The Optimal Lesson Length

When I worked for Kaplan, they required all private tutoring lessons to be two hours. That surprised me because I thought of lessons as one-hour affairs. However, I soon discovered that we could get through a lot more in one two-hour lesson than we could in two one-hour lessons.

Why? For starters, each lesson always starts with a few pleasantries and takes a couple of minutes to get going. Furthermore, it usually takes 10-15 minutes for students' minds to warm up and perform at their best. So by the time we are at our best flow, if the lesson is only one hour, we have often already used a significant portion of our lesson time.

For the vast majority of students, I've found that 90-minute lessons work best. With 90-minute lessons, we can go through the warm up period and spend more than an hour at our most productive level. Lessons are long enough to ensure students learn a lot each lesson, but not so long that they are struggling to pay attention by the end.

Depending on the student's age and motivation, though, two to three hour lessons are not out of the question. Students who have a passionate desire to improve and a short timeline for accomplishing their goals can benefit from the more intensive review that longer lessons afford. Younger students, on the other hand, often get bored or become easily distracted when the lessons are too long, so it generally makes sense to limit lessons to one hour.

To get the most out of each lesson, the key is to schedule an amount of time that balances the amount you need to learn to accomplish your goal with your ability to stay engaged throughout the whole lesson.


Totally agree! 1.5HRs is perfect. 2HR's end up draining the crap out of me lol.


Peter A.

Harvard PhD Student | Expert SAT, ACT, & GRE Tutor

900+ hours
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