As a GRE tutor, I sometimes get contacted by students who have taken GRE classes at San Diego State University, UCSD Extension, or The University of San Diego, or who've taken a GRE class at the San Diego branches of big companies such as Sherwood, Kaplan, The Princeton Review, or Manhattan Review. As you can imagine, if these students are still looking for help, many of them did not get much out of those GRE classes! I have a few thoughts about why:
Since SDSU and USD don't tell you who's teaching their GRE classes other than describing teachers as "expert instructors" or "leading experts in the field of test preparation", your guess is as good as mine about whether the instructor of the class will be a skilled teacher.
If their teachers really were GRE experts, wouldn't SDSU and USD provide their biographical information or at least tell you their names?
Let's consider the money. Most companies pay instructors a set hourly rate no matter how many students take the class (and since big organizations often sign up as many people as possible, class sizes can be quite large). The company or school keeps two-thirds or even three-quarters of the course cost!
Again, if teachers were really "leading experts", why would they be teaching a class in which the school keeps most of what students pay? What usually happens, in my experience, is that companies and schools hire younger, less experienced teachers who are content to make $20-30 per hour. Tutoring is typically a temporary job for these instructors while they complete a graduate degree, or while they look for a "normal" job in their field.
If big companies' tutors stay in the test prep field, they realize (like I did many years ago) that they can make much more working for themselves, they leave, and the company hires new people. This is another reason most companies don't tell you who is teaching their GRE course.
GRE tutoring is much more efficient. We can get a lot more done in a shorter amount of time because everything is customized, minute-by-minute, to what the student needs.
Furthermore, we can have conversations about the test in much more detail. In my experience, conversations are really the most helpful way to learn about the verbal and writing sections of the test.
If you can't afford more than the price of a course, a good private tutor will be able to give you MUCH more help within that budget - try asking the tutor to structure a plan around what you can afford. After all, the tutor is not limited by a set curriculum, nor is she forced to use certain scripts or materials like course teachers are.
Furthermore, a private tutor will be able to design a detailed home study plan for you. This is huge. You'll have the opportunity to study on your own for the GRE over the upcoming weeks and months - so you want to learn how to optimize your self-study time.
If you're just getting started with GRE prep, a good study plan might be all you need to prepare for the test. Many people just need to figure out what to study and when to study it.
Now, you might be saying, "Okay, Vince - is there ANY good reason to take GRE classes?" Sure... if you know who's teaching them. A great instructor can compensate for the limitations of a course's format. Think about the best teacher you've ever had. If someone like that teaches a course, you'll benefit. On that note...
In addition to my one-on-one GRE tutoring, I offer my own GRE classes. I can keep my pricing competitive since I don't have to split the price with a college like SDSU or USD or a company like The Princeton Review or Kaplan.
Click here for more details about my GRE Bootcamp Classes.
A final note: keep in mind that however you prepare for the GRE, you'll have to work hard and think hard on your own if you really want to do well.