Get Ready for the SAT and ACT – Private Tutoring in Houston, Texas

Who cares about your test scores, anyway? Well…

  • Colleges do, and not just for admissions – they also use your scores to place you out of basic freshman classes (which can save you lots of money down the road)
  • Scholarships do – there’s free money for college, but it may depend on your test scores
  • Your future boss does – many companies request your test scores on your job application now, even if you’ve been out of college for more than 10 years

Are you prepared to get your best score?

If you haven’t taken the SAT or ACT before, or if you want to increase your overall score more than 250 points (SAT) or 4 points (ACT), you should start preparing three months before your test date!  If you’re close to your goal score, you should begin your re-preparation no later than 6 weeks before your test.  Test strategies are pretty easy to grasp, but your brain needs some time to absorb your practice (a.k.a. homework) and allow you to use your new strategies with confidence on test day.

Score Boosting Test Preparation in Houston

If you’re in the Houston area and ready to start studying for the SAT or ACT, contact me today!  Get a group of your friends together for group test preparation, or take advantage of custom one-on-one tutoring.  I can also help you start the school year with a new edge in math, English, and nearly any other high school subject.

College Essays – Don’t Put Them Off Too Long!

I also help with college essays! The fall of your senior year is full of activities – some fun ones like homecoming, and others like your college applications, tests and quizzes, and the boatload of homework you will complete before winter break.  Give yourself a break and get started on your college application essays now.  I can meet with you for as little as one hour a week and help you write an attention-grabbing, star-quality essay that will leave you plenty of free time.

My dog, practicing for his SIT exam.

My dog, practicing for his SIT exam.


Come back each day (or subscribe) for explanations of the daily practice questions provided by the makers of the SAT and ACT, along with tips to succeed on your test and in school.

Need more help than what I’ve posted? Send me an email to ask a question or request tutoring.  I provide private and small group tutoring in Houston for the ACT, SAT, and more.

Be sure to check out the helpful links on the right side, too, for more free test prep resources!



Six Key College Application Tips for High School Juniors

Your junior year of high school is the busiest academic year you might ever have!  However, college applications are also right around the corner, and those are a big reason that you’re even doing this whole school thing, right?  While you’re swamped with assignment after assignment, try not to forget these tips for your college applications – your senior self will thank you next year!  (Seriously – these tips address all of the biggest struggles and concerns that the seniors I’ve worked with face when they have to fill out college apps.)

1. Keep Your Grades Up

First and foremost, you’re in school to learn, and your GPA should reflect all that great knowledge you’re absorbing!  Before you focus on any of these other tips, make sure you’re doing what you need to do to keep your grades up – like paying attention in class, making quality time for your homework, using effective note-taking techniques, and getting help from your teachers, peers, or tutors if you have questions.

2. Connect With Your Teachers

You are going to need 2-3 teacher letters of recommendation for your college applications, so make sure some of your teachers know you well.  These letters can really help your application stand out if your recommenders have some quality feedback on your interests, talents, and unique abilities…and while you can give your teacher a list of things to mention next year, the letter will unquestionably be better if your teacher actually remembers you and really is interested in recommending you to your desired colleges.  (Plus, motivated teachers get their letters done faster, which will save you stress next fall.)

So, participate in class, put some effort into your assignments, and maybe even strike up a conversation with your teacher or ask them for help the next time you have a question about something from class. You don’t have to do anything over the top to stand out!

3. Choose Your Activities Carefully

Because you’re so busy, you might find that you have to cut some of your after-school activities.  For your own good, and for the good of your resume next fall for your college apps, try to keep the ones that:

  • really mean something to you
  • keep your interests diverse (if you play the trumpet but plan to go pre-med, don’t automatically drop music just to spend more hours in the lab)
  • you have been involved with for a long time (as long as they still matter to you)

If you’re working, try to find a job that is at least a little bit enjoyable or relevant to your future.  If you can get even a one- or two-week internship in an office, lab, or other workplace that’s not retail or food service (and preferably not with mom or dad), you will learn so much that will help you when it comes to choosing your college major in a few years – and be glad for the experience when you see your college application essay questions.

If you volunteer, look for opportunities that are relevant to your interests (academic or otherwise) rather than settling for whatever is easy and gives you service hours the fastest.  (Secret bonus – you will actually enjoy what you’re doing when you feel like you’re being useful.)

4. Keep Your Social Life In Balance…

…by which I mean “you don’t have to attend every party”.  There will be lots of (better) parties during your senior year when some of the pressure is off, and of course in college and beyond.  Friends matter, stress relief matters, and life isn’t all about school – but future you will regret choosing partying and football games over the GPA you know you could have had.  (Future you will also regret it if you stay home with your dog all weekend, every weekend.)  Your first semester senior year grades can keep you out of college, but your junior year grades can get you in.

5. Be A Leader

If you haven’t ever held an official leadership role like a student government or club office, this is the year to look for a leadership opportunity at school or in any of your outside activities.  Some ideas:

  • Start a club or group that focuses on one of your main interests
  • Start a (very) small (unofficial) business – turn your babysitting or lawnmowing gigs into something a little more formal
  • Organize a service event like an outing to volunteer at the Food Bank, or a donation drive for a charity that means something to you
  • Solve a problem at your school or in your neighborhood

6. Write It Down

Keep a list of the clubs and activities in which you participate.  Keep a list of all of your work and volunteer opportunities – along with some brief notes on what you did, when you did it, and the name and contact info for your supervisor.  I know you think that you will remember, but in 12 months you will be scrolling through your old texts and emails and hoping to find any clues to help you remember all of your activities and accomplishments.


Junior year is so busy that you might be tempted to let one (or all) of these tips slide, but that’s exactly what the high school seniors I’ve worked with over the past 17+ years did that landed them with these common regrets!  A few minutes of thinking and studying now will save you weeks of difficulty next fall.

Three Fun and Helpful YouTube Resources…and a few to avoid

I have fallen far down the YouTube rabbit hole this summer – so far that I will soon be posting test and college application tips on there myself!  In the meantime, here are some (totally unsponsored) channels and videos that I’m loving – and a few that I don’t love (and why).

    1. Studyign (not a typo)
      Whoever this girl is, she has great, practical tips for organizing your notes, making the most of your office supplies, and using your time as a student well.  You don’t have to do everything she did in high school (she is starting college in 2017), but she might help you get a little more efficient or have a little more fun.  There’s a lot of “studyspo” on YouTube, but these tips are useful (and not overly girl – boys study, too!).
    2. This video about common college application errors
      Panelists including the Deans of Admissions from Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Williams College, Wesleyan University, Bryn Mawr College, Grinnell College, Marquette University and the University of Vermont discuss what it takes to get admitted to selective colleges, how the admissions process works from the inside, and what families need to know to improve their chances of getting in.  Straight from the decision makers – these are great tips and mistakes I’ve caught personally on even my best students’ applications.  (The whole playlist from that event covers other great tips, too, like how many people will read your application and how long they will spend with it.)
    3. This guy talking about math…
      …knows what he is talking about, is clear and to the point, and covers a lot of basics, so if you’re struggling because you never really “got” percentages or parabolas, you might find this a quick – and reliable – source for a late night explanation (after all, there are lots of math resources online).

And what to avoid…

(I’m deliberately not linking to any of these channels, but if you’re looking at study content on YouTube you will likely run across them yourself.)

  1. SupertutorTV
    I’m not jealous – there’s enough room for lots of super tutors out there – but this channel has published a multitude of videos about college admissions and test prep that include factual errors about the tests and admissions processes.  Please don’t waste your time!  The best source of info about college admissions is always the admissions office of the school to which you’re applying.
  2. The CollegeBoard and ACT official channels
    Yawn!  These channels don’t have any useful tips for students – they’re (currently) just marketing for the tests…but why, because you have to take at least one of them anyway!
  3. Anyone’s “How I Got Into [school]” video…to an extent
    There are lots of these, especially for competitive schools.  If you must watch them, take them with a grain of salt.  Just because they play the bassoon and rescue three-legged kittens while maintaining a 4.0 GPA doesn’t mean that it’s a certain formula for admissions.

Are there any academic resources you love on YouTube? Leave a comment and share your faves!

Tame Your Test Anxiety – Ten Tips

Timed tests are stressful! Add in the pressure of college acceptance that is (sort of) riding on your test score, plus your natural desire to do your best, and it’s easy to understand why so many students feel anxious before – and during – tests like the SAT and ACT. Helping you handle this anxiety and stress is one of my main tasks as a tutor – and I’m finally sharing ten tips on the blog that REALLY work.

First, eliminate any surprises from your test.

1. Be prepared for the test content.

Here’s what you need to do to get prepared to face the content of the test:

  • Take at least one full practice test so that you’re familiar with the test content and format.
  • Learn the sections that will be on your test and the time you will have for each section.
  • Use your practice test score to tell you what, if anything, you should practice, and then find a tutor or another reliable source to help you improve in those areas.

2. Be prepared for test day.

Use this test day checklist to make sure you’re ready.  Don’t wait until the night before!

3. Visualize.

Set aside a few quiet minutes and mentally walk through the morning of the test, step by step from the time your alarm goes off until you arrive home from your test.  Be detailed – eat breakfast, get dressed, gather your items, drive there, go through the test section by section, etc.  If you run into anything that is uncertain – maybe you don’t know how to get to the test center, or maybe you forgot which test section come second – write that down and come back to it when you’re done.

Do this visualization several times before the test.  You should see yourself doing well and finishing the test with a smile!

Next, let’s handle the tough stuff.

4. Accept that you will be stressed.

It’s unreasonable to think that you’ll walk into this test as cool as a cucumber, but know that literally everyone feels like you do.  Stress doesn’t have to be bad! Stress doesn’t have to mean that you’re anxious about your test.

Instead, know that the “stress” you’re feeling can help your test score by giving you an extra boost of focus and energy to tackle your long exam.  So, when you wake up feeling jittery, be glad and thank that boost of adrenaline for helping you make it through your 2, 3, or 4 hour test.

5. Don’t panic if you don’t know something.

If you did step 1, there shouldn’t be too many surprises on the day of the test, but no matter what you will encounter questions that look unfamiliar.  That is just part of the test, and the test maker does it on purpose!

Since you know that a surprise or two is just part of the test, there is no reason to panic.  You might have to skip the question or passage for now and come back to it later on, or you might just have to reread the question.  The question might sound strange to you, but know that the concepts behind it are things that you have already seen on your practice test.

If you’re running low on time, that’s an even better reason not to panic – panicking takes too long. Just take each question one at a time and do your best.  (And if you’re taking the ACT or SAT, use your last 20 seconds to bubble in any questions that you didn’t get to, since there’s no wrong answer penalty.)

6. Stay Positive.

Don’t be mean to yourself when you practice, and don’t be mean to yourself during the test.  Telling yourself how slow you’re going / how wrong your answers are / how much more you should have studied won’t do any good, and it will take up time that you don’t have to spare.  (Tip #8 has more strategies for how to refocus if you start to stress.)

Anxiety-Proof Your Test Day

7. Plan to take the test more than once if you can afford to.

Boom, lots of stress gone!  Most schools superscore (take the highest score from each of your test sections, even if you get those scores on different test dates), so if you do great the first time you sit for the test, you can take some or all of that success with you – and take a lot of the pressure off.  Register early and give yourself 2 or 3 chances to take the test.  (Most students see a small – 1-2 ACT points or 20-40 SAT points – increase in their scores just from taking the test more than once and being familiar with the test day environment.)

8. Practice managing your anxiety.

Literally: get nervous while you’re at home doing some test-related homework or thinking about the test, then turn your feelings back around.  Yes, you will have time to use these strategies during the test, too, if you still need them!  Some ideas to practice:

  • breathing (nothing crazy, just make sure you’re breathing regularly)
  • relaxing your neck and shoulders with a few small stretches
  • bringing your attention back to the present moment and out of your head by briefly doodling, coloring in part of the test page border, counting how many times the word “the” appears on part of your test page, using your finger to trace around a diagram or image on the page, and/or gently moving each one of your 10 toes and fingers one at a time.  (These are all things you can do on the day of the test without calling any extra attention to yourself.)
  • reminding yourself that you’ve practiced and put in a lot of effort, and that you know what you’re doing.

9. Build positive associations.

Why not make your test prep fun?  Use stickers or colored pens when you do your work.  Keep something citrusy around (real oranges work, or citrus essential oils do the trick if you’re into that thing), since citrus scents make us happy. Start your practice ahead of time so that you can just do a few questions a day and not have to try to cram (also good because cramming does not work for these tests).  Get together with friends to study, if that’s your thing.  Celebrate your successes along the way – every question you can get right is another point in your favor!  Maybe even reward yourself every time you do your test prep homework – a cup of your favorite tea or a 10 minute break when you’re done, or a bigger reward if you do all your homework for the week.

10. Don’t talk about it…

…with your friends or anyone else who might stress you out during the week before the test.  That story about how your friend’s cousin’s brother failed the SAT because an elephant escaped from the zoo and stepped on his pencils probably never happened.  Your friends who all got perfect scores might not be telling the truth either.  And that guy who shows up late and is freaking out about the new calculus-Russian-art history section on the ACT definitely doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  You’re already well-prepared and you know your stuff, and if your friends want to know why you keep changing the subject you can just send them this post.

Do you have any crazy tips that help you stay calm under pressure?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Hey, where did the daily test tips go?!

Don’t worry – I’m still here and ready to help you raise your test scores and make your college applications sparkle!  The SAT no longer produces daily questions online, but they DO have a cool free app that is a quick and easy way to sneak in some test practice right on your phone.  I will still highlight helpful questions and tips from that app as they come along!