If you are looking to return to school for an MBA degree in order to make yourself more marketable in the job market, get a raise, or discover new great careers in business, then you’re probably contemplating a GMAT prep course. For the uninitiated, the GMAT is a rigorous, standardized test that most business schools not only require for entrance, but use to differentiate applicants. Prep courses can be extremely helpful in bettering your score, but their quality really varies.
Right out of college, I signed up for an inexpensive GMAT course offered by my alma mater. I had considered higher-priced Kaplan and Ace courses, but assumed that there wouldn’t be much of a difference. I had a good experience with my college’s prep course, but while I learned some techniques and had a great review of math, the overall experience was inadequate. I didn’t know that, however, until I later took a Kaplan course.
Before I start my review of the Kaplan GMAT course, I will give you some information about the various class types that they offer, and the one I took. Whether you go with Kaplan or not, I hope this overview will help you choose a course, and get the most out of it.
Types of Kaplan GMAT Prep Courses
Anywhere (Online) vs. Classroom On Site
For your convenience, Kaplan offers three types of classes: on-demand, anywhere, and classroom. Depending on your location and schedule, a classroom may not be available. If it is, then it will be a familiar experience: you meet in a classroom with tables and chairs, and the teacher leads an interactive discussion.
The online “anywhere” course is actually very similar, only in cyberspace. You have a teacher who leads a live interactive discussion, and there is also a teacher’s assistant, who is another Kaplan instructor. You are able to ask questions, raise your hand, and chat via instant message with other students. There is a digital whiteboard that your teacher uses to help explain concepts. This is actually similar to the systems used by online colleges and accredited online degree programs – which you may be considering for business school.
The cheapest option is the on-demand course. Nothing is live and you simply watch pre-recorded lessons. I missed an in-person class once and made it up by watching the on-demand course. Being able to pause and take notes is nice, but I missed interacting with the teacher.
Basically, you can pick the type of class that is most conducive to your learning style and situation.
I chose the online course since it’s a lot cheaper than the classroom. However, in order to get peace and quiet for class time and studying, I had to use a computer at the local university library. The one class I attended using my home computer was repeatedly interrupted by my 2 year old!
Normal (“Advantage”) vs. Advanced
Kaplan also offers two class levels. The Advanced course requires a diagnostic test that is similar to the GMAT. You have to score 600 or better on the diagnostic test in order to take the advanced course.
The methods and strategies taught in both levels are the same. The real difference is the type of questions that you will work on in class and as homework. The Advanced course will give you more exposure to more difficult questions and help hone your skills in order to score higher.
I took the Advanced course and did not feel that it was too challenging. Fortunately, most of the students seemed to be on about the same level.
Below are the prices of the various GMAT prep courses offered by Kaplan.
- GMAT Advantage – On Demand: $449
- GMAT Advantage – Anywhere: $649
- GMAT Advanced – Anywhere: $699
- GMAT Advantage – On Site: $1,549
- GMAT Advanced – On Site: $1,599
Advantages of Kaplan GMAT Prep
As I mentioned, I went with the online, advanced version of the Kaplan GMAT preparation program. Here are some pros and cons of the course based on my experiences.
1. Track your progress with Smart Reports.
You can track your progress and work on homework online. As you take each of nine practice tests, the system learns about you and tells you what you are good at and where you need to improve. You can then build custom problem sets based on the questions that you are struggling with. For example, I spent a lot of time working on proportion questions.
2. The teachers are well-trained and concerned about your success.
My teacher was very knowledgeable and was able to easily explain difficult concepts. Beyond that, he created camaraderie with the students. It was like taking a course from a good friend.
3. Clear and simple methods for each question type.
Kaplan employees actually take the GMAT frequently and study the materials released by the test makers. The purpose is to develop a strategy for each type of question. This approach is great since it means you won’t see anything unexpected on the test and will know how to go about answering each type of question.
4. The course is well-structured and focuses on what matters.
This is one of the main differences between the cheap course that I took and Kaplan. Although the cheap course had a solid syllabus, we covered a lot of irrelevant information. With Kaplan, we hit just what we needed to know to score well on the test.
5. Money-back guarantee.
If you complete everything in the course and are not satisfied with your score, you can take the test again or get a refund for the course. The fact is, though, if you follow the course, you’ll be happy with the results.
1.There can be technical glitches.
Kaplan uses Adobe Meeting Connect Pro to stream the course over the Internet. Fortunately, I never missed a class due to technical difficulties, but the instructor’s image was sometimes blurred (which does not affect the “whiteboard”) and the instructor’s voice was occasionally scratchy. Usually, the problem only lasted a few minutes.
2. Huge amount of information to cover in a very short time.
Many of the students in the class are full-time working professionals, so the work load can be very difficult to manage. In order to qualify for the money-back guarantee, you have to complete all of the work. You do have two months after the course ends to complete the coursework, but I suggest that you take the GMAT within a few weeks of completing the course. This means you may end up doing coursework after you’ve taken the test just to qualify for the money-back guarantee.
3. The course is disorienting at first.
If you take the online course, you don’t ever meet with anyone who can explain all of the ins and outs and expectations, so logging in and figuring out what to do can be a bit disorienting. Kaplan does offer some video tutorials, but you really have to dig in and start clicking around to figure out what is going on. Ask lots of questions during the first session about how to complete homework assignments and what is expected of you.
Between classtime, homework, practice tests, and independent studying, I spent about 100-110 hours in a two-month period preparing for the GMAT. But I walked out of the testing center pretty happy about what I had achieved, and Kaplan was a big factor in my success. Based on this experience, I would recommend Kaplan’s GMAT prep courses.