Interested in business school but not sure where to start? Remember, one of the major requirements for most traditional MBA programs is the GMAT, the standardized test for graduate-level business programs. The best place to start is to find the best GMAT prep.
Check out our essential guide below on how to prepare for the GMAT.
What Is the GMAT?
Let’s start with the basics: What is the GMAT exam? GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test. Many, though not all, MBA programs require it as a basic element of the application and admission process.
The GMAT is broken down into four sections with different scores. The GMAT sections are:
- Analytical Writing Assessment
- Integrated Reasoning
Unlike many other standardized tests, the GMAT allows test-takers to choose the order in which they want to complete the sections. There are three possible orders you can choose:
- Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), Quantitative, Verbal
- Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
- Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
Students receive five different numbers when they receive their GMAT test results. These numbers correspond to each of the five sections, though the total composite score only takes the quantitative and verbal grades into account. Total scores range from 200 to 800 and most test-takers score between 400 and 600 points.
When Should You Take the GMAT?
At the very least, you should take the GMAT at least two months before your application deadline. This is to make sure the testing center can send out your test scores with enough time before your school’s application deadline.
When deciding exactly when to take the GMAT, there are a few other factors to consider beyond your application deadline. For example, consider how much time you need for test prep. We will talk more about GMAT prep in this section to help you make this decision.
You will also want to consider if you want to take the test multiple times to give yourself room to grow and improve with more prep. If you decide you want to give yourself this option, try to schedule your first test well in advance.
Last but not least, you definitely want to remember to check when the test is available in your area. You may have to drive a long distance or make travel plans, so it’s important to plan in advance.
Preparing for the GMAT: Test Prep Options
There are many different ways to prep for the ultimate business school admission test, the GMAT. You can rely on study materials exclusively or you can opt for a paced course. When choosing a GMAT prep option, consider what your strengths and weaknesses are.
Read on to learn about the different kinds of organized prep options available to you so you can best study for the GMAT. These options vary by length, format, style, and of course, have different prices associated with them.
This choice should also depend on the amount of time you have to prepare for the GMAT.. Your study schedule might be short and intense, or long and gradual.
Live vs Online GMAT Courses
Firstly, there is a major difference between the two major formats of GMAT prep offered: live and online. In 2020, you may be hard-pressed to find live courses if they are also offered online. That said, depending on where you are in the country, you may be able to find an in-person format.
Online courses are the most flexible and safest bet when it comes to structures GMAT test prep. Most online providers offer different options, including synchronous live-stream classes, pre-taped self-paced video lessons, and private virtual tutoring.
Let’s now get to a list of some of the best online GMAT prep offerings.
Magoosh is a leader in the test prep world, including the GMAT and other major graduate entry exams like the GRE and the LSAT. Magoosh offers two major plans: self-study and guided study.
Magoosh is known as being one of the most comprehensive options in the online test prep space. Access to Magoosh plans function on a timed basis. For example, you can purchase a year of access to GMAT prep material and choose a self-study plan so that you can study on your own time. The guided option includes all of the same access to the online resources plus dedicated 1:1 online tutoring.
Kaplan’s official guide to the GMAT, GMAT Complete 2018, is an excellent set of books, materials, and video access for all things GMAT prep. The complete guide includes four test prep books and access to a test prep guide and an online platform. The guide is a great value at only $99.99, considering the number of resources it provides.
Kaplan also boasts many different kinds of online resources. They offer online courses, both self-paced and personalized, access to online resources, the GMAT channel–a space for subscribers to ask questions of experts and peers and access exclusive test-prep content–and a question bank for practice test prep.
You might remember the Princeton Review from high school or from reading reviews of colleges as a prospective undergrad. The Princeton Review is a major player in the academic world in terms of college rankings and test prep, and that includes GMAT prep.
Cracking the GMAT is the Princeton Review’s main guide to the GMAT and at less than $25, it is likely one of the most budget-friendly options. That said, the Princeton Review offers many other options including access to practice tests. Practice test access can be truly game-changing when it comes to preparing for a major standardized test and the Princeton Review offers some practice tests for free.
Meanwhile, they offer a wide range of other test prep options. For example, at the most comprehensive and most costly side of the spectrum, they offer GMAT Ultimate, a $1,244 online course that includes 27 hours of live classes, pre-recorded video lessons, and realistic online practice exams.
If you want to get your hands on many different kinds of test preparation methods, check out the range offered by Princeton Review.
Manhattan Prep is another major player in the GMAT prep universe. They have two major veins of offerings: online courses and self-guided prep.
The course categories include a GMAT bootcamp option, a short, intensive course that challenges students to study in an accelerated timeline. The bootcamp lasts for two to three weeks and includes about 25 hours of live or online instruction. You can also take the Live GMAT Course, which includes 27 hours of live instruction and is recommended for a student who is about two months away from taking the exam.
The next option is the GMAT Advanced Course, also an accelerated course that gives students 15 hours of live course content in five in-depth sessions. Finally, the GMAT Interact + Coaching is the most self-guided. This customized coaching will help you develop a personalized study plan. It also gives students access to all of Manhattan Prep’s books and online resources.
The creators of the GMAT itself, the Graduate Management Admission Council, also produce their own test prep materials. The GMAC publishes periodic updated versions of The GMAT Official Guide, a comprehensive test prep bundle that includes key information for understanding the test as well as hundreds of practice questions.
The bundle includes three books, The GMAT Official Guide, The GMAT Official Guide Verbal Review, and The GMAT Official Guide Quantitative Review. Each book focuses on a different aspect and is chock full of practice tests. Lastly, buying the book bundle gives you access to a wealth of online resources.
Is a GMAT Prep Course Worth it?
Now that you have read more about the different kinds of companies and GMAT test prep resources out there, you might be asking yourself one major question: Is a GMAT prep course worth it?
The answer to this question depends on several factors that are different for every individual. You will want to consider how much time you have, how much you want to spend on test prep, and how much you think test prep will help you in the long run.
Then, you might ask: Which test prep option should I choose? To get closer to an answer, ask yourself a few other questions:
- What kind of learner are you?
- Do you do better in structured, guided environments, or do you prefer to work and learn independently?
- When is your test date and how much time do you have between then and now?
- Do you want to have access to online materials to work at your own pace or do you want to work 1:1 with a test prep expert?
Use this Career Karma resource as a guide to get you started. With the right prep, you can make sure you have the tools you need to nail the GMAT.