The Best GMAT Prep Course
The Best GMAT Prep Courses
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is used by graduate business schools to measure whether a student is ready for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. Over 2,100 schools worldwide use the exam as part of the admission process, and a high score will increase your chances of acceptance. But with topics ranging from geometry to analytical reasoning and a 3.5-hour testing period, training for the exam is easier said than done.
GMAT prep courses not only provide the materials students need to prepare, like interactive resources and quality practice exams, but also the test taking strategies they’ll need to perform well on the exam. While studying without a prep course is always an option, prep courses are a great idea for students looking for structure, motivation, or instructor assistance, whether you choose self-paced (resources only), live online (resources + online classes), or in-person (resources + in-person classes).
Our pick for both the best self-paced and live online courses is Veritas Prep. Both courses give students access to 12 practice exams and interactive video lessons to keep you engaged as you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses. Those who opt for the live online course will have access to industry-leading instructors with impressive reviews of their lessons and guidance — the company literally employs the best instructor according to student reviews on GMAT Club, a well-known social forum for GMAT students. Even students who need the flexibility of a self-paced course can still interact with instructors during live online office hours, a feature we loved about Veritas Prep. If you’re looking for more consistent guidance, though, you’ll want to go for their live online option.
The low prices of e-GMAT makes it an excellent budget alternative for students looking for a self-paced or live-online course. The resources aren’t quite as thorough as Veritas Prep, but students still have access to interactive video lessons and top-rated instructors (for the live online course) that will help you improve your score. We’re confident Veritas is the best, but e-GMAT is a strong and cheaper alternative.
For students who prefer the experience of a traditional classroom, Kaplan is our choice. The Kaplan in-person course is the most widely available option on the market with courses in 41 states — competitors are far less prolific and some only offer courses in a single city. In addition to class time with expert instructors with great student reviews, students will have access to quality resources and interactive video lessons for studying at home. Availability and quality resources make Kaplan the best in-person GMAT prep course for most people.
How We Found the Best GMAT Prep Courses
We required interactive resources, engaging instructors, and widespread availability.
We started by assembling a list of the 13 most popular GMAT prep course providers based on recommendations and consumer reviews from university websites and student forums like Beat the GMAT. Then, we separated all their courses into three categories: self-paced, live online, and in-person. We evaluated each method individually for two reasons. First, not every company offers a course for all three methods — some specialize in a specific format. Second, a provider may have method-based strengths, for example, excelling at self-paced resources but offering simply average instructor-led courses. So we developed a few specific criteria to evaluate quality and find the best program for each category.
Prep courses are designed to review relevant subject material and teach you the strategies you’ll need to take the exam effectively. Most courses assume students enter with a basic level of subject mastery, so they’re not intended as a detailed review of all the subject material. Dennis Yim, Director, Live Online Academics at Kaplan Test Prep (and GRE tutor of 10 years), explained “I like to remind students that their job isn’t to become a mathematician or grammar whiz. The goal is to gain experience on what the test will actually be like. You need to be exactly ready for what the GMAT will challenge you with.”
If you want to sign up for a course but don’t feel really confident with the material, we recommend setting extra time aside to review subject material in greater detail. This will ensure you don’t fall behind during the official video lessons or instructor-led sessions.
Self-Paced Prep Courses
A self-paced course provides a general study schedule to follow and a wide range of online resources. That means you can study whenever and wherever you want, making these courses a great fit for students who need flexible study schedules. However, with no scheduled classes, self-paced courses lack the guidance of an instructor, so you’ll be responsible for maintaining your schedule and identifying your areas to improve.
Resources are king when it comes to a self-paced GMAT course, and the best will offer interactive study tools to help you along the way. Built-in quizzes and other interactive features give you the opportunity to evaluate your level of understanding as you progress, allowing you to pinpoint and focus on the subject material that gives you the most trouble. They also help to keep you focused during lessons and maximize your solo study time.
It’s a situation where students have to recognize it’s more than just memorizing things. It’s more than just standard cramming. You have to be able to take that information and transform it. That’s the real challenge. That’s why it’s important to work with questions.
Of course, interactive tools can vary greatly depending on the provider. For example, Veritas Prep offers a full series of interactive videos with built-in questions, meaning you take a moment to process and reinforce the material before moving on.
The Economist course, on the other hand, simply offers text-based lessons — you scroll through and click to reveal answers and explanations (think: an epic text message conversation you have to keep expanding). While technically this counts as interactive these lessons become pretty boring and can cause eye strain during longer sessions.
We gave preference to courses with truly engaging interactive tools designed to improve our learning experience.
e-GMAT, Empowergmat, Kaplan, Magoosh, Manhattan Prep, PowerScore, Princeton Review, Target Test Prep, TestMasters, The Economist, Veritas Prep
Live Online Prep Courses
Live online is the way to go if you want the guidance of an instructor but can’t make it to a physical class. There are scheduled lessons you need to “attend” online, but you can do so at any location with an internet connection. The main benefit? Scheduled lessons with an instructor provide structure for students looking for motivation or feedback.
The best live online course will have engaging instructors who offer feedback and guidance both in and out of class. Courses with greater instructor interaction ensure that you get the chance to address any gaps in your understanding without having to wait for the next class — no small consideration for students on a once- or twice-a-week class schedule. In addition, if you get stuck on a question or your practice scores start to plateau, being able to contact an instructor for more targeted guidance will help you move past your specific roadblocks.
Your instructor should be experienced and knowledgeable. Evaluating instructor quality will always be subjective, but we expected companies to ensure high standards with their instructors. We turned to student reviews on popular websites Beat the GMAT and GMAT Club — social forums that allow students to share reviews of GMAT courses. The reviews even mention instructors by name, and we looked for instructors who have consistently high success rates. To be honest, the competition is close — all the GMAT courses on our list have high marks on both sites (an impressive feat), but we gave the edge to courses with consistently higher ratings.
But even the best instructor will be of limited value if they’re only available during class time, so we prioritized courses that allow you to contact instructors outside of class. Veritas Prep impressed us with its two-hour online office hours with instructors seven days a week. Others, like e-Gmat, allow you to post questions to an instructor-monitored forum. While active forums can still get you answers to your questions, we preferred real-time instructor communication that facilitates discussion when you need it.
Ultimately, the best live online course gives you great resources both in and out of the digital classroom, so we still expected engaging interactive study tools for at-home study time. When a provider offers both instructor-led and self-paced courses, the study materials are the same and the instructor involvement is an added layer. So we used the same criteria (and results, when applicable) from our self-paced section to compare study tools for our live online courses.
We gave bonus points to courses featuring instructors with strong credentials — GMAT experts who scored in the 90th percentile or above — and those with former student reviews citing specific positives about its instructors. Finally, we looked for the best balance between skilled instructors and engaging interactive study tools — your learning definitely shouldn’t end when you close that video call.
e-GMAT, Kaplan, Princeton Review, Veritas Prep
In-Person Prep Courses
In-person courses are ideal for students who prefer the learning experience of physical classrooms. Students have the opportunity for face-to-face discussions about subject material and test-taking strategies with instructors and classmates. This format is arguably the most time consuming, given the requirement for physical attendance, and many courses don’t offer wide availability.
Check out your local optionsLocal or state-based prep courses can also offer quality resources and personalized attention from instructors. We can’t recommend local options for everyone, so we didn’t consider them, but it’s worth seeing what courses are available in your area with a simple Google search and your zip code.
To find the best in-person GMAT course, we used a lot of the same criteria for live online courses. First, we looked for interactive study tools and experienced instructors. Then, we prioritized courses that allow you to contact your instructor outside of class for additional assistance while studying at home. But we added one key and unique characteristic: availability.
Availability for in-person courses is often limited to a small number of states. For example, TestMasters is currently available in only two states which leaves out over a quarter of the nation. Veritas Prep is available only in New York. While smaller companies are worth a look if you have access, we wanted to ensure most people would have access to our recommendation. So we focused on providers like Kaplan, which offers courses in 41 states — a little over three quarters of the nation. The general trend? Most prep courses are focusing on online options and Kaplan was the only course that passed the availability test.
Kaplan, Manhattan Prep, PowerScore, Princeton Review, TestMasters, Veritas Prep
Many prep course companies also advertise one-one-one tutoring programs. These programs receive favorable reviews and offer the most personalized form of GMAT preparation. But the experience is too personalized for us to vouch for quality. They are worth a look if you want the most guidance possible but can cost up to $8,000.
Courses had to offer at least three full-length practice exams.
When it comes to exam prep there is one study tool that outranks all others: practice exams. Known as the testing effect, practice exams train the brain to recognize question types and formats. This allows your brain to quickly process the subject material and strategy you need to answer questions on the actual exam, meaning practice exams are the best way to improve your final score.
Official exams are best Official practice exams from the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) are the best. Surprisingly, not many providers include them in their resources. Purchasing official GMAT practice exams is the best way to simulate the testing experience.
Many companies offer proprietary practice exams to simulate the GMAT. We required a minimum of three exams, since the most commonly recommended preparation period is 1-3 months and this guarantees at least one practice exam for each month. But not all practice exams are created equal — the closer exams are to the real deal the better, so we returned to the student reviews on Beat the GMAT and GMAT Club to compare practice exam quality.
In general, students reported helpful practice exams, but a few companies offered tests with unique benefits. For example, students reported that Veritas exams were much more difficult than the real GMAT, which many liked because it made the official exam easier. Other competitors offered fairly standard experiences, but we gave preference to providers that made the real GMAT as easy as possible.
We studied courses to find easy-to-follow explanations and quality resources.
After trying out free trials and comparing sample materials, we settled on two key features: easy-to-follow explanations and well-designed or unique resources. But we’ll be blunt. Most prep courses don’t really offer strong advantages over others, the differences between them tend to be more nuanced.
For example, most providers offer video lessons to explain concepts. Some providers take this to the next level in different ways. During e-GMAT’s recorded lessons, the instructor’s voice explains the material in the slideshow slowly and clearly, reducing the chance of students becoming lost or confused. Manhattan Prep’s thorough explanations also come with occasional visuals of the instructor as they guide us through material — a small improvement to keep you focused and engaged.
We were particularly impressed by Kaplan, which offers a wide range of resources including a large question bank and access to the GMAT Channel (a platform with optional video lessons). Most notable is the Real Test Day Experience feature, where Kaplan allows you to take a practice exam at your actual testing center so that you can learn what to expect.
We gave preference to providers that offer thoughtful tools and features to improve your study experience and score. After hours of comparison we found two prep course providers (one took top spot for live online and self-paced) to help you ace your GMAT prep.
Our Top Picks for GMAT Prep Courses
Veritas Prep is our top pick for both self-paced and live-online prep courses. It was a close race with competitors e-GMAT and Manhattan Prep, but with its slightly better range and balance of resources, Veritas took the crown.
The self-paced course offers access to an impressive suite of resources, including 12 practice exams, a study calendar, and quizzes. Its interactive video lessons guide you step-by-step through the subject material and strategies you’ll need for answering exam questions. For example, the lesson on critical reasoning provides thorough explanations about how questions based on inference will differ from other question types found in the exam. We appreciate that Veritas videos spend time explaining the differences between question types and the appropriate strategies for answering them. Other providers, such as e-GMAT, leaned more toward content review. While content is important, we valued the addition of strategy-centered training from Veritas.
Veritas Prep also offers a totally unique feature we couldn’t find anywhere else: live online office hours. Unlike most self-paced prep courses that lack instructor interaction, Veritas offers online sessions with instructors seven days a week. During these two-hour sessions, students are welcome to ask any questions and receive personalized feedback or guidance. The closest competitor in this regard was Kaplan, which offers supplementary online lessons and live topic-specific sessions with an instructor. However, you have to pay an extra $200 for this service ($1,000 total), while Veritas includes office hours as part of its $850 standard package (the high end of average for the industry).
If you choose to go with the live online course, you can expect instructors who scored within the 99th percentile (the highest tier possible). That means your instructors know exactly what to expect from the GMAT and the best strategies for answering questions. Veritas Prep’s instructors earned a 4.8 out of 5 star rating on Beat the GMAT with over 1,250 students praising their instructors for ensuring great experiences. Veritas also has GMAT club’s top-rated instructor out of 123 instructors based on student reviews. The reviews from GMAT Club are similar, and Veritas instructors make up 5 of the top 10 instructors on the site — including the top spot.
“[The instructor knew] exactly how to leverage the environment to motivate every single one of the students [and ensured we] never became complacent, never became bored, and always left with some solid key takeaways.”
The majority of students on both sites report tough but attentive instructors who help you stay on task and improve your scores. While other courses have similarly positive reviews, there were simply more for Veritas with specific praises for its current instructors.
Self-Paced – $850
12 GMAT lesson booklets
12 digital practice tests
5,000 study questions
Interactive video lessons
Live online office hours
One-year access to online resources
Live Online – $950
36 hours of live, instructor-led lessons
Access to recorded lessons
12 GMAT lesson booklets
12 digital practice tests
3,000 study questions
Interactive video lessons
Live online office hours
One-year access to online resources
Veritas is not without its flaws, though. The live online option only comes as a three- or six-week course, shorter than the often recommended three months of prep time. That said, students report great experiences with expert instructors that led to better scores. You also still get access to the full suite of Veritas resources for a year, just like you do in the self-paced course. Choosing between the live online or self-paced course will come down to your personal preference and schedule, but both are excellent options for thorough GMAT prep.
The most appealing thing about e-GMAT is its price. The self-paced course is only $300 while the live online course is $500. But that doesn’t mean a lack of resources. The company offers interactive video lessons, customizable quizzes, and expert instructors (for its live online course) that will help you obtain a higher score.
Veritas Prep simply offers a better balance of resources. e-GMAT does not offer live online office hours and its videos don’t cover as much test-taking strategy as Veritas. Although it has four out of the top five instructors on GMAT club and excellent reviews from Beat the GMAT, we noticed a general trend that gave us pause. A good majority of the praise was due to increases in verbal scores — a large number of e-GMAT students are non-native English speakers, which makes sense considering the GMAT is one of the world’s leading entrance exams for graduate business school. While the course also has thorough quantitative lessons, reviews from past students indicate this is more catered toward those looking for help with verbal reasoning in particular.
That said, it’s no slouch with quantitative lessons and the low prices make it an excellent choice for students on a budget.
Since 1938, Kaplan has been a giant in the exam prep industry. Its many years in the industry have not only allowed it to build one of the largest libraries of GMAT resources but also an expansive network of instructors across the nation. With its expert instructors and helpful study tools, it’s our top pick for in-person GMAT prep.
Honestly, a large reason Kaplan took the top spot is because it’s simply the most available. With courses in 41 states, you’ll be able to find classes in at least three quarters of the nation. The difference is impressive considering the limited offerings of other providers, like TestMasters which is currently available in just two states (CA and NY).
Of course, availability alone isn’t enough. Kaplan earns its spot by offering expert instructors and excellent resources that will help you study effectively. For example, all of the instructors have scored in the 90th percentile or higher. That means your teacher has a thorough understanding of the subject material and strategies for answering questions effectively. Past students confirm this, with many on Beat the GMAT reporting helpful and knowledgeable instructors. The best part? You can contact the instructors outside of class for additional assistance as you study at home.
Students also have access to a large range of resources including nine practice tests, two course books, an online quiz bank, and the GMAT Channel. We are particular fans of the GMAT Channel, which offers live online lessons with instructors who cover specific topics. During the sessions, you can get additional help with subjects that give you trouble as well as ask questions for more personalized feedback and guidance. While you can always ask your in-person instructor for additional help, we appreciate the extra degree of instructor interaction. After all, an in-person instructor must balance the needs of multiple students and may not have time to give you that personalized review session for quadratic inequalities. The extra lessons ensure that you receive the help you need to address any gaps in your knowledge or skill.
Kaplan is in the process of rolling out its unique Adaptive QBank — a customizable quiz bank that adjusts to your strengths and weaknesses. Unlike its regular QBank, it adapts to student weaknesses and identifies any question types you’re struggling with. Rather than spending time practicing every question type, having an adaptive quiz bank allows you to focus on the areas where you need the most improvement. The Adaptive QBank isn’t available yet, but we’re keeping a close eye on the feature and will update accordingly when it releases.
Kaplan isn’t perfect. Like many GMAT prep course providers, the company does not provide access to official GMAC practice exams. In addition, the length of the course averages out around six weeks, which is fairly short when compared to other courses, like Manhattan Prep’s nine-week options. While the cost of the Kaplan course is average for the industry at $1,450, we can’t help but feel that official GMAC exams and more class periods should be included at the price.
In-Person – $1,450
18 hours of live instruction
30+ hours of elective lessons on the GMAT Channel
Nine full-length practice exams
140+ hours of online materials
5,000+ practice questions
Two prep books
MBA admissions guide
Official Test Day Experience
However, Kaplan does offer a balanced range of resources and a unique Official Test Day Experience that allows you to take a company-made exam in your actual testing center. Doing so will allow you to become familiar with the testing software and exam room, which can help you feel more comfortable on the big day.
Getting Ready for the GMAT
There are free GMAT study resources.
While many graduate level prep courses and study materials are fairly expensive, free resources do exist. These resources are an excellent option for students who are on a tight budget or who simply want additional prep materials. The materials on their own don’t technically constitute a full prep course and creating your own prep course will take some mixing and matching. But a quick visit to one of these three sites will help you get started.
Khan Academy is widely celebrated for its range of exam prep materials. The non-profit organization provides multiple GMAT videos that cover the quantitative portions of the exam. Although they don’t have any videos for analytical or verbal reasoning, Khan Academy is great for brushing up on your math skills.
Beat the GMAT is not only a social forum for prospective MBA students, it also offers a wealth of resources. The collection is continuously growing and includes review material for math and analytical sections of the exam, tips for studying effectively, and a collection of free practice exams from well-known prep course providers, including our top picks.
Like Beat the GMAT, the GMAT Club website also offers a multitude of resources. You’ll need to explore the site a bit to access all of them since they’re often separated into forum posts. However, we recommend you start by reviewing the study plan, study tools, and free test questions.
Ready for the GMAT? Here’s a list of what to bring.
When it’s time to head to your testing facility, be sure to bring:
GMAT-Approved Identification (One of the following: passport, driver’s license, military ID card, or government-issued ID card)
Names of the programs that you want to be notified of your GMAT scores
The email confirmation of your test date from Pearson VUE
Outside calculators, watches, and writing utensils will not be allowed in the testing room. You’ll be provided with all the necessary materials from the testing center. Before you enter the testing room, the proctors will invite you to store your belongings in a locker. It’s important to make sure that you have nothing in your pockets before entering — proctors will usually ask you to flip them inside out to check. To avoid complications, we recommend bringing nothing but the essentials to the testing center.