9 Out Of 10 Tutors Make This Mistake

9 out of 10 Tutors Didn’t Guess This Was The X-factor. Did you?

At The Profs, we set out to understand why some tutors seemed to perform so much better than others. So we analysed our data for differences in teaching experience, qualifications, subject taught, age (of student and tutor), everything we could think of. But nothing came back as significant in the data and every theory had numerous counter-examples*.

And then it struck me. Over the course of a week, I asked each member of the team a question: if you could hang out with 5 tutors, who would they be. The same names came up again and again, and these just so happened to be our most successful tutors (check out the metrics we use in our article: How To Win At The Profs).

It’s Like An Ability

X Factor

The X-factor of tuition is likability. Our tutees are required to spend tens of hours with us. If they don’t want to be in the same room then, unlike teaching, they don’t have to come back.


Likability is, of course, incredibly subjective – if differs from person to person. Being naturally charismatic or funny can help, but you can be likable (and a great tutor) without these traits. Fortunately, there is a trait that everyone can start adopting from their next tutorial. One that is too easily missed, and greatly increases likability.

Always Be Positive

In a tutoring interview – where I take on the role of the student – tutors ask me questions that I have to pretend not to know the answer to (unless it’s chemistry. I’m really bad at chemistry!). What amazes me is how rewarding it is to be told I did a great job – even if it’s elementary maths which I’ve been teaching for nearly a decade. It’s simply amazing how infectious positivity is. All students want to be told that they are doing well. As their confidence grows, so too will their enjoyment and effort, which will quickly be reflected in their grades.

Well done

But what if a student isn’t doing well? Then praise their effort. Tell them how hard the question is, and how much better they are doing than most others who see the same question (even if they are not). Don’t ever let them give up and don’t ever ever let them think you’ve given up on them. Negativity in tuition can have adverse consequences for a student’s self-confidence and their emotional development, especially for 13-16 year olds. To read more, I recommend reading Mindset by Carol Dweck.

*Edit: quantitative subjects (involving maths) slightly out-perform qualitative subjects across a long enough timescale.

Next: Enjoyed reading this. Now try reading How To Double Your Hourly Tuition Fee
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Written by,
Richard ( Founder of The Profs )
Founder of The Profs - the award-winning education startup. Previously an international tutor with a prestigious global client base, Richard now writes about how to tutor online and his experiences in higher education.
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Published on July 10th, 2017 by from Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone. The Profs does not guarantee the accuracy of any of information on our blog and accepts no responsibility for views of the author.
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