Class study vs Book study: Why take a GMAT classroom course?

By - Oct 22, 09:00 AM Comments [1]

If you have decided to read this post, then you are already debating the merits of a GMAT classroom course. While I (and the world’s largest team of GMAT experts) helped build Kaplan’s new GMAT Experience, this post is NOT limited to why you should take “Kaplan”. This post is about the benefits of a classroom course (any of them) versus non-classroom courses. Additionally, this isn’t a post about preparing for the GMAT or not preparing for the GMAT – the test is too important to just ‘wing it’ – you’ll be paying for that decision for the rest of your life.

In order to outline the different value drivers of Self Study vs. Class Study, I’m going to explore the common responses to paying over $1,000 for a structured study program.

  • “I can learn this from a book.”

    A book from a book store is an effective tool to learn GMAT content. (WHAT?! I thought you were going to spend the entire 600 words talking about why books are bad!) No, actually, GMAT books do a good job of outlining the relevant content and providing context and details – I strongly encourage you to go to your local bookstore and page through one (especially at the coffee shop – since you don’t have to pay for the book and can still get all the good stuff out of it!). However (and I hope you have gathered this concept from following my postings over the past few months) the content is not incredibly difficult. If the content isn’t that difficult, why is the test so hard? Well, the test makers are geniuses – they know how to push the bounds of simply algebra, number properties, etc. To study effectively, you need to drill yourself constantly.

    A classroom courses is a combination of content and application. In the new Kaplan Course for example, we simplify the content for the students who want to learn the basic parts of the test and we implement the content from a GMAT point of view against some of the hardest questions the GMAT can come up with. For us, it is the combination of Theory and Practice that makes a course so much more effective for learning the nuances of the test and achieving your target score. Additionally, in a classroom course you have the immense benefit of both a live teacher, and other students’ questions and insights. You can’t ask a book questions!

  • “I don’t have the time.”

    Generally, I’m going to say this is probably the weakest reason why individuals do not effectively prepare for the GMAT. While you may have a particular path you are trying to follow (graduate undergrad, work two years, apply to business school, get married, have kids, make partner, etc), the timing for the GMAT is a self imposed deadline. Make the time. Business Week research shows that increasing your GMAT score increases your salary after business school graduation. (They don’t claim causality, a common GMAT mistakes, BW only claims correlation). Think about it – you really don’t have the time to maximize your score / salary potential?

  • “I don’t have the money.”

    If you are looking for a good excuse for not taking the course, this is probably the one with which you agree. Just like college courses, these courses have high costs: teachers, curriculum, location, books, interactive tools, support services, etc. – there is a reason the courses are expensive.

    However, let’s look at a comparison of the cost of the course. The average quality GMAT course costs about $1,500. Let’s put that in perspective

    • Two years of business school tuition - $80,000
    • Two years of living expenses and incidentals - $50,000 (personally, I would be a lot higher)
    • Two years of lost wages - $150,000


    These three components are expensive! Primarily, many GMAT test takers fail to account for the forgone wages – the average salary of an individual entering business school is $80,000 a year! Forgone wages is a HUGE consideration. Going to business school will put you behind by one quarter of a million dollars! The cost of the Kaplan GMAT program is 0.5% of that cost. In other words, do you want to risk a mediocre score just for 0.5% percent of the total cost of business school?

    And consider what effect that $1500 could potentially have on your future earning potential. Just glance down the US News MBA rankings list to see the correlation between higher GMAT scores and higher-ranked MBA programs, and on the same rankings list, the correlation between higher-ranked programs and higher starting salaries. Think of your course fee as an investment now that should generate strong returns later in life as it helps you get into a better program, and get a better job with a higher salary in the future.

Value and Cost. These are concepts business school will drill you on. There is a difference. The difference is important.

Ok. I hope this helped. Making a big purchase decision like this is difficult. However, make sure you make the most informed decision you can. I took a Kaplan course for my GMAT preparation – I couldn’t have jumped as high on my real score if I left such an important component of my application to a book.

Brian Fruchey
Kaplan GMAT

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  1. [...] those hours. One of my Kaplan colleagues recently wrote an article about some of the benefits of taking a GMAT course vs. self-studying with books. To piggyback off his thoughts, taking a GMAT course does a couple of things with regard to the [...]

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