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Are Test Prep Companies Worth It?

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Once you start seriously considering graduate programs, it’s time to take stock of the application materials you’ll need.

Of course, you want to put your best foot forward and submit the strongest application possible. If you’re required to submit GMAT or GRE® scores, you need to determine how to best prepare for those standardized tests. If you’re like many prospective students, you may be wondering if a test prep course is worth the investment.

While test prep courses can provide the structure, discipline and guidance that some people need, they’re not for everyone. Since study styles and goals vary from person to person, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to test preparation. However, with a little self-exploration, you can figure out a strategy that works for you. To formulate your test prep game plan, walk through the steps below.

  1. Figure out your study style

    By now, you probably know if you study better independently or in a group. Or, perhaps you need the added structure that a class environment provides. For some people, studying in a group or learning in a class setting can provide motivation and ward off procrastination. Not only that, but it can inspire thinking and break up the monotony of studying alone. For others, group study is a distraction, and they’re more efficient studying on their own. If you’re in the latter group, then an in-person test prep course probably isn’t for you. Instead, you may want to look into available test prep materials, or perhaps a web-based course.

  2. Establish your test score goals

    While it’s critical to consider your study style when deciding how to prepare, you also need to determine how, or if, your test score goals will influence your test prep strategy. If you know which graduate programs you’re interested in, check for the median test scores on the schools’ sites to see what you’re up against. From there, take at least two practice tests to see how your baseline score measures up. If it’s well below the median, that might suggest you need a more rigorous prep strategy to obtain a competitive score. While this could mean a test prep course is worthwhile for you, that’s not the only answer. You may just need additional time to prep, more practice tests, or a one-on-one tutor if you’re struggling in a specific area.

  3. Do your research

    Test prep courses can be a big investment. If you know you want to sign up for one, don’t just choose the first class that comes your way. Take time to look into the options, as there are many variables to consider. For one thing, prices can vary greatly between courses. On top of that, courses have different strengths and specialties. For example, some focus more on quantitative skills, while others place more emphasis on test-taking strategies. To know which course is right for you—or if a course is right for you—do a self-assessment to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Once you’ve figured those out, look for a program that aligns with your specific needs. And of course, as you’re looking into this, know how much you’re willing to budget, and what will work best with your timing.

Don’t delay!

If you haven’t already taken a practice test, there’s no time like the present. Get a jump-start with our GMAT Starter Kit, which includes two free practice exams. This will give you your baseline score, and from there, you can formulate a test prep strategy that works for you!