Guide to GMAT Test Prep Courses


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“Why trust your future to an archaic business model?” New York-based Knewton asks. While other prep courses offer online and offline lessons, Knewton, founded in Nov. 2008, is the only company that’s strictly digital. Like dating and travel plans ,“test prep is moving online,” says Knewton Senior Editor Josh Anish. This means no face-to-face time but added reach. “We can offer you a teacher from Harvard who can teach you online in Azerbaijan.”

As students go through the course, doing practice tests and completing homework, Knewton collects granular performance data. An academic team of ten to twelve instructors tags every question down to the smallest detail. For instance, a math question might be tagged “geometry,” “Pythagorean theorem,” “3:4:5 right angle” and “distracter choice” (an answer meant to throw you off). Meanwhile the 10- to 15-person staff prepares lessons, curates the arc of the course and engineers personalized lessons. You, and your teachers, will know exactly where you’re performing, and where you’re not. For weak areas, Knewton, serves you more drills and practice questions as well as conceptual instruction.

In addition to customized content, Knewton tailors the teaching media to your taste. “If you have viewed a video and your efficacy on 3:4:5 right triangles improves,” Anish says, “you’ll be served a video next time.” If a student does poorly following a video lesson, she’ll be served a text-based lesson. Classrooms are much larger than with other companies and they range from 20 to 80. “ The Knewton course is staffed by teachers who are able to interface with students via live online classroom; one instructor streams the lesson, and two to three teaching assistants interact via chat box, email and supporting links. Students are offered email support, and questions are answered within 24 hours.

Darran Bahl, a 2006 college graduate of Cal. State-Bakersfield, embraced the Knewton model to raise his score from 700 to 770. This fall, he plans to apply to a handful of top MBA programs – Michigan’s Ross, Berkeley’s Haas, MIT’s Sloan and Northwestern’s Kellogg. One of the aspects of Knewton that Bahl found particularly helpful was its lightning-fast diagnostic capabilities. After finishing a homework assignment, Knewton recognizes which questions a student misses and then provides an immediate link to a video lesson. “There were times during my prep when that was very valuable. Sometimes it’s just words on the page,” Bahl says. He adds that Knewton “had some of the best teachers I’ve ever seen.”

Along with these compliments, Bahl was disappointed that Knewton did not have a “clearly organized central library” of content. He supplemented Kaplan with Jeff Sackmann’s Total GMAT Math and Extreme Challenge Set as well as ManhattanGMAT’s Sentence Correction Guide.

Anish won’t get specific about numbers, but says that Knewton has attracted 100-percent growth in enrollment and revenue every quarter since the beginning of 2009. It’s not just early adopters who have gravitated to Knewton, Anish says, but also new moms and students in their 30s looking to go back to school. He estimates that the average student’s score rises between 80 and 90 points over the course, and by dropping the paper and the leases, “We also think we can drive the price down” (Knewton’s course price is $690). There is a weekly office hour offered online and staffed by a teacher and his assistants.

Knewton’s innovative format is backed by a guarantee that students will improve their score by 50 points or more. Otherwise, get your money back or retake the course. There is no private tutoring, but there’s no limit to the number of questions students can ask. It’s extremely rare that a student asks for private tutoring, says Anish. Only two students have requested extra instruction in the past two years. Teachers get as personal as they can through combining digital presentations. Teachers will sometimes answer email questions by sending back a Flip cam video, MP3 response or blue-screen presentation.


Six weeks of  bi-weekly three-hour courses or a 12-week weekly option. Signing up gives you access for a full year to Knewton’s online classes, 3400 problems and explanations, 300 concept videos, lecture archives AND Knewton’s progress tracker. Switch sections as many times as you want. Explore the live online classroom or an actual class.