What MBA Applicants Need To Know But Big Test Prep Firms May Not Reveal

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Author Margo Diewald, Senior Tutor at The MBA Exchange
Author Margo Diewald, Senior Tutor
The MBA Exchange

In parallel to her consulting and corporate work, Margo Diewald has tutored a wide range of graduate school and college applicants over the past 15 years. Whether consulting, coaching, or tutoring, she believes in the power of clarity, relevance, and engagement to accelerate her client’s growth.

Margo’s expertise spans the GMAT and GRE as well as MBA-level subjects including statistics, economics, accounting, marketing research, and consumer behavior. She published her first two books, All Your Word Problems Solved and Off the Charts! Data Interpretation, with the conviction her approach can fundamentally change a test taker’s relationship with math by making it enjoyable. Familiar with multiple languages, Margo has enhanced awareness of grammar and vocabulary, which helps her clients grasp nuances of American English and subtleties of word choice. She earned an MBA degree at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and a Bachelor of Science degree in business management with concentrations in marketing and finance at North Carolina State University.

As a trusted coach and advisor for MBA applicants, I’ve worked with many who previously tried high-profile GMAT or GRE prep courses only to get disappointing results. When these clients reach out to me, they express frustration that these experiences not only wasted their time and budgets, but also damaged their confidence. We’re often working under time pressure to turnaround their test results and candidacy for top programs. While helping such clients rebound from this disappointment, improve their test skills, and regain self-assurance, I’ve discovered 3 marketing claims that some big test prep firms make but don’t fully explain to eager prospective customers:

• “Satisfaction Guaranteed” – yes, but only if and when the client completes hundreds of arduous, time-consuming assignments. They’ll overload clients with too much material all at once.

• Detailed Score Reports” – featuring exhaustive data about WHAT questions their clients tend to miss, but never explaining WHY they miss such questions so they can efficiently improve performance.

• “Our GMAT Prep Clients Score 700 or Higher” – yes, because their primary customers are already capable of scoring in the mid-600s before starting prep services. These companies send their instructors to teach classes on-site at the top consulting and banking firms, to their MBA-sponsorship candidates, who typically already possess razor-sharp quant and verbal skills. You can’t ignore the selection bias which pads these firms’ stats.

If you’re a serious MBA applicant whose needs, expectations and background are different, here are 5 factors to keep in mind when evaluating and hiring a test coach. You need:

• Test prep materials written in straightforward, non-academic language. Explanations which connect what you’re learning in test prep to how these skills are relevant in the workplace, so it all clicks and sticks.

• Sincere encouragement and personalized guidance to help you work through the inevitable “ups and downs” of test prep.

• Personal dedication and availability from an accountability partner to help you understand and achieve your highest potential.

• Proven success with both elite and non-elite clients. This includes individuals with test anxiety, a minor learning disability, difficulty learning math or reading, as well as non-native English speakers who attended non-US high schools and/or colleges and thus need more than just US-centric explanations.

• A firm whose professional reputation spans many years and is built upon positive results and satisfaction of MBA candidates like you.

With three decades of advising over 5,000 MBA applicants, The MBA Exchange satisfies all of these requirements and more. My test-prep colleagues and I are eager, experienced and available to help you gain the competence and confidence to accomplish your GMAT or GRE goals!