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.

Monday, April 6, 2009

SAT Test Taking Strategies Part 2

SAT Essay

*SAT Essay Test Structure

The essay is the first thing you will face when you sit down to take the SAT.

You will be given 25 minutes to write your essay by hand, onto an answer sheet form. Your essay must respond to the 'prompt' provided in the test booklet. A prompt is a short, one- or two-sentence long statement that presents two opposing stands on a topic and asks you to respond. You MUST write your essay in response to the given prompt. 'Off-topic' essays will receive zero points. (So no, you can't ace this part of the SAT by memorizing a great essay and writing it out on test day - sorry!)

The SAT essay is different from other parts of the test in that it is graded by actual human beings. Every essay is graded by two scorers, each of whom rates the essay on a scale from 1 (fundamentally lacking) to 6 (outstanding). Their scores are added together to give a final score of up to 12 points. In cases where individual scores differ enormously in the grades they give, a supervisor will read the essay and determine a final score. The 0-12 score counts for 1/3 of your score on the Writing section and 1/9 of your total SAT score.

Scorers work quickly. A scorer may be asked to grade over 200 essays in an eight hour shift. That means they spend less than two and a half minutes on each essay on average.

Scorers are asked to rate:
1) the writer's ability to develop and express a point of view in response to the prompt;
2) the writer's ability to use examples, logic, and reasoning to support their point of view; and
3) the writer's competency in standard written English.

Scorers are supposed to understand that SAT essays are first drafts, written under pressure. They are not supposed to deduct points for a few simple misspellings or grammatical slips, or for lack of style or subject knowledge.

Intimidated? Don't be. Anyone who can do well on other parts of the SAT can do well on the essay. It just takes some preparation.

*How to prepare for the SAT Essay

Read. Reading will help you internalize the structure and 'sound' of written English. It will also provide you with material to use as supporting evidence in your SAT essay. Newspaper editorials and op-eds are good choices because they usually state a problem and take a position on it, in the space of about 500 words (which is probably a bit longer than most SAT essays will be).

Write. Get in the habit of expressing yourself on paper. If you don't keep a journal, start one. Better yet, keep an essay journal. Each week or so sit down and write a page or two about your reaction to something you read or saw. Train yourself to be comfortable with writing an essay-type passage in about 20 minutes.

One of the biggest problems test takers face is complete and utter apathy on the question presented by the essay prompt. This is perfectly understandable, as prompts often deal with abstract conflicts that are hard to get worked up about. But keep in mind that you're being graded on your ability to state an argument and to support it. You have to take some kind of stand. Train yourself to do that. If it helps, put your argument in the mouth of a fictional third person: "Some people would say x. They would cite reasons a, b, and c." Another option is to re-state the prompt question in a way that makes it easier to respond to. (Be careful not to go too far with this, though - remember off-topic essays get a zero.)

Learn essay templates by heart. Another problem test takers face is wasting time on trying to figure out how to connect one paragraph to another. You can minimize this problem by learning essay templates - structures that you can plug almost any material into. The classic five paragraph essay (topic sentence followed by three supporting paragraphs followed by a conclusion) is one example. Another example is the "on the one hand - one the other hand" type of comparison. An English writing textbook will give you other ideas.

Brush up your grammar and spelling. Look at the writing you do in your journal and for school assignments. Identify and correct any mistakes you tend to make. Minor slips in grammar or spelling aren't likely to hurt your SAT essay score. However, a pattern of mistakes might suggest that you just aren't competent in standard written English.

Clean up your handwriting. Scorers aren't supposed to mark papers down for bad penmanship, but if they honestly can't make out what you've written, you may get a lower score than you deserve. Remember that you'll be asked to write - frantically - for 25 minutes. Make sure you can do that without being crippled by arm or hand cramps.

*What to do on test day

Read the entire prompt. Don't be in such a rush to start your essay that you risk misunderstanding the question you're asked to respond to.

Use scrap paper. Scrap paper is your friend. Use it to brainstorm ideas and to sketch out an outline for your essay.

Start your essay with an introductory paragraph. It should 1) repeat the question asked by the prompt and 2) clearly state your position on that question.

Continue your essay with supporting arguments. Try to give two or three reasons for why you have taken the position you did on the prompt question. If you can only come up with one reason, give a detailed explanation of why it supports your stand, and say why it is important enough to make the case on its own.

End your essay with a conclusion. The conclusion can simply restate the stand you have taken, or it can make a broader point.

Try to leave time for proofreading. Try to finish your essay early enough that you have time to read it over quickly and correct any obvious mistakes in spelling, word usage, or grammar.

*How long does a SAT essay need to be?

Write long" is the most frequently cited advice we've seen about the SAT essay. It seems based on an informal study that found a strong correlation between long essays and high scores.

We encourage you to take that advice with a grain of salt. For one thing, the study used a very small sample of essays that were scored during the first administration of the revised SAT. It's hard to draw general conclusions from that experience. For another thing, what the study called a "short" essay meant one of as little as 100 words. The problem with those essays was more likely a lack of content or an undeveloped argument than their length.

Our advice is to focus on content instead of word counts. Use as many words as you need to express your thoughts. If you practice writing essays, you'll develop a good sense of how much you can write in the allotted 25 minutes, and of how much space you need to lay out an argument.

If you absolutely cannot come up with a coherent response to the prompt, writing long may cut your losses.
At least you'll show more of your command of written English. However, we think a complete, concise essay is always going to score higher than a rambling, long one.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

SAT Test Taking Strategies

SAT Math Tips & Advice

* SAT Math time management

SAT math questions are arranged in ascending order of difficulty. With practice, you will learn your personal abilities and limitations with math questions. However, when you take the test, you should probably not spend too much time on the first questions, as these are the easiest and you probably answered them easily.

If you have trouble answering an early question, go back and re-read it. Chances are you simply misinterpreted what was being asked.

Try not to skip any of these initial questions. You may not have time at the end to come back to finish them, and leaving them blank may lower your score. At a minimum, you should be able to at least eliminate a few answer choices through our dear old friend, process of elimination.

Mark what you are trying to answer

This is helpful advice for all sections of the SAT, but especially so for the math questions. You are allowed to write in your test booklet, so don't be afraid to mark it up -- particularly by marking what it is that you need to answer. The test writers will intentionally include incorrect answer choices that provide the right answers to the wrong questions, including other values referred to in the question.

On a related note, be on the lookout for such key question words as not and except. Be on the lookout, too, for changes in units of measurement. We'll show you some practice questions that utilize these techniques just in case you do not see what we mean!

Simplify problems wherever possible

Process of elimination is your best friend in answering SAT math questions. Simplification comes next. The SAT1 is not designed to make you do unnecessarily long calculations. If you find yourself tangled in a string of numbers, chances are that you have overlooked a way of simplifying the equation. On this note, all SAT questions are meticulously designed. If you are given a piece of data such as 1 mile = 5,280 feet, there is a reason it was given, and it is most likely related to a perhaps not-so-readily-apparent way to simplify the problem.

Work backwards if you can't work forward

Working forward is the most effective and efficient way of solving a math problem when you instantly recognize the proper formula and method needed to answer it. (In that case, the best way to manage your time is to solve the problem, choose the corresponding answer choice, and move on to the next question.)

Working backwards, however, is an effective tool when you have forgotten how to answer the question.

Working backwards means plugging a value from one of the answer choices into the appropriate formula and seeing if it works. We recommend you always start with choice C, which will be the median value of the answer choices. If choice C yields an answer that is too large, then you will instantly know the answer must be A or B. Conversely, if choice C yields an answer that is too small, then you will know the answer must be choice D or E.
Use your SAT practice time to practice this skill. You should soon be comfortable working backwards no more than 2 times per question, i.e. if choice C is too small and choice D is also too small, then you will know the answer must be choice E. This approach will help you manage your test time more efficiently and help you achieve the highest possible score on the SAT.

Use easy numbers when you need to plug in a value

With these questions, you will have to do the "leg work" yourself. Therefore, use easy small numbers. For percent questions, we suggest you use 100.

Approximation is useful when the answer choices are widely disparate

Should you encounter answer choices that are widely disparate, try approximation. For example, let's say you can closely guesstimate the answer to be 30%, and the answer choices are 4%, 13%, 29%, 47%, and 81%. In that case you will know the correct answer must be 29%.

Draw diagrams when they are not provided and they would be helpful

Many students find this a useful technique. Just keep the drawings simple and don't fret over just how accurate they are. You will not receive any bonus points for drawing the best right angle triangle inside your test booklet!

Remain calm and rational

If you see a question (it would most likely be a word question) that you have no idea how to solve, examine the answer choices for help. This frequently happens with "time" questions.
Here is an example:
Bob can finish a book report in 3 hours and Linda can complete the same book report in 2 hours. How long would it take both of them to complete a book report if they worked together?
This may look very intimidating at first glance. However, logic tells us that since Linda can do this report herself in 2 hours, there is no way it should take both of them working together more than this amount of time. (No assumptions about goofing off are required for the SAT.)
The real answer, if you are curious is 1 hour and 12 minutes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Test Preparation for Standardized Tests

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See below for the dates of the standardized testing -

GED Test Dates:

SAT Test Dates:
May 2, 2009 - SAT & Subject Tests
June 6, 2009 - SAT & Subject Tests

ACT Test Dates:
April 4, 2009
June 13, 2009

GRE Test Dates:
Year-round General Test
April 4, 2009 - Subject Tests

GMAT Test Dates:

LSAT Test Dates:
June 8, 2009
September 26, 2009
December 5, 2009

MCAT Test Dates:
March 28, 2009
April 4, 2009
April 18, 2009
April 24, 2009
May 1, 2009
May 2, 2009
May 22, 2009
May 28, 2009
June 18, 2009
July 2, 2009
July 17, 2009
July 30, 2009
July 31, 2009
August 5, 2009
August 6, 2009
August 14, 2009
August 21, 2009
August 25, 2009
September 3, 2009
September 4, 2009
September 10, 2009
September 12, 2009

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Background of Top Notch Tutoring, LLC

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