Should You Get Tutoring for the GMAT? GMAT Tutoring vs Self-Study

by Maximilian Claessens
Should You Get Tutoring for the GMAT - GMAT Tutoring vs Self-Study

The question about whether or not you should get tutoring for the GMAT is a divisive one and one that can cause people a lot of frustration. The obvious reason for this is that wealthy people can afford tuition without much worry, with some believing that this gives rich people a distinct advantage in applying for jobs after graduation.

But while the wealthy absolutely do have life advantages, there’s not necessarily an automatic advantage for those who integrate GMAT tutoring into their study plan. It’s important to realize that tuition doesn’t guarantee any advantage; it’s simply a tool that can be utilized by those that benefit from what tuition can provide. Like all other study tools, it’s simply a resource that’s useful if it suits your unique method of learning. In this article, we’re going to discuss the advantages of studying for the GMAT with and without tutoring so that you can make an informed decision about whether tutoring is right for your unique study style and needs.

Self-Motivated Study

The first and most common study style is self-motivated. There are many who study this way because it’s their preferred method, but there are also others who must because they can’t afford GMAT tutoring. There are a lot of advantages to self-motivated study; the biggest is that it saves money. The cost of tuition is paid hourly and can easily add up. This is an enormous burden for someone who’s gearing up for an expensive post-graduate degree and who may have been shouldered with a lot of debt from their undergraduate study. You may never yet have entered the workforce in a full-time capacity, so it’s unlikely you’ve got a lot saved. Saving money right now is very important, so staying self-motivated can achieve that.

Another positive element of GMAT self-motivated study is that it saves time. There’s no need to travel anywhere, no sitting in traffic, no getting ready, applying makeup, no preparation needed. You can just sit in your pajamas at your desk all day and work. You also don’t have to worry about someone else’s schedule[1]. There’s also the dreaded situations when you schedule a tutorial after work, but there’s an hour or so between work ending and the tutorial beginning. This can mean time wasted waiting in a lobby or in your car, time that could be far better utilized sat at your desk at home.

Even when you get tuition that’s either held online or with someone that comes to your house, you still need to book a time that works with their schedule. I once booked a tutor in a different country which required me to book a session at midnight, which for him was the middle of the day. Creating and sticking to your own study schedule can be critical in getting a lot of study done and seeing results within a fixed period of time.

Tuition-Led Study – Getting GMAT Tutoring

There are obviously a lot of advantages to tutors as well, which is why GMAT tutoring is such a large industry. The first enormous advantage that comes to mind is structure. Tutors plan their lessons so that they are professionally structured and geared for maximum efficiency. Each area of study is given the perfect amount of time and tutors will work hard to keep you focused and motivated. There are many people who, when left alone, can’t motivate themselves to keep focused on a task. They are easily distracted by social media, YouTube, and chores around the house. Because of this, they may allocate six hours per day for study as planned in their GMAT study plan, then never use any of that time productively. For people like this, a tutor is a godsend. Just having someone watching you can be enough to motivate you to keep working.

There’s something within all of us that wants to impress people who are paying attention to us, this doubles when that person is an authority figure or someone we respect. Something deep inside of us wants to impress our tutors and make them happy, and that feeling is going to make most people work a lot harder than they would have if they were alone.

Another advantage is that a tutor can explain things a lot better than a video or book can, and unlike these resources, a tutor can answer your questions directly. If you’re confused about a particular theory, you can question your tutor and discuss the theory for as long as it takes until you completely understand everything. This is an enormous advantage of GMAT tutoring and is particularly important for those who are feeling insecure about their skills, aren’t scoring well in mock exams, and those who have already taken the exam and found that they were unable to score well after utilizing the self-motivated study method.

GMAT tutors are also great at pointing out the areas of study you’re weak at, which is very helpful for people who can’t or won’t see it for themselves[2]. There are many students out there who will never admit that their verbal skills are low, especially people who majored or minored in English as part of their undergrad. People are very proud and can overlook weaknesses that make them feel stupid or inferior. If you’re ignoring weaknesses and not giving them appropriate focus in your study, then you’re risking tanking a portion of the exam. A tutor isn’t going to allow this to happen and is going to force you to confront your weaknesses and address them head-on.

Utilizing Both Strategies

You may have found that neither of these strategies is right on their own, so you may want to do what many have done before, utilize both methods to achieve a better result. Why would you combine self-motivated study and GMAT tutoring? This can be a time and cost-effective compromise to ensure you’re getting the best of both worlds. If you still have a few months to go before it’s time to take your exam, utilizing a combined approach would mean staying self-motivated for the majority of this time, trying the best you can to go as far as possible on your own.

While you’re engaged in self-motivated study for the GMAT, you should be taking notes on what you’re finding hard, what’s not making sense, and what you’d like extra help on. Then, when the test is less than a month away, it’s time to arrange for the tutor.

When you take your first tutorial, take your notes and ask the tutor all the questions you would have asked if you’d had them earlier. Work with them, discuss your weaknesses with them, and strive to get to the finish line faster than you would have done on your own. A good tutor is going to spot all of your weaknesses very quickly and correct any bad habits or misunderstood theories very quickly[3]. They’ll fix anything you’re doing wrong and point you in the right direction when it counts most.

Many people don’t need someone to watch them study and help them stay motivated, but they do need someone to come in at the last mile and correct a critical misunderstanding that could cost them serious points if left unattended.

Vetting a Tutor for GMAT Tutoring

Remember that not all tutors are created equally and that they aren’t all worth what they’re charging. Just because someone is bold enough to ask for money in exchange for tutoring, it doesn’t mean they’re going to provide value for that money. There are several ways of ensuring you’re getting your money’s worth; the first is to get in touch with previous or current students.

Ask them frank questions about how satisfied they were and whether they would re-hire this person. You can ask the tutor for ways to get in touch with former students or put a request out on social media. Another check is to ask the teacher about their history with the GMAT. How many times have they taken it? How recently? The best tutors will re-take the GMAT at least once per year to ensure that they’re keeping up with changes that are made to the exam and to sharpen their own skills. Ask the tutor to show you their most recent GMAT scores; you can even ask for their previous three scores, just to check whether they’re consistently scoring high. There are many out there who talk the talk but can’t actually achieve what you want to achieve, so make sure you’re only being educated by those who are achieving the dreams or GMAT target scores that you’ve set for yourself.

Conclusion: Should You Get Tutoring for the GMAT or Self-Study?

There are many advantages to both sides of the argument and no clear winner. The simple truth is that self-motivated GMAT study is better for some people, while guided study is better for others. There’s also a third camp of people who prefer to study alone for 75% of their study period, then add a tutor at the end to correct mistakes and bad habits. The key is to know yourself and understand how you study best. You’re not going to succeed by doing what’s best for most people; figure out what you need, then find a way to make it work.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Deciding whether to study alone or hire a tutor while preparing for the GMAT entirely depends on your unique study style and how you learn best.
  • Self-motivated study suits people who want to save money and are good at motivating themselves to stay focused. It’s also great for saving time and study efficiently.
  • Tuition-led study is better suited to people who need guidance to stay focused. It’s great for people who want questions answered quickly and benefit from the compulsion to impress someone by staying focused.
  • It’s possible to combine these two styles to attain the best of both worlds.

[1] GMAT Tutor, Everything You Need to Successfully Self-Study for the GMAT, Economist Education, Accessed 2022.

[2] Sackmann, Jeff. How to Choose a GMAT Tutor. GMAT Hacks. Accessed 2022.

[3] Coggio, Dana. When to Hire a Private GMAT Tutor? Apex GMAT. 2021.

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