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October 7, 2005 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Best place to work as a GRE/SAT tutor? Advice, horror stories, experiences, and varia requested.

I'm thinking of being a GRE/SAT tutor for the fun of it - I like teaching, and I could also use the money. I'm fairly sure I'm qualified to get these jobs, but I have a feeling that they're bit of a scam.

So - have you worked for Kaplan/ Princeton/ Powerscore/ Testmasters/ Whatever? Were you treated well? Could you refrain from killing the students? What were you paid? Most of all, did you like it?

Or should I just tutor freelance?
posted by metaculpa to Work & Money (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Kaplan suuuuuuuuuuucks. Sucks. The curriculum is extremely rigid, and the entire company seems to be focused on making as much money as possible. Which, granted, is what companies do. Still, we spent more time in training going over corporate jargon and policies than learning how to teach.

I have a friend who works for Princeton Review, which seems a little better. The pay is higher ($19/hr?) and it seems like they hold their teachers to higher standards overall.

One thing to keep in mind with Kaplan etc: You may not be teaching the test you know and love. I was interested in teaching the SAT, but Kaplan insisted that I learn to teach the LSAT and the GRE. My friend who teaches for Princeton Review is in law school, but he's teaching the GMAT.
posted by bonheur at 4:14 PM on October 7, 2005

The curriculum is extremely rigid, and the entire company seems to be focused on making as much money as possible.

This is true. I taught and, for a while, wrote and edited for Kaplan. The push to pinch pennies and milk every ounce of productivity out of staff at all levels was nauseating. Very exploitative, and the turnover is high. They are the Washington Post Company's biggest profit center.

The upside is that they will pay to train you, and after you teach and/or tutor there for a while, you can strike out on your own. I eventually did some GRE tutoring on the side, charging half what Kaplan did yet still making almost twice what Kaplan paid me.

I didn't use Kaplan materials when doing my own tutoring (I didn't want to get in serious trouble if found out) -- I just used a book of old GRE tests, which you can pick up at various bookstores.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 4:28 PM on October 7, 2005

Heh, I pulled the ripcord on Kaplan halfway through my first session of MCAT teacher training. The whiff of bullshit was palpable from the start.
posted by nyterrant at 4:35 PM on October 7, 2005

I enjoyed working for The Priceton Review when I did it a decade ago. Relaxed atmosphere, nice smart folks to work with. As I recall, they got like $40-50/hour for the tutoring I did, and I took home around $19-20/hour [which may be lower now]. I enjoyed the work. Then I got a new boss and enjoyed it much less. You can make much more $ tutoring freelance, but it might be tough to build up a client base.
posted by jessamyn at 4:37 PM on October 7, 2005

I'm a bit of a newbie here, so perhaps it isn't appropriate to ask a side question...let me know gently if it isn't...but when these companies ask for 95th percentile on the tests, does that have to be on the entire test? For example, if I got 99th percentile on the verbal but didn't do so well on the quant, could I just teach verbal?
posted by acoutu at 4:46 PM on October 7, 2005

I work for The Princeton Review. The pay for just teaching starts (in my small college town, pay scales with cost of living in your city) at $16/hr. . In my town this easilly more than double any other student job.

The atmosphere is fun and low-stress. You aren't forced to teach anything you don't want to (including being able to turn down a class you are trained for if you have a busy semester or something). You won't (or, at least, shouldn't) be blackballed or suffer any sort of retribution. The caveat here is that the atmosphere varies with the director. I've met many directors from around the US and they are all cool people who genuinely care about the students (not just making money) but, of course, there are bound to be pricks out there.

Go ahead and walk into your local office and talk to the staff there, you'll be able to judge them pretty quickly. (If you want to e-mail me with you city I can tell you about the staff if I've met them.)

Acoutu, on some tests you can teach only what you are good at but on some you can't. That I know of you can teach sections of the LSAT and MCAT but you have to teach the entire course for SAT/ACT/GRE. This is. of course, just for The Princeton Review.
posted by oddman at 5:07 PM on October 7, 2005

Sorry, tutoring pays significantly better than "just teaching" but how much better depends on your resume and cost of living in your city.

Oh, and Kaplan people have the kooties. :)
posted by oddman at 5:15 PM on October 7, 2005

It's been a long while, but I really enjoyed working for Princeton Review. They have this irreverent streak that I really enjoyed, and I felt like the training and the compensation were great. The other people I met at the training were fun, too. Thumbs up from me for Princeton Review.
posted by abbyladybug at 7:56 PM on October 7, 2005

Re: the high test score requirement: At Kaplan, if someone wanted to teach for them and couldn't find their official score report for whatever reason, they'd let them take a practice exam at the Kaplan Center, and you just had to get a high score on that. So if you didn't score high enough in high school and now you're in college, you could take the exam again for free and probably do a lot better.
posted by bonheur at 9:28 PM on October 7, 2005

Thanks - y'all are fabu. I think I'll give Princeton a try.
As a follow-up: what kind of time committment did this end up costing you?
posted by metaculpa at 10:07 PM on October 7, 2005

It (Princeton Review) was a bigger time suck at first, learning the curriculum, and lots of nervousness teaching the first few classes. So I'd say maybe take the class time and double or triple it for your first "semester." By midway through your second "semester," you could do it in your sleep.

Best tip my instructor gave me for teaching SATs: always swear during the first class. I couldn't believe the students didn't see right through it, but it always worked: the kids laughed, and seemed to instantly think we were way cool.

I also finally learned algebra by having to teach it, so there is some actual learning going on, in addition to teaching the test.

If you want a really lucrative spin-off, train to teach the TOEFL. At least when I was working there, Princeton review didn't offer one-on-one ESL tutoring, so when my TOEFL students wanted that, they paid me directly, at Princeton review's rate (which was some ridiculous amount like $105/hr - still my best hourly wage to date).
posted by mabelstreet at 10:51 PM on October 7, 2005

I LOVE working for Kaplan and get paid much for than the reported PR rates here.

Kaplan likes you to teach for awhile before you tutor, which is fair so that you know the material.

They also give you EXTENSIVE teacher/tutor training, which is really nice. (and paid for) There is follow up training as well.

Kaplan, also, which is super cool, allowed me to transfer to a new city/center without question.

The Kaplan material is rigid, but as a first time teacher/tutor, having a "script" to follow is nice.

I love Kaplan!!!!
posted by k8t at 8:32 AM on October 8, 2005

for = more
posted by k8t at 8:33 AM on October 8, 2005

I have some experience with this, mostly as an SAT/ACT tutor, and I have to say that places vary wildly. Both establishments I worked for as an employee were small independent operations and paid relatively well (although it's never, ever full-time work). One was $18/hour, one as much as $40, depending on what exactly you were doing (teaching a group class vs. private tutoring vs. just administering practice tests).

Freelance tutoring, in my book, is by far the more lucrative way to go. Once I'd had some experience as an employee and gotten the curriculum down, I started putting up flyers and introducing myself to guidance counselors at snotty private schools. As an employee, I'd been taking home maybe 25% of what the company had been charging, so as a freelancer I charged $75 an hour, met with students for two-hour lessons, saved the parents lots of money compared to what they'd have had to pay a tutoring company, got to work a lot less, and banked. The only real downside, obviously, is that you have to spend time marketing yourself--but once you've been through the first round of tests and your students love you, they recommend you to all their friends and it becomes much easier.
posted by catesbie at 9:22 AM on October 8, 2005 [2 favorites]

I've been teaching SAT classes for The Princeton Review for about 4 years now -- and I still totally love it. I agree with everything said above: the staff is laid-back and friendly, the pay is great, and there is a company-wide level of irreverence paired with a committment to teaching integrity that has always struck a good chord with me.

In terms of time committment: your original training with TPR will be about 40 hours and take place over several weekends. You will be paid for your time in training. I was paid $8~$9 an hour, I believe. Also, I had to travel several hours to Washington, DC for training, and they paid for my hotel room. They will teach you both the course material and classroom teaching skills -- how to be energetic and interesting, how to work with the blackboard, how to deal with difficult students, etc.

Once you are certified, you're required to teach one full course for TPR in the next year. (What are the consequences for bailing? I'm not sure, that's just what they tell us.) Teaching rates in the DC office start at $20/hr for classes, $25/hr for tutoring. As a teacher in good standing, my rates have been raised incrementally every year. Also, there's additional money available for grading practice student essays ($1/essay), as well as bonuses and teacher incentives. (Grade 400 essays between now and Thursday, get a free iPod nano!!!)

SAT courses have 2 3-hour classes each week for 4-5 weeks. Tutoring is usually reserved for teachers who have about a year of experience, though if an office is understaffed and they know you know what you're doing, they may go ahead and offer you tutoring. It may be possible, once you've taught your first class, to do one-on-one tutoring exclusively; it will depend on the needs of your office. Personally, I find tutoring more exhausting than classroom teaching, but I'm an extrovert and draw energy from bigger groups of people.
posted by junkbox at 9:39 AM on October 8, 2005

I trained for Kaplan, but then dropped out because their training seemed to involve too much work on my part. I'm no slacker, but I felt that if I'm going to be teaching something so particular and so "branded" that they should really provide me with more guidance.

I ended up teaching for Princeton Review for a semester. Their training was great, and their employees were really nice and fun. There was as much work as I could ask for-- I ended up teaching 2 sections at a time, which ended up being about 15-18 hours a week I think. Can't remember my pay; it was almost 5 years ago, though.

My "chapter" of Princeton Review (in Houston) also would pay staff to work the desk (for less money than teaching, but still). One of my friends ended up doing that, and then even got a fulltime job out of it when one of the school districts hired Princeton Review to come in and teach SAT classes.
posted by unknowncommand at 10:24 AM on October 8, 2005

Training: With Kaplan, I found that watching the videos of the lessons (which you can usually do at the centers) helped me prepare to teach them. I would take copious notes on the videos, and then I actually rehearsed each lesson before giving it.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 5:16 PM on October 8, 2005

I just wanted to add one more datapoint by saying I taught Princeton Review in college and had the same positive experience that everybody else did. That was more than a decade ago but it sounds like things haven't changed.
posted by yankeefog at 7:34 AM on October 9, 2005

This answer may be too late, but I'd plan on one hour of prep for every hour of class time for your first course. It may actually be significantly less than that if you grasp the material easily. After that it gets easier and easier, I'm at the point where I walk in 15 minutes before class, glance at the lesson plan, open the book and start teaching.

Eventually you actually start to memorize problems, answers and lectures. I know teachers who don't even crack the book while they are teaching.
posted by oddman at 5:04 PM on October 12, 2005

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