Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Test Preparation

It's time to prepare for the ACT & SAT's again!

Here is a great link with quite a bit of information about the ACT, preparing for the test and practice questions:

Contact us for private or group test prep (ACT, SAT, GED, GRE, etc)-

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Featured Tutoring Company at the Transitions 2010 Expo!

Top Notch Tutoring is excited to be the featured tutoring company at the the Transitions 2010 Expo in Denver, Colorado. The Transitions 2010 Expo is a gathering of numerous institutions of higher learning which includes Four-year, trade, technical and other schools. At this event, we will be giving away $1,000 in complimentary academic and test prep tutoring. We are also offering promotional pricing for those who sign up for tutoring within 1 week of attending the Expo. Please stop by our booth and visit us in the advising hall during the day of the expo to learn more. If you'd like more information about this Expo, you may visit the Transitions 2010 Website for more information.

Monday, June 15, 2009

ACT Test Day Techniques:

1. Be Equipped
On the night before the test you should gather everything you'll need: the admission ticket, a valid form of photo identification, several #2 pencils, a watch, and a high-energy snack.
2. Don't Cram
You've worked hard. The best thing to do the evening before the test is to get a good night's sleep. You've covered the content and you've perfected the skills. Now it's time to get in test mode -- calm, rested, confident, and ready.
3. Dress in Layers
The climate in test centers can vary from sauna-like to frigid. Be prepared for both extremes and everything in-between. You need to be comfortable to do your best.
4. Arrive Early
You may want to scope out your test location before test day to ensure that you know where you're going. Getting to the test should be the least of your concerns.
5. Don't Spend too Much Time on One Question
Each question is worth the same number of points. If a question is confusing or too time-consuming, don't lose your cool. Instead, move on to greener pastures. You can come back to hard questions if you have time at the end of a section.
6. Don't Look for Unscored Questions/Sections
Sometimes the ACT contains experimental questions that are scattered throughout the sections. Do your best on every question--that way, you're covered.
7. Keep Track of Where You Are in a Section
8. Guess Aggressively
If you don't know an answer, don't leave the question blank or guess randomly. Eliminate the choices you know are wrong, then make an educated guess from the remaining options. On the ACT, students aren't penalized for guessing. Only the correct answers count toward the score, so it is better to guess than leave a blank.
9. Be Careful Filling in the Answer Grid
Make sure you're filling in answers next to the right numbers.
10. Relax
Your attitude and outlook are crucial to your test-day performance. Be confident.

ACT Test-Taking Strategies

These tips should only be used as an adjunct mechanism for preparing to take the ACT and obtain the best possible score. Students should also study vocabulary words, as well as the fundamentals of arithmetic, algebra and geometry.

1. Learn the section directions now. Use the time saved during the test to work on questions.
2. Answer easy questions first. Mark skipped questions in your exam book so you can quickly return to them later.
3. Guess...if you can eliminate at least one choice.
4. You can write in the test book: cross out wrong answers; do scratch work.
5. Avoid stray marks on the answer sheet. A machine scores your test and can't distinguish between a correct answer and a careless doodle.
6. Easy questions usually precede hard ones.
7. Mark only one answer per question.
8. Skip any question if you haven't the faintest idea about the answer. You don't lose points.
9. Understand the scoring! You get a point for a right answer. There is no deduction for omitted answers or for wrong answers. However, filling in each question with even a guess is better than leaving the answer grid blank.
10. Keep checking that you are placing your answer in the correct section and number on the answer sheet.
11. Don't spend too much time on any one question. You should spend only seconds on the easiest questions, and hesitate to spend more than 1-2 minutes on even the hardest ones.
12. Practice, practice, practice!
13. Remember that the ACT consists of a series of small, timed, mini-tests. Keep track of the time you're allotted for each one and how much time remains.
14. Bring a watch to the test center. You can't be guaranteed that there'll be a working clock there.
15. Don't change an answer unless you're sure you made an error.
16. Read the words in the question carefully. Be sure to answer the question asked and not the question you recall from a practice test.
17. Know the Question Types to Expect on the ACT: * 19 analogies * 19 sentence completion * 40 reading comprehension * 35 math multiple-choices * 15 quantitative comparisons * 10 student-produced responses

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

ACT Specific Sectional Strategies

English, Reading, and Science Reasoning Sections:

  1. Review English grammar and usage, as well as punctuation, parts of speech, sentence structure, and word parts.
  2. Don't rush your selection. Consider all the answers to make the best choice.
  3. Use the context of nearby words to figure out unknown words.
  4. Pace yourself. You have roughly (actually slightly less than) 1/2 minute for each question.
  5. Examine each underlined portion with care.
    It will suggest what is being sought from you by its context in the passage that the question refers to.
  6. Choose the best answer possible, using the process of elimination to narrow your choices.
  7. After you've made your choice, mentally substitute your answer into the underlined portion to see if it seems correct.
  8. If you don't know the meaning a word, try to recall if you've ever heard it in an expression.
    The context of the expression may suggest the meaning of the word.
  9. Beware of obvious answers! They may be there only to mislead you.
  10. You should base your answers to the questions solely on what is stated or implied in the passages.
  11. Carefully read any introductory text.
  12. Skip questions you don't know. Return to them after answering other easier questions.
  13. First and last sentences of each paragraph are critical.
  14. Read the passages before reading the questions.
  15. Don't waste time memorizing details.


  1. Read the question well. Be sure to select the best answer for the variable, value, or expression that is requested!
  2. Learn in advance all of the critical definitions, formulas, and concepts that appear in common questions.
  3. Remember to use the test booklet for scratch work, as well as for marking up any diagrams/graphs.
  4. Early questions in this section are easier. Spend less time on them.
  5. Don't get carried away with detailed calculations. Look for a trick or a shortcut if the question seems time consuming.
  6. When a question contains a weird symbol, just substitute the accompanying definition when figuring out the best answer choice.


  1. Don't ever guess at Choice E. There are only four choices!
  2. Always consider values that are fractional (between 0 and 1), zero, negative, or non-integer.
  3. Factor out, then cancel, any common expressions or quantities in both Columns A and B. Remember that you are just trying to make relative comparisons.
  4. Questions are simpler and should take less time than the Standard Multiple Choice. Look closely. The answer is often apparent without any calculations.
  5. Write on any diagrams to help clarify any values, angles, sides, etc.
  6. Compare; don't solve!
  7. Simplify one or both sides whenever possible before comparing.

Tips for the ACT Writing Test

•Carefully read the instructions on the cover of the test booklet.
•Do some planning before writing the essay; you will be instructed to do your prewriting in your Writing Test booklet. You can refer to these notes as you write the essay on the lined pages in your answer folder.
•Do not skip lines and do not write in the margins.
•Write your essay legibly.
◦Carefully consider the question asked and make sure you understand it—reread it if you aren't sure.
◦Decide how you want to answer the question in the prompt.
◦Then jot down your ideas on the topic: this might simply be a list of ideas, reasons, and examples that you will use to explain your point of view on the issue.
◦Write down what you think others might say in opposition to your point of view and think about how you would respond to their arguments.
◦Think of how best to organize the ideas in your essay.
•At the beginning of your essay, make sure readers can tell that you understand the issue.
•Explain your point of view in a clear and logical way.
•If possible, discuss the issue in a broader context or evaluate the implications or complications of the issue.
•Address what others might say in argument of your point of view and present a counter-argument.
•Use specific examples.
•Vary the structure of your sentences, and use varied and precise word choices.
•Make logical relationships clear by using transitional words and phrases.
•Do not move away from the topic.
•End with a strong conclusion that summarizes or reinforces your position.
•If there is time, do a final check of the essay when it is finished.
◦Correct any mistakes in grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling.
◦If you find any words that are hard to read, recopy them so your readers can read them easily.
◦Make any corrections and revisions neatly, between the lines (but not in the margins).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SAT Test Taking Strategies Part 4

*SAT Test Day Tips

Some of these things may seem a bit silly but we bet you will find at least a few of them helpful and we never fail to hear from at least a few test takers who gravely harm themselves by overlooking at least one of these.

Get adequate rest the night before the exam.

Think of the SAT test as your big game/match. You would get adequate rest before this, right? Well, the SAT should be at least as important as your big game or match as unfair as that may seem.

Directions to the test center.

Unless you are positive where the test center is, do a test drive a day or two beforehand. Make a good note of where to park and how long it takes you to get there. You want to be as relaxed as possible on the test day and worries about where the test is being given will not help you relax and give your best performance.

Bring your admission ticket and a photo ID.

If you have not received your admission ticket within a week of the SAT, or should you lose your ticket call the College Board immediately at (609) 771 - 7600.

Give yourself plenty of time to get to the test center.

You don't need the stress of rushing at the last minute or worrying that you will be late. Again, driving to the test center a day or two beforehand will tell you how long the drive takes.

Dress in layers.

It's just not good camping advice, but it's good SAT advice too. (And therefore worth remembering after the exam is a distant memory!) The test centers are notorious for being too warm or too cold.

Bring a watch and a calculator.

It's not worth the investment to buy a fancy calculator just for this test as you won't use it much anyway.

Bring whatever calculator you are comfortable using to the exam. In terms of a watch, just make sure it doesn't beep as proctors hate these types of watches and seem to enjoy confiscating them for the duration of the test.

Do NOT eat or drink too much immediately before or during the exam.

You want to be focused during the exam and you don't need bladder pains distracting you. 'Nuff said!

Out of these tips, we find that most test takers err by:
-Not knowing how to get to the test center,
-Not giving themselves enough time to get to the test center, and
-Eating and/or drinking too much immediately before or during the exam.

These mistakes are completely avoidable. Don't let any of them stand between you and the college or university of your dreams.

*SAT Time Management

Keep track of the time (Duh!?!)
-You'd be surprised at the number of people who panic on test day because they never trained themselves to watch the time. Use clocks or timers as you work on practice questions, so you'll learn to pace yourself and intuitively sense when 10 or 20 minutes have gone by. Remember to bring a non-beeping watch with you to the SAT exam (don't count on being able to see a clock clearly). Before beginning work on each section, write down the time the test will end. You can refer to that note periodically during the exam to gauge your performance.

Allocate your SAT test time wisely
-Don't spend test time reading instructions. The instructions for different kinds of SAT questions are quite standard. Familiarize yourself with them before test day so that you can go into the exam room already understanding how the SAT is structured and what types of questions you'll be asked. Remember, the SAT is intentionally designed to make you feel time pressure. You can alleviate that pressure by minimizing the amount of time you need to spend on reading instructions. That time is better spent answering questions.

Pace yourself
-You will give your best performance if you pace yourself. Don't rush through every question just to finish a section - but don't take so long on just a few questions that you leave the rest unanswered, either. Taking practice tests will help you develop a sense of a pace works for you, and that lies between those two extremes.
-Know when to skip a question
Every question on the SAT is worth the same number of points. There's no bonus for figuring out a hard question. That means it is NOT in your best interest to spend an inordinate amount of time with the more difficult questions.
-The most difficult questions are placed at the end of the test sections. Don't feel bad if you can't answer them. These questions are designed to be answered correctly only 10% of the time. If you come to a question on which you have NO idea of how to eliminate even one answer choice, do not spend more than 20 seconds on it before moving to the next problem.
-Keep in mind, though, that sometimes an easy problem looks difficult at first glance. Oftentimes, if you relax a moment, your mental "fog" will lift and you will find yourself able to answer the question very confidently.
-Keep track of your omitted questions
Put a question mark or other notation next to each question you skip. That way, if you have time at the end of the section, you will be able to easily identify and take another try at your omitted questions.
-Do NOT spend an equal amount of time on each question except in the critical reading section, SAT questions are arranged in ascending order of difficulty. That means that the easiest questions are asked first and the more difficult questions are asked later. You should allocate the amount of time you spend on each question accordingly. You will, hopefully, be able to knock off the first, easy questions quickly, so that you can spend more time on the best way for you to use your time in each section. For example, you might find that even if you spend 7 minutes on each of the last five problem solving multiple choice questions, you do no better on them than you would by guessing at the answers. In that case, you would know that you should not spend an inordinate amount of time on test day trying to work out the math in questions at that level of difficulty.
-Should you have some time left over at the end of a section...
Don't stop working until the proctor says to. Rather, go back and re-examine the questions you skipped. Answer any that you think you know the answer to, or can make a good guess at. We also suggest you double-check your answers to the very first questions. It's precisely because these questions are generally very easy that people tend to make dumb mistakes on them. Make sure you haven't been tripped up by subtle wording or a misplaced decimal point.

Friday, April 10, 2009

SAT Test Taking Strategies Part 3

*SAT Test Structure

Passage-based reading questions will compose 71% of the total questions you will see on the critical reading SAT. One 30 minute section will contain a passage with up to 13 questions and the other 30 minute section will contain a passage followed by up to 15 more questions. The 15 minute section will consist of a passage and up to 13 questions.

Unlike the other SAT questions, the critical reading questions are not arranged in order of difficulty. This is actually fortunate as they are arranged in chronological order.

Read the introductory italicized sentence
This sentence will describe the passage and is the only thing you will read that is not directly related to a test question...

Read the questions - not the rest of the passage
The questions will direct you to the part of the passage that contains the information you need to correctly answer the question. What more could you want than the actual answer itself?!
Note: Should the question not give you a line number, it should be relatively easy to scan the passage for the key word or phrase, ex. Aristotle.

Remember time is of the essence
You will waste too much time if you read the entire passage and then begin the questions. Remember this is a timed test and you are not being graded on your reading form. (Yes, we know this is an ironic way to approach the critical reading section. But trust us that this is a very powerful technique!)

Read a line above and a line below those specified in the question
This will insure that you catch the entire context of the reading relating to the question.
Expect to see incorrect answers that seek to exploit those test takers who do not read these additional lines.

Answer the questions in the order they are asked except...
Because the questions are arranged in chronological order instead of order of difficulty, answering them in order allows you to move right along. However, if you come across a question which relates to the "general summary/general tone" of the passage before the end of the series of questions, you are well advised to skip it until you have answered the other questions. By the time you do answer these questions, you should have a good idea how to answer the question.

If you find yourself still unable to answer the question, read the first sentence of each paragraph. You should not invest the time to read the entire passage for this one question unless it is necessary and you have time left over at the end of the section.

-Dual passages
One of the 3 passages you will encounter will be a "dual passage". Quite simply, this section will be 2 short passages that offer different perspectives on the same topic. You should answer all the questions on the first passage first and then answer all the questions about the second passage. The last questions you should answer should be those that refer to both passages.