- How to Evaluate GMAT Prep Courses
- Top 5 Best Online GMAT Prep Courses 2021
- 1. LinkedIn Learning: Preparing for the GMAT
- 2. Best Verbal-Specific Course: Udemy Dominate GMAT Verbal
- 3. Best Short Course: Complete GMAT Prep Guide
- 4. Best Math-Specific Course: GMAT 47 Hours Math Prep
- 5. Best Data Sufficiency Course: GMAT Data Sufficiency: The Ultimate Guide
- Course Comparison Breakdown
- How to Get the Most out of Your Class
- Wrapping Up
For many, an MBA can be a huge step in a business career, taking someone from an entry-level career in a business role and setting them on the fast track to senior management. While the typical undergraduate business school grad in the US (a Bachelor’s degree) starts out at about $50,000 a year, the average starting salary for MBAs is well over double that amount, at $115,000 a year.
Getting into an MBA program requires taking a standardized test called the GMAT. Scores on this test range from 200 to 800, with an average score of about 556. A good score is anything over 650; an exceptional score is anything over 700. And most program admissions officers are on the same page: the GMAT is considered the biggest factor when evaluating MBA applicants. It’s bigger than the next most important factor, undergraduate GPA, by a factor of about 3.
If you want to get into the MBA program of your dreams, it’s wise to spend most of your study time on GMAT prep.
How to Evaluate GMAT Prep Courses
The best way to be successful on the GMAT is to come prepared, and the best way to get properly set is with some type of practice course. But not all GMAT prep courses are created equal, and it’s important to be effective with your time when prepping for the test.
Look into the following features of a GMAT prep course to evaluate its quality.
If you’re planning to put a few hundred hours into the GMAT, then a course’s length might not be make or break for you. After all, plenty of test-takers cross the 200-hour mark when it comes to studying time. In these cases, a longer, more thorough course may be most appropriate.
But if you’re a busy professional with limited time to prepare, you’ll need to be a bit more strategic about your time. Shorter courses might be enough to give you a broad overview of the essentials, while remaining time-efficient. You could also check out courses that just cover a single subject or that focus on a problem area for you.
Teaching Style: Prep Materials vs. Active Teaching
A GMAT prep course can be divided into two smaller categories of test prep: practice test prep materials and active teaching.
Prep materials are test simulations or worksheets that emulate the same types of questions and problems that will be on the test. These are also referred to as practice tests or practice test questions. The second study interface is active teaching, where the course will review content, test-taking strategies, as well as tips and hacks for maximizing your test score.
There’s not necessarily a ‘correct’ division between these two types of prep, but it’s important that you have the option of both. If you like to take practice tests to prep, it’s also a good idea to make sure you’ll have enough study materials available for your needs.
Test Prep Approach
Standardized tests are sometimes a bit of a black box: each test has different rules, subjects, sections, and challenges test-takers in a different way. For the unprepared, this makes them tricky, but for the well-prepped, it means that just understanding a little bit about the mechanics of the test can go a long way.
Each GMAT prep course has its own unique approach to test prep. Applying these approaches to your own interests and preferred learning style will go a long way towards helping you pick the best course.
Studying Test Specifics
Certain aspects of the GMAT are specific to the test. These factors relate to the timing and length of sections, where difficult questions are placed, how the test is laid out in terms of passages, diagrams, and multiple-choice questions.
Understanding test layout and timing will help you determine how to best approach the test and where to spend your time studying.
Studying Test Sections
Some people are naturally gifted at writing; others are talented in logic, data analysis, or reading comprehension. There are four sections on the test: an analytical writing assessment (essay), integrated reading, quantitative, and verbal.
After taking a few practice tests and analyzing your weak points, you should have a rough idea of where you most need work. If you have one weak point, look into a single-subject course to boost that section’s score.
Studying Test Strategy
‘Test strategy’ is all about maximizing your score without necessarily knowing the test content. From tactics designed to maximize the accuracy of your guesses, to knowing how to write your essay, to understanding the unique ‘computer-adaptive’ format of the assessment, test strategy is all about squeezing those last few points out of your score.
Each test prep course will approach test prep in a different way, and it’s up to you to understand what will be most effective for you. If you’ve got just a couple of weeks until your test date, look for a test prep program focused on test prep. Got months? You’ll have plenty of time to do lots of practice tests, and you should look for a course that offers a lot of prep materials.
- 6h 17m From $29.99/month (with a LinkedIn Learning Premium Subscription)
- Course Highlights
- Concise and well-structured
- Target Audience: GMAT test-takers with limited study time
- Prep Materials: Practice quizzes (via on-screen video content)
Why we like it
This efficient course provides impressive results for your time, laying out a plan for test success with enthusiastic, expert help.
This quick course from LinkedIn is targeted at professionals looking to maximize return on their time, optimizing what you get in just over six hours of course time.
While it’s not necessarily the most comprehensive test prep content out there for the GMAT, it’s remarkably concise and effective, doing an incredible job of maximizing your time. If you’ve just got a day to prepare or are looking for the points that are ‘easiest-to-get’ on the test, this course is a good pick.
The course is taught by test prep professional Vince Kotchian, but the curriculum itself is backed up in quality by LinkedIn Learning’s entire team. Vince delivers enthusiastic, personalized content in a clear way, overlaying a prepared slideshow with written content and practice problems (think Khan Academy for the GMAT).
The most valuable content, in our opinion, is related to the test planning phase, as the teacher does a good job helping test-takers set up their own strategy to tackle studying.
Although it's a stellar course overall, there are still a couple of issues, unfortunately. The only non-video prep materials it offers are quick practice quizzes designed to help you lock in the content learned immediately after watching the videos. That means there are no comprehensive review materials (like practice tests), or even any review content longer than a practice quiz available for recap. You’ll have to find test materials and practice problems elsewhere.
- Quick six-hour course is laid out in an efficient way
- Helps with study planning strategy
- Includes quick practice quizzes for recap
- Enthusiastic, personalized content
- No comprehensive review materials included
- You’ll have to find practice tests elsewhere
2. Best Verbal-Specific Course: Udemy Dominate GMAT Verbal
- 8h 30m $69.99
- Course Highlights
- Comprehensive single-subject focus
- Target Audience: Test-takers that struggle with the verbal-specific section
- Prep Materials: 6 sentence correction worksheets, 1 critical reasoning worksheet
Why we like it
This course, loaded with prep materials, goes in-depth on the occasionally tricky and subjective-feeling GMAT verbal section.
Many GMAT takers struggle with the verbal section of the course for its subjective-feeling nature and the fact that questions aren’t as linear or process-oriented as the quantitative or data sufficiency questions. If you struggle with this section, don’t despair: the best way to address the subject is head-on, by exposing yourself to as much verbal content as possible.
At around 8.5 hours of run time, it’s relatively long for a single section recap, longer even than LinkedIn Learning’s class, which reviews the whole GMAT. We see this as an advantage, as while you can always skip forward through content, it’s hard to study missing content. Sections are broken down into relatively digestible 10-20 minute chapters, although we’d have preferred that they split it up even further to make reviewing content easier.
If you’ve got your doubts or are having trouble selecting between this course and another on the list, keep in mind that this class has a 30-day money-back guarantee, which means you can give it a shot and find something else if it doesn’t work for you. If you’re already confident in your verbal skills, though, you should look elsewhere.
As far as study materials go, this course includes six sentence correction worksheets (sentence-correction is a question type that trips up a lot of test-takers) and a critical reasoning worksheet. Study problems and other review content like practice tests will need to be found elsewhere.
- Comprehensive course with long run time for single-subject recap
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Includes sentence correction worksheets and a critical reasoning worksheet
- Content is broken down into digestible chunks
- Longer practice tests and content should be found elsewhere
- Content should be broken down even further
3. Best Short Course: Complete GMAT Prep Guide
- 2h 1m $19.99
- Course Highlights
- Prioritizes test strategy and learning structure
- Target Audience: General test prep
- Prep Materials: 3 articles, 2 downloadable resources
Why we like it
This GMAT guide doesn’t go too deep into the content itself, but does a fantastic job of laying out test strategy and helping to create a comprehensive test plan.
While some GMAT test-takers look to mix and match subject-specific tests to optimize their score subject-by-subject, other potential MBA students are just looking for an intense, comprehensive course that contains all the content necessary to be successful on the test.
This course is a great example of the latter, breaking sections down effectively into short, digestible chunks. It even weighs different concepts and sections differently to focus more on the most difficult parts and provide the most bang for the buck.
It’s short, at just over two hours of run time, but provides a good primer and structure for those looking to understand the test before diving into more intensive study. This course does a better job of breaking down exactly where you should prioritize your time than any other course we’ve seen.
Does it do a deep dive on concepts like math or data sufficiency? Absolutely not: but it will help you set out a study plan as well as understand some test strategy points that can help you boost your score.
While the LinkedIn Learning’s course is what we’d recommend if you only have one day to study, this course, although short, isn’t in the same vein. It is, however, a great way to start out your studying journey, helping you set out a long-term study plan to maximize your score.
- Helps you set out a plan for long term study by reviewing the test
- Identifies where to best spend your time
- Breaks sections down into digestible chunks
- Provides a good return on your time investment
- Doesn’t provide much specific test problem info
- Few study materials included
4. Best Math-Specific Course: GMAT 47 Hours Math Prep
- 47h $94.99
- Course Highlights
- Incredible deep-dive on quantitative math problems
- Target Audience: Test-takers deep diving on math content
- Prep Materials: Practice problems
Why we like it
If you want to make sure you’ve got a grasp of all of the possible types of quantitative math problems, this course is a great way to do a deep dive.
If you’ve taken some practice tests and you’re struggling with the math component of the GMAT, this dedicated prep course is a good way to hone in on some of the concepts that might be causing you trouble. It’s incredibly involved, with almost 47 hours of content recapping virtually anything you might come across on the quantitative section of the test. If this is where you’re looking to spend your time, you’ll be hard-pressed finding something as comprehensive.
The best part of this class is its ultra-specific structure, all laid out in super-digestible chunks that range from about two to ten minutes in length. This makes the course incredibly easy to review, and when you take any practice tests (from other sources, as this course doesn’t have written prep materials besides a few practice problems), you can find and review the concepts easily.
The instructor, Jackson Kalaith, scored an outstanding 760 on the test, competitive enough to get into the top MBA programs in the United States. He’s a fluent English speaker but be aware that he has a slight accent before purchasing the course. Otherwise, he provides an enthusiastic demeanor and teaches in a clear manner with obvious expertise.
- Deep dive on the quantitative section of the test
- Most comprehensive course on math GMAT component
- Digestible sections are great for review
- Teacher scored an outstanding 760 on the test
- No practice tests included
- Teacher has a slight accent
5. Best Data Sufficiency Course: GMAT Data Sufficiency: The Ultimate Guide
- 2h 29m From $13.99/month (with a Skillshare Premium Subscription)
- Course Highlights
- Focuses on quickly boosting score with minimal study
- Target Audience: Students for data sufficiency
- Prep Materials: None offered
Why we like it
If you’re looking for a quick ‘hack’ style test trick to boost your score with a minimal amount of studying, focusing extra energy on the data-sufficiency section can be a good way to do it.
The data sufficiency section is often seen as the hardest section on the GMAT, but don’t let it scare you. A section with a reputation as difficult won’t necessarily ruin your score. In fact, since the GMAT is scored relative to other test-takers, sections with lower average scores can have a big positive impact if you prepare properly. Even a short recap like this course can pay tremendous dividends for your overall score.
So, instead of viewing this as a specifically difficult section, view this as an extra opportunity to improve on your score. If you take an open mindset to this section, you can really knock it out of the park and gain tremendous points on the section. If not, well, since the average test-taker scores lower on this component than any other, you won’t have as much of a score penalty. Because of these reasons, this 2.5-hour class is definitely worth your time. Within, you’ll learn the philosophy of data sufficiency questions and have the option to recap a whole host of them.
The teacher, Anis, is French, and while he speaks perfect English, he does have an accent that can be distracting to some test takers. Seek out a different course if you have a tough time understanding different accents.
While the content is excellent, and the teacher knows the material incredibly well, the presentation delivery is slightly unprofessional, with a slide show that feels quickly done and contains some grammatical errors. We normally expect better, but we do feel that, as far as content and value go, this is one of the best, most time-effective courses out there.
- Great opportunity to boost your score efficiently
- Teacher does a great job explaining the material
- Short class that offers a great return
- One of the best classes for value and content
- Teacher has a French accent that can be tricky to understand
- Low production quality for its presentation and content
Many potential test-takers have a lot of questions on the GMAT. We try to answer some of the most common ones below.
Not only is it possible to retake the GMAT, but it’s also probably a good idea to do so. The average test taker improves about 50 points from their first to their second attempt, so there’s obviously a lot to be gained from multiple tests. You’ll have to wait at least two weeks, by policy, before a retake. Also, make sure you’ve reviewed your worst sections, as while schools will take your highest score, they’re likely to notice if you’ve taken the test more than four times without any improvement. It’s important to show schools you’re strategic with your test-taking and showing strong improvement.
A lot of people say that the 3-hour GMAT isn’t as intense as all-day tests like the MCAT, which can take up to 8 hours. There are only four sections, and the questions don’t require ultra-specific knowledge. Most are about advanced reasoning and data analysis.
If you did very well on standardized tests like the SAT and ACT to get into an undergraduate program, you’re in good shape to do well on this test, with one exception. While 4 million students take the SAT or ACT every year, only 250,000 take the GMAT, and this pool is competitive, with test-takers trying to get into the best business schools in the nation. While it’s not necessarily harder in terms of content, it’s harder to stand out from the crowd.
The GMAT evaluates test takers on intrinsic skills like data analysis, mathematical reasoning, and language skills. Specifically, the four subject realms are analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills. There does need to be some background of academic skills when taking the test, but no advanced curriculum is required to be successful on the test, like with the MCAT.
The best way to prep for the GMAT is with a preparatory course that fits your learning style. If you need flexibility, an online course is best. Prefer lectures to written content? Make sure it’s a video course. If your time is limited, find a short course, as they’ll cover the most important things quickly. If you have more time or are big on test simulations, make sure you’ve got something with a lot of prep tests, practice content, and sample questions.
For those looking to get into a selective MBA program, a good GMAT score isn’t just for show. Ultra-exclusive programs like those at Stanford and Harvard have an average GMAT score of around 740, which represents a score higher than about 96% percent of test-takers. There’s a reason high scores are sought after: anything higher than 700 will give you a good chance of getting into a premier program, and a prep course gives you the best chance at earning a high score.
Course Comparison Breakdown
|Course Name||Platform||Length||Strategy Discussion||Sections Covered||Prep Materials|
|LinkedIn Learning: Preparing for the GMAT||Linkedin Learning||6h 17m||Yes||Analytical Writing, Integrated Reading, Quantitative, and Verbal||Practice quizzes on video content|
|Udemy Dominate GMAT Verbal||Udemy||8h 30m||No||Verbal||6 sentence correction worksheets, 1 critical reasoning worksheet|
|Complete GMAT Prep Guide||Udemy||2h 1m||Yes||Analytical Writing, Integrated Reading, Quantitative, and Verbal||3 articles, 2 downloadable resources|
|GMAT 37 Hours Math Prep||Udemy||37h||No||Quantitative||Practice problems|
|GMAT Data Sufficiency: The Ultimate Guide||Skillshare||2h 29m||No||Quantitative||None|
How to Get the Most out of Your Class
As with any test prep, a key to success is your own effort. You can’t just pull up your test materials for a few hours before the test and expect to get much out of it. It’s important to be strategic about selecting the proper course for your test-taking style, as well as for your existing strengths and weaknesses.
Part of the reason taking a GMAT can be so stressful is the fact that there’s so much to think about, but a good online prep course can set out a clear and effective path for success. If you know where (and how) to put in your effort, you’ll be more effective and levelheaded.
You’ll be most effective as a test taker if you know why you’re studying. Most test-prep experts don’t recommend you set your goal arbitrarily or go in on test day expecting to get a perfect score. The best strategy is to take some practice tests to determine where you’re starting out.
From there you can set a goal: conventional wisdom suggests that you’ll increase about one point per hour studied (100 hours of dedicated study will yield a 100 point score improvement). Headed into test day, you should have a good expectation for where you’ll score, and you’ll know exactly what you need to do to hit that number.
Use a Tactical Approach
The GMAT doesn’t determine your intelligence or your value as a student: it’s simply a tool for schools to evaluate your potential performance at an MBA program.
If the MBA program you’re applying for has an average GMAT of 500, it’s worthless to spend 500 hours studying to get your score from 725 to 750. Be tactical and critical with your approach; it will save you time in the long run.
The GMAT is the first step towards a future that puts you on a track to the boardroom, with MBA grads reporting greater job satisfaction, career prospects, and compensation. While it’s neither quick nor easy to knock the GMAT out of the park, it’s worth putting the time in by using a quality, online test prep course to maximize your score.