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Cracking the Code: Ivy Tutor Tests Novel Eye-Tracking Theory

We're putting educational theories to the test, exploring whether a simple intervention could significantly impact ACT Science scores. Read further as we delve into the details of our study, reaffirming our commitment to refining test prep strategies through evidence-based research.

Ari Freuman

on February 1, 2024

At Ivy Tutor, we’re not just committed to preparing students for their SAT and ACT exams; we’re dedicated to pioneering the most effective strategies through rigorous testing and evidence-based methods. Today, we’re sharing the results of our latest experiment, designed to test a specific hypothesis: Does advising students to pay attention to the graph key, or “legend,” improve their ACT Science scores?

The Hypothesis in Practice

Inspired by eye-tracking studies suggesting that high-scoring students tend to review the graph’s key, we conducted our own experiment. Before the Science section of the ACT, we read a statement to a test group emphasizing the importance of the graph key. Additionally, we provided a physical reminder by pointing out the key to each student during the exam.

Our goal was to see if these interventions could specifically improve performance on questions requiring the examination of graphs. We compared the results against two control groups—one that received a neutral statement and another that received no additional guidance.

The Procedure and Findings

The study Ivy Tutor conducted involved 58 students, primarily freshmen and sophomores, with an average ACT Science score of 19.12 —which is typical for a younger cohort of novice test takers. We employed a one-way ANOVA to analyze the data, focusing on performance in graph-related questions to minimize external variables.

Our findings were clear: the results were not statistically significant (p > 0.1), with an exact p-value of 0.504. This means we couldn’t demonstrate that pointing out the graph key had a meaningful impact on students’ performance in the context of this experiment.

What Does This Mean for Test Prep?

Does this mean we should disregard the insights from eye-tracking studies? Absolutely not. What it does mean, however, is that simply pointing out a graph’s key—without teaching a method or instilling a habit—may not be enough to influence performance significantly. This suggests that the benefit higher scorers gain from reviewing the graph legend might stem from an integrated approach to processing information or a skill that can be learned with practice.

The beauty of scientific inquiry is not just in discovering what works, but in understanding what doesn’t. These findings offer us a valuable lesson: knowing what doesn’t work allows us to refine our methods and focus our time and resources more efficiently. At Ivy Tutor, we remain committed to exploring and testing the latest theories in educational psychology and test prep strategies.

Our Promise to You

We promise to continue our mission to offer upmarket test prep services that are not just based on tradition, but on a solid foundation of research and evidence. This experiment is just one step in our ongoing journey to enhance our understanding and improve our teaching methods. To our students and their families, we pledge to keep pushing the boundaries of what we know about learning and test preparation, ensuring that every hour spent with us is an hour spent building towards success.

Stay tuned for more insights and updates from Ivy Tutor, where we’re more than tutors—we’re innovators in education.


Ari Freuman

Ari began his journey into test prep while working on his Master’s degree in Psychology at SUNY New Paltz and continued through his second Master’s in Statistics. Thanks to insights from his graduate-level studies, Ari became one of the top private tutors in the New York metropolitan era, where he earned a reputation as the original “Ivy Tutor.” Ari decided to create Ivy Tutor when he realized how difficult it was, at any price point, to find tutors who could reliably help students reach their scoring potential.


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