You know you want to take a prep course, but now you have to choose which one to take. While the answer to "How to Choose a Prep Course?" varies with every individual, there are general guidelines that will help anyone with this tough choice. We've learned these tips from our own experience and from feedback we receive from GMAT test takers.
Stay away from companies that make outlandish claims.
There are quite a few shady companies out there promising magical improvements (e.g. study 3 hours and improve your test result by over 100 points, or solve every questions in your head in less than 60 seconds). These companies are easy to spot because many make similar claims, like some MBAs did "research" and discovered flaws in the test or some "professors" found some way to make the whole test completely easy. Of course, claims like these are always false.
Over the past 20 years, millions of people have taken the GMAT and many of the test takers were quite clever. None of them came up with a test taking method that renders the GMAT completely easy. So, the odds of this happening now are very slim. Do yourself a favor and discount such offers immediately. Any company that does not state that hard work and a lot of practice questions are needed for success is lying to its potential clients.
If research is mentioned (usually in connection to a top university) do yourself a favor and "google" for the name of the alleged rocket scientist who discovered these great methods. If you do not find any publications in scholarly journals or speaking engagements at renowned international conferences, you'll know the company is a scam.
Go for courses with business school affiliated teachers.
Although the GMAT is not about business, you still want the kind of instruction a business person will provide. You do not want to be taught by a professional educator who focuses on problem kids in socially difficult neighborhoods (even though we fully respect this line of work, of course). Given the lack of opportunities in today's job market, many unqualified people are trying their luck in test prep. Not all MBAs will make great teachers, but those who do provide an inside perspective on the MBA admissions process that others cannot. So, if you see that an instructor's credentials are in Education or International Politics, ask why they are experts at the GMAT, which is only required for Business School. It is likely that they were denied admission to Business School and teaching about the test is their fall back option. Given your desire to go to business school, you cannot invest your time and money in having the blind to lead the blind.
As stated above, some instructors claim that they have spoken at MBA related events to make up for their lack of credentials. As with the "scientists" above, entering the name of the supposed speaker will bring to light whether the person really was a frequent speaker at some MBA fairs, or if she/he might confuse carrying some boxes with a keynote engagement.
The best option is to find a course with teachers who are not only enrolled, but also have actual teaching experience at a business school. Even if those offers are quite rare, it might be worth looking for them.
Talk to prep companies at MBA fairs.
A good way to check for a variety of preparation options is to attend the MBA fairs that take place quite frequently in every country. Even though the primary purpose might be to talk to the admission staff and alumni of business schools, take some time to speak with test prep companies or attend the GMAT presentations that are held at those fairs. In most cases, the fair organizers will have selected a reputable company to give this presentation. This can be an excellent indicator as to where you should start looking for good preparation options.
Check with other GMAT test takers.
It's important to remember that you shouldn't believe everything that you read. Thus, it is also important to talk with others who were recently in your position. Quiz anyone you know who used a GMAT test prep company prior to taking the test. If you speak with someone whose opinion you trust, you can ensure that the information you receive is accurate. Remember to ask what they didn't like about the course as well as what they did like. If the first person that you speak with gives a glowing report of the test prep course they took, don't stop your inquiries there. Not every test prep company is right for every test taker. Consider how much time you have to prepare, how much you have already studied, and what type of teaching environment works best for you.
Do your research.
If you're reading though the information on this site, it's obvious that you're interested in putting some time and effort into your test preparation. It's important that you do take the time to follow the advice above, and do enough research before deciding on the test prep company that's right for you. First, you need to decide whether or not the company's claims are accurate. Then, you need to evaluate what sort of course will work best for you. There are many choices out there. Make the effort to ensure that your choice is the right one for you.
Of course, we like to hear your stories about this issue. If you have taken a prep course, please just drop us a note at email@example.com and we may add your points here for others to consider.