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Thinking of getting a tutor? Ten questions you must ask

Asking the right questions can make all the difference in choosing a tutor for your child.

By GreatSchools Staff

Tutoring has become a multibillion-dollar industry, offering struggling and successful students alike a wealth of educational resources. Deciding which tutor is the best fit for your family may seem overwhelming, but fret not! With a little forethought, you can easily narrow down your choices and make sure your child gets exactly what she needs.

Here are 10 questions to point you in the right direction:

1. Who will do the tutoring?

When dealing with a tutoring company, you are trusting it to hire the right person for your child — so be sure you agree with the company's philosophy. Find out how much say you have in selecting a tutor and how the company determines which one is appropriate for your child. If the tutor is ill or unavailable, will your child be assigned a substitute?

If you've chosen an online tutoring service, ask if the company employs instructors in other countries. You'll need to monitor whether the tutor and your child can overcome any language barriers without the benefit of face-to-face interaction. Be sure to ask how he plans to build a rapport with your child and become familiar with her textbooks and classroom assignments.

2. What are the tutor's qualifications?

Does he have experience teaching the subject your child needs help with? It's not necessary that an instructor be a credentialed teacher for your child's grade level: A good chemistry tutor for your high schooler might have experience teaching college-level chemistry, for example, even if he doesn't have a high school teaching credential. But he should at least have a college minor in the subject.

Does the prospective tutor have experience teaching children of similar ages and learning styles to your kid's? If your child has special needs, it is especially important that the tutor be properly trained.

3. What is the tutor's track record?

In addition to asking for references from teachers or other parents, request evidence of the tutor's succes in raising student achievement, such as:

  • Higher test results
  • Improved classroom grades
  • Better homework completion
  • Satisfaction surveys of students or parents

4. Where will the sessions take place?

Whether your child is tutored at school, an office, a community center, or someone's home, you need to be comfortable with the location. If transportation is required, factor that into your decision. A number of studies have shown that regular, frequent tutoring is the most effective and that more sessions per week result in greater gains.

If you've chosen online tutoring, make sure your child has access to a computer, headset, or other necessary equipment.

5. How many students will be tutored at a time?

While some students thrive in small groups, others do better with one-on-one instruction. Be sure your choice can provide a setting that works for your child's particular learning style. If you've chosen group tutoring, find out what is the maximum number of students per class.

6. How will the tutor measure your child's progress?

Ask how the tutor will devise a study plan that's right for your child and assess whether goals are achieved. If the tutor provides written reports, request a sample so you can be sure they are clear and helpful.

7. How often will the tutor communicate with you and your child's teacher?

The tutor and teacher should be working toward a common goal. Ideally, they would communicate regularly and reinforce each other's techniques. Be sure to let the teacher know about your child's tutoring, and ask if he can give feedback on your child's progress in the classroom. You will also need to establish a regular time when your child is not present to discuss her progress with the tutor.

8. What is the policy for cancellations and makeup sessions?

Many private tutors charge clients if an appointment is canceled without 24-hour notice. Others have detailed policies for scheduling makeup sessions. Be sure to clarify with your tutor ahead of time.

9. What if your child doesn't improve?

Find out what the necessary steps are for choosing another tutor within a company and the deadline to make the switch. Does the tutor guarantee certain results? How are they measured? What happens if your child doesn't achieve them?

10. How can you reinforce your child's learning?

Tutoring isn't a magic bullet, so parents play an important role in helping those lessons stick. Ask the tutor for suggestions on how you can support your child's learning. Better yet, check in at the end of each session to find out what your child is expected to do before the next one, whether it's practicing her multiplication facts or completing all of her classroom assignments.

Comments from readers

"need tutoring in reading for my daughter 7th grade. camden nj "
"need tutoring in math "
"We live in columbia SC my son is a sixth grade student, we need a tutorer strong in math, he is a pretty good student but we have struggled in math. He says he wants to be vet but knows he has to do a lot of math I don't want math to discourage him from chasing his dreams. PLEASE HELP US!! "
"I have a third grader who has been having trouble in math since 1st grade. I have asked for turoring she was not allowed until reaching the third grade, now that she is in tutoring, they don't tutor they allow them to do homework and then check it and go online to a web based program called "Study Island" what happen to old fashion tutoring she is still getting "Fs" in math. I dont seem to be able to make a difference, she is not focused enough or seem determined. Her teacher has not expressed any concern about her math grades, it's me that has to speak on it, and it's really getting me to thinking about home schooling, alot of these schools don't seem to care that these children are not learning what they need to at this grade level. I really need some help. I am so frustrated with this entire situation. R.H. in Philadelphia "
"My son is in danger of being retained in first grade his school is very helpful an he is already in the EIT program but we still are not seeing well enough progress for promotion. I really think he needs a tutor familiar with the reading 109 program we live in chamblee georgia dekalb county "
"my daughter(8) is struggling in school we really need help im trying hard to help talked with school no help needs help in Math and Reading. Memphis Tn "
"I am a school teacher and an online teacher basically from India. I offer my helping hand in studies to school going kids. If you need my help do send a mail to for further details. "
"I live in Palmdale Ca, I have an 8 year old daughter in 3rd grade that have a learning disability that struggles everyday. I feel like her teacher doesn't take out enough time with her and her IEP teachers are not either. They dont communicate with me or each other, I have to notify them to see if she have progressed any. I really wish I can find a tutor for her, someone who cares. "
"I have a 6 year old that is struggling in school he was a premie and has been moved to several different elementary schools. He is only in first grade and it seems as if the teacher does not want to bother to take the time to help him. It is really sad as I read other comments how the person who took on the career of education does not take the time to realize the ones that are struggling and they dont want to help them. I need help with a special ed child to get him to at least where he understands what is going on in the class room. I have decided to seek help because my son came to me and says that on one in the school will help him. That is my sign that they are not giving him the education he deserves. If you have a tutor that is Newport News, Virginia area please contact me. Thank you. "
"There are many GREAT tutors who stand ready to help your family at any time! If you post a need for tutoring, please state your city/state so we can contact you or be contacted if we're in your specific area. Thank you from Tutor Doctor San Diego! "
"I need a good tutor for my 5yr old had he never had preschool so it's kind of hard for him to catch on to certain things he is struggling in class I feel like his teacher don't have patients with him cause he don't know what the rest of the class know by them already have had some education..I try to teacher my son but I don't think he is getting certain things with me...I try to come up with so many different things he got some things but figuring out the what the letter is hard for him so I try to do some at a time I need help I'm a single mom that goes to school my self. "
"I need a tutor for a young man,we live within the Jackson,MS. area.. "
"Hi! I'm writing to you for my son to get some extra help.his teacher made it clear in a intervention for my son. That she dosent have the time to help him. I'm afraid he's going to get held back due to he is having trouble keeping up in class with the rest of the class. I need someone help quick as possible so my son dosent suffer anymore from this.I asked his teacher isn't that what a teacher suppost to due is help her students be the best that they can. And once again her reply was I don't have time to help him. "
"I am interested in getting my daughter in tutoring. She struggles in reading."
"My son just left a private school and is attending a public school now. He is struggling in math. He have a F in math. He told me that he is trying his best but not catching on to good. I spoke with his math teacher and she continue to tell me to have him to go online to you tube it. How can i get my son tutoring?"
"Hi, my son Antonio is struggling since I transfered him from school> He is in 3rd grade and his reading and math scores are very low.. He has a failure notice.His teacher said most likely he will repeat the 3rd grade because of his reading and math.I was really shocked when I was told I never tought my son was having problems reading.. Where can I take him so he can get help, to improve his reading and other work problems he has??"
"My daughter as had a reading problem for a couple of years now. She is in the sixth grade,i also have a comprehension and reading problem. I try to help her but its hard. Do you know of any help out there?"
"Hello, my daughter is in the fourth grade she has been struggling since the first grade with her math and some of her reading. I've tried to do all the teachers have recommended me to do with her at home but she just get anxious and depressed she gets into this huge meltdown and i just dont know what else to do. we live in san jose, calif Do you know of any help that can help us!!!!!!!!!!! S.O.S"
"hello i am a single mother of 3. My oldest is 11 years old and going into the 6th grade however she has been in a catholic private school but because the economy hit bottom for us i need help with her resources, her reading skills are very poor and i would really like her to advance in that mainly but as every child she could use mathamadics and comprehenshion...i need to see how i can locate a good public school in ventura, ca county zip 93004 thank you!!!"
"Thank you for being there for us. You have given us a great deal of hope to what seem like an never ending circle sprialing downward. Since we moved to Houston Texas over a year ago my son's grades have fallen greatly as well as his getting into a great deal of trouble at school. In Florida they push the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND but not in Houston if you do not know who to ask they will not tell you was hiding around the corner. I have this information and the 10 questions to ask. We will keep you posted with his progress."
"Please I need help with my grandson for purposes of reading and math. He attends Golightly and I do know that if he gets a tutor he could do much better. Please respond or email me please. I know that under the no child left behind program he can get this help please email me."
"My boy is having learning issues already in Kindergarten. Is there no facility or tutoring option for him barring holding him back a year? I have found nothing to this affect and feel its a real shame that instead of being able to grasp the work before his 'number' grades begin he can't get some outside help."
"thank yuo for your help ........."
"Do you have any summer school classes this year? My son is really struggling with his classes and has 2.0 credits that need to be made up. Please let me know. Thanks"
"I need to know where i can get help for my son. he needs tutoring . he still a little behind reading. for the no child left behind. for the saginaw michigan area. thank you.."
"I need to know more about getting help for my child. Thank You"
"I was told by the Dep of education that you can only get free tutoring only if 1) you receive free lunch 2) the school is a Title 1 school 3) and if the school have fail the requirement (school report card)3 years straight "
"You look good, can't wait to explore the comments."
"My child has failed the 6th grade, I was told by the school to have her tested for ADD. My reply was why didnt a teacher notice that she needed to be tested? I did take her to the doctor and she does have ADD. I was wondering how she passed all her other grades, and I came to the conclusion that she passed because the school prior to this school offered her tutoring. Because of hurricane Katrina the school was under staffed and tutoring was only offered to the students that were supposed to take the leap test. This is unfair to my daughter who they are tring to keep back in the 6th grade. She will be 14teen years old in Nov. This is to old to be in the 6th grade. What can I do?"
"I have enrolled my son in the Huntington Learning Center because the school systme in our town has failed him repeatedly. It is very expensive and I don't know if there are any free resources that I could use for him. I live in the Wanaque NJ area."
"my son is in the iep learning program and still is struggling in math and i feels that the teachers are not focusing on his needs "
"I found a great company that sends a tutor to your home. They sent a wonderful young lady to help my daughter through the last semester of Algebra II Honors. It is ACES Tutoring. Their website is "
"my child is having trouble reading. i retain him in kindergarten and now is in first grade. i had IEP meeting with the school and they told me that he just meets the bench mark so my son willnot have any tutoring. I think all schools are in the same boat. They have no money to help our kids. It makes me so angry and sad that i try to help my child but I can;t because I am not qualify to do it. I tried some college classes but my son is still having trouble reading. "
" How do i get a tutor for both my children under the no child left behind law "
"How or when does a parent decide to get their child tested for any learning disabilities? My child is in first grade and is having a hardtime focussing on her work. Is there a certain age or should the teacher be able to tell if she is A.d.d.?"
"In response to the comment posted on 2.6.08 -- I only have experience with the Cupertino Union School District. When my child was struggling in school, I had to fight tooth and nail to have her tested and provided with an IEP (individual education program, a fancy name for special ed). Since schools are so strapped for cash, they are reluctant to tell you what your options are. Please contact your school district and ask very direct questions. Good Luck. If you live near a Lindamood Bell center, please check them out. The program is expensive, but it works."
"My school want help me very much. My daughter we just found out that she is ADD she is failing in everything NOW, it was only math. We started her on med's 2 days ago. The school tells me the state does not provide anything to help like tutoring. Do they ?"
"I have found GREAT success with Kumon Math and Reading Centers for my middle school (and younger) kids."