From the beginning of Connect, one of the questions we've got most is, how do I find the best tutoring for me? We understand the dilemma well, because many of us tried answering the same question as students. Over time, with ever-increasing options, deciding on a course of action has become more difficult.
When we sat around the table to discuss this topic, we resisted the temptation to just write a post about how great our services are; the fact is, we often recommend students go elsewhere. While we believe that Connect is special, there are times when it's just not the right option for a student. So, with that in mind, our goal here is to walk you through the different options you have. Given our extensive experience in this industry, there's a lot we've learned that we think can help you narrow down your choices and pick something that's a glove-fit for you.
The stakes are high in VCE. Tutoring — and we use the term loosely — whether that's from a teacher, a friend, or an external source — is one of the key leverage points you have. When you look for tutoring, you should expect more. It's not enough to have someone go through the motions, stand up the front and talk at you, or arrive unprepared. The point of tutoring is to fill in a gap that you might not solve as well alone, and that means you should have high expectations if you're going to spend money on this.
First, consider the issue you're solving. To determine the kind of support you need, ask yourself: what problems do I need to solve? These can be cut different ways, which might impact how you approach them.
You need help just before a SAC. You're doing really well overall, but then there's that one topic that has you absolutely stumped. These are examples of short-term challenges, which don't always need a regular solution, such as weekly classes.
To solve temporary challenges, you need a tutoring option you can call on when the problem springs up. It could be as simple as booking a time with your teacher, having a private tutor who is flexible about when you schedule a session, or that family friend who got an amazing score and will give you a hand for free as long as you feed them yummy food.
The important thing is knowing that you can rely on this ahead of time. If most of your problems fall in this short-term space, plan ahead so you're not stuck without help.
Don't forget to proactively see short-term challenges which actually require lots of support. For example, we notice a massive spike in attendance to our VCE SuperClasses (weekly tutoring) just months before exams. While we do accept latecomers, provided we have spots available, we often regret the fact that we can't help students earlier. In these cases, while the problem might last a few months, it's important to treat it seriously due to its urgency and significance.
Sometimes, you know you have something that you need to keep chipping away at consistently. It could be that difficult subject you require a certain study score for, or something that emerges after you've had your first round of SAC results.
Not all problems are created equal. Out of all the obstacles you face, try to rank which ones matter the most to you (this will be different for every student). Get specific about what the problem is, that way you can think about how to solve it.
Your priorities will influence what you pick. For instance, if you are relatively flexible with your time, you might choose to travel further for higher impact tutoring. Or, if you've decided that lacking extra resources is a big problem for you, but you have some amazing teachers and are getting plenty of support, maybe you're better advised to invest in study guides to solve that problem.
You should do the same prioritisation for subjects. For example:
This will help you determine where you'll get the most bang for buck. It's tempting to try to focus on everything, but you'll achieve the biggest leaps in your ATAR by really targeting the subjects where you have the most room to grow (especially if they could be in your top four scores).
In VCE, it's the pointy end and every action affects your score and university opportunities (sometimes in a tiny way, sometimes in a big way), so there's no shortage of options. This said, not all options are equal. What's worse, until you've experienced that truly transformational tutor, the difference might not strike you.
Let's start off with this: what do your options look like?
You probably had a good idea of what your options were, so now let's break them down. The key thing you should have in mind is that you can map your problems to the type of tutoring you pick.
Of course, you should consider each category, but equally as important is thinking about the options within each category. Just like it would be silly to say "I want a laptop!" and pick the first one you see, the same goes for tutoring. Sometimes it's even the case that you'll end up switching the type of support you choose because one benefit is so much more important than another (for example, tutor quality over the ability to get lots of one on one time).
The obvious category is private tutoring. There are so many tutors out there, that it might seem like you're bound to find someone good. But is this really the case?
Just like in athletic sports, the difference between an average tutor and a super tutor is striking. For example, an elite marathon runner can finish a marathon in just over two hours, whereas a novice may take double that, if they even make it!
If you do happen to find a good tutor, you've struck gold. You'll be able to work one-to-one with someone who will learn your strengths and weaknesses inside-out, preparing specific resources, and enabling you to ask all your questions in a private space, often in a location that's convenient for you.
This said, not all tutors are like this, and the ones that are outstanding can often be very expensive (at Connect, our tutors are in such high demand, that we need to charge a high price – thankfully, the same exceptional tutors are available at a much lower hourly rate in SuperClasses). The reason why many students should consider classes is the risk that you're not getting an outstanding tutor. The tutoring market is flooded, and you do not want to end up with someone who is unprepared, unclear and unable to answer your questions.
If you're considering private tutoring but are concerned about tutor quality or want something more engaging, you should consider classes. As classes are one-to-many, it's much more likely that you can find that one tutor that's exceptionally clear, helpful and motivating.
Done right, with the right people, classes can be an incredibly stimulating way to learn. Not only will you leverage your tutor, but also the ideas of like-minded peers who will push you to achieve great things. Classes also tend to be a lot more structured: there is a set (although often flexible) plan to follow, and this makes comprehensive mapping to the study design and the things that will come up on the exam more likely.
The obvious downside of classes is the group sizes, which at some places can create a passive atmosphere where you will miss the opportunity of personal feedback. In some cases, there are also location challenges – often you have to travel further. Location is a tricky consideration; it's easy to think about inconvenience and forget the ultimate goal of tutoring, which is to help you learn. Therefore, before you decide, one thought experiment you can conduct is this: if going to a significantly better, but further away, tutor can improve your score by 10%, would you take it?
Regular support might not always be necessary. It could be that you have a fantastic set of teachers, after hours study groups, supportive friends, or a tutor you can rely on from time to time. If the problems you've identified are short-term in nature or not high priority, relying on informal or infrequent support is a smart bet.
No tutoring at all
Let's also not rule out no tutoring at all. At the end of the day, the purpose of tutoring is to help you tackle challenges confidently when you're on your own. And, a tutor can never replace the effort you will need to put in to transfer knowledge and skills to your brain. For some students, the process of self-learning can enable them to achieve great things. For others, there's comfort and benefit in getting outside help.
As we've discussed, the biggest risk with private tutoring is it's very hit and miss.
If you are on the lookout for a private tutor, look far further than their score or accreditations. It's one thing to have done really well in the exam or be a VCAA assessor, it's another to be able to explain things in a crystal-clear way. Our most concrete example of this is the fact that in our hiring, we say no to more graduates with an ATAR of 99.95 than we say yes to. Quality is everything, so you should look for a private tutor that is clear, organised and impactful.
The table below provides a neat comparison to help guide your thinking.
At Connect, group tutoring is a touchy subject for us, and something that we're incredibly passionate about. We've heard too many stories of boring tutors, large groups, underwhelming resources, or passive environments — exactly the opposite of what group tutoring should be.
You should steer well clear of services with large groups (often as high as 25-50), and look for a classes option that treats you as an individual. That means you should expect the opportunity to get feedback, ask questions, and get to know your tutor. Powerful instruction, active learning, measurement and tailoring are all critical components of what you should be searching for.
You can also look for extra features such as weekly resources, offline support, and more, but remember the main value is in the lessons themselves. For example, some companies offer video recordings of lessons. However, students tell us they rarely actually watch these. What's more, we toyed with the idea of filming SuperClasses, and found they were impossible to record well because they’re just so interactive.
To close, the table below will help you think about what's important.
To sum, finding good support in VCE is about getting clear on the issues you're trying to solve, then being sure of your priorities. Only then do you have a plan of attack so you can find the best possible tutoring for you.
Want to choose between tutoring companies? Then we've prepared a comparison chart to help students decide.