Frequently Asked Questions
Below is a list of questions that we are often asked and which may be useful to you in planning your study or determining if we are a good fit for your needs. Alternatively, you might consider checking out some questions which we are rarely asked and are unlikely to be of any use to you here, on our Infrequently Asked Questions page.
+ Why should I sign up for a course with TestCrackers instead of a class with one of the big test prep companies?
Without speaking with you, we don't know whether one of our courses is right for you, but here are some things that make the TestCrackers experience different:
- Teachers: All of our classes are taught by our top-notch instructors with 99th percentile scores, countless hours of test-specific teaching experience, and more 5-star Yelp reviews than you’ll find with any other option. Sure, you might get a great teacher with one of those other companies, but you could also get a mediocre teacher who just took the test, has limited teaching experience, and no incentive to better his or her craft since he or she is likely to change jobs soon. Don’t take a gamble: learn the GMAT or the GRE from an instructor who knows the tests inside and out, will talk with you before you start your course, and offers reviews and testimonials.
- Small Group Classes with personal attention are the best way to learn a systematic approach: We have developed a top-notch, interactive curriculum based on decades of teaching experience. In our classes and in private tutoring, we focus on helping you understand the underlying material and how to approach the test. Unlike other companies that offer large classes with limited interaction, we strictly limit our class size to 12, at which point we know we can offer individualized attention. Rather than simply running through practice problems, we offer a systematic approach to each problem type that you will face. Our experience and small class size allow us to combine the best strategies with the most thorough coverage of the content.
- Investment in your Success: Your instructors choose to focus on teaching because we love the satisfaction that comes from helping hard-working, motivated students achieve their goals. For us, that means that your success is crucial to meeting our own goals. We want to make our courses the best that they can possibly be, and we’re constantly in conversation with each other and our students about what we can do to improve. It is for this reason that so many people send their family and friends to us after taking a course. It sounds cliche, but we actually do care about our students!
+ How long do I need to study for the GMAT or GRE?
This is an easy one: we have no idea, but probably longer than you would expect. The answer depends on 3 things:
- Your starting score, based on a full-length, timed, practice exam. Please do not put off taking a practice test. It is step 1. E-mail us if you'd like a link to a good, free, accurate practice exam.
- Your goal score. A decent rule of thumb is that your goal score should be at or above the median score of the most competitive school to which you're applying, but there are many other factors. If some characteristics of your application are truly exceptional, such as your undergraduate GPA and/or experience, you might have a decent chance of admission with a slightly lower score. The converse is true as well--if your undergraduate GPA is below the program's median, or if your experience is lacking, then you'll likely need a higher-than-average GMAT or GRE score.
- How much time outside of classes you will devote to studying. If you do not have five hours/week outside of classes at minimum to study without distractions, then perhaps this is not the time to take the exam. But, if you have 5-10 hours/week of time, then you can do it!
After you've completed steps 1) and 2) above, give us a call at 415-323-5728 and we'll talk about how much time you'll need.
+ When can I schedule my test?
If you plan to take the test only once, the best time to take it is after you have consistently scored at or above your target score on accurate practice exams. Again, see above for how long that may take, and please contact us with any questions about more details.
+ I haven't taken math in 10 + years. What can I do to prepare for one of your quant courses?
- For the GMAT, we highly recommend Manhattan GMAT's Foundations of GMAT Math. Complete all of the drills at the end of each chapter.
- For the GRE, we also highly recommend doing all the problems in Manhattan Prep's Foundations of GMAT Math--it says GMAT in the title, but everything in the book is completely relevant to the GRE. It’s a foundational book, and both exams test the same fundamentals. Make sure to complete all the drills at the end of each chapter. If you don't have time to properly prepare by doing this book, complete all the worksheets on the following page: [http://www.txstate.edu/slac/stad-test-prep/gre/quantitative.html] but note that this is not a good substitute for doing the foundations book.
+ My first language is not English. Would I benefit from taking a GMAT or GRE verbal course?
This depends on your fluency in English. Many ESL students have had good experiences with TestCrackers, but language can be an added challenge for what is already a difficult subject. If you struggle to read and understand the material on the test, and have a TOEFL score of below 90, you may find that you benefit more from time spent studying English before beginning our course. Call us to talk more about your specific situation.
+ Do you offer make-up classes? I have to miss a few of the classes.
Yes! We're a very small business-- so we do have to limit make-up classes to one class per session (so if you took a complete course you could make up one quant class and one verbal class). If you need to miss more than one class, we offer online videos of all materials for the GMAT quant and GRE quant courses. The videos are of the instructor explaining all quant class material, so it is a bit different from the highly interactive class. For all courses, we offer the opportunity to set up a private tutoring session with your instructor to review all class material. See our tutoring page for rates.
+ I plan to apply to Business School - should I take the GMAT or GRE?
This is a complicated one, and please don't infer too much from it or take it out of context. The best choice is to speak with admissions officers and/or consultants to clear up any questions that you have about your specific situation. That said, here is our perspective:
Most schools now state that they will accept both, and do not have a specific preference for one or the other. Still, the GMAT is the standard by which business schools measure students, and by which rankings measure schools. If you can take the GMAT and score above the median score for your target schools, you not only impress them with something that they believe has predictive ability for your success in school and post-graduation, but you also offer them an easy way to maintain or improve their median admitted GMAT score. On the other side, admitting a student with a GMAT score significantly below median can potentially damage their ranking, or force them to accept a high scoring student who is otherwise unexceptional, just to balance out your score. If you believe that you can reasonably achieve a greater-than-median score, we recommend taking the GMAT, because we believe it will do somewhat more to help your application than a comparable GRE score.
If your initial score on a timed GMAT practice exam is at or below the 25th percentile, we recommend strongly considering the GRE as an alternative. In our experience, this is a smart strategic move that will increase your chances of acceptance. Raising a GMAT score from the 25th percentile to above the 50th can take multiple years of study - the path on the GRE can be considerably shorter. Additionally, because relatively few students apply with the GRE, many business schools tend to view GRE results as reflective of ability, but without the heavy impact on their ranking. That means that if your application is exceptional in other ways that make you a desirable candidate for admission, submitting a GRE score gives schools a way to admit you without damaging their numbers. But keep in mind the fact that you are not fooling them: they know that the GRE is generally a somewhat easier test, particularly in the quantitative section. If you don’t have a strong quantitative score, you will still need to demonstrate quantitative proficiency through other means.
Remember, even a great score is unlikely to get you admitted if it is not accompanied by a very strong overall application. But for students with otherwise similar experiences, a higher score can make a big difference, and a lower score will often keep you out.
One additional issue: the two tests are not merely easier and harder versions of the same content. Vocabulary makes up about ½ of the GRE verbal section but is omitted from the GMAT; grammar makes up ⅓ of the GMAT verbal section but is not on the GRE at all. The GMAT has more logic-based questions, and contains a unique math section called Data Sufficiency. If you are particularly strong or weak in any of these areas, you may be able to get a higher score on one test than a strict conversion chart would imply.
+ Do you offer payment plans or scholarships?
A: Yes, we do! We will work with any student to come up with an acceptable payment plan--just call us 415-323-5728! Please note, however, that for all plans, full payment must be made at least 7 days before the course begins.
We also offer a limited number of need-based scholarships covering part of the cost of our courses. If you are interested, please click here to apply.
+ How much work is required outside of class time for your courses?
A: For each class period, we assign roughly 5 hours of homework, in addition to approximately one practice exam every 2 weeks. Please note that the homework may take more or less time depending on your pace. Our homework is carefully chosen to reinforce what we learn in class. Setting aside this time outside of class for focused homework is required to make significant improvements in your score.
+ Should I take the quant and verbal courses at the same time?
A: This depends on how much time you have to devote to study in between classes. As noted, above, there are about 5 hours of homework per class period, so if you’re taking both courses at the same time, you’ll need approximately 10 hours per week outside of class to study. Also factor in about one practice exam every two weeks. Most people who work demanding, full-time jobs find it difficult to take quant and verbal courses at the same time.
+ I have test anxiety--what will TestCrackers do to help me?
A: Many people experience some degree of test anxiety, and for some students it can significantly impact their scores. Many students find that information from the following sites can be useful in addressing minor test taking anxiety:
Note that anxiety can be a serious medical condition. Unfortunately, we do not have the qualifications nor expertise to advise you on how to treat anxiety. If you find that anxiety is significantly impacting your ability to perform, we advise seeking outside assistance from a specialist. This may be an important step in achieving your goal score and we encourage you not to avoid or delay it.
Whatever anxiety you may face, we’re happy to help with the part that we can provide: a solid basis in fundamental material covered on your test and a structured approach to preparation. We are excited to have you study with us and will make every effort to make our class time work as well as possible for you--please just let us know what we can do to make your time in the course most comfortable and effective!
+ Do you offer SAT, ACT, ISEE, ASVAB, Reiki, Modern Dance, or other tutoring/courses?
A: No, sorry. We only teach courses covering the GRE and the GMAT. By specializing in these two exams, we have developed great expertise in them.