Becoming a better tutor: Part 1 – Preparing your lessons


Tutoring seems really simple at first. You work out what you’re good at, put a listing on TeachPad, and finally you find your first student. He is in Year 12, and the HSC or VCE is coming up really soon. He is desperate for help in Maths, and thinks you are the one to help him. You came second in your class, and you remember how easy it was at the time. It couldn’t be that hard could it?

Before the lesson, you flick through your Year 12 textbook. You remember about half of what was going on, and you reckon you’ll just read a few pages ahead of the student on the day, couldn’t be too hard could it?

On the day of the lesson, the student pulls out the work he needs help with, and you look at the paper blankly. You reassure him that you just need a few minutes to remember how this ‘one’ goes, and you ask to read his text-book really quickly. You flick through the text-book, spend about fifteen minutes on the question and you finally crack it. You fist-pump and he looks up from his phone, bored. You try and explain the answer, and you fumble your words, forget how you really did it, and end up that you relied on muscle memory from about three years ago. The student reluctantly hands the money to you, and walks off. Needless to say, you don’t get an e-mail arranging the next lesson.

I wish the story above was fiction but most new tutors, including myself at one point in time, were in that exact position. After a few more situations like that, I started to plan all my lessons. Most tutors still know the content, they just need a bit of a refresher. Spending fifteen to thirty minutes before the lesson refreshing on the content can seriously improve your lesson, and make sure your students stay loyal to you.

To prepare your lessons, you should rely on three important factors:

  1. The Syllabus

Make sure you know exactly what is examined in the course. If you are a bit rusty, or want to make sure you are teaching the right things, start with looking at a syllabus. This is a bit more important for Y11-12 students, whereas K-10 can be taught using fundamentals and class homework. There are publicly available syllabuses online, so it’s important to print one out and keep it on-hand for your student.

  1. Their school teacher

Every teacher is different. I had some that would mark in a very particular way, and I’d have to explain it to a lot of the tutors I hired when I was younger. The only way, as a tutor, for you to find out how their teacher marks, is to ask for a copy of an essay/piece of work that was marked by the teacher. Look at what worked, and what didn’t. I strongly promote giving trial or half price lessons for this reason; there’s a lot of general talking and discussion that happens and it really helps a student when they don’t feel pressured to learn at the start. A lot of students and parents are reluctant to go into conversation about the school, syllabus, and other helpful things before formalizing the lessons.

  1. The student

Every student learns differently. Some will respond to drilling maths problems from a text-book, and basic examples. Other will learn in a more conversational manner, where you’ll break down concepts to them in words. Some will only respond to a graph or an infographic. Work this out as soon as possible. Again, I can’t stress the importance of having some free discussion with your student before your lessons. Structuring and planning your lessons around a unique student makes you a star tutor, and its service that students really aren’t used to.


In a competitive industry like tutoring, results mean a lot. Preparation and planning can make a serious difference to the productivity of your lessons. We’ll talk about developing a unique plan and structure to your lessons in the next blog post until then, good luck!



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