Finding a Good Tutor

How to find a good tutor…Where to find a good tutor…

Tutors are like the picture above…tons of them, but once in a while there is one that really stands out from the rest.  Every parent who wants a tutor for their child dreams of finding the Mary Poppins of tutoring, and with good reason!  A good teacher can drive your student in ways they will never be pushed or motivated in a classroom.  It is possible to learn more in one hour of tutoring than the 5 math classes a student attends in one week.  Tutors are a dime a dozen, but good tutors are diamonds in the rough and once you find one, keep him or her as long as you can!

The best way to find a good tutor is through word of mouth.  This is the most sure-fire way to know that a tutor is successful.  This is how my business first spread in Portugal and how I became so successful initially.  When I moved back to the United States, my business took a bit of a plummet because I no longer had those connections through word of mouth.

It is difficult for good tutors to start out, or start over in my case, so sometimes giving someone a chance is great.  I think you should always interview a possible/potential tutor to see if his or her personality matches what you are looking for in a tutor.  If you like them and they are credible (see last weeks post about traits a good tutor should have), then give them a shot and do a trial-period with them.

Trial periods are a great opportunity to try out a tutor.  At the end of the trial, see if there are any visible improvements in grades (remember, tutors are not always miracle workers, and good tutoring takes time), but mostly ask your child what his or her thoughts were about the tutor.  If your son or daughter dislikes them personally or seems negative, that is probably a good indication that the tutor is not a good fit and therefore, not likely to accomplish much with your child.  Tutors a child likes or admires will have a much better chance of helping teach and improve your child’s opinions of and performance in certain subjects than unlikable tutors who will fail to improve intrinsic motivation.

So where can you find these tutors if you do not happen to find any through word of mouth?

  • School Counselors/guidance counselors

  • Flyers that you find intriguing

  • Possibly at the local library

  • By reading blogs…if you like what someone is saying about education then you will probably like what they have to offer your child in terms of education

  • General online searches, but do your homework!  Remember CREDENTIALS!!!

  • Through tutoring agencies/centers

Let me speak to tutoring centers for a minute…. I am not a big fan of tutoring centers such as Kumon or Sylvan for a few reasons: they don’t seem to offer the quality of one-on-one tutoring I think you can get from a stand alone tutor; the tutors are employees of the center, not YOU; there seems to be a focus on worksheets and rote learning, which probably is already not working for a child who is in need of a tutor.

Most schools today still teach using centuries-old methods of rote education.  Teacher shows how it is done, students try with guidance, and then students practice alone….THIS IS NOT HOW HUMANS LEARN….oops, sorry, I got a little too passionate there for a moment.

Most centers teach exactly how schools teach, so if your child isn’t learning and retaining in school, they probably will not learn and retain at one of these centers.

Lastly, many of these tutoring companies charge you a premium, yet pay their tutors very little.  If you are paying for a service that costs $100 per hour, but the tutor only makes $25/hour…they may not see the investment the same as you do, and may lack enthusiasm to meet all of your desired outcomes.

Where I wouldn’t find tutors:
– Local high schools/colleges (see my previous post to learn why)

– Craigslist (too risky, and too much spam)

If your child is looking for a Mathematics tutor or someone to help with SAT and ACT prep, I am a highly-qualified tutor and would love the opportunity to speak with you to see if I am the right fit.  For more information, see my website at www.exclusiveprivatetutor.com

One last note!  Don’t be afraid to pass along the name of a good tutor.  Good tutors will not take on more clients than they can handle and if they are in need of more work, it can only benefit you that they not resort to a side-job which distracts them from their true focus…your child!


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Traits and Characteristics of a Good Tutor

Finding a good tutor for your child can be one of the more important tasks in their education other than assuring they attend a good school.  I also know that there are a ton of tutors out there and it can be hard to know who is a good match and who is not.

Traits of a good tutor (in no particular order)

* Age *

This is not agism, but common sense…

High School Students: I am all about high school peer-tutoring, as this a great way for students to help each other study for tests, to understand deeper, and to solidify knowledge…BUT…I do not think that peer-tutoring is good when there are true struggles that need to be addressed.  This is not a long-term solution.

College Students:  College students are not the worst option but you do have to consider that all college students are concerned with their own studies, social issues, and possibly work on top of that.  College students probably have the knowledge-base needed to be successful, (and are a good option if cost is an issue; they are usually very affordable at less than $40/hour) but they are not usually going to have the laser-focus or care of a tutor.  Also, the reliability of schedule, maturity, and level of experience they hold could be lacking.

Adults: This is, in my opinion, the best option.  As college-grads (and yes, your tutor should have a college degree), they have the knowledge-base, the maturity, and hopefully the experience necessary to teach your child without the distractions of being a young adult.

If working with someone much older, just make sure that they have stayed active and current on curriculum and are into new modalities of teaching as well, and not just rote learning.

* Credentials *

Your tutor should hold a college degree (preferably in the subject they wish to tutor).  They should experience tutoring, and should have done so with great success.

* Classroom Teaching Experience *

It would be great if they were a classroom teacher at some point in their careers.  The reasoning is simply that they know how to think like a teacher and they have great experience working with tons of different students all of varying levels, and all at once!!  This may seem like something small, but they know what to look out for, they know common student mistakes, and they know how to work with specific learning issues (even if they were not special education teachers, and even if your child is not in special education).

Classroom teachers know the tell-tale signs of students who are not understanding and are very experienced in coming up with varying ways to explain the same thing.  Also they are probably experienced working with different learning styles, and organization is usually a very high attribute (out of sheer necessity)

* Not Current Teachers…Not Current Anything*

This leads to my next criteria, which is….it is best if your tutor is not a current teacher.  As a former teacher, I can tell you that classroom teaching is a full-time job and it takes 95% of a person’s focus in order to be successful.  It is not to say that teachers wont carve out time for you and your child, but the problem is that many teachers just simply can’t give the amount of attention needed to boost your child ahead.

The fact is, almost any person who is not a tutor by profession, but is “Doing It On The SIDE” is not invested in your child or their progress as much as a professional tutor.  This is the sad reality, but if your tutor is an actress by trade but a tutor for income, they are not really 100% focused and concerned with your child’s growth.  How much preparation is likely to go into a tutoring session for someone who considers it side work?

* Available and Punctual*

As mentioned above, tutoring and the education of children is a serious endeavor and any tutor should have the time and caring to commit to what your child needs.  Although you should always respect their time, tutors should also respect yours and be punctual and prepared for lessons.  They should be flexible and able to add additional hours if needed.  If a tutor’s schedule is so tightly packed that there is no availability, then that doesn’t bode well for meeting a tutoree’s needs.

* Character *

Tutors should be of good character: they should be positive, of happy disposition, be upbeat,  be polite, use proper speech, be of high moral standing, be caring, be authentic, be organized, and be a good role model.  Tutors develop quite a personal relationship with students and it is very important that this person to whom your student may come to admire be admirable in their personal qualities.

* Patience and Methodology *

No tutor should just want to explain concepts.  This is not how students learn.  They should be skilled at asking leading questions and work toward as much discovery learning by the tutoree

as possible.  And this requires an intense amount of patience!!  Tutors who do not exhibit patience with students will not be effective because it takes time for a student to reach his or her own conclusions.

* Passion *

Tutors should be passionate and skilled at what they are teaching to ensure the students can gain confidence and feel comfortable to learn.  This gives students a sense also that it is okay to like a subject that maybe doesn’t have the best reputation ***cough***cough***Math***cough***

* A Desire to be Truly Helpful *
Nothing brings a good tutor more joy than their tutoree succeeding and feeling good.  It is worth more than any paycheck, and is the whole point of tutoring.  If you think your tutor has priorities outside the realm of truly wanting to help students build confidence, improve, and spread joy through education, then they probably aren’t the right match.

Interview possible tutors and make sure they display these traits, and any other important aspects that you want in a tutor.  In my next blog I will explain how to find these good tutors, or you can contact me today and I can begin working with your student in either mathematics or in admission test-preparation.

I work with students around the world with the help of Skype and so it doesn’t matter where you live, you too can benefit from great tutoring!


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SAT or ACT: Which Should I Take?

The SAT and ACT are more similar than ever before.  We talked about the ways the SAT is changing in the last blog which can be read here.  But choosing the right test for you can be a stressful decisions, so let’s try to remove the concern and find the best choice for you.

It is my opinion that the New SAT was designed to be as identical to the ACT as possible because the SAT was starting to lose too many students to the ACT.  This means that the tests are almost the same in difficulty and what they test, so choosing depends less on your personal abilities now than it had in the past.

The first question to ask yourself is… Where do I want to go to college, and do they have a specific preference as to which test they will accept?

Call an admissions counselor at your colleges of choice and ask them if one test is preferred over the other in admissions decisions.  If they do have a preference, then that is the test you want to take regardless of anything else on this list.  It is also important to ask about merit-based scholarships at this time and if the results of each test are accepted equally when awarding scholarships.

The second question to ask yourself is: Does science make me want to punch someone in the face?

Okay so all dramatics aside, if science is your worst nightmare, then the SAT is a better choice for you, as it does not have a science section.  The ACT has a science section that has less to to with science knowledge as it does being able to apply reading comprehension to scientific topics.

The third question to ask yourself is: Does not having a calculator scare the heck out of me?

The New SAT has a section where calculators are not permitted.  It is 20 questions, and you are allotted 25 minutes for this section.  In this section basic multiplication and division may be necessary, but not problems are difficult enough to require a calculator.  A calculator is permitted on all mathematics in the ACT.

The fourth question to ask yourself is: Do I work well under pressure and time constraints?

In my opinion the New SAT is a bit easier than the ACT because of the time constraints imposed on the ACT.  The New SAT gives you far more time per problem than the ACT and I think that gives it an edge over the ACT in terms of completabliity (I’m pretty sure I made that word up).

Hopefully this helped you decide, but if not, I work one-on-one to help students find the perfect test for them! Contact me today if interested in learning more!



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How has the New SAT changed?

The New SAT will kick-off in March 2016.

Big change #1 – Scoring

The first big change is that the SAT will be reverting back to a total score of 1600.

Big change #2 – What is Tested?

Only four things are truly tested on the New SAT:

  1. Facts – Mathematical and Grammatical facts such as being knowing the equation of a circle, and the proper use of a semicolon.

  2. Reading Comprehension – Knowing how to find evidence in a passage to answer questions.

  3. Application of your knowledge – It is one thing to know the facts, and being able to comprehend what you read…it is another to be able to apply these to specific problems and situations (and identify them) within a test.

  4. Speed – Probably the biggest challenge of the SAT (or ACT for that matter) is the speed at which you have to answer the questions.


  • All reading questions are MULTIPLE CHOICE and relate directly to the passages.

This means that no other knowledge can be tested and all answers are directly available from the text.

  • 52 Questions

  • 65 Minutes

  • The passages are always the same in format  (5 Passages Total)

  • “One passage from a classic or contemporary work of U.S. or world literature.

  • One passage or a pair of passages from either a U.S. founding document or a text in the great global conversation they inspired. The U.S. Constitution or a speech by Nelson Mandela, for example.

  • A selection about economics, psychology, sociology, or some other social science.

  • Two science passages (or one passage and one passage pair) that examine foundational concepts and developments in Earth science, biology, chemistry, or physics.”

                                                                                                                                                                            -College Board Website

Writing and Language:

  • Passages with grammatical errors that need correcting. Or sentences that need to alternate placement.

  • All are multiple choice

  • 44 Questions

  • 35 Minutes

  • The subject matter of all four passages is predetermined.


The Mathematics score composes two sections of the exam: Section 3, and Section 4, which contain a little over 300 math facts, figures, formulas.  Adding into these are a few statistical and graphical skills.  Note that Trigonometry is now being tested for the first time.

Section 3

  • No calculator permitted

  • 20 Questions

  • 25 Minutes

  • First 15 questions are multiple choice

  • Last 5 questions are fill-in

  • Questions get harder as you go along, but reset on the last 5 and then progress in difficulty from there.

Section 4

  • Calculator permitted

  • 38 Questions

  • 55 Minutes

  • First 30 questions are multiple choice

  • Last 8 questions are fill-in

  • Questions get harder as you go along, but reset on the last 8 and then progress in difficulty from there.

Big Change #3 – Optional Essay

Many colleges and universities never paid much attention to the essay, so it never really caught-on.  The essay component is still present, but now optional.  And the scoring is completely separate from the 1600 score.  The essay takes 50 minutes to complete instead of 25.

Big Change #4 – What Is No Longer Tested

  • Sentence completion is gone

  • Vocabulary is almost entirely gone, and what is present is passage-based.

  • Grammatical rules tested in isolation

  • Amount of Geometry questions – There are far fewer geometry-based questions on the new SAT and more Data analysis and Statistical information tested.

So those are some of the biggest changes to the SAT!  As a friendly reminder…do not use old test preparation materials.  Reserve the Official College Board practice tests for full length testing practice.  Use other materials to review (Kaplan, Princeton Review, etc).

If you need more guidance on this, contact me or any other reputable tutor you know!




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