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How to Use ChatGPT as Your Personal Tutor

  • Sean 

ChatGPT can be used as an AI-powered educational tutor for explaining math, debugging your code, summarizing readings, and even proofreading your essays. This article is all about how to use ChatGPT as your personal tutor and elevate your skills to the next level.

This article walks you through using ChatGPT as your personal educational tutor and gives you some tips for how you can maximize the effectiveness of ChatGPT for different subjects.

However, it’s worth noting that this is just one use case of ChatGPT. I have another article where I describe 8 ethical uses of ChatGPT for students where I explain them.

Let’s get into some of the main ways you can effectively use ChatGPT as a personal tutor.

Should You Use ChatGPT Instead of a Regular Tutor?

This seems like something out of a sci-fi movie. It’s odd to think that this is even something that could actually be considered.

But Ai now (specifically ChatGPT) actually has above-average human intelligence. In fact, ChatGPT 3.5 actually has an IQ that is at about 114. This source is explained in the video below.

Youtube Video by AI Explained

However, in GPT-4 this intelligence has significantly increased. GPT-4 scores in the top 10% of students in the bar exam.

So I think that, based on some level of tested intelligence, ChatGPT could be an effective tutor. But there are still a lot of limitations here.

First, ChatGPT still has a lot of factual errors. In fact, the designers of these generative Ai’s have a term called “hallucination“. This is when the Ai will give you something which seems very convincing but isn’t actually true or doesn’t make any sense.

I have also personally experienced quite a few errors with ChatGPTs output in terms of just basic level actuality. Sometimes it just gets things wrong. For instance, you might ask about a particular theory and it will get some core part of it completed incorrectly. I find this tends to especially happen on more niche topics.

I think it’s very safe to say that, In its current state, ChatGPT will not be able to provide advice that is as personalized and good as a regular tutor.

However, despite the model’s current limitations, ChatGPT can still be a very helpful tutor, even currently. For instance, there could be room for a supplementary approach where you use both a natural tutor and an Ai tutor at the same time.

Let’s get into some of the subjects that ChatGPT is capable of explaining and what you could expect from ChatGPT’s performance on them.

How to Use ChatGPT as Your Personal Tutor

Here is a general list of what you can do when asking ChatGPT for tutoring advice on a given subject.

  1. Start with a general question or topic – for instance, you can ask for help with math or a specific problem in math,
  2. Ask follow-up questions – once you have a general topic, drill down into some of the details with some specific follow-up questions
  3. Provide ChatGPT with practice materials – to do this provide a question you are trying to solve and ask ChatGPT to solve it. Make sure you try to solve it yourself first though.
  4. Paste in some confusing text and ask for an explanation – for instance, you can tell ChatGPT to explain something in terms or put it into a bullet point list. You can even ask for it to be put into a fun story.
  5. Ask ChatGPT to help you remember – ChatGPT can be used to create creative mnemonics to help with your memory on a given subject. I have another article that shows 7 mnemonic techniques that you can use with ChatGPT if you want to learn more.
  6. Ask what material is most important – you can copy and paste text into ChatGPT and ask what material is the most helpful or important. This helps you prioritize the information

The next section is all about subject-specific examples. This includes many of the techniques described above but also includes some subject-specific information on how to prompt ChatGPT for different subjects.

Let’s get into the subjects ChatGPT can tutor.

What Subjects Can ChatGPT Tutor?

Photo by Anthony : ) from Pexels

The next section of this article is all about the different subjects that you can use ChatGPT for and some of the results you could expect if you choose to do this.

ChatGPT can explain math

ChatGPT is good for working on math. There are a few things to consider though. It will not always be correct, so take what it says with a grain of salt and critically evaluate its answers.

When asking a math question is probably best to just provide the question upfront, including any necessary formulas or equations that may be needed, and leave any clarification questions later.

I have found that sometimes asking clarification questions upfront can cause issues. So ask first, and clarify later.

Example mathematical question

ChatGPT mathematical example answer

However, when it comes to graphing-based questions it isn’t very good at showing these.

But, you can plug the formulas it gives you into Desmos (a free online graphing tool) if you want a better visualization and to check if the answer is actually correct in this case.

ChatGPT can debug your code

ChatGPT is incredible for debugging your code. I tested this out by going to Stack Overflow, finding posts with code that didn’t work, and asking ChatGPT to fix them (Here is a link to the post that I used for this example).

For the best results, try to provide as much context as possible. I have made a short list of what to provide to ChatGPT when asking it to debug your code.

What input to ChatGPT to debug code

  • The code
  • The error that you get when running it
  • Other potentially relevant information (what you want the code to do, what you are confused about etc).

Here is an example of ChatGPT fixing some C++ code that won’t compile.

Example of code debugging

Here I used the code from the Stack Overflow page linked above and just copy and paste the following code along with the error etc into ChatGPT.

ChatGPT is able to take this and provide a detailed list of all the things that are wrong with it. This is essentially like having a personal computer science teacher.

ChatGPT’s revised code

ChatGPT can not only provide these detailed explanations but it can actually rewrite your code for you. Here is a before and after look at these two pieces of code.

From my testing at least, debugging code is one of the things that ChatGPT does best compared to all of the other ways it can help you.

ChatGPT can summarize readings

If you are stuck on a hard reading that you just don’t understand you can ask ChatGPT to explain it to you. This is very good at clearing up confusion with hard-to-understand readings.

This is actually the start of a technique that you can use for studying and learning new information using ChatGPT, which I have another article on, if you are interested.

It is also worth noting that ChatGPT doesn’t have a specific word limit for the amount of text you can provide it with. You essentially just need enough text so it has sufficient context to answer the question.

Providing too little information may make it difficult for ChatGPT to understand the question while providing too much information is just annoying to deal with in general.

In general, it is best to provide enough information to clearly and concisely describe your question or problem, while also being mindful of keeping your question as focused and concise as possible.

Here I provided the abstract to a complex academic journal article. ChatGPT is able to summarize this information and provide it in a simple bullet-point style list, making comprehension much easier.

Reading summary example

ChatGPT’s reading summary

As you can see the answer here is longer but also much easier to understand compared to the original format. You can also ask follow-up questions on its clarifications later, which can be useful.

However, I would be careful with believing what ChatGPT says with this strategy. If you are reading something long there are many contexts that ChatGPT will not be able to work with. It’s also likely that the more follow-up questions you ask the less clear things can become.

However, despite this limitation, ChatGPT seems to still do a very good job of clarifying what a piece of text means.

ChatGPT can proofread essays

ChatGPT can also be used to proofread your essays.

ChatGPT can help you proofread your essays by checking them for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It can also point out any errors or issues that may be present in the report.

I actually put together a guide on how to use ChatGPT as an essay editor where I designed a special prompt for this purpose if you are interested.

However, it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that your essay is written to the best of your ability. You need to personally ensure it meets any requirements or guidelines.

Sidenote: This does not mean ChatGPT should be used to write essyas for you, this is just about providing tips for areas of improvement. I wrote an entire article on whether using ChatGPT constitutes plagiarism and how you can ethically use ChatGPT to write your essays if you are interested more on this topic.

ChatGPT essay revision tips example

Here I provided ChatGPT with an essay on the American revolution and then asked it to give some advice on how to improve it.

ChatGPT essay suggestions

As you can see ChatGPT is very good at providing essay feedback in a similar way that a tutor might.

Other AI Tutoring Services

It’s likely that we are going to see quite a few AI tools geared toward tutoring coming out soon. For example, Khanmigo is in development by Kahn Academy. This tool will actually work through the problem with you and teach you more, which can be very helpful.

The Takeaway

ChatGPT can make a very effective tutor, especially if you don’t have the resources for a real one. It is capable of giving advice on a variety of topics including math, computer science, reading clarification, and essay revision. However, ChatGPT is not perfect at these tasks. I have had it get math and computer science questions wrong in my testing.

So you should always critically evaluate what ChatGPT tells you and take it with a grain of salt. However, ChatGPT is still very proficient when it comes to most of these tasks.