Students frequently ask me, “Should I take an GMAT prep course or get a private tutor?” Naturally as an independent GMAT Tutor I strongly believe that private tutoring services have a distinct advantage over your typical prep course. There are several reasons for why I recommend this.
While most prep courses and teachers will help to a degree, there is only so much you can expect from a one size fits all approach. Since each person is unique, a tailored approach combining the individual attention of a private tutor with self-study will get you much better results.
Private tutors can devote themselves entirely to their student rather than spreading their attention across a larger class. Together the private tutor and student can decide how much time to devote to each topic and customize a strategy to achieve their target score. They can help you with the basics and then go beyond and cover every scenario one is likely to encounter. Also covered will be the types of questions, how to manage one’s time well and how to handle tricky questions. You will find that the slightly greater cost of having your own private tutor is well worth it. A good private tutor is more than simply a subject matter expert but instead an expert on the GMAT in its entirety.
Prep classes will appeal to both those that are weak on the basics as well as those who lack the motivation to work well all on their own. Prep classes however can’t ensure that you will do the homework after class and often GMAT books are just as good or even better for covering the basics.
If you ever have trouble with a particular area and need to go over it again then this is much easier to do with a private tutor than in a large class format. And because you will be working with the same tutor all the time rather than possibly switching instructors as you might in a larger class, your tutor can get to know you and thus can quickly work with you to figure out what needs to be adjusted.
There is higher turnover among instructors at the larger prep companies due to the low wages and part time hours, but you don’t need to worry about that when working with a private tutor.
The good thing about GMAT prep courses is that they force you to adhere to a set schedule which may help you stay disciplined with your studies. You also get to interact with other students in class and share ideas.
However, prep courses aren’t tailored to your unique needs. The typical class is geared towards an average student looking for a mid-500 level score. If you’re hoping to do better then you may find the instruction lacking. Also since the course must appeal to a broad audience the classes will cover every math and verbal topic on the GMAT. If you are strong in one of these areas then you will be wasting some time going over things you already know rather than using that time to work on the areas where you aren’t so good at.
The schedule might not always be convenient for you either. Things come up all the time that can get in the way. But if you miss a class or can’t do the homework for a week then you will fall behind in the larger class format.
Another common complaint as well is that the quality of the teachers can vary greatly among the larger prep companies.
The main question is whether they will give you special tricks and strategies. Be skeptical when reading the advertising from larger prep companies. The techniques that you will learn from prep courses such as Kaplan, Princeton Review, Manhattan GMAT and Veritas are often the same material you get from just buying their books. What you cover in the classroom might not add anything new so the extra cost for the in class work might not be worth it.
Various educational groups have criticized the these larger test prep courses and pointed out that there is little in the way of actual solid evidence to back up their claims of being able to get large increases in scores. For example, mock GMAT tests are often constructed so as to show scores that inflate once students take the actual GMAT. Some students are convinced by such marketing to part with their hard earned cash but I’ve been a full time GMAT teacher for nearly four years so I know that there is no way to absolutely guarantee a specific score for students. Although a prep course could conceivably increase your score by as much as 100 points, this is not common. The thing to remember here is that while the study and assistance you get will certainly help but you should always question the marketing material and promises you see.