Essential questions to ask a private tutor
Private tutoring can be a great way to accelerate learning – but it is crucial to find the right person for the job. Here are the questions to ask potential private tutors before you hire, covering qualifications, teaching methods, tracking progress, and how to help your child prepare for the future
What to ask before you hire a private tutor
What qualifications does the tutor have?
Find out about the tutor's education – what school and university they went to, what they studied – as well as asking if they have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Remember that 'experts' don't always make the best tutors; core knowledge is vital, but it can be equally important to ask if they took the same tests/exams your child is going to sit.
What tutoring experience do they have?
Bear in mind that for certain subjects, such as UCAS applications, or degree-level help, a tutor who has recently been through the same process and been successful can be just as helpful, even if they have less tutoring experience.
Can they provide testimonials from previous clients?
Hearing what other students and parents have to say about a tutor can be the best way to find out what they might be like. Think of it like booking a restaurant online – it's always useful to have a nosey at some reviews first.
Which examination board(s) is the tutor familiar with?
Ask your child's teacher which exam board they use, so that your child and the tutor are aligned. The syllabus for each board is available online, and often past or practice exam papers can be downloaded for free.
A tutor with experience as an examiner can also be really valuable, and this is something which may not always be advertised, so it's a good question to drop in.
Does the tutor have a speciality?
Some tutors are specialists in exam practice, while others are best for confidence-building or for making learning fun. Some tutors have had successes with students taking specific tests/exams; these tutors will be able to tell your child exactly what to expect and help prepare them to be at their very best. Don't be afraid to ask the tutor how they approach certain areas.
Is the tutor's documentation up to date?
For some parents this is very important; for others, testimonials serve as sufficient evidence of a good tutor. Experienced tutors and anyone who is a teacher should have all the right documentation to hand. Asking the tutor to bring their DBS (the government's new name for the CRB Criminal Record check), and one or two academic certificates along to the first lesson is advisable.
What are the private tutor's teaching methods?
Where will the tutoring sessions take place?
For some students, travelling to a tutor's house will work well. Others may be more comfortable talking to a tutor online – it can be a great way to keep sessions relaxed and useful.
How do they make lessons engaging?
It's helpful to ask the tutor how the lessons are constructed; will they use 'fun' learning materials, or engage through mutual interests? Good tutors will quickly learn what the best approach is to engage your child, and will often ask for your advice on this.
How long are the tutoring lessons?
Ask yourself whether your child can concentrate fully for an hour, or whether half-hour sessions would be more achievable. This will entirely depend on the age of your child and what you and the tutor think is sensible. It's a good idea to ask the tutor how long they would recommend. Either way, breaks are important, so don't forget to schedule those in too.
If appropriate, what is their attitude to liaising with a child's school teacher?
Tutors liaising directly with school teachers is not common, but it can be beneficial for the tutor, and the teacher, to do so in order to help ensure that teaching methods and goals are aligned. Remember, though, that it's not absolutely necessary, and a tutor who doesn't liaise with the school isn't 'worse' than one who does.
Who arranges all the required resources, worksheets, books and paper for lessons?
An important question to remember. Often parents provide these materials so you might need to take this into account when thinking about costs. However, some tutors may provide their own resources or print-outs.
How does the private tutor track progress?
Do they set homework?
Many tutors choose not to add to the workload of a student. However, a small amount of work (or past papers during exam time) can be beneficial. Make sure your tutor knows your child's homework schedule so that they don't become overwhelmed with extra work.
How does the tutor conduct assessments?
Tutors' assessment methods will all vary, as different practices work for different people, so be sure to ask what approach they use.
What feedback can parents expect from the tutor and when?
Some tutors prefer to communicate in written reports, some will ask to schedule extra time for a meeting once a month or term, and others will give feedback in person at the end of each lesson. Think about what would work best for you and your child.
Can parents contact the tutor between lessons?
Most tutors are delighted to be in touch in between lessons, but some will have other jobs so might not be able to reply or be contacted during certain hours.
How can a private tutor help you and your child prepare for the future?
How can parents assist with their child's progress when the tutor's not there?
Some parents will have a tutor to help with all of their child's homework; for others, 10 hours of one-to-one tuition is a big investment. It's crucial to remember that you can benefit from the experience without lots of expense. Ask the tutor what advice they can give on strategies or skills you can work on with your child when the tutoring comes to an end.
How long do their tutoring relationships usually last?
It's a good to have an idea of whether you'd like tutoring to be long-term, or if you are simply looking for a few lessons before an exam or interview – and to communicate this with the tutor so that they can plan the course accordingly.
What is the tutor's approach to independent learning?
Knowing this can be a good step towards ensuring the tutor and your child will work well together and make good progress. The best tutors are aiming to get their students to a point where they no longer need them!