How I Became the Best GMAT Tutor in NYC

Who is the best GMAT tutor in New York? Me me me me me me me!!!!!

Not so fast!

Some of that is going to depend on the personal fit amongst the client, tutor, and prep program.

That said, over the past 20 years of working with the GMAT, I can say that I have built, little by little, a mountain of competitive advantages that I can’t imagine anyone else has accrued. 

-I’ve studied for this test myself very intensely and taken the GMAT 9 times achieving a 780 top score and 3 other scores in the 99th percentile (770, 770, 760).

-I have deep teaching and test prep experience having worked for several different prep companies learning everything possible about helping people succeed on the GMAT.

– Through all of this I’ve analyzed every major GMAT teaching platform and snatched all of the goodness anywhere I could and then made it better, more approachable, and more powerful.

-I have amassed what is probably the largest and highest quality bank of practice questions from GMAT, LSAT, and GRE all organized to support the best GMAT prep possible.

-The best GMAT tutor won’t help much without your effort outside of sessions. My HW scheduling makes studying easier and keeps you accountable. My process includes being straightforward about what’s working and not in your preparation. Expect email checkin if HW isn’t being done properly:)

Atlantic is the best rated GMAT tutoring company in NYC with 97 5-star reviews.

I started as a GMAT tutoring student

I coveted a top-notch MBA and so needed a big GMAT score. My brother had studied for the LSAT and achieved a 99% score. That near perfect performance set the bar. He had worked with an LSAT tutor from Advantage Testing, who were also considered the best GMAT tutors in New York. I wanted the best and so decided to hire an AT GMAT tutor for my preparation.

Looking back on it, the preparation was overpriced QA sessions and there was very little strategy in preparing me for the rigors of the GMAT CAT. Advantage hadn’t given me much of an advantage. I severely underperformed on my actual GMAT: 780s on practice tests but 720 on test day.

My Advantage tutors expressed that I could do better but didn’t have a plan for a retake or encourage to keep trying for a higher score. A 720 is pretty damn good score anyways (especially in 2001 when I took my first GMAT and school averages/percentiles were less competitive) so I stuck with it.

I had really enjoyed the studying for the GMAT and felt aligned with the logic of the exam so sooner than later I started my journey to be the best GMAT tutor in NYC. Unfortunately I started near the bottom…

Trained at Kaplan GMAT (learning what not to do)

My next GMAT experience was training to teach for Kaplan test prep in New York. It was a relatively intense training but all we learned was how to repeat what was in the teacher’s manual. That was it. And what was in their GMAT guide was a bunch of crap. You didn’t even have to take an actual GMAT to teach. You could take a Kaplan practice test. Really.

It was interesting to see that the quality of Kaplan and Advantage was similar though Advantage was exorbitantly expensive. At Advantage you did get tutors with impressive degrees but really that was the biggest difference I perceived between the two programs. There was no real personalization in either system. There was very little game plan besides teaching you the fundamental content that these days you can learn on Khan Academy.

Detour to SAT tutoring

I was offered a class at the end of Kaplan training but decided to start working with a different little start-up company (that no longer exists) teaching the SAT. I tutored and taught group classes. It was better than Kaplan, in that I did get to contribute to the curriculum and was given more freedom to “teach”. We got great results. So that was a big positive. 

A trip to the tropics to cut my teeth and find my calling

I left GMAT tutoring in New York to teach english full time in Recife, a coastal city in the northeast of Brazil. It was a great experience as I taught a ton of hours and really learned the ins and outs of great teaching. What makes a good lesson. How to ask questions. How to create learning. It made me realize how crappy a teacher (or at least how low skilled) I had been. And I think I had been pretty good compared to many of the other teachers I experienced so imagine what kind of quality most people were/are putting out there.

A year of that and I felt amazing about my teaching skills. I also realized that teaching was something that truly enjoyed. That it was something I could really invest in as a career. But I preferred the discrete world of GMAT so aimed to get back at it in New York.

Training to become the best GMAT tutor in NYC

After a year in the tropics I returned to New York City to perfect my test prep skills. I wanted to be the best possible tutor. So I threw myself into the LSAT and the GMAT making it my job to study for those tests. I banged out the LSAT in a month solving every released LSAT question up to that point and earned a 170. So with my 170 LSAT and 720 GMAT I ventured out and applied for teaching jobs.

Failure to launch at Blueprint LSAT

I ended up training with Blueprint LSAT. They were doing a very solid job with their LSAT program. Small-ish (at the time) company run by former tutors. It was a good experience because they had a no BS attitude and delivered lessons in a no-nonsense way. They had a very well thought out curriculum. Again, it was a company run by people who had deep experience teaching the tests so it all made sense as it was based on real world experience (something that I did not get from Kaplan or Advantage). 

I didn’t do so well at the training and wasn’t invited to teach with them. It was unfortunate. But soon after I confirmed teaching jobs with three companies, two test prep companies for GMAT tutoring and one language school for english teaching. I also enrolled in an improv class because I felt that my crappy-ness at the Blueprint training was related to a bit of stage-fright. 

10,000 hours to be the best GMAT tutor in NYC

For the test prep companies I ended up teaching everything, LSAT, GMAT, SAT, ACT, SHSAT, GRE… I volunteered for every assignment and logged a ton of hours on all of the standard tests learning everything about them and how to teach them. I also learned a lot about the people studying. I did private tutoring, group classes, and curriculum development.

One of the companies was very small and based out of a tiny NYC upper west side apartment not suited for sessions so I was traveling all over the city meeting people at their apartments, coffee shops, libraries, and other NYC public spaces that lent themselves to learning. It was a very nomadic existence. I would log 12 hours days consistently. Looking back I have no idea how I did it. But I paid my dues and was delivering real value to my students. 

My improv classes were fantastic. And I learned a truckload of new skills that I incorporated into my teaching.

Retaking the GMAT and using the LSAT to perfect verbal

At some point I decided to study for the GMAT again to improve my score to the 99th%. This is when I started perfecting the LSAT for GMAT method that we use in tutoring. So for verbal I was bashing out LSATs every day. I would only do the hardest questions and give myself half the time. That would push me to think a bit quicker and accustom me to the highest level of difficulty. It also saved me study time and energy because I could get through my verbal reps in half the time.

It was eye opening how much improved what was already an almost perfect verbal. I was psyched to try this with students.

Perfecting my Quant by Using Extra Challenging Quant Tests

On the quant side, I leaned on Manhattan prep and GMAT Club Quant because I wanted to do practice tests every day, a system that had worked well with my LSAT studying. Of course, official materials are better than third party. If you’ve followed my writing you’ve probably heard me say that many times. But at that point there were only two official GMAT practice tests available and I’d already memorized those from all of my GMAT teaching.

With GMAT club I had a ton to work through (26 quant CATs). The questions were off in flavor BUT they did sharpen my math skills and teach me a bunch of tricks that I hadn’t thought of that I then refined and absolved into the Atlantic GMAT Quant method.

The GMAT Club and Manhattan solutions tended to have something underlying that was helpful but the way it was explained was confusing and depended on more math knowledge than was necessary. They also lacked an overarching structure to tie everything together to have it all make sense as an organized whole. It was almost as though they hadn’t taken the step to have it all make come together to a student reading it for the first time.

Ready to prove it

Time to demolish the GMAT! But. I went in and crashed out. I wasted too much time on the beginning of the quant and then was starved at the end. On verbal I was also rushed towards the end. Normally I’d score a 99th%+ verbal even without any studying but I settled at a q47 v42  for a 730 total. So I’d only improved my score by 10 points. So much for all my greatness…

But you know what? Learning how to come back from failure is something you need if you’re going to be the best at anything, and especially important if you are trying to teach others to be their best.

GMAT #2 disaster

I doubled down on my studying. I re-did the all of the challenging questions in the official guide and didn’t leave any stone unturned. I had an explicit method for solving everything (later this work became the basis for Atlantic GMAT lessons). I kept a detailed error log and re-visited tough questions several times to make sure I’d consolidated everything. I ran the GMAT Club Quant CATs again. The Manhattan CATs again. Test day came. And.

I had missed it! I was off by a day (my test was the day before). It was really unfortunate. The earliest I could get was three weeks out. So I booked it and hit the books again. Blasting through the error log and pushing through all of the quant CATs just to keep up the routine and rhythm.

I even had a practice set I would do ahead of each CAT that really helped warm me up and make feel comfortable (something we now suggest to students).

GMAT #3

I was aiming for 760+, the current threshold for the 99th percentile. You can’t take the crown of best GMAT tutor in NYC without that.

I felt near perfect on quant. I was ahead on time headed into the middle of the test.Then I hit a total brain melter of a question. I was so confident though. There was nothing in the GMAT universe I couldn’t solve. I was the best!!! Until I wasn’t. That question kicked my butt. And I wasted about 7 minutes. I had to sprint through the last quarter. Although I was able to make some pretty good guesses I was a little wounded heading into the verbal section.

Lesson learned: let go even if you are a GMAT master! What matters: getting the best score possible not solving one tough question.

Even if you get smooshed by quant still give verbal your all!

I was always telling (and still do!) my GMAT tutoring students to give verbal 100% if quant felt crappy because you never know. A great quant performance can feel terrible. Out of breath. Out of time. Near hyper-ventilating. And, even if the quant score is a bit of a dud, a huge verbal score can really turn things around on the composite score.

So I put my shoulder into it and kept pushing. One trick I used on the verbal: taking a rest every ten questions or so to reset my eyes and motivate myself again. The enemy on verbal can be complacency. Kind of zomby-ing out. So I reminded myself what I was there to do: crush this GMAT!!!

I got some tough ones on the verbal side but I felt good about. I couldn’t guess my score. I was scared.

770!!! q49 v46

So now I had the experience and I had the score to be the best. And I really felt like I was on top of a mountain. But being the best is about continuing to improve.

Applying my personal study routine to my GMAT tutoring students’ prep

From my months of studying I’d come out with a bunch of study refinements that I started to introduce to my GMAT tutoring students.

  • I started formalizing my own lessons and strategies to make them super digestible for students
  • I started assigning LSAT work for GMAT verbal studying
  • I started using the extra tough quant as appropriate
  • I got serious about error log and HW scheduling

On that last point because it’s probably the most important. One thing I noticed is that most GMAT tutoring students were very uneven with HW. They’d not do anything. They’d cram. And forget about having any kind of error log.

It didn’t matter what taught if students didn’t practice properly and review in a high quality way. So I started getting all of my students on a HW schedule. I started with a weekly schedule but then decided it was better to just organize every single day.

It was great. Students did more work and did it when assigned. I could clearly see who was working and who not. And we had a HW record to refer to so we could see trends and have a better sense for what to review going forward.

Atlantic GMAT Tutoring NYC

I’d been full time teaching GMAT in NYC for almost four years. Although I was still working for two different test prep companies, I was pretty much using only my home brewed best of the best curriculum and materials. It didn’t seem that the companies that I worked for had any interest in pushing their programs in a better direction. Status quo was making money so no need to change. I wanted to be the best GMAT tutor in NYC providing the best GMAT prep possible. This mediocre attitude just wasn’t good enough so I started Atlantic GMAT Tutoring.

GMAT Prep the way it should be

I was getting to do the GMAT the way I wanted. Putting a ton of effort into my students’ GMAT preparations. Controlling their study time outside of sessions. Monitoring their HW. Sending check emails if anything was amiss. Really taking charge of their success. Holding high standards for them. I also started pushing this idea of retakes and actually planning for those multiple tests. So that a mediocre first test didn’t feel like the end of the world but just a part of the process. And I began refining a process of retake schedules in which I included a quant CAT bootcamp similar to what I had done to snag my 770.

Again, being the best GMAT tutor wasn’t something that came all at once. It was an acquisition of a varied skillset. A familiarity with a test and its universe. A dedication to client success. Being willing to think creatively. And then to build systems that resulted from the experimentation.

Finding every possible official GMAT question ever released

In some ways there is an overwhelming amount of GMAT material to work through but if you study somewhat long term or if you have a very specific profile you may find yourself lacking official resources at some point in your GMAT prep. I set myself to gather everything possible (scouring the web, forums, and amazon for out of print books) to give our GMAT tutoring students every advantage.

I spend hundreds of hours organizing the questions, taking out duplicates, and getting everything in awesome shape.

Realizing that the GRE could be a great GMAT resource

I was always trying to find more challenging questions to work on since there always seems to be a lack of them. But the other end of the spectrum, basic quant is pretty important and some people need a lot of it to get proficient. So, I mined official GRE question for basic quant practice.

They are great because we have tons of them and they are a bit simpler than GMAT questions so make great basic skill builders. But they are still pro questions developed by ETS so do retain accurate standardized test flavor. And so we don’t have to waste best of the best GMAT questions when you don’t need them during basic skill building.

GMAT, Out of Print GMAT, LSAT, GRE: this is overwhelming!!!!

It could be if you were trying find all of these things on GMATclub and then trying to figure out how to use them. It took a while but I made it simple: it’s all organized into quizzes on our HW portal. Yep. We’re a GMAT tutoring company but we’ve got a HW portal to go along with the tutoring.

It’s a simple interface but fantastic and a huge advantage. I think there are a handful of great GMAT tutors out there but none have the organized vault and insanely helpful materials that I’ve amassed. To be the best GMAT tutor you need have the best GMAT resources.

To be best you need to keep practicing (GMAT Retake 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9)

To keep getting sharper and more aligned with the GMAT I have continued to take official practice tests, 9 in total. Yep. It’s a lot and maybe a little excessive. But you don’t get to top without pushing the envelope. And seeing all of the questions on these tests has given me a unique perspective on the test and tons of insight that I have imbued into our tutoring system. Here are the results from my 9 GMATs:

GMAT 1 720 q44 v45 2001

GMAT 2 730 q47 v42 2012

GMAT 3 770 q49 v46 2012

GMAT 4 740 q49 v42 2015

GMAT 5 760 q48 v47 2016

GMAT 6 770 q49 v47 2016

GMAT 7 780 q49 v51 2016

GMAT 8 750 (Online)  q48 v46 2020

GMAT 9 750? (Online) 2020

The best GMAT tutor shouldn’t be the most expensive. Best = effective + efficient

Ok – we’re not cheap. Here are current GMAT tutoring rates and policies. But we have built in time savers into our method to minimize tutoring hours.

Because we have an awesome HW site and we’ve refined the process of organizing HW schedules we save hours of tutoring by assigning parts of the preparation that don’t need sessions as organized self-studies. Here are common areas for potential time saving:

-Before formal tutoring starts we have a basic quant curriculum for building up all of those little quant rules you’ve forgotten. You don’t need to review the area a triangle for $340/h.

-For verbal high achievers we do our LSAT for GMAT curriculum (CR and RC) as an organized self-study.

-Given that we have confidence that you are ready to fly solo, for GMAT re-takes we have an awesome organized self-study system to guide you through any retakes.

In summary: Why am I the best GMAT tutor in NYC?

-Years of full time teaching and specifically GMAT tutoring experience

-I’ve taken the GMAT 9 times, scored in the 99th% 4 times, and achieved a whopping 780 with a perfect 51 on the verbal.

-I have a refined system that incorporates everything good from every of other platform/company but distilled and improved

-The biggest question bank of official GMAT, LSAT, and GRE questions specifically organized for GMAT studying

-Something no-one else does: we plan every single day of your HW to make studying as easy as possible and to hold you accountable.

– I will actually hold you accountable to reach your GMAT goals.