GMAT & MBA Admissions Blog

Ask 4 Questions Before Hiring a GMAT Tutor

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 @ 10:43 AM

4 Questions to Ask of a GMAT tutor

Your GMAT score is obviously a critical component of your business school application (although, I’d argue, perhaps not as important as many people make it out to be), and most folks need to invest a significant amount of time in preparing for it.  Certain GMAT preparation approaches can work better for some people relative to others. 

The four basic options with GMAT prep are:

  • Self-study
  • Online prep
  • In class GMAT prep course
  • Using a GMAT tutor

There are some basic guidelines to consider when choosing across these four options.  For example, self-study or online prep generally works best when you have a significant amount of time to prepare, are generally very structured and good at managing your time, and tend to be a good problem solver who enjoys figuring things out.  A prep course tends to be a great basic way to get the fundamentals, and works well for anyone that feels they just need a baseline of knowledge from which to build.  GMAT tutors are a great option for folks that are either a) top performers striving for a 700+ score or b) struggling, and in need of customized guidance to help explain concepts in a way that they will understand. 

A private GMAT tutor, at the right price, is an attractive option due to the customized, personalized approach.  That said, we realize it’s not for everybody (far from it).  In any case, this post is for individuals considering private tutoring, and will offer up four key questions to ask during the process of choosing a GMAT tutor. After all, if you’re going to invest in private GMAT tutoring, you want to identify the best tutor for you.

Some Context

There is a pretty wide variety of factors to consider when evaluating potential GMAT tutors or tutoring companies, such as the tutor’s own GMAT score (have they proven they can ace the test), tutor’s GMAT tutoring or teaching experience (have they proven they can teach strategies for success to others), GMAT training received, materials used, confidence which each section of the test, price, location, teaching style, “fit” with student, availability, whether they tutor actually went to business school (and which one) and many more.

All of these factors matter, but it’s probably intuitive that some matter more than others.  It might be difficult to determine which factors really matter, and which should be considered “nice to haves.”  The four ideas below are an attempt to capture all the relevant considerations when choosing a GMAT tutor – they are a way to synthesize a long list of factors into some key guidelines.

Four Key Questions

#1 Expertise: Does the tutor have a well-rounded mix of experience and personal success with the GMAT?

Say your goal is getting into an average business school and you thus need to score a 600 or higher.  A great tutor for you might not be a great tutor for someone committed to breaking 730 and going to Harvard Business School.  The second person probably needs advanced guidance on the most demanding questions, while you may not.

But, the following three rules will hold true for any student studying for the GMAT, regardless of skill level or target score:

  1. Someone with a perfect 800 GMAT score but no tutoring experience is probably not going to be a great tutor.
  2. Someone with a 620 GMAT score but lots of tutoring experience is probably not a great option either – they don’t appear to have a great mastery of the material themselves.
  3. Some amount of professional training in GMAT prep is clearly desirable, all else equal.

When it comes to “expertise” tutoring for the GMAT, the best tutors display an attractive mix of the above characteristics. 

At MyGuru, we often get questions such as “did the tutor score in the 99th percentile.”  Or, “how many years of professional training has the tutor had.”  These are fine questions, but a holistic view of the tutor’s expertise is what’s really important.  The answer to the above two questions is “No” and “0” for several of our best GMAT tutors.  But, if the tutor scored in the 93rd percentile, and has been tutoring privately for 6 years, they could be a fantastic fit for you (as is the case with several of our tutors).

#2 Approach: Does the tutor focus on core concepts and use official practice tests?

In our view, there just aren’t huge differences between all of the GMAT prep materials available online or in a book store. Some are certainly better than others.  Most cover in reasonable detail each section of the GMAT and the core concepts tested.  It is these core concepts which you need to master and be able to apply on test day.  When discussing materials to use, your tutor should be comfortable working with whatever GMAT prep materials you already have, although they might have their own personal preferences and we always recommend starting with the Official Guide to the GMAT. They should certainly suggest that taking official timed practice tests is an important part of the process. Official tests under timed conditions are key – that’s the only true way to test progress.

A tutor that relies too heavily on a particular set of materials or methodology may not fundamentally be comfortable enough with the core concepts tested on the GMAT to answer questions or explain things in different ways that may make more sense to you.

#3 Style: Do you want an GMAT genius or a trusted guide and mentor?

We, in general, see two types of tutors from a style perspective.  The first is simply a GMAT genius.  She can clearly and crisply articulate the key to the most complex GMAT questions.  The Mentor/Guide, on the other hand, focuses more on helping you develop a study plan, provides motivation, time management through the preparation process, and helps you structure your journey towards business school.  Often times, the first type of tutor completely aced the GMAT, but never went to business school.  The second type of tutor may have scored pretty well on the GMAT, but didn’t ace it.  However, they ultimately went to a top 10 business school and can put the test in perspective for you and help calm your nerves.  Of course, most tutors display characteristics of both generic tutor categories.  But, you should ask yourself, what type of tutor, if I had to choose, would I prefer?  After speaking with a potential tutor or reading an introductory email from one, you can often get a sense for which category they fall into.

#4 Logistics: Will this tutor be easy to work with?

Studying for the GMAT and applying to business school is stressful enough, especially if you’re currently working full time.  You don’t want to choose a tutor with the potential to increase this stress by responding to emails slowly, being difficult to schedule with, or being located far away requiring you to sit in traffic on the way to a session.  So, while certainly the expertise, approach, and style of the tutor are probably more important than logistical concerns, don’t ignore logistics.  If you work full time, and you find the perfect tutor, but he or she is located a 45 minute drive from you, think about whether that’s really going to be practical.

Choosing an online tutor can often alleviate many logistical concerns.  If you have the right mindset and the tutor is using the right technology (video camera, electronic tablet/pen, etc.), an online tutor can actually be extremely convenient.  But, it’s certainly different than in-person tutoring, and if you aren’t comfortable with it, stick with in-person tutoring.  Again, if you choose an online tutor but really aren’t comfortable with it, that will be stressful.

By asking these four questions of any potential tutor or GMAT tutoring company, you’ll be well on your way to choosing an effective partner to aid you on your journey towards a top business school.

Visit the GMAT Tutoring page to learn more about achieving your best score on this tough exam!

Topics: GMAT tutor, GMAT help, gmat tutoring, gmat test, GMAT prep, GMAT tips