There are many ways available to you to improve your English, either with or without a teacher.
Have you ever considered hiring a personal English tutor? If you have never tried it, you may find it is a lot easier and cheaper than you think!
(Note: This is one of a series of four articles reviewing online English tutoring websites. If you find this article useful, you may want to read the others: A Review of italki, Cambly (coming soon), Verbling (coming soon).)
Preply’s website can be found at www.preply.com.
Let’s see how easy it is to get started. If you like, you can open the site in your browser and follow along with this article.
If you don’t have an account, the first thing you will see on preply.com is the welcome page.
Preply makes it easy to browse their site even if you do not have an account. In fact, the sign-up option is quite hard to find at first!
For now, click on the box that says, “What do you want to learn?”, click English language and click the Explore tutors button. This will take you to the main page below:
As you can see, you can immediately begin to look for a tutor, even without signing up for an account.
Additionally, I found that once I signed up, I received email messages every day reminding me to sign up for Preply classes.
So, if you are not sure if you want to use Preply, my advice is to browse the site first without creating an account.
If you do wish to create an account, click the Log in link on the top right of the page, and you will see this form:
You could choose to log in with an existing Google or Facebook account, or you could click Sign up as a student.
It takes under a minute to sign up:
1. Choose a username and password
2. Answer some simple questions to help Preply suggest better tutors for you
3. Click on the link that appears in your email account
You do not need a credit card to sign up.
First impressions of Preply
My first impression of Preply is positive. The information you need is clear and easy to find. It is easy to navigate.
If you have used other tutoring sites, such as italki, you will notice many of the same features. For example, all of these sites have video introductions for the tutors.
The one thing that I noticed immediately is that Preply offers 25,613 tutors just for English. This is more than I have seen on other platforms. In fact, it is an incredible number!
With so many tutors available, there must be one that is right for you!
Choosing your language and currency
At this point, I suggest clicking on the dropdown menu on the top right to set your language and currency.
This will help you to browse the site in your own language and see the prices in your own currency.
Unfortunately, there are only a few currencies available (BRL, GBP, EUR, PLN, RUB, UAH, USD). This doesn’t mean that you can’t use Preply if you don’t have a bank account in that currency, just that you will have to do some mental calculations about what the cost is in your currency.
There are also only a few languages available. This is surprising since they have access to so many language experts, but it’s probably because these languages account for 95%+ of their customers.
Other languages and skills
We want to find an English tutor, but let’s pause for a moment and see what else Preply offers. Click on the I want to learn box in the top left of the main page.
You will see that Preply offers around 40 languages. In addition, they offer a lot of IT topics, such as Artificial Intelligence and computer programming languages. They also offer tutors for history, geography and other school or college subjects.
If you wish to hire tutors for several subjects all in one place, Preply could be a good option for you. If you are feeling adventurous you could even try to learn about a new topic in English.
What about you? Have you ever considered teaching your own language or another skill that you know? Perhaps you could sign up as a tutor at Preply yourself. It could be a fun way to earn some extra cash and you could even pay for your English lessons.
How much does Preply cost?
The next box (to the right of I want to learn) allows you to set the price. As you can see, it seems to say that you can find a tutor for $1 an hour!
In fact, you can move the slider to search for tutors in the range of $1-2 per hour:
Surprisingly, I was indeed able to find tutors for $2 an hour. I found six tutors at this price, mostly from the Philippines.
Three out of the six tutors were native speakers and three of them were Preply Top Tutors.
However, I was a little surprised to see that one of the Top Tutors was new and had no reviews yet. Her profile indicated that her English level was only B2 (upper intermediate).
This made me wonder about the Top Tutor labels. Are they really a good guide?
You should also note that the top price for a tutor is $40. Some of the best tutors that I know charge more than $40 per hour and they would not work for Preply’s rates.
So, while the pricing looks good, it may mean that the very best tutors do not choose to work on Preply.
Are Preply’s trial lessons free of charge?
No, you pay the full price for a trial lesson. The difference is that you may ask for your money back if you are not happy with the lesson. Alternatively, you may ask for a replacement lesson with a new tutor of your choice.
Note that most other English tuition websites offer a discount on their trial lessons. In addition, many language schools offer a completely free trial lesson.
Remember also that, although a discounted trial lesson is good for you, it means that the teacher makes less money for their time. Indeed, at the time of writing this article Preply takes the entire fee for the"trial" lessons, so the teacher actually will earn nothing from their first trial lesson with you.
You can choose a Preply tutor from (almost) any country
Next to the PRICE filter, we can choose which country we want our tutor to be from. It is a long list and includes every country that I can think of.
I like the Australian accent, so I chose Australia. I set the price to $10-20 per hour and that gives me the choice of 246 English tutors. That is still a lot!
When you choose a country, think about whether you wish to learn American English or British English. Alternatively, you may prefer a tutor from your own country. If price is an issue, you may find lower priced teachers from countries such as the Philippines.
Refining your search for a Preply tutor
Moving along to the next button, you can set the time when you are available:
I chose Monday afternoons, and that still gives me 109 Australian tutors to choose from.
By the way, the times listed are for your own time zone. Later, when you click on the tutor’s availability, these slots will also be given in your local time.
You can further refine your search using the filters just below the top bar:
With so many tutors available, I recommend that you make use of all the filters.
Click on Specialties and you will see this submenu:
As you can see, there are plenty of choices and you can select more than one. I chose Conversational and Business English. I now have 30 tutors to choose from.
Note that Preply offers test preparation for 30 different English tests, such as IELTS and TOEFL. This is more than I have seen on other sites.
Preply also caters for students with learning disabilities:
As a parent, if your child has one of these disabilities, this is a great feature for you.
Other languages spoken by your tutor
The next filter allows you to select tutors based on what languages they speak (apart from English, of course).
Why would you want to use this feature?
If your level of proficiency is low, you may feel more comfortable working with a person who speaks your mother tongue. If you get stuck in English, they can explain it in your own language.
However, as an English teacher myself, I have been trained to teach absolute beginners. A good English tutor knows techniques to teach any level of student.
There is another reason to use this feature. If you speak Spanish, for example, you may make the typical mistakes that a Spanish speaker makes when learning English. A teacher who speaks Spanish may already be familiar with these mistakes.
I chose Spanish from the list and I now have 30 tutors to choose from.
Should I choose a native speaker?
The final filter that you see allows you to specify whether you want a native speaker:
As you can see, I chose to see only native speakers. Now, my list of available tutors is down to seven. This makes it easy for me to go through their profiles and select the very best match.
However, is a native speaker always the best option for you?
Let’s think about this.
First of all, native speakers will charge more on average.
Secondly, non-native speakers have one important advantage over native speakers. They too have learned English as a second language. They know the problems and challenges that you face, because they have been there themselves.
A third point is accent. Non-native speakers may have an unusual accent that is hard to understand. However, native speakers may also have a strong, regional accent. As an example, in some parts of northern England, the word bus is pronounced ‘boose’.
Side note: even English native speakers (human and robototic) sometimes have trouble understanding each other, as you can see in this video below.
Choosing a teacher from their Preply profile
Once you have used the filters, you can browse through your shortened list of profiles.
At the top of my list is a tutor who charges $20 per hour and has five stars from seven reviews. She looks friendly and I can click on her video to get a better idea of her personality.
After watching her video, I think that I would enjoy learning with her.
When choosing a teacher, there is one important feature which you may miss. You can click on the teacher’s name to get even more details about the teacher:
When you click on the teacher’s name, you can see their full resume (CV) and qualifications. This is important, as we will find out in the next section.
Are all the teachers really as proficient as they say?
I was able to find some teachers who claimed to be native speakers, but who were obviously not native speakers. Their videos and written profiles contained mistakes such as ‘I'm a dynamic and English teacher’.
I should emphasise that most of the teachers that I browsed did have proficient English.
Are all the tutors professional teachers?
No, many of the tutors are not professional teachers.
However, Preply makes it easy to find out their qualifications by clicking on their names and viewing their resumes.
For example, look at excerpts from the following two teachers’ resumes. The first tutor has a verified teaching certificate. The second tutor is a fifth year medical student.
If you are simply looking for conversation practice, you do not need a certified teacher. On the other hand, if you are working towards your IELTS test, for example, you should choose a professional teacher.
Simply put, it is your choice and you need to use common sense.
Making your final choice of tutor
Now that you have all of the information you need, it is time to make a final choice.
A smart plan is to base your decision on the tutor’s experience, qualifications and feedback from other students.
Each tutor has a rating (out of five stars) and you can read reviews from previous students. If a tutor has completed many lessons and maintained a five-star rating, this is a good sign.
After taking your first lesson and before purchasing a package, here are some more questions to consider:
- Was the tutor easy to understand?
- Did the tutor give you enough time to talk?
- Could the tutor explain grammar and vocabulary points clearly?
- Were you happy with the tutor’s answers to any questions that you asked?
- Was the tutor patient, or did they rush through the lesson?
How do the lessons work?
Lessons are delivered using Preply Classroom. You can log in with any of the main browsers. You could also log in with a phone or tablet.
Preply Classroom allows you to see and speak to your teacher and send text messages. You can share your screen and your teacher can share their screen.
The teaching materials are provided by the tutor, so every lesson will be different and every teacher will have their own style of conducting the lesson. They may spend most of the time conversing with you, or they may go through notes or slides to explain a grammar point.
Remember that you are paying for the lesson, so you can choose what exactly to do. You can ask for more speaking practice or you can ask for feedback on your grammar mistakes.
To get a good idea of how a lesson works, you can watch this video of an actual lesson:
How do you pay?
Look for the Buy hours button on the top right of the main page. However, don’t click it yet.
Before you can pay for learning hours, you need to find a tutor and then click on Trial lesson. Once this is done, you will be prompted to pay using a credit card or PayPal.
Confusingly, if you click Buy hours without first selecting a tutor, it will return you to the main page.
After your first lesson with a tutor, you need to buy a package of lessons to continue with them.
Overall, payment is not as easy or flexible as on other websites.
There are not many special features on Preply. However, there are two things that I wish to recommend and you can use both of them without opening an account.
If you scroll all the way down to the footer (at the bottom of the main page), you will see a link to Preply’s blog:
I found the blog to be full of great articles. But note that many of the articles are for English teachers, not English students.
Just below the link to the blog, you will see the link Learn English Online.
You can click this link for free resources on writing, grammar, reading and other skills. The resources are presented as articles, not as lessons, but may be very useful to you.
For example, here is an article on using WILL and WOULD.
Again, while these are great features, you can easily find these kinds of free resources on hundreds of sites on the internet.
What is Preply missing?
To me, it seems that Preply is missing two things.
The first is a community. When using Preply, I could not see a way to interact and discuss things with other learners. Other sites have chatrooms and forums where you can make new friends, but not Preply.
The second thing is a way to test your level of English. This is helpful, because if your tutor knows your level of English, they can prepare materials for you before the lesson.
A short English placement test could also identify your weak areas. Do you need practice with verb tenses? Are articles your weak area? You may not realise your weak areas and it will take time for your tutor to identify them.
The bottom line
Preply achieves its main goal. It offers access to tens of thousands of English tutors.
Preply’s best point is the number of tutors available. You feel confident that you can find one that is suitable for you. The pricing is fair. The layout of the site is easy to navigate.
But Preply also disappoints in some areas. There are “native speakers” who are not native speakers and many tutors who lack teaching qualifications. There is no community and no tool to check your level of English.
Are the best teachers on Preply?
Remember that Preply is not the only company that offers online language tuition. These companies offer good alternatives:
You should also consider whether the best teachers are online at all.
If you are only paying a few dollars per hour, how much is the teacher earning after Preply ‘takes a cut’ of their money? Will they be motivated to deliver a good lesson if they are not paid well?
Teachers on any of these platforms may be less experienced than a teacher at a local language school. Or they could be forced into earning less than they deserve. (See this video for more on the topic:
Some students prefer to study without a tutor. Some prefer to learn English in a group with other students.
It is good to keep all options open, including self-study, live classes at a language school and live classes with a personal tutor.
Is Preply a good choice for you?
Preply’s strongest point is the number of English teachers available.
The low prices are also attractive. However, remember that low prices can also mean a drop in quality.
Preply provides a lot of information on each teacher. Use this information carefully to find the best match for you. Don’t only watch the introductory video; remember to read the reviews and check the tutor’s experience and qualifications.
After doing these things, you should have a good idea if you wish to sign up to Preply.
Our advice? Give it a try. It's an amazing way to connect with teachers from all over the world, and your perfect English teacher might be just a few clicks away.