Wanting to give private tutorials and having the level to do so are two different things. Don’t forget that motivation is also hugely important. However, the most important thing is knowing the subject you’re teaching!
Not only will you need a good profile to find customers, you’ll need to show off to potential customers that you have the necessary English skills for teaching English courses.
How can you prove your proficiency and show potential customers that you know the English language inside out, including grammar, vocabulary, speaking, and reading and writing?
There are plenty of English tests, diplomas, and certificates you can use to differentiate yourself from other English speakers and we tend to talk about a handful of the most common ones that are recognised all over the world.
Of course, depending on the kind of learner you’re going to provide English courses to, the qualifications you’ll need will be different.
Teaching English to primary school children is completely different to teenagers and adults, of course and at home private tutorials, like every other business, are susceptible to fierce competition.
Don’t forget that in this market, customers will compare the various tutors in terms of their rates and their abilities in English and thanks to the internet, they have the means to do so very easily.
In fact, national qualifications aren’t often as well known or respected as the international ones. Even Europe-wide exams aren’t commonly used or known and a number of these are usually only nationwide and considered to be more trouble than they’re worth to the candidates.
The certificates from international organisations and English universities tend to generate a lot of interest and renown. They’re considered more authentic and precious because they’re from English-speaking institutions!
In most cases, whatever exam you choose will test your abilities.
There are free practice tests available online. (Source: Visual Hunt)
The TOEFL, for example, is exclusively for those who aren’t native English speakers. This exam mainly focuses graduate-level speakers.
The test is operated by ETS (Educational Testing Service) out of Princeton University and comes in the form of a multiple-choice exam.
Candidates are tested on four key skills: reading, listening, writing, and speaking.
You can take the test in a number of ways: on paper (PBT, out of 677 points) or on the Internet (iBT, out of 120 points). The iBT replaced the CBT (an offline version taken on computers which was replaced around 2006).
It’ll also cost you at least £100 for a three-to-four-hour exam.
There’s no pass or fail but rather a score that puts you on a percentile scale against the various other candidates who also took the test.
The TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) is another of ETS’ tests. This exam is more focused on professional and business English.
There are two main papers: Listening and Reading (2 hours) and Speaking and Writing (1 hour 20 minutes).
The first is out of 990 whereas the second is out of 400. The candidates are given a colour grade: gold, blue, green, brown, and orange. Gold is the best and orange the worst.
This qualification is particularly appreciated by companies, especially in Asia. Some even take very seriously when it comes to recruiting their employees.
The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) focuses on management or business school students who are wanting to complete an MBA or post-graduate studies in business. For this exam, candidates are tested on reading and listening and then graded on a scale out of 800.
As you can probably tell, the GMAT exam wouldn’t be necessary for those wanting to teach English privately (don’t worry if you’ve already got one, though!).
On the other hand, the TOEIC is a good indicator of a person’s language ability when it comes to professional private tutorials, especially when teaching business English.
The TOEFL is probably the best option for anyone who’s just finished their degree and would like to earn some extra cash for the end of the month by teaching private English tutorials to children and other students.
Imagine spending a semester in one of the UK’s finest universities. (Source: Unsplash)
We should probably mention the British Council’s IELTS exam since it’s the most popular English language exam in the world with millions of candidates sitting it every year. This exam is also useful for those looking to ascertain visas in English-speaking countries as it’s widely accepted by most immigration authorities as proof of someone’s English level.
There are various Cambridge exams for all ages and abilities. Children can take the Cambridge Young Learner Exams (YLE) when they’re at school and while they probably won’t get them a job in later life, they will prepare them for the Cambridge exam format when moving on to the exams for adults.
As for adults, there are exams ranging from A2 through to C2 CEFR levels. You should certainly do a level test before signing up for each particular level as they’re not the cheapest exams to sit and it would be horrible showing up to an exam that’s far too easy or far too difficult.
Again, you have to think long and hard about why you want a certificate to prove your level in English and subsequently choose the one that best suits your needs. However, you should never forget that all of these qualifications are internationally recognised and look great on your CV, too!
When it comes to providing English tutorials, you have to highlight them well in order to get your first customers. Once you’ve given a few quality tutorials, your clients will stay and spread the word. Soon your English course will be the most popular in the area and you’ll have a group of loyal customers.
Did you know that, in the UK, there are no legal requirements to have any specific qualifications to become a private tutor? That is, if you are to tutor privately. If you choose to join an agency, then you will need to present them with proof that you have been educated to at least university degree level. But, otherwise, you are good to go!
Obviously, tutors of a specific academic subject will normally have a background or qualification in that area, usually to degree-level or equivalent. This is because, despite the fact that you can tutor anyone who is at a level below you, in theory, you still want to have the knowledge to teach them things beyond their current course where appropriate. Also, not all students are children. So, for example, you can generally tutor GCSE content if you have an A Level in the subject, and you can teach A Level categories if you have a degree in the subject, but what about if someone approaches you wanting degree-level tutoring? Surely you’d want to be confident that your knowledge exceeds theirs on the subject that you are claiming to be an expert in!
Being able to teach beyond the curriculum is about much more than just the subject itself; it enables you to help students develop critical thinking skills; to understand their own learning style and to achieve their academic goals.
All of that said, the underlying fact is that, yes, a degree is enough to market yourself as a tutor. But it depends on if you want to be seen as a credible tutor.
Being bilingual inspires confidence. Especially those born in an English-speaking country.
Those who were born in English-speaking countries definitely have an advantage when it comes to teaching private English tutorials, be it to children, teenagers, or adults. If this is the case for you, you’ll probably need to consider getting the qualifications in another language.
However, you can’t just rely on where you were born. You need to also mention where else you’ve been.
Thanks to globalisation, it’s becoming more and more common to come across people who’ve studied abroad or lived in English-speaking countries.
You don’t technically need a degree in order to teach English privately though you do have to learn English, of course.
A degree does tend to come in handy for those who want to work as a private tutor since to study English at a university, you need to have a certain degree of fluency, a variety of writing skills, and an in-depth understanding of spoken general English.
It’s usually expected that you’ve completed your university studies or at least have similar academic experience in order to certify your language skills.
If you didn’t go to university, you will be expected to have at least taken English classes at an English school or have some kind of language learning background.
To teach any given subject, you should have at least a degree in it.
On the other hand, if you want to work in schools, you’ll need at least some post-graduate education, usually in teaching or similar. However, you don’t for teaching private tutorials.
Is it actually more important to have a teaching qualification, regardless of the subject you are specialised in? Is that all that parents are looking for when they choose a tutor for their child – that they are DBS checked and that they are a ‘teacher’?
What we are considering here is whether you have more credibility if you are a qualified music teacher (let’s say), with experience of breaking down a curriculum and having studied English at A level than if you are an English Literature graduate, having spent three years exploring the subject in depth. Does it seem right that simply being taught in the context of the education sector could make you more attractive as a tutor than someone who has knuckled down and read all the related content and more?
When it all comes down to it, though, like we’ve already discovered, it doesn’t matter so much about your qualification when it comes to the legality of your new career, yet your experiences can play an important role in how you market yourself.
When we were talking earlier about “native” speakers, we were referring to those who were either born or grew up in an English-speaking country or were born to English-speaking parents.
This means that not everyone can be a native speaker. It’s just the luck of the draw. However, there are actions you can take if this isn’t the case.
Gaining professional experience, for example.
Is the job market saturated?
Why not head off to the UK or the US and work on gaining valuable experience until things get better?
Professional experience in an English-speaking country can be hugely beneficial. Especially if this comes with English-language immersion and intense study.
It’s great for your CV and is a way round having to sit one of the exams we were talking about earlier.
Don’t you fancy learning professional English and furthering your career? (Source: StockSnap)
This mightn’t work for everyone, though.
The first thing you have to do is think about what the people want. If you want to work as a teacher in a school, you’re going to have to sit exams and get a degree.
If you want to teach private tutorials, you don’t technically need anything. You can teach primary school children without any qualifications. However, it’ll be different if you want to start teaching teenagers.
The TOEFL or TOEIC exam are highly recommended for those wanting to teach adult or professional students.
Spending time working and living in an English-speaking country can go a long way. It’s not just great for learning the language. You can also learn about the country and its culture while teaching others…
Being a tutor and being a good tutor are two very different things. So how do you make yourself stand out from the rest, not taking into account the qualifications aspect?
1. Decide which subjects you’d like to tutor
Now that you’ve committed to helping students with their studies, it’s a good idea to narrow down your client-base so that you can become more specialised and offer them a better service. For instance, will you teach private school pupils or state school students or both? What age range will you work with? What grade level or course will you familiarise yourself with?
If you like children or have previous experience of working with littler ones then you may feel more comfortable working with the same age group when it comes to your tutoring. Teaching primary is very different from working with secondary school pupils, and passing on your knowledge to adults is different yet again! What if your client is older than you, would this phase you or not? Are you qualified to work with people with learning difficulties and would you be confident in doing so?
2. Familiarise yourself with the curriculum
Once you are set on your customer type, you must ensure that you are familiar with their needs by getting to know their course structure, when their exam will take place, their strengths and weaknesses within the subject and more. In order to be able to help your student at the time they need it, you should familiarise yourself with the curriculum they are studying so that you can set work that relates to the topics they are studying or will be moving onto in the classroom.
3. Establish your own teaching methods
There’s no one way of being a teacher. Anyone who has worked with children will tell you that you often have to adapt your teaching methods from class to class, from student to student, even. Just like not every teacher works in the same way, not every pupil responds in the same way either. Some students can absorb information with ease when it is explained to them, yet others need the facts to be broken down into smaller chunks or even to be taught with more creative methods, such as with the use of visual imagery.
The more you teach, the more natural it will come however it is always good to establish your preferred teaching methods before you embark on your tutoring journey.
4. Encourage good communication with students, parents and teachers
It’s no good being a tutor if you don’t get the feedback you need to guide your student. This is why it’s important to encourage your pupil to discuss with you what is working during your sessions and what isn’t, whilst also checking in with parents and, at times, their teacher to ensure that your tutoring is making a positive difference.
In order to offer the most convenient arrangement for all, why not agree to discuss your pupil’s requirements by pre-arranged phone call, email or by attending a parent’s evening or similar educational meeting. This will allow everyone to have input and enable you all to move forward in the best way possible for the student.
5. Become a certified tutor
If you want to up your appeal, then joining a tutoring association to become accredited could boost your business. In the UK, you can be a part of several bodies dedicated to the education sector, including the Tutors’ Association:
“The Tutors’ Association (TTA) is the only professional membership body for tutoring and the wider supplementary education sector in the UK. Becoming a member The Tutors’ Association signifies becoming part of the UK government recognised professional body.
As well as supporting our Members we inform the public on all things to do with tuition and supplementary education in the UK.
If you are part of an industry or profession that needs to get its voice heard, consider joining a professional body – even if there is nothing you want out of it personally. By being a part of it you are actively contributing to the protection and well-being of the sector in which you have chosen to operate. ‘The greater good’ may not be a popular motivation – but it is one that really matters.”
6. Consider starting with a tutoring centre
If uptake is a bit slow, why not consider joining an agency to be matched with your perfect clients? Tutoring platforms like Superprof UK can put you in touch with hundreds of new clients with the click of a button. All you need to do is upload a photo, plus an introduction to yourself and the services you offer and see who contacts you!
If you set your price right and decide from off whether you will only tutor locally or offer remote teaching to people across the country (and beyond) then you could be onto a winning combination – a bustling business with no marketing bills or woes!
7. Be flexible
As above, you should decide whether you will tutor locally or if you are happy to offer video or online tutoring to a broader range of students. However, even if you choose to stay local, you have many questions to ask yourself: Will you tutor from your own home? Will you travel to your tutee’s house? Will you pay to hire a room? Will you work from an unused classroom at a nearby school? And, if you are to travel, will you add expenses for mileage?
Being flexible isn’t all about the ‘where’ though, it’s also the ‘how’ and the ‘when’. For example, can you be flexible with your timings, offering sessions in the evenings or at weekends? Because, let’s face it, most students are quite busy during school hours…
Moreover, have you considered how much easier you could make people’s lives by offering more flexible payment solutions? You could also put yourself ahead of others by accepting cash, payments by Paypal, or even by signing up to an app whereby parents can transfer cash in a single click and with more visibility of the termly breakdown.
We hope this information helps you as you set up as a tutor of English!