Barriers to Entry for Standardized Test Tutors

August 21, 2012

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Hardly a week goes by that a brand-new GMAT tutoring firm (or admissions consultancy, or online product) doesn't come to my attention. There's plenty of demand, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that there are plenty of willing suppliers!

As you evaluate your options, keep in my mind the very low barriers to entry for a GMAT tutor. Anyone can offer the service; many people see a reasonably high GMAT score as the only necessary qualification.

In some ways, that's a good thing. The test-prep industry attracts a lot of entrants, some of whom stick around and become very successful, helping thousands of students. Perhaps if the barriers to entry were steeper, some of those entrants never would have considered GMAT prep.

But for you, spending a limited amount of money and often a limited amount of time preparing for your GMAT, the sheer number of options can be staggering. Several companies offering courses, dozens more pitching online classes, hundreds of tutors both online and off, message boards with conflicting advice ... I would understand if some of you packed it up and reconsidered dental school.

My advice is twofold. First, do your research. Don't sign up for a course without talking to a few people who have taken it, preferably students with similar abilities and goals as your own. Don't prepay hundreds of dollars for tutoring with someone you've never met.

Second, be willing to change direction. If you attend the first session of a course and don't think it will work for you, investigate the refund policy and look into other options. If you start working with a tutor and find she isn't responsive to your needs, find someone who is. If a message board is turning into another place to waste time online, block it.

There are plenty of solid resources out there. But there are even more that will waste your time. Picking the exactly-right company, person, or book will more than repay the time invested in making the choice. Your GMAT score depends on it.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

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