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