Four Simple Life Hacks to Increase Your Test Prep Productivity

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Life hacks are all the rage these days. Whether it’s turning your hoodie into a feedbag, repurposing pool noodles, or reorganizing your kitchen, people are looking for ways to streamline their lives in quick (sometimes unorthodox) ways. 

At the heart, the goal of a good life hack is to do something simple to produce a life-improving impact. Often-times these ventures involve repurposing ordinary items, while other times they focus on making procedural changes to boost efficiency (even if it’s only to cook bacon more efficiently).

If you feel stuck in a rut with your test prep or tutoring business, why not apply the same principle with these productivity hacks:

1. Unify Your Communication Tech

Over time, most of us have accumulated a variety of different accounts to manage our digital lives. When it comes to your test-prep or tutoring business, having to juggle multiple logins, cloud drives, email accounts, messaging apps, reminder services, and calendars can become an overwhelming hassle. Moreover, it is easy for something to get lost in the mix when a crucial message or piece of information ends up in the wrong account.

Using a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane can save time by helping keep passwords handy across multiple accounts. However, you’re probably missing out on some of the best, time-saving benefits if you haven’t consolidated your digital communication tools under the umbrella of a single digital ecosystem.

Look at the tech services you use for your business and see if there is the potential to serve your needs with a single family of tools rather than spreading out across several different offerings.

Google’s G Suite collection of applications provides a strong package including email, cloud storage, cloud-based calendar, reminder tools, maps, messaging, video chat, voice calling, and a robust office suite. Microsoft has followed suit with their Outlook platform that includes many of the same services as well.

The beauty in each of these packages is that the components integrate well with each other, often automatically, saving you time. In the end, the choice between the Google and Microsoft Outlook platforms boil down to your taste but selecting one that is a good fit for your needs may be a great way to eliminate some of the wasted time created by your current workflow.

Side note: those invested in the Apple infrastructure will be happy to find that these two options work across iPhones, iPads, and Macs. While there are comparable services offered by Apple on their platforms already, if there are any non-apple devices in your business’s workflow, you would be better served with by downloading the Google or Outlook apps from the App Store and using those.

2. Generate Differentiated Quizzes and Practice Digitally

Tutors and test-prep professionals have a wide array of both creative and off-the-shelf options for creating practice and assessments for students. Making everything from scratch can be tremendously time-consuming. Purchasing (or worse, having your students purchase!!) materials emblazoned with another company’s logo can drive business to your competitors.

Bring your content creation into the 21st century with a fully custom-branded, multimedia approach that is not only engaging but also designed to offer students uniquely tailored practice.

Not only will this save you time, but it will save your students from wasting time on practice that is either too easy or too far out of reach. When compared with traditional off-the-shelf materials used by competing test prep outfits, this type of proven, differentiated approach will lead to better student growth and, in turn, better growth for your business.

3. Automate Assessments and Student Progress Reports

Providing timely feedback is a crucial component of any educational endeavor. In test prep the deadline of test day is always right around the corner (Reminder: the next SAT test date is coming up!). Your students cannot afford to wait for you to “get around to” things like scoring a practice test, giving feedback, or implementing more serious course corrections.

Let’s be honest. There is no reason to be grading student work by hand anymore. It doesn’t matter whether your test-prep or tutoring business has five students or ninety-five; time spent manually assessing student submissions is energy that could be better spent elsewhere.

Along the same lines, cobbling together student progress reports and sending them off student-by-student cuts into the time you could be spending promoting growth for your students and your business.

Automate these processes with a digital solution like the software tools provided by Clear Choice Prep. Students get instant, targeted feedback on their practice efforts. The results can then be used to tailor ongoing instruction as well as create automatic email reports to keep parents in the loop.

The results: increased productivity, accountability, feedback, and growth. Hard to argue with that!

4. Invest an Hour a Month in Researching Time-Savers

CAUTION: It's very easy to go down a rabbit-hole and waste a whole day researching productivity hacks. And before you know it, you're eating popcorn out of your backward hoodie/feed-bag sweatshirt. To be clear, that's NOT what we're recommending here.

We recommend seeking out opportunities to speak with experts in your field. In many cases, they've developed tools or systems that solve the challenges and time-sucks that are keeping you so busy.

For example, many S.E.O. firms offer free website audits to determine whether your website is hemorrhaging traffic. Obviously, these firms have something to sell you, so heads up on that. But that also means that they're going to try really hard to impress you as quickly as possible. Often that means they're giving away value for free.

Take advantage of that! You can always hop off the meeting anytime and unsubscribe from their mailing list with just a click or two. And that's worst case scenario!

More likely scenario? They'll give out some actionable of advice that you can immediately implement on your own to save time and improve your workflows.

And generally, you can tell in the first few minutes whether you're getting the hard-sell or useful advice. Then respond accordingly.  

For independent tutors and test prep companies, we recommend checking out the Public Ask Me Anything Webinar Series with Clear Choice Co-founder, Matt McCorkle. To make sure you're on the list for future AMA events, be sure to subscribe to our blog.

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Too busy to attend a webinar?

Of course you are. But think about what you're really saying.  You're too busy to learn from the team that has solved many of the biggest time-suck problems faced by tutors.          

The Payoff

The major benefit to freeing up all this time typically spent on administrative tasks is that it sets up tutors to do what they do best: facilitate growth. Students will ultimately reap the benefits that come when tutors have access to better data to evaluate and more time to better focus on the students and their needs.

The best test prep professionals are constantly assessing their students and making changes to their instructional approach when necessary. That being said, it’s not always easy to recognize the intangible elements standing in the way of student progress like student focus, energy level, a lack of engagement, and more serious issues like test anxiety.

Taking the menial responsibilities of manual assessment and by-hand progress reports off a tutor’s plate increases the likelihood that crucial student observations will be made and the appropriate interventions can be made earlier.

After all, if you put off dealing with a student’s stagnating growth session after session, before you know it, it will be too late. Taking too long to notice is not an excuse for failing to help a student overcome struggles.

At the end of the day, not all life hacks turn out to be game changers, but creating a few purposeful modifications to the way you do things in your test prep business could wind up making a big difference for your students!

What productivity hacks have you put in place to rev up your test prep business? Share your favorites with our readers in the comments below and on social media!

Matt McCorkle