Going to business school is a great way to re-brand yourself, build your network, and get better access to recruiters.
An MBA is not a guaranteed path into investment banking or private equity, but it may be your best option – especially if you’ve already been working full-time in another industry.
As with financial modeling and interview prep, you’ve got a number of options when you prepare for the GMAT: live classroom training, private tutoring, books, and online courses.
Live, In-Person Classroom Training
These programs last for 9-10 weeks and offer class on Saturday mornings or weekday evenings.
You show up, listen to the instructor go through their study materials, and you get to ask questions the whole time.
Class sizes vary by the program type and cost, but generally there will be at least 10 students in a class and often a lot more than that.
These programs usually cost between $1,000 and $1,500 and take up 30-40 hours of time: class each week plus independent study and homework over 9-10 weeks.
Recently, some programs have started offering classroom training online as well – instead of going in-person, you can log into a website and watch a live video feed of the classroom training as it’s happening.
You still have to log in at a specific time – it’s just that you can watch in your pajamas rather than going in-person.
Prices for these online options are usually 40-50% less than the equivalent 10-week in-person programs.
Some prep companies offer in-person office hours to provide a more “hands-on” learning approach as well – that can be helpful, but you need to clear your schedule and target the right day.
Arguably, private tutors are the most effective option since you get 1-on-1 attention – but they’re also the most expensive option.
You’re looking at paying $150-$200 per hour – that could easily add up to thousands of dollars over a few months.
Usually private tutors have their own study materials and teach their own strategies – a lot of GMAT test-takers think that the explanations in traditional materials are poor, so private tutors can add a lot of value there.
If private tutors are like flying first-class, self-study books are the “coach” option.
They’re the cheapest way to prepare for the GMAT, and you might spend only $20-$50 for the study materials.
There are plenty of guides out there with hundreds of sample questions and explanations, and it’s a good idea to go through at least a few practice exams before the real thing – no matter what other training you’ve completed.
The downside? You may not learn well just by reading a book and there’s no interaction.
Recently GMAT prep companies have started offering full-fledged online courses – not just live video feeds of classroom training.
So you might go through video tutorials covering the key concepts, see firsthand how to reason through and answer questions, and take adaptive quizzes that change based on how you’ve performed.
These are cheaper than live classroom training but more expensive than books; you don’t get as much interaction as you would in the classroom, but you also get to go at your own pace and re-visit material when you want.
How Should You Prepare for the GMAT?
It depends on your budget, how much time you have, and your learning style.
If you can afford them, private tutors can be the most helpful option – but few people want to spend $5,000 – $10,000 preparing for the GMAT.
I’m not a huge fan of classroom training because it’s still relatively expensive – over $1,000 – and you have to commute and deal with annoying students and time-wasters.
Books are a good default strategy, and even if you choose another option you definitely want to go through at least a few practice exams.
But many of us don’t learn well from textbooks – so I prefer online courses when preparing for the GMAT.
They offer the best parts of private tutors and classroom training and do so at a much better price – plus, you don’t have to worry about getting wasted on Friday night and missing your Saturday morning class.
Kaplan vs. Manhattan GMAT vs. Knewton vs. GMAT Pill
With online courses, you’ve got quite a few options: you could go with a live training company such as Kaplan that also offers an online course, or you could go with a company that specializes in online prep, such as GMAT Pill.
The difference is that courses from classroom-based companies do not take full advantage of the Internet and instead just put their 500-page textbooks online.
A lot of the explanations on those sites are formal and you need to know fancy grammatical terms like “participial phrase” and “subjunctive clause” that you probably forgot after high school.
The focus is on how to reason your way through questions rather than how to become a 7th grade English teacher.
GMAT Pill: Mimicking the Pros
Another advantage of the GMAT Pill: there’s less material than you get with other test prep companies.
If you’re a busy professional, you don’t have time to devote 40-50 hours to test prep – you want the most bang for your buck, which means that 10-15 hours of highly focused, relevant prep beats 40-50 hours of “Scenes from a 7th Grade English Classroom” any day of the week.
If you learn how to think like a GMAT expert and avoid the common pitfalls that trip you up, you don’t need to spend 2-3 months preparing.
But hey, don’t take my word for it: just check out the sample videos below to get a preview:
[pro-player width = “600” height = “420”]http://www.gmatpill.com/sentencecorrection/q085-so-lo-mo.mp4[/pro-player]
[pro-player width = “600” height = “420”]http://www.gmatpill.com/problemsolving/og/222/222.mp4[/pro-player]
The best GMAT study method depends on your budget, how much time you have, and whether you prefer learning 1-on-1, in a classroom, or independently.
If you have the budget, private tutors can work well – but if you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars and don’t have months to prepare, online courses such as the GMAT Pill are your best bet.
Good luck studying, and let me know which business schools you get into!
P.S. If you are interested in taking the GMAT, follow these steps: