Best GMAT Prep Courses in Chicago A Comprehensive Guide to GMAT Prep Courses in Chicago
How to Find the Best Chicago GMAT Prep Course for You in 2020
The GMAT is the most widely accepted graduate business school entrance exam, and doing well on it is crucial for gaining admission. Many students turn to GMAT prep courses to give themselves the best chance of success, and fortunately for Chicago residents, there’s a lot of options in your area. But this can also make it hard to know which to choose. We put together this guide to the best GMAT prep courses in Chicago to help you find the program that’s best for you.
Our team of experts looked at 15 of the most popular GMAT prep companies that host courses in the Chicago area and evaluated each of them based on their comprehensiveness, study materials, course accessibility and options for personalization. We also looked at what means of support each program provides to its students, and we reached out to former students of each course to get their perspective on how well the classes prepared them for the real GMAT.
Three companies stood apart from the crowd. Kaplan was our top pick because it has the largest network of in-person locations of any company we reviewed and its comprehensive programs provide students with unique opportunities, like its test-day experience, that can’t be found elsewhere. Depending on your preferences and learning style, however, you may have better luck with one of our other finalists. We recommend reading all of our reviews before you make your decision to ensure you find the one that’s right for you.
A Full List of Every GMAT Prep Course in Chicago Worth Considering
Our top picks are listed below, followed by the remaining 12 companies that we considered. Click on the links to view the available courses on the company websites and to learn more about our finalists.
The 3 Best GMAT Prep Courses in Chicago
|Kaplan Test Prep||$799 - $4,999|
|Manhattan Prep||$799 - $2,950|
|Veritas Prep||$999 - $7,950|
The Other 12 GMAT Prep Courses in Chicago We Reviewed
|Admit Master||Visit Site|
|DePaul University||Visit Site|
|Kugler Counseling & Tutoring Services||Visit Site|
|Manhattan Elite Prep||Visit Site|
|Manhattan Review||Visit Site|
|Next Step Test Prep||Visit Site|
|Owl Test Prep||Visit Site|
|Test Prep Unlimited||Visit Site|
|The Princeton Review||Visit Site|
|The Star Tutor||Visit Site|
|Varsity Tutors||Visit Site|
The Most Important Features: Course Access, Study Materials, Support and Personalization
When choosing the best GMAT prep courses in Chicago, we focused on four key areas: course access, study materials, support and personalization.
Each of our finalists have offices in Chicago where they hold in-person GMAT classes and private tutoring sessions. Self-paced and online courses are also available to students who prefer a little more flexibility in their exam prep. We looked at how often new programs started and when classes are taught, making sure there were options available to fit all types of schedules. Kaplan did the best in this category, thanks to its huge network of branch offices and online resources to support students in whichever way they learn best.
Most GMAT prep courses contain either live or pre-recorded video lectures, accompanied by a variety of print or online study materials, including textbooks, practice questions and full-length practice tests. The best programs will enable students to take proctored practice tests, so they can get a feel for the time constraints as well as the material. All of our finalists offer multiple full-length computer-adaptive tests, but Veritas Prep stands out the most with 12 tests included as part of the course, seven of which can also be purchased as a standalone product if you’re not interested in a complete program.
Students in live courses can get their questions answered during class, or reach out to their instructors via phone or email afterwards. Some companies, like Kaplan, also demonstrate their support with score improvement guarantees that promise either a full refund or a free course retake if your score doesn’t go up after completing the prep course. But Veritas Prep outdoes all the competition with 99th-percentile instructors, support seven days a week, help with admissions prep and a satisfaction guarantee that enables you to retake the course for free at any time within a year of your original purchase.
All three of our finalists offer private tutoring as well for students who prefer a more individualized approach to GMAT prep. These courses are pricey, though, and you usually have to commit a certain number of hours upfront. For students who are looking for personalized learning on a budget, many prep courses now include analytics, like Manhattan Prep’s GMAT Navigator tool, to help track your performance and make suggestions on what you should do next.
Choosing the Right Chicago GMAT Course Delivery Type for You
There are four main types of GMAT prep courses, and the right one for you depends on your budget, schedule, personal goals and learning style. We’ve outlined the four main types below in order from least expensive to most expensive.
- Self-Paced: You buy the course materials and study them at your own pace.
- Live Online: You join a virtual classroom and learn alongside others.
- Live In-Person: You travel to a physical location and learn in a traditional classroom setting.
- Private Tutoring: A tutor works with you one on one to review the course material and build a study plan that fits your needs.
- Most affordable courses
- Work at your own pace
- Choose when you want to study
- Must be self-disciplined
- Little to no personalized instruction
- Limited instructor support
Who It’s Best For
A self-paced course works best for students with busy schedules who enjoy the freedom of being able to work at their own pace.
- Attend from anywhere
- Personalized assistance when needed
- Structured to keep you on track
- Not as interactive as in-person courses
- Potential for technical problems
Who It’s Best For
A live online course is best for students who want an interactive environment, but can’t or would prefer not to travel to an in-person course.
- No distractions
- Familiar setting
- Live interaction with others
- You must travel
- Cannot adjust schedule
- More expensive than online-only courses
Who It’s Best For
Live in-person courses are ideal for students who learn best in a traditional classroom and enjoy being able to interact with their instructor and other students.
- Personalized instruction
- Custom study plans
- Done online or in-person
- Most expensive option
- Can be time-consuming
Who It’s Best For
Private tutoring is best for those who are looking to retake the GMAT or need to significantly improve their scores.
Full Reviews of the Best GMAT Prep Courses in Chicago
Kaplan Test Prep GMAT Review
Best for comprehensive courses.
You can’t talk about GMAT prep in Chicago without mentioning Kaplan. It has the largest network of in-person locations of any GMAT prep company, including seven in the Chicago area. There are also self-paced and live online courses, plus private tutoring. All courses come with access to Kaplan’s extensive online resources, including nine full-length practice tests and over 5,000 practice questions. If Kaplan comes up a little short in one area, it’s private tutoring. Its smallest package is 15 hours, which may be more than some people are willing to commit to.
What to Expect
Kaplan’s live GMAT prep courses are held in six three-hour sessions, spread out over either three or six weeks. Classes are usually taught in the evenings, so that students can attend without skipping work or school. New programs are starting every few days, so you won’t have to wait too long once you’re ready to start studying. But if these live courses aren’t your style, you may want to check out Kaplan’s self-paced course instead. It covers the same material as the live courses, using pre-recorded video lectures, and you can move through the material at your own pace.
As part of Kaplan’s GMAT course, you’ll receive access to over 5,000 practice questions, exam prep textbooks and a custom study plan that adapts as you move through the material. You also get nine full-length computer-adaptive practice tests, one of which you’ll take in an actual GMAT testing facility under timed conditions to give you a sense of what to expect on test day. Kaplan’s most unique resource is its GMAT Channel, which contains over 30 hours of workshops covering everything from basic reading comprehension to advanced geometry. You can sift through the videos by instructor, topic and difficulty to find the ones that match your needs. New videos are being added all the time, and if you join these webinars live, you can ask questions of the instructors just like you would in a live online class.
All students can reach out to Kaplan instructors by email with any questions they have. But if you’re looking for more personalized assistance, you may want to consider a tutoring package. Your instructor will tailor a study program around your strengths and weaknesses to give you the best chance of success. The only downside is you have to commit to at least 15 hours upfront, and it’s not cheap. But if you just need a little extra assistance, you may want to consider a PLUS plan instead. These include three hours of private tutoring that you can schedule at a time that’s most convenient for you.
Kaplan Test Prep GMAT Details
|GMAT Prep - Self-Paced||$799|
|GMAT Prep - Self-Paced PLUS||$999|
|GMAT Prep - Live Online||$1,249|
|GMAT Prep - Live Online PLUS||$1,649|
|GMAT Prep - In Person||$1,449|
|GMAT Prep - In Person PLUS||$1,849|
|Private Tutoring (15 Hours)||$2,799|
|Private Tutoring (25 Hours)||$3,899|
|Private Tutoring (35 Hours)||$4,999|
Manhattan Prep GMAT Review
Best for flexibility.
Manhattan Prep has a program for every schedule and budget. Courses range from intensive two-week bootcamps to in-person courses and private tutoring in downtown Chicago. Each program includes six full-length practice tests and access to the company’s mobile-friendly online materials, including its GMAT Navigator tool that tracks your progress as you move through the course, highlighting the areas where you could use a little more practice. Admissions prep is also available, either as a standalone purchase or as a bundle, so Manhattan Prep is a great option if you’re looking to give yourself the best shot at getting into the school of your choice.
What to Expect
Manhattan Prep kicks off new in-person courses every few days, all of which are taught on different days at different times to accommodate all students. The course consists of nine three-hour sessions taught by instructors who have scored in the 99th percentile on a real GMAT. During the course, you’ll go over the content to be covered on the exam and strategies for approaching each type of question. Manhattan Prep’s self-paced Interact course is also included at no additional cost.
These online materials include 35 video lessons, 10 strategy guides and six full-length computer-adaptive practice tests. As you complete the practice tests, your progress is measured by the GMAT Navigator tool. It shows you the statistics on how you’ve performed in each section, so you can easily target the sections you need to review. You can purchase the course in full or choose the Verbal or Quantitative sections only if you feel you have the other section down. All online materials are mobile-friendly, so you can take your studying with you on your Android or iOS device.
All students get access to Manhattan Prep’s instructors to help them if they run into questions. Like Kaplan, Manhattan Prep offers private GMAT tutoring, but its packages are more flexible. Its smallest standalone package is just five hours, and if you’re enrolled in the Interact course, you can add on three hours of tutoring for just $400 more. Manhattan Prep also does admissions consulting, and bundling this with GMAT prep is a good way to save on both. Unfortunately, Manhattan Prep doesn’t support its students with a score-improvement guarantee, but with all the other resources it gives you, you shouldn’t have any trouble raising your scores.
Manhattan Prep GMAT Details
|GMAT Interact (Self-Study)||$999|
|Complete Course - Online||$1,299|
|Complete Course - In Person||$1,599|
|Private Tutoring (5 hours)||$1,250|
|Private Tutoring (10 hours)||$2,450|
|Private Tutoring (15 hours)||$3,525|
|Private Tutoring (20 hours)||$4,600|
|Private Tutoring (25 hours)||$5,625|
|Prep + Admissions - Pre-Application||$3,399|
|Prep + Admissions - 1-School Package||$5,299|
|Prep + Admissions - 3-School Package||$7,749|
|GMAT Bootcamp - Online||$2,650|
|GMAT Bootcamp - In Person||$2,950|
Veritas Prep GMAT Review
Best for student support.
Veritas Prep strives to support its students every step of the way, and it’s become a one-stop shop for business school admissions prep. In addition to its impressive GMAT prep courses, which include 12 full-length practice tests and 36 hours of instruction, Veritas Prep also provides admissions consulting services to help give you the best chance of getting into the school of your choice. Instructors are standing by seven days a week to assist you if you run into any questions or concerns, and if you’re not satisfied with the course — even if your score did improve — you can take it again within a year of your original purchase date.
What to Expect
Veritas Prep has a single location in Chicago for in-person courses, but if that doesn’t suit you, you can always sign up for a live online class instead. Each course is taught by instructors that have scored in the 99th percentile on a real GMAT, so they really know their stuff. You’ll meet twice per week for three hours at a time over six weeks. Weekend and night classes are available for students who can’t attend sessions held during the workday. If you happen to miss a class, you can log into your online account and watch the video recording of that lesson, so you don’t miss anything important.
Each program comes with a study plan to keep you on track and a series of textbooks to guide you through the material you’ll be tested on. When you’re ready to test what you’ve learned, try Veritas Prep’s huge question bank or one of its 12 full-length practice tests. Each question contains a built-in student commenting feature, so you can ask questions and get help with any problems you don’t understand. You can review this material as many times as you want during your one-year access period.
Veritas Prep’s instructors are standing by seven days a week to help you via email if any questions come up. If you want more immediate assistance, considering enrolling in private tutoring. Packages start with as little as 10 hours, though unfortunately, you can only move up in 10-hour increments from there. Like Manhattan Prep, Veritas Prep also provides admissions consulting services to interested students. You can customize a package based on what GMAT prep course you’re taking and the number of schools you’re applying to.
Veritas Prep GMAT Details
|GMAT On Demand||$999|
|Full Course - Online||$1,650|
|Full Course - Live||$1,850|
|Private Tutoring (10 hours)||$2,650|
|Private Tutoring (20 hours)||$4,750|
|Private Tutoring (30 hours)||$6,450|
|Private Tutoring (40 hours)||$7,950|
Frequently Asked Questions About the GMAT
We spoke to students interested in taking the GMAT to learn what questions they had about the exam. We’ve answered some of the most common ones below. If there’s anything else you’d like us to discuss, feel free to reach out and let us know.
What are the most important things to know prior to taking the GMAT?
Before you sign up for the GMAT, you should understand your school’s admissions requirements, the test format and the procedures you’ll be expected to follow on exam day.
School Admission Requirements
Your first step should be to determine whether your school prefers the GMAT or the GRE. Many business schools now accept both, and if there is no preference, then you can choose the test that best plays to your strengths. Do some research and figure out the average test scores of the student body, and make this number your goal. If the information is listed as a range, make a note of the low and high ends.
You should also look up your school’s application deadline and plan accordingly. If it’s a rolling deadline, you have some flexibility in when you submit your application. But if there’s a single date, it’s imperative that you get your test scores in on time. Plan backwards from here, leaving yourself at least two potential test dates in case you don’t do as well as you’d hoped to on your first attempt. Keep in mind that it takes about 20 days after the exam for you to receive your scores.
The GMAT consists of four sections—Analytical Writing, Integrative Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. The latter two sections are computer-adaptive, which means that the difficulty of the questions adjusts to match your level of knowledge. The first question is of medium difficulty, and whether you get it right or not determines whether the next one is easier or harder. This helps the test creators more accurately judge how much you know. Unfortunately, this type of format means it’s impossible to skip questions and return to them later, so if you’re not sure, make your best guess and move on.
Make sure you know how to get to your testing center and arrive a half hour early. If you show up late, you won’t be permitted entry into the testing room. You must bring a valid, government-issued photo ID with you, and you may be asked to submit to other security checks, like a fingerprint scan or a test-day photo. This photo may be requested by schools to verify that the person applying is the same one that sat for the exam.
You aren’t allowed to bring anything with you into the testing room. Scratch paper will be provided to you at the facility. There will be lockers for you to store your personal items, but you will not be able to access them until the test is complete. For a full list of exam-day procedures, contact Pearson VUE or your testing administrator.
How much time should I spend studying for the GMAT?
How long you spend studying for the GMAT depends on your school’s admission deadlines, how well you already know the material and your schedule.
Start from your application deadline and plan backwards. It’s best to leave yourself at least two possible test dates in case you don’t get the score you want on your first try. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 days after the exam for you to receive your scores. Then, working backwards from your first test date, determine how much studying you need to do each week.
Take a timed practice test to assess what you already know. Use your results to help guide your study plan. Figure out which areas you need to spend the most time on, and leave yourself plenty of time to review them. If you only need help on a single section, you may be able to opt for a shorter refresher class instead of a complete GMAT prep course, but we recommend a full course for most students. It provides you with a thorough grounding in all the key concepts you’ll be tested on and test-taking strategies to help you approach various question types.
Ideally, you should leave yourself a couple of months for GMAT prep, but this may not always be an option. If your test date is rapidly approaching, consider a course like Manhattan Prep’s two-week GMAT Bootcamp instead of a traditional course. If you know you won’t be able to devote that many hours per week to studying, you may want to get started earlier to make sure you can cover all of the material before your test date.
How is the GMAT scored?
The GMAT consists of 91 scored questions broken down into four sections. Total scores range from 200 to 800, with most test takers scoring between a 400 and 600. When you complete the test, you’ll receive a preliminary score report, showing how you did on the Quantitative and Verbal sections of the exam. Your official score reports will be released within 20 days, and will include scores for all four sections. Each is graded a little differently, and we’ve discussed them in depth below.
Section 1: Analytical Writing Assessment
You’re given 30 minutes to answer a single essay prompt. The prompt will give you an excerpt from a newspaper or magazine and ask you to analyze and improve the argument. Your essay is scored from 0 to 6 with half-point intervals by two different graders. One of these graders is an essay-grading software and the other is a human grader that’s been specially trained for the job. The two scores are averaged to give you your final grade. If the two scores are very different, another human grader will look it over and the two human scores will be averaged. You can request an essay rescore for $45 if you feel you weren’t graded fairly, but this could result in a lower score, so it’s best to think carefully before you do so.
Section 2: Integrated Reasoning
This section has 12 questions you must answer in 30 minutes. These are usually multi-part questions, and you must answer all parts to receive credit. The questions ask you to read passages or look at graphs and draw inferences about the information listed there. This section is graded on a scale from 1 to 8 in one-point increments.
Sections 3 and 4: Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning
The Quantitative and Verbal sections are each 75 minutes long. The Quantitative section has 37 questions and the Verbal section has 41. Both sections are scored out of 60 points, and you’ll receive these results as soon as you’ve completed your exam. Because these sections are computer-adaptive, different weights are assigned to each question, so you get more points for answering a difficult question correctly than you do for an easy one.
Not all questions in these sections are scored. You may have more than 37 Quantitative questions or 41 Verbal questions. These extras are pretest questions added by the test creators to assess the difficulty and fairness of the items. The ones that pass will be included in future versions of the test as a graded question. It’s impossible to know which are the pretest questions when you’re taking the test, so it’s best to treat them as if they were all going to count.
How important is the GMAT to business school admissions?
The GMAT is an important part of the application process because it gives admissions departments some idea of how you will cope with the challenging business school coursework, and it also provides them with a means of comparing multiple applicants. However, it’s not the only factor that they consider. They also look at your undergraduate transcripts, work history, essay, letters of recommendation and interview. You have to do well in all of these areas too if you hope to get into the school of your choice.
It’s impossible to say how big of a factor your GMAT score will be for you because each school weighs the components of your application slightly differently. Ideally, you want to score at or above the school’s average GMAT score. You can figure this out by doing some research online. Take a timed practice test to see how close you are to your goal, and keep studying until you feel confident that you can meet it.
Don’t worry too much if you fall a little short of your goal, though. Admissions departments understand that not everyone tests well, which is why they also consider your undergraduate transcripts. They also look at your work history, personal essay, interview and letters of recommendation to get a sense of who you are beyond the grades. Business schools want to make sure that you will fit in with their culture and be a meaningful contributor to its program. Doing well on these things is just as important as doing well on the GMAT. If you find you need some help, you may want to check out Manhattan Prep and Veritas Prep’s business school admissions consulting packages, in addition to their test prep courses.
How do I send my GMAT scores to schools?
On the day of your exam, you can choose up to five business schools that you’d like to submit your scores to. This service is included as part of your registration fee. The schools you select will receive your reports as soon as they have been released — usually about 20 days after the exam. For most students, this is all you need to do, but if you decide later on that you’d like to send your reports to more schools, you can do so.
Additional score reports can be purchased at any time from the Graduate Management Admission Council, the creator of the GMAT, by phone or by filling out the request form and mailing it to Pearson VUE. Each additional score report beyond the first five costs $28. These score reports are sent out a week after your official score report has been released. Keep this extra delay in mind when choosing your test dates to make sure you don’t miss any application deadlines.
If you don’t feel you did well on the test, you can cancel your scores after the test is complete, but before you view your preliminary report. This isn’t usually a smart move, though. For one, you’ll need to retake the test again and you’ll be out the $250 exam fee. Plus, future score reports will indicate that you once took the test and canceled your scores. In most cases, it’s a better idea to wait to send out your scores if you’re concerned until you see how you did. Then, you can decide how you want to proceed from there.
Key Statistics of the GMAT
GMAT total scores range from 200 to 800. We’ve gathered some statistics below to show you how you measure up against other students who have taken the exam. We’ve included data for the total score, as well as each of the individual sections. All data is rounded up to the closest percentile listed.
90th Percentile: 710
70th Percentile: 640
50th Percentile: 580
30th Percentile: 500
10th Percentile: 390
90th Percentile: 8
70th Percentile: 6
50th Percentile: 5
30th Percentile: 3
10th Percentile: 2
90th Percentile: 40
70th Percentile: 34
50th Percentile: 28
30th Percentile: 22
10th Percentile: 15
90th Percentile: 51
70th Percentile: 48
50th Percentile: 43
30th Percentile: 36
10th Percentile: 23
90th Percentile: 6
70th Percentile: 5.5
50th Percentile: 5
30th Percentile: 4.5
10th Percentile: 3.5