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English GCSE Tuition: Online Vs In-Person

17/11/2023 / English Tuition

There’s a good reason why English, science and maths are required at GCSE level. They’re subject areas that provide skills needed in many other areas of study and in all future avenues of life.

In the case of English, its influence might be far broader than it first appears. Of course, it’s important to be able to spell, read and communicate well. But GCSE English – both language and literature – also teaches you how to think and analyse, how to organise your ideas and express yourself.

At the same time, while STEM subjects deal with objective facts and questions that have only one right answer, English can feel far more subjective and nebulous. Often many answers can be correct, if argued correctly. These factors can make English challenging.

In the face of these challenges, it’s often a wise idea to seek out English GCSE tuition online or in person. But as you’re beginning the process of finding your perfect GCSE English tutor, you might find yourself asking – should I opt for an English GCSE tutor near me, or should I choose tutoring online?

In this article, we’ll break down the benefits and drawbacks of each option when it comes to GCSE English.

A quick introduction to English GCSE

If you’re a parent of a currently school-aged child, you might remember a time when there was just one English GCSE. Now most GCSE students will take two – GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature.

When you’re considering hiring an English GCSE tutor online or in person, it’s worth reflecting on the skills and topics that are involved in both English Language and English Literature, and whether those skill areas benefit more from virtual tuition or a tutor in the same room as a student.

GCSE English Language

While there may be slight differences depending on individual exam boards, generally GCSE English Language covers these broad topics:

  • Analysing fiction
  • Analysing non-fiction
  • Comparing texts
  • Writing
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • Spoken language.

Within these overall topic areas, students will examine the nuts and bolts of writing. How do the elements of writing, like structure, theme and voice, work together to create meaning in fiction? What is the intended audience and purpose of a non-fiction text? How can student writers use the tools at their disposal to create their intended effect?

Lastly, it’s crucial to note that although there is no coursework in either English GCSE, the English Language GCSE does require an oral presentation. This presentation doesn’t factor into the GCSE grade, but you can’t earn the GCSE without doing it.

GCSE English Literature

GCSE English Literature focuses on specific texts and their characters, themes, forms and language. Students will study:

  • Shakespeare
  • Post-1914 prose/drama
  • 19th century prose
  • Poetry.

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English GCSE Tuition Online and In Person

Now that you know what GCSE English is focused on, it’s time to consider which mode of tuition offers the most when it comes to tutoring each skill area. Since each skill is different, the style of tutoring will likely be slightly different depending on what the student needs help with most.

Analysing and comparing texts

Diving deep into textual analysis often requires one thing – discussion.

It may seem strange at first to spend a tutoring session mostly on talking. But talking and conversation is a fantastic way to spark ideas and get to deeper levels of analysis. In fact, this is one reason why English GCSE tutoring is so valuable. It allows a student to participate in thoughtful discussion to a far greater extent than classroom teaching does.

Does analysing and comparing texts work better in person or online? Well, as long as the student has a good microphone and internet connection, conversation over video chat can be just as enriching as conversation in person. There are really no drawbacks to conducting this kind of analytical discussion virtually. In fact, some students may feel more comfortable chatting virtually from the comfort of their home, so this more relaxed environment could allow them to open up more and venture into more daring ideas.

There are also a few big upsides to doing textual analysis virtually. A great tutoring session can fly by, and spending time looking up quotes in a paper book can eat up that precious time fast. If a tutor and student are looking at an online text together, however, a quick use of the search function can get them to the desired quotations far more quickly and make it easy to copy and paste quotations for later use. Tutor and student can also use online whiteboard functionalities to jot down ideas – or they may even annotate online texts together.


Thank goodness, the days of illegible scribbled teacher or tutor comments on essays are long gone. Now we have Google Docs, Microsoft Word and other platforms that offer handy tools like comments, tracking changes and more. Tutors can also guide students in using the spelling and grammar check functions, ensuring that they learn and internalise the rules behind the programme’s corrections.

These functionalities are invaluable in the tutoring of writing – and they mean that teaching writing is actually far easier online. What’s more, in a virtual tutoring session, both tutor and student can look at and write in a shared document at the same time. For example, a tutor can ask a student to revise a sentence and then watch them write – thus gaining insight into the student’s ways of thinking.

In short, if you’re seeking help with writing for GCSE English, it’s likely that working with an English GCSE tutor online will be much easier and more productive.

Prose, drama and poetry texts

When a student is seeking help with understanding and analysing complex and sometimes archaic works such as Shakespeare plays and poetry, they urgently need a tutor who deeply understands these texts. In other words, they need an expert.

This brings us to one of the greatest benefits of English GCSE tuition online. When you’re looking for an online tutor, you potentially have access to a vast range of tutors across the UK.

With in-person tutoring, you’re much more restricted, and your pool of potential tutors is necessarily much smaller. You could even find yourself settling for tutors who aren’t qualified teachers, if there aren’t any more suitable candidates whose schedule and location match your own. Even if you live in a highly populous area like London, you’re unlikely to find a tutor who’s willing to travel long distances to meet in person.

To ensure that you can find the most skilful tutor who really suits your student’s learning style and needs, it’s a far better bet to cast a wide net and go for English GCSE tuition online.

Don’t forget the value

When comparing English GCSE tuition online and in person, it’s also important to factor in the value of the service you’re getting. With face-to-face tutors, part of the cost you pay will always go towards travel. Even if they’re really local, they may have factored travel into the cost they charge all clients – so you don’t benefit from being closer to them.

The result? Your hard-earned money isn’t actually going towards the quality of your tutor. That means you’re not getting the best tutor for the price you’re paying. It’s important to ask the question: do you actually need a local English tutor? In contrast, online English tutors can get straight into tuition from the moment your session starts, so they don’t need to cover any additional costs.

This online format of tuition also lends itself to a better service overall. With an in-person English tutor, you may find that questions will only be answered and resources made available during your face-to-face sessions. Because online tutors are digital by default, they’re typically much more responsive throughout the week. Not to mention having sessions available to rewatch at any time.

Find your ideal English GCSE tutor online with Principal Tutors

At Principal Tutors, we’re dedicated to matching each student just the right tutor from our pool of talented English tutors. Because we focus on online tuition, you have access to far more options when it comes to tutors. That means each student can benefit from a tutor who can meet their needs and mesh well with their personality and learning style.

However, all of our tutors have one thing in common – they’re all qualified teachers with expertise in the UK curriculum. That means that whether your student is exploring Much Ado About Nothing, An Inspector Calls or Jane Eyre, they’ll be learning with a tutor who not only understands the text but knows exactly what the exam boards want students to know about it.

If you’d like to know more about how our English GCSE tuition online works, just call us on 0800 772 0974. We’d be delighted to talk more with you about our online whiteboard platform, our dedicated customer support services, and more. Alternatively, you can start the search for your tutor right away by filling out our online form.


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