I chose Manhattan prep because I read very positive reviews on their prep books and I knew I wanted hands-on instruction and a structured course to force me to study (I'm a pro at procrastination). I started studying before the beginning of my course, just reading through a GMAT official guide coursebook. I took the pre-first class practice test and got a 590. My goal is to attend a top 10 school, so I knew I had a long way to go.
Throughout the course I did all of the prescribed prep work. They estimate it will take about 15 hours (outside of the three hour class) per week. I think it could be a little less than that but... I definitely dedicated one entire weekend day to studying and a few hours a few days a week to studying. I took another practice test during the course resulting in a 50 pt rise. My final GMAT score (which I took a week and a half after my final class) was 150pts higher than my initial test.
When I did contact my instructor outside of class, he responded very quickly. He was always willing to chat after class about test strategy or specific questions. Manhattan GMAT is very attentive to its students- a service that is reflected in the high price. It is very easy to reschedule a course if you need to miss.
Both Quant and Verbal review were incredibly helpful. I think the Quant instruction in the classroom is invaluable- multiple ways to solve the problems + how to NOT solve the problems + how to guess the answer if you can't figure it out? This incredibly thorough type of instruction is SO worth the money. Also, there is a wealth of information and a wealth of extra practice material on the website. The CAT tests are awesome, too.
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