No matter what they say, your GMAT or GRE score will have an outsized influence on your business school prospects. And you’ve got lots of choices of how to go about studying for your test: a class, a tutor, an online platform, and of course, a combination of all of them. Then there are the vendors — some well-known names as well as some scrappy upstarts.
We at Poets&Quants wanted to know more about the results of those choices so we asked our readers what impact they achieved by paying for a test prep service. We explored whether an online platform is better than a class or tutor as well as which firms help students get the biggest improvements in their scores?
Given the many options available to MBA applicants, it’s not all that easy to get to the bottom of the test-taking business. But some 859 P&Q users responded to our extensive online survey, fielded last summer, and after months of analysis we came to some rather compelling takeaways (also see How P&Q Readers Rate Their GMAT Test Prep Companies).
The upshot: taking a class or using a tutor raised test scores by at least 90 points on average. Specifically, we found that, across all vendors, students who took a class increased their scores by an average of 93.7 points, and those who used a tutor followed closely behind, increasing their scores by 90.2 points.
But those who really got the boost were those who used a class and a tutor. Across all vendors, test-takers that used both a class and a tutor raised their score by an average of 100 points.
The results make sense. A GMAT-prep class can lay a solid foundation while a tutor can build on that foundational work. Not surprisingly, those who simply went with a class or just a tutor did better than those that either studied on their own or used a test prep company’s platform. For those that used a platform on their own, the average score increase was still 78.6 points, but more than 20 points less than those that used both a class and tutor.
We also asked survey respondents which platform, class, or tutor they used. At an aggregate level, Manhattan Prep offered the highest overall score increase — but that doesn’t tell the entire story. The numbers below represent all the students who used the vendor’s platform who reported scores — whether they used a tutor, class, or not. Read on for more granular details.
While, overall, the numbers look good in terms of increasing a score, that change varies across companies and what specific mode of test prep the respondents used. For example, looking at the three major providers of classes, we saw a wide variation. Those who took classes from Manhattan GMAT increased their scores by an average of 104.1 points — while those who took classes from Manhattan’s parent company, Kaplan, increased their scores by an average of 74.1 points.
To put that in perspective, if a test-taker starts with a 650, those using Manhattan GMAT increased their scores, on average, to 754 while those using Kaplan, on average, would increase to 724. Manhattan GMAT’s class scores also bested Veritas, which showed an average increase of 80 points for those who took a class from that provider.
By the way, the reason you see a difference in these scores compared to the previous table results from how respondents use a firm. The average score increase for Manhattan Prep of 91.3 in the earlier table, for example, is the overall score increase for all respondents who used Manhattan Prep for either a tutor, a series of classes, or the firm’s self-guided platform. The average score increase of 104.1 below reflects the outcomes for respondents who used Manhattan Prep’s self-guided platform plus a class.
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