Interview with Rajat Sadana & Payal Tandon, Co-Founders of e-GMAT [Show Summary]
Do you need to prep for the GMAT? Dreading having to go to class? Unsure about online test prep? Our guests today are GMAT online test prep experts. We’ll be speaking with the co-founders and CEO and COO of e-GMAT, the GMAT prep company that has 1,818 reviews on GMAT Club and a 4.7/5 rating.
An inside look at e-GMAT: The innovative test prep company that MBA applicants are raving about [Show Notes]
Our guests, Rajat Sadana and Payal Tandon are the co-founders of e-GMAT, which they started in 2010. Today they are also CEO and COO respectively of e-GMAT, which has 1,818 reviews on GMAT Club as of 2/19 when I prepared for the podcast, and most are 5 stars.
Rajat and Payal, how did you get involved with GMAT test prep? [2:10]
We were very fortunate as kids to have had great educations. We both had personalized attention and were provided the opportunity to learn anything we wanted to learn. We are technologists at heart and realized that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a private tutor, so we wondered if we could provide instruction similar to a private tutor but at the price of a book. The idea was to build a learning platform to provide this private-tutor-like instruction, and we had to start with something. With the GMAT there was clear demand, and we felt we could carve a niche. Our engineering background was key. We came at it from an ed-tech perspective as opposed to a GMAT perspective.
There are lots of test prep companies out there? What does e-GMAT bring to the marketplace that it previously lacked? [6:25]
The existing learning architectures were book-based or private tutor-based. For online courses, you learn a bunch of concepts, but there is no feedback on how well you’ve learned. A few people can excel in this type of format and are able to build on the foundational work. Others continue to try and learn a few more times and many give up. What we wanted to do was provide immediate feedback when you are learning a concept. So, you learn a concept with a 10-15 minute video, and then take an embedded quiz. If you haven’t learned any aspect of the concept well enough, you get that feedback and try again.
It is very structured. With each concept there are typically three different objectives to fulfill, and the quiz will test whether you know them all. If not, you go back and learn again and take the quiz again.
An example of a concept to learn about is modifiers. The three objectives are to learn what a modifier is, whether it is serving the intent of modifying a noun or clause, and placement of the modifier. At the end of the concept you take a 5-7 question quiz.
When you work with a private tutor they are able to tell you how to attack a problem step by step. When you make a mistake, they help you explicitly on where you made the mistake. With the other learning architectures you don’t learn where in the thought process you diverged from the correct answer. The goal of e-GMAT is to provide a private tutor experience at a more effective cost.
How is e-GMAT structured in terms of its products? [13:30]
We have two kinds of products that serve slightly different needs. We have an on-demand product for someone who needs a private tutor-like set up, but has enough discipline not to need to interact with another person. They want to be on their own to have flexibility to set their own study schedule and don’t want to be tied to a weekend schedule, which our live sessions are. 70% of our students do this. Then we have an instructor-led course, which provides accountability and live sessions to refine applications. Students have to study the material first and in the session the instructor reinforces the concepts.
What happens when a student gets stuck, particularly in the online course? [17:30]
We have a dedicated forum for every concept, which every student has access to. While watching the video, you can pause, post your situation/doubt and we will respond within one business day, but typically within about eight hours. When you are taking quizzes, our forums are even more modular, and you can look up posts related to each question by answer choices. You can filter forum choices and see what other students had doubts about.
Can you discuss your guarantee? [20:39]
We guarantee a 4-point improvement in verbal score, and 3-point improvement in quant score. We are very comfortable with this because the average improvement on verbal is typically 9 points, on quant is 7 points, and our refund rate is just 1%.
What are your top GMAT prep tips? [23:48]
The first thing is to create a milestone-driven study plan. There are so many students who just hope that they will put in effort and get the score they want, but you need to think of it as a project and make sure you have well-defined milestones. So if you want to get to a 730, evaluate where to aim. Spend time figuring out how you will get to the score, and set milestones for each aspect – algebra, geometry, reading comprehension, etc. The GMAT is a very logical test, so when you think of a 720 score you could get it with a Q50 and V38, and another combination is Q48 and V40. Question which one is right for you. If you choose the Q48, how will you get there? Evaluate your starting and ending abilities.
Make sure you allocate enough time to achieve your milestones. For every 10-point improvement on the test, we recommend 8-10 hours of study. So if you are starting with a 600 and want a 700, you will need to put in about 80-100 hours of study. Question where you need to spend it, and decide that based on your starting and ending scores. How do you split your time in verbal? You don’t have to get to the same level of expertise in each section, it depends on your innate capabilities and milestone goals. At the end of the day treat GMAT study as a project, prioritize, and spend time to get those returns.
The latest thing we have created is an online milestone-driven study plan that will calculate milestones to go for, and will be available to anyone. You spend five minutes, input the number of hours you will spend studying on a daily basis and when you plan to take the exam, and it will show how your score will improve. It gives you a neat calendar view.
What do you see in your crystal ball for e-GMAT? [32:40]
The principle for us of course is to provide private-tutor based instruction. Going forward we have made drastic changes to the architecture which will get to 80-90% of what private tutors can provide.
Logical verticals for us to go into are the GRE, LSAT, etc., but we want to make sure our product is perfect before we take the technology and replicate it with other tests.
Soon we will provide our own mock quizzes. We don’t currently offer our own mock tests, but we will, and reporting and insights you get will be beyond what you get for other forms of GMAT prep.
What would you have liked me to ask that I didn’t ask? [36:07]
When we started this business, we started with a focus on internationals and English as a Second Language applicants, and serving that niche. Since then we have invested and expanded product offerings and 30% of our customers are native-born English speakers, as opposed to the international population.
Remember that balancing GMAT study with a professional career gives you a glimpse of what your life will be like in business school, so it’s the opportunity to work on time management, managing relationships, etc.
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