Looking for a GMAT prep course? The GMAT is one of the most common MBA requirements, so chances are high you will need to write it. Achieving a very good score on the GMAT can boost your chances of getting into the best MBA programs in the US and the best MBA programs in Canada, since these schools tend to admit students with very high GMAT scores. A GMAT prep course can be the perfect resource to help you prepare for this challenging test and earn the score you need to get into your dream program. In this blog, we’ll explore how hard the GMAT is, why a GMAT prep course can help you, and how to choose the best prep course for you!

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6 min read

How Hard is the GMAT? How Does a GMAT Prep Course Help? How to Find the Right GMAT Prep Course FAQs

How Hard is the GMAT?

The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admissions Test, is undoubtedly a tough exam. It requires a mastery of the GMAT’s content, solid critical reasoning skills, excellent time management and effective test-taking strategies to ace it.

The GMAT sections combine critical reading with analytical writing and logical reasoning. The difficulty of this test doesn’t come just from the stress of a timed test or the complexity and difficulty of the GMAT questions. You need solid test-taking strategies in order to master all the question types and all the different sections.

The average score of first-time GMAT takers is around 560. When you consider the GMAT score scale is from 200-800, this is quite positive. However, some of the best MBA programs in the world have average GMAT scores above 700, which can be intimidating. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), which administers the test, around 28% of test-takers choose to retake the GMAT at least once to achieve a better score.

To achieve a very competitive score and get an MBA degree, GMAT prep is absolutely essential.

Percentage of test-takers who retake the GMAT

Fortunately, you CAN prepare for the GMAT’s challenge, and a GMAT prep course is an excellent way to do so. Even if you are an excellent test-taker, it is very difficult to take the GMAT without prior preparation and score above average. A GMAT prep course essentially walks you through each of the test sections, coaches you on effective test-taking strategies or time management strategies and demystifies the exam.

For some students, taking a GMAT prep course can increase their score by hundreds of points, whether they are retaking the test or taking it for the first time. While a GMAT prep course may not be the right resource for everyone, it is undeniably a good resource if you want a comprehensive test prep package or have decided to retake the exam.

How Does a GMAT Prep Course Help?

The right GMAT prep course can definitely help you better prepare for the test. Self-studying is possible, but for some students the structure and guidance of a prep course is more appealing.

Maybe you are applying for an MBA program after being out of school for many years. It might have been several years since you last took a standardized test. This is pretty common, since most MBA applicants are between 25-29 years old. Or, you might not be a strong test-taker, and having a complete guide to the test will help you master it.

If you are hoping to avoid the GMAT altogether, there are MBA programs that don’t require the GMAT, and even some online MBA programs with no GMAT requirement, but the majority do require this test. If you have previously taken the GMAT and have a low score, some of the easiest MBA programs to get into may accept a lower GMAT score, but you significantly increase your chances of acceptance with a higher score.

A GMAT prep course can help you get there, by providing a complete course on the GMAT from expert instructors, with proven test-taking strategies and advice.

So, what does a GMAT prep course actually help you with? We’ll look at the many benefits of a GMAT prep course next, and how they can help you succeed on the test.

1. GMAT Test Day Planning

When choosing your GMAT test dates, it can be hard to know what is the “best” date. Enrolling in a GMAT prep course can be helpful since it gives you a discrete study timeline to work with. Most prep courses are several weeks to several months long, and most students study for the GMAT in about 2-3 months. So, you can pick a test date that is just after you complete your course, but still well ahead of your business school deadlines.

A prep course will also instruct you on what to expect on the day of your test, from the security screening process, to items you need to bring with you and prohibited items. The GMAT test day procedure can be intense, so having a guide of what to expect can reduce those test day anxieties.

2. GMAT Content Review

One of the best things about a GMAT prep course is that you get a comprehensive walkthrough of the test’s content. A prep course instructor can take you through all of the GMAT’s sections, what kind of question types to expect, what concepts are tested and how each section is structured. The more familiar you are with what’s on the test, the fewer surprises there will be for you on test day. A prep course can deliver this GMAT content review in a structured and balanced way.

3. Understanding GMAT Scoring

GMAT prep courses can help you understand how the test is scored, what is a good GMAT score and how you are evaluated on the test. You should also review when your scores are released and where your score falls under the GMAT percentiles. Business schools usually take your best test score, so a prep course can explain how your scaled test score is converted to a percentile score and which scores business schools see. This way, you’ll know if your score is competitive enough for a specific school or if it's too low and warrants a re-test.

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4. GMAT Test-taking Strategies

The key to acing the GMAT is good test-taking strategies. GMAT prep course instructors are typically individuals who have studied for and taken the GMAT themselves, so they know the techniques and strategies that work, for every section of the test. There are several different GMAT question types, so you’ll need a solid strategy for each one.

Of course, your prep course instructors can also assign you practice tests and practice questions to work on so you can use these strategies and improve them. For the GMAT, practice tests and questions are the best and quickest way to learn the test and improve your question and answer strategies.

5. Time Management Techniques

Time management is something plenty of test-takers struggle with, and the ticking clock can be a big psychological hurdle on the GMAT. Just like question and answer strategies, a prep course can help you develop strategies for managing your time efficiently and managing test stress. You might be assigned timed and untimed practice tests so you can see how long each section takes you, what is slowing you down and how you can improve your test time.

Are there Prep Course for Both the GMAT and GRE?

Some MBA programs accept the GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, in place of the GMAT. There are a few students who may choose to take both tests and submit their better score, since MBA programs don’t usually discriminate between the two if they accept both tests.

However, you may notice there aren’t many options for GMAT/GRE combined prep courses. It’s not recommended to study for the GMAT and GRE simultaneously, since they are quite different. You can take a GMAT prep course or hire a GMAT tutor and complete the test, then enroll in a GRE prep course or hire a GRE tutor and complete this one, too, but it’s not a good idea to combine your studying efforts.

In fact, it’s better to decide ahead of time which test you think you can earn a better score in, and devote your efforts to just one test. Check the admission requirements for your program to see if they accept both tests and if they have a preference. If you have the choice between the two, review the GMAT’s content as well as the GRE sections to see which test will be better for you.

If you want some expert advice on which test to take, consider getting some help from MBA admissions consulting.

How to Find the Right GMAT Prep Course

Once you’ve decided on enrolling in a GMAT prep course, how do you find the right one? There are hundreds of options out there, and sifting through them all can be tiresome. Instead of choosing from an arbitrary list of the best-ranked GMAT prep courses, we recommend looking for these key indicators of a good GMAT prep course to guide you:


1. Which prep course is best for GMAT?

The best GMAT prep course is the one that works best for you. A good GMAT prep course should fit your budget and timeline, offer quality, expert instruction and use effective course materials and coaching to help you succeed on the test.

2. How long does it take to prepare for GMAT?

Most students take 2 or 3 months to prepare for the GMAT. GMAT prep courses vary in length, but you can use a prep course in addition to periods of self-study to get ready for the test.

3. Are GMAT prep courses worth it?

GMAT prep courses may not be for every student, but they can absolutely help some students to excel and achieve a higher score than they could get on their own. If you are the type of student who doesn’t enjoy self-studying or is not a good test-taker, a prep course can be a valuable resource for you.

4. How many times can you take GMAT?

You can take the GMAT once every 16 days, so long as you don’t exceed 5 tries in a single year and 8 tries in your lifetime. Around 28% of test-takers write the test more than once, according to the GMAC.

5. What is a good GMAT score?

A very good GMAT score would usually be anything around 600-650, whereas an excellent GMAT score would be in the 700+ range. On average, test-takers score in the 560-570 range. The ideal score would be anything on par or above the average accepted score of your target MBA program.

6. Is the GMAT hard?

Yes, the GMAT is definitely a difficult test, but with adequate preparation it is possible to get a very good score. Without good test prep, the GMAT will be significantly more difficult.

7. What is the average GMAT score without prep?

Without prep, most students score in the low to mid-500s, which is an average to below average score.

8. Can I prepare for GMAT without a prep course?

Yes, you can! It is more than possible to prepare for the GMAT with self-study alone by using good test-taking techniques and learning the GMAT’s content. A GMAT prep course is just a resource you can use to achieve the score you want and a more structured approach to studying.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting 

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