety, hectic academic schedules, and general uncertainty about the test-taking process often leave students with doubts about whether tutoring is right for them.
Unlike other tutoring models, Command Education offers students a personalized approach to test prep, allowing them to take ownership of the process and achieve the goals that they set for themselves. Our Senior Tutors truly care about students’ success—both in and out of the classroom—and strive to make sessions enjoyable, engaging, and empowering.
In order to provide a glimpse into the tutoring experience at Command Education, we sat down with Senior Tutor Fatima, who answered frequently asked questions from parents and students!
1. What does a normal session with your students look like?
While test prep can be an intimidating or tedious process for students, I try to make my sessions as fun, engaging, and personal as possible. I always begin by asking students how they are doing and feeling, provide time for them to talk about their week and generally settle into the session before diving into content.
A tutoring session’s content will vary depending on the stage of the tutoring process the student is in; if a student is in the introductory content and strategy phase, our sessions typically begin with some homework review. During this time, we correct any questions they got wrong or review concerns from the previous topics covered. Then, I introduce them to fresh content for the Math or the English sections of the SAT or ACT.
Tutoring sessions at Command Education are highly collaborative, so I work on practice problems with students to illustrate how the content might appear on the exam. This also gives students an opportunity to engage with the material before applying it independently on their homework.
If the student has already learned all of the content and has been working on full sections or practice tests, we tend to focus on reviewing material. In this case, we go over questions from practice tests and fine-tune any content review they might need. Sessions typically last between 30 minutes to an hour depending on the student’s needs and goals, and we usually meet twice per week.
2. How do you set goals and help students stay on track?
I help my students set goals early in the tutoring process. This allows me to get a sense of their academic aspirations and to give them an accurate sense of how much time and effort they will have to dedicate to test prep in order to succeed. I try to set both larger goals (which may include a certain score on the overall test) and smaller, incremental goals so that they can stay motivated over time. The smaller goals could be mastering certain topics in the math section, improving their speed, or getting only a certain number of problems wrong on a particular section.
It’s also incredibly important to get to know students personally and understand what motivates them. This allows us to keep their future goals in mind as they work toward their incremental goals. Connecting topics or goals to the bigger picture can significantly improve students’ performance, making test prep not only about the test itself, but also about improving how they learn and setting them up for academic success in college. This will equip them to stay on track even when they are no longer in sessions with us.
3. How much homework do you assign students?
The amount of homework is proportional to the stage of test prep they are in. If the student is learning new content, they can typically expect about an hour of homework; if they have moved on to full-length tests, they can expect a few hours. This also varies depending on the test the student is preparing for, as they have to follow the timing of the official test, build stamina, and get comfortable with the pacing.
We give students about a week to complete the homework so they have enough time to balance test prep with their other pursuits, and we are very considerate of what other commitments they may have during any given week. When my students are in exams, working on a passion project, or slammed with school work, I work with them to ensure that they have a manageable load and feel confident in their scheduling. Our work is all about the students, and we want to give them the flexibility to accomplish everything on their plate while still motivating them to hone their test-taking skills throughout the week.
4. How do you choose between the SAT and the ACT?
Before they start the tutoring process, students take both SAT and the ACT diagnostic tests. We then meet with them to get a better sense of how they felt about each test, their study habits, the classes they have taken, and their strengths and weaknesses. We use this feedback—in addition to their scores and testing timelines—to come up with a test recommendation. A significantly higher diagnostic score on one test is usually a clear indication that the test is right for them—but there are some rare exceptions. Generally, the SAT is recommended if a student has strong reading comprehension skills or has not covered more advanced topics in math; the ACT is recommended if the student has a strong foundation in math and has covered geometry and precalculus in more depth, or if they are comfortable taking a faster-paced test.
5. What strategies do you use for students with test-taking anxiety?
Test-taking anxiety is absolutely normal—especially when it comes to the SAT and ACT. Taking a standardized test is very different from taking a test in school, so students often don’t even realize they have test-taking anxiety until they sit for their first official standardized test.
When my students are experiencing test-taking anxiety, I try to get a sense of why they might be feeling anxiety, and remind them that the feeling is understandable. I then let students know that anxiety frequently goes hand-in-hand with pressure and external expectations, and work with them to relieve some of that perceived pressure. Because so many students struggle with test-taking anxiety, we also recommend that they sit for the test a couple of times, as they might feel a little more comfortable knowing that they have more opportunities to earn their goal score.
Additionally, students repeatedly take full-length tests when tutoring with Command Education in order to get comfortable with the pacing and to familiarize themselves with what they will encounter on an official test day. After taking practice tests on multiple occasions, the official test will feel more routine and less stressful. We also recommend that students test in different environments or as close to the official environment as possible so they get used to unexpected situations, noises, or distractions that they may encounter on testing day. Lastly, it is important to remember that test prep is a holistic process and testing can be very exhausting, so we emphasize that students should have a healthy routine and balance before and during testing—including drinking water, getting plenty of rest, or engaging in physical activity or relaxation to help put them in the best state of mind possible to test.
What Students & Parents Have Said:
“Henry was overwhelmingly anxious about standardized testing, so we really looked for a tutor who could help him calm his nerves and master the content. Allison was incredible from start to finish — now I feel like he’ll be okay if college midterms make him anxious too.” – Ilene, Henry’s Mom
“I’ve always been really nervous about test-taking, but [Senior Tutor] Allison helped me build up my confidence and really understand the material. Thanks to Allison, I went into the test without anxiety. I still can’t believe I got a 34!” —Samantha, University of Chicago Class of 2026
“When Elise first got the news that she scored significantly below her goal score on her first test, she was heartbroken and had no clue how to improve. We started working with Command’s tutoring team, and within months she had regained her motivation and was ready to take the test again. After two more tries, she scored well above her goal score! We couldn’t be more proud.” —Scott, Elise’s Dad