The SAT/GRE Tutor: How to Learn by Teaching

Posted by Mac Staben on 5/2/14 9:24 AM

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Never argue with the fortune cookie.

In medical schools nationwide, the very first class you take, Gross Anatomy, is always organized around a simple concept: “See one, do one, teach one.” In short, first you watch a dissection, then you perform one, and then—and this is how you make sure you’ve truly understood the material—you teach someone else how to do it.

With this essay, I hope to convince you that teaching represents one of the best ways to learn. I hope that reading this essay inspires you to go out and find a partner who is willing to have you teach them the material for the SAT or the GRE. Just this last weekend, I attended the admitted students’ day for Boston University School of Medicine. As a medical student in Boston, I’ll definitely be switching away from topics that standardized tests like the SAT and the GRE require.  But I’m glad that I won’t have to abandon opportunities to teach. In fact, it’s by teaching new material that I’ll make sure that I really understand it myself.

Throughout college, I worked closely with one of my friends to prepare for tests and material. Our learning and teaching styles complemented well. Using each other as sounding boards helped ensure that we each knew the material. If you’re currently in college, you should definitely try to develop the same kind of “study-buddy” relationship with your classmates. If you’re preparing for the SAT or the GRE, working with a friend will help both of you. Even if it’s just carving out a designated chunk of study time, that feeling of accountability when working with another person will help your score.

After years of doing one-on-one academic tutoring in Boston, I’ve been able to use each student to rethink material and challenge myself to present material in a way that best suits each individual student. People come at topics in different ways and ask revealing questions that I often can’t immediately answer. Teaching fixes information in my brain so much better than any other method. That’s why medical students study so often in groups. Teaching and learning, in turn will help you as a student perform better on the SAT or the GRE. While one-on-one tutoring can be extremely helpful, it is also important to seek out other opportunities to become a teacher. If you’ve graduated and are taking the GRE, practice your math skills by volunteering at local schools! Besides helping you academically, I guarantee that the things you’ll learn from teaching will appear in unexpected ways in the rest of your life.

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Tags: SAT, GRE