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Private GMAT tutor - do or don't

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Joined: 19 Sep 2012
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Private GMAT tutor - do or don't [#permalink] New post 16 Jan 2013, 14:22
What is your take on hiring a private tutor for the GMAT? Is it worth the money? Did your score significantly improve / did you notice significant improvement after your classes?

$200 / hour seems a bit much for a tutor to me.
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Re: Private GMAT tutor - do or don't [#permalink] New post 16 Jan 2013, 15:02
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Well, yes, $200 per hour for 10 hours is $2K so why hire a tutor if you can take an in-class course for $1,200, right?

One reason is that if you only need help with a specific subject (e.g. RC or CR) and you don't want to wait 5 weeks get there in a course and only get 3 hours of coverage.

Instead, you can get 6 hours focused on the CR this week with personalized attention - you see the difference?

Private Tutors are not for everyone but they and play an important role.
1. if you have a specific area you want to work on (most common)
2. If you have taken a class, studied, did what you could and still not scoring well. Esp true if you took the GMAT 2 or 3 times.
3. if you have no clue why you are not improving (similar to #2 above)
4. If you need someone to put a study plan for you and be a back up when needed

So, why are you considering a private tutor?

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Re: Private GMAT tutor - do or don't [#permalink] New post 16 Jan 2013, 20:23
I paid for a private tutor, but it was only $100 for 90 minutes (times a bunch of sessions). Maybe you need to shop around? I think a private tutor is helpful when you've stagnated. I was stuck at Q42 and he helped my jump to Q48 in a month.

Blogging about the MBA application process. Because I need to do something with all this bschool energy. Recent post: September 20, "Transitions"

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Re: Private GMAT tutor - do or don't [#permalink] New post 17 Jan 2013, 10:10
you can get private tutor at grockit for just $48/hr .. if money is the problem then this may help
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Re: Private GMAT tutor - do or don't [#permalink] New post 18 Jan 2013, 13:03
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I'll probably get hate mail from other tutors for posting this, but I agree with bb. GMAT tutors can be great if your progress has plateaued, if you have no idea why your scores are low, or if you know you need help in a specific area.

Other than that, the biggest reason to hire a GMAT tutor is if you're trying to make your time more efficient. At this point, pretty much every practice question and test-taking tactic is published somewhere online (often for free), and if you have the time to sift through all of the available advice and materials, you can get everything you need without spending $200 per hour. But if you don't want to spend the time designing your own program and possibly suffering through some false starts (i.e. realizing that you wasted time on a particularly useless GMAT resource), then a tutor can help you cut through the noise and save you some time.

In other words, I don't think that GMAT tutoring is likely to get you results that you absolutely couldn't achieve on your own, unless you need somebody to help you overcome a mental block on a particular topic. It's just that a tutor is likely to help you get those results faster, and with somewhat less pain. For some people, that's worth the price. For others, it really isn't.

For bargain-priced tutors, you might want to check out craigslist and you'll find some good, inexpensive guys on those websites.

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Re: Private GMAT tutor - do or don't [#permalink] New post 21 Jan 2013, 21:02
$200 does seem a bit extreme for a tutor; on the other hand, $48 seems rather low for a well-qualified and effective tutor. I agree with bb that a tutor makes most sense when you have specific weaknesses you are trying to address and are no longer making progress on your own. I wouldn't begin your GMAT study with a tutor, but rather bring a tutor on later in the process. I would also consider hiring tutors with area-specific expertise rather than expecting one person to be able to effectively address all your weaknesses. For instance, if English isn't your native language, I would hire someone with some ESL or TOEFL training and GMAT tutoring experience to help you with the Verbal. Similarly, if you need help with the math, I would hire someone who has a background in math education and GMAT tutoring experience to help you.

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Re: Private GMAT tutor - do or don't [#permalink] New post 24 Jan 2013, 06:32
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I agree with GMATNinja and the others about the tutor because I hired a tutor and it didn’t help because my fundamentals were not good at all. I made a few mistakes such as over studying (more than 8 months), putting too much pressure on myself (need to change jobs and get into my career), and getting frustrated. I found a tutor on Craigslist for $50/hour and he had a physics background. The only problem was that his tutoring wasn’t GMAT specific. His explanations and approach to solving the problems were different from Manhattan GMAT or Veritas Prep. He recommended one book for the GMAT called Barron’s math workbook. I am not saying he was wrong but I knew from my research I probably needed more than a workbook. LOL. He did mention he scored a 50 on the quantitative section. Sometimes people are very smart but they have a hard time explaining it to others.

I even tried a class and they are a hit or miss. It depends on the background and experience of the instructor. I chose Veritas Prep and the instructor second guessed herself too much. We left the class more confused then when we arrived. A colleague said he had a great experience with Kaplan because his instructor had a background in finance.

I took the advice from a friend and took three months off. I sat for the GMAT in August 2012 but I bombed the test big time. Now I have to apply for Fall 2014. :( Right now I am back studying and the material is a lot easier to understand. I am no longer rushing to get through the material but learning and figuring out different ways to solve the problems. I still get frustrated at times but I started doing other things i.e. working out, taking a nap, or running some errands. I had to do things differently because it was affecting my sleep. I am very grumpy when I do not get enough sleep. LOL.

I hope this helps.

I forgot to mention I used TOO many resources. In the beginning, I used Manhattan GMAT set, Powerscore Critical Reasoning, Barron’s Math Workbook, Foundations of GMAT Math, Official Guides 10 and 12, and Aristotle Prep. I recently purchased the Official Guide 13 but I gave the 12th edition to my friend. When I took the Veritas Prep course I started using their material. Now I am only using Manhattan’s 4th edition books because I am not paying for anymore books.
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Re: Private GMAT tutor - do or don't [#permalink] New post 25 Jan 2013, 17:41
Sometimes people are very smart but they have a hard time explaining it to others.

I couldn't agree more, Karite. Thank you for saying this.

We have a tendency to fetishize high GMAT scores, but the unfortunate truth is that many people with high scores think that this GMAT stuff is pretty easy, which means that they might struggle to understand why somebody else thinks it's hard. (Not to get too far off-topic, but this is part of why there's a shortage of good math teachers in the United States: a relatively low percentage of Americans are great at math, and many of the people who have great quant skills lack the ability to explain it to other people.)

A 780 or an 800 is a good indication that somebody is unbelievably quick and precise when they take tests, but the scores say nothing about teaching ability. Some guys with incredibly high scores are amazing tutors, but others get really impatient when their students struggle. I've also met some incredible teachers who scored in the high 600s or low 700s. They aren't perfect test-takers, but they're great at explaining concepts to students.

Just throwing it out there: in the funny little world of GMAT tutors, the score doesn't always mean what it appears to mean. Nothing against the high-scoring guys, but it's always worth looking a little bit deeper if you're going to spend a big wad of money on tutoring.

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Re: Private GMAT tutor - do or don't [#permalink] New post 25 Jan 2013, 18:14
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I've taken the GMAT 3 times, and used self study, online course, and had some private tutoring sessions.

Overall, yes.. I found private tutoring valuable. However, I also found it was really up to me to drive the tutoring session to extract the most value. A tutor doesn't magically just know where you need help, so the more you guide them, the more they can really help you.

Things I learned:

A tutor isn't a magic bullet answer to score better. You need to do the work still. You still need to be very active in the process. In fact, to get the most value, you probably have to work a bit harder than on your own. After my tutoring sessions, I felt way more exhausted than I would've in a 1hr self study session.

A great tutor knows things you probably haven't thought about. This was huge value for me. I was merrily going along my way for months and then a tutor opened my eyes completely to new perspectives. A tutor can pinpoint things and be a shortcut in correcting your problem areas. Bonus not only was the info just plain great, it helped my confidence. (ie. the mindsets and positive attitude of a tutor is valuable also)

A tutor is not just a tutor. Who the tutor is matters. This is a tough one since I don't know how one would screen for a great tutor. I just went with Veritas instructors since I trusted the brand. A great tutor can knock away the dread and fear of a GMAT question and actually make it somewhat fun. To me, when you find GMAT problems fun, that's when you're gonna score BIG..

A lot of the things a tutor will teach you, you can find for free already. If you dug around, all the tips you'd ever need are already available for free on the forums and blogs.. and they're written by top notch instructors themselves! Up to you if you can hunt and use this info, or find it easier for someone to provide it to you.

Not sure if my results are typical or can be attributed to a tutor, but after a 2hr session where I focused on SC, I went from scoring 3/10 on "10-packs" (doing every 10th question, starting from 50 or so) of OG SC questions, to 7/10 while also shaving ~15s off my average question time on my subsequent two 10-pack sessions afterwards.

On the flipside, to use a tutor and you just work through problems that you could learn solutions to just as well off the forums is a waste of money to me.
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Re: Private GMAT tutor - do or don't [#permalink] New post 29 Jan 2013, 13:15
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For me personally this is fascinating topic, so I would like to contribute.

I have spent many years thinking about teaching and learning - what makes a great teacher and what makes a great student? What is the difference between attending a lecture in a hall with 200 other people and watching this presentation at home in 3D-glasses? If everything the teacher says is already in the books, why do we need teachers?

Here are some ideas to reflect on.
1. You never really know whether a tutor helped you or did not help you.
Have you heard the story about a hungry man who ate five bagels and was still hungry? Then he ate a donut and finally felt full and satisfied. Can we say that all the bagels were wasted for nothing? In much the same way, you can study with some tutor A and understand nothing. Then you study with another tutor B, and suddenly everything makes sense! It does not necessarily mean that the tutor B is any better. Perhaps tutor A was slowly building up your skills, but it took some time for your to notice the results. If a field is new for you, it can be really difficult to tell, how much you are actually learning.

2. The main obstacle in any learning is identifying and changing your own habits -- habitual ways of thinking, rigid ideas, preconceived notions.
This task can be excruciatingly difficult, as we are all limited by our own experience and perception. Good books can lead you a long way, but at some point in life everyone can benefit from guidance. This is the way we are created: we often do not see our own limitations.

A textbook or a test-prep guide can make sense to you and seem to be well-written and accessible. Yet it may be reinforcing the same old patterns of thought, feeling, or perception, that limit your progress.

For example, this article offers terrible advice: ... solutions/
(It took me quite a while to find such a remarkably bad example.)
The question this article is trying to solve is fairly simple:
X is the ratio between the perimeters of two similar triangles, and X = 5 : 7.
Y is the ratio between the areas of the same two similar triangles. If, when expressed as a fraction, Y is less than 1, what is the ratio of X to Y?
A. 5 : 7
B. 7 : 5
C. 25 : 49
D. 49 : 25
E. 5 : 12

First the article presents a "shortcut": when a number is divided by something less than 1.0, this number increases. Thus they manage to eliminate A, C, and E, because 5/7 is not greater than 5/7, 25/49 is not greater than 5/7, and 5/12 is not greater then 5/7. To make things worse, the article then takes two particular triangles with sides 15,20,25 and 21,28,35, and actually computes the ratios, until it gets (5/7):(25/49), and eventually arrives at the answer.

This is not a good way to solve such problems. This is not a good way to understand such problems, even while you are simply preparing to take the test. Mathematics is not about dealing with a lot of numbers; it is about recognizing patterns. A much better way to explain the same problem would be: Y=X^2. Hence, X/Y=1/X=7/5, the answer is B.

Here you need a tutor you trust to tell you with full conviction that it is better to do this problem in one line than to engage in all this number manipulation and answer elimination. You may want to keep solving the problem the way that you like, the old way, the usual way, because you know how to plug the numbers to get to the right answer. However, if you want to make progress, you will have to change your habits, and stop trying so hard to get to the right answer. A tutor can guide you towards such a change. Otherwise many people are likely to stay with their old way of doing things, well, because nobody is perfect.

3. In any learning, things get worse before they get better.
This is related to my previous point. If you believe that you are an expert and than you know some topic or field, you are not going to get better in this area. Ever. It is only by rejecting what we have already mastered or acquired that we can move forward. As related to GMAT, there is no reason why your scores should always increase. If you change your strategy or your way of thinking about certain kinds of problems, your score can go down before it goes up. This is perfectly natural, and does not indicate that you are going in the wrong direction. You need to trust the process.

When you are working with an experienced teacher or tutor, trust is very important. If your trust your teacher and follow his or her directions, you will probably make progress. In fact, even if you think your teacher is not very good, with faith you will probably learn a lot. Not all teachers know how to reach their students. However, most teachers have a lot to offer. People become teachers for a reason. The less you are focused on evaluating or criticizing your teacher, the more likely you are to learn. Do not waste your energy figuring out whether your teacher is good or bad, whether you are good or bad. These are just labels.

As an exercise, next time with your teacher or tutor, imagine that he or she is the best teacher on Earth, possessing expert knowledge, great people skills, wise and compassionate.

4. Our time is limited.
tim415 wrote:
A great tutor knows things you probably haven't thought about. This was huge value for me. I was merrily going along my way for months and then a tutor opened my eyes completely to new perspectives. A tutor can pinpoint things and be a shortcut in correcting your problem area

This is exactly right. We can learn a lot of things on our own. However, our days are limited. You are here in your current situation, and you only have that much free time every day until the end of the year. Sometimes you will be distracted; sometimes you will be sick or tired. We don't really have that much time in this life.

There are things that are impossible to learn without other people, such as compassion. GMAT is not one of them. I believe that given enough time, pretty much everyone can master the GMAT and most other academic subjects. It may take decades.

GMATNinja wrote:
At this point, pretty much every practice question and test-taking tactic is published somewhere online (often for free)...

This is exactly my point. An average teacher can tell you everything that is wrong with you. A great teacher can tell you what you need to hear right now.
In other words, a teacher allows you to focus your efforts in the direction that would be the most productive at the given moment. This saves your time: hours, days, years, decades. This is perhaps the main reason for paying for GMAT tutoring: increased efficiency. In much the same way you are paying for a taxi to get from one place to another faster, even though you could take your time and merely walk.

5. Private instruction is overused.
This point is specifically about tutoring, not teaching in general. In many cases you may get the same benefits from a class with several people. Do you really need to work with an experienced teacher one-on-one? Less often than you think; definitely not when you are reviewing the fundamentals. Find a friend or two, then ask a tutor to organize a small group class.

Also, if you are asking a tutor to come to your place at the time of your choice, understand that you are largely paying for convenience, not just for instruction. Offer your tutor to meet at the place of his/her choice and offer to accomodate his/her schedule. Then ask for a discount. Just think about the tutor's situation: imagine teaching someone 1-2pm at one part of the city, then someone else 4-5pm at another part of the city. The tutor leaves his home at noon and comes back at 6pm. The whole enterprise takes six hours, and he may have to eat out at some crowded fast food place between 2 and 4. If each tutoring session is $50, this effectively translates into $100/6=$16.66/hour. Now imagine instead that both students come to the tutor's place, and the sessions are 12-1 and 1-2pm. The tutor can actually teach five students between 12-6pm (including lunch that can be eaten at home) and, while charging only $35/session, almost double his/her income, and feel more productive instead of commuting all day long.

Now, let's look at the mentioned rate of $200/hour. Of course, it is pointless to discuss the rate without specifying the location, so I will assume New York City. This rate may just be for the first hour. Two-hour sessions may be $300, which lowers the effective rate to $150/hour, since teaching one two-hour class is more convenient than teaching two one-hour classes. (Although, two one-hour sessions may be objectively more valuable for the student than one two-hour session.) Now, there may packages offered with further discounts - say, $2400 for ten 2-hour sessions. This lowers the rate to $120/hour, and this is the rate that you should be comparing. When you are paying the original rate of $200/hour for the first few sessions, you are also paying for the effort the teacher/tutor has to invest to get to know you, a new student, and your situation. You are compensating the tutor for the uncertainty - you, the new student, can disappear, and then he/she will need to rearrange his/her shedule, look for other students, spend time and energy to get to know them. You can ask for a lower rate if you can eliminate those issues and make the life of your tutor easier. Also, a high tutoring rate includes some insurance against you not showing up or canceling a class with a short notice. If you can somehow cover this risk for the tutor, you can also ask for a lower rate.

Sergey Orshanskiy, Ph.D.
I tutor in NYC: ... ref=1RKFOZ

Re: Private GMAT tutor - do or don't   [#permalink] 29 Jan 2013, 13:15
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