Surviving the CAHSEE: A Guide to Test Prep Tutoring

Back when I was in high school, not all that long ago, the ‘high school exit exam’ simply meant that I had to pass all of my senior level courses with a C or better and I wasn’t even worried about that as I, and all my classmates, were stressing out over the SAT (except for the ones with private Irvine SAT tutors). In 2001, the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam) was put into beta testing in California public schools and later became an official requirement in 2006. Public school students in CA take the CAHSEE in the 10th grade. Many students pass the CAHSEE the first time but they can take it again in 11th grade (two times) and up to five times in the 12th grade.


There are two main sections of the exam, math and English-language arts (ELA). The math section has about 90 multiple choice sections and the ELA section contains about 80 multiple choice questions as well as one or two essays.

How an orange county tutor from TutorNerds can help you pass

For a complete list of detailed information about the CAHSEE, check out the CA departments of Education’s official site. About 75% to 85% of students pass the test on their first attempt. That still leaves 25% to 15% of students who may benefit from some extra help. In my experience as a tutor many students know the basic concepts and receive high grades in their coursework but, for some reason, they ‘blank’ when it comes time to take an exam. Let’s look at some ways a private tutor can help students pass the CAHSEE.

If the student soared through the ELA portion but has not passed the math:

  1. The tutor will first need to check on basic concepts before moving onto test prep skills. Gather 5-10 homework assignments that are recent as well as a fair indicator of ability. Ask the teacher at school to give some feedback on the strengths and weakness in math concepts.
  2. If concepts are an issue, I recommend spending 4-8 hours for a tutor to go over and help the student master these concepts and provide practice problems. Many students who need to gain skills in math get frustrated easily so try to keep the sessions to 60-90 minutes at a time. 2 hours is probably too long. Ask the tutor to come 2-3 times a week instead of once a week so that the new concepts are fresh in the student’s memory.
  3. Once the concepts have been mastered, I suggest spending anywhere between 5-10 hours on test prep. There are a plethora of skills, tips and tricks that a students can learn in order to achieve on a test. As an added bonus, these skills will also help the student when it comes time to take the SAT or ACT (READ: “ACT Tips From a Private Tutor“).


If the student soared through the math portion but has not passed the ELA:

  1. The tutor will need to check to see if the concepts are there (same as above) and work on any English, writing or reading comprehension skills that are not yet there. The student should write a 5 paragraph essay on a topic of their choice. Some common topics are: A – Do you think there should be a city-wide curfew? B – Do you think students should have to adhere to a dress code at school?  C – What is your dream college and why’d you want to go there? Don’t give the student any further instructions on how the essay should be composed other than to set a length of 4-5 paragraphs. It is important for the tutor to get a baseline skill level from the student. If you prefer to do this after the first session that is okay too. Also, compile 3-5 writing samples from school that have already been graded and bring home all English text books and novels that are being used in class.
  2. Because the ELA section contains a writing portion, it may be necessary to spend more time working on these topics. 5-10 hours is likely enough to get down the basic skills.
  3. Next they should cover the test prep skills (5-10) hours as mentioned above.

Keep it stress free

Keep in mind that each student is different and that some may need much less time if they only need improvement in one sub-topic or they may need much more time. The important thing to keep in mind is that passing the CAHSEE should be as stress free as possible and passing it is essential to graduating high school.

There are 2 more things to keep in mind when seeking a CAHSEE tutor:

  1. Does the student speak, write or read English as their second language?
  2. Does the student have any special education needs such as a learning disability?

If the student is an English Language Learner (ELL) or even if there are 2 languages spoken in the home, they may need more time understanding the nuances of a passage and they may need practice with writing and sentence structure because subject verb agreement is different in different languages.

If the student is experiencing any learning disability including but not limited to dyslexia and processing disorders, they may need a tutor who can adjust more easily to particular learning needs. Regardless, it is best to let the tutoring company know ahead of time so that they can seek out the best fit for the student’s needs.

What are you waiting for? The CAHSEE can be passed by any student if they’re willing to get the proper help from an Orange County private tutor as well as put in the effort. Click to start your path to passing: CAHSEE Private Tutor

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