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Santa Ana Tutoring Tips: Skip a Year of College in Only 3 Steps!

Skip a Year of College in Only 3 Steps!


Completing a college degree can be a long and daunting task.  The road ahead can seem overwhelming, and the prospect of successfully finishing can feel distant.  This is especially true when you are first starting college: you have a whole host of requirements in front of you, and you have yet to finish any of them.  Taking all of your required classes and gathering enough credits to earn your degree takes years, even if you plan ahead well.  It can take even longer if you can’t afford to be a full-time student or make mistakes when planning your complex schedule (book your private Santa Ana CLEP tutor today).

Luckily, there are options for you to earn a degree more quickly while also helping guarantee that you follow through with the program and successfully work around a tight schedule.  We are going to accomplish this by attempting to skip an entire year of college using planning, studying, and the help of an outside expert. Here are the three steps to skipping your first year of college:

Look Up Your School’s CLEP Policies

This plan is going to hinge on a specific set of standardized exams: the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams.  You are going to be taking CLEP exams in specific areas to earn credit in college.  You can think of this as similar to Advanced Placement (AP) exams from high school that could earn you credit in college based on your score.  In fact, CLEP and AP are both made by the same company, the College Board.  Some important differences between the two are that CLEP exams tend to be much easier to pass, there are more subjects in CLEP than AP, CLEP can be taken after you have left high school, and CLEP is primarily accepted at community colleges rather than four-year schools.

CLEP is not exclusive to community colleges.  There are several notable online colleges that accept CLEP credits on route to a bachelor’s degree (e.g., Kaplan University, DeVry, Grand Canyon, Thomas Edison, University of Phoenix, etc.), and there are many traditional university’s that accept CLEP as well (such as Texas A&M, Universities of Arizona, Kentucky, Florida, and many more).  You can also work towards a transfer degree at a community college using CLEP before transferring to a university.

Whether you are planning for an associate’s degree at a community college or higher, the key is to look into what school you are planning to go to and finding their CLEP policies.  For example, we’ll look at Santa Ana College in southern California.

Santa Ana College’s CLEP policies can be found here.  Note that you can see what CLEP exams they give credit for, how much credit they give for each, and which can be transferred to a California State University.  You can also find if the school has a maximum amount of CLEP credits allowed, or if they allow CLEP credit to pass certain graduation requirements.  This list will be similar for many community colleges, but it is vital that you find the information before you start making any CLEP plans.  Now we can proceed to step 2.

Find a Tutor and Choose Your Exams

The next step is to find an experienced CLEP tutor to help you choose which exams to take, plan, and study for them, take practice tests, and ultimately pass your exams and earn credit.  Of course, you can take these actions on your own.  However, an experienced tutor will greatly increase your odds of finding success.  It will also reduce the stress and research time that you will need to do, it will optimize your studying, and it will hold you accountable to keep making progress and follow through with your goals.  Online tutors can also be very effective options in CLEP preparation.

The tutor can also help evaluate your current knowledge and help you choose which tests are best for you.  They can ask questions about your previous class experiences and grades, what subjects you feel most and least comfortable with, and give you diagnostic tests to see where you are in different areas.  Often, a student has enough prior knowledge to pass at least one CLEP exam with minimal to no extra preparation needed.  Other tests will need more studying, but you will be surprised at how much you might already know for these tests.

Using our example of Santa Ana College, your tutor might find that you were very good at English classes, had a very hard time with math, completed four years of Spanish, and did well; we’re okay at social studies classes and are overall pretty good at memorizing things.  This is a lengthy list, but are just examples of some information your tutor could find.

They would look at Santa Ana requirements and credits and might recommend these tests for you:

  • Principles of Management
  • Principles of Marketing
  • American Literature
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
  • English Literature
  • Spanish Level 1
  • US History 1
  • Introductory Sociology
  • Introductory Psychology
  • Introductory Educational Psychology

In total, these exams would earn you 33 college credits at Santa Ana College.  This is the equivalent to more than a year of full-time schooling.  Unfortunately, Santa Ana does no give credits for some of the college composition classes, nor do they give credit for math below algebra.  While some of these exams may seem too new and difficult to take without a class (such as marketing and management), you would be surprised at how well a tutor can prepare you to have enough information to pass these tests in only a few short weeks.

You may also notice that we can achieve this goal even without science and math tests.  If you are good at these subjects, it may open up even more credit possibilities.  The tutor will help you come up with this list, and plan a study and exam schedule to knock out these tests as quickly and efficiently as possible.  You can take more than one test at a time at exam centers, so it is often good to study them in chunks.  You are also allowed to retake tests if you do not pass them on the first attempt, though a good tutor will often confirm your likelihood of passing with practice tests first.

Take Exams and Submit Credit Applications

The last step is the simplest.  After working with your tutor to make a list and a schedule, the final task is to take your exams and submit your scores to your school to receive your college credit.  It is always good to talk with a school counselor first to make sure the process goes smoothly ahead of time, and to confirm what you learned from your research into their CLEP policies.  After this is done, you will be able to start college with enough to skip up to an entire year of school, and you will be able to focus more on your major and choose your classes with more freedom.

Book your Santa Ana CLEP tutor today!

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject TestsAll blog entries, except for guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Costa Mesa Tutoring Tips: Elementary School Math

Costa Mesa Tutoring for Elementary School Math

 Parents of students in elementary school often overlook the potential of early math tutoring. At these grade levels, the math being learned is often seen as too fundamental and memorization-based: counting, numbers, digits, addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. It might seem that private Costa Mesa tutoring is unnecessary to learn this material that everyone gets through together in elementary school. After all, for the most part, there isn’t as much pressure or emphasis on grades, standardized test scores, and honors or remedial classes until they get older. Isn’t it better to wait until they are in a more advanced class like algebra before tutoring can really help?

 It isn’t. This way of thinking is prevalent but wrong. Early math tutoring by an experienced private tutor can lead to improvements in quantitative skills and mathematics grades for the rest of their educational career. Here are three reasons why this early tutoring is so vital.

The Fundamentals Never Go Away

 The mathematics that children learn in their first few years of school will continue to be used for the rest of their math classes and the rest of their lives. These fundamentals are just that: fundamental. This material sets the foundation for all future math skills and learning. There will never be a single lesson in their classes from this point forward that does not include the math that they are learning now. 

 So, what are these fundamentals? Well, of course, we have topics like numbers, counting, and estimating. There are also early operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Other topics like shapes, geometry, spatial skills, problem-solving, and word problems are learned in elementary school. And, importantly, there are introductions to fractions, decimals, and percentages.

When tutors help and evaluate students in middle school, high school, or even college, a lack of expertise in these fundamental skills is often a significant factor holding them back. Being able to quickly and correctly do basic operations and times tables (remember “mad minutes”?); understand and work with fractions, decimals, and percentages; and confidently solve math questions in their head (or at least, without a calculator) are all issues that plague students who struggle with math. How many adults do you know who still say that they can’t do fractions, or can’t solve math problems in their head if it’s more than one digit?

Costa Mesa tutoring at this time solves those problems before they become problems. Some of the processes used to help students become experts in these topics might simply not be effective for your students.  Or, the material isn’t learned as well as it could be.  Or, the teacher(s) don’t prioritize the right material that your student will need for the future.  Whatever the case, becoming an absolute expert at these early number manipulations is a huge advantage for students going into their next years of math, and it is often an advantage that continues to keep them on top and is a skill that continues to be valuable.

Math Confidence is Key to Success and Self-Esteem

A large contributor to many students not enjoying math or not doing well in math is a lack of confidence in the material.  When they are always learning new things, it always feels difficult and challenging.  It is easy for many students to start thinking that they aren’t good at math at an early age.  This feeling can stay with them, and it can lead to a dislike of mathematics and mathematical fields, as well as disinterest in the classes which will make it more difficult to do well.

One way to help boost math confidence is to build it early on.  Experienced math tutors know what is important and they know what will be coming next for the student.  A private Costa Mesa tutor can help your students master what they are learning now and prime them for future material.  Learning some of the material with a private tutor is very effective: they can be more engaging with your student, cater to the ways that your student learns best, and revisit confusing parts while accelerating the easier parts.  It is clear that most students respond very well to private lessons from an experienced math tutor.

What this priming and preparation does is it then makes the student much more experienced in confident in class.  They have already mastered some of the material and practiced others that the teacher hasn’t taught yet.  For many students, they get to experience this for the first time when a tutor gets them ahead of schedule in middle school or high school.  The happiness, confidence, and relief from the stress of being ahead of class instead of behind can be an exuberating mentality shift for students who have never felt this confidence before.  Much joy in mathematics has been sparked by simply being in a position where the student is no longer confused and stressed.

Even better than trying to fix confidence is to provide it from the first place.  Help your students excel at early math and take that success and self-esteem with them to higher levels.  You never know what problems you might be avoiding altogether by being proactive with tutoring.

Guaranteed to Stay on Track and Not Fall Behind

Math classes tend to build upon prior math classes.  This is true for most subjects, but it is most obvious and most prevalent in mathematics.  Difficulty or poor understanding of one math class often leads to more difficulty and worse understanding in the next classes.  This effect can build on itself, and it creates a slippery slope of math success that is easy to fall off from just one poor class.

Similarly, some math fundamentals need to be mastered in order for a student to be successful in the future.  Unfortunately, most of these fundamentals are never revisited – meaning that if they aren’t learned and mastered early enough, it will mean problems in the future.

These issues make tutoring much more difficult in the future when a student might really need help.  A tutor can often diagnose some of the deficiencies in a student’s math knowledge that are leading to their problems in a class.  The problem is that is often almost impossible to go back and revisit, reteach, and master so much older material while still learning the new material well enough to get a good grade.  This often leads to tutors having to perform “damage control” with a student where strong understanding and true knowledge must be sacrificed in order to prioritize the memorization required to help the student improve their grade in time.

This type of tutoring is often only a temporary band-aid for a problem that needs much more work to truly fix.  However, it is often all that is possible with the time available.

You can avoid this with early tutoring and setting your student on track from the beginning.  A tutor will catch if there are ever starting to slip off and can help fix the problem and move forward before it has been too much time.  Many students in high school and beyond who have math tutoring also would require lessons of material that they failed to understand or master from back when they were a child to truly fix their math problems.  The problem is that it is too late for them to really fix it.  An experienced tutor can fix this by working with your student while they are learning some of the most important math skills in their childhood.

Book your in-home Costa Mesa tutor today!

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject TestsAll blog entries, except for guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Tips from an Anaheim Tutor: Making a “Cheat Sheet”

Anaheim Private Tutoring Tips: Making a “Cheat Sheet” for Your Test

A “cheat sheet” usually refers to a piece of paper or a notecard that a student has filled with information that they have learned or that they will need for an exam.  There are four different situations where a cheat sheet is commonly used by students. Our private Anaheim tutors are here to help you prepare for your test.

The teacher allows it and checks it

A teacher may allow you to create a cheat sheet and bring it with you for the test.  If the teacher is checking your cheat sheet, they are likely doing so for one of two reasons.  First, they may have required you to make a cheat sheet and are actually grading it as a completed assignment.  Teachers assign cheat sheets to force you to make one as a way of studying.

Second, they may only be allowing certain material to be on the cheat sheet, or there may be limitations to the size of the cheat sheet.  For example, a teacher may only allow you to write down formulas or equations, and they may only allow the cheat sheet to be a single side of an index card.  Other rules might be that you have to make your own cheat sheet, that you can’t put any written-out problems or examples, or that the cheat sheet has to be typed and a certain point font.  Always make sure you know the rules for making a cheat sheet to be used during a test – you don’t want yours to be confiscated and leave you with nothing.

The teacher allows it and doesn’t check it

Often times, a teacher will allow you to bring a cheat sheet with you for a test, but they won’t check them beforehand.  This allows you full control of what you put on your cheat sheet without worrying about any restrictions.  Teachers may do this because they believe that the exam is testing knowledge that can’t easily be written on a cheat sheet, or because they are content if you can quickly find the information you need from an external source.

A teacher allowing a cheat sheet is also a method of reducing stress for students.  Having something available for them to check – even if they already knew the information – can take some of the pressure or testing anxiety away.  It is also less hectic than having a test that is open-note or open-book; there is no frantically flipping through pages when all you have is one sheet.

You are making the cheat sheet for yourself as a study tool

Making a cheat sheet can be beneficial even if your teacher doesn’t allow one to be used on a test.  In fact, when teachers allow a cheat sheet, it is often because they recognize what a powerful study tool it is.  Students will make the sheet because they feel like it is an easy way to get a better grade.  It also feels less like studying and more like a sneaky trick to get questions correct.

In reality, the process of making a cheat sheet is actually a form of studying.  Searching your notes, textbooks, and the internet for information, pruning, and selecting the most important material, then writing it all down in an organized manner is almost identical to what you would do if you were making a study guide, notes, or just studying in general.  Many teachers find that students often don’t even need to use their cheat sheet during a test after they’ve made one.

This means that you can choose to make a cheat sheet for yourself just to study.  This is especially valuable for early tests in your class.  By the time you’re studying for the final, you’ll already have a few review cheat sheets to look at and prepare.

You are making a cheat sheet to cheat during the test

This is where the “cheat sheet” gets its name – from students who prepare a small piece of paper with notes on it to sneak into class and use it on an exam.  There is no need for this if you’ve put in the time you should into your class and your studying.  Often, cheating in this way is punished extremely severely in schools.  The risk-to-reward ratio of cheating in this way is rarely worth it.  If you are planning on making a cheat sheet to actually cheat, consider making it larger and more detailed, then simply use it to study.  Make multiple and see if you can write one from memory.  You may find that everything you were going to put on the cheat sheet, you can commit to memory instead.

Here, you can see four examples of very detailed cheat sheets hand-made and posted by students on reddit.com.  Notice things like the use of color, the blocking and lines for organization, pictures, and diagrams, and small handwriting.

Your cheat sheet doesn’t have to look like these.  These are only examples of what some students have created to help them be prepared for a test.  If your teacher allows you to make a cheat sheet, consider putting the time in to make it organized and detailed.  If your teacher doesn’t allow cheat sheets but you are looking for a way to study, consider making one anyone.  Making pages like this is a great way to find, prioritize, construct, and then study information.  Just don’t bring it to the test if it isn’t allowed.

Book your private Anaheim tutor today!

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject TestsAll blog entries, except for guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Irvine SAT Tutoring: Writing and Language Questions

Solving the Hardest OFFICIAL SAT Writing and Language Questions (Practice Test 1)

All SAT practice questions are not created equal.  Not only do they vary vastly in difficulty from question to question (as you may already know), but they also differ in quality from test maker to test maker.  In other words, different practice tests from different companies may vary wildly in how effective they actually are in preparing you for the SAT.

From years of SAT tutoring and teaching experience, I’ve found that the majority of third-party test preparation cannot be trusted to give consistently high-quality questions and tests (book your private Irvine tutor today).  Questions can be too easy, too hard, on material that is not covered on the SAT, have answer choices that SAT writers would not choose, or simply have wrong or ambiguous answers.  This can be daunting when trying to decide which practice tests or books to buy, but luckily there is a simple solution: use the official practice tests.

College Board (the group that makes and administers the SAT) hosts their own, free practice tests for you to utilize.  These should be your primary source of practice since these are tests and questions made by the same people who make the real tests.  You will not have to worry about consistency or quality.

However, there can still be a problem with taking practice tests if you are a student who has already taken tests and is now looking to maximize their score.  As we mentioned before, all SAT questions vary in difficulty.  If you are taking practice tests and find that you are spending hours doing mostly questions that are too easy or simple for you, then there may be a better way to spend your time.

This brings us to this series.  Here, I will be cherry-picking only the most difficult questions from the official SAT practice tests to show and solve.  These questions have been chosen based on my experience using these tests with many students and observing which questions were the most difficult or most likely to be answered incorrectly.  They will be compiled here on posts to this blog so that you can choose to do some of only the hardest and official SAT practice questions to help prepare you for getting a top score on the actual SAT without wasting a lot of time-solving easier problems.

First, we will be looking at the most challenging questions in the writing and language section from the first SAT practice test.  For simplicity, I’ve neglected questions that would require you to read entire passages.  Instead, we are left with the most difficult questions that are largely based on grammar.  Note that for the writing section, question difficulty varies randomly rather than having more straightforward questions in the beginning and harder at the end.  Here they are:


These six questions are some of the hardest questions on the writing and language section of the first official SAT practice test.  Give these questions a try before checking on the key listed below, and stay tuned for more of the hardest official SAT questions, including the math sections coming soon.

~Key:   2:         B

7:         B

8:         C

16:       C

19:       D

26:       A

Book your private Irvine SAT tutor today!

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject TestsAll blog entries, except for guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Three Benefits of Winter Tutoring

Winter Break Tutoring: 3 Big Benefits

Winter break is a great time for students to relax and recover from the stresses that the school year brought.  For most students, their school’s winter break corresponds with the end of the semester, quarter, or marking period for grades and/or classes.  Because of this, there often are not large, looming tests or assignments that are waiting around the corner.

However, this doesn’t mean that winter break must – or even should – be a total break from your academic work.  Winter break can be an even better time than the regular school year to seek the benefits of private tutoring.  While there are many advantages of hiring a tutor for yourself or your student, here are three that are especially relevant and significant for tutoring during the winter break.

Catch Up or Get Ahead

The first benefit of tutoring over the winter break is the ability to catch up or get ahead in a relatively stress-free manner.  During classes, students have so much going on academically for them to keep on top of:  multiple classes, multiple grades, and assignments, multiple lectures.  Tutoring alongside this workload can be very helpful at helping students manage their time and achieve their best grades – but that doesn’t mean it will be easy or comfortable.

During breaks, on the other hand, gives the time when a student is not stifled by an endless stream of work and studying.  Instead, they have few academic obligations, or none whatsoever.  This allows the option of tutoring to be done in a much less stressful situation that will be beneficial to your student’s moral and their learning.

When classes are over – or experiencing a significant break – a tutor can step in to help you either catch up to where you should be at or get ahead of the curve before classes start again.  In many year-long classes, the progression from the fall through winter in spring lends to stronger results if you understand the earlier, foundational material better.  This is especially true for most middle school and high school math and science classes, though it is relevant to social studies and language classes as well.

This means that if you aren’t performing as well as you’d like, or if your grades have started to get just a little bit lower, then you are at risk to start falling behind and doing worse and worse in the coming months or years.  Or, if you know that you did poorly in the fall, don’t just hope that it will get better after the break.  If you are planning on getting a tutor, look into doing so during the break so you can begin to close the gap without the added stress of classes and assignments.

Even if you are comfortable with where your student is at right now, having an experienced tutor and free time can help them get ahead.  Maybe your student is getting an ‘A’ in a regular or remedial class right now but they’re hoping to take a more advanced class next year.  Maybe your student is doing well, but will be taking their first AP classes next year and wants to be prepared for them.  Maybe your student is making good grades, but the teacher isn’t doing a good job helping them understand the material or prepare for next year.  Maybe your student just wants to be ahead to avoid extra stress and crunch time in the next few months.  Or maybe your student is just talented at the subject and wants to learn more than what the class is offering.

Whatever the case, an experienced tutor can help you achieve that goal of getting ahead in a class or subject.  Whether it’s catching up or getting ahead, make sure you are clear with your tutor about what your goals are, and don’t wait until the break is over to get in contact with someone.

Expert Evaluation and Planning

Winter break is also a great time to learn where you are at and plan for the future.  An experienced tutor can do both of these things for you.  If you are halfway through a class, a tutor can help evaluate what you know, what you need to work on, and what to expect in the future.  If you have just finished a class, a tutor can help tell you what was important and what you should focus on for the next class.

An infrequently utilized benefit of having an experienced, private tutor is their ability to help you plan through your classes and schedule.  These tutors have been through these processes themselves and helped many other students through them.  A tutor can, for example, evaluate the requirements for the degree you are looking for, look at course schedules, prerequisites, and conflicts, and make a comprehensive plan for you to optimize your time to degree.  For another example, if you are in high school, an experienced tutor can help you choose which classes you should take to most benefit you in college, or that best match your skills.  An experienced tutor can help you pick the best AP science class you should take, which CLEP exams will help you graduate a year early, or which or your major classes you should take in the next semester.

Regardless of what level you are at now, checking in with someone experienced and knowledgeable can be a great way to make sure you academics are staying on track.  Whether you’re worried about how you’re doing in a class, confused about how to plan for the next four years of classes, or just hoping to judge your progress and be proactive, then the free time during the break is a great opportunity to get quality answers from an experienced Anaheim tutor.

Accountability and No Wasted Time

Despite what many parents often think, many students do plan to study and do class homework over winter break.  Often they hadn’t performed as well as they would like or saw the negative effects of their procrastination or disorganization during the fall.  Because of this, many students have optimistic plans for how they’ll spend their time over the break.  Maybe it’s reading the next few chapters of their textbook, or watching lessons or tutorials on YouTube, or looking through the syllabus and start assignments early.  Whichever it is, the fact is that many students do plan to do better and do work over the break.

The problem is – most of them end up failing to follow through.  It is too easy to think, “there’s plenty of time left,” “I’ll get started tomorrow,” “I need more time to relax first,” and, finally, “I’ll just get ahead once classes start.”  The fact is that procrastination becomes even more tempting when there are no real deadlines or repercussions in front of you.  Getting ahead and doing work over the break is especially hard because there are no readily obvious consequences of not doing so.

The way an Anaheim tutor fixes this problem is by adding accountability and structure.  It is easy to think “I’ll do a few hours of studying a week” and no follow through with it – but if you have an appointment with a tutor it will make sure that you are getting the work done.  Similarly, if you have a plan for getting ahead or catching up, a tutor can confirm that with you and check-in to make sure that you are doing what you planned to do.  If you don’t have plans or don’t know what to work on, a tutor can help with that as well.

In this way, having regular appointments with a tutor over a break can guarantee that you don’t fall victim to wasted time and ultimately feel guilty or disappointed with what you’ve accomplished over a break.  This does not mean that you should be working everyday as if you were still in class – nor does it mean that a tutor will be assigning you so much work that you can’t enjoy the break.  Instead, it means that you will be accomplishing tasks that are small but substantial during the plentitude of extra free time that you may have during winter break.  Let this winter break be the one where you feel good about the work that you’ve done and the progress that you have made.

Book your winter break, Anaheim tutor today!

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject TestsAll blog entries, except for guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Why SparkNotes is Killing Your SAT Score

Tips from an Irvine SAT Tutor: SparkNotes is Killing Your SAT Score!


Many students just love getting out of doing their homework.  In fact, I have found students who have arguably done more work trying to get out of an assignment than they would have if they had just done the original assignment, to begin with.  There is just something about being required to do work that can fire up all sorts of creativity to avoid it (book your private Irvine SAT tutor today.

Unfortunately, English classes tend to be the main victims of this trend.  Whether it’s American literature, language arts, and literacy, or reading and writing 101, your English class is guaranteed to include required readings.  The problem with the required readings is that they tend to fit the three main criteria that drive students to skip them: they’re long, they’re boring, and they’re easy to skip without getting in trouble.

Now, it is important to note that this isn’t true.  Reading assignments are rarely particularly long unless you procrastinate and have to do it all at once.  The readings usually aren’t uninteresting or academic – many teachers strive to assign exciting, interesting, and diverse novels and stories.  And, they aren’t free to skip if you care about your standardized test scores.

That’s right, skipping out on doing your required reading will cripple your preparation for tests like the SAT that may determine your ability to get into college.  This is because a key component to your SAT score comes from reading comprehension and critical thinking related to readings.  You are introduced to passages – many of which are chosen purposefully for being confusing, boring, or for covering atypical material – that you have to read and answer questions about.  The questions assess how well you understood the material, the author’s intentions or opinions, and your ability to draw inferences or interpret messages.  This is also done under a rather strict time limit.

As an experienced Irvine SAT tutor as well as a teacher, I can also say that the reading portion of the SAT is often the most difficult for students to improve upon in the short-term (short-term here meaning even as long as a year of studying and preparation).  Your critical reading skills come from years and years of repeated practice and exposure.  A long and thorough history of diverse reading is the best preparation for this kind of test.

Don’t Avoid Required Reading

The problem is, students now often try to avoid that reading.  There are many resources that students use now.  SparkNotes and CliffNotes are the classic examples, but other sites like Shmoop, GradeSaver and BookRags are used.  The main foc,us behind these sites is to give book/chapter summaries of commonly assigned school readings and/or to give quick guides and lists to help students answers common questions.  Students can even take advantage of resources like Quizlet and even Wikipedia and Youtube (check out the channel ThugNotes) for fast summaries to skirt their required readings.

These resources are not inherently bad.  In fact, many of them are useful tools to get quick refreshers, prime yourself for future readings, or to efficiently study and remember main points.  The problem is when they are used in lieu of the actual reading.  Without trying to read and interpret the material on your own, you aren’t getting the practice you need to have high quality comprehension skills.  If you are letting SparkNotes tell you what everything means, then you are missing out on the learning opportunity of figuring it out on your own.

Many students complain that they don’t understand some of the required readings that they are assigned.  That if they didn’t read summaries and shortcuts that they would fail their assignments because they can’t understand what’s happening in the book.  This is okay!  The act of struggling through a reading and not being comprehending everything is how you get exposed to new writing and get better at reading it.  This is where you can use these resources and it is how most of them are meant to be used.  Do your reading, then refer to a guide to help you piece together any parts that you struggled to grasp.

If your M.O. in English class has been to never open the book while you skate by with quick and easy summaries, then you are not alone among students everywhere.  But you should know that by doing so you are taking away your main source, of reading comprehension and critical verbal thinking practice.  Take the time and always try your readings – your SAT score will thank you.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject TestsAll blog entries, except for guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Anaheim Physics Tutor Tip: What is a Joule?

Anaheim Physics Tutor Tip: What is a Joule? A Better Understanding of Energy


A common difficulty for physics students is conceptualizing new measures and what they represent.  It’s easy enough to understand meters and seconds since we’re used to these concepts of distance and time.  Other units, however, that aren’t as common in our day-to-day can be harder to understand.  As an Anaheim physics tutor and physics teacher, I’ve found that if students have a strong understanding of units and learn to trace and connect different units, that it dramatically in both their physics understanding and their physics grades.

We have already discussed this concept when reviewing the concept of the Newton.  Now, we will be discussing another common contributor to physics confusion: the Joule.

The joule is a measure of energy.  This is probably a concept you are familiar with, but not in specific scientific terms like it is used in physics.  Here, energy is the unit that is transferred in order to do work on something or to heat something.  However, this definition is not usually very helpful in helping students understand what one joule is.  Instead, let’s try to get a better picture by looking at some of the equations that include it:

Our first equation is one that you will work with often in introductory physics classes which is the equation for kinetic energy.  Here, kinetic energy is defined as one-half of the mass times the velocity squared.  This represents the energy that a moving object has.  That’s why our only variables are mass and velocity.  The heavier a moving object is, the more energy it has; and the faster an object is, the more energy it has.  Now, let’s break these variables down into their units:

As we just discussed, the unit for energy (including kinetic energy) is the joule.  The unit for mass is kilograms, and velocity is meters per second.  By squaring the velocity units like in the equation, we get to this simplified unit definition of joules (note that the “one half” isn’t a variable and doesn’t have units – it’s just a number).

We’ve now seen one explanation of the joule as it’s used in kinetic energy.  However, in physics, we use lots of equations for joules.  If a joule is always a unit of energy, then it should be the same regardless of which equation we use.  Let’s try again with another common introductory physics equation: potential energy.

Potential energy is determined by the weight of an object and how far it is from the ground.  Specifically, this is called gravitational potential energy – it’s the energy caused from separating objects with mass from each other where there is a force from gravity.  In most introductory physics applications, the gravity we are talking about is from the earth, which is approximately 9.8 meters per seconds squared.

Again, our unit of energy is the joule, mass is kilograms, the acceleration from gravity (“g”) is meters per seconds squared, and height is measured in meters.  Again, we only care about the units, so we’ll drop the 9.8 and multiply the units to get our simplified definition:

Notice that we got the same answer when using both kinetic energy and potential energy: even though they’re different equations, they lead to the same definition.  Let’s try one more time with a different equation.

Remember that energy can be defined as the ability to do work.  As such, we often use equations that involve equating work and energy.  So, we may have an object with a starting kinetic energy, but some of that energy is lost when it does work.  This means that work is measured in joules, but how can that be if the equation looks so different?  Work is the applied force multiplied by the distance it is applied for (specifically the displacement).  Let’s see what happens if we break it down into the units.

Work is measured in joules, force is in newtons, and distance is in meters.  However, we already learned that newtons can be broken into its definition in basic units (***see here again for newton post*****).

Newtons are now written as kilogram*meters per seconds squared.  This clears up our equation a lot, because now if we multiply by the last unit of meters we get our simplified equation:

Which is the same as our definition that we found when using the kinetic or potential energy equations.

For fun, you can also think about the famous physics equation (that is not often used in introductory physics classes) of E=mc2.  This equation is also for energy, and is measured in joules.  Here, “c” is the speed of light, which – since it’s a speed – is measured in meters per second.  See what you get if you break this equation into its fundamental units and if it is the same as our definitions above.

Learning how these new units can be broken down into fundamental units can help with your understanding of physics and your execution of equations when taking tests or solving problems.  Take the time to break up your equations into fundamental units and you may be surprised at how related many of them are.

Book your private Anaheim physics tutor today!

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject TestsAll blog entries, except for guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Anaheim Math Tutor Tips: Solve Fractions With a Simple Calculator

Anaheim Math Tutoring: Solve Fractions Even with the Simplest Calculator!

Even if you don’t have access to a graphing or scientific calculator, you can still check fractions with a much simpler calculator.  This can be relevant if you are using your phone, taking a test where your teacher supplies only simple calculators, or taking an online standardized test like the GRE where you only have an onscreen simple calculator.

Many students do not realize it is still possible to work with fractions with these types of calculators.  It’s true that fractions likely won’t be nearly as easy to use on these options, and there is a good chance you will have to do some calculations by hand.  However, they are still a valuable tool to check your answers and solve some fraction problems.  First, let’s show some examples of simple calculators and then work through examples of how to use fractions with them (book your in-home Anaheim math tutor today).

A Casio brand of a simple calculator with little extra functionality outside of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division but with extra finance related options.

A Karuida brand calculator similar to the Casio that is also very common.

An example of a simple phone calculator.  Many phones may also have more calculator options on their stock apps (as well as the ability to download different calculator applications with more functionality), but this is an example of the few options that may be readily present.

This is an example of an onscreen calculator that you may get for a computer-based test.  Specifically, this is the current calculator available on the GRE

Here is a keychain or pocket calculator with no functionality outside of basic operations.

We can now practice some examples of how to work with fractions using these types of calculators.  First, the most important fact to know is that the division function is how we can get access to fractions.  A division sign is the same basic function as a fraction bar – that is, to get  3/5 you would need to type 3 ÷ 5.  It is important, however, to do as few calculations at once on simple calculators.  Many will follow the order of operations, but others will just give you an immediate output from your first operation.  For example, to find   47-19/4   you would want to perform the 47 – 19 first and separately, then divide that answer by 4.

Example 1:

Here, we can input each of the fractions into the calculator first to get the outputs in decimal form.  We put into the calculator the first fraction as 4 ÷ 8.  The output we get is 0.5.  Next, we input the second fraction as 12 ÷ 8 and receive the output of 1.5.  Now we have converted both fractions into decimals and can add them as 0.5 + 1.5 to get the correct answer of 2.

Example 2:

Now, let’s try the same strategy as example 1.  We input the first fraction as 9 ÷ 4.  The output we receive on our simple calculator is 2.25.  We then input the next fraction as 1 ÷ 6 to get 0.16667 or some similar number.  We can now type these into the calculator as 2.25 – 0.166667 to get an answer of 2.08333.  However, this likely isn’t the answer we want, since it isn’t a fraction or full number.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way around this problem without at least some knowledge of fraction manipulation.  The first option is to find a common denominator and subtract.  A quick way to do this is to multiple each fraction on the top and bottom by the denominator (bottom) of the other fraction.  So, we multiply the first fraction by 6/6  and the second fraction by  4/4.  This will change our fractions now to 54/24 – 4/24 .  Now we have a common denominator and can just subtract the numerators of each (54 – 4) to get a final answer of  50/24.  Finally, we can reduce this by dividing the top and bottom by 2 to get 25/12.

Now we can get to the calculator part.  Input 25 ÷ 12 into a calculator and you get this result:  2.08333.  Notice that this is the same answer as when we worked with strictly decimals.  However, the decimal version took a lot few steps and was quick to find.  By doing this, we can essentially check our answers to make sure they are correct.  Complete the fraction operation by hand and find your answer as a fraction.  Then, convert it to a decimal in the calculator and find the decimal using just the calculator and compare answers.  If they aren’t the same, you likely made a mistake in your fraction operations.

Example 3:

With this example, let’s try to solve it just in the calculator.  We input the first fraction as 3 ÷ 25 to get 0.12 and the second fraction as 64 ÷ 500 to get 0.128.  Now we can add those two together: 0.12 + 0128 to get a final decimal of 0.248.

In the last example, we were stuck with the decimal and could only use it to check our answer.  Here, however, we can notice that the decimal “terminates” quickly, or it stops after just a few digits.  Using this, we can write any terminating decimal as a fraction based on the furthest decimal place it has.  0.5 we could write as 5/10.  0.14 we could write as 14/100.  And 0.027 we could write as 27/1000.  Following this trend, we could write 0.248 as 248/1000.  This is a fraction that we can then reduce to have the simplest answer:  31/125 after dividing the top and bottom by 8.

So, we can use even the simplest of calculators to solve fraction problems.  At best, you may need zero knowledge of how to solve fractions (example 1), and at worst, you will have to solve the problem normally but be able to check your answer (example 2).  There is also a good chance you will only need minimal fraction reducing knowledge (example 3).  Regardless of the situation, you should know how to use calculators to check your answers and solve problems – even when you don’t have a fancy calculator available.

Book your private Anaheim math tutor today.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject TestsAll blog entries, except for guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

How an Irvine Tutor Can Help With College Admissions Part II

An Irvine Tutor Can Help with College Applications (Part II)


Resumes and Supplements

Many schools ask for resumes as part of your application, have additional supplementary requirements, or allow for these additions as optional portions of your application.  As an experienced tutor can help guide you through these portions.  Should you add supplemental information, is it optional?  What should be included in your resume?  How do you answer the extra questions they ask?  Some of the questions seem random or weird; how do they want you to answer them?

An experienced tutor can guide you through these questions and more.  You should never be confused about how to answer a question or what a college is looking for.


Your tutor probably isn’t someone who will be writing you a letter of recommendation for your applications.  However, they can definitely help you gather good ones.  Students are often very nervous about asking teachers and superiors for letters of recommendation.  They don’t know who to ask or how to ask, and most importantly, they don’t know if the letters they are receiving are good.

But your letters of recommendation can be a huge part of your applications.  A bad letter can tank your admission decisions, and lukewarm or generic letters can keep you out of your top schools who were looking for more.

A tutor can help guide you through the process.  They know what colleges are looking for in letters of recommendation and are familiar with the process.  They can help you ask the right people the right way.  Your letter writers should know what you want included to better your acceptance chances.  Your tutor may also help you diversify your letter writers if you are submitting several applications, and guide you on how to know if the letters you are getting are high quality.

Planning and Review

Overall, the college search and application process is stressful, time-consuming, and confusing to navigate.  Couple that with all of the other added stress going on in a student’s life during this time, and you have a formula for procrastination and unoptimized submissions.

A tutor can help you make a plan and stick with.  They know what to do and how long it will take.  Most importantly, they can check -n and hold you or your student accountable for completing tasks on time.

In this way, you can eliminate procrastination and mitigate stress – while still improving application quality.  A tutor can also make sure the applications are done ahead of time to give ample time for review and adjustments.

An experienced, specialized tutor can do much more than help students improve grades and test scores.  If you or your students are preparing college applications, consider an in-home Irvine tutor to help guide and improve the process.  Don’t let these applications get submitted without exact time, effort, and expert knowledge making sure that they are the best that they can be.

Read part one here.           

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject TestsAll blog entries, except for guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.


How an Irvine Tutor Can Help with College Applications

An Irvine Tutor Can Help with College Applications – Part I

Many students and parents are familiar with tutoring for classes and tests.  It is very common for tutors to work with students to help them pass a class or get an A or to improve their score on a standardized test.  For many students and parents, these are the important areas to improve to have a more competitive college application or resume.  After all, test scores and GPA are the only things that matter, right?

Wrong.  There is much more to college applications than just your “numbers” that the college will see.  However, students and parents tend to only focus on these numbers when it comes to tutoring.

School searches, personal statements, essays, resumes, and recommendations are all other extremely important aspects of a student’s college applications.  These areas can be the tipping point for many students on the cusp of acceptance to their top choice school – or finding the best schools for them in the first place.  If a school is looking at applications where many students have similar grades and test scores, the only things that can make you stand out are the more personal and unique areas of your application (our private Irvine college admissions tutors are the best in SoCal).

Let’s talk about some of the ways that an experienced private tutor can help with this process.

Applying to the Right Schools

One of the often-overlooked aspects of the college application process is finding the right schools to begin with.  There are over 5000 colleges and universities in the United States, yet most students usually feel pigeonholed into a few common nearby schools.  There is nothing wrong with attending your local community college or state school, but for many students that shouldn’t be the end of their search.

An experienced private tutor knows more about the school searching process than you do.  They can look at your credentials, your preferences, and your goals to help find schools that match for you.  They can make recommendations and even help you decide what you might like and what you might want to look for.  They can also give you a good idea of what schools you stand the best chance of being accepted into.

Statements and Essays

A very significant part of a college application is the qualitative information and writing samples.  Colleges want to hear your voice and your values.  They also want to see how you write and how you present yourself and your opinions.

Your individual writing can make-or-break your overall application.  You have a very limited space to explain who you are and to do so with quality and compelling writing.  A tutor can help guide this process and help edit this writing sample.  They can also give insight into what the admissions officers may be looking for in applications, and how you can strive to stand out from the crowd in a positive way.

Book your private Irvine college admissions tutor today.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject TestsAll blog entries, except for guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.