What Makes a “Professional” Tutor?

By: Ben Sexton

As an industry veteran, I’ve looked through the websites of many competing tutoring companies and owner-operators. For the owner-operators, a selling point is often that companies employ “graduate students doing tutoring as a side gig” as tutors, while the owner-operators themselves are, by contrast, “full-time professional tutors.” This is many people’s picture of the SAT/ACT tutor – an intelligent graduate student doing hourly tutoring for a company as a side job, not a serious pursuit. But is this characterization fair? That depends on the company. In many cases, SAT/ACT tutors are quite a bit more qualified in the field of education than that characterization suggests.

I look at my own staff as an example. At Sexton Test Prep & Tutoring, we identify ourselves as a boutique tutoring company, providing highly qualified tutors who produce superior results. Of our 17 tutors, seven are full-time teachers. Two are college professors. Eleven already have Masters Degrees or higher. And most importantly, all of them have logged hundreds if not thousands of hours of tutoring, on top of all of their teaching hours. This is an experienced group!  

The picture I’ve painted of my own company applies to many other boutique companies, as well, and even some larger companies. Our staffs are populated by experienced and skilled educators who went through a tough interview process and a rigorous training process; many tutors have even trained at more than one company. These people are deeply familiar with all of the materials, practice problems, and practice tests with which they work. 

Professional tutors deliver consistent, positive results. They give ethical and correct advice to families about testing plans, policies and procedures, best practices, and study materials. They possess an impressive collection of references and student success stories. For these people, testing is not a side job, and it shows in their student outcomes. 

Tutoring, whether for SAT/ACT or ISEE/SSAT or for academic subjects, is a much more defined profession than many think. So, how do I pick the right tutor for my student? What questions should I ask? Here are a few to consider… 

1.     How long has this tutor been with your company and what makes them an expert on this exam/subject? 

2.     What distinguishes your tutors from other tutors in the area? 

3.     How will you select the right tutor for my particular student? 

Differences in tutor quality can be hard for newcomers to the market to recognize. But superior tutors do exist and we feel very lucky to employ 17 of them.