I know that many of you don’t live anywhere near me–especially now that I’ve moved from NYC to Denver–and you’re probably thinking that online GMAT tutoring couldn’t possibly be nearly as good as live, in-person tutoring. I used to think the same thing.
The only reason I ever started offering online GMAT tutoring was because one of my favorite students suddenly moved to Colorado about five years ago. We had no choice but to work via the internet (apparently, there really aren’t all that many GMAT tutors in Colorado Springs), and it actually worked really, really well–her score went up 150 points, and she got into her first-choice MBA program. Since then, online GMAT tutoring has become a big part of my life, and it’s much more effective than I ever expected.
That said, I do think that there are pros and cons to online GMAT tutoring, and I want to be completely honest about them. Let’s talk about the good parts first. I usually tutor via Skype or Google hangouts, which offer a few really useful features (besides being free). I usually point a webcam at a dry erase board, and students can watch me work through GMAT concepts and sample questions, just as they would if they were sitting next to me in Denver. If you don’t feel like taking notes, you can take screenshots of the dry erase board, and then you’ll have lovely little GMAT images that you can keep forever.
Skype also has a feature that allows you to see whatever I’m typing on my computer screen. It’s a surprisingly efficient way to work through practice problems, including verbal passages and sentences (think of it this way: I can type much faster than I can write, so we can cram more information into a GMAT tutoring session). At the end of the lesson, you’ll receive a copy of all of the notes from our session. The bottom line is that the combination of Microsoft Word and the dry erase board means that GMAT tutoring is arguably quicker online than it is in person, as long as our internet connections behave themselves.
Which brings me to one of the biggest potential drawbacks of online GMAT tutoring: computers, video conferencing software, and internet connections sometimes get cranky. If Skype is completely uncooperative for some reason, I’m always ready to try other options: Google hangouts, Softphone, and Facetime are all installed on my computer, and I have a little bit of experience with Polycom and WebEx as well. In a few cases, I’ve had success with a mix of Skype for video and a good, old-fashioned telephone for audio. So there are plenty of technology options for us, even if Skype isn’t working perfectly. After nearly five years of experiments with online GMAT tutoring, I’ve become pretty good at finding workarounds for balky Skype connections.
And in case you’re wondering: I never charge GMAT students for time spent trying to overcome technical difficulties. If we schedule a two-hour session and we spend the first twenty minutes trying different video chat configurations, then we’ll either run the session for an extra twenty minutes, or I’ll add the twenty minutes to a future session. So technology issues can be an inconvenience, but I won’t let them hit you in the wallet.
The second drawback to online tutoring is that some of the “chemistry” of tutoring doesn’t really translate online, and I don’t want to pretend otherwise. Unless you’ve spent plenty of time on Skype already, it can feel unnatural to work with a teacher who is nothing more than a face on a screen. I have a pretty solid track record with online tutoring over the past five years, and I don’t think that the lack of in-person “chemistry” substantially limits my students’ GMAT score improvements, but I want to be honest about it: for some students, it just feels strange to handle GMAT tutoring solely via the internet. If you’re not sure if online GMAT tutoring is for you, feel free to give me a call, and we can do a trial run so you can see whether you’re comfortable with the format.
Other than the occasional technical issue and the potential oddities of working from afar, I think that online GMAT tutoring works surprisingly well, and my long-distance GMAT students have been really happy with the results–just ask if you want to get in touch with any of them. Online GMAT tutoring rates are the same as for live GMAT tutoring in Denver, and payment can be arranged via Paypal or Chase QuickPay.
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