7 things to look for in a GREAT USMLE tutoring service
1. Expertise: First and foremost, you want to be taught by those who have outperformed on the USMLE. Find a tutor who scored at least 1 standard deviation over the mean (~245 in Step 1, ~250 Step 2). If you’re goal is higher, find someone who scored 250+ or 260+. Match your goal with someone who knows how to get you there and ensure the service has that level of tutor.
2. Tutor Training → Teaching excellence: 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 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 medical tutoring puts an emphasis on being selective with who they hire based on 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 level. Ask about their 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. Flexibility, but with Structure: 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. 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: You and your tutor likely have busy schedules. A 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: 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 exact “improvement” for students. Beware of a service that actively advertises a “25 point” improvement, or guarantees results through working with them. 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: 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 have enough to worry about, the status of your tutoring package shouldn’t be one of them.
7. Reputation: 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.