GMAT Self Study, Classes and Tutors: Which Method is Best?

There are three major ways to study for the GMAT, and which one suits you best depends on how high you need to score, how much time you have available to study (and if you have created a solid study plan), and the budget that you’re willing to spend on GMAT prep. The three methods are:

What to Consider When Beginning to Prepare for the GMAT

The crux of the question when it comes to picking the right GMAT study method is “time vs. money.” Using a great private tutor is always the fastest and most reliable way to increase your GMAT score. However, private tutoring rates run between $250-500/hour for the best tutors, which adds cost to the process. Group classes are a middle ground; you get access to the knowledge of an experienced tutor, and a structure to guide your preparation, but it’s not as customized as if you hired a dedicated tutor just for yourself. If you have a low budget and are opting to go at GMAT prep alone, you should at lease invest in some quality study materials, such as an official study guide, and create a study plan for yourself.

This calculation of time vs. money should be at the center of your decision making, since your valuable time can always be used in other non-GMAT ways to increase your chances of MBA admission–visiting business schools, cultivating recommendations with recommenders, doing a great job at work, and more.

Video: GMAT Self Study vs. Professional Instruction

Self Study

Almost every applicant begins with GMAT self study, and if there are obvious gaps in your test knowledge, it can be cost-effective to begin with a practice test and a bit of self study. However, using self study as your only method is not recommended, because you will need to put in much more time and effort into practicing than if your study was guided by an expert tutor. This matters, because each hour you spend on studying is an hour that you could have spent to strengthen your MBA profile in other ways.

Second, self study can ingrain bad habits. Your goal when solving GMAT problems is not only to get the right answer, but to get the right answer quickly, which leaves you more time to work on the other problems. If you drill again and again on a slow, methodical way to approach a certain type of problem, when you should have used a shorter, faster method to get to the answer, then you could actually be creating habits that you’ll have to un-learn later.

If you cannot afford a tutor or group classes, however, there are a number of useful apps that can help with your self study, such as Magoosh and e-GMAT.

Group Classes

Group classes offer a halfway solution between self study and private tutoring. If you don’t have the budget for a private tutor, but feel like you want more structure and assistance than self study provides, group classes may be an elegant solution. The group structure can also provide a subtle peer pressure that pushes you to work harder than you might on your own.

If you’re interested in a high-quality online GMAT prep course, contact us to learn more.

Hiring a Private Tutor

Hiring a private tutor is the most efficient approach to GMAT prep, if budget allows; we cover this topic in our article GMAT Tutors: An Applicant’s Best Friends. A good tutor will be able to examine your score reports and your performance on practice problems, and then give you detailed feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. Identifying your weak areas will then determine which types of problems you need to work on during your practice. Spending your precious study time precisely on the types of questions that you have trouble answering correctly is highly efficient compared to a scattershot approach where you spend equal time on every question type, or worse yet, just take practice text after practice test. Teaching you how to use your self study time in an efficient manner is the single biggest advantage of hiring a GMAT tutor.

Additionally, a good tutor may have access to the ins and outs of taking the GMAT exam that can help you get a competitive edge when you take the test. While GMAC is cagey about the details and methodology of the test, good tutors have the wherewithal and resources to figure out, for example, whether or not guessing is penalized—a useful skill when it comes to prioritizing your study. And tutors often know not just how to solve a problem, but how to solve it in the fastest way, which is what you really need to know.

At Menlo Coaching, we offer personalized one-on-one GMAT tutoring led by some of the best instructors in the business. Contact us to learn more.

Before You Begin… Take a Practice Test First

Regardless of your study plan, we suggest to begin by taking one official practice exam from, the publishers of the GMAT. While you might want to study for a tiny bit first to get the rust off, you should take one practice exam early on so you know how much you need to study to reach your target score. The GMAC practice tests are the only ones you can rely on to be accurate in terms of giving you a good idea of what will be on the GMAT, as well as a breakdown of your what fundamental skills you need to improve upon.