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What Makes a Great USMLE Tutoring Service?

A medical student receiving USMLE tutoring online.


7 Things to Look for in When Choosing a USMLE Tutoring Provider

More often than not, when medical students preparing for their exams come to the realization that they are in need of USMLE tutoring services, they are thrown into a bit of a vulnerable position. While USMLE tutoring absolutely can and should be used early on to achieve the best possible score on the USMLE exams (Step 1, Step 2 CK, Step 3), many students wait until they are at risk of failure or missing their score goal to seek out tutoring. Students in this situation are often under an incredible amount of stress and can be at risk of being taken advantage of by some test prep companies looking to profit off of student uncertainty.

This is why even though we believe Elite Medical Prep is the #1 choice for USMLE tutoring given our reputation for honesty and transparency with students, we respect that many people still may want to shop around before choosing the organization to trust with their test prep. Therefore, we have put together this guide for questions you should be asking while looking for a USMLE tutoring company in order to ensure they have your best interests in mind and not their own.


1. Expertise

Does the tutoring company have the level of tutor you need?

Does the tutoring company have a proven track record of success?

First and foremost, you want to be taught by those who have outperformed on the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK exams. Find a tutor who scored at or above your USMLE score goal to ensure that they can help you get where you want or need to be. Keep in mind however that just because someone achieved a high score on their exam does not mean that they are a competent teacher. Make sure to ask the USMLE tutoring company you are considering how many tutoring hours a given tutor has delivered, how long they have been with the company, and what is the success or satisfaction rate like for their previous students. You should also ask to speak with a former student as a reference, however, we will talk more about that a little later.


2. Tutor Training → Teaching excellence

Does the USMLE tutoring company provide tutor training? How much?

How are tutor applicants vetted?

Master Yoda might say: “Scoring high on an exam does not a good teacher make”.  Add to that the idea that “Great tutors aren’t born, they are made.”  We’ve all had that med school lecture from a renowned researcher that just didn’t hit the mark in terms of relevance. Likewise, as we started to talk about in the previous point, the top-performing student in class may have no idea how to explain a difficult concept so that others can also develop a similar insight.  It’s incredibly important that a high-end service like USMLE tutoring puts an emphasis on being selective with who they hire based on their ability to teach, engage, lead, and coach. Furthermore, that service shouldn’t just be a matchmaker. The tutors should be trained to be excellent educators, so they can deal with all learning styles and levels. Ask about a company’s tutor selection and hiring process.  Ask how many hours of dedicated training the tutor undergoes. These simple questions will help you gauge just how rigorous it is so you know the level of teaching you’re getting.


3. Flexible USMLE Tutoring – but with Structure 

Does the tutoring company have some kind of internal curriculum or learning materials?

Is tutoring tailored to each student’s needs or is it a structured “1 size fits all” program?

You need a service that scales to your needs. From scheduling, pricing, and ability to offer everything you need to excel on not just the USMLE, but in medical school, third-year shelf exams, and matching into residency are all critically important factors. If the service is confident about their offerings, they’ll offer everything you need, with no strings attached and full refundability. All of these offerings should be couched within a structured approach so that even as the tutor adjusts the schedule, the work is always goal-directed and every hour of tutoring is truly high yield.



4. Professionalism

What is the tutoring company’s session cancellation policy?

What is the expected student-tutor relationship like in terms of communication?

You and your tutor likely have busy schedules. A USMLE tutoring service that emphasizes and incentivizes its tutors AND students to be available at the time and frequency you need is paramount. The service should hold both you and the tutor accountable to maintain a consistent, strong, and professional relationship with two-way feedback. Professionals let you know the good things you are doing, and don’t sugarcoat the bad habits you need to change.



5. Can’t Promise Results

Does the USMLE tutoring company make grand promises that sound too good to be true?

Does the USMLE tutoring company have a >99% “student success rate?”

Does the tutoring company list “average score improvement” numbers?

Students start at different stages of studying and preparation, come from a vast array of educational backgrounds, and have different abilities, schedules, and goals. Thus, you can see how it’s difficult to accurately capture the exact “improvement” for students. Be warned that tutoring companies that list student success rates or average score improvements are often selective of what students they choose to work with and actively turn away weak or barely passing students. Similarly, a USMLE tutoring service that guarantees results through working with them is also over-promising. There are just too many factors out of the control of test prep organizations to 100% guarantee results. Rather, ensure the service has developed a rigorous approach that’s CUSTOMIZED to you, leverages the collective wisdom of top performers, and has confidence that “sticking to the program” will maximize YOUR potential on the USMLE.



6. Transparency

Can the tutoring company provide references?

How is student progress measured? Do you have an option to cancel if you aren’t happy with your progress?

What exactly are you getting for your money?

You should know exactly what you’ve paid for and how many hours you have used/not used with refundable unused hours. Additionally, a good service will regularly document and share what was accomplished in each session, the goals for next time, and time spent. You should also not be afraid to ask to speak to a previous student to ask them about how satisfied they were with the tutoring services provided to them. If a company says they don’t have any references or they can’t put you in contact with a former student due to “privacy policies,” that’s a red flag. 



7. Reputation

Is the tutoring company well known amongst medical schools and students?

Do learning advisors or medical school faculty have positive or negative experiences with the company?

Find a service that has legitimate university partnerships with active teaching engagements, positive testimonials, and is well staffed with strong MDs and students from top schools. Always ask for referrals. Hesitation or lack of available referrals should be a red flag. USMLE Steps are one-shot deals. You want to be the best, so ensure that you’ve chosen the best.



That’s it! We hope that this post has helped you in your vetting process for USMLE tutoring organizations. Certainly, we hope that after asking around a little bit, Elite Medical Prep will be your choice USMLE tutoring provider. However, even if not, we wish you a positive and productive experience preparing for the USMLE exams and if another organization can positively answer all these questions, then what can we say?! They get a thumbs up from us. Visit our USMLE Tutors page to discover what our tutors have to offer and don’t hesitate to schedule a free no strings attached consultation call here!

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