Using Craigslist to find a GMAT/GRE tutor is fine. Several reputable companies advertise there. Trouble is, there is also a lot of riff-raff. Below are five questions you can ask yourself to navigate through the Craigslist muck of so-called GMAT/GRE “experts”:
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- Does the ad claim expertise in more than two tests? (Ex. “We specialize in SAT/PSAT/ACT/GMAT/LSAT/GRE/Math/Physics/Baking/Oil Changes/Felony Expungement”)? If it does, beware. Remember, expertise, by definition, does NOT mean everything under the kitchen sink. The most reputable companies have highly-qualified specialists for each exam.
- Is the company really a company, or just some ex-test prep teacher who's good at math and owns a laptop? The difference here is huge, folks. Reliability, professional customer service, secure payment channels, formal refund policy and the peace of mind in knowing you're dealing with a company, not a mercenary. How can you tell? The ad usually reveals it, but one telltale sign is no web presence (official company website). If you can't find out more about the service provided via a company website, look out.
- How “free” is their “free consultation”? Any reputable test prep/admissions company provides free, regularly updated information/tips on either the company blog or downloadable resources on their website. Remember, 100% of the so-called free resources you will be provided can be found with minimal effort on your part on the Internet. You shouldn't pay for that. Your money should go towards customized instruction and personalized resources.Unless there is original content published by the company and they use their own books (that they themselves have written and published) you are merely paying $100/hr. for someone to show you how to do a problem whose explanation can be found in great detail for free on GMAT/GRE forums or khanacademy.com.
- Are the materials they use original or a collection of books that you can purchase at Barnes & Nobles (that they make YOU pay for). It's not that there aren't good materials out there, folks. There are! However, a test-prep company that has written its own books for classroom and tutoring instruction is employing some heavyweight experts in this field and that's what you are paying for. Look, anyone can by a Back Surgery For Dummies book. You hire a Harvard Med School-trained doctor to perform the surgery for his expertise and deft hand. The same goes for GMAT/GRE surgeons.
- Variety of options. Anyone who is advertising themselves as an expert tutor with years of experience working for an “elite test prep company” is probably still unhappily employed by that “elite company” and therefore can't reveal their name in fear of being canned. Also, if they're just advertising one-on-one tutoring (no classroom or online options), you're likely getting someone looking to make a quick buck on the side, not a devoted specialist in your specific test.
As with all major decisions, we encourage everyone to do their research. There are literally HUNDREDS of test prep and admissions consulting companies out there. Of those, there are only a handful worth looking at seriously. So remember:
- Hire an established expert.
- Make sure the company is legitimate (website, resources).
- Does the company use proprietary resources?
- How varied are their learning options (online/classroom/on-on-one)?
If you have any questions, on this or previous articles, please feel free to contact us and good luck in your studies!