italki vs. Preply vs. Cambly vs. Verbling: The Battle Of The English Tutoring Websites

Published on
October 30, 2021
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Updated on
November 5, 2021
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📖
15
min read
This article may contain affiliate links
Written by
Emile Dodds

What are the differences between the big four English tutoring platforms and how can you find out which is best for you? We asked English teacher Emile to review each website and report back with the good, the bad and the ugly.

italki vs. Preply vs. Cambly vs. Verbling: The Battle Of The English Tutoring Websites
Table of contents

Online English tutor sites are an exciting new development in the world of English learning. You may have noticed these sites, with interesting names, such as italki, Preply, Cambly or Verbling.

They claim they can help you to become fluent in any language or speak English confidently. 

Can they really do this? Are their teachers any good? How much do they cost? And how should you fit them into your English learning programme?

Let’s find out.

Four of the biggest websites for learning English with a tutor are:

At first sight, these four websites look almost the same. However, if you take the time to look through them carefully, there are important differences.

It would take many hours to analyse each one. This article will save you that time by reviewing and summarising the main features of each one.

After reading this article, you will have a good idea of which one is best for you.

Note: this guide focuses on using these websites to find an English tutor, but a lot of our research also applies to whatever language you are learning.

What can online tutoring platforms offer you?

In general, the purpose of these websites is to help you find an online English tutor.

You choose a tutor by browsing teacher profiles. Each of these sites has video introductions, so you can “meet” each teacher before you decide.

Once you have found a teacher, the website offers a way for you to have a lesson via video call.

The teacher can share materials, such as conversation questions, with you on the screen.

Most learners use these websites for conversation practice, but you can also ask for lessons on grammar, writing or test preparation.

After finishing a lesson, you can continue with your chosen teacher, or you can try a different one. Each website has thousands of tutors available.

All four websites offer this basic service. Some offer additional features, such as a community chat page.

All four websites offer competitive pricing, with many teachers charging between $10-20 per hour or even less. This is less than you would pay at many language schools, and you can learn English in the comfort of your own home.

You could practice with a different tutor each week, which would be difficult to arrange offline.

So, there are many advantages to learning English this way, but which website is the best for what you need?

Let’s look at a summary of each one:

Learning English with italki

learning English with italki

URL: www.italki.com

Read our detailed review of italki 

italki is one of the most popular and highly-rated tutoring sites. It has more features than the other sites and it is very easy to use.

italki offers almost 8,000 English tutors to choose from.

What I like about italki

The best thing about italki is that I could always find a good list of tutors to choose from.

Even when I searched for a native-speaker tutor from Australia who speaks Spanish as a second language and who charges between $10-$20 per hour, italki gave me a good list of teachers to choose from.

Even when I asked for the teacher at a certain time, I had a list of over ten tutors.

italki is the only one of the four websites to offer an English test. In fact, it has two: one for $30 and the other for $10.

italki has the most features of any of these four websites, including:

  • a chat forum
  • podcasts
  • free exercises
  • a page to ask questions
  • language challenges

italki provides lesson plans and materials to its teachers, so that you can expect your teacher to be prepared for your lessons.

italki also has a long list of other languages that you can learn on their site.

What I didn’t like about italki

There were two things that I disliked about my experience on italki.

First, when I searched for a tutor for some of the more uncommon languages, there were none available. Why advertise something that you do not have?

The second thing was the quality of some of the tutors.

I viewed profiles of teachers who claimed to be native speakers, but who were obviously not.

I also viewed profiles of teachers who claimed to be proficient (CEFR band C2), but who were obviously not. Their profiles had some basic grammar errors.

My rating for italki:

Quality of tutors

Although most tutors are professional and speak English well, there are some who are not.

Availability of tutors

This is italki’s strongest point. I could always find a good selection of tutors available for English lessons.

Usability of website

The site is always easy to use.

Price

Tutors range from $4-$80 per hour.

Community and other features

italki has a good list of extra features, including a community. However, some of the discussion questions are not that interesting. They could still offer further features, such as grammar tips.

Overall

italki is one of the best sites. It’s easy to use, its pricing is fair and it is full of great features.

Read the full review here: My Review of italki for English learners

Learning English with Preply

learning English with Preply

URL: www.preply.com

Read our detailed review of Preply

Preply has a similar layout to italki, but with fewer features. It makes it easy to search for and find a suitable tutor.

Preply offers over 25,000 English tutors to choose from.

What I like about Preply

The best thing about Preply is the number of English tutors available – over 25,000. This is the greatest number of tutors of any of the four sites reviewed here.

With this number available, you feel confident that you can find the right tutor for you.

Preply also has the lowest-priced tutors. Some charge as little as $2 per hour. The most you will pay is $40 per hour.

Preply has languages besides English that you learn. In addition to those, it offers school subjects, such as Physics and IT topics, such as programming languages.

Preply is the best of the four sites if you wish to learn more than just English.

What I didn’t like about Preply

Again, I was able to find profiles of teachers who claimed to be native speakers, but who were obviously not.

There were also profiles of teachers who claimed to be proficient (CEFR band C2), but who were obviously not.  

Another issue was that my inbox was flooded As soon as I signed up to Preply, I began to receive email messages from them every day asking me to purchase classes. However, some of these messages did offer discounts, so this would be good news if you are looking for a bargain.

My rating for Preply:

Quality of tutors

Although most tutors are professional and speak English well, there are some who are not.

Availability of tutors

Preply has the most tutors of any of these sites. I could always find tutors available for English lessons or for other subjects.

Usability of website

The site is simple to navigate and use.

Price

Tutors range from $2-$40 per hour. However, I would like to see a choice to pay more than $40 per hour to secure the very best teachers.

Community and other features

Preply has some basic community features, such as a blog. They could offer a lot more.

Overall

Preply is a high-quality site with a lot of choice. Prices are reasonable and it is easy to use.

Read the full review here: My Review of Preply for English learners

Learning English with Cambly

learning English with Cambly

URL: www.cambly.com

Read our detailed review of Cambly 

Cambly looks and feels like the other sites. The main difference is the payment – to use Cambly, you pay a subscription fee, not an hourly cost for your lessons. This means you do not see different prices for different teachers.

Cambly promotes teachers who are currently online to the top of any search and tries to connect you immediately to teachers.

Cambly does not indicate how many tutors it has, but it is clear that it has fewer tutors than the other three sites in this guide.

What I like about Cambly

The best thing about Cambly is the quality of its teachers. Most are native speakers and many of them are professional teachers.

Cambly is the only one of these four sites to offer a parent/child account. You can register your child as a learner and Cambly will match your child with a specialised tutor. These tutors are experienced in teaching children ages 4-15.

What I didn’t like about Cambly

Some people might like the subscription model, but I feel it limits choice. On average, you will be paying around $20 per hour, but the other three sites offer lower rates than that.

You may also want to pay more than $20 per hour in order to get the best teachers. Again, Cambly takes away this choice.

Cambly’s weakest point is the choice of teachers. I often found no tutors available when I specified certain subjects, level and availability.

Cambly promotes teachers who are online now (by putting them at the top of search results). However, I don’t find this helpful. I like to schedule lessons ahead of time.

Like some of the other sites, Cambly has no real community features, such as podcasts or chatrooms.

Therefore, what I noticed most about Cambly is not what it had, but what it didn’t have.

Also, as with Preply, I began to receive promotional emails from them every day. Although I did not want to receive so many messages, some of them offered discounts and special offers.

My rating for Cambly:

Quality of tutors

Most tutors are native speakers and many are professional teachers.

Availability of tutors

I often found no tutors available and Cambly does not even indicate how many tutors it has.

Usability of website

The site is easy to use on large or small screens.

Price

The subscription fees are fair, but not flexible enough. I prefer to have a choice of how much I pay.

Community and other features

Cambly has no community features or blog. However, they do offer parent accounts where you can monitor your child’s learning.

Overall

Cambly has less to offer compared to other sites. However, Cambly’s tutors are of a high quality.

Read the full review here: My Review of Cambly for English learners

Learning English with Verbling 

find an English tutor with Verbling

URL: www.verbling.com

Read our detailed review of Verbling 

Once again, Verbling looks and feels like the other sites. The layout and even the pricing are similar to the others.

However, Verbling has a strict hiring process for teachers. As a result, its tutors are consistently of a high standard.

Verbling does not indicate exactly how many tutors it has, but it states that the number is over 10,000.

What I like about Verbling

The best thing about Verbling is its teachers. I was impressed with all of the profiles that I viewed. The teachers are experienced and qualified. I was impressed with each profile video that I viewed and this really attracted me to use the site.

Verbling is the only of the four sites to offer a completely free trial lesson (of half an hour). It then offers trial lessons at a cost of $6 when you first try out a new teacher.

What I didn’t like about Verbling

During my time on Verbling, I experienced quite a few technical errors. Pages did not load properly and some teachers were not “online now” when the site indicated that they were.

Some of the extra content on Verbling, like the articles, had not been updated in more than a year.

This being said, it has excellent reviews, so perhaps I just caught it on a bad day.

My rating for Verbling:

Quality of tutors

Verbling’s tutors are very impressive.

Availability of tutors

Verbling has plenty of tutors – over 10,000. However, some were not online when the site indicated they were.

Usability of website

The site is easy to use. However, I experienced multiple technical issues and some outdated content.

Price

Verbling’s prices range from $5-$100 per hour. They also offer a free trial lesson.

Community and other features

Verbling offers basic community features, such as blog articles and discussions.

Overall

If your emphasis is on the quality of teachers, Verbling is the site for you.

Read the full review here: My Review of Verbling for English learners

Which tutoring site is best for…?

Which site is best for learners on a budget?

Preply has the cheapest classes, as low as $2 per hour

Which site is best for casual conversations in English?

For casual conversation practice, teacher qualifications are less important. You should choose the cheaper options, italki or Preply.

Which site is best for “serious” learners?

I define a “serious” learner as someone who wishes to improve all skills, including grammar or writing, and is willing to work hard to a schedule to achieve their goals.

If you are serious about learning, Verbling has the highest quality teachers. Verbling also has many options for Business English and test preparation.

Verbling’s teachers do more lessons per student on average, according to my research. This makes Verbling a good choice for you if you are looking for a long-term option.

Which site is best for English for specific purposes?

All the sites have options for Business English, but Verbling has more options, such as interview preparation, Legal English and Medical English.

Which site is best for learners who want more than just English?

In addition to English, Preply offers tuition in 88 other languages, school subjects, such as history or mathematics and IT subjects, including programming languages.

Which site is best for parents?

Cambly allows you to have an account for your child. It has tutors who specialise in teaching ages 4-15.

Which site has the highest quality English teachers?

Verbling vets their teachers the most carefully. If you wish to be sure that your teacher is of a high standard, Verbling is a very good choice for you. 

But I was impressed with the teachers I found on all four sites, and my advice to you is to test out multiple teachers before deciding on one.

*vet = check or verify qualifications

Let’s talk about pricing

Three of these websites offer different prices depending on which teacher you choose. Only Cambly offers subscription packages.

Let’s look at Cambly’s subscription model first.

a subscription on Cambly

As a reminder, with Cambly you book a certain amount of time every week, and pay for it on a monthly, quarterly or even annual subscription. This time can be used with any tutor.

You can see that the lessons become cheaper if you commit for a longer time. However, the lessons are mostly around $20 per hour. This is more expensive than the cheapest options on the other sites.

In addition, the weekly agenda and minutes per day options are not flexible. You can see above that there is no option for four days a week, for instance.

Plus, can you really commit for a year? Our lives change so much that it is difficult to plan so far ahead. If you commit for a year, but only attend classes for six months, it will be a waste of money.

A subscription only makes sense if it saves you a lot of money or gives you more flexibility. Cambly’s subscription does neither, so I do not recommend it.

Of the other sites, where you pay by hour, Preply was the cheapest when I looked. However, you must remember that the cheapest is not always the best.

Think of it from the teacher’s point of view. If you pay $5 per hour, the teacher earns less than this (because some money goes to the website).

Are they really going to offer good quality lessons at this rate? It is likely that they will not put much effort or preparation into the lessons. Teachers are only human and low pay affects their motivation.

$20-$40 per hour is a fair rate for a professional teacher with several years of teaching experience. Really, this is the sort of teacher that will be able to help you achieve the best results.

Most of these sites do offer some discounts if you book more time:

Preply allows you to book 6, 12 or 20 lessons in advance with small discounts when you book 12 or 20 hours. You can transfer the hours to a different tutor.

Verbling allows you to book 5, 10 or 20 lessons in advance for discounts of 3%, 6% or 9%.

italki allows you to buy credits in advance for any amount. For example, you can top up your account balance with $2, $6, $10 or any other amount that you choose.

Hence, my recommendation is to use italki. This is because you can buy exactly the number of lessons you need and you will not waste any hours.

Since italki already offers lessons at a good price, their flexibility gives them an advantage over the other sites, even though they do not offer discounts.

Trial lessons

Here is a short summary of the trial lessons available on each site:

italki’s trial lessons are not free, but offered at a discount from the teacher’s usual rate. The discount is different for different teachers.

Preply’s “trial” lessons are not free. The difference is that you can ask for your money back if you are not happy with the lesson. You can also ask for a replacement lesson with a new tutor.

Cambly does not offer trial lessons.

Verbling is the only site to offer free trial lessons. You can have one free 30-minute trial lesson. Further trial lessons (with new tutors) are $6 per hour. Note that not all teachers offer trial lessons.

See some lessons for yourself

Some teachers have posted recordings of their lessons on YouTube. Click below to see lessons from three of the four websites:

Example lesson on italki:

Example lesson on Preply:

Example lesson on Cambly:

Note that these are just illustrative - every teacher will be different.

Other options

We have looked at four sites here.

Are there others? Of course!

Here is a short list to explore further if you wish:

And these are just the websites to find English tutors. They represent only a fraction of the excellent English teachers out there, the majority of whom will not be on these websites.

Using these websites as part of your strategy to learn English

Let’s wrap up with an important question. 

Are these online lessons really a good way to improve your English?

I can’t recommend using these sites as the only method to improve your English. A better idea is to use these websites as part of a wider strategy.

That way, you can be sure to practise all the skills that you need to, and you can make full use of all of the resources that are available to you.

Here is an example of a learning strategy that includes online English lessons:

My strategy for learning English

  1. I will read one book per month. I will highlight new words and review them later.
  2. I will listen to two podcasts every week.
  3. I will take two one-hour conversation lessons online per week.
  4. I will record myself speaking for at least 5 minutes every day.
  5. I will write a 300-word essay every week and ask my friends for feedback.

This strategy provides a way to improve all your skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking). The online lessons will help to build your confidence and try out new words that you have learned.

Remember that this is only an example. You can change it to suit your own needs, and we have an entire guide on how to build your own English learning system. What I want to show you is that tutoring sites are best used as part of a larger strategy.

However you approach these sites, the teacher you choose is the most important part of the experience.

A good teacher can build your confidence and offer valuable guidance. A poorly motivated teacher will affect your motivation.

You should choose your teacher very carefully. Remember that you could try out 5-10 teachers from anywhere in the world for under $100! This is an amazing opportunity that did not exist only a few years ago, so why not make the most of it?

Use the teacher reviews, ratings and statistics to help you. If a teacher has a 5-star review after 500 lessons, this is an excellent sign.

Remember to check each tutor’s qualifications and experience – not all teachers on these sites are professional teachers.

And once you find a good teacher, stick with them and make them a part of your English learning journey!