|Overview||Best Instructors||Our Approach||Curriculum||Test Strategy||Test Psychology|
The Xceptional Advantage – Test Strategy and Content Mastery
Our comprehensive, classroom based test prep courses include test strategy and content mastery. Other companies may only provide test strategies and tricks, but at Xceptional Prep, we believe that a great test prep course should provide both test strategy and content mastery. Class time is devoted to content mastery to get students up to speed on topics that they might have forgotten in their educational studies. Effective and useful test strategies are covered in detail to ensure that students are learning the most successful strategies, techniques, and methods available to increase their test score. Instructors illustrate the steps and strategies using real test questions, leading students to a more advanced level of study. Our comprehensive course ensures that you will be prepared for all sections and subsections of the exam.
Xceptional Prep’s strategy for test prep is simple, straight-forward, strategic and effective: students make the best use of their time so that they don’t waste time on things that don’t matter. It’s a clear, concise approach backed by the best methods and strategies available. Our building blocks approach to test prep breaks down each question into the simplest parts and we teach students how to solve the problems and create a foundation for solving similar types of problems. We know how each test is designed and know the content required and strategies to use to help students reach their best possible test score. Once students learn how to solve problems correctly, we work on timing and speed to help students complete problems more quickly and efficiently. With our test strategy and content mastery, students will be thoroughly prepared to approach test day with complete confidence.
Deconstructing the Exam – We Make it as Easy as Possible
Our building blocks approach to test preparation is the best in the industry. Our deconstruction of the exam into simple and straightforward concepts translates into increased understanding and manageable problems. The fundamentals of each problem type are taught in the course. Complicated problems are deconstructed into simple exercises and then reassembled and reintegrated into a coherent whole. We break down questions into simple and manageable parts, and teach students how to solve the problems and create a foundation for solving similar types of problems. We try and keep things as easy to understand and as simple as possible, and try to keep speed and execution quality up.
The best way to think about problems is by looking at them at their simplest level. We focus on the building blocks, progress quickly through each step and, by doing so, arrive at the answer knowing that each step was correctly calculated or thought of. When looking at the test at an in-depth level, it is easy to see the commonalities and patterns of question types. When complex problems are broken down into simple, manageable chunks, they become easily solvable and less overwhelming. Our knowledge-based approach teaches students to break down complicated problems into “types” and to understand the right ways (and wrong ways) to approach such question types. In addition, instructors show students how they can use common sense to solve many test problems. Our students learn to think like a test designer and pick up the ways they structure, write, and design test questions. Xceptional students can then tackle any problem they encounter with ease and confidence. Learning a fundamental building blocks approach to solving test questions, aligned with repeated practice, results in impressive improvements in test scores.
We Teach you How to be a Good Test Taker
The key to being a good test taker is having the ability to recognize patterns. Good test takers don’t necessarily have the highest IQ; everyone can be a good test taker if they are dedicated and put in the time and effort. Becoming a good test taker is a skill that can be learned from a good instructor. A top test taker approaches a standardized test by looking for patterns and commonalities, breaking down complex problems, and being efficient with their time. Our instructors will teach you how to look at the test like a professional test taker and recognize these patterns.
Our instructors teach students how to identify patterns in common questions that will appear on the exam. You’ll be surprised how easily pattern recognition can be learned when someone teaches it to you properly. Our instructors show students how to break down the questions, step-by-step, into their parts, and solve each component part of the question to come to a logical answer. Complex problems, then, become less difficult and overwhelming when broken down into smaller, manageable steps. It’s not something that students will learn right away, but with the help and guidance from a knowledgeable instructor, and lots of practice, students will become better at picking up patterns and commonalities among different question types.
Instructors have students apply our building blocks method to hundreds of official test questions so that they have plenty of practice before their official test. Students will have a toolkit of methods and strategies available to use during the course and on test day. When students recognize the pattern to a question, they can search their toolkit for the appropriate method, strategy, or technique, and implement it to come to the right solution. This method allows students to go through questions systematically without being stumped and to navigate through any unexpected turn. Students exit our course with a wide variety of skill sets: the ability to see patterns, apply tools, and break down complex problems; these skills will allow students to tackle any question on the exam.
A test prep course is more than just strategy and techniques. Our courses include comprehensive content reviews designed to teach students the content required for each section of the test. Developed by our in-house research and development team of Professors and Ph.D.’s, our courses provide students of all levels with an in-depth and carefully tailored approach that enables our students to achieve complete content mastery. Our highly organized and structured approach builds skills and strategies for every content area and question type.
Many other test prep companies provide just a box of tricks and strategies for solving test questions. Although that approach may work at times, in order to confidently approach all areas of the exam, students must also know the background behind certain questions. A superficial look at solving test questions is not going to work for the entire exam. Students need to achieve complete content mastery of all topics in order to tackle the test questions confidently and do well.
Xceptional instructors cover content reviews to ensure complete content mastery. In class, instructors provide a Mathematics Review, Statistics Review, Grammar Review, and Writing Review. Our content reviews are an in-depth treatment of specific topics where instructors teach and discuss while exploring their use within each question type. We start with an extensive review of the fundamentals, which students may or may not remember from school. We gradually build to an understanding of the most advanced concepts that are required to succeed in every portion of the exam. Based on a student’s skill and knowledge level, instructors will adapt the curriculum to ensure students are learning what they need to know, in a careful and thorough manner. Each week, students are asked to practice and integrate the topics we’ve covered in class by working through their class materials and taking practice exams. The fundamentals and background of test questions are reviewed throughout the course to provide students with complete content mastery. Our content lectures develop student skills and knowledge that lead to a confident approach to any test problem. We include the most advanced content which many other test prep companies ignore.
Exceptional Instructors teach exclusive techniques and specific test strategies for each question type and test subsection. These are powerful, yet easy-to-understand techniques that are intuitive and make a big impact on test scores. Test prep does not need to be difficult if you think logically; our instructors will show you how to approach test questions strategically and with confidence.
Standardized exams are written in a specific format, and they all must be written with a standardized process that follows certain rules and guidelines. Test makers spend millions of dollars on research and development to construct these tests and to develop their test questions. For the tests to be standardized they must be written in predictable ways: this ensures that the tests have the highest validity (the test score actually means something) and reliability (the test provides a consistent measure). Since the test makers must follow predictable test writing patterns, we can capitalize on these patterns, and their inherent flaws, and exploit them to our advantage for a maximum score.
We use proprietary techniques which are robust and effective, developed in-house by our research and development team. These strategies help students quickly navigate through each test section and help narrow down answer choices when the going gets tough. Our proprietary strategies make it easier to solve test questions, increase execution speed, and raise student test scores. Our strategies and techniques are backed by extensive research and have been proven to provide maximum results. They are continuously researched and tested on current test questions and are updated to reflect any test changes, however subtle. Xceptional instructors teach our proprietary techniques and specific test strategies for each test subsection and question type. This approach accounts for all types of test questions students will encounter on the exam. Xceptional Prep students use the most updated, effective, and researched test strategies in the industry.
We implement a problem centered, interactive approach in the classroom. Xceptional students learn test strategy collaboratively with their instructor through the use of in-class problems. Our instructors work through problems step-by-step with students to illustrate core strategies and techniques. They use official test questions to demonstrate problem solving techniques, and have students practice our methods of attack on hundreds of real questions from actual exams; our practice problem sets build specific sub-skills. Xceptional test strategies and methods give students the ability to see the commonalities and building blocks of each question, and to extract patterns amongst different question types to develop a plan of attack for solving those questions quickly and correctly on the first try. Instructors also teach general techniques to capitalize on the exam and illustrate common traps and how to avoid them. Our methods work because they increase and hone analytical test taking and critical reasoning skills. With practice and guided instruction, students exiting the course are able to quickly and effectively navigate their way through the entire test.
Xceptional Prep strategy can be broken down into three distinct areas. We first focus on general overall strategy; that is, strategies that are broad based and look at the macro level of the test. We then focus on specific question type strategies, such as those that apply to categorized, specifically developed questions. Lastly, we focus on techniques and step-by-step methods that you can use, much like a template for solving each type of problem.
Each question type consists of fundamental building blocks that are used to construct each question. These fundamental building blocks are common amongst all tests and all question types. Xceptional Prep courses offer students the core advantages of learning how to extract the building blocks and commonalities of each question type. We teach students these building blocks, how to recognize them and how to navigate them step by step. With this important knowledge, students can approach each question type through a test maker’s lens; this results in a greater number of correct answers and a higher score.
Many test takers benefit from accurate question type identification and categorization. Knowing the question type allows students to follow specific paths of attack and to know what data to extract and utilize. Xceptional Prep strategies teach you how to recognize what type of question is being asked and, from there, determine what type of answer to provide. In addition, if you know the scope of the question, then you know what answers to eliminate based on non-congruency to the type of question or main idea.
Another useful test strategy students learn in our courses is process of elimination. Process of elimination is based on our perceptual system picking up and recognizing negative information more easily than positive information. Picking out and looking for anything that could make an answer wrong, in many situations, is much more beneficial in terms of time and accuracy than accounting for positive components of each answer that make it correct. In many cases, focusing on negative information is easier, and it saves time to pick out flaws.
Some tests are based on a level of difficulty principle with questions of varying levels of difficulty used to differentiate students. Other tests use the total number of questions to differentiate students, specifically tests where many students cannot answer all the questions in a specific time period. Regardless of format, assessing question difficulty plays an important role in student test scores. Many answer choices can be eliminated based on the difficulty of the problem. First we teach students how to differentiate test questions based on difficulty. Then we teach students to pinpoint answers to eliminate based on non-congruency to the question-type difficulty level (e.g., eliminate easy type answers for a difficult type of question). The ability to recognize question difficulty level is a valuable piece of information to test success.
Tests with writing sections require specific strategies to write to how each test is scored. Our research and development team has studied each writing section and has deciphered the framework and specific guidelines for each type of writing question. Writing sections are based on a structured template format where test graders (or computer algorithms for some tests) are looking for specific structures, ideas, and relationships. Many students initially have difficulty with the ambiguity of the task, including the scope and boundary conditions of their argument, and then have difficulty understanding that standardized test writing is writing to a specific template, not academic writing as taught in school. We deconstruct the writing section in class, teach students how to write to the test, and maximize students’ scores based on how the writing section is scored. Xceptional Prep students are taught how to write to each specific writing prompt. This leads to cogent, articulate arguments with maximum scoring impact.
While there are general rubrics or plans of attack for each question type, there can be multiple angles of attack when looking at common template questions found on the test. Each question can have more than one effective angle when simplifying and solving it. Our students learn general plans of attack but also how to look at problems from the most effective angle. Xceptional Prep instructors delineate each angle of attack for common exemplar questions and lead students through in-class problems to illustrate multiple angles of attack. Students then develop and interpret the test to their own specific way of looking at the questions; it’s all about getting to your own personal interpretation of the test. With practice, students learn to quickly execute angles of attack, without flaw, for each type of question on the exam.
The end result is to ultimately have a set of strategies readily available to use to attack each type of question encountered on the exam. As you get through each section of our course, you’ll accumulate a list of effective strategies to use for every subsection and question type. It’s very much like having a set of keys on a keychain and flipping through those quickly to apply the correct key, or “strategy” to the specific question at hand. You’ll be able to go through your list of memorized ideas one-by-one, applying them to specific questions. So when you approach a question you’ll just roll through your keychain of ideas, strategies, and techniques until you narrow the question down and get to the correct answer. At the end of the course, you’ll have a “cheat” sheet for each type of question on the exam.
Time is the Enemy
The efficient use of time is important to peak test performance. While the fundamentals of content and strategy are required, time utilization is of the utmost importance for top scores. We teach time management, time saving efficiency ideas, and quick problem execution throughout our courses. First, we expand students’ view of the test by introducing new concepts and content which they integrate into long term memory. As students form new connections within the material they begin to look at the fundamentals of the test at their own interpretation level. Then, through instructor guidance and our proprietary curriculum, students begin to interpret the test at the lowest common denominator fostering ideas and thought at a basic level, following quick, easy steps with maximum speed and flawless execution. Complex interpretation of the test may sound important, but breaking it down into quick manageable chunks is the key to maximum operating capacity and performance. Ultimately you will interpret the material in your own way after the class is over and will execute this information at your own understanding level; it will become consistent and foolproof. You’ll know how long problems will take, which steps to take, and where the traps are — instinctively. After a Xceptional class, students are operating at maximum capability.
First we focus on teaching students how to break down problems into solvable chunks. Then we have students practice our techniques on hundreds of official test questions. Finally, we bring time into the equation and work on solving problems in the shortest amount of time. Solving problems both correctly and quickly results in increased test scores. If time wasn’t an issue, students could spend countless minutes figuring out how to solve a problem and working on it until they got it right; however, timing is critical to your test and it plays a big role in how you perform on your exam. Xceptional Prep students will focus on timing issues throughout the course, especially during the timed practice tests that they will take during the course.