Classes & Tutors for Test Preparation

Parent Q&A

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  • My daughter will be applying to private high schools and is worried about the timed writing test as part of the application. She’s a pretty good writer but doesn’t have much experience when there’s a really focused question and a time limit. Has anybody used an English writing tutor who is familiar with this test and could give her some direction? Thanks 

    I highly recommend David Drabkin with Active Voice Writing. He is wonderful!

    My daughter applied to the private schools and I would like to give you some advice.  Your child is heading into high school, they need to be themselves and write the best essay they can at the time.  If you want to help with a writing tutor tell them you are doing it to support their eighth grade learning.  Having a tutor for the testing might support getting in, but you want a school that wants the whole child.  The writing essay is just one part of the admissions process.  Grades, interview, and visiting the schools in session.  Our experience was that she got into the three schools she applied to (coming from OSA) and in the end the right choice for her was obvious.  It was not the one I wanted her to go to, but she is really happy.  Good luck and let them lead.

    This is a relatively new requirement as it was not there when my kid was applying a few years ago.  I am guessing that since there are many people who hired expensive admission consultants to package their kids and even wrote the essays for the kids, the schools put out this requirement to make sure that the essays in the application are really written by the kids. So the goal of this timed writing sample is to be consistent with what you have in the package--writing style, capability, etc.  It is probably not meant to be used to judge how excellent that particular piece of writing is.  As long as your kid is a reasonably good writer and writes a lot, it is more important to maintain her own style than getting a tutor just for this.

  • I have twin sons in 6th grade in the San Francisco public school. The school academics are poor, the classes are disruptive and they are not challenged. I would like to make sure they are challenged and prepared for the 7th grade SBAC and high school in general. Can anyone recommend a tutor or a learning center for math and English in San Francisco?  Or any other suggestions (books, online programs) would also be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    Our child worked with Paul Gabriel for two (high school) years, and our whole family loved him. He’s smart, interesting, and engaging. Our kid learned study and organizational skills in addition to subject matter material. Best of all, he really listens and gets to know your child(ren) as a person; there is nothing cookie-cutter about his approach. His respect for and understanding of his students was inspiring, and his knowledge about learning differences helped eliminate a lot of stress in our relationship with our kid. I can’t recommend him highly enough. paul [at] 

    I don’t have a recommendation, but I’m wondering what the point of studying for the SBAC is.  My kids take it, and they both do well on it, but their scores do not seem to affect their lives in any way.  It seems more like a measurement of how the schools are doing.  Is it used for something else?

  • ACT practice test center

    (1 reply)


    My daughter already has a tutor, but would like to practice taking the ACT test in a test-center environment. Do any of the tutoring centers offer this?


    Princeton Review does local practice tests for free.

  • LSAT prep

    (2 replies)

    I am looking for an LSAT prep class that I can take. I would like to do something in addition to self-prep. 

    Does anyone know of any such classes?

    Many, many moons ago I took the Kaplan course to help me prepare for the LSAT. It helped a lot. I don't know if it's still the best option but you could Google it.

    One piece of advice- the best thing that can be done to prepare for a standardized test is to take as many model test questions as you can and slowly and carefully read and pay attention to why one answer was correct and the others were wrong. So much of these tests is just understanding how they ask questions and what kind of answers they're looking for. The more sample questions that you take, the more familiar the questions will be when you sit down to take the test.

    Good luck!

    Manhattan Prep online worked quite well for me. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Test-taking support for high school sophomore

Jan 2012

My very hard-working conscientious sophomore had great grades going into finals last semester but had a tough time across the board on his finals, and his teachers agreed that his final exam scores did not reflect his knowledge or his academic effort. Clearly he needs help in test-taking strategies and skills. I'd like to find a class and/or tutor to help him expressly in this area. A weekend- long or week-long class would be great, or individual tutoring if that's the only option would work as well. I'd want to make sure he doesn't get discouraged and gets the scores that truly reflect his efforts and his smarts. We're in North Berkeley but he drives and can travel as needed, hopefully not too far from home. Many thanks.

Hi, I have been really impressed with Smart Cookie Learning. They are in the Lafayette area. My daughter benefited greatly from a free 2 hour lecture they gave on reducing test taking stress. Finals went much easier this year and she felt fully prepared. Their number is 925-878-5202, Good Luck! Sindy

Aug 18 2010

I would like to recommend Jeff Segall - jasegall [at] - who is tutoring my daughter for the SAT and for her literature and writing classes at BHS. My daughter has learning disabilities and can be difficult to work with. Jeff is patient and able to communicate well with her. Her skills and confidence have increased with his help and she is surprisingly open to his assistance. I recommend him highly and without hestitation. Amy

Oct 2009

Re: How to help Teen w/test taking
I resorted to professional help. Yes, there are people who do just TEST TAKING skills. The standardized tests build in tricks - I don't know why but they do. I'm sure someone will recommend some of the tutors who prepare you for SAT, etc.

For us the bigger issue was being prepared, feeling confident (messing up on tests hurts your child's self esteem) and building more academic skills. We went to Phyllis Koppelman at Strategies for Learning. After just one session I had an ''AH HA'' moment. All my parental tutoring simply was not as good as a professional who knew the tricks of the trade. Additionally, we had used a young tutor before who actually use put-downs as a motivator (my child was NOT motivated). Phyllis is kind and develops a relationship with your child. She uses humor, praise and honest critiques. My son finally admitted to himself that while he is a good writer, writing is very hard for him and he simply must devote additional time to it. On the other hand, math is a breeze - so hurray for that. Her website is Mom of a test hater

Oct 2002

I highly recommend Doug Buckwald for test preparation. He works with kids from 4th grade through 12th grade, and knows all the tricks for succeeding at standardized tests. He will come to your house and is reliable, focused, very clear and organized. He can assess where your child is in terms of academic readiness and strengthen areas of math or English that need improvement. He also works with test taking attitude, dealing with anxiety and building confidence. Be prepared for him to carefully consider whether he and your child/family are a good match. He screens carefully as it is a one-on-one relationship and has to be a good fit. Good luck, Andrea.

Sept 2002

My Orinda neighbor and friend, Eric Myers, is a professional tutor. He is an immensely bright and personable guy (he's a Princeton grad and a playwright), and has a great touch with kids. He mostly focuses on high school kids (especially SAT prep -- he is a former master teacher with Princeton Review), but also works with younger kids. Several of my friends have hired him to work with their 5th graders, and have been very pleased. He is not cheap, but quality service rarely is. His phone number is (925) 253-7738. Leslie