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Best GMAT Prep Courses
Our comprehensive guide to the best online GMAT prep courses and study materials
One of the most important factors of your business school application will be your GMAT score. There is just no way around it. As such, you will almost certainly need a prep course to help you crush this all important exam. But how do you know which one is best? Our team has purchased, reviewed and rated more than a dozen GMAT prep courses, and ranked the best ones here, so you can make a decision on which is best for you.
To quickly navigate through this detailed GMAT prep course guide, simply use the helpful jump-to links above.
Video Review: Which GMAT Course Is Best?
In the above video, John from the Test Prep Insight team (a 700+ GMAT scorer) breaks down everything you need to know about each prep program on our best GMAT courses list. If you want more in-depth analysis of any of the prep courses discussed, be sure to keep reading.
Why Manhattan Prep Is The Best All-Around GMAT Course
Before diving straight into why we really like the Manhattan Prep GMAT course, it needs to be made clear that Kaplan has merged their own GMAT course with the Manhattan GMAT prep package to form one combined program. This is part of the reason why this course is so good, and gets such a high rating. It is the brain child of two of the best prep providers in the space.
Smart Course Structure
For our team, the greatest strength of this prep program is the course structure. Manhattan Prep has designed their course to be completed in 12 weeks (16 weeks if you elect to complete their Foundations of Math pre-course upfront).
Every week centers around a live class or set of video lectures (depending on which course format you take), with reading assignments and practice problem sets following that. Moreover, every few weeks you will be assigned to take a mock exam and then review your answers.
The course syllabus, powered by a program called Atlas, is detailed, incredibly easy to follow, and directs you through everything you need to learn in digestible amounts, week-by-week. It offers the perfect balance of hand holding and guidance, with the ability to flex your work around based on strengths and weaknesses. Whoever curated this course curriculum is a master.
Official Practice Material
Since the rollout of the new Focus version of the GMAT, Manhattan Prep has also made a major change—they now license their practice tests and material directly from the makers of the exam, GMAC.
This means that every problem you practice on within the program has been used on a real, past GMAT. There are no mock or replicated questions. Everything is the real deal.
This is something we always give a huge ratings boost for, as there is no higher form of practice work. So kudos to Manhattan Prep and Kaplan for paying up.
Not to mention, the problem explanations they have crafted to accompany each licensed question are great. They are detailed, insightful, and offer some nice actionable takeaways. In short, Manhattan Prep gets our top grade for practice material.
Killer GMAT Prep Books
In addition to a strong course organization and practice work bundle, Kaplan and Manhattan also provide students with a bundle of fantastic prep books. These books cover content review, strategies and techniques for tackling the new Focus Edition of the exam, and practice drills, among other things.
The Kaplan/Manhattan course books take a deep dive into each topic and are extremely thorough, covering everything you will need to know on how to attack the GMAT Focus.
Plus, while most test prep companies these days only offer students digital e-books (or no prep books at all), Manhattan still provides print books, which our team is very big on.
There is no replacement for being able to take notes, circle key points, and highlight text in a hardcopy workbook. Not to mention, it is very helpful when jumping back and forth between assigned practice sets and reading explanations in the online program.
All things considered, we were blown away by the detail and quality of these course books, and these can’t be overlooked as a valuable aspect of the prep course.
Instructors That Will Make Material Stick
I can’t be sure, but I strongly suspect that interpersonal skills and a sense of humor are top hiring criteria for Kaplan and Manhattan Prep when looking at instructors.
It doesn’t matter which prep course you ultimately take for your GMAT prep, your instructor is likely going to be a 99th percentile+ GMAT scorer. They all are, for every company. It’s just the way it is.
So what differentiates good instructors from the bad ones is not mastery of GMAT substance, it’s the communication and interpersonal skills. And all of Manhattan Prep’s instructors that I’ve had are funny, smart, and keep the class light.
This makes a huge difference when it comes to learning and material retention. When you have a super engaging instructor, on who is enthusiastic about the subject matter and provides some nice side tips, you’re bound to have better recall and remember more content.
When it comes to GMAT prep, Princeton Review is one of the safest, tried and true prep formulas out there. Their curriculum is incredibly well-designed, the lessons are thorough, and you get a ton of first-rate practice material.
Among the Princeton coursework, you get access to 4,400+ practice problems, 8 full-length practice tests, and a number of prep books.
Specifically worth noting are Princeton Review’s practice problem explanations. Our team was thoroughly impressed with the depth and articulation of their explanations.
Each one breaks down the problem at hand in a very understandable fashion and describes why each answer choice is correct or incorrect, all in incredible detail. All of this adds up to a formidable test prep package that is hard to beat.
Incredible Live Classes
While we absolutely loved Manhattan Prep’s live GMAT classes, there is no denying that they’re expensive. At close to $2,000, they don’t come cheap. And to be honest, neither do Princeton Review’s, but they are more reasonable in price.
Moreover, we had a really good experience in the Princeton Review live class environment. The class size was very small, the atmosphere was more like a workshop than a lecture, and the instructors just plain got it. They understood people were busy and just wanted to get their lessons efficiently and effectively, and get through the exam.
A such, we found the lesson plans to be tight, the instructors to be very practical and knowledgeable, and the class environment to be inviting. These are some of the best live GMAT classes we’ve taken and reviewed.
Proven GMAT Curriculum
It would be extremely difficult to argue that Princeton Review’s curriculum isn’t effective. They’ve been prepping students for the GMAT for decades and help them achieve top scores year in and year out. This is due in large part to the robust nature of their curriculum.
The Princeton Review coursework is broken out by the three sections of the GMAT Focus, as well as general strategies. This structure allows for coverage of the necessary content review, while combining an overarching strategy and technique element.
Then within each section, there are what seems like hundreds of modules covering every subtopic imaginable. If it’s tested on the GMAT Focus, it’s somewhere in the Princeton coursework. Princeton’s experts have dedicated thousands of hours to perfecting their GMAT Focus course curriculum, and it did not go unnoticed by our team.
Target Test Prep ranks right up near the top of our best list for a number of reasons, but mainly for its affordability and smart tech.
Technically, we did find other courses like Princeton Review and Manhattan Prep to provide more substantively robust prep packages; however, value is a huge factor in our analysis and Target Test Prep has it in spades.
Best Value In GMAT Prep
Their monthly subscription package (called “Flexible Preparation”) costs just $229 per month. They have other packages as well, with several months of access built in and/or live classes, but in my opinion, the value here is in their subscription model.
If you dedicate yourself, you only need 60 to 90 days to effectively prep for the GMAT Focus, and if you can pull it off in that timeframe, you’re looking at a price tag of around $460 to $690 total to get through the exam.
And even at that, you can almost always find Target Test Prep GMAT courses on sale for around 10% off, so make sure to check for coupon codes.
Compared to some of the other mega GMAT prep providers on this list, Target Test Prep is a steal in terms of pricing, while still offering really strong material.
Smart Course Structure
Beyond the value, we love the structure of Target Test Prep’s course, much like we do with Princeton Review. The curriculum is broken down into 47 highly-digestible learning modules, which are each fairly quick and easy to complete.
Basically, they split out your hard content and practice material based on topic, and you attack the material one bite at a time. Then periodically, you review previously covered material, so that the course builds on itself out to the most complex tested concepts.
Top-Shelf GMAT Practice Material
The other thing our team really liked is the practice problems. Honestly, they’re some of the more realistic practice questions we’ve reviewed, and each comes with a thorough video and text solution.
We love that you get the solutions in both formats (like you do with Magoosh), and found the videos to be especially helpful. For visual learners, these videos will be super useful for you and provide some excellent, actionable insights.
Finally, the last thing worth noting is the analytics Target Test Prep provides with your performance reports. This data zeroes in on your behavioral tendencies and can make a real impact in terms of improving your score.
Bottom line, between the value pricing, smart structure, realistic practice material, and behavioral insights, there’s just a lot to like about Target Test Prep. For value conscious GMAT preppers who are visual learners, this could be a solid choice.
Most people see the price tag on Magoosh’s GMAT prep course and assume it’s a low-end test prep product designed for those students on a shoestring budget. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
While the Magoosh prep offerings do target affordable price points, the study materials you get with Magoosh GMAT prep are far from low-end, and we think offer tremendous upside for international students.
Honestly, the Magoosh coursework standing on its own is actually pretty impressive. You get access to a ton of great video-based lessons, custom practice problem sets, and some top-notch video and text explanations.
In addition to some solid prep materials and lessons, you also get a number of beneficial resources, including 24/7 email support, custom study schedules and online booklets. All things considered, Magoosh delivers a high-quality and flexible GMAT prep course targeted to the modern student.
International Students Take Note
We think Magoosh is an excellent fit for international students due to a heavy focus on Verbal. A lot of other GMAT prep courses sort of breeze over the Verbal section, choosing to focus on Quant and Data Insights. But not Magoosh.
They give Verbal equal weighting and provide a ton of prep resources for it. This directly benefits those who speak English as a second language. Thus, if you’re coming from India, the Philippines, or somewhere else to get your MBA in the US, give Magoosh a good look.
Bang For Your Buck
This is where Magoosh also earns its keep—bang for your buck. It’s no secret that Magoosh is a value leader in the GMAT test prep space. Their courses cost roughly one-third of the more traditional prep classes, yet you still get an eye-popping amount of material.
Students get access to a library of 200+ video-based lessons, 800+ practice problems (each with its own video and text explanation), a couple full-length practice tests, and some great study aids, including study schedules and email support.
This is an impressive amount of material for the price. Of course, these numbers don’t stack up against Kaplan/Manhattan Prep and Princeton Review, but you can’t expect them to for the price.
The point I am trying to make is that, relatively speaking, you are getting an incredible value for your money. For many students, the Magoosh materials may be all they need to effectively prep for the GMAT.
Quick & Easy Practice
One of our team’s favorite features of the Magoosh course is its quick and easy access points to practice problems. Upon logging in, you can either dive right into a practice session through the “quick practice” tool on your dashboard, or design a custom practice set.
The custom practice feature is a fantastic tool that allows you to generate personalized quizzes based on problem type, difficulty, number of questions, pacing and much more. This feature allows you to narrowly target your weakness and hone in on those areas that need improvement.
Whether through the dashboard or the custom practice feature, you’re never more than a couple clicks away from working problems, which we love. For experiential learners who do best hammering practice problems, this will be a nice value add.
Since launching its GMAT prep package a few years back, PrepScholar has made a nice name for itself in the GMAT prep space.
While historically only a provider of SAT and ACT prep courses and study materials, PrepScholar has brought their same tools and study resources to the world of GMAT prep. And they’ve done it with some solid success.
In my opinion, one of this course’s most valuable perks is its proprietary algorithm, which customizes each student’s study plan to their particular needs. More on this below, but this is PrepScholar’s defining characteristic as far as our team is concerned.
But the highlights don’t stop with the custom study schedule. PrepScholar also offers students a nice suite of text and video-based lessons. While these lessons are heavy on the text-side (take note visual learners), they are extremely thorough and our team was impressed with the test taking strategies and insights the PrepScholar GMAT team has to offer.
PrepScholar additionally offers students 1,000 practice problems and 4 full-length GMAT Focus practice exams to hone their test taking skills. While these figures are on the lower side in terms of volume, we nonetheless liked their realistic content and structure.
PrepScholar’s adaptive software personalizes a study plan for every student based on their strengths and weaknesses. In other words, PrepScholar goes after the lowest hanging fruit to get you big and immediate point jumps.
The diagnostic exam you take at the outset of your studies is processed through a series of algorithms and compared with data from other students to generate a study plan that is optimized to get you to your score goal as quickly as possible.
The result is a study plan that is constantly updated based on your current progress and skill levels. For students with only a few hours a week, this is a massive advantage. Other courses offer curriculums that take you step-by-step through their material without regard to your current skills or knowledge base.
This can lead to major inefficiencies and lost time. PrepScholar smartly recognizes this as their opportunity to differentiate themselves and give students a course hyper-focused on efficiency, which we love.
60-Point Score Increase Guarantee
One of the other biggest selling points of the PrepScholar GMAT prep course is their 60-point score increase guarantee. In short, complete all your lessons, work all your practice questions and tests, and get at least a 60-point score increase on your next official exam—or your money back.
Now, there are some requirements to qualify for PrepScholar’s 60-point increase, but by and large, most GMAT preppers will get this valuable perk if you happen to miss your mark.
For many students, adding 60 points to their base score is huge, so having this as a promised increase at the outset is a huge benefit. And at the very least, it’s a great insurance policy.
The test is administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council, or GMAC, and is the only entrance exam accepted by more than 2,000 colleges and universities across the globe.
The exam is specifically designed to test a student’s knowledge deemed critical to success in graduate level business and management programs. The GMAT examines a number of these essential skills, including logical reasoning, critical reading and writing, data evaluation and analysis, and problem-solving abilities.
GMAT Exam Structure
The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test comprised of three sections, and takes a little over two hours to complete (including breaks and instructions). The three sections include Data Insights, Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. In other words, there’s a section on math, verbal, and data analysis.
The Quant section, or math-focused section, is comprised of 21 multiple-choice questions. There is 45 minutes allotted for this section. As a note, no calculators are allowed for this section of the exam.
The Verbal section consists of 23 multiple-choice questions, which the student is given 45 minutes to complete.
The Data Insightssection consists of 20 multiple-choice questions, which the student is given 45 minutes to complete. There is a bit of crossover with quant for this section.
The most important score related to the GMAT is the scaled score. The overall score ranges from 205 to 805 points, on a scale in 10-point increments, and is the result of a combination of your scores on all three sections of the exam.
While your score report will cover various parts of your performance on the GMAT, the overall score is by far the most important aspect, and graduate schools have a tendency to focus on this composite score.
Questions are multi-part, and you have to answer each part correctly to get credit for the question. GMAC will retain your GMAT score as valid for five years. And in case you’ve had a bad GMAT score in the past and are wondering, GMAC will report all of your GMAT scores to schools from the past five years, not just the most recent.
GMAT Study Plan
We strongly recommend studying for at least six to twelve weeks leading up to the date of your GMAT exam, depending on your schedule availability and desired score. You should not procrastinate in studying for the GMAT Focus, as it is definitely not the type of exam you can cram for just a couple days in advance.
Mastering the strategies for effectively taking the GMAT and figuring out how to properly analyze passages, read critically with an eye towards inferences, and re-learning your old math skills takes a significant amount of time. Here are our strategies to improve your GMAT score:
Take a practice exam. Start by taking a practice test under real conditions to see what you’re up against. This will help you get a feel for the structure of the exam and should help you gauge your weaknesses (and shock you how much math you’ve forgotten). You will also notice how time matters in taking the GMAT.
Get a prep course and dig in. If you’re like the rest of us, you’re going to need a course to re-learn all of the necessary skills you’ve forgotten over the last few years and to master the concepts behind the questions. Get yourself a solid prep course and dig in, committing to learning the necessary substantive knowledge and improving your problem-solving skills.
Practice questions and more practice questions. Like many things in life, repetition is key. It’s one thing to sit at your desk and read about how to take a test or learn a subject, but it’s a different thing to do it. So work in as many practice questions as you can get your hands on. The more practice questions you see, the easier it will be on the big day.
Strengthen your weaknesses. Everyone has a weakness when it comes to the GMAT, whether it’s the geometry questions, critically reading a passage and making the necessary inferences, or timing (as in getting all the questions answered). Whatever your weakness is, focus in on that area and make it a strength. Practice makes perfect (or at least close to).
Commit to a schedule. Everyone’s got busy lives, but do not make excuses and skimp on the studying. Commit to studying hard and dedicate the time necessary to nail the test and get the score you want. You’re already paying money for the prep course and exam and giving away hours of your time, so you might as well do it right the first time. Additionally, since all of your GMAT scores are reported to MBA schools, you don’t want an awful score weighing down a later brilliant performance. Commit to a study schedule now and stick to it.
Do I need a GMAT prep course?
Almost every student that is serious about getting a good score will need a GMAT prep course. If you’re a supernatural student, or just targeting an average score to get into a regional business school, you may be able to get away with prep books alone. But most everyone else will need a prep course to really nail the GMAT.
How much does a typical GMAT prep course cost?
There is a wide variety of GMAT prep options on the market today. Some budget courses cost as little as $200, while other fully comprehensive packages with private tutoring can come in close to $5,000. Having said that, the average course will typically run anywhere from $500-$1,500.
Will a GMAT prep course raise my score?
Very likely yes. There is no guarantee, but in our experience, the use of a prep course will increase your GMAT score as compared to self-studying. And in fact, some prep companies will guarantee that claim.