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The Individual Advantage











Students are all unique in their needs. Some learn a particular topic faster and another topic slower. Others already know a particular topic, but need extra help with a different concept. When you teach to a group, you don't address these differences to maximize learning over time. Teaching to a group necessitates teaching to the average level of the group and doing so at an average pace and level of difficulty for the group. Much of the time is wasted in group learning, because all student's needs are different from the average of the group. If a student needs more time in a particular area, it is usually difficult in a group learning environment to get that attention right away when it is needed most. If a student quickly understands, or has already learned, a particular topic, leaning time is wasted while that student waits for her classmates to catch up. 

"But test prep is different."

Some argue that one-on-one teaching makes sense for most subjects, but that test prep just consists of routine exercises and involves a lot of memorization and repitition. They argue that test prep is best done in a rapid-fire test prep program. If you're wondering who is getting scores in the 70th percentile and below, it's the people who are attending these prep programs in large numbers. Here's why.


Let's imagine an unrealistic class at a test prep center consisting of the most similar students as is theoretically possible. Let's assume that they come from the same class at the same school, so supposedly, they have the same background and skills. Let's assume that they are going to learn the same vocabulary words, master the same reading comprehension skills, and learn a variety of known math skills.


On the first day of the prep class something amazing happens. The students are given a practice exam and they all get exactly the same overall percentile score. Ok, that's not realistic, but let's assume we have this remarkable similarity among the students in the group. Let's say each got one-third of the questions wrong.

Even in this situation in which were making the students much more similar than it is in a real test prep class, a closer look will reveal large differences among the students. Although each student had the same number of wrong answers, each student got a different combination of questions wrong. The problem with group learning is that it wastes time by preparing the student for 100% of the exam without focusing enough on exactly what any particular student needs to do to maximize his score. It aims for the average by bringing everyone up to an average level.

In cases of students getting the same questions wrong, they often choose different answers, and more importantly, they get the same question wrong for different reasons. The skills that each needs to work on may be vastly different. This is particularly true on reading comp and math sections where it takes a variety skills and analytical approaches for success. Each student needs to work on different skills and different reasoning exercises in order to overcome their weaknesses. In a group environment, the teacher doesn't even have time to investigate the source of a student's weakness, nor work with that student to develop the skills and critical thinking necessary for the highest level.

The inefficiencies of group learning are even evident in simpler straightforward topics such as learning vocabulary. If you give a group of students a list of 1,000 words, they'll all cross off different words that they already know, and they all learn new ones at different rates and even in different ways. Since each student has a unique group of words to learn and requires different amounts of time on each one, and knows certain meanings and not others, a good student can learn more vocabulary alone than with a group. And a good student can learn even more vocabulary with a great teacher providing assistance.

We're not opposed to group learning; it's better than nothing and will certainly result in higher scores than without it. The only reason to teach more than one student at a time is because it's less expensive, so group learning is a necessity for most students. Preparing for an admissions exam requires learning a body of knowledge, developing skills and critical thinking. Each of these functions is done best with an individual instructor. For those who can afford it, individual instruction with a great teacher/coach provides the ideal learning path for achieving the highest scores. 

When you teach an individual, 100% of the time is focused on providing the greatest benefit to that individual.

Countless studies have shown a high 

correlation between smaller class sizes and student achievement. 

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