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Tutoring 101: How Can You Teach Productively as a Tutor

As competitive as Singaporeans are, the term “tuition” is no longer distant from its relevance to local education. This is why being a tutor has become an exciting prospect for many graduates.

As such, this article has been curated to prepare you for their job.

Whether you’ve picked up the role either for monetary reasons, your proficiencies, your passion in teaching or simply out of interest, our quick little guide will cover role essentials!

Let’s get started.

Why Do Students Attend Tuition?

Before we can appraise our standards for teaching, we must first find out the underlying reasons for your employment. In other words, why have you been sought out as a tutor?

Understanding needs will allow you to understand how to cater to them as a tutor.

Firstly, we’ll have to take the perspectives of both parent and child.

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Parent’s Expectations

Let’s assume the position of a parent who’s enrolled their child for tuition.

Starting with the most obvious requirement, a parent would want to see a clear improvement in results. Progress in grades and test scores are par for the course when they are forking out money for your services!

They will often expect individualised attention as well. This means you have to adjust your teaching style and speed to their child. How they learn, what their strengths and weaknesses are, will become the factors you have to consider. After all, students often opt to attend tuition precisely for certain learning deficiencies or preferences that may be unsuitable or deemed inefficient by their school curriculum. 

Appear professional and reliable! This means that you are punctual, well-prepared and committed. You want the parent to trust you, so you should display that level of professionalism in your attitude towards teaching!

Among many others, parents would also expect clear communication the most. They want to be informed about their child’s progress, areas that need improvement, and any challenges or concerns that may arise during the tutoring process. This means that you are expected to relay proactive show effectiveness in continuing tuition for their child.

Student’s Needs

What about the child?

Some students seek tuition to reinforce their understanding of difficult subjects that they cannot grasp in school. Some have expectations in line with their parents, or exceed them as they desire a strong competitive edge over their peers. And then, some are forced because they were caught with bad grades.

Discerning their motivations will become a challenge for you. As such, trust and safety may be expected of you. An appropriate learning environment would allow for a peace of mind. After all, you want your student to feel open enough to ask questions.

Motivation and building the student’s confidence also fall under the side of the same coin, giving them reassurance that they CAN benefit from your teachings.

And lastly, application. Students, too, want to see visible results from the tuition. This means that tutors should be flexible in their material and approach, and can apply their teachings well with the student’s homework or test questions.

Why Do Tutors Feel “Ineffective”?

Tutoring is a two-way street, where communication is key. In the midst of this process, some tutors may find speed-brakes in their teaching career, oftentimes with limited or no progress by the student.

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If you’ve ever been dismissed prematurely during a lesson, or find yourself lacking students, consider the following factors that may have happened:

Lack of Engagement & Effort

If students are disengaged or uninterested in the subject matter, you may feel yourself incapable of capturing their attention and making them participate. This is common among children who were forced into tuition classes. It can be a challenge when your students are all out of motivation to study. They will not put in the effort to progress.

Communication Barriers

Instructions given may be misinterpreted if either side is not well-spoken, and this can lead to situations where your student is learning stuff that is way different from their syllabus.

When asking questions, your student may also feel frustrated that their point is not coming across and not addressed well.

Unrealistic Expectations

Expectations can come from both students and parents, but they can come from yourself too!

If expectations are set too high or if there is pressure to achieve immediate but significant results, you may experience burnout in the form of self-doubt, despite your clear progress with your student.

This is especially true when you are put on a tight deadline and have limited hours with your student through part-time or occasional tutoring. It is clearly rough on you to address all the learning needs comprehensively.

Lack of Resources & Support

Ever find yourself completely isolated in resources? This is especially rough on new tutors who have to scramble to find themselves material that is up-to-date.

But that’s alright. It is natural to feel this way. The effectiveness of tutoring has always varied from person to person, and it largely depends on both circumstance and preparedness.

While we cannot do anything about circumstance, we do have ways to prepare you well as a tutor to ensure maximum productivity!

How to Stay Prepared When Tutoring

It can be easy to get lost in the process, or maybe not even know when to start. Let’s chart this down to these 7 steps!

1) Understand Your Student and their Needs

What is your student good/bad at? What are their personalities and learning traits? 

Devise an introductory test for them curated online so that you have a baseline to work with. It is better to appeal to their strengths so that you can make the best use of your time. After all, the effectiveness of tuition is largely dependent on the student’s capacity to absorb what you are teaching. 

Of course, you can also opt for a more traditional way of appraisal through assessment papers to find out the specific areas they have to improve on to ace a specific exam.

Using the information you’ve gathered from the introductory test, personalise your teaching style appropriately. A few examples can include the use of highlighters to accentuate colours on key points, or surprise quizzes to test their memory retention.

2) Align Expectations with Reality

What are the learning outcomes that the parent/child expects from the tuition? Is it possible within the given time frame?

To avoid stressing out both you and the student over unrealistic expectations, determine the extent of assistance that you can realistically provide for the student. 

Do not be afraid of being truthful. Do not oversell expectations as you may lose trust in the long-term from breaking them, but you should also be transparent with your capability.

Having more time and room for results also allows you to teach with a better headspace.

3) Set Clear Objectives


Break down your lesson plan so that your student can prepare themselves for what is being taught or expected of them. It is ideal to pre-plan, but you can also do so at the start of each tutoring session.

Setting goals helps you stay focused and ensures that your teaching aligns with the desired outcomes. Communicate these objectives to your students and regularly revisit them throughout the session to track progress.

4) Use Technology & Resources

Keep your lessons up-to-date by leveraging technology and material procured as recently as possible. Utilise online platforms, educational apps, and interactive tools that can supplement your lessons. These resources can provide additional practice exercises, simulations, and multimedia materials that make learning more engaging and effective.

There are also many sites online that provide free exam papers for printouts that can serve as practical tests for your student.

5) Plan Engaging Lessons

While it is important to structure your lessons well, it is equally important to keep your students attentive and ready to learn.

Incorporate a variety of teaching methods, such as visual aids, interactive activities, and real-life examples. Encourage active participation! Ensure that students remain actively involved throughout. Engage them through discussions, critical thinking exercises, and problem-solving activities to foster a deeper understanding of the subject matter. This also doubles as a way to gauge their understanding, as some students may disguise their inability to understand because they are “too shy to admit it”. Always assure them that it is okay to ask questions, even if they’re the same ones! They’re here to learn!

Remember to speak often as well. Keeping the lesson “vocal” can keep the environment from turning too quiet. Assume the presence of a friend whom your student will know is always around to correct and answer their questions. 

6) Providing a Positive Learning Environment


Motivation and enthusiasm is what drives your student’s growth and progress. As such, you must make the hours of teaching comfortable for your student.

Demonstrate patience, empathy, and respect towards your students. Celebrate their achievements, no matter how small, to boost their self-confidence. Encourage a growth mindset, emphasising that mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth. When they repeat the same mistakes, do not lose your calm as an educator

To culminate knowledge, your student must be in the right headspace and environment. If you feel strongly towards a direction your student can work towards, provide constructive feedback that they can comprehend. Use specific examples to illustrate your feedback and offer suggestions so that they are confident enough to strive for improvement.

7) Be Communicative with the Parents

At the end of each tuition session, be sure to relay the student’s progress to their parents and communicate the work done during the lesson. Parents can often act as the overseers to any additional material that you may want the student to finish before your next class, so be sure to relay these instructions and feedback well!

Being an Effective Educator

Tutors, like school teachers, play a crucial role in students’ learning.

It can be easy to regurgitate information and teach without passion, but tutors are easily set apart during the first few lessons and are distinguished based on their efforts!

Careful planning, effective communication, and student-centered approaches. These are the methods that can ensure that you stay ahead of your allocated time and teach productively.

Embrace these strategies, adapt to your students. That’s how you make productive use out of your time as a tutor!

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.