The One, The Only, The GMAT
Anyone preparing to pursue their MBA knows they will most likely have to take the GMAT – the Graduate Management Admission Test. This test is an essential part of the graduate business school application process and a marker that schools use as an acceptance deciding factor. Especially if you are trying to apply to top programs, it is important to study and prepare so that you are able to ace the test on all three of its sections – quantitative, verbal, and integrated reasoning.
A good score on the GMAT means that you have a better chance of admission, winning scholarships, and even finding a job upon graduation. The GMAT is in a computer-adaptive format, meaning that as you answer questions, the questions will adapt to how well you are doing. If you are answering questions correctly, the questions will become harder, and vice versa. To obtain a top score, you will be answering some tough questions, so it’s important to make sure you are prepared for the caliber of questions this test can throw at you. To ensure you are prepared for the GMAT, it is worthwhile considering a test preparation course. Manhattan Prep came recommended as one of the best.
I decided to see for myself, completing the live course at Manhattan Prep to prepare for taking the GMAT. My goal was to get into a top tier program in Europe. Some master’s programs in Europe are only one year in length, saving me time and money. Because Manhattan Prep came so highly recommended, I decided to see what it would do for my score and thus potentially to earn me a spot in a top program.
Manhattan Prep Overview
Manhattan Prep has been around since 2000. It was founded by a Yale graduate who recruited teachers who had scored only in the 99th percentile for their respective test and who had a considerable amount of teaching experience under their belt.
Manhattan Prep offers test preparation courses for the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, SAT, ACT, EA, and TOEFL. We will be focusing on the GMAT in this article. To help students prepare for the GMAT, Manhattan Prep offers 9 test-prep options listed as follows:
- Live course: This is the option I completed. It is a live and interactive class, where you get to learn from instructors and be challenged by your peers.
- On Demand: This is not a live course, but rather an asynchronous learning format where you complete interactive video lessons at your own pace.
- GMAT Advanced Course: This is a class exclusively for those scoring a 595 on the GMAT Focus Edition or a 650 on the classic GMAT exam or higher.
- GMAT Bootcamp Course: This is the most expensive Manhattan Prep GMAT option, but could be well worth it. For those who only have a short period of time to study, this is the one for you. This is a 3-week prep course, including 12 hours of one-on-one tutoring, and 35 hours of intensive GMAT instruction.
- Tutoring: Manhattan Prep offers one-on-one tutoring in packages of 10, 20, or 30 hours.
- Self Study Toolkit: This is for highly self-motivated people and allows students to study on their own with access to the full set of books and online resources used in the Manhattan Prep courses.
- Foundations of Math: These are free workshops Manhattan Prep offers for those who need to brush up on their mathematical skills to prepare for the more math-intensive sections of the test.
- GMAT Free Classes and Events: Manhattan Prep will offer free trial classes to people wanting to know more about their offerings. These can be an excellent option if you are on the fence about committing the time and money to a prep course.
These versions have a variety of price points and intensity levels depending on what the student wants. Most come with six full-length practice tests, a GMAT strategy guide set, extra workshops, and the official guide for GMAT review. They also have other resources such as a blog and forum. The blog is filled with excellent articles that can provide potential GMAT testers with quick information they may need, such as help with a certain type of math problem, advice on when to take practice tests, or key tips for success on the various test sections.
My Experience with Manhattan Prep’s Online Course
I completed the live course and it raised my score by over 150 points by the end of the class. Manhattan Prep’s instructors, online resources, and format were essential in shaping my understanding of the test and its questions, a key factor in such a significant raise in score. I’m going to break down what exactly was offered in this course, starting with their online resources, then moving on to the live class and instructor.
Your Online Learning Platform: Atlas
Atlas is Manhattan Prep’s online learning platform. On the Atlas homepage, you will see an overview of what is available in your account: your resources, the polices, and support. The resources are any major physical and online resources. Resources included in the live course include course books, practice tests, online resources, homework help, and information for a one-on-one assessment. It also contains your syllabus so you can always keep track of what you should be studying at a certain time.
Atlas organizes the course you are taking into sessions and sections. Sessions refer to the specific class you go to, while sections refer to the different parts of the GMAT, such as quantitative or verbal reasoning. In each section, Atlas will present your study activities as tasks, such as readings, on-demand lessons, or problem sets. When you have finished with a task, you can mark it as complete. If you feel like you want more practice, they offer even more practice tasks arranged by level of difficulty. These are incredibly helpful. As you work through the course, there might be some weeks you feel as though you have a component in one section nailed down, but others you need to spend more time on before the next session. You can also always go back to an item by starring it and thereby saving it to your dashboard.
On the left-hand side of the learning platform, you will see a navigation menu. At the top, you will see a way to navigate back to the homepage and your starred tasks. The course resources will be listed below. These include the whiteboard, course information, downloadable resources, ebooks, official guide resources, the GMAT study app, question banks, and free resources.
The online whiteboard opens in another tab and allows you the ability to write, erase, draw shapes, and more. During the GMAT test, students are allowed to use both a physical and online whiteboard. Our instructor would have us use this resource during the class to simulate what it would feel like to use it on test day. Learning how to navigate the various features of the whiteboard in class helped me complete my questions quicker during the test as I didn’t have to spend any time figuring this tool out.
Under course information, you will find the course schedule, errata, course recordings, and course slides. The course schedule allows you to make sure that you are up-to-date with your studies and that you are keeping pace with the class. Errata is a resource that allows you to correct typos or errors if the Manhattan Prep GMAT instructors were to make any mistakes in the online resources they provide. Course recordings allow you to go back and view past lessons if you are struggling in a particular area, wish to hear how a certain topic was explained, or just want more reps in learning about the GMAT. There was one week I had to miss class, so the course recordings allowed me to keep up with the class and be prepared for the next week.
Under downloadable resources, there are many resources housed under the umbrellas of GMAT general, GMAT study tools, and GMAT book supplements. The GMAT general section contains resources on mindset, students’ findings on using a physical versus online whiteboard, and more. The GMAT study tools section contains resources such as a review log, the official guide problem list, resources on time management, and a course master map. GMAT book supplements include extra resources for more challenging chapters.
The eBooks section contains all of your books for the class. You can access these at your disposal and pull from whichever guide would most benefit you. My ebooks included the Complete Start-to-Finish MBA Admissions Guide eBook, GMAT Foundations of Verbal 7th Edition, and GMAT All the Quant Guide 7th Edition, among others. You can download these eBooks so that you can write and mark up their pages, something that can be helpful for kinesthetic learners like myself.
The official guide resources section included the GMAT Navigator, the official guide problems list, and official guide product codes. The GMAT Navigator is Manhattan Prep’s own written solutions to the GMAT problems, created by instructors. This resource is meant to allow students to complete problems on their own and then compare their work to the instructors’. Not only will this show where the student went wrong, but it can show students more efficient ways of solving problems as well. I found this aspect of the course to be incredibly helpful. Seeing how someone else had thought through the problems allowed me to see where my own thinking had gone awry and adjust from there.
The GMAT study app will redirect you to a page where you can download the app. This app is designed to go with you everywhere so that you can increase your study time and get in more repetitions with test questions, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
The question banks section includes strategy guides, foundations of math, foundations of verbal reasoning, integrated reasoning, and challenge problems. These supplement the official resources section to give you additional opportunities to practice each section of the GMAT.
The free resources section houses the forum, blog, events, and a basic math diagnostic tool. The forum contains threads where students will put together study groups, places to network, feedback, and answers to your questions. I would highly recommend finding a study group as it can keep you motivated throughout your course. The blog provides written resources on specific areas of the GMAT and study help. Events let you see when other classes, prep hours, and free trials are happening.
The basic math diagnostic, another free resource, is meant to be completed before students start their class. It allows students to understand where they are in math currently. Maybe some of the equations you learned in high school have slipped through the cracks, so this provides a way to pinpoint areas that might need some refreshing. I didn’t realize that I needed to relearn some equations dealing with fractions until I completed this diagnostic. By understanding where I was, I was able to focus on these areas and improve.
My class ran for nine weeks, meeting once a week every Monday night. My classes were over zoom, but still interactive. To some extent, the level of class interaction has to do with the people you’re with. Manhattan Prep likes to keep their classes small to ensure that instructors are able to interact with each student and provide as many answers as they can during class. My class had 15 people and about five of those people were good about asking questions and interacting with the instructor.
The class was 3 hours long and took about an hour to cover each of the three main sections of the GMAT. My class ran from 6pm to 9pm CST, as do many of their classes throughout the week. There was also an option of meeting from 6 to 7:30pm every Tuesday and Thursday for the nine weeks. If weeknights don’t work for you, they also offer classes that meet on Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
We would start off class each week with about 15 minutes of instruction on the GMAT as a whole. We would learn about how the test was structured, tips on using our time well, and ways the test makers would try to trip students up. I specifically found the information on how the test became harder as your answered questions and ways to prepare for this insightful. After this, we would go over practice questions and information on the various sections of the test. The instructor would give us questions and have us complete them in the amount of time we would typically be able to take on the actual test. We would do this a few times before breaking out into break out rooms to discuss with our peers. Then we would come back as a group and go over the questions and answers together. We were given two five-minute breaks, each at the hour mark, to recalibrate before coming back together.
Each week we were given homework and asked to spend at the very least 15 minutes a day on it, but more was better. Ideally, they say to aim for about 15 hours a week. The homework covered and expanded on the areas and problems we had gone over in class. We were also given a riddle to answer and expected to answer this at the beginning of class the next week. During our course of study, we were expected to take time to complete the six practice tests as well.
My instructor was great about getting back to me in a timely manner. He never took more than 24 hours to respond and provided detailed emails with answers to my questions. Each week he would send out an email after class, detailing what we learned about in each section and what our next steps for the week should be. He would include comprehensive homework instructions and tips for completing the assigned tasks. Lastly, he would include the riddle of the week, which always had to do with the lesson we had completed. We would go over this riddle at the beginning of class the next week to tie in what we had learned. Overall, he was much more communicative and helpful outside of class than I would have expected going in.
As advertised, all GMAT instructors scored in the 99th percentile of their respective test, so they are experts in their field. Our instructor was excellent about giving us helpful tips on how to improve on certain types of questions, especially the harder questions on the quantitative sections. He went beyond simply refreshing us on basic math or verbal skills, but went into exactly what the test makers were trying to catch us on with the various problems. He told us statistics on how often certain answers would be correct so that we could have an informed guess if we just had no clue what to answer. He also talked through the thinking process he used so we could follow his example. For me, I really appreciated this for the data sufficiency problems specifically. This was a weak point for me, so it was helpful to be able to mirror his thought processes.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the class was the instructor’s use of break out rooms. With the entire class, he would have us complete questions with the specific amount of time we would typically be able to use on a question. Then he would break us up into groups of three or four to discuss our answers and thought processes. The instructor would bounce between the break out rooms to make sure the groups weren’t stuck, but this was a great way to learn from my peers. It kept us engaged and made the class pass by quicker. It was also a great opportunity to hear how other people were preparing and learn from their process.
The class offered a considerable amount of resources outside of the classroom. I loved that Manhattan Prep provided extra practice tasks. Outside of class, these six tests provided another opportunity to learn how to take the test and potential pitfalls to watch out for. The program also provided problems that gave you the option to choose the difficulty range. If I was really struggling in an area, it was great to be able to ask for an easier assignment until I felt more comfortable. Then, in areas that I already felt confident in, it was great to be able to improve my skill set with challenging problems and equations.
They also did a great job of simulating test conditions. Their online whiteboard was basically a replica of what students would get during their actual GMAT, so it set us up to be prepared to use that tool. The instructor timed us on questions with the allotted time we would typically spend on each question (2 minutes on quantitative reasoning, 1 minute and 40 seconds on verbal reasoning, and 2 minutes and 30 seconds on data insights), preparing us for the speed we would need to be at during the GMAT.
The breakout rooms were great! The instructor did a great job of having us interact with other students. Not only did we learn from each other, but we were able to provide motivation by seeing how much others had improved on our practice tests and how much we had been studying throughout the week. I’m a highly competitive person, so when I knew that my fellow classmate Josh had bumped his score up 50 points, I wanted to do that too. Also, it was highly beneficial to hear how other people had thought through problems so I could understand where my thinking had gone wrong. I’m also someone who goes to bed early so the level of interaction in this class made this relatively late time engaging.
Areas for Improvement
Zoom is always hard. A few people did really great about engaging in class, but there are always people who are going to turn their camera off and won’t speak at all. One of the issues I experienced with the class was the online format. Of course, this is a huge benefit as well as there might not be instructors in your area. For me, I just learn better in person and found it hard to be as interactive as I would have been otherwise. However, the instructor did a great job of providing interactive activities and formatting the class in ways in which it was hard not to interact with my peers.
I would also have loved extra time in class to go over the parts of the GMAT that were harder for me. I personally struggled with the quantitative reasoning section of the course more so than the verbal reasoning, so it would’ve been helpful to be able to spend more time in the areas I struggled. My instructor was, though, incredibly helpful outside of class and that made this aspect better. Additionally, Manhattan Prep provides one-on-one tutoring, so that is an option I could have pursued.
Manhattan Prep’s online program is comprehensive and gives a plethora of resources to its customers. Students are provided with plenty of opportunities to learn and grow their understanding of the concepts the GMAT tests. The instructors are at the top of their field and are constantly researching new ways for students to keep up with changes to the GMAT. They provided quick and extensive answers to any questions students have, both in and out of the classroom. For those who wish to improve their GMAT score and attend the business school of their dreams, Manhattan Prep’s live course is an excellent option.