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. My subjects include:

  • 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 standardized tests, I was tutoring up to 6 hours in a day.

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 10.03.43 PM

My Approach

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. 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 specialized 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.


My students generally met their goals for tutoring. Here is some of the positive feedback I’ve received as of July 2018:

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 makes the job worth continuing. I plan to remain active on the platform as I continue to support my existing clients.

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