Is a GMAT tutor worth it?
Since I am writing this on a GMAT blog hosted by a GMAT tutoring company, you might expect me to say that unequivocally, a GMAT tutor is worth it. But the answer is clearly “it depends.”
If your GMAT tutor can help you improve your GMAT score from a 570 to a 720, and you truly could not have done it by self-studying for the GMAT you can pay a lot for your GMAT tutor and it can still be a great investment. But, should you spend $2,000 on a GMAT tutor to improve your score from a 700 to a 730? Maybe not.
In this article, we’ll explore how much a GMAT tutor costs relative to other options. Then we’ll discuss why you might hire a GMAT tutor as your preferred GMAT prep option. Finally, we’ll discuss the situations in which a GMAT tutor is more likely to be well worth the investment.
How Much Does a GMAT Coach Cost?
GMAT tutor pricing varies a LOT. Sites like Wyzant or Craig’s List might allow you to find GMAT tutors for $25 per hour. At the other extreme, you will find “elite” GMAT tutors who charge $400 or more per hour for online GMAT lessons. A GMAT tutor from a well-known national brand like Princeton Review or Kaplan or Manhattan GMAT might run you $200 per hour.
But of course those are per hour prices for GMAT tutoring. What is a typical total investment in GMAT tutoring?
As a general rule, one might spend 10 weeks preparing for the GMAT. When designing GMAT study plans for our students, we recommend at least one 1.5 hour session of GMAT tutoring each week, and using a 3:1 ratio, 4-5 hours of self-study. So that means that you’ll need 10 weeks x 1.5 hours per week = 15 hours of GMAT tutoring.
Now, let’s assume one is spending $150 per hour on their 1-1 GMAT prep. That’s a total investment of $150 per hour x 15 hours = $2,250.
When Might Private GMAT Tutoring Be the Ideal GMAT Prep Option?
Before you can determine if GMAT tutoring is the best way to prepare for the GMAT, it helps to step back and reflect on what a GMAT coach really does. Of course, you’ll get private 1-1 GMAT instruction. But a GMAT tutor provides much more than that.
You can expect a GMAT tutor to provide:
- Recommendations regarding which GMAT prep materials to use given your unique situation
- A customized GMAT study plan given your stating point, weaknesses, target score, and test date
- Structure and accountability to your GMAT prep process
- A boost to your motivation and confidence
- Customized explanations and concept reviews
- Multiple GMAT test taking strategies for various types of problems
- Clear explanations for why you missed any given problem
The problem with the average in-person GMAT course or self-paced GMAT prep app is that they, almost always, are designed around the average GMAT test-taker. Certainly, the statement that is about to be made is a generalization. But on some level most “one-size-fits-all” GMAT prep options are designed to help someone scoring around 525 on the GMAT (slightly below average) get to 625 GMAT score (slightly above average).
But what if you are really struggling to get a GMAT score above 500? This likely means that you may not understand certain basic or foundational GMAT topics that many GMAT prep materials just assume you know. Or, what if you are targeting a top 10 MBA program? This means you’ll need to be scoring in the 700s on the GMAT. But you are struggling to break 600. In either of these cases, a GMAT prep option designed to help someone “in the middle of the curve” is not going to be the best option for you.
A GMAT tutor can also be a good option for someone who does not have a lot of time to prepare. Maybe your MBA application plans changed suddenly, or maybe you simply procrastinated. But you need to take the GMAT and you need to get a competitive GMAT score, and you don’t have a lot of time. Hiring a GMAT tutor is probably the most efficient way to improve your score quickly. On the other hand, if you have a lot of time to prepare, and can use free resources to practice and prepare and build foundational quant and verbal skills, a GMAT tutor is not an efficient way to prep for the GMAT.
So When is a Private GMAT Tutor Worth It?
So, let’s assume, just using really basic assumptions, that you could prep for the GMAT via 1) self-study using a bare bones GMAT app or physical GMAT book 2) a live online GMAT course and 3) using a professional GMAT tutor. The total costs for each GMAT prep option are:
First of all, if you fall into one of the categories described earlier, in the last section, meaning either you are a naturally below average or above average standardized test taker, the costs above don’t really matter. For an extra $2,000, a GMAT tutor is probably worth it. If you place any value on your time at all, you don’t want to spend months plugging away but struggling to get the GMAT score improvement you need, either because you simply have below average GMAT skills or you have far above average skills but can’t break through the hardest GMAT problems. In these cases, a GMAT tutor can help you improve your score when other approaches may not be able to.
Now, what if you have achieved an above average GMAT score via self-study, call it a 650. This puts you in a great position to get admitted to a top 50 or top 100 MBA program. But with a 700+, you could be easily in the running for a Top 10 MBA program. Should you consider hiring a tutor to improve your GMAT score and put you in the running for a top 10 MBA instead of a top 50 MBA program? The difference in average salary every year for the rest of your career, and general long term brand recognition of a Top 10 vs. Top 50 MBA program, can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. In this case, spending 2,000 on a private GMAT tutor is likely to be worth it.
Many MBA programs offer scholarships. So another scenario in which a GMAT tutor is worth it would be if you think a higher score might put you in the running for a scholarship. Perhaps it’s already clear that your score is well within range at your target schools. But, you know you are a competitive candidate for certain MBA scholarships. Investing some additional money on GMAT tutoring might be worth it.
But let’s also consider scenarios in which a GMAT tutor is not worth it. Let’s say you just need to score >600 on the GMAT to go to your target MBA program. You know you scored a 31 on the ACT back in high school. You haven’t done any GMAT prep yet, either. It would seem clear that you are a strong standardized test taker, and you haven’t even tried self-studying yet. It’s probably not the time to jump into the added expense of hiring a private GMAT tutor.
Or perhaps you have already achieved a score of 710 on an official GMAT after studying for quite some time. The average score at your target MBA program is a 690. Unless you are targeting a specific scholarship, it is unlikely to be worth it to hire a GMAT tutor. While the GMAT score is a key component of the admissions process, your personal narrative, admissions essays, GPA, leadership experience, and interviews are all a part of the package. When you have already scored a 710 on the GMAT, it can be inefficient and counterproductive to invest more time, energy, and money in GMAT prep. You should probably move on to building other elements of your application.
Is hiring a GMAT tutor worth it? The answer is, truly, that it depends on your situation. The larger the increase in score that you need, the less time you have to prepare, and the more selective the MBA programs you are targeting are, the more a GMAT tutor can start to seem like a good investment.