shameless plug: We’re on instagram
Q: How much GMAT tutoring will I need before I take the test?
A: Nearly everybody asks this question, and our answer is always the same: it depends.
If you've never touched a GMAT prep book but dream of admission to HBS or Wharton or Stanford, then you might need more tutoring than somebody who is just fine-tuning her 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 we know that the answer is unsatisfying, but until we know a lot more about you and what you're trying to achieve, we can't predict how much GMAT tutoring you'll need. Sorry.
Q: How much can I expect to improve my GMAT score?
A: You probably know what we're going to say here: it depends on your talent, your study habits, your starting score, and your exact strengths and weaknesses.
Everybody wants to hear us guarantee massive score improvements, but the honest truth is that it can be really, really hard to make a big leap on the GMAT. For example, very few people ever manage to increase their GMAT scores by more than 200 points. Don't get us wrong: we've seen it happen a number of times. One of Charles's favorite students went from a 380 to a 670, but it took him a long time; that particular student had a limited budget and didn't rely too heavily on his GMAT tutor, but he had one heck of a work ethic. Mike's very first GMAT student improved from a 380 to a 630 after a few months of tutoring. So it happens, but it certainly isn't easy.
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 (we've seen this happen quite a few times), but it's a tall order for somebody whose initial test score is above 600. If you're starting in the 600s, even a 100-point improvement will require some heavy lifting from both you and your GMAT tutor. So yes, we see it happen fairly often, but it isn't easy to do.
We pride ourselves on brutal honesty, so if you’re interested in working hard to achieve your goals, tell us your GMAT or GRE story here, and we’ll respond with an assessment of your odds of achieving your goals — without any sugar-coating or empty promises.
Q: OK, I get it: the GMAT is hard, and everybody is different. But can you give me a sense of how long a typical student spends preparing for the GMAT with you?
A: You’re persistent, huh? I like that.
This might be too generic to be helpful, but if you’re looking for improvement on both quant and verbal, and if you’re able to keep up with our recommended workload (~15 hours per week, with tutoring sessions roughly once a week), then it’s reasonable to expect your learning curve to “flatten out” after about 12 weeks.
Here’s the problem: your learning curve might flatten out exactly at your goal score, or it might flatten out long before you reach your target score… or you might wildly overshoot your score goal if you study for 12 weeks. So it isn’t unusual at all for a student to reach their goal in far less than 12 weeks, or for us to discover that it’s going to be a long, hard, uncertain fight to achieve a particular GMAT score.
We can promise this, though: we’ll provide honest assessments every step of the way, even if it’s not what you want to hear. So if you start working with us, we’ll do everything we can to make sure that you understand where the process is headed, and what the prognosis is for improvement.
Q: You seem to talk about homework a lot. How much homework do you expect me to do as part of a GMAT or GRE tutoring program?
A: As a starting point, we expect our students to complete about 15 hours of homework per week: roughly two hours per weekday and three or four hours per weekend day, depending on your exact situation. More hours than that can easily lead to careless errors and bad habits, and fewer hours might prevent you from making progress as quickly as you'd like.
Again, everybody is different, but if you decide to work with us, be prepared for somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 hours per week of heavy lifting, ideally spread somewhat evenly through the week. If you’re not prepared to work hard toward your goals, then we probably aren’t the right GMAT tutors for you.
Q: What are your rates?
A: Current rates for GMAT tutoring online and in Denver, Colorado 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. We don't offer any sort of "package" or "volume" discounts, and we charge a flat hourly rate for GMAT tutoring, GRE tutoring, and MBA admissions consulting services. We do, however, occasionally offer discounted rates to work with tutors-in-training. Please visit our rates and policies page for current details.
Q: What is your cancellation policy?
A: Life gets tricky sometimes, and we do everything we can to accommodate reasonable schedule changes. But the reality is that it really, really sucks for us when students cancel a few hours before a GMAT tutoring session: it means that we're able to accommodate far fewer GMAT students in any given week, and that's bad for everybody.
The bottom line is that we're 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, blizzards, capybara attacks, internet outages), we'll cut you some slack. Otherwise, if you're just canceling for work or personal reasons without giving us a good 48 hours' notice, we think it's fair to ask that you pay for the slot that you occupied, since 48 hours usually doesn't give us 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.
The nice thing about the GRE is that it tests many of the same concepts as the GMAT, and much of our GMAT expertise translates comfortably to the GRE. Charles even scored a perfect 340 on the GRE in December 2012.
If you're not sure whether you should take the GRE or the GMAT, you might consider reading our long-winded, seven-part blog series on the GRE vs. the GMAT. The GRE is slowly gaining traction in the MBA admissions world, so it is worth considering the GRE if you think you might struggle on the GMAT.
Q: I want to do my tutoring sessions with that Charles guy. He has a perfect 800 GMAT score, and I saw him on YouTube. The other GMAT Ninja tutors can’t possibly be as good, right?
A: This is a big part of how we’re different from other tutoring companies: all of our GRE and GMAT tutors are trained to the same ludicrously high standards, and we all collaborate frequently to make sure that we continuously improve as tutors. We all use the same materials and employ the same philosophies, and we’ve all trained — hard — to become nimble in our approach to tutoring.
Sure, we all have different personalities, but we work tirelessly to be similarly great at our craft, and we’re as unified as a collection of GMAT tutors possibly can be.
In other words: if you think Charles has some secret sauce as a GMAT tutor, rest assured that he has already shared every bit of it with the rest of the GMAT Ninja team.
Q: How do you structure your GMAT tutoring sessions?
A: 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 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 contact us, and we can discuss an approach that will be effective for your GMAT and MBA admissions goals.
Q: How long is a typical GMAT lesson?
A: We require 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, and we always have tons of ground to cover. GMAT sessions longer than two hours usually suffer from diminishing returns, but we've tutored some intense students who manage to survive three or four hours of non-stop GMAT or GRE fun.
So in very rare cases, we're willing to consider longer or shorter session lengths, but it's safest to assume that two-hour sessions will be the best way to move forward efficiently.
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 we'll be able to help you, even if you've already suffered through a long, painful relationship with the GMAT. We love searching for creative, interesting ways to help students improve, and if you’re starting to think that you’re completely hopeless, we’ll probably really enjoy finding new ways for you to approach the GMAT. New challenges make tutoring fun for us, so we're always excited to meet prospective students who are in unique and difficult situations.
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 our students have taken the GMAT at least twice before contacting us for GMAT tutoring, so we're used to seeing students who have been thoroughly beaten down by the test. At times, we know that we're the GMAT tutors of last resort: if typical GMAT test-prep techniques aren’t working for you, we might be creative enough to come up with something new that helps you achieve a breakthrough.
Again, no two GMAT students are exactly alike, and that’s exactly what makes GMAT tutoring compelling for us. If there’s a way for you to improve your GMAT score, we like to think that we’ll be able to find it—even if our techniques end up being unorthodox.
Even if you’ve struggled mightily in the past, there might be a path forward for you. If we don’t think that we can help you, we promise to be 100% honest about it. But if there’s a way for you to improve your GMAT score, we promise to do everything we can to find it, and we’ll probably come up with ideas that very few GMAT tutors would think of. Contact us 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: We do offer dozens of sets of practice GMAT questions that we've developed over the years, but these sets are only designed as supplements for students who 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 we would be crappy GMAT tutors if we pretended that our 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. We 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, we're always happy to refer you to another GMAT tutor if our schedules are too packed. We often have a waiting list (especially for evening and weekend sessions) and we know that not everybody can afford to wait for tutoring, so we're prepared with the names and emails of some of our favorite colleagues in the GMAT world. We’ll warn you that all of the best GMAT tutors tend to have full schedules, but just ask if you need a referral, and we'll do our best to help.
Q: Can you provide references from past GMAT students?
A: Of course. Just ask. If you're in Denver or near our founder’s former stomping grounds in NYC, we might even be able arrange for you to meet a former GMAT student in person.
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, we can't promise that we'll be able to answer questions from MBA applicants who have no interest in hiring us as their GMAT tutor or admissions consultant. We'll try to help if we can, but please don't be offended if we don't respond to requests for (unpaid) advice, particularly during the GMAT and MBA admissions frenzy that runs from June through January each year.
We do, however, serve as the resident verbal experts on the GMAT Club, so we'll do our best to help you over there if you post your questions publicly in the verbal forums.
Q: How does online GMAT tutoring work? Is online tutoring as effective as live GMAT tutoring?
A: The overwhelming majority of our students meet with us online, usually via Skype -- including some of our students in Denver who could easily meet with us in person, but ultimately prefer not to leave their bedrooms.
During an online tutoring session, you'll be able to see both a dry-erase board and anything we type on our 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 (we can usually see your reactions, but we generally can't see what you're writing down), but we routinely work with GMAT students online, and it works really, really well. If you live outside of Denver and are interested in long-distance GMAT tutoring, let us know, and we can put you in touch with somebody else who has worked with us online.
Our essay editing and MBA admissions consulting services are also offered online. We have worked remotely with applicants in dozens of countries worldwide, 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 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, we never make changes directly to your essay. We'll make thorough suggestions using the comment feature in Microsoft Word, but it's up to you to execute on those suggestions. We'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. We make sure that my suggestions for improvement do not disrupt the natural flow and voice in your writing, even if your essays need major changes. Other admissions consulting services may handle things differently, but we take extreme care to respect your authorship when offering improvements to your MBA essays.
Q: Will you write my MBA application essays for me?
A: No, never, not at any price.
We used to receive these requests fairly often, and find them insulting and unethical. We provide editing services, admissions advice, and general guidance regarding your candidacy for MBA programs. We're really not into plagiarism, and we 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: Whoa... a perfect 800? Is that real? Can I see your official GMAT score report?
A: Sure, no problem... though we can hopefully all agree that a perfect GMAT score does not, by itself, guarantee that anybody is a good GMAT tutor. On Charles's most recent attempt at the GMAT on July 13, 2011, he earned a perfect 800, and the official GMAT score report is available for anybody who wants to see it. (The GMAT Office of Test Security politely banned him from future attempts at the exam, unfortunately.)
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 we 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, WebEx, Zoom, 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 consistently 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 before you begin GMAT or GRE tutoring.
If you're interested in online GMAT tutoring and you're not sure about your internet connection, feel free to contact us, and we'll do our 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: We always change the names of our students out of respect for their privacy, and we'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 we tell a story about our students on our GMAT blog, we 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.