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Best GMAT Course - How to Choose

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Best GMAT Course - How to Choose [#permalink] New post 19 Feb 2014, 22:40
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How to Choose the Best GMAT Courses

I often get this question from people looking to sign up for a course so instead of writing the same reply over and over, I am summarizing the wisdom here.

Should I take a GMAT Course?

Are you signing up for $69 eGMAT course, $299 Optimus Prep course, Economist $750 course, or $1,400 Manhattan GMAT Course? You get the gist... Not very easy to answer but if I had to, the quick answer would be - definitely if it does not sabotage your MBA budget.

  • Scenario 1: If you are used to hiring tour guides in foreign countries, CPA's for your taxes, or Attorneys for legal help, then getting an in-person prep course or a private tutoring package would be pretty natural for you and will make the experience much more enjoyable (or less unpleasant at least) and you will save a bunch of time.
  • Scenario 2: You have always blazed your own trail and have plenty of time on your hands - then perhaps getting books or an on-demand course that often is cheaper than books will work for you. Look into Magoosh, eGMAT, GMAT Pill for sub $100 courses that are cheaper than book bundles.
  • Scenario 3: You are not sure. This is where 80% of the folks fall in. The proliferation of very cheap courses (sub-$99) really have made it tough for this group. It is absolutely possible to score 750 with any of the online courses advertised on GMAT Club or using books from either Kaplan (that's what I have used Kaplan Premier + Verbal Workbook + Math Workbook), MGMAT Book Bundle, or Veritas Prep Books. You need to decided what can make you more successful as there is really no price difference between the approaches. Not any more. Are you a better learner with a book or a video? Do you do better with exercises in a book or on the screen? Many courses have free trials (e.g. Economist GMAT Tutor, Magoosh, eGMAT, Optimus Prep, etc) that will allow you to take them for a week or two before you have to pay.

What Course Attributes Should I Consider?

Here are the most important elements (the order may be different for you):
  • Course Reviews by previous test-takers. GMAT Club has a very extensive collection of GMAT course reviews. Look for the negative one but discard the "silly" and "annoying" ones where a person clearly did not do the work. If it does not scare you away, it is a good course! Check the instructor reviews as well - we have those too!
  • What is your format? - are you signing up for a classroom, live online, or on demand course? These have a different level of engagement and a different price point. The in-person ones are most expensive due to rent and a limited class size; this will provide you with the best opportunity to control the speed you are moving through the course and most opportunities to ask questions and interact. If you are taking an in-person or live-online course make sure that you will have enough face time and it is not a crowded class. Meanwhile on-demand classes will allow you to choose your time and place. See more below a comparison
  • What are you getting with the course?
    • Are you getting any books? (e.g. Kaplan, Veritas Prep, and MGMAT will provide you with their book bundles and often even the OG 13); other courses will tell you that you don't need anything... you definitely need the OG 13 so be prepared to buy that on your own.
    • How many tests are you getting? It is usually not critical since you can get MGMAT CAT's with a purchase of any of their $17 books.
    • Are you getting enough exercises and practice questions? If you are getting fewer than 1,000 questions, make sure your areas are covered. With larger question banks you should be just fine
    • Is the system the course provider using adaptive in any way? Does it provide feedback if you fail or have a hard time with some question types? For in-person and Live courses, does someone review your progress and how often?
  • What are the instructor percentiles? It is not much different if it is 98th or 99th but if they are not telling you, it is probably a red flag
  • How long is the course? - understand how many hours and sessions you will get.
  • Does your Course actually cover what you need? Request a syllabus/sample schedule to figure out what exactly is covered. In some cases, if your score is lopsided, for example, you will be better off if hire a tutor for the problem area and cover the rest on your own. Don't take a whole course to only realize that 3 out of the 27 hours cover your weak spots. Also, there is a number of dedicated courses such as eGMAT's and GMAT Pill's SC/CR/RC sections and PS/DS only for GMAT Pill - these on-demand mini-courses will allow you to focus on your weaknesses.
  • Score or Money Back Guarantee - what are the terms? Study these carefully and make sure you meet the conditions! Some courses (Magoosh require you to send in your score report before you start the course in order to qualify). This is a very important item for retakers. Many courses will offer a 50 or 70-point money back guarantee (e.g. Knewton, Economist, and Magoosh) and if you have scored 700 and want to improve your score, you ultimately can take a free course, unless you get a 750 or higher, which I am sure you will be happy with either outcome :wink:

Self-prep vs. a GMAT Course

Advantages of GMAT Courses:
  • Cuts down your research time
  • Motivates or Forces you (there is a schedule you have to keep and deadlines for homework)
  • Interactive - course or instructor will provide feedback on your performance and suggest corrective actions
  • Structures your preparation into modules and sections
  • Provides all necessary materials
  • Gives you access to an instructor (or support staff if taking an on-demand class) to answer your questions and support you along the way
  • Removes the noise and helps you focus on what's important for the test and score (instructors can advise what's tested, where they see most issues, and where to pay the most attention)
  • Provides all the benefits of self-study (nobody said you can't do both though you really don't need to)
  • Hands down a course, esp. in-person course is the best way to go

Advantages of Self-Study
  • Allows mixing materials across the board
  • Used to be cheaper but not clear any more with sub $100 courses
  • No schedules (you don't have to wait for a class to start if it is in-person or live online)

How to Get the Most out of Your Course

If you take a course, make sure you do it right. If you are not serious, don't take a course - spend money on something more practical such as video games or lottery. Here is how you do it right:
  1. Dedicate time to the course and homework - GMAT Courses are intense. Be prepared to sit for 3 hours and do 6 hours of homework. You cannot just show up and expect great results. You have to study, remember, practice over and over again. This is the biggest reason for failing to take advantage of a course. Not doing homework, not having enough time, or not having energy to do it. Many decide to take a course and then really study once they are done with classes - that's pretty dumb. Avoid it. You have to commit, whatever it takes you.
  2. Stay on top of the material - if you do not understand something after a class, reread your books/manuals/etc and try to figure it out. If you can't ask for help from your instructor. Do not delay and think that you can figure it out later - it will only get harder and you will drown even more as time goes by. Do not delay questions.
  3. Work hard - you are hiring an instructor/course to teach you. They will only be there for so long. You can get a lot higher ROI if you work hard and get as much out of them as possible. If you are poor (like most of us), this is your way to save money :-)
  4. Be in control of your learning - if you are having an issue with learning, understanding, instructor, or anything - express it in email or conversation with the instructor or the company. It will save you a lot of headache later on.

Overview of Money Back Guarantees - Great for Retakers!

1. Magoosh - priced at $99 with 50-point guarantee. The exact guarantee terms are here
2. eGMAT - priced at $329 with a 4-point guarantee (Verbal only). The exact terms are here
3. Knewton - priced at $350 (Special price until end of Feb) with 50 point guarantee. The exact terms are here
4. GMAT Pill - $397 with 50-point guarantee. The exact terms are here
5. Winner! The Economist GMAT Tutor - priced at $550 - 940 and comes with either 50 or 70 point money back guarantee. The exact terms are here. This course provides the most flexible and lenient terms and does not require you to have taken the GMAT prior - so the Economist GMAT Tutor is the winner in this case.

Classroom vs. Live Online vs. On Demand

This comparison will be different based on your priorities. I recommend using a table like this and also utilize a multiplier to take your priorities into consideration - e.g. if Flexibility is your key driver, multiply that line by 2x or 3x. Build a spreadsheet like that - I am attaching my simple one.
2014-02-19_2237.png [ 9.96 KiB | Viewed 10108 times ]

Private Tutoring vs. GMAT Courses
More Pros and Cons of online, on demand, and in person classes

Need help choosing a course?

Let me know and I will be happy to help you pick the best course for you!
P.S. When I speak about GMAT Courses, I am referring to reputable companies that are present on GMAT Club. There obviously others but I cannot vouch for them.

Course Comparision.xlsx [10.08 KiB]
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Last edited by bb on 09 Apr 2015, 05:57, edited 10 times in total.
Kaplan GMAT Prep Discount CodesKnewton GMAT Discount CodesVeritas Prep GMAT Discount Codes
Expert Post
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Affiliations: AS - Gold, UA - Silver, HH-Diamond
Joined: 04 Dec 2002
Posts: 12771
Location: United States (WA)
GMAT 1: 750 Q49 V42
GPA: 3.5
WE: Information Technology (Hospitality and Tourism)
Followers: 2667

Kudos [?]: 12838 [0], given: 3844

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Re: Best GMAT Course - How to Choose [#permalink] New post 05 Mar 2014, 21:24
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Updated with prices and money back guarantees. Thanks!

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Re: Best GMAT Course - How to Choose [#permalink] New post 07 Mar 2014, 06:24
Expert's post
Traditionally, private tutoring has been reserved for those who either had the most issues with the material or the most money. Today, the lines are much more blurred. If you are trying to decide between Private Tutoring and a GMAT Couse, these pros and cons should help:

A GMAT Course makes sense if:

1. You feel comfortable in a classroom setting
2. You don’t have big gaps in your prep that will require extra attention
3. You are tight on budget (traditional course prices range from $1,000 to $1,500 for in person or live online full courses; eGMAT’s live online course is $350 for verbal-only portion)
4. You have a schedule that can accommodate a course/class that meets at a specific time every week (sometimes it is hard to catch up if you skip a class)
5. You are self-motivated to turn in homework and assignments and don’t expect extra questions in this area

Private Tutoring makes sense if:

1. You need an individual study plan – most tutors will initiate a strategy discussion based on a diagnostic test analysis to make the best use of the tutoring package
2. You need to score 700+ and are serious about it
3. You can benefit from additional attention and feedback
4. You are tight on time or you travel for work
5. You don’t like to be stuck in a class and be interrupted by others
6. You are looking to spend more time in some areas vs. others (e.g. Verbal vs. Quant)
7. You have some extra money (prices range from $1,120 for an online 12-hour Optimus Prep package to $7K with Veritas Prep 38-hour package.

What do the extra dollars buy me with private tutoring?

1. Creates an individual study plan that is built around your weaknesses and strengths
2. Chances are much higher to score 700+
3. Uses your time more effectively – you don’t have to listen to a Geometry class for 3 hours if you already know it. Also you can optimize the time of your study sessions – you can do it before work, during a lunch break, or on the weekend
4. Issues and red flags are spotted right away. Since it is a one-on-one environment, there is no chance the tutor will miss you, or will not notice that you are lost. Also, they don’t have the obligation to continue if you are stumped.
5. A tutor would do some of the manual labor for you (e.g. mistake analysis, additional prep, homework selection, etc)
6. A Tutor can see when are you ready to take the GMAT
7. Your Private Tutor is more acountable and invested in your success and you build a stronger relationship which generally translates to a better lesson/coaching.
8. Money-back guarantee (Optimus Prep only)

If you are interested in trying a Private Tutor, you can request a quote at and receive a free GMAT practice test. Based on those results, one of our professional tutors can create for you an individual study plan to eliminate your weaknesses.

Best regards,

Artem Morgunov I Founder of Optimus Prep I


Re: Best GMAT Course - How to Choose   [#permalink] 07 Mar 2014, 06:24
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