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Advice / Career Paths / Training & Development

5 Reasons to Take a GMAT Prep Course

You probably don’t think that applying to an MBA program can take up to a year of preparation. You’ve heard tall tales of students who’ve stayed up several nights before, filling out applications, sending them in, and voilà; they’ve been admitted to Harvard!

Not exactly. Getting ready to apply means a lot of thought and soul-searching, as well as taking some practical steps, such as preparing for the GMAT or GRE.

If you want to get into a top school, you’ll need a good score, especially in the quantitative section. No, the test isn’t perfect (even admissions officers know that), and it’s well known that that standardized tests don’t test your intellectual ability—only your test-taking ability. But they’re the only universal measure that enables admissions officers to compare students from hundreds of undergraduate institutions. So you need to know the material and know how the test is structured, so you can get that score you want.

The good news is that there are all sorts of course providers that can help you prepare. You can find traditional in-class courses, online classes, online tutors, individual tutors, crowdsourced programs, videos, audios, and even just plain books. But I strongly recommend a class or a tutor who will coach you directly—and here’s why.

1. You’ll Learn the Material

Both the GMAT and GRE test for analytic ability, especially in the quantitative section—so you probably need to brush up on your math. Even if you understand the material, both tests are designed to trip you up. A class or tutor can help you not only grasp the material, but walk you through the way to think about each problem type. You’ll want to get to the point where it becomes second nature to discern what a problem is asking and then answer it correctly.

2. You’ll Improve Your Timing

These tests are timed, which means you need to be efficient in your responses. A quality course or teacher can help you learn to comprehend the questions quickly and employ time-saving strategies. Their methods are designed to train you to use your precious minutes figuring out your answers, not figuring out the questions.

3. You’ll Gain Focus and Discipline

Because of the way standardized tests are designed, studying for the GMAT and GRE is about the process as much as it is about the subject matter. Most courses break down the material into manageable chunks, but a great teacher will show you how to approach your studying so that you prepare efficiently and control extraneous thoughts that distract you from doing the best that you can.

4. You’ll Practice—A Lot

A natural byproduct of a class is increased accountability. Your instructor will expect you to take practice tests—lots of them—which will be far more practice than you would have if you prepared on your own. It just works that way. Additionally, a course or tutor will prevent you from falling into the trap of assuming you can cram at the very end (you can’t).

5. You’ll Be More Confident

Many of us can be pretty hard on ourselves when preparing for a test. The right course or tutor, though, will help you look at mistakes as a chance to learn. They’ll also help you approach the test focusing on your strengths, rather than weaknesses, so you’ll become a more confident test-taker. Which, according to the Harvard Business Review, is precisely what you need to score your best.

Whether or not you’re a great test-taker, a course can only help you improve your skills, and a formal training program with a teacher or coach is well worth the investment. Remember, your score will need to stand up to all other B-school and grad school applicants, many of whom will have taken a course. This is a competition, after all—so why wouldn’t you do whatever you can to get the edge?

Photo courtesy of Pete.