How to Find the Right Tutor

Everyone can tell a great tutor from a bad one. But what factors actually make the difference so clear and how can you find a tutor who is perfect for you?

Psychology PhD Ella Kahu of Massey University and her research partner, Catherine Picton, have uncovered the key characteristics of a great tutor, and why it is so important to have a good tutor-student relationship.

The best tutors are:

  1. Helpful – For a great tutor, being helpful goes beyond teaching or re-teaching material. Being helpful also includes, as one of Kahu and Picton’s research subjects (a student being tutored) put it, “teaching the content well enough for me to understand, assisting me if I have questions or queries, (and) being quick to respond to e-mails if I’ve got a problem with an assessment” (Kahu and Picton 25).
  2. Caring – This is a concept that is crucial for developing a positive relationship between students and tutors. Being a caring tutor includes “being understanding and empathetic when students’ wider lives impacted on their study, wanting to hear student views in classroom discussions, and wanting the students to do well” (Kahu and Picton 26). Being caring makes the tutor-student relationship far more personal, and allows students to feel more comfortable around their tutor.
  3. Approachable – As with the previous point, being approachable is a necessary trait in all of the best tutors. In fact, the most common words used by students to describe their favorite tutors were “friendly, approachable, patient, relaxed, and lovely” (Kahu and Picton 27). To be approachable is to give the student the confidence to learn without fear of making mistakes.
  4. Hands-on – Interactive teaching, or being “hands-on”, is crucial to engaging students in a one-on-one setting, especially if the student struggles with the subject being taught. One of the main causes of students struggling in classes is due to the lack of interactivity, because their teachers talk “at” them instead of “to” them. By allowing the students to ask questions, try new things, and interact with the tutor during lessons, they will likely learn and hold onto material much better than they would in a lecture-type setting. 

A student having a good relationship with their tutor goes further than just having more fun during sessions. It can also lead to more enthusiasm from the student’s end about their studies. As another of Kahu and Picton’s students said, a good tutor’s “engagement and passion for the subject encourages me to want to go home and study more” (Kahu and Picton 27). By inspiring, mentoring, and fostering a positive relationship with their students, tutors are able to encourage them to keep up with their studies, even when they are not together. 

At Swoop Tutors, we recognize that every student perceives each key characteristic in a different way. This is why we strive to offer a diverse range of tutors to choose from so that every student can find their perfect fit. With a strong tutor-student relationship, every child is sure to succeed. 



Kahu, Ella R, and Catherine Picton. “The Benefits of Good Tutor-Student Relationships in the First Year.” Student Success, vol. 10, no. 2, 2019, pp. 23–33., doi:10.5204/ssj.v10i2.1293.