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Journey to my MBA

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The GMAT Prep Season

Not sure if you noticed, but it's the GMAT season kick off. Starting next week Monday, every major GMAT prep school is starting their rolling schedules of GMAT courses. As the courses run about 2 months long, another course won't come around till Mid-September for most schools. This goes for ManhattanGMAT and Veritas that I know of. Princeton has so many classes that they have a rolling monthly schedule. Princeton kicks off their class about the middle of every month. It's like a mind-meld. Why do they all start together? Must be some reason. I believe Veritas charges $50 extra if you register less than a week before the class starts. They meet twice a week for 3 hr sessions. Princeton does once a week for 3 hrs and I'm not sure what Manhattan does.

I'm not even going to mention or check out Kaplan. Years ago, 15 years ago to be exact, I used Kaplan to prepare for my MCAT. It's the parallel to GMAT for those wanting to go to Medical School. Back then, they had two forms of the class you could take. The self-guided one and the instructor taught one. Guess which one was cheaper?

The self guided one included one introductory class to describe the resources available and to pump everyone up. Then, you were given a list/index of prep sections for each category of the test. There were like 6-10 study prep guides for each category with 5 categories. Each prep guide included 1-2 audio cassette tapes and a 20-35 page booklet for each lesson. As you went through the material, you would check off each one that you went through. I think there were something like 65-70 lessons.

With all those people, as you entered the room, there would be this smell that would hit you as entered the room. Not bad like a gym, but it wasn't totally pleasant. I can still imagine the smell. This room barely had any seating because the place was ALWAYS stinking full even though the place could hold 50-60 people. The desks were 1/2 walled study cubbies where if you looked up, you could only see peoples heads. There were these testing room style tape players with 4 buttons on the front of the machine with headseats that cupped around your entire ear with vinyl covered cushion. The tape player was about the size of a shoe box but 1/2 as tall. The sound was in mono so you always had to turn it up to hear. Especially due to those junky headsets, you could always sort of make out the voice of the person next to you. Over half the tape players were faulty in that sound would only come into one side of the earphone instead of splitting the incoming signal to both sides of the headset. It wasn't that bad, but I found myself every so often telling the person next to me to turn it down and I in turn occasionally got the same ask. So the routine of the booklet and tape was like this.... 1) Listen to a guy explain the key concepts of the lesson your on, he/she would tell you to stop the tape and do some practice exercises from the book and would remind you turn the tape back on when done. And so this went for about 2 hrs until done. 2) Then the latter half of the book was full of questions one would do for additional practice. 3) Return tape and booklet and get the next set.

Everyone I knew, who was taking the test pretty seriously, would go there at 7am to grab just that perfect spot (away from the entrance and foot traffic) and grab the study preps they wanted (The material was limited so if 4 or 5 people came before you, you had to skip around lessons) The booklets were made of white shiny glued cardboard bindings with brown recycled paper for the contents. It was real flimsy. Anyway, I hope your getting the picture. It wasn't pretty. It was cut throat to get the material you wanted and it was cut throat to even get a spot. If you didn't get a spot, there would be people in the hallways sitting down listening to a borrowed tape player trying to somehow study with people walking by. When I came in the afternoon, I was one of those people. That's what I went through for 4 months in prepping for that test. Then I went back and did it again because I took the test twice.

You have to remember that this experience was not from a guy having come from a third world country or region of the world where he's telling you stories of the home country. Dude, this was Southern California, Orange County. Orange County is relatively a planned county. Nice trees, streets, no graffiti, clean, modern and with average housing costs much higher than the national average.

The other format was an instructor taught one, but many students from there would still join us self-guided people because the instructors would tell them to grab some lesson material that they didn't have time to cover.

So, I hear Kaplan has improved since then. I haven't received any first hand accounts of what Kaplan is like now, but let me tell you. It's been 15 years and I still cringe when I think back over that experience. Ah! the good times. I'd appreciate reading your story about Kaplan or other training centers.

As I sit hear studying, I remember those times and think.... I've got it easier now compared to then. So if you're in a tough or weird study situation where you can't seem to get alone or find a good place to study... just remember.... it could be worse. :)

We'll if you haven't yet, it would be great if you filled out that 1 question survey of what school you'll be applying to. Many have already filled it out. I'll be posting the compiled results this Saturday. The numbers are already very interesting.
The link again is here


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