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SAT Tutoring Timeline: How Long Does It Take to Get the Best Results?

Anaheim SAT Tutoring Timeline: How Long Does It Take to Get the Best Results?


SAT tutoring is a popular service that many students and parents seek out to achieve the best results on important high school standardized tests.  SAT tutoring can be very effective given that you have an experienced Anaheim tutor.

Educators who give private lessons for the SAT should be experts on the exam and be able to answer any question a student has . They should also have a concrete plan for how best to help the student prepare for the test.

As a private Anaheim SAT tutor, I am often asked by students and parents what SAT preparation will be like, what will the student be doing, and how long it will take to achieve the best results.  Here, I will provide an example procedure for preparing a student for the SAT.  If you want the very best results that your student can achieve, then you should start tutoring early enough to accommodate steps similar to the ones outlined below.

  1. Initial Practice Test/Diagnostic Test
  2. Tutor Scores and Reviews
  3. Review Problem Areas and Incorrect Answers
  4. Discuss and Teach Personalized Strategies and Test-Taking Techniques
  5. Second Practice Test
  6. Tutor Scores and Reviews
  7. Tutor Evaluates what Did and Didn’t Improve from previous test.
  8. Discuss Second Test, what worked and what didn’t
    1. Possible Session(s) to go over consistent problem areas/specific lessons for necessary skills
  9. Third Practice Test
  10. Tutor Scores and Reviews
  11. Review wrong answers with tutor, finalize best strategies for student
    1. Possible Session(s) to go over specific areas or specific sections
  12. Practice Single Sections and/or full-length tests until test time
  13. One Final Practice Test Taken one-two weeks before real test
  14. Final Review Session of Final Practice Test + Test Day tips

Here, we can see a decent outline of what some ideal SAT tutoring can be.  Notice that the bolded terms are practice tests.  The core foundation of most effective SAT studying is found in taking full-length practice tests.  These allow the student to get used to the test format and instructions, get used to the pacing required to finish all of the questions, and get used to the styles of questions and answers.  Some of the most common problems on the SAT – even for advanced students – are running out of time, not understanding the directions or format, and being confused by new types of questions.

Notice also that following each bolded practice test is a designated time to score and review the practice test.  While even just the act of taking a practice test is beneficial for students, reviewing the correct answers is even more effective at promoting student learning and improvement.  Grading the practice tests also gives tangible evidence of improvement and also a good indication of what the student should expect to get on the actual test.  Your SAT score should not be a surprise if you’ve been studying and preparing effectively – it should be similar to your most recent practice test.

An experienced tutor can also analyze trends in your mistakes and in how you take the test.  This can help them choose the best strategy for you – SAT tactics are not as one-size-fits-all as many would have you think.  After giving a student a new strategy (such as techniques for skimming passages, or skipping certain problems, or designated annotations, etc.), they can practice it together and ultimately take another practice test to see how effectively the student implemented it.

After the second practice test, there should be some time to do more intensive and specified review on areas on consistent difficulty.  In general, this should be after the second practice test and not the first.  This is because a lot of problems can be remedied after the first practice test (the first test is almost always the lowest score and the most problems), so time shouldn’t be spent going too in-depth until a second test is taken.

When you do finish the second practice test, the tutor can evaluate the mistakes that are still being made and can give potential strategies for the student to try.  They can also go into more detailed review in areas where the student needs to improve or learn new skills.  This review/strategy process can go on for as long as needed until the third practice test.

The third practice test is then a way to evaluate if the new strategies are effective and if the new skills have been adequately executed by the student.  At this point, the student will be experienced with the test and the type of questions.  Grading and reviewing the practice test can show if some old test-taking strategies need to be changed if they weren’t effective for the student.  It also will show if there are any specific areas where the student is still struggling.

The first three practice tests and the review processes with them will be the majority of many SAT preparation timelines.  At this point, the student has likely optimized their score to very close to their potential.  After this, any additional tutoring is usually to continue to practice difficult skills, work on consistency in answers and scores, and keep the test-taking skills fresh until test time.

The third test can be the last practice test if the real test is around the corner, or the student can take another practice test a week or two before the real test.  This is to make sure they’re ready for the real test, but it ideally should not be in the immediate days before the real test to avoid fatiguing the student.  A tutor can also give last test day tips and motivational advice before the real test.

So, the timeline for effective and efficient test prep encompasses the time needed to take and review at least three practice tests.  This amount of time can be shorter or longer depending on what skills need to be improved and how long it takes for the student to learn them.  Ideally, these practice tests should be spaced out to avoid the student getting tired of the test or bored.  This is not the only way to effectively prepare for the SAT, but it is an example of a good foundation of what you can expect when wondering about efficient, quality SAT tutoring.

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 to Use Rubrics to Get Perfect Grades

Tips From an Anaheim Private Tutor: How to Use Rubrics to Get Perfect Grades

You are likely familiar with grading rubrics from many of your classes.  Whether it’s for an English essay, a history project, a science lab report, or an open-ended math test, rubrics are ever-present in classrooms.  Rubrics are used for two main purposes: to provide a guideline to help teachers grade students fairly and consistently, and to allow students to understand better their grade and how they could have improved it.

Without a rubric, grading can be more subjective, and grades can be harder to understand.  Have you ever gotten a graded essay back with just a big “80” circled in red with no other marks on it?  It can be frustrating to receive grades without also receiving feedback on why you got a certain grade.  A rubric is one common method of remedying this situation.

However, a rubric can be a valuable tool even before your work is graded.  Ideally, you should not be waiting to have your assignment returned before checking the designations on the rubric.  Instead, you should be proactively using the rubric to guarantee you receive the best score (don’t wait for your first failed test to book your private in-home Anaheim tutor).

Look at the real rubric below for a secondary school art project:


Here, we have five criteria and five different levels for each (a 5×5 rubric).  We can see that students will be graded on creativity, use of elements and principles, craftsmanship, understanding and completion, and effort and participation.  We can also see how this project will be graded based on points: each category has a maximum of 20 points for a total of 100.

As a student, you should be focused on the points and the descriptions of the top point categories.  Doing this can help you notice where points are allocated in places you might not expect.  For example, to earn the full 20 points in effort and participation, you must have “participated in all class discussion” as opposed to the “participated in the most class discussion” in the 15-point category.  You may not have realized this about the art project, but failing to participate in class could lose you up to 20 points on your art project that you didn’t realize required participation.

Similarly, we could pick up on other cues in the 20-point categories, such as “exceptional care and attention to detail,” “explores several different options,” and “complete and consistent.”  These may not have been factors you were considering when beginning the project.  However, you can now use these to help craft an ideal project.  It is important to know, for example, that your neatness and carefulness accounts for the same point total as your overall creativity.

These tactics follow for other rubrics, as well.  Many teachers even include concrete criteria, such as “includes three examples of figurative language,” “has two or fewer spelling and grammar mistakes,” or “clearly lists all relevant equations at the start of the problem.”  These are what you should be taking advantage of.  Your teacher will be referring to the rubric while grading, so you want to make it as easy as possible for them to see that you are in the top categories.

For the example are rubric above, you would want to make sure that your teacher can see: 1. That you had a unique idea or that you took risks and used several options, 2. That you understand and utilized elements, you learned in class, 3. That your work is neat and has fine details, 4. That you followed and completed the assignment thoroughly, and 5. That you participated in every class and visibly strived for success.

This may seem like restating the rubric, but the idea is to focus on as many concrete, literal ideas as you can – even for something as subjective as an art project.  Your job is to make it obvious to the teacher which category your work should be in.  This may mean adding or altering your work to make certain areas more clearly fit the rubric.  Remember, a project, essay, or answer doesn’t have to follow a rubric can still be a great piece of work – but if you want the easiest path to the best grade, the rubric is where you should be looking from the start.

Book your private Anaheim tutor from TutorNerds 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 You Need a Tutor For the SAT II Subject Tests

Get Tutoring for the SAT II Subject Tests!


It is prevalent for students and parents to seek out experienced private Anaheim tutors for important standardized tests like the SAT and ACT.  These exams have a significant effect on a student’s college admissions and scholarship opportunities, so it makes sense that extra, professional help is sought.

However, one group of tests that is often overlooked is the SAT Subject Tests (also known as the SAT II).  There are a few reasons for this: fewer people know about these tests, few students take them, and fewer colleges require them.  So, the students who do take them usually take them late, with minimum preparation, and without tutoring – even if they had a tutor for the regular SAT.

This is a problem for students who do take the subject tests.  The subject tests are usually only required or recommended by higher tier schools.  As such, they are scored and reviewed much more competitively than your typical standardized tests.  And, what constitutes a “good” grade on the subject tests is very different than the regular SAT.  You need to have a much higher score on a subject test to be in a high percentile of test-takers.

To put it in perspective, nearly 15% of students score a perfect 800 on the Math II subject test.  On the SAT, fewer than 1% of students score an 800 on the math section.  While the average score for sections of the SAT is usually around 500 each year, averages for subject tests are usually closer to 600-650.

The subject test can be a game changer for students looking to get into top tier schools or looking to impress schools for better admissions chances or scholarship opportunities.  If you are going to take the SAT II, then you should be prepared to take it.

The good news is that a private Anaheim tutor is likely even more effective at improving your SAT Subject Test scores than your regular SAT or ACT scores.  This is because the material on the subject tests are less abstract and more concentrated and specific in the material they cover.  There is usually a ceiling that students hit on their SAT scores based on their potential, and more tutoring and studying usually cannot significantly improve on this top score if the student has already been practicing for a long time.  However, the subject tests have more specific knowledge and facts that are tested.  These facts and knowledge can be consistently and improved and practiced until the student is scoring very well on the tests.

So, the Subject Tests usually see better score improvements after consistent, dedicated lessons with an experienced tutor than we see with the SAT and ACT.  They are also more competitive, and getting a higher score is even more important to stand out for students who are taking them.  However, even students who worked with a tutor for the SAT tend to overlook tutoring for the SAT II.  If you are taking the subject tests, make sure that you are giving them the time and effort needed to achieve your best scores.

Call TutorNerds today to book a private Anaheim SAT subject test tutor.

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 English Tutor: Using an Em Dash

Anaheim English Tutor Tip: How to Use an Em Dash


Tutors—especially English tutors—frequently see punctuation misunderstood and misused.

There are a few pieces of punctuation—semicolons, colons, and dashes—that are common culprits of causing these student mistakes (our private Anaheim English tutors are here to help you succeed).

We’ve previously discussed how to understand and use the semicolon and the colon, but we still have to discuss the dash—another important piece of punctuation.

Among students, the dash isn’t the most common in essays—in fact, it is seldom used at all.

Here, we will discuss some simple pointers about how to use the dash—specifically; we’ll talk about the em dash and its ability to make your sentences and paragraphs flow more naturally and convey information more effectively.

Like the piece on the colon and semicolon, we’ve started this post with a paragraph that includes the dash in every sentence.  While this is not the preferred way to incorporate any punctuation into your writing, it is a helpful way of using numerous examples to showcase the versatility of the punctuation.

In my experience, the dash is taught even less than the semicolon in K–12 English classes.  It is also likely the least used of the three punctuation marks discussed so far.  I personally find the em dash to be particularly effective in my writing, but I do recommend focusing on the colon and the semicolon first; they are more commonly seen in typical reading and also more easily incorporated into your writing.

If you’ve done that, let’s now go into detail with these four points about the em dash:

Don’t confuse with hyphens

This is a hyphen: –

This is an en dash: –

This is an em dash: —

Notice the difference in lengths.  “En” dash is named because it is the length of the capital letter N.  “Em” dash is named because it is the length of the longer capital letter M.  Note that both are longer than a hyphen.

Hyphens are used mainly for combining two words like “hard-working.”  En dashes are used for ranges, such as the K–12 in the paragraph above or like in April 2nd – March 3rd.

The “em dash” is the more versatile punctuation that we are talking about.  This is the longest of the three.  Mixing up the en dash and em dash likely will go unnoticed, but you should be particularly careful to not use a dash interchangeably with a hyphen.

Use it as more powerful parentheses

Parentheses can be used in the middle of a sentence to add supplementary information to the content of the sentence.  However, parentheses tend to diminish the importance of the content inside the parentheses.  It is treated as secondary as well as supplementary, and often readers will even ignore reading parentheses altogether and simply continue with the sentence.

The use of dashes can prevent this.  Using two dashes instead of parentheses is telling the reading that this supplement is important and should be emphasized.  You can see this usage in the first two sentences of the first paragraph of this article.

Use it as an easier semicolon

Using a semicolon is a way to connect two closely related sentences.  The caveat is that they both have to be complete sentences—not just an incomplete phrase like this.  With a dash, you are not constrained by this limitation.  You can connect two sentences that are both complete sentences, or you can connect a sentence with just a phrase or thought.

It is important to note that there is still a difference tonally between the dash and the semicolon.  Semicolons tend to show that the two sentences are a pair of equally significant, similar content.  Dashes are more often used to show a contrast or to present an interjection to the content of the first sentence.  You will get used to these nuances the more you practice using them.  You can see this usage in the final sentences of the first paragraph above.

Use it as the emphasis in a colon

The last tip is to use it similarly to how we can use a colon: for emphasis.  This is a very similar usage to how the colon is used.  The subtle difference is that the colon usually precedes a list of objects or a simple object.  You describe a category, then use a colon, then provide the item or items in that category.

With a dash you more often see this done in reverse.  For example, look at the third sentence in the first paragraph of this article.  Here, we wrote, “… but we still have to discuss the dash—another important piece of punctuation.”

If we were using a colon, we likely would have written “… but we still have to discuss another important piece of punctuation: the dash.”  Notice the difference?

The dash has more subtle nuances to it than many other pieces of punctuation.  It also has a lot of versatility in how you use it.  Here, we’ve presented some of its uses in a simpler way for beginners.  Other rules for the dash, such as making sure to have the proper length em dash and to not use spacing before or after it, are technically grammatically true but practically they are not well followed.  In modern usage, we often see a space before and after the em dash.  We also often see the en dash length used instead.

These are not aspects you should worry about as you try to incorporate it into your writing.  First, learn how to properly use punctuation like the semicolon, colon, and parentheses.  When you’ve mastered these three, you can begin to use the dash in similar ways to improve your writing even more.

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.

Don’t Be Another Community College Dropout! Part Three

Don’t Be Another Community College Dropout! Part III


Make the School a Place You Want to Be

Read part two here.

+ Join Clubs or Sports

Your community college will have a large and diverse community of students with a variety of interests.  Community college campuses often have a plethora of clubs and sports available that would dwarf most high school options.  There will be something that you are interested in could benefit from, or would just be fun.

Find some group or organization to join that you will enjoy.  This will get you on campus more often, and it will make the campus feel like a friendlier and more familiar place.  You’ll get to know more people, be comfortable in more places, and overall have a more positive feeling and experience.

Being involved on campus will make you less likely to quit.  You’ll have more ties to the school and a larger network to keep you motivated every week.

+ Make Friends

This is one of the more generic and common tips in this post, but it is worth repeating and supporting.  Making new friends on campus and in your classes is one of the best ways to support your college success and avoid the drop-out risk.  Friends in your major or more difficult classes can support you and add a sense of comradery to your struggles.

College can be a difficult process on your own.  Friends and family can be a big help, but they aren’t always at the same school as you or taking the same classes.  It is tougher for them to relate and support you than it is for your fellow classmates.  Your classmates can also help you study and add some extra accountability that we talked about in part one.

If you struggle making friends in class, then you should refer to the tip above and focus on finding some campus group to join.  It will be easier to find new friends in a social environment rather than an academic one.  The more connections you have to campus, the less likely you are to give up and drop it all.

+ Reward Yourself

Give yourself any kind of positive motivation you can for doing well in your studies.  It could be for completing an assignment early, getting a good grade, making progress on a project or paper, going to your teacher’s office hours, or any other number of positive tasks.  Reward yourself in whatever way works best for you.

When self-positive reinforcement is suggested, students often have a difficult time knowing what to use to reward themselves.  If you are also unsure of what you could use, consider this tactic: see what you do in your free time when you’re on your own.  Do you go somewhere specific?  Watch tv or play video games?  Play on your phone or read a book?  It doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is that you are choosing to do it in your spare time and must be enjoying it.

Take that activity and use it as your reward.  When you get home or have free time, withhold doing that activity until you’ve made some progress in your work.  Once you have made progress, you can reward yourself – even if it’s something minor or simple.  This reinforcement might seem silly or childish, but it can make a large impact helping you feel positive about your studies and continue to make progress.

Community colleges are a terrific resource for continuing your education.  The biggest downside to a local community school is the higher risk of failure or dropping out.  You should know this going in.  If you know the reasons why many students drop out, and if you follow some of the tips here, you will be able to stick to your program and find success on your educational journey.

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.

Don’t Be Another Community College Dropout! Part II

Don’t Be Another Community College Dropout! Part II

Focus on Your Goals


Most students beginning community college are not focused on what they are trying to accomplish.  In particular, students straight out of high school often do not have an end game in mind when they enroll in school.  School has simply been what they’ve always done so far, so more school at a community college seems the natural path – call us today to book your private Costa Mesa college tutor.

Even students who are several years removed from high school often don’t have goals in mind when they enroll in community college.  Maybe people have told them they should go back to school, or that a college education is valuable, or they have the idea that going to college will lead to a better job.

Whatever the case, students often aren’t focused enough on their goal while in community college.  They take generic classes and maybe settle on a generic degree and don’t know where to go next.  This tends to prolong the time it takes to finish school and also can make the college process feel useless or unbeneficial.  Don’t let yourself fall into this trap.  Your goal is to successfully earn a degree and ultimately get a job with it.  Don’t forget this.

It’s okay not to know what field you want to study or what jobs you want to pursue right away, but you should constantly be looking to discover and decide on those important choices.  Here are some ways to help you have a focused and successful college career:

+ Research and Know Your Program Requirements

Your school will have their requirements for graduation and each degree and major detailed in their college catalog.  Search for this and familiarize yourself with what classes you need to take to graduate with your desired degree.

Don’t forget that your goal in college is to earn a degree.  If you aren’t sure what you want to major in yet, then at least familiarize yourself with your school’s divisional/core requirements for graduation.  These are class requirements that all students must fulfill to graduate – so, even if you haven’t chosen a major yet, you can still be taking classes toward earning your degree.

One reason why many students struggle to graduate on time or manage their course loads is that they aren’t familiar enough with which classes they should be taking.  Students often took superfluous classes, or they don’t take important prerequisite classes early enough.  Don’t let this happen to you by learning exactly what your school requires.

 + Research, Your Professors

Ratemyprofessor.com is a valuable resource for college students – though it should not be taken too seriously.  The website allows for anonymous reviews and ratings of professors from across the country.  Previous students can rate them based on difficulty, amount of work required, grading leniency, and more.  You can also look at a professor’s reviews for a specific class.

These reviews are especially valuable for community college students where the classes are often larges, and many of the teachers may not be the highest quality.  Do yourself a favor by trying to avoid teachers who are notoriously unhelpful when possible.  Also take advantage when you see a teacher with many positive, favorable reviews.  Sign up for these teachers’ classes early; their classes are more likely to fill up quickly.

However, don’t treat the website as definitive for a teacher’s abilities.  Remember that students who did poorly in a class or clashed with a teacher are much more likely to get online to complain and write a negative review.  A good rule of thumb is to ignore any ratings if there are fewer than ten total reviews for that teacher.  Another good rule is to ignore the ratings if they all seem too inconsistent and conflict with one another.  A good final rule is to look for personal reviews from people you know whenever possible: ask your friends and classmates about the teachers and classes they’ve taken and how they went.

Having good teachers who leave a positive and motivating impression on you can help you feel like you are learning and making progress.  Conversely, poor teachers can ruin your confidence and should be avoided as often as possible.

 + Frequently See Someone for Help

Visiting an advisor, teacher, or tutor regularly is good advice for keeping yourself accountable and on task, but it is also good advice for remaining focused on your goals.  You should be trying to check in with someone experienced to make sure you’re taking the right classes and making good progress.  Even if you have researched your catalog and course requirements thoroughly, they might know something that you don’t that can help.

Some good times to do this are: before you register for classes for the next semester, before the final add/drop date for this semester’s classes, before midterms or final exams, and after you receive your final grades.  See someone for help consistently so you can be sure that you are on schedule and not missing anything.  This will help keep you from giving up from being confused or behind in your program.

+ Stay Career Focused

It’s easy to get caught up in the classes and school life and forget that the ultimate goal is to find a job with your earned degree.  This is especially true if you are coming straight from high school and don’t have much career experience.  You do not want to be starting your job search after you graduate, and you especially do not want to finish an expensive degree (financially and time-wise) that you never use.

You can attempt to combat this by keeping your goal in mind.  Start your job search as early as possible.  Try to find what jobs you think you will be qualified for and what you would like to do – even if it’s too early to apply yet.  Look for summer internships or relevant summer jobs if possible.  If you are already working, but it isn’t in the field that your degree will be in, try to switch to something more relevant as soon as possible – even if it’s an entry-level position.  Talk to career counseling at your school and find help with your resume and interviewing skills.

Your school likely has the best job search resources available to you, and they are usually free while you are a student.  Your schools and your teachers want you to succeed and find work after graduation.  Take advantage of this and always be working toward your future job while in school.  If you have your positive career goal in mind, you are less likely to feel like you’re wasting your time and give up.

Book your private Costa Mesa college 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.


Community College: Don’t be a Dropout

Don’t Be Another Community College Dropout!


Community college can be an effective and efficient alternative to a four-year university.  Community colleges offer programs that are shorter, more career-focused, and at a fraction of the cost.  Plus, they’re usually much closer to home for an easy commute.  Even students looking for a bachelor’s degree should consider a two-year school since many offer transfer programs after you’ve completed two years.  However, you have to be careful to avoid the bane of many community college students’ educational careers: failing or dropping out.

The National Student Clearing House reports that six years after enrolling, only 27% of students completed their two-year school program in the United States.  Probability-wise, a student attending a four-year public school is expected to be twice as likely to graduate when compared to a student at a two-year public school – our private San Diego college tutors are here to help.

There are many, many factors contributing to community college students dropping out or failing their programs.  Chief among these is the difficult learning curve associated with adjusting to a college program and workload and the convenience and seeming necessity of dropping out to work full-time.

If you are taking advantage of the benefits and low costs of community college, then you should be aware of the lower success rates so that you can actively fight to make sure that your college experience is a successful one.  Here is some advice to make your community college experience a successful one.

Give Yourself Outside Accountability

Arguably the hardest part of succeeding in college has to do it by yourself.  You are not required to go to class; you often don’t have parents that are making sure you get good grades and stay on track, and there are so many students that teachers and advisors often don’t have the time to follow up with you and keep you on track.  Essentially, you have to make yourself learn and do everything all on your own – a daunting and difficult task for anyone.

Here’s the secret: you don’t have to do it all on your own if you find others to help keep you on task and held accountably.  It is easy to skip class, shirk assignments, get poor grades, and ultimately give up if it’s only you who knows about it.  It’s easier to stay in bed if there’s no one to nag you to get up and go to class.  It’s easier to skip your homework after a long day of work if no one tells you that you shouldn’t.

You need to find others to hold you accountable during your moments of weakness and help keep you motivated to achieve your goal.  Here are some simple ways to do so:

+ Look to Friends or Family

Telling close friends or family members about your classes and program is often a simple and effective way of gaining outside accountability.  You don’t want to let down your family, do you?  Ideally, find someone who has been through the college process themselves and who is interested in helping you succeed.

A tip that I’ve found helpful is to give someone a copy of your syllabus or put your syllabi up on a wall or the fridge.  That way, someone else can check up to ask you about assignments or if you’re studying for an upcoming test.

+ Join a Study Group

Joining or making a study group with fellow class members is a great way to stay ahead of assignments and studying.  Sometimes there will even be TAs assigned to help students in a weekly designated study session for the class.

Take advantage of these opportunities, but also schedule yourself to go to all of them.  Find a friend and the class and tell them you’ll be going to every study session.  Or, you can host a study group yourself.  This way, people will be expecting you to attend, and you will feel accountable to do so.  Even if you don’t feel like you need the extra studying, go to the groups anyway.  Use it as a chance to get ahead and stay confident.

+ Go to Office Hours

This is advice that I give to all college students, and you can read more about it here.  If you go to all of your professor’s office hours to visit them and work on the class material, then they will begin to expect you and know you.  This can help hold you accountable because you won’t want to skip a class or do poorly and disappoint the professor.

+ Find a Private San Diego Tutor or Advisor

Often, school advisors are too busy to give you their full attention at a large community college.  However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still seek out their help and advice.  However, a fool-proof way to have someone keep you focused and accountable in school is to hire a private San Diego tutor.

An experienced tutor can do much more than help you study for an upcoming test in your math class.  An experienced tutor can look over your program requirements and guidelines, take a look at your syllabi and schedule, and help you plan for your success.  A tutor who you see weekly can help you plan, tell you what to do, and check-in to make sure you’re doing it.  They can help you study for classes, teach you lessons in subjects they are experts on, and make sure you aren’t steering off course.  Ask for an experienced tutor who can help you with college advising and scheduling.

Book you private San Diego college 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.

High School Seniors: How to Be Successful This Fall

High School Seniors: Balancing Classes, AP, SAT/ACT, College Apps, and More This Fall


High school seniors looking to go to a four-year college next year are all in a similar, stressful situation.  Your schedule is full, your new classes are very hard, you’re supposed to be taking critical standardized tests, and you have college applications to start and finish.  All of this while you are having the added pressure of deciding where you want to spend the next four years and what you want to do with your life.  Not to mention the anticipation of parting ways with many of your closest friends shortly – our private Costa Mesa tutors are here to help with your senior year.

Overall, it really isn’t an easy time for anyone.  Unfortunately, reading this won’t be able to take all of that stress away.  What it will do, however, is give you some guidance to help alleviate your difficulties and help lead you toward success in all of these endeavors.  After helping many students in similar situations, here is some of my advice about how to balance everything in this busy and difficult time:


Hopefully, you’ve already taken your standardized test of choice at least once.  Hopefully, you also prepared for that test by studying and taking practice tests.  If you have, this is good news: with your upcoming test you are only trying to improve your previous scores, and you have a good grasp on the test already.  You are likely a little rusty on the material if you haven’t been studying over the summer, so you need to refresh yourself.

For many students, there is simply no time to take a full-length practice test because of their other obligations.  Instead, take each section one at a time with a timer.  Take a timed reading section one day, and a timed math section the next.  Write a timed essay if you are taking the essay.  By doing this, you only need to find about an hour of spare time to study, while still getting used to the questions again and getting comfortable with the time limits and pacing.

If this is your first test and you have not studied at all, you are in a more difficult situation.  You simply must take a timed, full-length practice test before your real test if you want to perform close to your potential.  You will do poorly (compared to what you are capable of) if your first time taking the full SAT or ACT is on test day.  Wake up early on a weekend if you have to and take a full practice test.  Score it and review your answers or have someone experienced to do it for you.  Students almost always improve by huge margins after taking the test for the first time; make sure that the first time is just practice.

SAT Subject Tests

Many students will also be taking the subject tests this time of year to apply to the few universities that require them.  Because usually, only the more selective schools will be asking for the SAT subject tests, this means that you will want to do well on them.

Unfortunately, these tests are not well-known and are often an afterthought for students who find themselves forced to take them in the fall of their senior year without much or any preparation.  These are still standardized tests, and you still need to be familiar with them if you want to do well.  Like the other standardized tests, you should be taking practice tests.  Luckily, the subject tests are not very long.  Get ahold of some practice tests (official ones if possible) and take them when you have free time.

These tests do require detailed knowledge of the subject you are taking them for, so you will likely have to review your old class material and study.  Take the practice tests early, so you know which tests you are best at and what material you’ve forgotten and need to practice – our private Costa Mesa test prep tutors will help you score high.

AP Tests

Senior year is also the year when students have the most advanced placement (AP) classes on their schedule.  These classes have a lot of added difficulty, as well as the anticipation of trying to pass the AP test at the end of the year.  Luckily, that test is a long way away, and you have plenty of time to study and prepare for it.  If you also need to prepare for other standardized tests, make college applications and feel overwhelmed, then I recommend putting some of your AP prep on the backburner.

This does not mean you should slack off in these classes.  You could easily fall behind and see your grades slip (which you will have to report to the colleges you applied to, even though your applications are submitted before you know your final grades).  Focus in class and make sure you understand everything to the best of your ability.  You just might need to save the extra studying and AP prep for later.

Don’t start taking AP practice tests and having AP review sessions if it means sacrificing your SAT/ACT prep or your college applications.  These are more important right now, and you need to put the time and effort into them before dedicating extra attention to AP material (READ: Costa Mesa Tutoring Tips: 5 Time-Saving Study Tips).

New Classes

The above points are referencing studying that you do to pass the AP exams ultimately – a goal that you should have if you are taking an AP class.  You should save AP test specific studying for later in the year if you are too busy now, but you can’t neglect your grades and new classes.  Here are three simple tips to help you stay on top of new classes during a busy time.

Stay organized.  Don’t start cramming all of your papers into one folder because you think you don’t have the time to organize them.  Don’t write your notes on loose scratch paper or keep every class’s notes in the same notebook. Don’t miss homework or test dates because you didn’t bother to write them down.  Make yourself do at least the bare minimum for organization.  You’ve been in school long enough to know what to do and what not to do.  You don’t need to go over the top and doing anything extra special this year to be organized, but you do need to keep yourself on top of things while your schedule is busy.

Do everything early.  It is easier said than done to avoid procrastination, but it is indisputable that finishing work early will save you from a lot of unnecessary extra stress.  When you get an assignment, do the assignment.  When you learn about a test, study for the test.  When you’re assigned a big project, start it right away.  This tactic will save you this fall.

Find someone to hold you accountable.  This tip goes with the two above.  You need something to hold you accountable for doing things like staying organized, doing work early, and studying.  It could be a parent, or a tutor, or a friend.  Someone who knows what you need to do and can check in on you to make sure you’re doing it.  Find a classmate who will always do the homework early with you so you can make each other do it.  Tell your mom your study plan and write it down so she can follow up with you and make sure you’re staying according to schedule.  Get an experienced tutor who can guide you in your application process or standardized testing and make sure you’re doing what you need to do.  It is easy to slack and procrastinate when there’s no one to call you out on it.  These are all examples of ways to avoid that.

College Applications

You need to do this early and give them the attention they deserve.  Deadlines for regular decision vary, but the most common is usually January 1st.  However, they can be as early as November and as late as next spring.

However, knowing the deadlines shouldn’t be too important if you aren’t procrastinating.  Aim to finish your regular decision applications in October, so you have plenty of time to review, improve, and add new schools.  If you haven’t already, then contact the people you will be asking for letters of recommendation.  Do it as soon as possible and tell them exactly what you would ideally like them to write about you.  The more detail you give your recommender, the more likely they are to give you a letter that isn’t generic and has the details you want colleges to read.

Make your list of schools, familiarize yourself with application requirements and formats, and start writing your essays, personal statements, and resumes.  You should ideally tailor each of these documents to each school, but you should still have your base templates to go off of.  Give yourself several weeks to polish, individualize, and have others read and review.

A good tactic is to make yourself do something application related every day.  Tell yourself that you just need to work on an application for only five minutes.  Often, these five minutes will turn into much more, but even if it doesn’t, five minutes is still progress.  Progress every day will add up.  You will feel better, avoid procrastination, gain experience, and build a healthy habit.  Make sure you stay accountable and do at least a little bit of work each day.  Before you know it, you will be finished, have quality applications, and have plenty of time before the deadlines.

Make sure you have a successful senior year with the help of a private Costa Mesa tutor. Please call TutorNerds 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.

Back to School Tip: Talk to Your Teachers

Back to School Tip From an Anaheim Private Tutor: Make Yourself Talk to Your Teachers


For some students, communicating with the teacher is not an issue – book your back to school private Anaheim tutor today.  Asking questions in class comes naturally, seeking out extra help when needed is obvious, and getting to know the teacher is simple.  But, if you’re reading this, then you probably aren’t one of those students.  Don’t worry – you’re not alone.  Many students are anxious at school, or feel nervous speaking in front of the class or are just shy.  You might even simply consider yourself to be a ‘quiet’ person.  Unfortunately, while these feelings are normal and nothing to be ashamed or worried about, they can negatively impact your academic success.

Here are some of the ways that asking questions and talking to your teacher can help you:

  • If you have a question during class you, you need to feel comfortable enough to raise your hand and ask it.
  • Many classes use participation as part of your overall grade
  • Being comfortable with your teacher will make it easier to ask for extra help
  • Active participation shows your teacher that you are trying
  • Making yourself participate helps guarantee that you’re paying attention

The fact is, talking to your teachers more will almost certainly improve your success in your classes.  Raising your hand and asking questions, participating in class discussions, visiting your teacher after class or during office hours, and keeping in touch with questions via email are all methods to do this.

If you are struggling with this, you need to practice making yourself do so.  Here are some example rules that you could try to help you overcome your difficulties and start communicating more in your classes:

  • Make a rule that you have to visit at least one teacher in their classroom/office each week.
  • Make a rule that you must raise your hand at least once each class
  • Make a rule that you talk to your teachers in person or via email at least two days before every test
  • Make a rule where you tally every time you raise your hand in a class, and you have to reach a certain number each day or each week

You can make your own rules or your system, but the important thing is that you start practicing.  You will find that you are more confident about speaking up and talking in front of others.  You will find that your grades and relationships with your teachers improve.  You will find that you are paying more attention in class and feeling less stressed when you get confused by a lesson.  If this is a problem for you, make it your back to school resolution to stick to a plan that gets you talking to your teachers more often.

Don’t wait until you fail your first test to get a tutor. Our experienced private Anaheim tutors are here to help from the first day of class.

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.

20 Tips for New Tutors (Part V)

Twenty Tips for New Tutors Part Five


Go Back to Easier Concepts When Necessary

There is nothing wrong with a high school student that doesn’t know how to add two fractions or doesn’t understand when they need to use a comma.  Many key, basic topics can be easily missed if a student had a bad teacher or a difficult time with a topic.  Unfortunately, their current teachers are unlikely to go back and review earlier or easier materials for each student that needs them.  As a private Irvine tutor, you should take the chance to help them practice any easier concepts that they need to know – even if they “should already know it” or it should be “too easy.”

Use Positive Reinforcement and Motivation

Students who need tutoring often lack confidence in the subject you are tutoring them in or are unsatisfied with their current performance.  Low self-esteem can be a detriment to their performance and enjoyment of a subject, and you should do your best to improve it.  Help them feel good when they do something well or when they understand a difficult topic and don’t ever put them down for having a hard time with something.  A student should never be made to feel stupid when it’s your job to help them.

Don’t Balk When Something Isn’t “the Way I Learned It”

Classes and teaching methods grow and evolve.  Teachers also all have their preferred methods and styles.  Don’t be constrained to doing everything the way that you learned it.  Just because it worked for you doesn’t make it better than the way their teacher is doing it.  Now, you can still teach things a different way to see what works best for your student, but don’t shut down a method just because you’re unfamiliar with it.  Take the opportunity to learn something new yourself.

Stay on the Same Page with the Parents

You may spend most of your time teaching and speaking with a student.  But, if it was the student’s parents who hired you, you should also make sure that you are keeping them updated.  You should be aware of their expectations as well – it isn’t unheard of for a parent to blame the tutor is the student performs poorly on a test or in a class.  Combat this by keeping them updated on what you’re doing, how the student is progressing, and what their reasonable expectations should be.

Educate Yourself

I find it damaging to my pride as an educator when a student asks a question that I don’t know the answer to.  If I’m supposed to be the expert in the subject that I am teaching them, then to me, that means that I should be able to have most of the correct answers on demand confidently.  There’s nothing wrong with needing to google something every once in a while, but you should not always be telling a student that you “don’t remember” how to do something or that you “never learned that.”

And those are a few of the many pieces of advice that I’ve garnered from my experience teaching and tutoring.  You will keep improving as you gain more experience and begin to hone your teaching style, but don’t be afraid to use some of these tips to help you get started.

Read part four 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.