10 Things You Need to Know About Your GMAT Course

What You Need to Know Before Your First Class

Welcome to the Kaplan GMAT program. Our mission is to help you meet and beat your goals for the test and pave the way for an MBA that gets you all the benefits of the degree and the experience.

Your first class session doesn't assume any prior knowledge aside from what we are covering together right now. The first se ssion will cover the ins and outs of the GMAT, helps you set goals for your course experience, and gets moving with a few Kaplan strategies.

For your first session, have on hand your Course Book, which is titled GMAT Premier, and also scratch paper and something to write with. Your Course Book is included in your home study kit. If you have not yet received your home study kit, please contact our Customer Care team at 1-800-KAP-TEST or customer.care@kaplan.com so we can address the situation as quickly as possible. Generally, you'll be able to complete your first session even if your kit is late in arriving.

Next: Your Diagnostic Exam (CAT 1)

Your Diagnostic Exam (CAT 1)

Before your second session, you should take your Diagnostic Exam. Your Diagnostic Exam is your first Computer Adaptive Test, CAT 1. You need to take the Diagnostic to assess your starting point and get your finishing point clearer in sight. Starting off with a full-length test may seem a bit intense, but the serious approach will pay off - and, after all, your score on this test won't count.

Set aside four hours to take the diagnostic. This time frame accounts for the Argument Essay (30 minutes), the Integrated Reasoning section (30 minutes), a break (8 minutes), the Quantitative Section (75 minutes), a break (8 minutes), and the Verbal Section (75 minutes). Some students skip the Argument Essay when taking practice GMAT tests, but we recommend taking every section seriously—especially on the Diagnostic Exam—to give a realistic experience on a test that involves an element of endurance.

Please be aware that a requirement of the money-back component of the Higher Score Guarantee is that you take the Diagnostic prior to Session 2 of your course—otherwise, you won't have an accurate baseline score to compare against. Our experience is that once students get going, they quickly have no need to concern themselves with the money-back component of the guarantee, but the guarantee is at least another of many reasons to take the Diagnostic in a timely manner.

Next: Fixed Sessions and Flex Sessions

Fixed Sessions and Flex Sessions

If you're in a course with a live instructor—On Site or Classroom Anywhere—you need to know the difference between two kinds of sessions in your course: Fixed Sessions and Flex Sessions.

Our instructor-led courses have two kinds of session to give you the perfect blend of structure and flexibility, for maximum score improvement and minimum hassle. Your Fixed Sessions go forward on a fixed schedule with your assigned faculty. When you're done with these six sessions, you'll be off to a solid start in your course. Then it's time to move on to the Flex Sessions. Your Flex Sessions are flexible, because you add them to your schedule whenever's convenient from our daily rotating schedule. Your Flex Sessions are also time to flex your GMAT muscle. We often compare GMAT preparation to athletic training; once you've strengthened your foundation, it's time to hit the gym hard with the Flex Sessions.

By and large, your Flex Sessions can be taken in any order and as many times as you want. In general, you'll want to complete your Fixed Sessions for Quant and Verbal before taking your scheduled Flex Sessions for those areas.

All Flex Sessions are offered in the Classroom Anywhere learning environment. To schedule and manage these sessions, visit your Assignments tab in the Online Center. For all Classroom Anywhere sessions, you'll need speakers or headphones to hear your instructor, but not a mic, since you will communicate in class via chat. Also, see our Help page here in the Online Center for Technical Requirements to avoid technical glitches in class.

If you're in our On Demand course, you've chosen our self-guided course for maximum flexibility. In that case, all of your sessions take the form of our Lessons on Demand, which you can initiate whenever you want from your computer.

Next: Integrated Reasoning

Your Integrated Reasoning Preparation

In addition to having a separate scoring system and featuring all-new question types, the newly added Integrated Reasoning section will force you to adapt in terms of your study habits as well.  With dropdown menus, sortable spreadsheets and multi-tabbed information, the questions themselves take full advantage of the GMAT's computerized testing format.  That means you can't expect to prep well for those questions by studying from a book, or even in a classroom.  You'll need a course of study that matches what you'll see on Test Day.

That's where Kaplan's online, webinar-style class comes in.  Our Integrated Reasoning session, offered as a Flex Session in the Classroom Anywhere learning environment, presents the question formats you'll need to master in a realistic format.  And since these lessons build off of the same skills you'll be learning for the Quant and Verbal sections, you'll want to sign up  to take this session after you've finished your Fixed Sessions and your Flex Session on statistics.

Next: What's in the Online Center

What's in the Online Center

Now that you've started down the path to prep for your upcoming GMAT exam, you'll want to make the best possible use of your study resources.  You won't need to use them all immediately, but you should familiarize yourself with them early to know what's at your disposal.

  • You have access to online video-based lessons and workshops These include the Lessons on Demand, which are on demand versions of our instructor-led sessions. They also include dozens of additional workshops on specific topics with associated quizzes.
  • You have 9 full-length, computer-adaptive tests. Each of them includes the new Integrated Reasoning section.
  • You have a Quiz Bank with 14 hundred practice questions, which allows you to create quizzes targeting specific areas.

All told, you'll get more than 160 hours of instruction and practice that will guide you all the way through Test Day and beyond. 

Lastly, as you progresss, to have in-depth feedback to let you know not just how you're doing, but what exact sort of work you should be doing to help shore up your weaker areas. 

Kaplan's Smart Reports technology provides this ongoing, personalized instruction. When you take a GMAT practice test, Smart Reports evaluates your test and provides a comprehensive performance analysis. The system recommends assignments based on your unique set of needs and strengths, helping you master the content that you need improvement on and fortify the areas in which you are strongest. Smart Reports targets your highest-yield areas, providing the greatest point gain possible for the GMAT.

Next: What to do if you miss a Fixed Session

What to Do If You Miss a Fixed Session

If you're enrolled in our On Demand course, there's no such thing as "missing" a session, because you take them whenever you want. But if you're enrolled in an instructor-led course and you miss a Fixed Session, you have two options.

First, you can choose to make up your missed session with Lessons on Demand. From the Assignments tab, open the session you missed and select "View Lesson on Demand". Everyone enrolled in the Kaplan GMAT program receives access to the Lessons on Demand.

One note on red tape: students enrolled in an instructor-led courses can make-up up to 2 live sessions with Lessons on Demand and still meet the requirements of the money-back component of the Higher Score Guarantee. Red tape aside, you can watch as many Lessons on Demand as you want, whether you have missed class or not.

The second option is to schedule a make-up session. You can "make up" sessions of a given format -On Site or Classroom Anywhere—as many times as you want, whenever and wherever you want, whether you missed a class session or not. Even if you're enrolled in an On Site course in Manhattan, you can make up Fixed Sessions On Site in Los Angeles, or vice versa.

To find a make-up session in your area, click the Assignments tab. Open the session you missed and click "Find a make-up." Enter your search criteria and the next available schedules for that session will appear. Then all you have to do is attend that class. When you arrive at class, check in with the teacher with your name and enrollment number and explain that you're there for a make-up session to ensure your attendance is marked.

Next: The Official Test Day Experience

The Official Test Day Experience

It's true that you'll get a huge amount of online help as you prepare for the GMAT, but it doesn't have to be a completely solo venture.  To get the Official Test Day Experience, you'll have the chance to register to take a full-length practice test at a Pearson testing center, the same organization that administers the GMAT.

You'll go through the same security protocols, use the same scratch materials and have the same experience that you'll have on Test Day itself.  And, if you register early, you'll have your choice of testing centers, allowing you to have the experience in the same center in which you've chosen to take the actual GMAT.  That way, when Test Day rolls around, you'll already have been to the center, sat in the same waiting room, met the center personnel, even used the same bathroom.  Nothing about Test Day will be new to you, allowing you to be completely at ease and able to put 100% of your focus where it belongs: on getting the best possible GMAT score you can get.

Take advantage of this industry-exclusive opportunity; you won't regret it come Test Day.

To schedule your Official Test Day Experience, click the CATs tab in the Online Center. Next to CAT 2 (for On Demand and Classroom Anywhere students) or the next CAT of CAT 2 or later you haven't taken (for On Site students), click the button to schedule with Pearson.

Depending on your course, you're entitled to take one or up to eight practice tests at the Pearson GMAT testing center: On Demand and Classroom Anywhere students get one Experience, while Classroom Anywhere students get up to eight. Note that, if you're entitled to more than one Experience, you can schedule only one at a time.

Next: The 150 hours rule of thumb

The 150 Hours Rule of Thumb

One of the most fundamental concepts to understand about your GMAT prep is how much time you'll need to devote to your studies.  Prior to the recent test change, which saw the inclusion of the Integrated Reasoning section into the GMAT, we recommended 100-120 hours of prep time in order to achieve a 700+ score.  With the new section added, however, and the extra skills study that goes along with it, we recommend devoting 120-150 hours of prep time to land that same sort of score. 

Why do we advise setting aside the extra study time?  Well, in addition to the already-existing GMAT sections that you would've studied for prior to the change, there are now four new question types that go along with the Integrated Reasoning section.  Additionally, while the IR section replaces the Analysis of an Issue essay, you'll still have to study for the Analysis of an Argument essay.  Basically, you'll have to prep for everything that was on the old test, plus a whole new chunk.  And the more time you put into each section of the GMAT, the better prepared you'll be for Test Day.  Trust us, this isn't a test you want to slack on studying for.

Next: From our Faculty: Tips on GMAT Practice

From Our Faculty: Tips on GMAT Practice

Like anything else you want to master in life, prepping for the GMAT is going to require some healthy doses of discipline and willpower.  Just like a few hours at the driving range every week won't land you on the PGA Tour, studying here and there for your exam won't land you a top-notch score.

We've seen that most GMAT preppers who indulge in occasional study binges in between several days away from the material don't see much improvement.  The students who see the greatest score increases are the ones who study regularly and devote the proper amount of time to their prep.

Think of it as a math problem:  If a student puts in 60 minutes of study time every weekday, and then takes part in 4-hour study sessions on Saturday and Sunday, that's 13 hours of prep in a week.  Multiply that by 11 weeks, and you're looking at 143 hours of studying.  If you bump those weekday study sessions up just 30 minutes more per weekday, you'll get more than 170 hours of studying in over the course of your 11 weeks.  Put the time in, and we're betting you'll see positive results on the other end.

Practice tests are your friends. When you're staring down the date of your GMAT exam, it can be difficult to get yourself to take a full-length practice test as part of your prep.  Maybe you have a fear of doing poorly and drawing away from your confidence in taking the actual test.  Maybe you're worried about having the areas in which you're lacking pointed out to you.  In the end, that's not doing you any favors.  That's like not going to the doctor for fear of discovering that you're sick.

In fact, being concerned about your score is a reason to take a practice test.  Early on in your GMAT prep, nothing shows you better than a full-length practice test exactly what you need to focus on in order to improve.  Possessing that knowledge will then allow you to readjust your study focus and concentrate more closely on the areas in which you need the most improvement.

Fortunately, Kaplan has free GMAT practice tests that you'll be able to take, some offered within our proctored, Classroom Anywhere® environment, allowing you to receive detailed score analyses, answers and explanations from our expert faculty.  So get out there and get some practice in.

When you take a practice test, , you should always have clear goals in mind—and those goals should go beyond just, "I want to pick all the right answers."  Right answers are great and all, but as far as practice tests go, they don't count for anything; the only day getting a question right counts is Test Day.

Until that day rolls around, however, the greatest value a practice question holds is its use as a learning tool.  Your goal, then, should be to use those questions to work on repeatable skills and strategies that will help you get the right answers on Test Day.  Before you start a practice quiz, set some clear learning goals for yourself:

  • "I will plug in numbers whenever I can," or
  • "I will make sure to identify the keywords," or
  • I will focus on the strategy I learned for rate problems."

Giving yourself concrete goals will keep you from solving problems in random ways, and allow you to revolutionize your approach to the GMAT.

When it comes to practice, wrong answers can be right. The only purpose of a GMAT practice test, like practicing for anything else, is to help you get better.  Kaplan's practice quizzes give you the chance to try the real thing out prior to Test Day, and if you fail, give you the opportunity to learn from your failures.  It's all about the way you approach the tests, and what you get out of them.

If a GMAT prepper goes through 20 practice questions, aces them all and then doesn't study the answer explanations, they won't get much benefit.  That prepper, while successful in a certain way, has been denied the opportunity to see if they used the most efficient approach in ultimately arriving at the correct answer.

On the flip side, if someone takes on those same 20 questions, gets each and every one wrong, but then goes over the answer explanations in detail, then that person will emerge much more successful than the person in the previous example.  A GMAT prep student who takes the time to learn from their mistakes will understand the strategies that would have led to the right answer, and will be able to apply that knowledge and those strategies on Test Day.  So don't be afraid to practice and fail; you'll come out better on the other side if you fail in the right way.

Next: The Higher Score Guarantee

The Higher Score Guarantee

While we're proud to offer you our full range of GMAT prep resources, backed by our established history as an industry leader, we're even more proud to give you the most extensive score guarantee around.  With Kaplan courses, if your score doesn't improve from your diagnostic or previous actual GMAT score, we'll either refund your money or allow you to repeat your course for free.

But the guarantee goes even further than that.  If you're not satisfied with your score gain, no matter how many points you want to improve, you can study with us again for free.  Did you go up 150 points, but were aiming for 170? You're welcome to repeat the course.  Also, if you feel that you're not ready to take the GMAT as Test Day approaches, no matter how well your practice scores have been increasing, you can repeat the course for free.

Our goal is to provide you with a meaningful guarantee and a minimum of "fine print" behind it. To that end, we have no special requirements for you to take advantage of the free retake of a GMAT course—the readiness and satisfaction components of our guarantee.

We ask that everyone interested in exercising the money-back component of the guarantee have completed the required assignments of the course, namely:

  • Attend/watch your classes;
  • Take your diagnostic before Session 2;
  • Complete required homework;
  • And take the required practice CATs.

From working with thousands of students over decades, we have found that score improvement correlates strongly with a test taker's practice time. The money-back portion of our guarantee is based on that principle.

We're confident that you'll get a higher GMAT score when you prep with Kaplan, so much so that it's a guarantee.  All you have to do is put in the work, and we'll help you get there.

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