Why I Tutor—Erfun Geula

Erfun G., an expert Leland coach, Yale BA, and Pro GMAT/GRE Tutor, outlines why he chooses to coach and what it means to him.

Erfun G.

By Erfun G.

Posted August 22, 2022

It's not a usual career choice to teach graduate school exams for a living. When most people think of exams like the GMAT and GRE, their initial reaction is some form of "so you teach high school math and grammar"? While this misconception is understandable, it belies the reality of what these exams measure and what makes teaching them so rewarding. While I was initially drawn to tutoring (and still am!) by a natural ability and interest in fleshing out different concepts, as I've learned more about these exams and nuanced skills they measure, I've developed a deep fascination with figuring out the best way impart to my students the requisite cognitive skills to excel on these exams. One of the most gratifying elements of being a tutor is getting into the head of my students, understanding how they think through the questions, and customizing my teaching style to ensure that students learn the skills and content in the way that is most intuitive and digestible for them.

My background in Cognitive Psychology at Yale taught me about the pervasiveness of cognitive biases in our everyday thinking, and I find it deeply rewarding to help my students pinpoint exactly where their biases arise. Sometimes, for example, a GMAT student will unconsciously avoid choosing E on Data Sufficiency questions because it seems like a "trap", or sometimes a GRE student won't properly employ contrarian thinking when plugging in numbers on Quantitative Comparison questions. Helping students understand where they're making these mistakes and seeing them have the "a-ha!" moment for themselves is immensely rewarding for both tutor and tutee; I love seeing lightbulbs go off for students after they've struggled through a question-type or concept, but, more importantly, the students get the benefit of learning a skill that will generalize to many questions on the exam, not just to a specific topic. Indeed, this principle is at the heart of my teaching philosophy: provide a tailored framework for viewing questions that will help students see gains across the board, independent of content.

Even more motivating for me are the rich relationships I'm able to cultivate with my tutees. Many of my tutees come to me in distress, having already studied on their own or taken a class and worried that they won't be able to realize their graduate school ambitions. Serving as a guide and mentor to my tutees, helping them get a better sense of their obstacles and ways to overcome them, and seeing them succeed in the high-stakes arena of standardized tests has proven to be an enduring source of satisfaction. Seeing the jubilant texts or e-mails from my students after they finish the exam never ceases to bring a smile to my face, and, indeed, I've been fortunate enough to maintain a friendship with many of my students long after they finish their exam prep. The application process and test prep in particular can be a crucial juncture in your career trajectory, and having the honor to help you during this pivotal moment in your life is the highest compliment I can receive.

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