You may have heard that conquering the GMAT requires hard work and dedication. While this is true, it will be helpful to get acquainted with the different approaches you can adopt to prepare for the exam.
Choosing the right method would also require you to analyze not only your strengths, weaknesses, and preferred study style, but also your budget and time constraints.
Analyze yourself and your resources
Before even starting to think about the available GMAT preparation options, you need to come clean with yourself about how you learn best. Are you a group learner or would you rather study alone? Are you able to focus for long periods or do you tend to learn in spurts? What type of learner are you: visual, auditory, reading/writing, or kinesthetic/hands-on? If you are not sure which category applies to you, try to think of a time when you prepared for an exam and achieved impressive results. How did you prepare back then?
The financial aspect is also important. How much money can you spend on GMAT preparation? Let’s face it; the method you choose will largely depend on your budget. If you are unable to spend much, then you will not be able to afford a private tutor. On the other hand, classes are cheaper than private tutors, but not cheaper than self-preparation.
Yet another important factor you need to consider is how much time you have at your disposal to prepare. MBA aspirants are typically busy, active professionals, juggling a job, possibly a family, and many other responsibilities. You have to be realistic about your flexibility. If your job involves many trips and long periods abroad, you will probably be unable to sign up for an intensive class that meets five times a week. Analyze your situation carefully and choose the appropriate GMAT prep method accordingly.
You also need to be aware of the GMAT score you want to achieve. This means that you should realistically assess your current level and the necessary amount of time and form of preparation that would take you to your desired result. If you want to increase your score by 40-50 points, self-preparation will most likely be sufficient, but if you target a major leap, you will probably need to resort to the services of a private tutor and be ready to spend a significant amount of your time preparing. This depends also on the score that you are building on. It can be much harder to improve from 680 to 730, rather than from 450 to 500.
Choosing the right approach
Most GMAT classes are appropriate for people who learn best in groups and whose GMAT skills level can be described as that of a beginner or average. For those aiming at a Stanford-level score (732 on average for MBA Class of 2020), next level classes are usually available. GMAT preparation classes can be in-person or online. One of the benefits of this prep method is that instruction occurs in real time and participants can ask questions. Another perk that comes with GMAT prep classes is the availability of online practice tests.
However, there are a few downsides associated with this GMAT prep method. For instance, there is a limit to how much personal attention each participant receives. In addition, there is little leeway to adjust busy schedules to the structure of the course, which makes it unsuitable for busy professionals.
This option is the priciest, but also the one offering some hard-to-beat advantages. This is the go-to prep method for people who value customization and a learning approach that is tailored to their individual taste and unique learning style. The private tutor option can make sense at any level of GMAT skill, but is usually particularly appropriate for those intent on breaking through the 700-point barrier.
Private tutoring can be very effective as a qualified tutor would identify and focus on the areas that need improvement, enabling you to make impressive strides in mastering the exam. In addition, you get a lot of personal attention and the opportunity to adapt sessions to your personal schedule. When it comes to disadvantages, aside from the higher cost, there is always the risk of failing to hit it off with your tutor and having to find another one.
Don’t ever think of preparing on your own exclusively if you lack motivation, discipline, or determination. This is the most affordable option, but also the one potentially fraught with risks and difficulties. The good thing about self-preparation is that you have the freedom to determine the pace, structure and intensity of the study process. You can study from a book, a GMAT preparation app, an online program, or a combination thereof.
Check out: Beating the GMAT without Preparation Courses
The best part of self-preparation – the freedom to determine the rules – can also become your enemy. Many students on the self-preparation path would testify that it is fairly easy to run off the rails if you are not disciplined. Another problem encountered by many is that it is really difficult to track your progress when you rely only on your own judgment. To put it in a nutshell, self-preparation is not for everyone, so consider the risks carefully.
Finally, self-preparation is actually a must even if you opt for a course or tutoring. There is always a need to study and practice on your own, so that you make the most of your guided prep in a course or with a tutor.
There is no one-size-fits-all GMAT prep method. It is up to you to decide which of the available options will help you achieve your goals. There are many factors to consider, so do your homework and pick the prep option that is best for you.