19 March 2018
Experienced tutors are in demand as the exam season approaches. Photo: Hertford Academy
Experienced tutors are in demand as the exam season approaches. Photo: Hertford Academy

Finding the right tutor: A few things to remember

As the May exam season approaches, students find themselves in a situation where they need to pull out all the stops and give it everything they’ve got.

It is common for students at this time to feel that, although they’ve completed a year’s worth of study since the last exam season, they’re still not as well versed on their subjects as they could be. That’s why they turn to any of the numerous learning centers across the city, searching for the person who can give them the extra bit of encouragement, insight or strategic advice they need.

To help you decide what sort of center is best for your son or daughter, you should bear several things in mind.

Price, location and services…

For many, the most important thing to consider is price. The cost of tutorial services varies enormously across the market, and for good reason. A center’s experience with certain exams, its reputation – developed through its former clients – and the number of services offered all impact the price. Applying every metric at once will result in perfection – but it’ll cost you.

Aim instead for the Easter break – take advantage of offers or courses held at this time so that you reduce the amount of material to be covered nearer to the exams.

If you find a facility somewhere, you want it to be easily accessible. The hours spent on train and bus journeys could be avoided completely if the center has available study spaces of its own. Coffee shops are often packed, and libraries aren’t always accessible or open at the students’ convenience. If there’s an opportunity to minimize a student’s travel time, take it.

Check for available desk-space provided by the center. Whether use of it is free or not, just the fact that it is there leaves you with more options.

Which brings us to the type of lesson you’re after. There are advantages to either private or group tutorials (and very often the tutors delivering the private sessions are the same tutors leading the group classes…). Group sessions tend to last a minimum of 1.5 hours – half an hour longer than your typical private session. However, groups that are popular will fill, and sizes can go up to 8, and sometimes even higher.

Your best bet is to arrange a group of your own. Contact other parents, approach centers together and have them form a personal ‘group’ class. This method is preferable, as you’ll both reduce your costs and have more influence over the content.

What you need to know about the tutor…

Tutors generally know their stuff. However, when it’s down to the final couple of months, engaging the services of those new to the process is not ideal. For one thing, highly qualified recent graduates, undoubtedly packed with knowledge, may not yet know how to maximize their lesson content in the limited time they have available.

Students often have very specific requirements, so it’s better to find someone who has completed the exam ‘peak season’ a few times and knows where to focus the efforts for the biggest returns.

The influx of students brings its own problems, as tutors are often lumped with very burdensome workloads. Clients should be mindful that someone completing 8 teaching hours per day, 6 days per week, may not be the best option. If the problems are more nuanced, a tutor with more time to prepare may achieve better results.

Ask how many hours tutors are completing per day. If it exceeds 6, perhaps ask if there is someone else with more available time.

Then there is tutor feedback. Most tutors take formal notes following a student’s lesson to track their progress. In many instances however, students are wise enough to judge whether or not they are improving on their own.

Agree instead on aims to be met through the tuition. If either yourself or your child feel those aims aren’t being realized, move on.


Experienced tutors are, unsurprisingly, in demand around this time. It is advisable that you get ahead of the game and reserve the slots you need. Remember that most of these tutors have a portfolio of students with whom they’ve worked for a year or more, who will most likely increase the length of their lessons to include revision sessions in the build up to exams.

Try to reserve pre-lunch hour slots, when tutors are more fresh and haven’t had a gaggle of other students and exam boards to focus on. Put down for groups if they are available, which are more intensive (happening over 5 days) and blocked off in tutors’ calendars, so no unexpected changes or clashes are less likely to arise.

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The writer is a British educator and the co-founder of Hertford Academy.

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