The Complete Guide to Finding the Right English Tutor for You
You’ve never thought about getting a tutor before, but now you’re seriously considering it.
But where should you start?
That’s exactly what we’ll look at today: why you might want to work with an English tutor, what to expect if you decide to use a tutor, and where you can find a tutor who’s perfect for you.
- Why You Should Consider a Tutor: Teachers vs. Tutors
- Some Advantages of Working with a Tutor
- What You Should Know About Your Tutor
- Where to Start Looking for a Tutor
- Qualities of a Good English Tutor
- Steps to Take Before Looking for a Tutor
- The Best Places to Find an English Tutor
Why You Should Consider a Tutor: Teachers vs. Tutors
When you’re considering a tutor, you need to understand the difference between a classroom teacher and a private tutor. While in the classroom, your teacher will introduce you to the material. They may present it in many different ways to appeal to the different learning styles of the students in the classroom.
If you’re struggling with a topic, a good classroom teacher will try their best to help you, but they usually don’t have time during classes to give you all of the attention you need.
A tutor, on the other hand, is more flexible and can work with your schedule. Your tutor will take concepts you’ve already learned and review them with you until you feel comfortable. They use review activities, games, dialogues and other methods to help you understand.
When you have a tutor, you tell them what you want or need to work on. Sometimes a tutor will see you having difficulties with a certain topic and offer to review it with you. But in many cases, you will lead the lessons by telling the tutor what you want to learn more about.
In other words: Teachers teach the subject, but tutors help you to understand it.
Some Advantages of Working with a Tutor
As we’ve seen, teachers and tutors do similar jobs, but they do them in different ways. Even if you don’t think you need extra help, a tutor can still help you learn.
Let’s look at a few other advantages of working with tutors.
1. You’ll receive individualized attention
Classroom instruction is good because it gives you contact with other English language learners. But sometimes, when you’re learning something difficult, you need extra help—help that a classroom teacher can’t provide.
During tutoring sessions, you’ll have an instructor that can give you the attention you need. They can get to know you, your learning style and the specific things that you struggle with.
2. You can make a customized plan
A classroom teacher has to create a one-size-fits-all lesson plan to work with many different students, learning styles and interests.
A tutor, on the other hand, will work with you to determine which areas you can improve or which topics you want to learn more about. When you work with a tutor, you have more say in what you want to study. Whether you need to work on specific material for an upcoming exam or want to discover new things out of simple curiosity, a tutor will help you reach your goals.
3. You’ll gain confidence
Maybe you’re not comfortable giving an English presentation or practicing a dialogue in front of your instructor and many classmates.
If so, that’s the kind of thing you can practice ahead of time with your tutor. They’ll listen to you and give you tips on improvement. If you’re having trouble, a tutor will review a topic with you as many times as necessary so that you perform your best on presentations, exams and during your class in general.
What You Should Know About Your Tutor
Not all tutors are alike. Since everyone has a different personality, you’ll probably work better with some tutors than with others.
When you find a potential tutor, there are many questions you can ask him or her at the first meeting, but the following ones are especially important.
1. What is your educational and teaching background?
A tutor’s educational background doesn’t always indicate if he or she will be a good tutor.
However, if you want to move forward in your studies, a trained professional will help you get further than someone who isn’t a professional, like a classmate. If you just need someone to explain something to you, a classmate can be helpful. But if you need more individualized attention, look for a tutor with a strong educational background, as well as experience in tutoring.
A good, reputable tutor will have a teaching certificate and/or a college degree, and will specialize in teaching English. They’ll also have experience tutoring others. If you didn’t find the tutor through a referral of someone you already know, it’s a good idea to ask for references. Contact the references and ask about their experiences with the tutor.
2. What is your teaching style?
Just like students have different learning styles, educators have different teaching styles. Teachers are trained to teach in a variety of methods, but everyone has their favorite method. Some methods may not work with your learning style.
For example, a particular tutor may favor games, but you may prefer quizzes and drills. If you’re unsure of your learning style, it’s okay to participate in a trial session to see if a tutor’s teaching style works for you.
3. What kinds of results can we both expect?
Both you and your tutor should understand what you expect in terms of results.
If you’re preparing for something specific, like a test, let your tutor know before you start so they can tailor their lessons to include material that will be on your exam. Or if you’re interested in carrying on conversations in English, tell them so.
A good tutor will give you a realistic time frame of when you should see improvement, and what that improvement will look like.
Where to Start Looking for a Tutor
Tutors are everywhere, but you might have to dig deeper to find good ones. Here are some places you can start.
1. Ask your instructor or classmates
The best place to start is with your instructor. It’s very likely that if your instructor doesn’t offer tutoring, they’ll know someone who does. Your instructor will have workmates and friends in educational fields who tutor or who can direct you to good ones.
If you feel comfortable with your instructor and he or she tutors, that can often be a great option. Your instructor already knows you, and they know the material you need to learn.
Another good place to start is with your classmates. There’s a chance that they have good tutors who can take on new clients. You’ll also learn from your classmates if a tutor might be a good match for you.
2. Consider excellent online options
There are many great websites that offer tutoring services for very reasonable prices. These tutors are all over the world so you can work with them online, but some also offer in-person tutoring, depending on your location.
One benefit of an online tutor is that you don’t need to spend time traveling to and from sessions. Plus, they’re very flexible, so you can learn on your own schedule. Many online tutors offer trial sessions for a very low price or even for free.
There are several places online where you can find great English tutors, but a few stand out.
One great option is , a service to help you find tutors. If you’re an English learner living in the United States, you can also use Wyzant to find a local tutor if you want to meet in person. Wyzant is a good choice if you need help studying for a test, since many of the tutors on the site are professional teachers with certifications and many years of experience.
If you aren’t able to do in-person tutoring, or if you just prefer online tutoring, then Verbling is an excellent way to find an English tutor. The site has hundreds of professionals offering English tutoring, so you can choose one that fits your needs and interests. You can even search for a tutor based on other languages that he or she speaks. So, for example, if you’re learning English and your native language is Spanish, you can find a tutor that can teach you in Spanish (or at least clarify some confusing points).
Another resource to consider is italki, an excellent language instruction and tutoring site. Here, you can find the ideal English tutor to work with you long term, based on their location, skills, schedule and rates. They also have an “Instant Tutoring” option if you need help immediately,.
3. Check out tutoring centers
If you’re looking for a more formal tutoring environment, then you should consider a tutoring center. They’re also a good option if you prefer a face-to-face tutor to an online one. For some people, it may be easier to form a relationship with a face-to-face tutor.
Another advantage of tutoring centers is that the tutors that work there have been screened based on requirements of the center. You don’t have to worry about checking educational backgrounds or references because the center has already done it for you. The only thing you need to worry about is if a tutor’s teaching style is compatible with your learning style. Most tutoring centers will work with you to match you up with the best tutor for your needs.
There’s even a good chance your school or educational institution may have a tutoring center. If not, they can provide you with help to locate a tutoring center if there are any in your area.
Qualities of a Good English Tutor
Teachers and tutors have different personalities, but good English tutors have similar qualities. If you’re interviewing a tutor, you should notice several characteristics.
1. Completely fluent in English (preferably a native speaker)
Immersion is very important when you’re learning a language. Don’t worry about how well a tutor can speak your native language, but how well they speak English. Not all native speakers make good tutors, of course, and there are many non-native English speakers who are excellent tutors. But generally, a native speaker can often help you understand certain aspects of language and culture in a way that a non-native speaker might not be able to do.
2. Approachable and friendly
You won’t get very far if you’re not comfortable with your tutor. Not all personalities work well together. If you don’t feel comfortable with your tutor, it’s okay to find a new one. You may even need to try a few before you find the right one, and that’s fine. You should focus on your learning, and don’t worry about hurting a tutor’s feelings if you stop taking classes with them. They won’t take it personally if you don’t continue with them.
A good tutor should be available and accessible. They should give you dependable contact information such as a mobile phone number or an email address they check regularly. They should tell you the best way and times you can reach them if you have questions.
4. Patient and understanding
A good teacher or tutor is patient and understanding. They know you won’t understand everything right away. They’ll review the material with you as much as needed. If a tutor becomes impatient or annoyed, they aren’t the right tutor for you.
You’re probably not always in the mood to study. If your tutor is lively and provides fun activities to work on, it’ll make your session go by quickly. When a tutor has good energy and enthusiasm, you’ll find yourself motivated to learn more.
6. Encourage independence, but still available to help
Understand that a tutor is only there to guide you. You still need to learn the material on your own. Don’t count on your tutor to always give you the answers; you need to be able to figure some things out on your own. On the other hand, if you’re really struggling, a good tutor will help you.
Your tutor should be a confident teacher. If they’re a native speaker or have the proper experience, they can give you the correct answers you need without making you question if they really know what they’re talking about.
Steps to Take Before Looking for a Tutor
Now you know why you might want a tutor, you know where to find a tutor and you also know what characteristics to look for in a tutor.
If you’ve decided to go ahead and start learning with a tutor, there are a few practical steps you should follow.
1. Define your goals
Know exactly what you’re working on and where you want to be. Make a plan for one to six months. Write down your plan and goals. If you see your goals on paper, you’ll be able to explain them to your tutor so he or she can make the right plan for you.
2. Understand your needs
This will help you to know what kind of tutor will be best for you.
What motivates you? What’s your favorite part of class? Look at the feedback on your homework and exams. What areas cause the most trouble? If possible, bring your graded assignments to your tutor. They may see something that you don’t and make suggestions.
3. Know your commitment abilities
Are you looking for a short-term tutor to prepare for an exam, or are you looking for an ongoing, long-term relationship? You and your tutor should have an idea of how long you plan to work together so you can plan material accordingly.
4. Choose a language learning program
Tutors can teach you a lot, but having a complete language learning program that you’re studying with is important. This gives you deeper grammar and vocabulary lessons, and you can take advantage of your more limited (and more expensive) tutoring time to work on the most complicated and challenging things.
For example, you might study with the online language learning program FluentU every day—watching authentic videos in English, reading along with the interactive subtitles, practicing vocabulary with flashcards and taking personalized quizzes. Then, you could plan to meet with your tutor three times per week to go over the most challenging lessons or simply put into practice what you’ve been learning.
The Best Places to Find an English Tutor
Best for: all learners
With Cambly, you can find tutors from the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Australia. Every tutor is a native speaker who specializes in teaching a specific aspect of the English language.
Some tutors also focus on specific skills like reading, writing or speaking. If you are learning English to get a job or study in an English speaking university, some tutors also give lessons on how to ace the TOEFL or IELTS exams. You can also find tutors who specialize in subjects like English for science, aviation or business.
Cambly has unique features, such as video recording lectures so you can review and use them in practice sessions. It also allows you to translate sentences from your native language to English while chatting with tutors.
Cambly has a reservation system through which you can book a class with your preferred tutors at a particular time. After 10 hours of classes, you will earn a certificate from Cambly marking your achievement.
Verbling - Learn languages online Verbling
Best for: all learners
Verbling is a general language learning website with 6,000 tutors of many languages. All English tutors on the website are native speakers. You can use the service directly in your web browser or through mobile apps.
Almost all the teachers in the site speak more than one language. That means you can potentially find a teacher who speaks your native language too. You can browse the website and select your own tutor or Verbling can choose the right person for you.
Each tutor creates a custom curriculum (learning plan/lesson set) according to your needs and goals. The service also provides report cards after lessons and badges to mark your progress.
Plus, you can use built-in tools like flashcards to practice regularly and efficiently in between your lessons.
Each tutor sets their own pricing, but many offer a free trial before you start paying. Learners can also see how many lessons a tutor has delivered and what their specializations are.
Best for: learners in the U.S.
Skooli hires tutors who have advanced degrees from universities in English-speaking countries. This service focuses on improving the grades of students mainly enrolled in U.S. academic institutions. For school students, they follow the standard classes that Americans take from kindergarten to 12th grade. They also have subject experts for college students.
Although their focus is on American students, anyone from any country can sign up for their services. Skooli is perfect for learners who want to learn American English or academic English. If you are living in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland or Australia you can also find tutors from your college or city specifically.
You can try Skooli for free. The online classroom allows you to have video chats with the tutors, replay a lesson, draw on a digital whiteboard and even share files.
Apart from English language learning, the tutors can also give you lessons about English literature and essay writing.
Best for: all learners
Live Lingua is a tutoring service that focuses on the unique needs of every student. All of their tutors have years of teaching experience and advanced college degrees. And every student can take a free trial before paying for the service.
Live Lingua has specialized courses for professionals such as bankers, doctors, police, airline staff, cashiers and even tour guides. If you want general professional skills like how to speak in an interview or in meetings, then you can find short courses for that too.
Live Lingua tutors provide lessons through Skype. Each English tutor can speak a second language like Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese or Turkish. Each class lasts for an hour and you can schedule classes according to your own convenience.
Live Lingua also provides exam preparation courses for TOEFL, IELTS, GMAT (a graduate-level management test), TOEIC (a workplace English exam) and so on.
Best for: all learners
This service uses a method called the “ETO Method.” The lessons include speaking practice, listening practice, writing practice, reading practice, confidence building and real world activities. They can help build complex skills like problem solving, debating or negotiating.
All the tutors are native speakers from the U.K. or the U.S. The service provides interactive Skype lessons using games.
EnglishTutorOnline also gives special training to their tutors in online education. They also are supposed to have cultural skills to allow them to connect with students from different parts of the world.
They have different programs for kids, conversation, business and companies. Each program includes 150 hours of tutoring, which are divided into three levels of difficulty. The students receive a certificate after completing each level.
Students can keep track of their progress through the class reports after every lesson and the progress and goal reports given after the student finishes 25 hours with a tutor.
Best for: all learners
Preply is one of the most structured tutoring services online. It narrows down the list of tutors according to your specific needs so you can start learning as soon as possible. You can select the main reason why you want to learn English such as work, education or traveling.
They also consider things like your motivation, personality and method of learning when suggesting tutors.
Unlike most other services, Preply also hires tutors from non-English backgrounds who have training in English teaching. This often allows learners to find tutors who can understand their cultural context better while tutoring.
The cost of the service ranges from $8 to $30 per hour. So learners with low budgets can also use this service quite easily.
Best for: all learners (especially Hungarian or Portuguese native speakers)
Unlike many other tutoring services, MyEnglishTeacher provides free materials for English learning along with paid lessons. Their website has a blog with tips to learn grammar and vocabulary. They also have a forum where learners can help one another. MyEnglishTeacher even has a YouTube channel with English learning videos.
If you speak Hungarian or Portuguese, they also provide free English learning materials in these languages.
All their tutors are native speakers and have teaching certificates. After the end of each month, they also provide activity reports and tell you what you have done in every lesson and how you have improved.
They do not provide free trial classes, but you can try out a single lesson for $9. They will return your money if you are not satisfied with the lesson.
One disadvantage of this service is that you have to give money for several lessons in advance. You cannot pay per hour like the other services listed above.
Best for: young learners in China
gogokid uses AI technology and one-to-one teaching to help Chinese students learn English fast. AI is short for “Artificial Intelligence” and it uses computers to customize your learning experience.
All the teachers are native speakers from North America. This means that they mostly focus on American English. As the name indicates, the focus here is young learners, so this one is best if you are teaching a child English or learning English with your child.
Their software uses four simple steps to teach English. In the first step gogokid evaluates the student’s existing skills. In the second step, it gives simple speaking activities to prepare for the face-to-face lesson. In the third step the tutor teaches and gives personalized English improvement tips. And in the fourth step, the tutor assigns homework that is appropriate for the student.
The lessons are based on education standards (levels or measures of quality) commonly used in the U.S. and China.
Best for: learners in China ages four to 16
DaDa is another English tutoring service that helps young Chinese students learn from native English speakers. They only cater to students who are in the age group of four to 16.
Learners can choose if they want to learn English in a British or American accent. You also get access to original textbooks from respected publishers like Oxford and Longman.
There are four types of courses learners can select. The live courses focus on listening skills. These lessons often have more than one student attending the class at once. Other courses include general one-on-one classes with tutors that you request.
Best for: learners in South Korea, especially business professionals
Englishunt is a Korean company that provides live video classes and phone classes. The video lessons are primarily tailored for schools and younger students. The phone sessions are for professionals and adult learners. They typically work with business professionals to help students improve their careers with English skills.
For the phone sessions, you will be paired up with an English tutor—the tutors at Englishunt are generally American English speakers.
Along with live classes, Englishunt also provides other English learning materials like books, documents, worksheets and videos.
The service customizes the classes according to the needs of the student and their learning level.
Best for: learners in India
Started by the British Council, this online English learning program combines the benefits of tutoring and self-learning. A certificate from a British Council course is recognized around the world by employers.
The course is based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It is divided into three levels and each level has three modules.
This course provides the perfect balance of flexibility and structure. You get live lessons from tutors for two hours every week. You can study the modules in one level in any order according to your schedule. The tutor gives you regular feedback and guidance based on your performance.
The live classes are attended by several other students. Learners can practice communication skills during the classes through group discussions and role-playing real-life scenarios.
The course is relevant to all learners. The modules have content related to personal, professional and academic life. You can develop basic skills like vocabulary and specialized skills like email writing at the same time in this course.
The British Council also has a separate online course for business English called myEnglish Workplace. The course has around 42 hours of face-to-face contact with the tutor over six weeks.
Best for: learners in India
TeacherOn is an Indian company that provides online English tutors to students all over the world. Almost all the tutors on this website are from India. Indian learners will feel more comfortable with these tutors because of their shared cultural backgrounds.
TeacherOn provides both online tutoring and home tutoring. Learners can also provide general assignment requests and tutors can contact them with proposals.
Many tutors specialize in exams like IELTS, TOEFL or even the SAT exam for college and the GRE test for graduate school. Some English tutors also specialize in teaching other subjects like science or math along with English.
Most tutors have experience working with students from different countries from Australia, to the U.S., to Qatar.
Learners can contact their first three teachers for free. It is important to note that this platform only helps you contact tutors. The actual teaching and payment is done outside the website.
The website has some quality checks, but does not review the actual teaching abilities of the tutors. But the low cost of this website might help you try various tutors before you find the one who is best for you.
Teach Me 2
Best for: school-age learners in South Africa
Unlike other services in this list, Teach Me 2 provides face-to-face tutoring. The tutors travel to your house and teach you English instead of using video conferencing software.
Every tutor has to go through a background check. They make sure that the quality of the tutors is good through interviews and by checking their academic performance. Students can also write reviews for the teachers. If you do not like your first lesson, you can refuse to pay for it, too.
This service is better suited for younger learners since most tutors here specialize in teaching school students. Learners who are looking for English tutors so that they can improve their careers should look for other services.
The tutors cover topics such as listening and speaking, reading, writing, presenting and language structure.
Best for: learners in Japan
Eigox is a Japan-based English teaching company that provides private tutors at a reasonable price. They have both native English speakers from countries like the U.S., the U.K. and New Zealand and non-native teachers. The native tutors generally charge more than the non-native ones.
Learners can choose what kind of lesson structure they would like to follow. Learners can freely converse with the tutors, use textbooks or use materials from the internet like news articles, videos and so on.
The lessons are conducted over Skype. Each lesson lasts for about 25 minutes.
The website also has an extensive list of materials learners can use. This includes books you can buy, or online materials categorized by topic.
The main aim of working with an English tutor is to make yourself independent. To achieve this, it is very important to set goals and deadlines. Many platforms in the list automatically do that in their classes. But even if they do not, it is good to know what you are trying to achieve in one lesson, a week or even six months.
Finding a good English tutor who can make you understand in your unique way is the hardest part. Once you find such a teacher, be sure to practice regularly. After all, practice makes perfect!