gmat materials + resources

i think i get a little over zealous and bite off more than i can chew sometimes.  i bought a lot of books and spent a lot of time (and still do) checking out resources, and not enough time doing the actual work.  so in the end, i wasn’t able to finish going through all the books and let this serve as warning not to follow my example: it’s important to have good resources but spend more time studying.

veritas prep

i did a gmat prep course with them and i think that they do a good job.  i really liked that they offer a free course retake, which i counted on and ended up doing.  you can choose to do your retake as a full course (like i did) or for people with less time, do the intensive weekend crash course (a popular choice).  veritas offers the most in-class hours and practice exams than any other prep company (17).  be aware that the practice exams they offer aren’t all theirs–2 of them are the free ones you can get directly from the gmac; 5 are from 800score, which you can also purchase from them; and only the remaining 10 are veritas…that’s still a lot though.

they also have a ton of great resources like diagnostic tests, online lectures (helpful if you miss a class), etc…and i personally think they have some of the better looking materials/branding (not that that’s important to your score in the least).  i’m not sure if they’re still doing this, but since veritas offers admissions consulting services as well, you could also enroll in their one-day consulting seminar where you meet with some of their consultants, learn admissions strategies, and can ask questions.  when i went last year, i heard they were thinking of discontinuing that because they said it was cutting into the consulting business.

by enrolling in the course, you have access to all those resources and get a complete set of books.  there are 15 books and you go through 13 of them in-class.  each book alternates between quant/verbal and the class structure also follows this format.  the 2 books that aren’t gone through in class are both quant–book 0: math essentials and book 14: advanced word problems & quant review.  i didn’t finish all the books but i thought they were good materials and remember struggling a lot with the quant questions.  i didn’t go through any of these books when i took the gmat the 2nd time.  i had planned to with book 14 but never got around to it (too many books!).

in my 2 classes i had 2 different teachers and i really liked my first teacher matt douglas.  he’s so goofy and dorky and just made the class kind of fun.  so if you’re in the san diego area, try to get him.  i’m not sure how the other instructors differ, but between him and my other teacher mia mciver, matt spent most of the class going through problems from the book whereas mia had a slower pace and tried to spend a lot of time teaching the concepts.

prep course advice

as i mentioned before, i wanted to take a class to keep myself accountable.  these classes are not cheap…at all.  some of them offer free trials where you can sit in on a class on the first day and decide from there whether to enroll.  i know both veritas and manhattan gmat do that.  when i retook my veritas course, one guy was doing the trial and asked me for my input on whether he should fork out the dough and enroll.  i told him then, and i’m telling you all now–the classes will not do anything for you unless you put in your due diligence.  even though i told him this, toward the end of the class, he lamented that he thought his score would dramatically improve.  there are plenty of people who self-study and do very well on their own…a prep course is definitely not needed.  if you are self-disciplined and studious, i would say you don’t need to take a class.  and even if you’re like me, you still need to self-study.  like i said in my previous post, the average top bschool student put in an average of 100 hours on the gmat…that’s a lot of studying.

there’s also some debate over who the best test prep companies are.  kaplan is probably the most obvious choice since it’s the most well-known and people had already heard of them from the sat’s in high school.  from what i’ve seen, the most highly reviewed and recommended companies are manhattan gmat, knewton, and veritas.  there are others but that’s just what i’ve seen.  i did the trial class for mgmat and thought it was good but was wary of the price tag and at the time, thought veritas was supposed to be the best so i enrolled in veritas.  i now know that mgmat is supposed to be the best but it’s all relative.  i don’t have any experience with knewton and i never even heard of it until later but it’s an online prep company.  i preferred to do an in-person class but i’ve heard good things about knewton.  i think they have their students take diagnostic tests and they deliver a customized course load based on your weaknesses…something that the big prep companies would never be able to do, including mgmat and veritas.

the official guide for gmat review

everyone stresses that you must use this book in your studies.  this particular book covers both quant & verbal and they also have separate quant/verbal books if you need it.  these are the only books from the creators of the gmat, the gmac.  and they are the best representations of what you can expect on the exam since they’re retired questions.  and that’s the main reason that these books are so valuable.  a lot of other books are only simulating what they think is a gmat-type question but the og questions are the real deal.  now, the books are question heavy so if you need to learn the fundamentals, you won’t get any help from these so you probably need more than just the og.  also be warned that the questions in the og are easier than the actual exam, especially if you’re performing at a high level.  unfortunately, i never finished this crucial book…i did all ps but very little of ds (my weak point).

manhattan gmat

i had heard such great things about mgmat and their materials so the 2nd time around i wanted to study from the mgmat quant books.  my friend had taken the course a couple years ago so i borrowed what i could (she had let someone else borrow her collection).  from my experience with that trial intro class and the materials, i think mgmat prep is pretty solid and is more strategic than veritas’.  i’ve also heard that mgmat’s practice exams are supposed to be the closest to the real exam on the market.  i have heard if you’re a high performer that you run out of 700-level questions though.  like veritas, you can buy their materials without taking the course, including the cat exams.  but what’s really nice is that you can buy one of their strategy guides to get access to all 6 cat exams…this is a better deal than buying just the cat exams since a book is like $22.  mgmat is also more cautious about their subscription lengths; both veritas and mgmat access expire after a yr, but each book also come with an online question bank that expires after a year too.  if you buy the books separately, you need to look at the inside cover and scratch off to reveal the security code.  when you redeem it online, it even asks you to flip to a certain page and give them the first/last word…pretty heavy security.  since my friend’s books were a few years old, not only did i not have access to these questions, but the books also reference og questions to help your studies and hers referred to the 11th edition instead of the current 12th ed. that i have.  i also purchased their advanced quant gmat strategy supplement (note: this doesn’t give you access to the tests) and found it challenging; it’s a good book if you’re trying to bring up your quant score.  i was running out of time when i started the mgmat books and wished i had started with those first…i especially wish i had spent more time with the advanced quant book, i think i started it the week before my exam.


i had a subscription to magoosh’s online practice questions when they used to be beat the gmat practice questions (more on btg later).  i only did the quant and never did the verbal but i actually really liked it.  i had never heard of magoosh before but the practice questions have a timer, it can be computer adaptive, has video explanations,  and you have a lot of filter options–you could pick all the questions, choose a certain level (700+, 550-700, etc.), a study area (geometry, algebra, etc.), and you could even go through a pool of questions you’ve missed or flagged.  i think this was a really good tool and really good preparation for the gmat because of the timer, it’s on a computer, it’s cat, and the questions are mixed in subject area and level.  the questions from the veritas/mgmat books were good and hard but all the books are split up by subject area.  additionally, magoosh also mixes it with problem solving and data sufficiency so you have that factor of the unexpected.  mgmat books have both ps and ds in each but again, it’s split up so you can’t jump around easily.  the og has mixed subject area questions but it’s also split into ps and ds and it generally increases in difficulty.  i started this pretty late too and wish i had more time with it.  the service is quite good too…i’ve emailed a couple of times with questions and have always gotten a super fast response from one of the founders.

gmat hacks’ total gmat math

i thought this was going to be the book to save my quant score.  it offered a lot of good strategies and encouraged quick mental math but i don’t think there were enough questions and didn’t cover enough levels of difficulty.  i think this book would be good to look at after getting a solid base using veritas or mgmat first.

gmat 111: tips, tricks, & tactics

this is by jeff sackmann, the same guy who did total gmat math.  i think this is the only thing in my post i would completely advise against getting.  i think i bought it because it was cheap and needed to get free shipping on amazon.  this book gives you some tips but it’s really not worth purchasing, as cheap as it is.  and a lot of the advice he recommends is common knowledge.  the book is very thin, but it should be even thinner…the font is huge.  i read this book the day before when i went to the salon and got my car washed as some light reading and was so disappointed in how useless it was that i didn’t even want to look at it.

beat the gmat

btg is an online gmat/mba admissions forum.  it’s getting pretty big now and recently launched mba watch to supplement their mba admissions offerings.  it’s mostly a social message board type site–a lot of people share their stories of how they “beat the gmat”, ask for advice on the gmat and the mba, and there’s even a part of the site where current mba students answer questions about their programs.  btg posts a lot of articles and even gmat problems but they’re mostly all from other sources like the mgmat blog.  btg does have some study tools though: free flash cards and email subscription lists (60-day quant/verbal questions; the 60-day study guide).  i dled and printed the flash cards but only looked at them once.  the 60-day questions are not bad…they’re just questions from the forums that people post so they come from a variety of sources.  it can be a good resource though because it has a timer and you can see different explanations from all the responses.

gmat club

this is very similar to btg and i think was started first.  i didn’t really use this one much but they have practice questions and tests that you can purchase.  from the little i’ve seen on the forums, their questions/tests are supposed to be good.  like btg, gmat club is trying to incorporate the admissions process in more.

“wow, this is all so expensive”

yes, yes it is.  don’t discount the value of free resources:

  • btg and gmat club are both free (except when you buy their problem sets/tests).
  • don’t forget the incredibly invaluable 2 full-length tests you can dl from the gmac–these are the best practice tests and do use them wisely.
  • blogs!  mgmat and others have blogs with great advice from 700-level gmat questions to admissions essay analysis!
  • free trials: veritas and mgmat have the trial intro class and knewton also has a free trial.
  • borrowing: i’m sure your local library has plenty of prep materials, like the og.  or do what i did and borrow books from friends.
  • promotions/contests/giveaways: while not free, if you want to purchase anything, watch out for promotions.  sometimes this comes in the form of a discount code or through a contest.  contests/giveaways have been good for me so far.  btg has an annual scholarship where you can win a free prep course.  i entered last year and while i didn’t win, by even just participating, i got a steep discount to the veritas course and i haven’t seen anything similar since.  i also won my btg/magoosh questions which turned out to be pretty great.
  • amazon: both mgmat books i purchased were from amazon–cheaper than from mgmat directly.
  • used: used books are cheaper for sure.
  • waiver: the gmac offers a waiver for the $250 gmat fee.  i’m not exactly sure how you obtain one as it seems pretty difficult to come by, but it is an option.

i know my gmat/mba posts are long and boring but i hope they’re helpful!  next up…my first giveaway!

oh great. as if i wasn’t feeling enough pressure

a recent study by test prep firm knewton found that ten gmat points = $3,000 in mba pay.

i’m taking this with a grain of salt though, because it’s not based on an individual’s gmat score…it’s the median school gmat score and its relationship with rankings.  i think most employers don’t care too much about your gmat score, unless you’re going into consulting and possibly finance.

and although it will be difficult to get into a top-10 school with a lower gmat, it can be done and the school makes more of a pay difference than the actual gmat.

and c’mon, it’s a test prep firm…they want to scare you into paying for their services.

source: poets & quants