For my very first blog on this new site I was back and forth over what I wanted my first message to be. Then, over the past few weeks, I talked to various parents who said the tutor they hired for their SAT/ACT test prep was not as effective as they had hoped. This mirrors my own experiences this past year in which I have gotten a record number of clients who hired me after already going through one or two other tutors unsuccessfully. Here are the top three things to look for when hiring a tutor.
1. Knowledge of material: Believe it or not, there are a lot of tutors out there who, while smart, do not have an incredible grasp of the material. They are more or less administering work and checking answers off a key. In some instances they cannot effectively explain to the student how or why something is wrong without following the formulaic answer explanation that may or may not make sense to students. Moreover, there are a lot of specific quirks and nuances to the test that only experienced tutors who have worked with the test exhaustively can notice. This knowledge is also key to being able to interact with students, which brings me to my next point;
2. Interaction with students: The tutor needs to be able to relate to the student and be able to gain an understanding of how the student works. This is key for an effective tutor to be able to customize the teaching style that fits the student’s personality. Also, it’s important that the student “buy in” to the tutor’s program. If there is no “buy in” the efficiency of the tutoring could suffer significantly. I taught a student that came to me after a year of tutoring and $12,000 later with a company prep company. The student and teacher both didn’t get along, and there was no communication taking place to address the issue. The problem only a few months to prep for a serious run at the SAT.
3. Addressing test taking anxiety: In some of my conversations with parents recently the thing I’ve heard cited as a constant weakness of a student is “my <son/daughter> doesn’t take tests well.” A good tutor should almost treat all students with the assumption that they cannot take tests well and be able to help with this to some extent or at least have ways to allieviate the problem. Some anxieties are more extreme than others and require a lot of effort to overcome, but in my experience, most test-taking anxieties can be overcome with practice.
These would be my top considerations for parents as they evaluate tutors. Try to have a conversation with the teacher or hire them for a class or two to evaluate their performance. I always welcome parents to call me to get my thoughts or second opinion whether or not they hire me. I’m always happy to share my experiences. After all, students only get a limited amount of time to prepare for the SAT/ACT, and not hiring the right person the first time could be very detrimental. Have a great holiday everyone!