Well, not exactly.

You see, the thing is, there seems to be this whole stigma surrounding having a tutor.

“I’ve got a Tutor”, someone will say. And you’ll feel it. The capitalised T for Tutor. And a smug, insufferable energy oozing out of the admission. You feel it, you smell it – you know it: that they’ve made the assumption that a Tutor, capital T and all, is somehow going to open their brain, pour in course content and steal them a 40+ study score.

And then the plague spreads to others, too. Then it’s their friends. It’s:

“Oh, he has a Tutor?”
“Oh yes, three times a week.”
“Damn, maybe I should get a Tutor.”
“Yes, I definitely need a Tutor. I need it to Do Well.”
 

(More effective if read in a Smeagol/Gollum voice)

But you see, it’s never as simple as that.

Inevitably, there’s always the one student who, upon being assigned homework by his classroom teacher, moans that he’s already got enough work from his tutor – of course, much to the teacher’s intemperate indignation. Often, he’s the same student that never seems to get either his schoolwork or his tuition work completely completed. And let’s not forget the one student who will even disregard the classroom teacher and take their tutor’s word as dogma and gospel.

What’s the point, in these particular cases, of getting a tutor? Well, bluntly, there is no point – not if you’re not going to use them well. 

So then, what’s the key to getting the most out of tutors, and actually using them well to help you attain VCE success?

Like the best extended answer responses, I’ll keep this clear, sweet and succinct.

 

1.     Hire a tutor for a specific purpose.

Remember that guy from the start of the article? He’s the guy that will hire a tutor for the sake of it, in the vain hope that somehow the fact that he has a tutor will make him a “more successful student”. But what’s the point? If you hire a tutor without a specific purpose – to just “make my grades better”, it just won’t work.

See, the fact of the matter is that you’ll only see your tutor a few times a week, at most. Time with them is limited, and constrained to out-of-school hours – time you already need for study and life. It’s quite clear then, that your tutor can’t teach you the entire course: that most of the teaching onus and responsibility falls to your classroom teacher, who has the most time and access to you, as a student. Tutors won’t have enough time to take you through the whole course in detail, and won’t have time to make sure you fully understand course content and are ready to sit assessments.

So it’s important that when you hire a subject tutor, you make sure it’s for a reason. For example, hire an English tutor, but do it specifically to help with writing essays. In this way, you can familiarise yourself with texts and solidify your understanding of them in class, making the most of class time, and use your tutor only to help synthesise essays from class-learned content. The tutor is hired solely for helping with essay writing, marking essays essay feedback – all things essay related. Anything unrelated to essay writing – finding and memorising quotes, looking for context resources, and all the rest of it fall outside the realm traversed by you and your tutor. Alternatively, if Context or Text Response in particular is a source of anxiety for you, hire your tutor solely to help you with that specific area.

There are exceptions, of course. For subjects like Chemistry, Methods and other hard science or maths subjects, a tutor is great for teaching you most concepts quickly and broadly in their lessons, and for assigning extra work during the week for extra practice. But even in these cases, the classroom teacher is needed for in-depth explanations and questions; the tutor is merely there to build fluency upon the understanding and practice already gained and undertaken in class.  

Hiring a tutor for a particular reason mean you get the most bang for your buck, and the most out of your time.

2.     Don’t prioritise the tutor’s work over the teacher’s.

That’s right. No matter what, schoolwork comes first. There’s no point in doing all of your tuition homework to the detriment and neglect of your schoolwork – and for good reason, too.

Your schoolwork is given to you to consolidate basic understandings and key course concepts. And more than that, your schoolwork forms the basis for SAC content. It’s likely, from experience, that many of the little exercises and questions on little slips of paper, handed to you as homework, sneak their way onto the next big SAC.

So this one’s pretty self-explanatory. Schoolwork always comes first – tuition work comes afterwards, as extra practice and help.

3.     Use your tutor for SAC and exam revision.

It’s rare that you will get a lot of time in class for SAC revision – course content is usually covered right up until a week before a SAC, and then new content starts being covered before the actual SAC date; such is the nature of VCE’s time constraints.

As such, it’s advantageous indeed to use your tutoring sessions in the lead-up to the SAC date for revision – which you may not get time for in class. Have your tutor (as well as teacher) look over practice SACs for a second opinion, have them test you on key concepts and tricky questions, and use them to make sure you’ve got SAC content down pat. If you do this well, you’ll have all content, no problems, days before the SAC.

Towards the end of the year, use your tutor to begin exam revision early. Get them to start revising understanding and proficiency of the entire course from head to tail, and get them to start going over practice exams and questions by the middle of term 3, if they themselves don’t take the initiative.

This was, in hindsight, the biggest help for my exam revision, as the weeks at the end of term 3 and start of term 4 are so crazy and hectic that you can often forget to revise for impending exams, on top of studying for SACs and doing regular schoolwork.

4.      Consider tutoring with a friend.

If you find you have a friend who’s around the same level as you, in terms of grades and schoolwork, and is also in need of help from a tutor, think about tutoring with them.

Your tutor may give you a discounted group rate, saving you money, and doing so gives you a tuition buddy, a study buddy, and someone to help you learn course content. Plus, it gives you incentive to attend tutoring sessions and study subject matter.

For me, personally, doing this not only helped me form a study group for exam revision, but also helped incentivise doing coursework for the particular subject.

5.     Arrange tuition sessions during a good time.

This last one is very simple. Don’t hire them in the morning unless you’re insane. Don’t hire them straight after school. Don’t hire them after 6:30 PM. Eat lightly before sessions if they’re after school.

Like with gremlins, if you adhere to these rules, nothing will go wrong.

You won’t fall asleep during sessions, and you won’t feel like a zombie afterwards. Simple.

Oh, and one more unexpected thing – hire your tutor on the weekends if possible. When I first did this, I would dread Saturday mornings. But really, if you hire your tutor during weekends, your weekday nights will end up being a lot more chilled out – and you’ll be in relaxed, yet focussed and in the zone all weekend.


Finally, make friends with your tutor if you can. There’s nothing like ranting and venting to your tutor about your classroom teacher when you need to, or getting advice about university, jobs and life from them. They’re people too, and can serve as pretty awesome mentors.

That’s about it. Use these rules as a guide and in no time, you and your tutor will be focussed and effective, carving a yellow brick road to VCE success.


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Matthew Ku is passionate about tutoring, offering tuition in Chemistry, Methods and English, subjects he enjoys immensely. Based in the eastern suburbs, he can be contacted via email (matthewku2007 (@) gmail (.) com), mobile (+61 426 679 556) or by leaving a comment below.

He completed VCE in 2015, attaining an ATAR of 98.95, studying English (45 raw), Mathematical Methods (44 raw), Chemistry (46 raw), Chinese SL (36 raw) and Geography (43 raw). While completing VCE, he juggled A-Grade debating, debate coaching, Grade 8 Piano, Grade 7 Cello, a part-time job and university scholars programs.

Matthew will commence studying a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne in 2016, and hopes to one day enter politics. 

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