How to Choose a Test Prep Tutor

Each year, families consider whether to have their students work with a tutor to prep for the ACT or SAT.  Our partner Megan Watkins at Endeavor Academics shared some issues to consider:

Ideally, families would be able to meet several tutors, try them out, and make an informed decision. But picking a tutor isn’t always that straightforward. So how should you go about choosing a tutor?

  1. First, determine whether your student will meet with the same tutor each week. Some companies will allow your student to come at a convenient time, but won’t guarantee that he or she will be working with the same instructor. For maximum improvement, request that your student meet with the same tutor each week, so that only one person is setting the course and information does not get lost between instructors.
  2. Next, learn about the tutor’s familiarity with the tests. How long has the tutor been teaching the SAT or ACT? Are they comfortable teaching all parts of the test? Don’t be afraid to ask for specifics based on the areas where your student needs the most support.
  3. Ask about their approach to test prep. How far in advance of the test will they begin sessions? How often will they meet with your student? Will there be homework between sessions?  Do they require or at least encourage practice tests? How are they tailoring sessions to your student’s strengths and weaknesses?  What materials will they use with your student?  The best approach begins with a practice test or an assessment of previous scores. From there a tutoring plan should include weekly meetings coupled with consistent homework and practice tests all based on real materials from previous testing years. An excellent tutor will teach and adjust strategies based on this data and your student’s needs not just correct homework.
  4. Make sure the tutor is challenging your student in a way that will help him or her grow intellectually. Students benefit much more when instructors ask leading questions that make students think through material thoroughly before arriving at answers. If a tutor just tells a student how to do a math problem, the student might remember how to complete that particular problem but won’t develop the problem-solving skills needed for different problems in the future. Additionally, a tutor who asks questions develops a more thorough understanding of how your student thinks and learns. The tutor can then diagnose gaps, assess learning style and adjust their teaching accordingly.
  5. Be clear about what you’re looking for, not only with content but also with communication. If you want to know how your student is progressing, you’re well within your right to be in touch with the tutor and be notified if any red flags emerge in your student’s work. You don’t have to hire a tutor and assume that he or she will take care of the rest (but of course you can if you want to!).

After you begin working with a tutor, ask your student about tutoring sessions. Does it sound like the tutor can teach and explain content that the student is struggling with? Does the student enjoy, or at least feel comfortable, with the help being provided and how it’s provided?