University Learning Center

Tips for Tutoring

Build Rapport

  • Spend time during the first session building rapport with your tutee(s).
  • Ask non-threatening questions in an attempt to get to know your tutees better. Help them to feel comfortable in the tutoring session. Questions such as: "What year are you?" "Have you declared a major?" "How do you like UNCW so far?" are all appropriate. Do not delve into the tutees' personal life; stick with general questions about previous academic or job experiences. This will also give you info to help build on the tutees' strengths and experiences in future sessions.
  • Let the tutees know you understand their feelings. They may feel a wide variety of emotions from frustration, disappointment, or fear to relief and excitement.
  • Listen carefully as the tutees communicates with you. This will give you clues as to how they are approaching this course or college in general. Pay attention to voice tone (indicating emotion), non-verbal communication (lack of eye contact, posture, attention span), and use of language to help you assess how she is dealing with this course.

Provide Structure

  • Greet your tutees by name and spend a minute or two getting acquainted/catching up.
  • Take time to briefly review the previous session and have the tutees catch you up on what they have done on their own since your last meeting.

Summarize the Lesson

  • Have tutees summarize class work in their own words (either written or orally).
  • Ask tutees to go through their notes, reading them to you or explaining the concepts from the last lecture. Be sure and ask questions of the tutees as they read through the material.
  • Complete study questions at the end of each chapter.
  • Prepare for what's ahead.
  • During each session, find out what assignments or exams are coming up and how the tutees are preparing for them.
  • Find out if the tutees understand the class assignments and/or the work you have planned. Refer to the syllabus and make sure they knows what is due and when.
  • Have the tutees explain the work/assignment to you, then ask them how they plan to approach the assignment. Guide them or make suggestions as needed.
  • Discuss strategies for textbook reading with your tutees and practice it during your tutoring session (handouts on textbook reading are available in the ULC office).
  • Have the tutees create their own practice tests; create and use flash cards; develop chapter outlines to study (see the coordinator for more ideas on test preparation strategies). Handouts are also available in the ULC lobby.

Ask About Study Habits

  • Ask about your tutees' study habits…how they study, where they study, what do they do as they study…? These are important clues in determining each tutee's strengths and weaknesses.
  • Handouts on Study Skills are available in the ULC office (hardcopy) and on the ULC website. Study Skills Links are also available. Use these to help suggest appropriate study strategies for your tutees.
  • Tutees can also get a Study Skills Consultation at the ULC to learn more about their learning style and how to make the most of it. Ask for an appointment or stop by the coordinator's office for more information.

Determine Learning Preferences

  • As the sessions continue, try to determine the tutees' learning preferences (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, read/write or a combination of these). Use this information to structure each session. For example, to ask a tutee a question about a concept using each preference: Can you draw it? Can you explain it? Can you write it? Can you give an example?
  • Adapt explanatory style for non-auditory learners.
  • Incorporate illustrations, manipulatives, and physical involvement into the session.

Challenge Them

  • After a successful working relationship has been established, CHALLENGE your tutees.
  • Raise your expectations of the tutees and their work.
  • Remember, it's important for your tutees to see progress. Emphasize short-term goals first (preparing for class, reading the textbook) and then connect those with the longer term goals of earning a high grade on the final or in the course, and succeeding in college.
  • Help the tutees build confidence and always encourage higher levels of achievement. This will help to increase their motivation.

Review and Look Forward

  • At the end of each session, review and look forward.
  • Ask the tutees to review quickly what they learned during the session. Set goals together for what they will accomplish before the next appointment and briefly plan what you will cover in the next session.
  • Make sure the tutees take responsibility for the work they plan to accomplish before the next meeting. Remember, this is the tutees' session.
  • Providing this type of review and preview provides an opportunity for you to check the tutees' comprehension and to determine where to go from here.


  • Communicate with your tutee's professor(s) if necessary for feedback on progress or problems.
  • It's perfectly acceptable to meet with your tutee's professor to discuss general course content, testing procedures, etc. Always ask your tutee for permission before you meet with his/her professor. It may be helpful for you and the tutee to meet with the professor together to help you both better plan your tutoring sessions.
  • If you have questions about how to approach a professor or would like assistance arranging a meeting, please contact the Learning Services Coordinator.