Doing well on the GMAT to get into the world’s best MBA programs takes focus, strategy and preparation. In 2006, 5,299 GMATs were taken in China, up from 4,040 in 2005. Applicants averaged a score of 592 out of a possible 800 on the GMAT that same year, well above the world average of 500. But to score that well, students need to know how the test works.
The key to the GMAT is knowing how to attack the question and know what the test is looking for – that helps a great deal in picking the right answers, Benjamin Nubry, assistant director of the Shanghai office of Princeton Review said.
In China, some MBA and EMBA programs do not require applicants from the mainland to take the GMAT. Instead, students sit the National MBA Entrance Examination, which has sections on mathematics, logic and English and Chinese writing, similar to the GMAT.
Applicants who must take the GMAT need to understand that it is a tough exam, not because the content is difficult, but because it’s written in a tricky manner, Nubry added.
Where to go
In China, several companies offer a variety of GMAT preparation programs. Among Chinese students, the most popular is New Oriental School, the country’s largest test preparation service provider, which has a network of 32 schools, over 115 learning centers, 15 bookstores and 4,600 teachers in 31 cities.
New Oriental’s intensive three-week GMAT preparatory course, which is held in various locations across the country, costs US$390, and US$628, inclusive of accomodations.
The Princeton Review, a US-based company, has the biggest network in China among foreign firms, with offices in Dalian, Shanghai, Xi’an and Hong Kong. Princeton teaches a 23-hour GMAT course that covers all aspects of the exam.
Class sizes at Princeton are kept small, with a maximum of eight students per class. The course costs US$1,006 and the company offers an 80-point score improvement guarantee. Most of Princeton’s students are expats living abroad looking to apply to top schools in North America and Europe.
Kaplan, an industry veteran with 4,000 classrooms worldwide, has no offices on the mainland but offers an eight session course in Hong Kong. Kaplan’s main advantage for potential Chinese MBA students is that the course includes an analytic writing assessment workshop, which includes essay-writing strategies for non-native English speakers. The course costs US$1082 for eight sessions, and US$704 for a half-course. Kaplan also provides an online GMAT mini-CAT (Computer Adaptive Test), which simulates the test.
“A lot of the exam is stress management, if you know how the questions are going to be asked, you’ll be much better prepared,” said Vicky Moy, Kaplan Hong Kong’s director.
Veritas GMAT also offers a course from its Hong Kong office, and Manhattan GMAT, which targets students aiming to score above 700 on the test, offers a popular online course for US$990 for people who want more flexibility in their preparations.
Most management colleges at universities also host MBA preparatory courses. Fudan University, for example, hosted an 8-month course for the national MBA entrance exam at US$653.
Prospective students might forgo preparatory courses altogether. Neil Jiang, who is headed to Wharton, used online study resources he found at chasedream.com, a GMAT prep website founded by Chinese students who did their MBAs abroad and returned to the mainland. The website is written in Chinese, and offers tips on how to prepare for and write the exam. It also has a forum for prospective students.
“I didn’t have the time to go to training school. This way I could flexibly manage my own time,” Jiang said.
The options are out there. Choosing the right prep program is a daunting task, but it’s worth the investment once acceptance letters roll in.