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How to find the perfect tutor for YOU!

Lisa Tran

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Majority of VCE students, yes you read it right, majority of your peers this year will hire tutors for extra assistance in their studies. It's perfectly understandable since VCE is only getting more and more competitive, and students are looking for that edge that will set them apart from others! If you are a student who is currently looking for that one ideal tutor in whatever subject it may be, then this guide is for you. You might be in the same situation as I was a few years ago, someone who has gone through so many tutors that you can't even keep count. And why is that? Probably because you simply weren't satisfied with them. And you know what?

If you're not 100% happy with your tutor, then don't settle!

Let me tell you now, there is definitely that perfect tutor who is: knowledgeable, passionate, highly regarded, and someone who strives to help you succeed in VCE! If you have found that ideal tutor who you're happy to call your tutor throughout VCE, and would be more than happy to refer them onwards to other students, then you know you've made a right choice. Having undergone years of tutoring (hey, I'm from a stereotypical asian family!) and being a tutor for many years myself, my experience has taught me that there are some important aspects you should consider when hiring a tutor:

1. Just because a tutor didn't get a study score of 50, don't overlook them.

A study score score shows you how much knowledge and skill a tutor has, but it certainly does not tell you whether or not they're a good teacher. And while there are definitely some tutors out there who are capable of having great scores and being great teachers, not surprisingly, many cannot. Learning something and teaching that same thing are two different stories. So next time you see a tutor who didn't score 48+, you should definitely give them a chance. Generally you'll find people tutoring if they have achieved a study score of 40 and upwards, which will give you a good mix of tutors with reasonably high skills.

2. Tuition class structure. 

Next, you need to consider whether the tutor's teaching method matches well with your preferred way of learning. There are tuition schools which often follow a strict syllabus structure week by week. Other tutors are more flexible with a let's-focus-on-what-you-need-help-in during their weekly classes. Some do a combination of both. Structured tuition is generally good if you like to get ahead and run through the details of the course before you do it in class (though with VCE English it's a bit awkward since every school schedules the syllabus differently), but flexible tuition is also great since you can ask your tutor to focus on a particular topic every week, perhaps something you're studying at school or an area that you would like to strengthen. The other big factor is whether or not you want a tutor who instructs you to do homework. This can be motivating for some, but for many, it impacts on their studying pressures as they have to study for SACs and complete many other assignments simultaneously.

3. Assistance inside and outside of classes.

To put it plainly, tutoring is a highly paid job, which means that some people are only in it for the money. You want to find a tutor who will be more than happy to go that extra mile to ensure that you can benefit as much as possible from their tutoring. Are they willing to help you outside of class sessions through email or text messages? Are they happy to organise extra tutoring sessions if you need? Will they do extra work on the side so they can be adequately prepared for your next session? This year I taught an EAL student who particularly struggled with certain grammar and sentence structures. Since I had less experience in teaching EAL, I spent my own private time figuring out the best way to teach him how to overcome these challenges. Try to find a tutor who isn't just in the business for the money, but puts you, the student as their first priority.

4. Cost $$$.

Let's be honest. How much you will pay a tutor is also a major consideration. Generally, the higher the price, the more credentials that tutor has. Many VCE teachers are going for $90+ an hour, and that value is increasing! Tutors who have a few years under their belt, were high achievers in that subject, and can also boast many success stories from their students may range from $40-60 dollars. Often the tutors offering as low as $25 per hour are freshly graduated and looking to step into the field. Keep in mind that if some tutors seem a little too out of budget for you but you're definitely keen on being tutored by them, ask if they do group tutoring and find one or two friends who would also be interested on getting extra help. Whatever the price may be, at the end of the day, as long as you're happy and that money has been well spent, then everyone will be happy!

5. 'Freshness'. 

'Freshness' is basically my way of asking, how up-to-date is the tutor with the current syllabus? Some tutors only teach what they studied in school, continue to use the same resources and provide the same advice year after year. It's a good idea to seek a tutor who actively aims to upgrade their knowledge and resources each year. This shows how staying relevant is important to them, and demonstrates that their ability to cater to their students' needs is a priority. However, it is important to keep in mind that just because a tutor is 10 years out of school, doesn't mean that they're not up-to-date. This goes both ways - a tutor who is 2 years out of school may seem current because they've only just graduated, yet if they haven't spent the time to learn the new syllabus changes, then that speaks for itself!

6. Personality.

Tutors with personality are always a big bonus. Tutor personality plays a major role in how effectively they communicate with you, as the student. Have you noticed how some of your favourite teachers are probably your favourite because of their great personality and how they use that to teach? By making class fun, it helps to stimulate your interest and encourages your curiosity to learn. So you can see how a tutor who is enthusiastic and passionate in their teaching will make you want to be a better student too!

7. Plagiarism.

Under no circumstances should you hire a tutor to do your homework for you! Nor should that tutor offer to write you an essay in return for compensation. In Year 11 Literature, my tutor told me she would write an essay for me, which I understood as writing an essay then showing it to me the week after. What I didn't realise was that the next week, she presented me with the essay, and told me I had to pay for it. Because I was quite shy, I didn't say anything and took her essay. But I didn't feel right using her work and after that, I stopped attending her sessions because I felt too uncomfortable. A good tutor is well aware of their part in helping you with your studies. They know that the best way for you to improve is to support you, not encourage you to copy their work. Remember that in the end, when you're sitting in that SAC or exam hall, you only have yourself to rely on. In the end, I did show my Literature teacher both copies, my own and my tutor's (I did explain to her that the second essay was not my own), and asked her if she could grade both. How ironic, because my essay had actually scored a higher mark than my tutor's!

8. Credentials.

The best form of credentials for any tutor is word-of-mouth. Hearing that a tutor is good at what they do from others is always a sure sign that you're choosing somebody right. If you are recommended somebody, then they're probably worth looking into. If you are feeling out of the loop, start asking family and friends if they know anybody they could recommend you. Another form of credentials is a tutor's success stories. As a tutor, I often boast my own teaching successes rather than my own study score. I achieved 45 in my English studies and while tutoring over the past 6 years, I've actually facilitated several students to gain higher marks than myself! Now that I'm proud of!

Most importantly, don't settle. If there's something you're unhappy about your tutor, firstly speak to your tutor about it. Your tutor is there to help you and if they're not interested in adapting to how you'd like to learn, then perhaps they're not the tutor for you. There are so many different tutors out there, with so many different approaches to tutoring that you're bound to find the right person!

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