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Tutor English - Top Tips to Start

English tutoring is becoming an exceptionally lucrative business in modern society, with the people moving from country to country, looking for work and new opportunities, an increasing number of people are having to source an expert to help them learn English and fast!

'English tutor London' is a hugely popular search as is 'English tutor California', 'English tutor New York' or any other major city, but how do you stand out from the crowd? Where do you start? Teaching ESL is very different from general tutoring as the range of English levels will vary from nothing, good spoken but no written, good spoken and written to quite advanced students who are looking to excel in grammar.

I have been tutoring for over 7 years and have had opportunities to tutor an extensive variety of age ranges, abilities, subjects and ESL. I have also worked in an international schools and so have extensive experience in working with ESL children and teaching English to students from wide ranging backgrounds (London to the Middle East). In my experience although there is money to be made it is also been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career, seeing someone with no English flourish and become fluent is simply amazing!

So here are my tips to get you started on your journey to tutoring ESL:


1. Setting up an english tutor profile. This is possibly one of the most important steps you can take as it allows potential students to see exactly what you can offer them. There are many ways to attract new customers from posting your skills in free ad newspapers to advertising online, but in my experience, students want to see an extensive skills profile, highlighting your exact qualifications, experience and level of expertise. A great way to do this is to create a tutor or skills profile on a free website such as This website allows you to list your skills and experience as well as highlight the types of customers you are looking for. It will also allow you to create an extensive profile on which you can write a blog and upload media. Customers can contact you directly and securely and you can even accept credit card payments.


2. Assessing the language requirements of your student. Once you have attracted some students this becomes an essential part of the tutoring process and is your opportunity to see exactly what level of English the student requires, not all students want to be fluent, some students only need to get by. This is not the time to assess the student's actual language capabilities it is time to assess how they want to use their English, when they want to use English, for what purpose they will use English and want level they require. Questions to consider asking:

-What will you use your English for finding work, shopping, meeting people etc

Who will you be speaking English with?

In an average working week, how often will you need to read, write, speak, understand English?

Where will you need to use English? At home, at work, children's school, on public transport, for socialising etc?

What are your aspirations for the future?

Which areas do you struggle with in English?

In which areas do you want to improve - all, reading, writing, speaking or listening?

Another way of assessing these requirements which has always proved very useful to me is a method where you ask the student to consider the role English plays in their daily life. This can be illustrated by even the very young children by drawing pictures. It is a very simple way of getting the student to think about when they will need to use English in their daily lives. Show the student a spider diagram or mind map and ask them to create their own version. Ask them to consider - who they interact with, when and how they  interact, the situations in which they interact and the level of proficiency they require during these interactions.


3. Assessing the language ability of the student. This is the next step in preparing for your future english tutoring sessions. I have found that this is also a very difficult stepping stone in the process as you are trying to assess previous knowledge and experience with students who usually find it extremely difficult to communicate with you. So here are some activities and methods to help you deal with the wide ranging levels of English that you will inevitably meet.


Obviously the first activity is to have a conversation. This will be the key indicator that will inform the rest of the assessment. 

Ask your student basic questions and then build upon them as you assess the level of the answers. 

Also ask you students to talk about an event in the past, future and present as this will allow you to assess their knowledge of tenses very quickly. While your student is speaking, listen for specific grammar or pronunciation problems. 

The main point to remember during this speaking assessment is to keep the tone conversational and light, allowing your student to relax and give you a true picture of their spoken ability in English.


Prepare a range of reading materials from the very simple flash cards to newspaper articles. Use these to assess your student's reading level. Ask them to discuss the material in terms of what they understand literally to communicating what they have read and how it makes them feel. Can they re-tell what they have read using their own words?

- If you are working with very young children or students with a very basic English level it will be necessary to assess basic phonic knowledge. Use the flash cards to assess knowledge of single letter sounds and phonics blends etc.

Flash Cards are also very useful in assessing basic vocabulary.


Talk to your student about yourself, tell them some personal details and depending on their level perhaps tell them a simple story about yourself. Then ask them some questions about what you have said.

Read something and ask questions related  to the text. Can students extend their answers and justify them?


Depending on how your student has performed on the other assessments, you will have to decide on whether it is worth asking them to try writing or not. It maybe that you simply ask them to draw some pictures, write simple words or sentences or completing a more sustained piece of writing. The main purpose of this task is to assess the writing level but also to look at the phonic knowledge, spelling and sentence structure.


4. Work together to make an learning plan. After you have completed the assessment make time to sit and chat with the students or their parents (in the case of younger children) in order to formulate a learning plan. Discuss the student's current strengths and weaknesses (with obvious focus on the positive) and highlight how you are going to address their learning needs. Ensure that your student is happy with what you are planning on teaching them and ask for their opinions and feedback. Give them an insight into how you will structure your lessons and monitor their progress. 


These are just a few tips to get you started, stayed tuned for further posts in this series of ESL tutoring tips. Next posts will include resourcing your lessons, example lessons and more useful and practical tips. Any other advice you would like, questions you would like to ask or any other feedback, we would love you to post a comment below.

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