Q: Can you provide references from past GMAT students?

A: Of course.  Just ask. If you’re in Denver or near my former home in NYC, I might even be able arrange for you to meet a former GMAT student in person.

And if you want some instant references from people who have worked with me, feel free to check out some random online accolades here or here or here or here or here or here.

Q: I’m not in Denver, and I don’t plan to hire you as a GMAT tutor or MBA admissions consultant. Will you answer my questions anyway?

A: Unfortunately, I can’t promise that I’ll be able to answer questions from MBA applicants who have no interest in hiring me as their GMAT tutor or admissions consultant. I’ll try to help if I can, but please don’t be offended if I don’t respond to requests for (unpaid) advice, particularly during the GMAT and MBA admissions frenzy that runs from June through January each year.

Q: What are your rates?

A: Current rates for GMAT tutoring in Denver and online can be found here. Please be aware that rates may change occasionally based on market demand.

And while, we’re on the topic of GMAT tutoring rates, you might be wondering…

Q: Can I get a discount?

A: Probably not, unfortunately. I don’t offer any sort of “package” or “volume” discounts, and charge the same hourly rate for GMAT tutoring, GRE tutoring, and MBA admissions consulting services. Please visit my rates page for current details.

There is one exception: I’m currently training a new GMAT tutor, and he’s available at a much lower price for now. He’s a phenomenally talented teacher and an awesome guy, but he’s still learning the intricacies of the GMAT. I’ll officially add him to the GMAT Ninja website once his training is complete, but for now… well, if you’re looking for a cheaper GMAT tutoring option, send me an email, and I’ll put you in touch if I think that he’ll be a good fit for you.

Q: What is your cancellation policy?

A: Life gets tricky sometimes, and I do everything I can to accommodate reasonable schedule changes. But the reality is that it really, really sucks for me when students cancel a few hours before a GMAT tutoring session–it means that I’m able to accommodate far fewer GMAT students in any given week, and that’s bad for everybody.

The bottom line is that I’m much happier if everybody just shows up to their appointments as scheduled. If your life is suddenly interrupted by a terrible act of nature (swine flu, subway fires, bedbugs, blizzards, internet outages), I’ll cut you some slack. Otherwise, if you’re just canceling for work or personal reasons without giving me a good 48 hours’ notice, I think it’s fair to ask that you pay for the slot that you occupied, since 48 hours usually doesn’t give me enough time to offer that slot to anybody else. Sound reasonable?

Q: Do you also tutor for the GRE?

A:  Yes, though the name “GMAT and GRE Ninja” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I started teaching GRE classes in 2002, and I still help a handful of GRE test-takers every year.  The GRE tests many of the same concepts as the GMAT, and much of my GMAT experience translates comfortably to the GRE.  I also retook the GRE in December 2012 and scored a perfect 340.

If you’re not sure whether you should take the GRE or the GMAT, you might consider reading the GMAT blog series on the GRE vs. the GMAT.

Q: How do you structure your GMAT tutoring sessions?

A: This is probably the question I’m asked most often. The quick answer is that the structure of GMAT lessons depends entirely on each student’s strengths, weaknesses, interests, and needs. You’re (presumably) looking for a GMAT tutor because you want somebody who will efficiently teach you exactly what you need, rather than wasting time with, say, a one-size-fits-all GMAT class.

Keep in mind that the GMAT, more than any other major standardized test, is extremely nuanced. We’ll look for the most efficient ways to help you gain points on the test, and that inevitably means different things for different people. Feel free to get in touch, and we can discuss an approach that will be effective for your GMAT and MBA admissions goals.

Q: Where are GMAT tutoring sessions held in Denver?

A: Most sessions take place at my home near downtown Denver. In rare cases, I’m willing to travel to other parts of the city for tutoring, but please be aware that the hourly tutoring rate might be substantially higher in other parts of metro Denver to compensate for travel time and expenses.

Q: How long is a typical GMAT lesson?

A: I strongly recommend two-hour GMAT tutoring sessions in most cases, simply because most students need a little bit of time to get fully “warmed up” for learning.  GMAT sessions longer than two hours usually suffer from diminishing returns, but I’ve tutored some intense students who manage to survive three or four hours of non-stop GMAT fun.  So there’s some flexibility, but it’s usually best to start with two-hour sessions.

Q:  I’ve already taken two GMAT test-prep courses, I’ve taken the exam three times, and I’m still disappointed in my GMAT score.  Can you help me?

A: It depends on your exact weaknesses, but odds are good that I’ll be able to help you, even if you’ve already suffered through a long, painful relationship with the GMAT.  I love searching for creative, interesting ways to help students improve, and if you’re starting to think that you’re completely hopeless, I’ll probably really enjoy finding new ways for you to approach the GMAT.

Think about it this way:  if you’ve already been through a few GMAT prep courses—or if you’ve spent hours hunched over a stack of GMAT test-prep books—then it’s likely that you’ve seen nearly every “standard” GMAT test-prep technique in existence.  For whatever reason, the one-size-fits-all approach employed by GMAT test-prep companies isn’t right for you.

That happens.  A lot.  A majority of my students have taken the GMAT at least twice before contacting me for GMAT tutoring, so I’m used to seeing students who have been thoroughly beaten down by the test.  I like to think that I’m the GMAT tutor of last resort:  if standard GMAT test-prep techniques aren’t working for you, I might be creative enough to come up with something new that helps you achieve a breakthrough.

No two GMAT students are exactly alike, and that’s exactly what makes GMAT tutoring fun for me.  If there’s a way for you to improve your GMAT score, I like to think that I’ll be able to find it—even if my techniques end up being unorthodox.

Even if you’ve struggled mightily in the past, there might be a path forward for you.  If I don’t think that I can help you, I promise to be 100% honest about it.  But if there’s a way for you to improve your GMAT score, I promise to do everything I can to find it, and I’ll probably come up with ideas that very few GMAT tutors would think of.  Call or email anytime if you want to discuss your exact situation in more detail.

Q: Do you provide any of your own GMAT study materials as part of a tutoring plan?

A:  I do offer dozens of sets of practice GMAT questions that I’ve developed over the years, but these sets are only designed as supplements for students who may need extra practice with certain GMAT question types.  The GMAT has its own unique question style, and there’s absolutely no substitute for using official GMAT materials, including the GMAT official guide, the quant and verbal review books, and the GMATPrep software.

So the answer is yes, but I would be a pretty crappy GMAT tutor if I pretended that my materials were somehow better than the materials developed by the people who actually write the GMAT.

Q: Do you tutor on weekends and evenings?

A: Yes, but please be aware that there is much higher demand for GMAT tutoring during evenings and weekends, so you might need to schedule sessions well ahead of time, especially during the peak of MBA admissions season. I often have a lengthy waiting list for evening and weekend tutoring sessions, so please plan ahead if you possibly can.

Q: You’re booked for the next several months.  Can you refer me to another GMAT tutor?

A: Yes, I’m always happy to refer you to another GMAT tutor if my schedule is too packed. I frequently have a waiting list (especially for evening and weekend sessions), and I know that not everybody can afford to wait for tutoring… so I’m prepared with the names and emails of some of my favorite colleagues in the GMAT world — including a brand-new (and still inexpensive) GMAT tutor that I’m training. Just ask if you need a referral.

Q: How does online GMAT tutoring work? Is online tutoring as effective as live GMAT tutoring?

A: Yup, I definitely offer online GMAT tutoring, usually via Skype. You’ll be able to see both a dry-erase board and anything I type on my computer screen, so the experience is a pretty solid replacement for a live, one-on-one GMAT tutoring session. A few nuances are inevitably lost via the internet (I can usually see your reactions, but I generally can’t see what you’re writing down), but I routinely work with GMAT students online, and it works surprisingly well. If you live outside of Denver and are interested in long-distance GMAT tutoring, let me know, and I can put you in touch with somebody else who has worked with me online.

Our essay editing and MBA admissions consulting services are also offered online. We (by “we,” I mean the team of editors who occasionally work with me on large projects) have worked remotely with applicants in India, Singapore, Egypt, the U.K., Australia, and South Korea, as well as locations throughout the United States.

A longer rant about the benefits and drawbacks of online GMAT tutoring can be found here.

Q: How much GMAT tutoring will I need before I take the test?

A: Nearly everybody asks this question, and my answer is always the same: it depends. If you’ve never touched a GMAT prep book in your life but dream of getting into HBS or NYU or Stanford, you might need more tutoring than somebody who is just fine-tuning his approach after months of self-study. If you’ve taken only a single practice test and scored 200 points lower than your goal, then you might need a whole lot of time with a GMAT tutor. Everybody learns at their own pace, some people are better about doing homework than others, and some people have set more challenging GMAT goals than others.

So I know that the answer is unsatisfying, but until I know a lot more about you and what you’re trying to achieve, I have no idea how much GMAT tutoring you’ll need. Sorry.

Q: How much can I expect to improve my GMAT score?

A: You probably know what I’m going to say here: it depends on your talent and your situation. I’m a brutal realist, not a salesman… and I hate to say this, but it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to increase your GMAT score by more than 200 points. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen it happen a few times–one of my favorite students went from a 380 to a 670, but it took him a long time. He had a limited budget and didn’t rely too heavily on his GMAT tutor, but he had one heck of a work ethic.

Also, keep in mind that it’s a lot harder to improve your GMAT score if you’re already scoring in the 600s or 700s. A 150-point improvement might be a realistic goal for somebody who starts in the 400s (I’ve seen this happen quite a few times), but is extremely unlikely for somebody whose first test score is around 620. If you’re starting in the 600s, a 100-point improvement will require some extremely heavy lifting from both you and your GMAT tutor. Yes, I’ve seen it happen, but it isn’t easy to do. Call or email if you want to discuss your specific situation.

Q: How does MBA essay editing work? Do you make changes directly to the essay?

A: Regardless of whether you need editing services for an MBA application or any other project, I never make changes directly to your essay. I’ll make thorough suggestions using the comment feature in Microsoft Word, but it’s up to you to execute on those suggestions. I’ll happily provide plenty of help on both grammar and content, but the essay still needs to be substantially yours, so you’ll always have the final say on all edits.

Q: I worry that if I use an MBA admissions consulting service for my application, it will sound like somebody else wrote the essays. Will this be a problem?

A: Good question. If you’re writing a bunch of essays for an MBA application, you want to make sure that you write your essays in a consistent style. I make sure that my suggestions for improvement do not disrupt the natural flow and voice in your writing, even if we need to make major changes to your essays. Other admissions consulting services may handle things differently, but I take extreme care to respect your authorship when making changes to your MBA essays.

Q: Will you write my MBA application essays for me?

A: No, never, not at any price.

I regularly receive these requests, and find them insulting and unethical. I provide editing services, admissions advice, and general guidance regarding your candidacy for MBA programs. I’m really not into plagiarism, and I think it’s pretty lame to put your own name on somebody else’s writing. If you want an MBA admissions consultant to write your MBA essay for you, please find somebody else.

Q: Can I see your official GMAT score report?

A:  Sure, no problem… though I hope we can all agree that a perfect GMAT score does not, by itself, guarantee that anybody is a good GMAT tutor. On my most recent attempt at the GMAT on July 13, 2011, I earned a perfect 800, and the official score report is on my bookshelf for anybody who wants to see it.

Q: What software and equipment do I need for an online tutoring session?

A: The only things you absolutely need are a good internet connection and free Skype or Google video conferencing software, though online GMAT tutoring usually works best if you have a webcam (so I can see your reactions as we work through questions) and a decent headset (to minimize audio interference during our session). If the Skype or Google software misbehaves, then we can discuss alternatives (Polycom, Softphone, WebEx, FaceTime, etc.) — but Skype usually works best for online GMAT tutoring.

Q: Wait, what do you mean by a “good” internet connection?

A: For the video feed to work correctly during GMAT tutoring sessions, you typically need to maintain upload and download speeds of at least 500 kbps (0.5 mbps), but things usually work best if the connection is a little bit faster — at least 1.5 mbps is best. If you’re not sure about the strength of your internet connection, try visiting www.speedtest.net, and run five or six tests of your internet connection at different times of the day. If any of the tests are under 1 or 1.5 mbps, you might want to consider upgrading your internet service.

If you’re interested in online GMAT tutoring and you’re not sure about your internet connection, feel free to contact me, and I’ll do my best to help you figure everything out.

Q: I noticed that you don’t use your students’ names, and instead refer to them as “Mr. A” or “Ms. B” or something like that when you write about them on your GMAT blog. Why?

A:  I always change the names of my students out of respect for their privacy, and I’ll usually refrain from publishing specific details about them — such as the name of their employer or the MBA program they attend — to protect their identities. You probably don’t want to your name plastered on a GMAT blog, especially if you’ve struggled with the process or if your employer doesn’t know that you’re applying for an MBA. So whenever I tell a story about my students on my GMAT blog, I try to make sure that the students are completely unrecognizable to, say, their coworkers… just in case their MBA goals would ruffle feathers at the office.