5 Stars: The 4 Stars

One question I just received on a different blog was how to handle the 4-star ratings that come up. No matter how good you are, someone will not be satisfied. I personally have received two 4-stars here on WyzAnt, one when I was just starting out, and one just today.

For the 4-star early on, it was from a weekly student who only rated the very first meeting as a 4-star. When I learned it was him (either WyzAnt didn't let us see ratings back when I began or I just hadn't figured out how), I approached him about it at the end of our next meeting. One thing I've learned in life is to ask questions instead, so I simply inquired as to why the first lesson was a 4-star to him. He thought back and couldn't really remember why; the session had gone well to him, and he couldn't remember anything in particular that went wrong; he simply thought that 4-stars was still "good". When I explained to him that it wasn't really how things worked on WyzAnt, how only 5-stars is "good" and anything else is basically "bad", he kindly agreed to go back in and change the rating.

For today's, the story is a bit different. It seems like the student was a one-time student whom I helped with finals preparation. Thus, I had no way of gently bringing up after a meeting. Instead, I sent an email to her today to inquire of what she felt was missing that caused the missing star. I may or may not get a reply, but I have learned that it is better to ask, as long as it is done politely and from a position of requesting feedback. If there really WAS something wrong, I'd like to know to not miss that star in the future.

I write this as an advice to any fellow tutor reading this. There will be times that you will get a 4-star, regardless of whether you did your best or not. When those times come up, my advice is to make a gentle inquiry as to what was lacking in your own tutoring that caused the lack of the star. If the student doesn't understand the big deal, then you can let them know how the ratings here work, and then see if they are willing to change it if they feel like you did do all you could. Just be sure to also accept the opposite; if there really was a reason, then learn from it and keep growing.


I appreciate your great advice. I took it and asked for feedback and the reason I got a 4/5 was because the place we met was crowded. The person said I did deserve a 5 and did end up changing it. Thank you for your response!

I'm glad it worked out for you. :)

Not everyone is willing to change their ratings. Eventually there will be someone who is not satisfied no matter how well you did. My one 4-start looks permanent. I still think it's worth asking though ;).

Hello, I am new to Wyzant and I was wondering how the star system worked. I just had my first lesson today, which I thought went rather well, and I received a four star rating from the parent of the child that I was tutoring. How does a four-star rating stack up on wyzant?
Hello Melissa, 4-stars on WyzAnt are average at best (not meant in a good way). Most tutors will try to keep an average of 4.5 or preferably better. My advice to you would be to inquire of the student what they felt didn't go well. There's often a reason for a star deduction. Come at it from a place of wanting to improve yourself. You may not be able to get them to change it (especially if there is a reason for it), but then you can learn for future lessons to improve your chances at receiving 5 stars. I have had three 4-star ratings in my years with WyzAnt. I approached all three students. One didn't have a real reason for the star off, so he was willing to bring it back to a 5 when I explained that 4's are considered low on WyzAnt. The second was a one-time student who simply didn't like my style (the one 4-star I still have). The third was because the one who submitted the lesson was different than the person I was in contact with (and when I contacted her, she herself wanted to change it to a 5-star; I didn't even have to ask for it).
That begs the question why five stars are 'good' and everything else is 'bad'. Why bother with the five star system then? Where are the nuances?
Three ought to be average, four good, and five excellent.
Until someone explains otherwise, that is how I take it. I know one four-star rater was happy with her lessons, but reserved the five stars for the 'bingo' experience – when she had a learning epiphany or something really clicked for her. Plus, a fair number of students or parents never rate a lesson, and as far as I am concerned that is their choice.
Hello Susanne,
A lot depends on where/how the rating is taking place and the comparative effect. For a lot of sites, your choice of the rating names makes sense. For example, with a game website like Kongregate, a 4-star average is "legendary", a title that is extremely hard to get.
WyzAnt is different for two reasons. First is the comparative effect. The "average" is very often defined by the average score throughout a site. Going back to my Kongregate example, 3 stars is indeed the average rating for a game. However, on WyzAnt, the average long-time tutor has around a 4.7 average, so 4.7 is the "average" by the comparative effect, NOT 4 stars. In that sense, anything from 1-4 is "below average" as it is below the standard for the site.
To understand the difference requires knowledge of the psychology of statistics. The easier and more beneficial it is to rate something, the more diverse the ratings will be. For the Kongregate example, the rating is a quick button just to the side of the game, taking all of one second to rate, so even those with a neutral opinion on the game (i.e. "this is just average") still might rate it; in addition, you get points for rating a game, so there is an incentive to rate the games, again increasing the chances of a diverse number of ratings, including more neutral ones. Contrast that to WyzAnt where there is no incentive to rate the tutor and the click to do the rating takes more than one second (still doesn't take long, but the difference psychologically is an exponential rate, not linear). The ones most likely to do a rating then are those who have the strongest opinions since those are the ones who feel like they have a reason to do the rating (such as telling the world how great (or horrible) a tutor is). Since hopefully there is a strong lean towards the "great" (5) side instead of the "horrible" (1) side, there is the definite lean for the average rating being above 4 stars, putting 4 stars "below average".
Does it make more sense now?
I am thinking along the lines of Susanne as well.  While I understand the explanation, I have difficulty accepting the concept that a 4 is somehow bad.  Mathematically it might be below the average here, but I still could never see it as "bad," or even that the tutor was "below average."  I know quite a few people who think of a 5 as perfect, and either believe there's no such thing as perfect, or as Susanne said, are holding that back for a really special session.  An average of 4.x has to come from somewhere, and it means it's coming from ratings of 4 (or less), and I don't think necessarily means the ratings of 4 are somehow bad.
If you tell students that only 5 is good, it seems as though you're artificially raising those ratings.  Also, people who get really low ratings would not likely last, and leave.  So the really good tutors stay around, get work, get good ratings (yes including 4), and have a lot of ratings which influences the average.  The bad ratings tend to get weeded out.
If I as a student got told that only a 5 was considered "good," I would have difficultly swallowing that.  It's a bit like saying either your session was fabulous, or it was bad.  And if I felt the desire to leave a 4 (because it was good but not quite fabulous), I would feel I had been discouraged to leave such a rating, and I'd end up feeling like it's 5 or nothing, which would not feel fair to me in making my own assessment.  My reaction to that would be to simply not leave a rating.
I also would find it difficult to tell a student that a 4 is not considered good.  Even if I approached it from the standpoint of wanting their honest feedback, if the idea that anything less than 5 is not good was broached, I would still feel like I was trying to just push them into a rating and telling them what they have to do.
Don't take this to mean I think a tutor who always gets 4, or has 4 average, is a good tutor.  A good tutor should be getting enough 5's to raise their average above that.  But even the best tutors can get a 4 legitimately without it being a bad situation, and without psychologically seeing it as "below average."  (Mathematically below average and psychologically below average are two different things.)
The point is just as you said in the last sentence. For most tutors, we are talking primarily about the mathematical average, not the psychological one. Mathematically, with the average WyzAnt rating being around a 4.8, a 4 is bad. It's basic math. That is the reason why approach it first from the mathematical standpoint and then request the psychological reason for the rating. There will always be some who disagree; when those students come along, each tutor needs to determine for themselves how to handle it. 
My personal goal is not to be merely average. I do aim for as close to perfection as I can, which is the primary reason for my five stars. For tutors like myself (whom this blog is written for), 4 is also psychologically a poor grade too as it means we've missed the high bar we've set for ourselves. Thus, steps should be taken to make amends in those cases. 
This is all just my own opinion. Each tutor must find their own way. Best wishes to you.
Brian, what do you think about the fact that on WyzAnt, a tutor can effectively erase a bad rating by canceling the billing for that lesson?  Does that not allow tutors the luxury of purchasing a 5-star rating, provided their hourly rate is high enough that they can cancel any lessons which get a 4-star rating or lower?
Personally, I want my services to be affordable to people who aren't wealthy.  That means that if and when I do get a 4-star rating (which I did a few weeks ago), I don't feel like I can afford to not take home the money from that tutoring session.  But if my rate were, say, $60+/hour, I could afford to erase my less-than-4-star ratings because WyzAnt lets me do that after the lesson has been rated.
I have had difficulty with the rating system in that my students are not able to click the 5th star in some formats.  Some have had difficulty with their computers or iPads.  I always follow up with any rating below 5 stars (which I believe Wyzant should alert us about...) and each time the student has said they only did that because the 5th star wasn't working.  They reasoned that since 4 stars is good, they just went ahead and clicked on it.  Each of these students thought the rating system was mandatory...  
So.. it's embarrassing as a tutor to have to harangue students about ratings and I've called to alert Wyzant on each occasion-- they seem rather blasé about the whole thing, even though it's been quite frustrating for me to deal with.  I just keep calling, hoping the message will get through that the rating part of the app isn't working well in some formats.    And in case you were wondering, these are students who consistently give me a five star rating, so it's not like someone really wanted to give me a four star rating, but were manipulated into changing it.  They were really surprised when I told them four star wasn't good-- and they are wonderful students, so helpful and apologetic-- they changed the ratings when I explained to them how to do so...  So this part of Wyzant is frustrating to me.  I feel nervous about the whole ratings thing now.  :/
I am reading all the responses about the star-rating system. The information about the 4-star rating seems disheartening. I understand that my ratings would go down a bit. However, to say that when you receive 4 stars, that means that you had a bad session. I am honestly confused to how Wyzant works. I do appreciate the advice about asking my student/parent why I received a lower rating. The only thing about trying to make the parent/student change the rating to a 5, especially if they feel that I deserve it, seems unethical to me. I would love some advice on this. 
The idea of purchasing 5-star reviews that way is certainly a possibility (and I have confirmation about at least one tutor who does a setup like that to force 5-stars). The downside is that you are going to likely lose the student permanently. Furthermore, one's going rate has little to do with it as the higher the rate, the more one loses by cancelling out a lesson. While I personally have contacted students who have rated lower than 5 to find out why (that approach is far superior than asking for a 5 as there may well be a valid reason), I have never actually "paid off" the lower ratings myself, hence why I do have a handful of 4's.
I've had some similar confusions from students. They are indeed allowed to change the ratings after clicking on a star amount, so sometimes I have gotten students to change missclicks into the true rating they meant to give. Again, I really don't like to hassle students about 4-stars, but I do think that it is perfectly fine to ask the reason for the lower ratings, as long as it is from the standpoint of learning what went wrong (and sometimes explaining the law of averages in terms of how WyzAnt works is indeed needed at that point). I used to also be nervous about ratings, and I still keep tabs on the ones I receive, but I have come to terms with that it is what it is.
Personally, I just follow the approach of asking what could have been better; if there isn't anything, then I gently mention how the average rating on WyzAnt is a high 4, and thus as such, anything 4 or lower is below-average statistically. I am not one who agrees with badgering students about it. I've let some really pathetic reasons slide (such as "because you are a guy, not a girl"... which was literally the response of one of them...). I do think it is within our jurisdictions though to keep tabs and explain situations that students may not realize.
I also noticed that when students receive that email from Wyzant asking for a rating, 3 stars is explained as being average. But for us, 3 stars sounds awful. I wish the wording would change.
I recently got another 3 from a student with whom I had a first lesson with. And I was very surprised because she seemed happy with the way things were, and thanked me for clarifying things for her. Not to mention, I went over by an extra 15 minutes without charge. Even gave her a list of resources for extra work that she can do. 
She only wants to meet every other week and go over an entire chapter of material. Last night, she gave me a rating of 3, a week after the lesson passed. I'm supposed to meet with her this evening. I did send an email to follow up, asking nicely how I can improve and explaining that a 3 in Wyzant is considered lower than average. 
She hasn't responded yet. She's not a frequent email checker. So, I think it will be something I have to talk to her about in person tonight.
I do know that I have enough fives to counter any 3s I get, but if she is one who will continuously give 3s, yikes.
I hope things work out for you Hanna. Sometimes it's unfortunately better to just drop a difficult student, especially if you have a waiting list (and thus could replace them).
Hi Brian! A student's father gave me a few 3 star ratings for our last few lessons. I never noticed until he recently as I always get positive verbal feedback from the mom who's the one bringing my student to the library. I always spend 10-15 minutes of extra time to update his mom on everything we covered. I even went 20 minutes overtime once because my student had a question as we were packing up. I was alarmed with the ratings and spoke to the father inquiring what did I do wrong, and what can I do. He responded that he wasn't clear on what the progress is, and wanted to see results. I'm teaching an elementary student webdesign, html and css from the basics up, and we just got into creating web layouts from scratch. He is able to do a simple layout now from scratch, which I thought is significant progress. After speaking to him about it and sending him a detailed email covering all the topics we went over, he felt reassured and agreed that he'll communicate with me more about any questions he may have about our lesson plan. He then went ahead and changed the ratings to 5 star, but he texted me saying he's unable to change one of them. Do you know if there a way for him to change that rating? 
Hello Arudnhati,
If the 3-star is the earliest one (as I assume it is), the issue is that students can only change/create ratings for a certain amount of time after the lesson (I think 30 days). This is primarily to actually help protect the tutors (imagine having a bad ending from a 2x a week student who has been with you for a long time who then goes back and changes all of the lessons to ones out of spite). You may be able to contact WyzAnt with him to get it changed, but at that point, it is so much of a hassle that I would argue it is better to just swallow the 3 and move on. Now, if it is NOT the oldest of the ratings, then you may actually be able to do something about it; at that point it would be to contact WyzAnt and see what you can do.
Hi Brian! Thank you so much for your reply.
It's not too long ago. The lesson was on July 19th. It was our 3rd class. (The first 2 lessons were left unrated) My student's dad be attending the next lesson too so we can speak in person about goals etc. He was happy to change the ratings after we spoke over text/email, but I'm not sure how I should ask about that last 3-star one. I did offer that we can spend 30 min before or after the lesson discussing what we've been doing and what direction we're heading in. I also figured I could make a little review booklet that covers all the lessons we've had as a supplement so he feels more reassured about our lessons. He seemed really positive over the text and wants to continue, so I was hoping that after discussing, I could ask if that could get sorted out. I'm just not sure if I should contact wyzant from my profile with him present, or ask him to do it from his. 
Kindest Regards,
Hello again,
My previous advice still stands then. Either just let it be or contact WyzAnt yourself. He has tried on his end and IMO to pursue it further will only cause more issues in the long-run. The good news is that with the other 2, he has given you an average of 4.3, so you are over the 4/5 mark overall. Also, sometimes having a few lower marks can help (if there are only 5's sometimes people wonder if the rating has been rigged) as long as the are indeed just a few.
Hi Brian,

Thanks for your blog. This morning (4/21/2017) I received my first (and hopefully last) one-star rating from a student trying to improve her proficiency test score in Business Math. I drove 35 miles each way. Notwithstanding, when last Monday’s session was complete, I felt pretty good about it since she indicated that she wanted to continue. The following day I texted her inquiring about status, but she texted back and said she had dropped the class and would no longer need tutoring. Then the one-star rating arrived. So “after careful consideration” (which took about one minute) I voided the session.

I told my wife that I would never again tutor Business Math and that I should probably stick with Algebra through Calculus. Maybe I am behaving too rashly, but as a new tutor with Wyzant where 5-star ratings abound and are practically glorified, I could not statistically afford that one-star in exchange for two hours of pay at $45 per hour times 60%.

Then I messaged my client and informed her that I voided the session so she would not be charged. And I thanked her again for giving me the opportunity to serve her.

Now I’m running scared since I have a grand total of one 5-star rating with an AP Calculus student on deck. Time to hit the books.

Robert C.
Hello Robert,
Did the student say why she had given the 1 star? Sometimes those can happen by accident or a miss-click. I ask because you said the 1-star occurred after you found out she dropped the class and did not mention re-contacting her. I have had students who have given me 5's even if they dropped or failed the class as they realized I was helping to the best of my abilities and that things were not working out regardless of my best effort. It is also a strong thing to say that one will never again tutor a specific subject if you felt comfortable in it. It could just be a bad situation and not a sign of future ones.
Hi Brian,

Thanks for responding. Here is my Wyzant message to the client with names redacted:

"This morning (April 21) I noticed that my April 17 Business Math lesson with Student received a 1-start rating. Since there was no review of the lesson, I am not sure how to improve.

According to Wyzant, students have 14 days from the time a lesson is submitted to edit their star rating, and that tutors can reach out via Wyzant Messenger to inquire about the rating and ask students if they would be willing to reconsider their selection.

However after careful consideration, I have decided to void the lesson so that you will not be charged.

Again, thanks for giving me the opportunity to serve you."

I sent the same message via text. But the client did not respond to either. Moreover there was inconsistency between what the student said in person and what she conveyed via text: During the lesson, she said that she had already taken the course, but when I followed up the next day via text, she said she is no longer taking the course. Another thing I found baffling is that she was struggling with Chapter 1 (Gross Pay --- very simple problems) even though she had already “taken” the course as well as algebra.

So I decided not to pursue it any further.

Another client of mine suggested that they may have given me a one-star rating to pressure me into voiding the lesson.

Yes, unfortunately the 1-star void pressure does occur sometimes. I am a bit surprised at it though as often times students just use the "good fit guarantee" to get around it instead. Best wishes to you for the future.


Brian S.

Certified, Full-Time Tutor of Most Subjects

5000+ hours
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