Ten Questions/Ten Minutes: Tutor Interview with Gabriel Tiplady
We are so proud of the wide variety of tutors we have working with us at Athena Tuition, so every month we will be publishing a Ten Questions/Ten Minutes interview with one of them to highlight their expertise. This month’s tutor is Gabriel Tiplady, an experienced tutor who specialises in language tuition, Oxbridge prep, and entrance examination assistance. We are delighted that Gabriel has shared some of his experiences and his advice with us. So, without further ado…
1. Gabriel, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us at Athena! For those reading who aren’t familiar with you, please tell everyone a little about yourself and how you became involved with tutoring?
Hi, you’re welcome. I finished my degree in French & Italian at Oxford in 2016. I tutored alongside my studies and various jobs which I held after graduating and went into tutoring full-time in 2017.
2. If you had to describe your personal tutoring style to a parent, what would you say?
Tutoring should be tailored to the needs of the student because all students are different. However, there are 4 things which I always try to bring to my sessions. My approach is interactive – it is vital to be engaging. It is thorough, to make sure nothing is covered in too little detail. I encourage independence of thought, particularly in older students. Finally, I always emphasize trying to make it enjoyable. I’ve loved my subjects throughout my academic career and try to transfer this enjoyment to my students, because it is the best way to learn.
3. Independence of thought is so important, absolutely. In terms of taking on new students, what for you would make a tutoring position impossible to turn down?
During my time in tutoring I have done various residential placements, abroad and within the UK. The opportunity to travel to a country I’d wanted to see but never visited would always be hard to turn down.
4. When you were younger, did you receive private tuition? If so – how did this affect your studies? If not – would you have liked to have had a tutor?
I had one or two sessions before scholarship exams at the age of 12. With hindsight, it would have benefited me to have more sessions than I did. I remember feeling like I got a lot out of the sessions, in areas which I had found challenging previously.
5. You have a lot of experience working with students to prepare them for their entrance examinations: in your opinion, what is the future of entrance exams?
This depends on the school in question and the age level: at 11+ age in private education, entrance exams to schools is becoming increasingly standardized by the ISEB common pre-test. This concentrates on many of the skills needed to be successful at state 11+: strong reasoning skills, numeracy and comprehension. At 13+ level, I think that entrance exams will continue to range widely in their requirements depending on the particular school.
6. Some top private schools are tweaking their entrance exams in the hope of making them “tutor-proof”: where do you stand on this?
I don’t think that exams can be made “tutor-proof” in practice. Whichever subject you are sitting, a strong grounding in key skills will always be necessary, and tutoring can always help to provide that. Schools can vary the format of the exams, but I don’t think that this could prevent tutoring from being beneficial. If anything, this could make tutoring more helpful if it helps you to be better prepared for a new style of exam.
7. How do you prepare for a first lesson with a new student?
Ideally with a phone call to the parent(s) beforehand, or failing that with an email or text exchange. From GCSE age upwards, I also like to speak to the student if possible. It is always important to know which specific areas (broad or narrow) a student is looking to focus on so that the first session and beyond are as constructive as possible. Typically I will also include some brief form of assessment in the first session, varying by subject and age group, to give myself a clearer idea of the student’s current level.
8. You help students prepare for Oxbridge entry: what advice would you give to students who are considering applying to Oxbridge?
My advice would depend on the student’s background. If you go to a school where few people apply to Oxbridge and you are considering it, do it. You never have anything to lose by applying, and an awful lot to gain regardless of the outcome. At many schools which I have visited recently, students don’t apply – it doesn’t occur to them that they should. I would love to see this change. If, on the other hand, you go to a school where people do apply in numbers to Oxbridge, remember that it is not the end of days if you don’t get in. It is great to have high expectations and to be ambitious, but you must not burden yourself with unfair pressure. You will perform better in interview if you feel like you have nothing to lose!
9. Online tuition is becoming increasingly popular; do you think online tuition as a learning platform is more, or less, effective for any of the subjects you teach?
It has enabled me to tutor a broader base of students, including in different time zones. It is making tutoring much more practical in various respects. Tutoring in person has various advantages too, however. Ultimately, I think that the preference of the student is key here – if they prefer one form or the other, it is likely to become self-fulfilling.
10. And finally – one of things we love most about tutoring is that no two lessons are ever the same. What has been the most memorable moment of your tutoring career?
There would be a few contenders. I remember recently being astonished at the progress of a boy doing non-verbal reasoning with me, who scored very impressively in just his second attempt at it. Working with a six-year-old non-native English speaker and being able to hold more developed conversations with him was also hugely rewarding. The best moments, in my opinion, actually come outside of the sessions when you hear that a student has achieved their objective – whatever their goal, it is always great to hear that they have been successful.
Thank you so much, Gabriel, for taking the time to talk to us at Athena and for sharing some of your experiences!