Varsity Tutors

In March 2018 I started tutoring with Varsity Tutors as an independent contractor. I was approved to tutor all levels of English reading and writing as well as test prep. See my profile on the Varsity Tutors site

My subjects included:

  • ACT: English, Reading, Science, Writing
  • PSAT: Critical Reading, Writing Skills
  • SAT: Reading, Writing and Language
  • AP English Language and Composition
  • AP English Literature and Composition
  • AP Psychology (and other social sciences)
  • American Literature (College & High School)
  • English (College & High School)
  • College Application Essays

I’d been trained by the Vanderbilt Writing Studio as a writing tutor, but I’d never tutored test prep before joining Varsity Tutors. My first few sessions of ACT English tutoring were surely cringe-worthy.

But I really enjoyed tutoring. Soon, I had several clients with standing appointments. By May, at the height of end-of-year standardised tests, I was tutoring up to 6 hours a day.

A graph of my hours and sessions plotted against time from 25 March to 27 June 2018.

My approach

In my approach to tutoring, I generally relied on the study guides provided by Varsity Tutors, but I found so many mistakes in the SAT and ACT study guides that I started compiling the errata and emailing it to VT. So the process had a few kinks at the beginning.

But as I became increasingly familiar with the material, I knew exactly which sample passages to use during sessions to tackle various skill or knowledge deficits.

To help students brush up on their writing conventions, I selected errors I’d seen in real life. First, I would show the students some examples of various mistakes and explain them:

Sentence fragment
The red highlight is a fragment sentence.

Then, I would offer some examples that the students could fix on their own:

Fixit 4
Pronoun-antecedent errors
Fixit 2
“Affect,” not “effect”

I use a variety of resources to support my tutoring, including Paul Brians’ Common Errors in English Usage, a staple on my bookshelf for many years and now free and searchable online. Explore Common Errors

I like gauging students’ level by asking them to explain the difference between different words and usages; it’s both educational for them and helpful to me.

Case study

One challenge in particular was helping to prepare a student for a specialised reading comprehension exam in the state of Missouri. Let’s call him Zach. Passing the exam was critical for Zach, yet few test-prep materials were available online.

His mom sent me a book in the mail with some sample passages that Zach had already worked through. So based on the topics covered in the exam, I cobbled together relevant passages from ACT, SAT, and even GRE study guides. I supplemented our sessions with selected poems from ReadWorks.org, a great free resource for educators. Go to ReadWorks


My students generally met their goals for tutoring. Here is some of the positive feedback I’ve received:

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 8.45.35 PM

“Very helpful introduction for the SAT!! Thank you very much. I look forward to working with you again.”

“Alisha is a spectacular tutor. My daughter adores her and wishes she could be her actual teacher. We are so thrilled to have found such a warm, kind, and enthusiastic tutor that makes a chore seem like a pleasure!”

“[Student] absolutely loves Alisha! Alisha is a fabulous tutor! Thanks so much for being so positive, warm and helpful!”

“Amazing!!! She knows everything backwards and forwards!!”

“She is a great tutor! [Student] loves her and she has seen such amazing results — highly recommend.”

Getting feedback like this is part of what made this job rewarding. I stayed active on the platform until I moved to New Zealand, when I then phased out support for my existing clients.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.