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Best GMAT Prep Courses
Our detailed and all-encompassing guide to the best GMAT prep courses
Getting into to your desired MBA program will often turn on your GMAT score, particularly if you are eyeing a top 50 business school. In order to get a top flight score, you will almost surely need the assistance of a prep course. But with so many courses to choose from, how to do know which one is best for your needs? Our team of education experts has examined every GMAT prep course on the market and ranked them here, so you can make an informed decision on which is best for you.
Whether you’re looking for a top tier, in-person course taught by a great instructor, or a flexible on demand course that allows you to study from anywhere at any time, Manhattan Prep has you covered. Both their in-person class and self-paced program are about the best money can buy. Their self-paced GMAT prep package is built around their award-winning interactive video lessons, which stand head and shoulders above the competition. The video-based instruction is an immersive experience and adapts to your knowledge and skills as you progress through the course. Not only is the delivery format of the content well-designed, but the content itself is also rock solid.
Alternatively, if you learn better in a class environment and are looking for face-to-face instruction, you really can’t do much better than Manhattan’s live course. The curriculum is top shelf and the instructors are incredibly engaging. In addition, the small class size creates a workshop-like atmosphere, allowing for beneficial participation and more personalized attention from your teacher. Our team was incredibly impressed with both course formats and had no issue placing Manhattan Prep near the top of our best GMAT courses list.
Killer Prep Books
In addition to some first-rate instruction, Manhattan also provides students a bundle of fantastic prep books. These hard-copy books cover content review, strategies and techniques, and practice drills, among other things. The Manhattan course books take a deep dive into each topic and are extremely thorough, covering most everything you will need to know to attack the GMAT. While most test prep companies these days offer students digital e-books, or no prep books at all, Manhattan Prep holds the tradition of providing 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 hard-copy workbook. All things considered, we were blown away by the detail and quality of the Manhattan Prep course books, and these can’t be overlooked as a valuable aspect of the prep course.
Instructors That Will Make Material Stick
We can’t be sure, but we strongly suspect that interpersonal skills and a sense of humor are top hiring criteria for 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 97th percentile+ GMAT scorer. They all are – 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 (beyond just the GMAT) that we’ve encountered are funny, empathetic and keep the class lighthearted. 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.
It wouldn’t be a best list without Kaplan. The test prep giant maintains its storied reputation as one of the most surefire methods of prepping with its GMAT prep course. Kaplan’s GMAT prep offerings, both on demand and live, boast some of the greatest quantities of study material around. But Kaplan is about more than quantity – their course curriculum is also top notch. Working through each section of the GMAT in a linear and ascending fashion, you learn the principles of a topic, then build on it.
The video lessons are also some of the best in the category. With a sleek digital whiteboard and onscreen instructor working problems in a luminescent blue ink, the instruction is incredibly engaging. Between the well-designed course curriculum, excellent video instruction and mountain of study resources, you can’t really go wrong with Kaplan.
Stacks on Stacks on Stacks of Study Material
Kaplan provides mind-boggling quantities of study resources for your GMAT prep. To put numbers on it, Kaplan provides students access to 5,000+ practice problems (2,300+ through their Qbank), 9 full-length practice tests and 44+ hours of video instruction (and 18 hours of live instruction if you go that route). That’s nearly 4x the number of practice problems you’ll get with Magoosh and 1.5x as many practice tests as Manhattan Prep provides. In total, all of this adds up to 140+ hours of instruction and practice. So if you’re the type of student that loves to learn by doing, Kaplan should likely be near the top of your list.
Kaplan’s GMAT Channel
Also worthy of mention is Kaplan’s GMAT Channel. This is a resource Kaplan provides to students which allows access to additional video instruction. The GMAT Channel features both live and pre-recorded video lectures from some of Kaplan’ best instructors. Each of these lessons focuses in on a particular GMAT topic and delves into the subject’s finer points. These lessons go into much more depth that the core curriculum. In terms of format, the instructor appears in the upper left or right corner on a webcam and walks you through the lesson with onscreen text and notes. There is also a chat feature that the instructor looks to often for student participation and engagement. If you’re looking for more granular detail on a certain subtopic, these videos will provide you tremendous value.
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.
Cost aside, the Magoosh coursework standing on its own is actually fairly 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.
The Most Bang for Your Buck
This is where Magoosh earns its keep – bang for your buck. It’s no secret that Magoosh is the value leader in the GMAT test prep space. Their courses cost roughly one-fourth of the more traditional prep classes, yet you still get an eye-popping amount of material. Students get access to a library of 340+ video-based lessons, 1,300+ 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 the Kaplans and Princeton Reviews of the world, but you can’t expect them to for the price. The point 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 and 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.
When it comes to GMAT prep, there is perhaps no safer choice than the tried and true prep formula of Princeton Review. 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 3,000+ practice problems, 10 full-length practice tests and a number of digital 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.
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 verbal, quant, integrated reasoning (the three most important sections of the GMAT), and 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. I feel that if it’s ever been on the GMAT, it’s somewhere in the Princeton coursework. Princeton’s experts have dedicated thousands of hours to perfecting their GMAT course curriculum and it did not go unnoticed by our team.
Best-in-Category Practice Tests
Princeton Review offers a category-best 10 full-length practice exams. To put this in perspective, this is 4 more than Manhattan Prep and 8 more than Magoosh. That may not sound like much in absolute terms, but when the you’re talking about the majority of test prep companies offering numbers in the single digits, every practice test counts. Often there is no better way to prep than to take practice tests under exam-like conditions, so this feature could be very important to some students. These computer-adaptive tests are accessible from Princeton Review’s digital platform and do an excellent job mirroring the real GMAT, even down to the test’s 1990’s retro feel. We love how Princeton has committed to exactly replicating the real GMAT, from the content, to the structure, to the overall look and feel.
Since launching its GMAT prep package in 2016, PrepScholar has made some serious noise in the GMAT prep space and rocketed up our list of best GMAT prep courses. While historically only a provider of SAT and ACT prep courses and materials, PrepScholar has brought the same namesake benefits and study resources to the realm of GMAT prep. Among the course’s most valuable perks is their 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 drove 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 1,200 or so practice problems and 4 full-length 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.
Optimized Study Plan for Efficient Studying
For our team of test prep experts, the clear value add with PrepScholar is the efficiency they offer in their studies. Recognizing that MBA candidates are usually busy working professionals or on-the-go students, they make the most of your precious time. PrepScholar’s adaptive software personalizes a study plan for every student based on their strengths and weaknesses. 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 Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, is the standardized exam required to be taken as part of the admissions process to MBA and other graduate business school programs. The test is administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council, or GMAC, and is the only entrance exam accepted by more than 2,100 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 Test Structure
The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test comprised of four sections, which takes 3.5 hours to complete (including breaks and instructions). The four sections include Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning, or in other words, a section on each of math, verbal, integrated reasoning and an essay.
The Quantitative section, or math focused section, is comprised of 31 multiple-choice questions, which the student is allotted 62 minutes to complete. Up until April 16, 2018, the Quantitative Reasoning section consisted of 37 questions that had to be completed in 75 minutes; however, the test makers modified the format to reduce the number of unscored questions. This section of the GMAT tests the student’s knowledge of arithmetic, algebra and geometry. As a note, no calculators are allowed for this section of the exam.
The Verbal section consists of 36 multiple-choice questions, which the student is given 65 minutes to complete. Similar to the Quantitative section, in April 2018 the GMAC reduced the number of questions in this section from 41 to 36 questions and decreased the allowable time from 75 minutes to 65 minutes in order to reduce the number of unscored questions on the exam. This section of the GMAT assesses the test taker’s grammar, critical reasoning, logic skills, and ability to read a passage and effectively analyze it.
The Integrated Reasoningsection consists of 12 multiple-choice questions, which the student is given 30 minutes to complete. This section examines the test taker’s ability to analyze data presented in various charts, graphs, and tables and make inferences based on those info-graphics. A calculator is provided for use with this section.
Lastly, the Analytical Writingsection, or essay portion, of the GMAT consists of one written essay which the student is allocated 30 minutes to complete. The student will be tasked with providing an analysis of a hypothetical argument for some topic of business or general interest. The essay must be composed on the computer and not handwritten.
The most important score related to the GMAT is the overall, or composite, score. The overall score ranges from 200 to 800 points, on a scale in 10-point increments, and is the result of a combination of your scores on the Quantitative and Verbal 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.
The Verbal and Quantitative sections are scored separately and you will receive a score on a scale from 0 to 60 for each given section. The Integrated Reasoning section is graded on a scale of 1 to 8 in 1-point increments. Questions are multi-part, and you have to answer each part correctly to get credit for the question. That said, the Integrated Reasoning section score is not included in your composite score. The Analytic Writing section, or essay portion, is scored on a scale of 0 to 6 and is evaluated by two readers, a human and a computer. The two scores for the essay are averaged and rounded to the nearest one-half point. Like Integrated Reasoning, the essay section does not count toward your composite GMAT score.
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 Tactics
We strongly recommend studying for 6-10 weeks leading up to the date of your GMAT exam depending on your schedule availability and your desired score. You should not procrastinate in studying for the GMAT, as it is definitely not the type of exam one 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, practice, practice.
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 great score will need a GMAT prep course. If you’re a supernatural student, or just targeting a mediocre score to get into a lower end 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 low 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 $800-$1,400.
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.