Category Archives: Academic Tutoring

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 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 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 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 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 Physics Tutor Tip: What is a Newton? Weight vs Mass

Irvine Physics Tutor Tip: What is a Newton? Weight vs. Mass

A common problem for physics students is conceptualizing new types of measures and what they represent.  It’s easy enough to understand meters an,d seconds; we’re used to these concepts of distance (even if it isn’t usually in meters) and time.  Other units, however, aren’t as commonplace in our everyday lives and are harder to understand.  As a tutor and physics teacher, I’ve found that students having a strong understanding of units and being able to trace and connect different units helps them dramatically in both their physics understanding and their physics grades (book your private Irvine physics tutor today).

Here, we will be discussing one of the main culprits in physics confusion that is introduced very early in an introductory physics class: the Newton.

You are likely familiar with the concept of weight in everyday life. Things have different weights, and we measure them in pounds, ounces, and sometimes tons.  You’ve likely also heard metric system units of weight: notably grams, milligrams, and kilograms.

But in physics, this gets more confusing.  Pounds are rarely or never used. Kilograms are still used, but they are a unit for “mass” rather than weight.  Instead, the “newton” is introduced as the new unit of weight.  So, in real life, we use kilograms to describe weight, but really, they’re for mass?  What is a newton and how is it different?

Our answer is in a fundamental physics equation that you will need to quickly commit to memory to succeed in physics: F=ma. This is called Newton’s second law.

Knowing the equations is the key to understanding new units and what they measure.  This equation is defining “force.”  Force is the measure that is describing what we call weight in physics.  Mass is an intrinsic quality of matter.  If we multiply that mass by an acceleration, we get the force.

The reason we often equate these two in everyday life is that the acceleration of gravity is always the same for us on Earth.  Specifically, the acceleration is around 9.8 meters per seconds, squared (m/s2).  So, if we know the mass of an object, we can always multiply by 9.8 to get force it exerts downward or its “weight.”  Because of this, mass and weight have become synonymous when talking about the force that objects exert downward since we are almost always talking about objects on Earth and at a typical altitude.

A way to understand this new unit of force is to break it up into its fundamental components.  We can do this by replacing our equation for force above with the units for each variable: force is measured with Newtons, mass with kilograms, and acceleration in meters per second2.

Using this unit definition can help you check answers during a test.  If your final answer is a force, then the units you end with should be:

Similarly, if you get an answer with those units but didn’t know what is, now you know that it is representing force.

Knowing your units is an important tool in physics to check answers and aid in understanding new concepts and new measures.  Every time you learn a new unit, you should be asking yourself what it is measuring and how it is defined with the more fundamental units.

Our experienced Irvine physics tutors are here to help you succeed in your physics class. Call us today to book your 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 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 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 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.

What Your Irvine SAT Tutor Should Be Able to Do

What Your Irvine Private SAT Tutor Should Be Able to Do

Standardized tests can play a very important role in your admission to your favorite college.  Because of this, many high school students and their parents choose to hire private tutors for tests like the SAT and ACT to help the student study and achieve the highest score that they can.

It is true that private tutoring is a very effective method of preparing for these types of exams.  An experienced tutor can evaluate a student’s strong and weak points, find the strategies and tactics that work best for each student, and keep them dedicated to a study plan that will lead to their best results.  You can’t get the same type of attention and experience by studying on your own or in a classroom setting.

However, these results depend on the fact that you have a good and experienced tutor.  There are many “tutors” out there for tests like the SAT who are not qualified to help you the most.  Many college students who recently took the exam themselves will claim that they can tutor for the test.  Parents might hire them when they claim their high test scores as their credentials.  “Hire me and your student can get a score like mine!”

Many teachers or students studying to become teachers will also tutor for these exams in their spare time, even when they aren’t experienced in the tests themselves.  “Hire me, I’ve been teaching for fifteen years and have the experience to help,” or “hire me, I teach calculus, so I can tutor for SAT math!”

While many of these tutors can be helpful, it is not the same as working with someone who knows the test and the best test preparation strategies inside-out.  Here is what a well-qualified and experienced SAT tutor should be able to do for you:

-Be able to consistently answer every test question correctly.  This does not mean that tutors need to be able to get perfect scores on the tests or that they can’t make mistakes, but if you have your questions or practice problems, the tutor should be good enough at the test to get the answers correct and explain them nearly every time.

-Be up to date on the format of the test.  If your private Irvine SAT tutor does not know how many sections there are, what the timing is, and how the test is scored, then they likely aren’t experienced enough in the test or their experience is with an older version of the test.

-Be able to provide study materials.  A good Irvine SAT tutor should be very familiar with all of the official practice tests and study materials and have them available for you to use.  They likely should also have extra materials in case you need more.  A tutor who expects you to have or buy new books or practice tests on day one (when the best practice tests are free), is a tutor who is not experienced in preparing for the test.

-Be able to evaluate you and give you your own, personal strategies.  Many tutors come with generic tips that either they use themselves, or that they’ve heard other people use.  Basic tips like “read the questions before the passage” or “star the ones that look hard and come back to them later” or “skip the word problems and do them last if you have time” are all fairly common and generic tips.  There are many others like them, and they do work for many students.  But not every student.  A good tutor should NOT be giving any of this advice until they’ve evaluated your skills and weaknesses (usually from a practice test).  Then, they can pick which ones will work best for you.

There are other factors that make someone a good SAT or another standardized test tutor, but these are some things you should be expecting when you’re paying someone to give private lessons to your student for a very important test.  You can get by and get good results with many other study methods, but if you want the most optimized approach, you will likely need a good private 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, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at 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 Math Tutor: Should You “Cross Multiply”?

Anaheim Math Tutor Tips: Should You “Cross Multiply”?

“Cross multiply” is an often-used term in mathematics that often sticks in people’s memories long after they graduate high school and stop taking math classes. However, most of those people don’t really know what it is and why it works. So many students are just taught to “cross multiply” when they see an equation with fractions. Unlike many other memorized phrases in math, cross multiplication is actually a useful tool that often makes problems with fractions a little bit easier – sign up for your private Anaheim math tutor.

But just like anything else you memorize in math, you should understand what you’re doing rather than just memorizing a seemingly arbitrary procedure. Cross multiplication is just the “undoing” of division that is being done. If you have two fractions, that is the same as dividing by something on each side. And, just like we can subtract to “undo” addition, we can multiply to “undo” the division that is making those pesky fractions.

Here are three examples that we will solve both with and without cross multiplying. You can see that there are always other ways to solve these problems, as well as why cross multiplying works and is a little bit simpler.

As a general rule of thumb, I do not teach cross multiplication without making sure my students know how to solve the problems without it first. That way I help promote a stronger understanding of how to solve simple algebraic equations that will hopefully stick with them and translate to other math skills rather than leaving them thinking “cross multiply is how you have to solve fractions.”

Here is the first example:

In this example, we have two fractions and need to solve for x. To help find x, we can notice that the fraction on the right can be reduced:

Now we have successfully eliminated the fraction on the right. To solve for x, we now only have to divide both sides by 2. There are a few ways to think about doing this, including using your calculator or converting the left fraction to a decimal. I’ll not that two-fifths divided by two leaves us with one fifth:

We get a solution of one fifth (1/5) which is equal to 0.2. No cross multiplying was needed, only our standard multiplication and division. Let’s do the same with cross multiplication:

Here, we didn’t think about reducing the initial fraction. We simply cross multiplied: taking the diagonal terms in our fractions and multiplying them together (one set in green and the other in purple). This makes the “cross” of our cross multiplication. After we do this, we get a fairly trivial equation of 8 = 40x to solved. We divide both sides by 40 and get the same answer we did above.

Example 2:

Now the x is on the bottom of the fraction. To solve this, we could multiply both sides by x to “undo” the 7 being divided by an x on the left. However, another way would be to make the right side of the equation look like the left. We notice that the left side has a 7 on top, but the right side has a 14. We can change the 14 into a 7 by halving the top and bottom of the right:

Let’s use cross multiplication to solve the same problem:

No extra thinking here or even trying to get the x out of the bottom of the fraction. We simply follow the cross multiplying procedure and multiply the green together and the purples to get our final, simple equation that yields the same 1.5 answer.

Example 3:

Our last example gets a little more complex with terms in parentheses. Cross multiplying here would probably be the best choice, but it’s never the only choice. The fraction on the left is a term being divided by 6. The fraction on the right is a term being divided by 9. We can distribute the division (just like you would distribute multiplication into parentheses) to get an equation we can solve:

We could have kept our work as fractions instead of decimals, but this is likely how it would look if you were using a calculator to help you solve the problem, and decimals are equally as valid as long as we don’t round them. Let’s see how it looks using cross multiplication:

Here we get the same answer as above by following the exact same cross multiplication procedure. Notice that we still had to distribute when we multiplied the terms in parentheses.

Cross multiplying can be a very helpful tool when solving equations with fractions. However, it should not be thought of as the only way to do so, and it should not be the only way students are taught. Thinking this way will continue to lead to many students being confused about fractions and unsure of how to work with them. Cross multiply doesn’t have to go away, but the blind memorization of it should.

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 Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at 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.

Get the Most Out of Your Private Orange County Tutor

Get the Most Out of Your Private OC Tutor: 3 Quick Tips

Private tutoring is a solution for academic woes that continues to grow in popularity. Whether it be for a difficult high school class, an essential standardized test, a confusing college course, or a looming cumulative final, more adults and young adults are seeking out tutors to help them achieve the best grade possible. After tutoring dozens of students in each of the above categories and more, here are some of my quick tips for how you can achieve the best results with your personal Orange County tutor.

Send Them Your Material

This tip is first and is first for good reason. If you want to set yourself up for a good tutoring lesson, you should always strive to send your tutor the material you need help with ahead of time. Preferably a full day or two before your session. If you have study guides to review, homework to finish, or just class notes on the topic you are struggling with, then send them to your tutor. If it’s for standardized tests, then send them any practice tests you’ve already taken, score reports you’ve already received, or practice material you’ve already purchased or been given.

The reason is that it will lessen the time at the beginning of your session that your tutor would normally have to take to get acquainted with your specific material and find the best way to proceed. Hiring experienced and qualified tutors is a necessity, but classes are taught by many different teachers with many different curriculums and many different priorities. Your Biology 101 teacher could have wildly different expectations and required topics than other teachers and other schools. Give your tutor some time to review your material to make sure they know what you need help with before your lesson is due to begin.

Have Concrete Goals

Make sure you know what you want to get out of tutoring. Are you working toward your social science degree and really need to understand everything in your statistics course? Are you trying to get through your last math class and just need to make sure you pass? Is your GPA important to you but you don’t really care about AP Lit? These are all things that will be useful for your tutor to know.

If you’re aiming for specific test scores or working towards a specific goal, a tutor can help you achieve that – if you tell them. Teaching someone math who’s failing and needs to get a C will have a much different approach than someone who is already doing well but wants to get an A. And both cases are different than teaching someone who really wants to learn and understand to do better in the future rather than someone who wants to get a grade and never do it again. These differences can change how your tutor will approach your lessons and studying recommendations.

Show Them Your Grades

Anything that you have that you’ve already finished and is graded: quizzes, tests, practice tests, essays, projects, etc. Seeing how you’re doing on these assignments can be instrumental in diagnosing your specific problem areas and finding appropriate solutions.

How you do in an Orange County private tutoring session isn’t always indicative of how you’ll do on your own in a classroom or testing setting. Reading a passage and answering questions quickly might be easy when you have your tutor to help, but that doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense and you have to read the paragraph four times when you do it on your own. In math class, you might understand the lesson but make simple mistakes on the test. If your tutor sees this pattern in your grades, they can dedicate more time to repetition or revisiting specific problem areas. Viewing these grades can also give them an idea of what your teacher is looking for, how they make their test, and how strictly they grade. This is all important in how they should proceed with your tutoring.

Don’t forget that the job of a tutor is to help you achieve your individual academic goals. In order for them to be effective in this task, you should provide them with all of the tools you can. If your experienced tutor knows what your goals, can review your material on their own, and can view and evaluate your performance, they will better be able to tailor specific lessons for you that can best help you succeed.

Book your private Orange County 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 Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at 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.