Frequently Asked Questions

Do you offer a free initial consultation?

I offer a free 15-minute initial consultation over the phone (or via Skype or iChat).  Sometimes parents ask for in-person initial consultations, however, I do not typically offer free in-person consultations. If for any reason you are truly disappointed with your first tutoring session, I will offer you a refund. I’m also happy to use part of our tutoring time to sit down with parents and discuss the best plan of action for a student.

How much will my child's score increase?

This comes down to a host of unpredictable factors. I can help students realize their goals, but I’m not a magician. Students must make an effort and work hard. The more work and tutoring a student does, the more he or she will likely improve.  But other factors contribute as well, like the intellectual personality of a student, or the way a student thinks. I typically expect students to put in 4-7 hours of time doing homework each week. If students complete most all of the homework I give them, take a minimum of 20 hours of tutoring, and are healthy on the test day (illness can be one of the biggest score killers), most of them do see improvement.  The exception typically arises when a student has gleaned a perfect or near perfect score in a single section on a prior exam, and we will not focus on that section, and as such the student may see that higher or “lucky” score regress, while the lower the individual sections of focus may increase.  Additionally, some students struggle with issues such as fear of tests, disinterest in academic work, or lack of focus (ADD or ADHD at times contribute to this issue). Though I do work with students on some of these issues, and have seen great success with some in overcoming them, they can be struggles more difficult to overcome than a lack of comprehension, issues that may take more time, or problems that may be well addressed by a qualified therapist or psychologist (let me know if you need a referral!).  Likewise, I see variety in results based on student experience with tutoring. If you already sent your child to 3 SAT tutors for the past 2 years, and only schedule a month of lessons with me, we may not see as much improvement as a student who has had no prep and studies for 4-5 months.  At the same time I’ve taken on students who simply did not get any improvement from other tutors, but made great progress after working with me.  

I’ve seen students improve by a modest 50 points (SAT) or 2 points (ACT) and others by over 200 points in a single section (SAT)— and 8 points (ACT).  My average students who do their homework and do 3-6 months of tutoring improve between 50-120 points on each section the SAT and 3-6 points on the ACT (initial official score below 30) or 2-5 points on the ACT (initial official score above 30), but again each student is different and the student is the most decisive factor in score increase.  Similarly, as the ACT is very unforgiving for students scoring over a 30-31, we often see fluctuation with those students, in which case the best remedy is often multiple test sittings.  Unlike the SAT, the ACT allows students to expunge an entire sitting of an exam from their permanent record.  However, this process takes time, and must be done via traditional mail, so is not necessarily possible for seniors relying on quick turn around of scores.  Similarly, parents should check with guidance counselors at school to ensure that a student’s high school is also willing to expunge such scores (some will retain the old scores on transcripts).

Other test centers may promise higher gains, but these centers often “rig” the process, giving students more difficult diagnostic exams and teaching to the final test they count as “improved” (i.e. reviewing all the vocabulary that will specifically be on that test, etc.).  Likewise, the pool of students with which I work are often some of the students with more challenging goals—such as students already scoring above the 90th percentile, or students who have already engaged in other tutoring or classes but wish for further improvement. 

Should we take the ACT, the SAT, or both?

First, you might check out this video, which covers many of the basic differences of the tests.

Below is a response tailored to my private students in particular:

I suggest that ALL students take a practice (not official sitting) ACT and practice SAT (or the official administration of the ACT Aspire or PSAT if offered at your school) before trying to answer this question, and check out the online concordance table of scores.  

If all things are equal (note scoring is not yet available for the newest PSAT sample), I recommend the ACT as more paper based prep materials are available for the test, so it is somewhat more predictable at this point.  However, if juniors struggle with time (finishing the test on time) or the science section, and have exceptional reading and/or writing skills, they may be better off preparing for the revised 2016 SAT.  I am happy to discuss during our lesson if students would like help in charting their test strategy.

Different colleges have different policies on testing– i.e. some (like Stanford) request you send ALL scores of all tests you’ve taken– while others let you choose to send one or the other. If you are applying to schools that let you choose what you send, taking both may not be a bad option.  Likewise, if you are a top student and competing for admission to a top 10 university, having two distinct, amazing test scores (a near perfect SAT and a near perfect ACT) can be an asset in the admissions process.  About 65% of the content of both tests is very similar, so SAT prep will still help an ACT taker — particularly upper level students. 

Otherwise, I suggest taking only one exam. If a student performs better on the ACT, or struggles with vocabulary and reading comprehension, the ACT is often a better test to focus on.  This question really differs on a student-by-student basis, and the answer to the question may change throughout the testing process (i.e. depending on what one already scored and how many testing opportunities remain). I do suggest, though that students not plan to take any exam more than 3 times—unless students are athletic recruits, or taking the ACT 3+ months in advance and plan to expunge a score if not satisfactory (as of 2016, SAT test dates cannot be fully removed from a student’s record—an indication of “cancelled score” would appear on the transcript). The ACT is an easier test in many ways (the reading level is about 8th grade vs. 12th grade), but it’s less precise than the SAT (i.e. the grammar passages sound as if they were written by an eighth grader—making right answers difficult to find) and far less forgiving (2 wrong answers will plummet your score from 99% to 92% on some sections)—so it in some ways is a test of chance.  Again exceptions always exist.

How many lessons are necessary?

Again there is no direct answer to this– different families have different budgets and expectations. I have some clients who have prepped for over a year for standardized tests, and others who could only afford 3-4 sessions total. I have seen positive results with both, but obviously more results with more tutoring. Student effort and interest are significant factors in success.

The “typical” round of ISEE, SSAT, GRE, ACT or SAT prep (for one test, all sections) is about 10-24 two-hour lessons (3-6 months, 1x week)– that’s about how long it takes to teach every “rule” once over for students who start with a minimum score in about the 70th percentile or above. Lower scoring students or those who learn more slowly or struggle in math or reading may need far more prep, and higher scoring students less.  

How do you teach?

I use as many materials as possible from the test makers when working with students, rather than from other educational brands.  I also work with books from independent tutors (who actually write better content than some of the bigger labels) as well as some exercises I have developed on my own, and general drills and worksheets I will pull from various sources as necessary.  By breaking down the “standardized” way the test is constructed, and teaching them precisely “what” is tested, I help students readily identify answers. I also teach them what “wrong” answers look like, as the test has predictable “types” of wrong answers. By understanding the format and layout of the test, and its high level of predictability, I help students know what to look for, so they can better realize the scores they desire. I also expose students to as many actual tests as possible. Familiarity is key to a higher score. Additionally, I work with students to avoid careless errors, pace themselves, and maximize their potential.  I am also in the process of writing my own SAT prep curriculum for the revised test, as well as an ACT math book, and on occasion will pull from the chapters I have written when working with students.

Do you teach classes? Where do you teach?

I have an office in Westwood where I teach several of my students: 1314 Westwood Blvd. #107 (behind the optometrists).  2 hour parking is available at street meters or side streets west of Westwood Blvd.  All day parking is available on Rochester and some side streets southwest of the office.

I teach many of my students individually in their homes.  Some students meet me at a café or library, particularly if they are GRE students, or live farther away and are looking to save extra charges for transportation.  I do not organize SAT classes or groups; however, I have in the past taught small groups of up to four students at a time (organized by parents / siblings / etc.) For group tutoring, libraries/cafes are usually not the best option given the size of the group.  

I also have many clients whom I tutor online, via Skype, or on the phone with Google docs (for essay editing).

I live outside your travel area, can you still tutor my son/daughter?

I travel 8-9 driving miles from the Brentwood/Westwood (90049/90024).  Schedule permitting, I am willing to travel outside my travel zone, but typically charge additional lesson time for travel—approximately 5 min charge/ additional mile, though parents should contact me for an exact quote as I base my calculations on traffic patterns as well.  Depending on where you live, and how booked my schedule is, however, I may or may not be able to logistically accommodate travel to your area. Some of my farther students use a combination of in person lessons and Skype lessons to cut back on travel charges.  Please contact me if you have further questions. 

Payment Policy

What is your payment policy?

Online lessons must be paid online 24 hours in advance. Most of my students online pay via Square (credit card invoices, I typically do 1 month at a time) or PayPal (user initiated payments to my email address:  I can also accept Chase Quick Pay payments or checks mailed in advance.

All other lessons must be paid by the beginning of the lesson.  Most of my students pay weekly via personal check. 

Students who have a history of frequently cancelling lessons, take part in group tutoring sessions (with more than one payer/household), schedule three or more hours of tutoring per week, or request in-home lessons requiring more than 1-hour round-trip travel time may be asked to pay in advance for their lessons each calendar month or at the time of booking.

What forms of payment do you accept?

I accept cash or personal check.  I can also accept PayPal if students pay 1 month at a time or are working via Skype.

If I prepay for lessons and don’t use all of them, can I get a refund?

If a student pre-pays for lessons, any unused or cancelled lessons may be refunded. Any late cancellation fees will also be deducted from pre-paid amounts.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations and rescheduling requests with less than twelve hours notice will result in full charge. Cancellations and rescheduling requests made with less than twenty-four hours but more than twelve hours notice will result in 1/2 lesson charge due.  “Shortening” a lesson with less than 24 hours notice shall be subject to a charge for the full lesson length. 

Group tutoring courses (2 or more students at a time from different households, paying separately) may not be cancelled but may be rescheduled; all members of the group must agree and rescheduling must occur at least 48 hours in advance.

Students who frequently cancel or reschedule lessons may be given a lower scheduling priority than those who keep their appointments.  Students or parents who “schedule horde” (i.e. schedule multiple lessons in a single week and cancel some of the times a day or two beforehand on a regular basis) or schedule long lessons (over 3-hour lesson blocks) may be subjected to stricter cancellation policies or fees.