When searching for maths tutoring, (whether it is for a private maths tutor or a coaching centre that offers maths), knowing a few things will help you find one that’s genuinely helpful.
What subjects do they offer?
The list of subjects offered by a tuition centre will indicate their level of expertise. For example, many tuition centres or private tutors will offer all levels of maths, except maths extension 2. As a general rule, if you’re searching for good maths tutoring, we advise you to find only private tutors / tuition centres that offer extension 2. Maths is a very integrated subject, and any one topic can’t ever be fully separated from another – there are connections on every level and a knowledgeable tutor will have no problem teaching any level of high-school maths, including Extension 2.
Know the principal(s) and their background
For tuition centres, find out as much as you can about the principals – the person(s) that make the decision. What background are they? Mathematics / sciences? English / humanities? The background of the principals give an excellent predictor of what the institution will be strong at. The reason is simple: if the principal makes all the decisions, and has a background in maths / sciences, he/she would be in a better position to make the right decisions in terms of course design / tutor hiring decisions than a person without the right background.
Franchises are hit and miss. You may find one where a particular teacher of a particular subject is great, but generally the entire operation is not as organised / focused as a tuition company that carries their own name. Usually with franchises, the quality of the operation of the head office differs significantly to branch offices. We won’t delve further into this issue as it would be mean of us to name names – our advice here is to seek out a free trial lesson if you’re interested, before making up your mind.
While we’re a tuition college, we still acknowledge that private tutors can be great, but finding a great one can be tough, especially on a budget. In finding one, just keep in mind the following:
Free Trial lessons
All reputable tuition companies offer trial lessons in some form. It’s unreasonable for a place to require upfront payment of an entire term (effectively signing a contract for 10 weeks or more) before you’ve even had a chance to try it and make an informed decision. By all means, shop around as much as you can (as much as time permits, it’s important not leave it till too late as joining in the middle of a programme could mean you’ve missed some topics or modules).
We get asked this question quite frequently and we tell our customers “as early as possible”. Obviously there’s a conflict of interest in our answer since we’re in the high school tutoring business ourselves, so let me give a few reasons why I say this, and to elaborate a bit on the issues as well.
Joining at the beginning of the year
Joining at the beginning of each year is the ideal because most tutoring colleges start their programmes for each year start at the beginning of the year (beginning of term 4 for year 12). Joining in the middle of the year is disadvantageous because you may have missed a module or two, or several topics. While you can catch up through self study and attending our tutorial workshops, it is obviously healthier and less stressful if you started at the beginning of the year. One of the major advantages of attending a tuition college as opposed to private tutoring is you get access to a structured programme that guarantees you will cover the entire course at a pace that’s advantageous to you in internal assessments (because remember, you’re up against your peers at school competing for the same top ranks, and if you learn ahead, you’re in the best possible position to secure the higher ranks). But this advantage is lost if you join in the middle of the year, when the class is already up to the end of module 2, and you need help with module 1.
Of course, late is better than never, and we’re not saying it’s a futile exercise joining in the middle of the year. As mentioned, we offer free services like unlimited free tutorial workshops, and we can give you the notes you missed out on, allowing you to catch up. But our point is it would’ve been healthier for you (in terms of knowledge retention, depth of course understanding and exam technique – these things build up over time) if you had joined at the beginning of the programme.
Switching tuition last minute
If you’re already attending a tuition college, you’re well advised to stay in that programme until its conclusion (unless it’s actually not helpful at all). Switching to another tuition provider after the middle of the year or near the end can do you more harm than good – and we’re saying this even though this may reduce our customer base (since many of our students come to us after being unhappy with other tuition companies). We tell these students “unless the place you currently go to is terribly bad, you should stay because if you switch now, you may have not covered some topics we’ve already covered, and vice versa”.
Again, I refer back to the point that HSC tutoring centres offer a structured programme designed to be comprehensive, and if you switch near the end of the year, this could be harmful because the order of topics covered at one place will differ significantly to the order of topics chosen by another place. That’s why we urge you to act sooner rather than later – if you feel the place you currently attend is not helpful at all, switch early rather than later.
Get the information you need before enrolling
It’s important to ask the questions that matter – find out where the classes are up to at the place you’re considering. Obviously if the class is covering topics not relevant to your school assessments, it’s of little value to you. Most of our subjects have parallel classes, some of which are deliberately a module or several topics behind because the students in those classes joined us later in the school year. Those classes will still cover content ahead of school pace, but you will be able to cover topics that should be covered early in the year.
Another thing to check out before enrolling is what sort of revision the classes will be doing, or whether there’s any revision scheduled at all. Revision is essential before assessment periods – the content covered over the months in the HSC year become a staggering amount and students need a few weeks worth of classes dedicated to consolidating knowledge – putting it all together and practice doing exam papers. Our programmes are scheduled in such a way as to allow a healthy amount of revision weeks before each key assessment period. During these periods, students focus on exam-style questions (as opposed to textbook style questions – a very important distinction!) and covering up any gaps they identify by doing exam papers. The earlier you start doing past papers, the better you will do in all your exams – that’s a fact!