Dear fellow aspiring BSchoolers,
I would like to share with you a piece of wisdom about the GMAT preparation that I learned the hard way – by taking the test 3 times and not scoring the result I believed I deserved. And this wisdom is as follows – taking hundreds of practice tests and reviewing your mistakes will not necessarily teach you to DOMINATE the test. And, unless you dominate the GMAT, you are unlikely to conquer it. To become a true GMAT master in a reasonable time horizon (3-4 months), I recommend you to consider professional guidance. Being a non-native English speaker from Eastern Europe, before recently, I had very limited opportunity to access world class GMAT guidance. Fortunately, thanks to MBA Podcaster, I discovered that Kaplan started to offer an online GMAT prep class called GMAT Advantage Anywhere. Let me explain you how it works.
Once you register for the course, Kaplan ships you a physical text book (offered exclusively to registered students) and a pocket reference book. As a nice bonus, they present you an erasable pad and marker of the kind you will use on the actual test. If you are an iPad owner, you can download an app that will allow you to access all your online materials on the go. When you log in into your profile, you find yourself in your own virtual GMAT “room” where you will basically “live” for the next 3 months. Here you can view your session schedule, get access to home work materials, preview and review online practice sets, quizzes, lessons-on-demand and workshops.
In the first 3 weeks, I took 6 teacher-guided live sessions dedicated to major GMAT concepts, such as algebra, arithmetic, number properties, proportions, etc in Quant, and critical reasoning, reading comprehension and sentence correction in Verbal. Lasting 2.5-3 hour, each of these sessions allows a student to “sit” in a virtual classroom, see the actual teacher via web camera, interact with teacher and fellow class mates in online chat, and participate in collective problem solving sessions live by submitting your answer choices in a special poll. This last feature alone gives you an idea on how you perform compared to the rest of the class. You cannot help but enthusiastically engage in the class activities, because you want to respond to teacher`s efforts and make his or her experience as social and human as is yours. At the end of each session, you get a homework assignment that is usually a mix of practice sets from Kaplan Premier Text Book and online practice sets. For each session, you get links to additional online resources (lessons-on-demand, thematic workshops and online quizzes – I will briefly touch on those below).
Lessons-on-demand are a series of recorded video lectures that combined are a complete GMAT course introducing all major concepts in 12 hourly lectures, each comprised of 15-20 topic chunks.
Additional workshops, as the name suggests, is a series of recorded video workshops dedicated to practical problems and divided into some 40 sessions in Quant, Verbal and general issues (school admission, attitude and stress management, etc). For almost any individual concept, you can take 2-3 different workshops of different difficulty levels – fundamental, intermediate or challenging. Some 1/3 of all workshops incorporate quizzes from the Text Book and contain video answer reviews. To give you an idea, there are 4 workshops for Geometry alone whose total length exceeds 100 minutes.
Parallel to attending your scheduled online classes and performing your home work, you are building up your individual performance profile via Smart Records. By taking an initial diagnostic computer-adaptive test (CAT) that completely emulates your test day GMAT experience (and includes new IR section), you set up your custom CAT performance index that is presented as a visual dashboard slicing and dicing your performance by topics and difficulty levels. Smart Records also launch your individual recommendation engine sending you to quizzes and workshops that will fill the gaps in your knowledge and build your individual “GMAT muscles”. As you progress through subsequent CATs (there are 9 of them altogether, retrieved from a 5K+ questions data base, accompanied by detailed answer choice analysis), you feel increasingly comfortable with the adaptive and time-restrictive nature of the test. Especially valuable is an opportunity to take a simulation CAT at an actual Pearson GMAT test center – yes, you heard it right – which is a unique proposition in the GMAT prep industry. In addition to CAT Smart Records, you get access to customs quiz dashboard, also driven by Smart Records engine. Based on a huge question bank (some 4K+ questions), individual quiz constructor allows you to build your own quizzes of any length you please – highly focused on individual concepts or mixed up, timed or untimed, addressing questions of particular or diverse difficulty levels. The more answers you you “feed” into your Smart Records engine, the greater insights it provides you in response. I was actually very surprised to discover that I get right some 92% of difficult critical reasoning questions, but only 80% intermediate-level (majority of mistakes made in inference questions). Looks like I thrive in proportions and geometry, but kind of suck at math formulas and data sets. This new knowledge compels me to address my areas of opportunity with double effort.
In the next 2-3 weeks, I am supposed to take some 5 “flex” teacher-guided live sessions on additional concepts (i.e. advanced verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Statistics, etc) – called so because I can schedule them myself by choosing the most convenient time from 6-7 options for each session. If students so please, they can participate in any number of flex session during the next 2 months, we were told by our friendly teachers.
This is the logic behind the “GMAT Advantage Anywhere” course by Kaplan. As you can see, Kaplan offers you a holistic and structured approach for your GMAT journey – the one that will discipline you, empower you, inspire you, and provide you with profound competitive advantage – no matter where you are in the world. I plan to elaborate on the quality of teaching (which is superb) and the uniqueness of Kaplan Method in my next blog post in 2 weeks. For now, let me assure you that my GMAT preparation with Kaplan differs radically from my previous efforts of individual preparation that led to 3 modest results on actual GMAT (from low to middle 600s). I actually STUDY for the verbal – as opposed to just “practicing”. I learn how to beat the supposedly “unbeatable” reading comprehension (yes, you can do it!). I start to suppress my inner diligent “school girl” who wants to do all the beautiful math instead of using strategic shortcuts. GMAT is a very special test that measures your logic, willpower and endurance. If you consider a professional guidance in your GMAT journey – and, if you are serious about scoring 700+ at your first attempt, you`d better do – I highly recommend to go for Kaplan Anywhere – or any other GMAT prep course from Kaplan. These guys are committed to help.
To be continued in Part II!