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Want to Maximize Your Return on Hiring a GMAT Tutor? Study the Basics on Your Own

gmat-tutorWe believe investing in GMAT tutoring is an easy decision for a student who really struggles with standardized tests and is performing well below average on practice tests. But if you are an above average test taker and trying to understand how to get a 700 score or higher on the GMAT exam, a private tutor is also a good option. In either case, the return on investment in GMAT prep can be very high, because sitting in a test prep class or using an app designed for the “average” test taker is not relevant for you. Customized 1-1 help tailored to your situation is likely required for you to see score improvement.

However, even if you are starting out with average or above average practice GMAT scores, a private tutor could still make a lot of sense. Time is money, and if a tutor can explain a concept to you within minutes that would have taken you hours to comprehend, the price of that tutor’s time may be well worth it.

But regardless of your ingoing situation, and even if you believe hiring a GMAT tutor is a good idea or would be helpful to you, many students are understandably hesitant because of the cost. For any student, one way to increase the return on investment in a GMAT tutor is to make sure you primarily cover material with the tutor that you can’t or would have trouble covering on your own.

What should you focus on during GMAT tutoring sessions?

The GMAT is a test of logic and critical thinking. It requires knowledge of the exam, basic mathematics and reading comprehension skills, specific test taking strategies, and effective time management. Memorization is not generally that helpful, but memorizing certain facts or concepts can be critical. You can absolutely prepare for it and build up your skills in deficient areas. With all that in mind, here are some things you’d want to focus on with a GMAT tutor:

  • Diagnosis of your ingoing strengths and weaknesses
  • Setting up a study plan
  • Understanding key concepts and formulas
  • Thinking through key test taking strategies and approaches for various types of problems.
  • Reviewing missed problems to understand what you did wrong

But there are some things you would not want to spend time on with a GMAT tutor.

What NOT to focus on during GMAT tutoring sessions

You don’t want to spend time with a tutor learning basic facts and formulas. It is not, for example, a good use of time for a GMAT tutor to teach you the area of a triangle, or that the interior angles of a triangle add to 180 degrees. These are facts you can memorize on your own and apply while practicing problems with a GMAT tutor.  You also don’t want your GMAT tutor to explain the answer choices for data sufficiency problems. Every one of these problems has the same answer options, so you should be able to memorize these on your own before a tutoring session.

Of course, there will be grey areas. There may be some concepts or facts that seem like you should just know, but which confuse you. There are no stupid questions (and if you feel stupid asking your GMAT tutor a question, that’s a huge problem with your tutoring relationship, but that’s another topic), as long as you’ve thought about the question and are confident you don’t really understand it.

So what are some good examples of facts, formulas, and concepts to study on your own?

What follows are basic examples of the types of GMAT facts and formulas we’d recommend that you master on your own, before spending your time with a GMAT tutor:

Fractions, decimals, and percents: 1/1 = 1 = 100%, 1 / 4  = 0.25 = 25%, 1 / 5 =  0.2 = 20%, or even 1 / 6 = 0.166 = 16.6%, etc.

Number properties: even x even = even, even x odd = odd, odd x odd = odd, and similar results when you add or subtract.

Squares: 2^2 = 4, 3^2 = 9, 4^2 = 16 of course, but remembering squares from 1 to 25 (which is 25^2 = 625) can be useful.

Knowing the prime numbers below 100 is often helpful on the GMAT: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59, 61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, and 97. A prime number, as a reminder, is a number that isn’t a product of any other two number but 1 and itself. The only numbers you can multiply together to get 67, for example, are 67 and 1.

Other broad areas of facts and formulas to memorize include powers and roots, various definitions, quadratic equations, divisibility rules, exponents, order of operation, fractions, inequalities and absolute values, factorials,  geometry, and trigonometry. We’ll cover some of the key facts within these areas in a future post.