Score Improvement Guarantees

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Many test-prep companies offer some sort of guarantee that, after taking their course or working with one of their tutors, your GMAT score will improve. It's great marketing, and judging by how long Kaplan and The Princeton Review have been offering those guarantees, it's working for them.

The Details

Of course, a guarantee of an improved score requires a baseline. If you've taken the GMAT before, that'll be used as your starting point; if not, the guarantee will refer to a diagnostic test the company administers.

Finally, if you take the exam again at the end of the course and your GMAT score doesn't improve, you can get your money back. The prep company also generally offers you the option to retake your course (or get additional tutoring hours) for free.

The Mindset

What I don't like about guarantees--and remember, I'm speaking here as someone who wants you to get a higher score, not as a representative of one of these companies--is the mindset they put you in. If a test-prep company guarantees you a higher GMAT score, they are, in a sense, taking responsibility for your performance.

But who really has responsibility for your final score? Your Princeton Review tutor isn't taking your test for you, is she?

Much of the value of a tutor or a prep course is in the structure it gives your study time. If you are a disciplined person, you can get many of the benefits of a course by working through The Official Guide and/or my Total GMAT Math, and save a few thousand dollars.

Your Move

Whether you go the course route or the self-study route, though, it's you who must learn the material. If you take a course from a company such as Kaplan or Manhattan GMAT, it's a good bet that they're teaching you useful things...but again, it's your responsibility to apply those on test day.

I don't intend to criticize test-prep courses. I don't think they're for everyone, and I think all of them could be improved, but the point is that, however good or bad they are, they are just a tool in your test-prep arsenal. Ultimately, you're the one who must put in the study time, you're the one who has to understand the concepts, you're the one who needs to apply a solid in-test strategy.

You're the one responsible for your final score. There are no guarantees on the GMAT. It's a tough test, and the competition gets harder every year. Your preparation and your performance have a lot more to do with how you fare on the exam than anything a teacher, tutor, or textbook has to offer.

Higher score guarantees suggest that this isn't the case. But in the end, you don't just want your money's worth, you want a higher GMAT score. And you're the one who needs to get it.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

Total GMAT Math

The comprehensive guide to the GMAT Quant section. It's "far and away the best study material available," including over 300 realistic practice questions and more than 500 exercises!
Click to read more.