Category Archives: Test Preparation

Last Minute AP Exam Advice From an Anaheim Tutor

Tips From an Anaheim AP Tutor: Last Minute AP Exam Advice

The AP Exams are upon us! If you are taking a test or tests this week or next, you might be looking for some final pieces of advice to get a good score – it’s not too late to book a private Anaheim AP tutor.

There’s a whole population of students across the United States that are stressing and studying for their big exams who are in desperate need for last minute help. Unfortunately, the internet has been filled with generic, repetitive, and otherwise unhelpful AP exam “tips” that dominate your search results when you’re looking for help. You’ve seen them all before: “make sure you sleep,” “eat a good breakfast,” “take deep breaths,” etc.

Everyone has heard these words of wisdom at this point. They have nothing to do with the AP exams and are not useful for students looking for practical advice. If you’ve made it to the end of high school and are taking AP exams, but don’t know that you should try to sleep before a big test, then you might need to reevaluate your priorities.

Instead, here are some tips that you might not have heard yet, and will hopefully better help you navigate your preparation for the exams.

I Have More Than Two Days Left to Study

1. Take a Practice Test!

Please, if you haven’t taken a practice test yet, take one now. Stop reading, find a test (preferably an official one), and take it. Hopefully, your teacher has already had you take at least one practice test, but if not, you should be striving to take multiple before the real thing. There is nothing like taking a full, timed mock AP exam to prepare you for the real thing. Look at what you did wrong on your practice test, then try to improve it on your next practice test.

2. Find Accountability

Have someone make sure that you are doing the preparation you need to. It is difficult to self-study and hold yourself to a schedule (especially for many high schoolers), so find someone to help you. Whether it’s a friend or classmate who agrees to take timed practice tests with you, a parent or teacher who supervises your study schedule, or an experienced tutor who guides you through your progress, everyone can benefit from a little accountability. It’s much harder to procrastinate when someone is expecting and waiting for you to show them your work.

3. Get Feedback

Taking practice tests and using study guides is great. You can study effectively and efficiently on your own. However, it can be tough to know where you stand in terms of succeeding at the test. Look to a teacher – who has likely overseen many students taking the same exam – to help you figure out what you need to work on or improve (READ: Irvine AP Tutoring: 5 Ways to Improve Your AP Exam Score).

If there are a few areas that you struggle with but are great at the rest, then you might be wasting valuable time by continuing to do full-length tests and reviews. Conversely, if you know your stuff but you are leaving several questions blank on your practice tests because you run out of time, then you may need to focus on pacing and prioritization instead of continuing with your flashcards. Find a teacher, tutor, or someone otherwise experience with your test who can look at your practice tests and help you find what to do next.

I Have Two Days or Fewer Left to Study

1. Cram. But Cram Selectively

A common piece of advice before any big test is to stop studying, relax, and focus on being in a healthy, well-rested, positive state of mind. Apparently, “studies show” that studying the night before the test does not improve test results when compared to good night sleep.

This advice is partly true. Don’t stay up all night, don’t cram full study guides and practice tests the day before your exam, and don’t try to memorize a semester’s worth of material overnight. But that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from cramming. Pick three to five facts – whether it’s vocab, formulas, or some history – for you to bluntly memorize before your test. Pick things you aren’t already confident in, and cram and memorize them. Only pick a few, but make sure you know those few very well. If they come up on the test, you might get an extra question or two correct that you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t crammed. Do not exhaust yourself memorizing tons of facts right before the test. Do pick the last few things that your short-term memory can hold to help boost your score a tiny bit.

2. Stop Studying Sooner and Optimize

We’ll keep this short. A lot of the general and common knowledge regarding big tests is true: stop studying right before the test, get good rest, eat good food, get to a good mental state. Do not read this guide and think that you should wear yourself out cramming and doing practice tests. Practice tests in the days before, small cramming before the exam, but rest and self-help before exam day.

3. Trust Yourself

The AP exams are less out to trick you than other standardized tests. They are testing for knowledge. If you’ve kept up with your studying, then you likely do have the knowledge to answer many of the questions. Trust yourself, try not to overthink, and don’t get in your own head when reading the questions. Students change the correct answer to an incorrect one more often than vice-versa on most multiple-choice tests. It’s easier said than done, but this is your last reminder before the tests.

Good luck on your AP exams!

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.

SAT and ACT: Specific Tips for Common Problems – Part I

Tips from an Irvine SAT and ACT Tutor: Common Problems

These pieces of advice are more specific to taking the actual tests themselves. If you are looking for general advice about how to study and what materials to use,  read my previous article.

Instead, here I will cover more specific tips that can give you an edge on the test depending on your specific situation. These are common situations that I have found many of my students in when taking the tests, and implementing these tips has great success in helping them remedy their problems. These tips are not universal; you must take practice tests first to evaluate if these will apply to you.

The Essay

For the essay: First-grade essays you’ve written during practice tests using the guidelines and sample essays (or have a private tutor grade your essays for you) and determine where you are at and where you would like to be. If you have a low score looking to bring it closer to average, you need to determine where the problem lies. Three common scenarios I see with these scores are: not writing nearly enough, having very sloppy grammar and sentences, and failing to effectively respond to the prompt.

Of these, the first and third are easiest to remedy. For students who aren’t writing enough, we practice timed writing. Using simpler prompts and shorter time limits, they focus on getting more sentences and ideas onto the page in the time limit. Unfortunately, speed can be a huge problem for many students taking timed standardized tests. And, as unfair as it may be, it negatively affects your score if you can’t write quick enough.

The same strategy can be used if you aren’t answering the prompt effectively. Except, instead of writing many sentences in a short time limit, students should focus on making strong outlines or bullet points on how to answer the prompt. The essay needs to have substance, and that substance needs to be thought of quickly before it can be executed.
Grammar and overall writing issues have less cookie-cutter solutions and vary even more on a case to case basis. It is important to write a lot and have someone to review and correct your mistakes.

If your essay is already good but you are looking for an even better score, you can consider practicing implementing new elements to help improve your essay and make it stand out. This can include proper use of semi-colons and colons, more complex vocabulary words used correctly and appropriately, and varying sentence length and sentence structure throughout your paragraphs.

Stay tuned for part two!

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.


Why You Might Regret Not Taking an AP Class

Why AP? A Savings Story


With homework, clubs, sports, and friends to juggle, it can be difficult for a high schooler to justify the added pressure and workload of an Advanced Placement (AP) class – book your private Irvine AP tutor today. US History was hard enough, right? Why would you want to throw an AP in front of it and make your life that much harder?

Because it might help you save $70,000.

But before we get to the money, let’s talk about other important reasons for signing up for AP. AP classes are meant to simulate a college-level educational experience. This is why they tend to be more rigorous; the curriculum is programmed at a level above traditional secondary school material. As such, when college admissions counselors see that you are taking (and hopefully excelling in) AP classes, this is a signal that you are capable of handling college work. This is a big positive since colleges want to accept students who will be able to handle their classes and succeed in their school.

In many high schools, AP classes are also weighted differently than your standard classes for your GPA. This means that an “A” in an AP class will improve your grade point average and class rank more than an “A” in a normal class. Ever wonder why you hear people talking about GPAs even higher than 4.0? AP classes are usually key contributors. Need a GPA boost? Try adding an AP class and consider finding an experienced tutor to help you make sure you stay on track and get that “A” to maximize your GPA.

Aside from just showing that you are capable of taking college-level courses, AP classes also allow you to cap off the year by taking the AP exam in that subject. And, if you’re successful, you can expect colleges and universities to give you free college credit for your score (READ: Irvine AP Tutor Tips: 5 Ways to Conquer Your AP Exam).

This is where the savings come into play. I can speak from experience that the credit given from AP exams can be very significant to your college career. For me, my university estimates a cost of attendance at a whopping $72,000 per year. Over $50,000 is intuition alone. Without significant financial aid or scholarships, this is what students at this college can expect to pay out of pocket (or out of loans) for a year of education.

However, I was able to find a fast track out of these high costs. In high school, I took seven AP classes: Chemistry, Physics, Calculus AB, English Language, English Literature, US History, and US Government and Politics. For me, this was the maximum number of AP classes I could take since students at my high school were only allowed to enroll in AP classes in their junior and senior years. I took all of the AP exams for these classes to earn college credit, but I still wanted more. Outside of my regular classes, I self-prepared for four more AP exams: Biology, Environmental Science, Calculus BC, and Psychology. You do NOT have to be enrolled in an AP class to take the exam at the end of the year. By creating a schedule for myself and studying explicitly to pass the exams, I was able to prepare myself successfully.

When it came time to attend college, this hard work paid off. My school granted me credit for all but one of my AP scores. For most, I earned 3 college credits, and for a few, I earned 4. This is typical practice for nearly all universities, and their policies for which scores they accept and how many credits they grant can usually be found online or by contacting the school in question. Before I had even begun college, I already had 33 college credits walking in the door – or the equivalent of just over a year of full-time college education.

This allowed me to have more freedom in school. I had many prerequisite classes out of the way, and I had an amplitude of credits for wiggle room. I ended up graduating with a double major degree after only three years. My AP credits allowed me to add a second major, graduate an entire year early, and even have the luxury of taking more fun and interesting classes in my senior year instead of only classes needed to graduate.

Even if your college is fully paid for by scholarships, financial aid, or family, AP credits like this can still save you a fortune. You might not be cutting out a $70,000 cost of attendance bill, but you will be entering the workforce a year earlier, allowing you a head start on your career, gaining experience, and making your own money. Graduating early doesn’t look too bad on a resume either.

While eleven AP exams might seem unmanageable or overwhelming, it can be accomplished by many students with the right guidance. An experienced tutor, teacher, or mentor can help you plan for which tests meet your skill set and circumstances. Did you take honors biology but not AP biology? With some extra help, you might be able to study the new information faster than you think. Do you excel at English but your school doesn’t offer an AP Literature class? You might be surprised by the progress you make with a study plan and official practice tests. Looking for which tests are the easiest for you to study and pick up some extra credits quickly? Many educators are experienced with these tests and with students in your situation and can help you pick the AP exams for you.

My only regret is not taking a few more AP exams. You shouldn’t have the same regret, especially if you’re looking at expensive loans for school. Don’t underestimate the importance of free college credit, and don’t underestimate your ability to learn new material on your own and succeed.

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.

San Diego SAT Tutoring: 4 Ways to Improve Your SAT Math

Tips From a San Diego SAT Tutor:4 ways to improve your SAT math

Students are starting to study for their SAT exams and may notice that the math portion is a little bit more complicated than they originally thought. There are so many things today’s test prep student has to learn when it comes to numbers, and they’re encouraged to work on some tips and tricks before the big day. Whether students are memorizing formulas they haven’t worked on in a while or grasping new concepts, it’s important to improve skills to get as many points as possible on the SAT exam. The more students practice their math skills, and the sooner they get started, the more likely they are to be able to improve their score on the math portion of this life-changing exam – our private San Diego SAT tutoring will help you improve your score.

1. Work on multi-step problems

Many students struggle with multi-step issues because they make an error somewhere in the calculation chain. If a student makes even one wrong calculation, their ultimate answer will be incorrect. It’s important for test prep students to figure out where they went wrong and correct that particular step. After this, many students fine that multi-step problems are not as hard as they thought. A test prep tutor can help students break the math down into different parts and help the student achieve consistent Improvement (READ: 4 Reasons to Focus on San Diego SAT Tutoring Now).

2. Identify error patterns

Another essential element of SAT math is to identify patterns of error. Individual students tend to make the same mistake or series of mistakes over and over again, something that can cause them to lose a lot of points on the exam. Alternately, if they figure out where they went wrong students can end up getting a ton of points just by fixing one or two common errors. It’s important for students to talk with their teacher or tutor to identify their error patterns and then work on fixing them well in advance of the big day.

3. Review old formulas

Test prep students often discover they have to do the math they haven’t worked on for a couple of years. This can be frustrating because it’s math they already know but have put the back of their mind as they’re learning new concepts. It’s essential for test prep students to review old formulas on a regular basis even if it’s a small part of their SAT study. Students should also review formulas in the days leading up to the exam, so the information is fresh in their minds.

4. Increase speed and accuracy

Because the SAT has a strict time limit, it’s also essential for students to work on speed and accuracy. They need to focus on problem identification, learn what the question is asking for, and practice doing their computations as quickly as they can while still achieving the correct answer. This is something students can start out practicing in their tutoring sessions but should also work on extensively in their self-study. The more practice a student has, the more likely they are to be quick and efficient when they’re taking the actual exam.

Need help prepping for your SAT? Our in-home San Diego SAT tutoring will help you score high. Call TutorNerds for more information.

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.

Tips From an Irvine AP Tutor: 5 Ways to Improve AP Exam Score

AP exams: 5 Ways to Improve Your AP Exam Score From an Irvine AP Tutor


It’s that time of year again when students begin to start thinking about their advanced placement exams. Most students are taking AP classes by the time they’re in their junior year but some are starting to take courses sophomore year. AP courses require a large amount of homework and many important tests throughout the academic year but nothing compared to the final exam in May. Most students become overwhelmed by that point in the year because they’re also thinking about taking the SAT or ACT and their minds are exhausted from doing so many educational tasks that have occurred earlier in the year. The best way for students to overcome stress and do well in the spring is to start early and plan ahead – our private Irvine AP tutoring will help you score high on your AP exam.

1.   Identify areas to improve

If students try to study every single piece of information within their textbook, they’ll become overwhelmed very quickly. Instead, students are encouraged to look at their personal strengths and weaknesses in their AP courses and figure out what they need to hone in on before they start their study sessions really. Topics they already feel 100% on can be reviewed but won’t require quite as much effort. One of the best ways to identify strengths and weaknesses is to work with a tutor one-on-one or make an appointment with the classroom teacher at lunch. It’s often easier for another person to identify patterns and then give good advice to the student.

2.  Create an outline before studying

Another great thing for students to do is create an outline before they begin their study sessions. A student can identify different topics that may appear on the exam, look at different time periods they need to study or make a list of difficult concepts. This way they can tackle their study in smaller chunks and improve self-esteem by knowing they have accomplished and entire topic. Outlines also help keep students organized and help them manage their time (READ: AP Test Without the Class?).

3.  Take a practice test

It’s really important for students to take a practice test before they get too far into their study session because it will help them understand the format they will need to be familiar with on the big day. Each course will have slightly different formatting, but standardized testing is uniform across all topics in some respects. Students also need to get used to the short amount of time they will have to answer questions or write an essay. If a student scores lower than a three they know they have more work to do. The sooner they find this out, the more likely they will be to improve.

4.  Refine writing skills

Nearly every AP course requires excellent writing skills. Students either need to complete a free response question or write an essay of some sort. In particular, many students need to work on making their writing more concise and cutting out words that are unnecessary. This will get their point across more easily and also help cut down the amount of time it takes to complete the response. As an bonus, refining writing skills will also help students with their SAT and ACT prep.

5.  Develop a test prep strategy

After students have been studying for a while, they should develop a personal test prep strategy. How many points do they wish to improve? Which colleges are they applying to (this could make a difference as to what score is acceptable)? Do they need to work on speed when it comes to reading or writing? Do they need to work on concentration? These questions are difficult for a student to answer on their own and so it’s always good to have the help of a tutor, study group, or classroom teacher to develop a strategy that works for the student’s individual learning needs.

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.

Tips From an Irvine Test Prep Tutor: Fall SAT Checklist

Tips From an Irvine Test Prep Tutor: Fall SAT Checklist (List)

Students taking the SAT this fall are in a unique position because they’re one of the last groups of people to take the current SAT. It’s very important to pay close attention to test prep guidelines because otherwise students will be in a position where they might need to retrain their brain for the Redesigned SAT in 2016. There are tons of things that college prep students can do to get their SAT prep underway as soon as possible – have you booked your Irvine test prep tutor?


1. Study Vocab Like Crazy

Students taking the current SAT exam will still have to study vocab like there’s no tomorrow. There are a couple of ways students can work on their vocab skills to succeed: vocab memorization and vocab within the reading comprehension passages. The straight forward vocab section requires students to memorize hundreds of words, which is nearly impossible. As a result, they are encouraged to learn as many words as they can but also learn test prep techniques from their SAT tutor. In addition to pure vocab, students will need to study the vocab in context as it’s written in the reading comprehension sections. Test prep students should go through their practice test book and underline any new word they see, look them up in the dictionary, and understand whether or not it’s a positive or negative word and what its emotional meaning is (READ: “5 Awesome SAT Apps”).

2. Math Formulas

Although students can learn lots of helpful test prep techniques from their tutor, they will also need to memorize and learn math formulas from all of their classes at school. The best way to understand which formulas are used most frequently is to work out of the Official College Board test prep book. Students should work with their tutor or test prep teacher to determine different patterns and discover which formulas are used the most as well as how to eliminate answer choices that simply don’t make sense. The current SAT will often have some partial answer choices so it’s important for students to make sure they can recognize these trick answers and avoid choosing them (READ: “Ask a Nerd! Are the SAT and ACT Similar?”).

3. Get Your Down Time

One of the things students struggle with most on the current SAT is the ability to finish within the short, generally 25 minutes, amount of time allotted. When first practicing, students shouldn’t worry too much about the time because they need to master concepts and test prep techniques first. However, once they have mastered a good score, they need to work on their time. Even if a student answers every question correctly, they won’t receive a high score on the real test they leave several questions unanswered. There are many different ways students can get their time down and they’re encouraged to work with an expert who can determine their individual needs.

4. The Dreaded Long Passage

Students are bored or terrified when it comes to the long passages. The current SAT offers passages from time periods past and in a context that today’s students often don’t understand. There are a couple of ways students can approach the long passages, either by learning how to pick out important information in the passages and then answering the questions or, looking at the questions first and then attempting to pick out import information in the passage as they go along. Students are encouraged to work with their test prep tutor to determine which strategy works best for them as an individual. The long passages are often an arduous task to get through, but they can either win or lose students a great deal of points on the current SAT.

Preparing to take the SAT this fall? Score higher with the help of a private Irvine testprep tutor from TutorNerds! Book your tutor today.

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.

Superfoods and Testing

Boost Your Brain Power With These Superfoods

Students and their parents often inquire about ways to help their children perform better on a standardized test. In addition to study techniques there are many inquiries about vitamin supplements, medications, and certain types of foods. Of course, we are educators, not doctors or nutritionists but we can make a general suggestion about what works for some students.


The use of certain vitamin supplements, lifestyle choices, as well as exercise and rest can help student’s brains function to their full potential.


If a student is vitamin deficient, they may become mentally fatigued more quickly than their peers. Of course, any student with a medical condition should consult their physician, but a general multivitamin is often a good idea for both teens and adults. Teens tend to enjoy fried food and sugar and generally don’t see immediate side effects due to their high metabolisms. Although these foods are delicious, they do tend to fatigue our brains. Receiving 100% daily value of proper vitamins can help remedy a less-than-perfect diet

A balanced diet

Many teens report their distaste for fruits and vegetables. However, these are our natural super foods for the brain. Fruits contain phytochemicals that are not found in any other food source. It is thought that phytochemicals can help with optimal brain function and promote general health and energy. Green vegetables, which contain iron and other essential vitamins, are also a good food to add into the teen test taking diet.

Excess sugar and fried foods often cause people’s bodies and brains to be more sluggish and should be avoided the week before taking an exam such as the SAT or ACT. Save the pizza party for the day after the test.


With the exception of students who participate in sports, most of today’s teens spend more time sitting down at a desk than the previous generation. The more sedentary we become, the easier it is to lose concentration. Assuming a student is in good physical condition, they should aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes 3 times a week. If students are participating in long study sessions or tutoring sessions, it’s a good idea to get up and walk around ten minutes out of every hour. Fresh air is also a positive element of exercise, and students who live in Southern California can enjoy the outdoors year-round.


The one thing that every single student should do more of is sleep. It’s not a good idea to attempt to make up for sleep on the weekends as studies have reported that regular sleep at least eight hours per night is important for the growing brain. Most students attempt to cram the night before an important exam, such as the SAT, which is always a bad idea (READ: “Last Minute SAT Study Guide“). If the student is required to wake at 6 am in order to get to school on time they should be asleep by 10 pm. Without sleep, the brain cannot recover or process information from the previous day. Remember eight hours is the minimum, not the ideal.


According to Web M.D., some of the best superfoods a person can eat include: Blueberries, broccoli, oats, oranges, salmon, spinach, green or black tea, walnuts, and yogurt. The great thing about eating superfoods for higher brain function is that, with the exception of a food allergy or sensitivity, there are no side effects. In addition to higher brain function, students who eat super foods on a regular basis will often find general health improvements, such as energy, during the school day and get more restorative sleep (READ: “Understanding Different Types of Intelligence“).

One of the biggest superfoods, in my opinion, that teens tend to miss out on is water. Many teens reach for sodas and other sugary drinks instead of water. Regardless of the sugar content, for every soda someone drinks they are less likely to drink a bottle of water. Clear, clean water is one of the best ways to stay hydrated. When people of any age start to become dehydrated their brain function generally slows down. Students studying for standardized exams should make sure they are getting a bare minimum of eight 16 ounce glasses of water per day. Students who are exercising or participating in sports should increase their water consumption as needed.

As always, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any supplement, diet, or exercise program. Make sure to keep a regular schedule and stay healthy during test prep season.

tutor logo Understanding Different Types of IntelligenceAll 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 post about.

February ACT Study Timeline: 7 Steps to Success

February ACT Study Timeline From an Orange County Test Prep Tutor

The date to sign up for the December ACT has already passed, however, students can still sign up for the February ACT (READ: “ACT Tips From a Private Irvine Tutor“). Hopefully, most students have already started preparing for the February ACT, but for those who haven’t, here is a study timeline to help stay on track.


One – Start with one section at a time

Don’t attempt to do the entire ACT at one time if you are just starting your studies. Break it up into each section.  Set aside five hours on five different days and designate the first day to an intro lesson, then the essay, the English section, the math section, & the science section (READ: “Ask a Nerd! Are the SAT and ACT Similar?“).

Two – Give yourself an introduction

Spend an hour skimming through your ACT prep book and familiarize yourself with a few important things such as, how The ACT is graded, how to sign up for the ACT, and the basics of test prep. Do a few practice problems in each section and read through the basic ideas of process of elimination in your test prep book.

Three – Tackle the essay

Use the practice problems in your test prep book and write at least one essay. Show this essay to your tutor or to a trusted teacher or friend and ask them to give you honest and upfront feedback. Most students need to write several practice essays prior to taking the actual exam so get started now and plan to write a minimum of three to five practice essays between now and February (READ: “Last Minute SAT Study Guide“).

Four – Tackle the English section

Take a practice English section after your intro and tally up what your potential score would be. Write down the score and save it for later.

Five – Move on to the math section

Once the English practice test is done, go ahead and complete the math section. Review all of the basic mathematical concepts in the test prep book. The majority of students will already know these concepts and may have learned them several years ago but have long since forgotten them.

Six – Try out the science section

Go ahead and give the science section a try. In reality, this section will mostly be learning how to read charts and graphs but, this is a really important skill to have for the ACT. Once finished with all of the sections calculate a composite score using the directions in the back of the test prep book.

Seven – Call for help if needed

Many students call a tutor a few weeks prior to taking the real exam. It’s much more helpful to know ahead of time which sections a student needs help on so it is recommended that students have taken at least one full practice exam, even if they are taking it over multiple days, several weeks in advance of the actual test. Once a student knows what their weaker areas are, they can focus on them specifically and speak with a tutor one-on-one to have a plan of action toward success.

Students who are taking the ACT in February – don’t wait too late to sign up for your Irvine ACT tutor – for the first time should plan to start their prep no later than mid December. Most students have at least a week off at the end of December; it is important to make arrangements ahead of time so that the intense tutoring and self-study can start in January.

February is not the most popular time to take the ACT but it’s actually one of the better times to get it over with. Students are relaxed from the Thanksgiving and winter holidays and are usually recharged and able to take an exam without too much stress. Additionally, taking the ACT in February will not interfere with the intense AP study that will follow in April and May.

tutor logo Ask a Nerd! IQ vs SAT TestingAll 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 post about.

Ask a Nerd! “IQ vs SAT Testing”

Ask a Nerd! “IQ vs SAT”

Question: There are so many different types of tests these days and I’m getting confused. Some schools and accelerated programs require an intelligence test but I’m already taking achievement tests. What’s the difference between the IQ and SAT test and why do I have to take both?


Brief: An intelligence test (IQ test) measures a person’s intellectual potential. An achievement test measures what they have learned and comprehended over time.


You are right, there are so many tests that students have to take these days. Almost every student will take multiple achievement tests throughout secondary school and post-secondary school. Achievement tests, often called standardized tests, measure what a student has achieved academically thus far. Many incredibly intelligent students don’t happen to do well on standardized tests while, on the other hand, some students happen to test well but may not fully understand the concepts or formulas behind the test (READ: “A Timeline Study Guide for the SAT“). This is a common frustration amongst many high school juniors and seniors studying for their college entrance exams. When it comes to an achievement test, the bottom line is that it is meant to test how well a student has understood their English and math classes and whether or not that student can demonstrate the knowledge that they have learned.

Multiple standardized tests

There are multiple standardized tests other than the college entrance exams that measure more than just the student’s success. Tests that are taken in elementary and middle school are also meant to measure the achievements of the teachers in a particular school or school district as well as the school district overall. Districts that do not receive high test scores may be identified as needing improvement. Districts that can display high student test scores across the board may be given an award. Some of these tests may also affect the amount of funding a specific school receives from the government.

And intelligence test or IQ test is meant to measure the potential of an individual. Educational scholars have various opinions on the validity of IQ tests; some feel that they are excellent and provide accurate results while others ignore them completely. One thing that many educational scholars do agree on is that it is best to give an IQ test to a very young child in order to get accurate results (READ: “Emotional IQ vs. Intellectual IQ“). Adults and teens may already have too much understanding of the world around them in order to receive an accurate score. Nonetheless, some private middle schools and high schools require that an entering student take an IQ test. In addition, students who have been identified as appropriate for GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) in the public school system may be asked to take an IQ test as supporting evidence of their ability to achieve in such a program – our Orange County GATE testing tutors are here to help.

Why do I have to take both?

This brings us to your second question: Why do I have to take both? There’s no specific reason why you have to take both other than that you are required to. If you’re applying to a private school or to a GATE program, then you must take the test in order to enroll in the school or enter the program. Almost every student will ask their teacher, tutor, or parents why they must take the SAT or ACT. Unfortunately, the answer is very simple but is generally not acceptable to most students who are feeling overwhelmed: It’s required – (READ: “ACT Tips From a Private Irvine Tutor“). I recommend not thinking too much about this and simply viewing standardized tests as a small hurdle that you need to jump over in order to attend college or university. Once you are done with your various standardized tests you can forget about them all together and enjoy higher education in a classroom or research environment. Of course, students who wish to attend graduate school will need to take the GRE at a minimum. But don’t worry about this now; that’s a good four to six years away.

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Cracking the ACT Science Section

Tips for the ACT Science Section


Unlike the SAT, the ACT has a science reasoning section. However, nothing about this section has much to do with science. This section is essentially part reading comprehension, part logic, and part identifying patterns. Since counting numbers is technically math, the science reasoning section is really just an extension of the reading and math sections (READ: “ACT Tips From a Private Irvine Tutor“). Many students find this section to be overwhelming because they weren’t expecting to be tested on science. However, students who will be taking the ACT sometime in 2014 or 2015 need not worry about this. Take a look at these few steps to success on the ACT science reasoning section.

One – Learn to see past all of the numbers that you don’t need.

The charts and graphs are full of different numbers, many of them with multiple commas or decimal points meant to confuse you. Students who have a great deal of focus will have better success on this section. I simply mean focus as in focusing in on one small set of numbers (READ: “Ask a Nerd! SAT Subject Tests“).

Two – Look for patterns.

If you generally have a little bit of extra time on your practice exams, then try to spend a minute or two looking at the two different charts or graphs and look for patterns ahead of time. This might help you find the right answer more quickly once you read the questions. However, if you find that pacing is an issue, look for the number patterns only after you have read the questions and discover which part of the chart and graph that you need to look at.

Three – Annotate the paragraphs.

Oddly enough, the paragraphs in the science reasoning section can be approached in a similar way that students would in order to solve the SAT long reading passages. This is unusual because they’re not only to different exams but there are two different sections on the exams. However, the science reasoning section has a bunch of information that you simply don’t need; it is there to confuse you and make your life harder as a student. It is a college entrance exam after all so it’s not going to be easy. Your job is to quickly and efficiently annotate these paragraphs and either box or circle information that you need or cross out the information that you don’t.

Four – Try reading the questions before reading the paragraphs.

Many students struggle with finishing each section on time. The ACT doesn’t give you a ton of time to finish the amount of questions that are required. Thus, it is important to make sure that you’re not spending too much time on one chart or graph or on one set of questions. If you read the questions before reading a paragraph you may find that you actually didn’t have to read the entire passage in the first place. This could save a student anywhere between three and seven minutes depending on how quickly they can skim and comprehend a passage (READ: “Ask a Nerd! Are the SAT and ACT Similar?“).

Five – Use common sense.

Many students take a practice exam and end up disappointed with their score. Later, when they go back and look at the answers that they got wrong, they discover that they almost picked the right answer. It’s very easy for students to think that the test is much harder than it actually is. This makes sense because teachers, tutors, and parents stress the importance of this test night and day. However, the ACT wants you to pick a trick answer; in reality sometimes the most straightforward and simple choice ends up being the correct answer. Just use common sense and logic and most likely your practice score will go up.

tutor logo College Admissions Essay Crunch TimeAll blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by TutorNerds. 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 post about.