How To Choose a GMAT Tutor

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It's a rare GMAT student who doesn't seek some sort of help in preparing for the big test. Of course, you know that: if you didn't, you probably wouldn't have found your way to this website. Some of you go it solo, working with a pile of books and CDs. Others go the group route and enroll in a classroom course, often with a big-name pedigree.

Today, though, I'm going to focus on a third approach: one-on-one tutoring. The benefits are obvious: all the time you spend with a tutor should be spent on your concerns, not your classmate's; you have an expert ready at hand to help you through the process; and scheduling is usually more flexible than a classroom option.

The tough part is finding the right tutor. Anybody can place an ad or post flyers offering their services as a GMAT tutor. Tutors working for established test-prep companies go through a training process, but they are just as likely to have two months of experience as several years.

Here, then, are several qualities you should look for in a GMAT tutor.

Experience. GMAT tutoring isn't rocket science, but it can't be mastered in a twenty-hour training course, either. Ask a prospective tutor how long they've been working with GMAT (not SAT or LSAT or GRE!) students. After six months, I felt like I was pretty darn good, but it was another year or so before I could honestly say I'd seen everything.

If you have specific needs--perhaps you haven't done math for fifteen years, or English is not your first language--make sure that your tutor has had experience with someone like you, as well. Few "special needs" are all that uncommon: you shouldn't have a hard time finding someone who knows how to help you.

Broad GMAT-Specific Skills. If you go looking for a "math tutor," you'll find yourself with many more options (and probably cheaper ones, too), but few independent math tutors know the GMAT inside out. You may get a great course in introductory algebra and geometry, but the GMAT is about more than just basic math skills.

Also, you may think you only need help with half the test--and to a certain extent, you may be right. But if you're committing to a person who will help you right up until test day, wouldn't you rather have someone who can answer any question you can throw at them? Especially in big cities, you'll be able to find someone with a well-rounded GMAT skill set. Don't settle for anything less.

Flexibility. When I worked for a big test-prep company, I occasionally heard horror stories about tutors who had a curriculum they used with their students--every student, the same way, every time. Obviously, that's a mistake. If you've scored 650 on a practice test and have set a goal of a 720, you don't need to work through every practice question in The Official Guide. A good tutor should be able to direct you to practice that will allow you to make better use of your study time.

How To Find a Tutor

In big cities, you shouldn't have a problem: local craigslists usually have plenty of ads for GMAT tutoring, and newspaper classifieds often do, as well. If you know people who have studied for the test, ask around: you may find one who maintains his or her business solely by word of mouth. The admissions office of a local business school may be able to point you in the right direction, as well.

The big test-prep companies offer private tutoring, as well, and many excellent tutors work for them. It can be a bit of a crapshoot, though: many less-than-excellent work for them, as well. My former employer allowed students to request different tutors; it almost never happened, but I suspect that was more due to inertia than anything else. The big companies may offer discounts if you intend on using many hours (say, 15+) of tutoring, but in smaller amounts, their prices can be steep.

Of course, if you live in or near New York City, I can recommend an excellent GMAT tutor.



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.

Total GMAT Verbal

The comprehensive guide to the GMAT Verbal section. Recognize, dissect, and master every question type you'll face on the test. Everything you need, all in one place, including 100+ realistic practice questions.
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