Note: This is a repost of a blog post from August of 2009 that was originally written by our then CEO, Andrew Yang. We frequently get questions from students about score guarantees so we felt like it would be useful to share our opinion of these guarantees, and why we don’t believe them, again. The original post can be found here.
We occasionally get questions about why we don’t offer a score improvement guarantee. This issue came up recently in an article on Businessweek.com.
There are a few little reasons, and one big reason. In our experience, a test prep score guarantee has a number of attendant issues:
1. What’s the baseline? The majority of students who start a prep course have yet to take the real GMAT. Thus, the baseline that is generally used is a practice test, often before a student has become familiar with the GMAT’s format (e.g. Data Sufficiency questions) and timing (e.g. solving a problem every 2 minutes). Here at Manhattan GMAT, we take initial practice test scores with a HUGE grain of salt, and would feel strange about measuring improvement off of a deeply flawed initial measure that we advise students to ignore much of the time.
2. Not all improvements are created equal. Manhattan GMAT caters to many very ambitious students who are seeking top-notch scores. In our experience, it’s a whole lot easier to take someone from a 520 to a 600 than a 710 to a 760. A score improvement metric or guarantee is useful only in context.
3. The fine print. We get many students who have taken a prep course with another company and failed to get the score that they want who then come to us. We’re naturally very curious about their experience with the other company, and we’ve found that virtually none of these students received their money back from the initial test prep company. When we ask them why not, they say, “Oh, the policy was that I had to do ____ practice tests/homework problems/proctored exams, and they said that I didn’t do that so I didn’t qualify.” Other times, the guarantee is to re-take the same course that was unhelpful the first time, an option that isn’t too appealing to most people.
Beyond the above, fundamentally we think that it’s incongruous for an educational institution (I know, it’s grandiose for us to actually use that term in reference to ourselves, but it’s how we think of ourselves!) to guarantee its students any kind of outcome. We guarantee that we do our utmost to recruit and hire the best Instructors anywhere, give them the best training we can, pay them the most ($100/hr. off the bat), and equip them with the best materials. But we honestly think a GMAT course is like most things in life – you’ll get out what you put in – and to represent otherwise doesn’t seem appropriate.
The substance of a guarantee though, is something we completely agree with. If a student of ours doesn’t achieve his or her score goals, we want to know about it, and we’ll work with him or her to see how best to move forward. Any course student of ours in this situation is entitled to meet with a senior Instructor to diagnose what happened on test day and plot next steps. We have a strong track record of not letting students walk away unhappy or dissatisfied – it’s one of the keys to the Company’s growth and success.
For another perspective, Manhattan GMAT currently serves Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Bank of America, Google, Deloitte, and many other companies as corporate clients. None of these companies has ever asked MGMAT to guarantee their employees’ performance – they would probably mistrust us if we did! They would rather depend upon the feedback and results they receive from their own employees.
We hope that the above helps give you a sense on why MGMAT doesn’t offer a guarantee. To us, it’s much less about the policy and more about the Company behind it. Test prep consumers are at something of a disadvantage because there’s so much misinformation out there, and a guarantee can seem like a proxy for quality. Our advice is to gain confidence in your own judgment of different test prep offerings by consulting with friends or contacts to see what worked for them. Seek out people whose opinions you trust who have been through the process. That’s better than any language on a website.