Improving Academic Performance

Best Practices: Study Planning

Posted by Lisa Alvarado on Wed, Mar 29, 2017 @ 10:00 AM

Whether the topic is ACT prep or improving performance in a math or history class, developing a customized study plan is without a doubt a critical success factor. It’s something I talk a lot about with parents, and something we constantly reinforce with our tutors.

But, what are the key components of an effective study plan?

In this blog article, we reproduce and share a “follow up email” sent by one of our most experienced ACT tutors to a new student as a means of illustrating the key issues any good study plan should address. We have changed the names of the tutor and student to protect their identities. Emails like this should be a core element of any effect tutoring relationship.


Here’s the full text of the email.

Hey Frank 

It was great to meet you today. I wanted to follow up with you and the team (CCed here), and like I said today, my apologies in advance for the length. Once we get the 'setup' completed, we should be able to provide more condensed updates for everyone. Please feel free to only respond to the relevant sections.

  1. Location: I will reserve a study room at the same library roughly 4 weeks ahead of every session (that's when slots become available). If there are ever any dates with no slots available, I will follow up to figure out a spot to meet. 
  2. Frequency/times/schedule: Given your goals (27 to a 32) and test date, I would recommend starting with two 1.5 -hour sessions per week. This could always be adjusted as we go along depending on progress made, your school workload, etc. Let me know your thoughts on this as well as your general weekly availability given that frequency. I will then generate a list of my availability and send it over. In the past, I've done 3-hour sessions for ACT prep if you'd prefer to do 1 3-hour session per week, but I'll leave that up to you. If you want to do more or less hours, not a problem either. 
  3. Between-session work: I’ll assign between-session practice problems, as it can oftentimes be helpful to have gone through some problems ahead of time so that we can jump straight to the questions that you missed, rather than working through sections from the beginning.
  4. Essay: I generally have students write timed practice essays on their own and send it to me rather than doing a timed essay during our session. You can send a scan or photo of the essay, and I will then type it as-is, provide some edits and general comments, run some analytics (reading ease, grade level, passive sentences), and send it back to you. We would usually briefly review the edits at the start of the next session. 
  5. Materials: In addition to the Real ACT Prep Guide, I have access to 29 practice tests (7 electronic), so we shouldn't have an issue finding materials. If you try to let me know ahead of time, you can take one of them home for the week for diagnostics or other scheduled practice. Otherwise I included the links if you'd like to get them from Amazon. 
  6. Meeting Notes: You (and the team) can access all of my extant meeting notes using a link that I’ll send you at any time. The latest notes should automatically sync to the folder within 24 hours of our session. Some sessions have more notes than others -- when you do any timed/independent work, I will record updated scores there. Today's should already be synced to the folder. 
  7. Contact information: Do you have a cell number I could use in case there are ever any last minute changes? I can be contacted via text/call at 414-550-9109, or via email.
  8. Prep plan: Once we get a final schedule down, I will send you a general summary of our prep plan. It will have 3 main components, all based around your official test date in June and your baseline score: (1) session schedule & subject designations; (2) between-session work, if any; (3) scheduled full-length diagnostic tests before June. I will use the comfort levels you gave today (available in today's meeting notes) to determine how long we work on each subject, but we'll make sure to update it as we make progress in certain areas. Since you weren't able to complete a full diagnostic before our session today, I've attached a new electronic practice test (2014-15) that you can use if you do find the time to complete a full (~3 hour) diagnostic. I would update the prep plan based on those results, otherwise I will adjust the plan as we move forward in each subject together. 
  9. Math guide: I will have a hard copy of this next session, but I've attached a copy of a general math guide that I've compiled for past ACT students. Not all of it is relevant, so we will cover what parts to take notice of next session. 

Please let me know your thoughts on: (1) the schedule/frequency; (2) between-session work; and (3) contact information at your earliest convenience. I'll get a prep plan summary over to you and the team as soon as we get these down.

Looking forward to working with you!



Obviously, this email is very thorough and quite detailed, but it is a great resource for both tutors and students to recognize all the parts of a strong study plan which will serve as a road-map to a succesful tutoring relationship!