How To Become a Test Prep Goon, Part 2

The first part of the application process was the simple application submission, phone interview, and the first checkpoint, the diagnostic exams, which I had outline in my previous post. Up to this point, everything had been conducted remotely by phone or email. However, now that I had passed the diagnostic exams, however, I was to come in for the face-to-face component of the process: the teaching audition, which would take place at the local company branch office.

The audition consists of a 5-10 minute presentation on a non-academic topic of the applicant’s choice, without using Powerpoint or other software, and with whiteboard and markers provided and props, as needed, brought by the applicant. This seems to be a standard prompt for the whole company as well as its competitors. Opinions on the Internet varied on how selective this step is compared to the diagnostic exams and training sessions, proper attire at the audition, and on various aspects of the presentation, such as the props, level of audience participation, and seriousness and complexity of the topic chosen.

I chose to talk about grafting, and specifically budding (the simplest of the myriad grafting techniques), due to my interest in gardening and plant biology. It’s a fairly dry-sounding topic compared to some of the other topics that people apparently have chosen (including falling in love, or crossing the street in Japan), but still original and interesting (compared to topics such as how to set up a chess board or play a sport). I’m also of the opinion that nothing needs to be intentionally gimmicky as long as it is conveyed with enthusiasm and backed up by extensive knowledge, and I felt sufficiently motivated by my own interest in plant biology and my gardening hobby to learn about the topic in depth. During the week I gave myself to prepare for my audition, I read online extension guides on budding, watched YouTube videos of gardeners demonstrating budding, and read relevant chapters from one recent, well-illustrated textbook on grafting. I also made sure to incorporate questions for the audience into my presentation (i.e., what might be some practical applications of grafting?), as well as a little dark humor.

The audition itself went relatively smoothly, since I was confident in my knowledge on the topic and had practiced a number to times to whittle my content down to 5-10 minutes. Some testimonials have said that auditions were done in front of the teaching staff and various other applicants, so I expected many more people and a lot more pressure, but this was not the case. The office was very small, and my audition took place in a tiny classroom in the back with only the very friendly regional coordinator and the course coordinator. I wore dress pants and a dress shirt for the occasion, which was surely still overdressing for this setting. Although I don’t remember the details of what I did during the audition (I tend to get selective amnesia during talks), I was able to exchange friendly banter with them for a few minutes and felt comfortable enough to ask for feedback on my performance, which seemed very positive. Though there were more applicants coming in to audition later on, I was told I had nothing to worry about.

Indeed, I was accepted to complete the next step this morning, sparing me a week of sitting around waiting to hear back, which was very considerate. At this point, after some paperwork, I would be moving on to the next step, being certified as a test prep instructor.


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