After 11 years of GMAT training experience, I can tell you that the commercial GMAT preparation companies don't exactly tell the entire truth about the GMAT. They tend to perpetuate certain myths simply because doing so is good for business. Not that I blame them - none of them lie and most of them are relatively competent, but they do tend to leave some stuff out. So here are a few things you should know about the GMAT before making any serious decisions.
GMAT myth: Everyone will benefit from taking a GMAT test-preparation course or hiring an GMAT tutor/trainer.
GMAT fact: Excluding those students who do not complete the assigned homework, approximately 20% of GMAT test-takers will derive no benefit from any form of GMAT preparation. Roughly 5% can already ace the GMAT with a minimum of study; roughly 15% score in a range similar to random guessing .
My advice: if you have not done so already, try to familiarize yourself with the basics of the GMAT. Go to mba.com and download the PowerPrep software. Complete the practice sets and take one of the tests. If you score 50 or more on the math, then you should probably study on your own or hire a tutor for advanced GMAT training. If you score 35 or less on the math, then you need to study math basics (algebra and geometry) before you start studying for the GMAT. As a rule, the GMAT assumes that all test-takers have complete mastery over basic math.
GMAT myth: I just need to take a commercial GMAT preparation course, study hard, and I can ace the GMAT.
GMAT fact: GMAT prep courses all suffer from the same fatal flaw: no pre-requisite is required to take the class. Therefore, all GMAT courses have poor pacing for the majority of students. Many students find the GMAT courses too slow (because so many other students struggle with the GMAT, especially the math) and many find GMAT courses too fast (because so many other students immediately understand the GMAT and are math experts). In addition, most GMAT prep courses allow students to re-take the class (often for free). As a result, many GMAT students will have already taken the course, further messing up the pacing of the course.
GMAT myth: I need to find a GMAT tutor/trainer with a commercial GMAT preparation company who scored at least 760 on the GMAT.
GMAT fact: Very often, someone who aces the GMAT does not understand how to teach GMAT strategies (in their minds, the GMAT is an “easy” test). Instead, you need to find a tutor who has at least 1 year of teaching GMAT classes, regardless of their GMAT score. Only after a year can a GMAT tutor/trainer truly understand how various students think about the GMAT. For myself, after 11 years of GMAT training, I have learned to anticipate the vast majority of questions that students might have about the GMAT. In addition, competent GMAT tutors/trainers can be found on Craigslist under “Lessons”. In fact, Craigslist GMAT trainers will often have more experience and be less expensive than a commercial GMAT preparation course. If the GMAT tutor/trainer doesn’t already offer it, request that you only pay for the first session if you decide to hire him or her for future sessions (that way, you can meet him/her at no risk).