How I got my 700+: The Economist GMAT Tutor

Listen, this is going to be a sales pitch. But, I only recommend one GMAT program. And I recommend it because I truly believe it is the best. I want you to be able to benefit from my experience, where I spent 10 weeks and $1600 on another program that left me 70 points short of my goal, so Yes, I want you to try the program that helped me get into HBS…

Prepare for the GMAT anytime, anywhere, with Economist GMAT Tutor.

One problem with most GMAT prep courses out there is they don’t adapt to you, the test taker.  They force you to spend the same amount of time on the things you already know and the things you are just learning. Already, mastered Geometry?…Too bad, plan on giving them ten hours of your life understanding the differences between triangles and squares. Need to work on Reading Comprehension?…Not until you work through all your Sentence Correction! …and by the way…does it really make sense to study for a computer adaptive test using a printed set of books and worksheets? I don’t think so.

Ok, maybe they aren’t so bad, but personally, I found a ton of value in identifying my strengths and improving my weaknesses.

Hence, reason #1 I recommend The Economist:  GMAT Tutor:  Their advanced learning technology adapts to your strengths and weaknesses so you can focus on what you need to know.

Your GMAT prep has to go with you. In order to get the 100 hours of prep that I recommend, you will need to be able to study anywhere. Bus, train, or while you bottle feed your newborn, you need a program that minimizes the life disruption by utilizing your downtime.

Hence, Reason #2: You can take The Economist with you anywhere with seamlessly integrated Android and iOS apps.

The technology from The Economist GMAT Tutor is great, but ultimately it isn’t good enough. You shouldn’t trust a computer to be the only grader on your AWA practice exams and you are not going to maximize your score if you don’t develop a test day strategy. You are going to need a human for both of these things.

Reason #3:  The Economist GMAT Tutor offers excellent live support and every plan includes one-on-one tutoring.

Finally, who am I again? Why should you listen to me? You need some reassurance that if you spend this kind of money and do the work, you are going to get what you pay for.

Reason #4:  The Economist GMAT Tutor has the best guarantee I have seen (up to 70 points improvement or your money back) and you can try it yourself risk-free for 7 days. There is your reassurance.

Economist GMAT Tutor free trial

GMAT a.k.a. The Worst Part of Applying to Business School

First, let’s talk goals.  I often hear people with H/S/W/C aspirations, applying with scores 40 points below the school’s median score.  Don’t fall into that trap. The GMAT is one of the only parts of your application that you have complete control of. “BUT, the range for HBS is 510-790,” you say. Don’t be stupid, you know what range means.  We both know that only one person with a 510 was accepted.  That person had a 3.9+ GPA at a top 50 undergrad institution, spent the last three years killing it at a top consulting, banking, or PE firm, was from an under-represented minority, and wrote an incredibly convincing essay about why they struggle with standardize tests and why tests are a poor predictor of their abilities.  That person is not you; you are probably more like me.

You need to determine two scores.  First, you should set your goal at or 10 points above the median GMAT score of your demographic at your target schools.  If you have a low undergrad GPA, set your goal high. You can do some research on the schools website, but most of the information there will for the entire class.  It is better to go to and review the GMAT scores for accepted prior year applicants of your gender and nationality. This is especially important for over-represented groups.  Second, you need to determine your lowest acceptable score.  This is the lowest score that will not cause you to retake the test.  You should give some thought to this score; ultimately it will depend on how firm you are on attending a particular school.  If you are dead-set on H/S, you should be thinking 730 or 740 as a goal and 700 or 710 as a lowest acceptable score.  I was not sure where I wanted to go and was exploring schools with a wide-range of median scores.  For this reason, I set my goal at 720 and my minimally acceptable score at 700.  I ultimately landed at 710 for the composite (Quant and Verbal) and perfect scores on both AWA and IR (you should try for perfect also because it isn’t difficult).

Practice testing is the best predictor of how you will perform on test day.  Some practice tests are better predictors than others.  GMAC does not release their scoring algorithm, so test prep companies have to “guess” what your score would be and some are better at this than others.  The best predictors are the two practice tests you get from GMAC when you register for the GMAT. These are the only practice tests with the actual GMAT scoring algorithm.  They also have real (but retired) GMAT questions.  On the actual GMAT, some questions (likely in the middle-not the first or last 7-10 questions in both verbal and quant) are not scored.  GMAC uses these unscored questions on actual GMAT test takers to try out new questions.  I believe this is the only difference between the actual test and the GMAC practice tests, where all questions are scored.  GMAC recommends taking one of their practice exams when you begin your studies, then again before the exam. I disagree, save both of these valuable tests until the end of your studies.  There are plenty of other less valuable practice exams you can take in the beginning. You should be testing 20-30 points above your minimally acceptable GMAT score prior to taking the test.  This will maximize your chance of hitting your minimal score, while accounting for test day stress (which could lower your performance) and possibly getting unlucky on which questions are scored (you could waste time on unscored questions and miss scored questions at the end of the section).

Preparation for the GMAT was really important for me.  I am very impatient and have a short attention span.  Simply said, sitting in a dark room and taking a 4 hour long test is my nightmare. I have always performed better in the classroom than on standardized test.  I scored a 490 on my first GMAT practice test.  I was so over the exam that I started guessing on every question just to get to the next break. My biggest battle for the GMAT was not learning the material, but training my body and mind to endure a 4 hour test.  In addition, the GMAT is a total pain in the @$$.  The test is adaptive, meaning that every question you receive will challenge you regardless of your intelligence level.

I had been out of college for 5 years prior to beginning my studies.  For this reason, I thought I would be better served by an instructor led course.  I ended up really regretting this.  I signed up for the Princeton Review and the instructor never showed up.  Once I got my money back, I signed up for Kaplan.  There are three problems with these courses.  First, the quality of the course is highly dependent on the quality of the instructor you get. My Princeton Review instructor didn’t show up and my Kaplan instructor quit half-way through the course (her replacement was terrible).  Second, these courses (at least the ones offered here in Indianapolis) are not geared towards students with 700+ aspirations. If you are thinking H/S/W/C, chances are you will be the smartest person in the room and will spend 3 hours per week learning concepts you could teach yourself in 30 minutes.  Third, these courses are unnecessarily expensive.  Online live or on-demand courses are much less expensive and will likely have much better instructors.  In fact, Kaplan hosts a couple live classes online for their instructor lead course.  I found the online instructors to be much better and the format to be more convenient (their AWA session was priceless, for example).  I did really appreciate being able to take the Kaplan practice exams in the actual testing center.  This is a very unique opportunity.

Eventually, I gave up on Kaplan and purchased the Economist GMAT Tutor.  This was fantastic.  The adaptive learning style mirrors the GMAT testing format better than instructor led courses or books, it is mobile ready, I found the one-on-one tutoring to be very useful and a great value, and they have the best guarantee (+70 points on the premium course).

My Top 6 Tips and Tricks for the GMAT

  1. As I stated in my previous GMAT post, not all questions are scored, so why should you treat all questions the same? GMAC tests new questions on GMAT test takers. These unscored questions are likely to appear in the middle of the exam.  So if you are running behind or if you read a question that is going to take too much time (much more than 2 minutes during Quant or 1:40 minutes during verbal) guess and move on!  There is a decent chance the question might not be scored or you could get it right anyway.  This strategy will buy you time to focus on the questions that matter the most, the first 7-10 and the last 7-10 questions.
  2. Do some studying on your own to familiarize yourself to format, timing, and question types before taking your first practice exam. Diving into a 4-hour exam with no familiarity will be a waste of your time and possibly demoralizing.  If you are purchasing exam materials or courses, they might ask you to take the exam during the first week of studying to set a baseline for their score guarantee.  This is even more reason to begin your studies before testing, a 50 point guarantee on a 500 will do you no good if your goal is 700.
  3. Utilize the course reviews and free resources on prior to purchasing any materials beside the Official Guide.
  4. You should spend almost as much time reviewing your mistakes (wrong answers and taking too long) on practice exams as taking them.
  5. Plan to spend 100-130 hours on your prep (including practice exams).
  6. Sign-up for two exams 1 month apart once you think you will be ready for the exam. Most people end up taking the test twice anyway and knowing that you have that second opportunity will really relax you during the first test.  If you do end up testing well the first time, you can cancel the second and know that it was worth the investment to have that extra piece of mind.  If you do not do well on the first exam, you might not be able to sign up the next exam for a couple months and that is not ideal.  In general, it is worth retaking the exam if you feel you can do 20+ points better (unless you score 750+, please do not retake the test if you score in the 99th percentile!).


My Harvard Post-Interview Reflection (PIR)

Harvard asks you to write a post interview reflection (PIR) within 24 hours of your interview. Many have said that there is little you can do in this reflection to get in, but there are a few things you can do to eliminate yourself.  Here are my tips:

  1. Follow instructions.  Make sure you have a plan to complete the PIR and have access to internet.  Do not delete your upload once complete (even though the system will allow you too).
  2. Allow time to reflect. Although it will be very helpful to jot down some details about your interview immediately following the interview, that is not the time to write the PIR.
  3. Complete other visit activities around interview day. Attending class visits and other interview day activities will not only be beneficial for you, but will also benefit your PIR by providing additional data points that you can use while writing.
  4. DO NOT WRITE IT AHEAD OF TIME!  They will smell it from a mile away and they have specifically asked you not to do so. In addition, this is intended to be a reflective exercise.

You’ve just had your HBS interview.  How well did we get to know you?  

Twenty-four hours is not a lot of time.  My wife and I meet in sixth grade.  Seven years later, we started dating and four years after that we got married.  I spent five years building my family and developing myself and earning three promotions at my company. It has taken twenty-eight years for me to become the man I am today. However, a lot can happen in twenty-four hours. As I reflect on my interview, I cannot help but to also think about my entire day at HBS.

Jane, when you began by telling me that you were impressed by my application, I could not believe it.  “Impressed by me? I am just a kid from Indiana. How could someone from Harvard Business School be impressed with me?”

Although I may have not nailed every question, I believe you did get to know me in my interview. However, you know the version of me that existed twenty-four hours ago. Since that interview, I met war heroes and Ivy-league scholars that could be my future classmates, I learned about the seemingly endless amounts of opportunities at the CPD, and I toured the world-class facilities at iLab. I am starting to really get it:  I can see what I can do with an HBS MBA. Twenty-four hours ago I did not believe I was special, but if you are still considering me to join you at this amazing place, I must be.

Jane, you asked me if there was anything else I wanted to share at the end of my interview. I attempted to convey how I was passionate about using business to have a positive impact on people’s lives. In the last twenty-four hours, I have realized how big that impact could be.  Twenty years from now my company will have a different CEO and in the next twenty years dozens (maybe hundreds) of entrepreneurs will start biotechs that will disrupt healthcare and save lives. Twenty-four hours ago I would have asked, “Why should that be me?”  Now I am asking, “Why not me?”

The Top 5 Free GMAT Prep Resources

Most people find the GMAT very difficult. Whether you are out of the habit of studying or can’t seem to remember that you need to flip the fraction to find the reciprocal, most of us are going to need some help before we sit for the test. In a previous post, I outlined my approach to GMAT preparations. However, you maybe on a budget or just getting started and aren’t willing to shove out thousands of dollars for courses and materials to prepare for the test. Lucky for you, there are some great FREE resources available. Here are my top five:

Kaplan GMAT Test Prep

Kaplan GMAT Test Prep

5. Ken Tran from Kaplan pointed me to the GMAT community homepage, where testers can preview all of Kaplan’s free resources. My favorite is the free practice test. Unlike many free practice tests, Kaplan tries to simulate test-day conditions with an actual proctored exam. If you enroll in the paid course, you can even take your practice exam at the real test center, an awesome feature that is unique to Kaplan as far as I can tell.

Economist GMAT Tutor

Economist GMAT Tutor

4. Economist’s adaptive GMAT preparation, best-in-class score guarantee, and included one-on-one tutoring make the paid version an incredible value.  They also offer a free trial version. The Economist will let you try their course for 7 days, take a practice exam, and schedule a one-on-one tutoring sessions all for free.

3. Veritas Prep’s Mobile App:  The first of two mobile apps on this list, Veritas Prep’s prep app is free on the app store. The app, actually designed to accompany the paid course, still allows you to stream all (yes I mean ALL) of Veritas’s course videos without parting with a single penny. Veritas’s video instructors keep it interesting with light candor while they radiate some of industry’s best instruction and most practical tips, making Veritas Prep the highest rated course on



2. Our second app was design to be free. So unlike Veritas Prep, there is no referring back to paid material you do not have access to. Prep4GMAT recently redesigned their app and what a difference it made. The new app is user friendly and allows for easy progress tracking and weakness identifying.

GMAT prep now

GMAT prep now

1.  The holy grail of free GMAT offers 500 videos including 35 hours of expert GMAT instruction.  Unlike most GMAT prep courses, which use made-up questions, GMAT Prep Now use questions directly out of the Official Guide. This guarantees that you are not wasting time with questions you will not see on the test and also gives you confidence in the level of difficulty of the practice questions. Brent Hanneson from GMAT prep now did not say why they started offering the course for free when contacted for this post; however, their website says, “our biggest reason is that we’re proud of our course.”  Whatever that means…I don’t get it.  All I know is you now have access to hours of high-quality content for FREE!

How to pick the right business school for your MBA

Your first task is to define what you are looking for in your MBA, where you see yourself afterwards and how much effort you are willing to put into the program. Before you even start to look at schools, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you want to study abroad or would you prefer to remain in the country where you are right now? If abroad – are you planning to return or would you rather settle down somewhere else?
  1. What is your main intention of the MBA? It could be a planned change of industry and/or position, the next step towards a promotion, a desire to expand your network, the attempt to get international exposure or an approach to leave your comfort zone and let your views be challenged.
  1. Define how important the brand of the school is for your plans. Do you have to rely on the career services team to find a job? Should recruiters have heard of your school or is that not of importance in your target industry?
  1. Do you thrive in large groups or do small team sizes allow you to excel? Would you rather have some internal competition or a focus on teamwork and collaboration?

Having answers to these questions will make your decision process easier. However, if you are still unsure in a certain area you can also come back to this later.

Now it is time to start narrowing down your selection:

Stage A — USA vs Europe vs Asia

To make this first decision, it is important to know where you are going to look for a job after the MBA. US schools have the longest history and many of them are considered the best in the world. However, the level of international diversity is fairly low compared to European schools. Harvard Business School’s class of 2017, for instance has 71% students from North America whereas INSEADs class of 2017 is diversely represented by Europe (37%), Asia (31%), North America (14%), Middle East/Africa (10%) and Latin America (7%).

Study where you want to work. U.S. schools mainly teach U.S. related business cases, give you a strong U.S. network and have companies hiring for the U.S. job market on campus. You will be perfectly prepared for the States, but if you plan on working in Europe or Asia these things will be less relevant.

The same goes for Asia: Choose a school based in Asia if you have a dedicated interest to work there, to learn an Asian language or to develop intense networking relations to the continent. If none of those apply, cross it out.

European schools are more global: you will develop deep connections to classmates from many countries and will see them re-locate to all corners of the world once the MBA is over. Anyhow, the focus is again local: you will mainly meet recruiters who are looking to hire for the European job market. And here even the country choice inside Europe becomes important because in most of the cases you will need to speak the local language of the country where you want to work in. Study in Barcelona and learn Spanish if you want to work in Spain. Go to Paris and learn French to get a position in France. If you are from Europe and plan on returning home after the MBA, consider the additional language as a plus for your profile.

Stage B — 1-year vs 2-year program

Once you are sure with the continent, you will have to pick the program length.

Do you already have a great position at work where you want to return to as quickly as possible with your newly earned MBA knowledge? Are you not interested in an international exchange program or in an industry switch where an internship could help you? Go with the 1-year option. You will experience a fully packed intensive year where you will learn all the business skills, have ample networking opportunities and start with your post-MBA job hunt from day one. However, you will not have much time to reflect and try out new things. A year is quickly over and your game plan should be set out already before you start.

The 2-year option will give you a similarly intensive first year where you will cover all the main subjects. You will have more time to find yourself and learn about all the interesting experiences from your classmates, though. The second year with its international exchange and corporate internship gives you ample opportunity to try out a new industry and re-position yourself during the MBA. If you are still open for different industries and want to take as much as possible from the MBA experience, a 2-year program is the best fit for you.

Stage C — Rankings / Tier 1 vs Tier 2

Now that you have a rough idea of how your MBA program of choice should look like, it is time to consult the rankings. In the end it is about personal fit, but rankings normally correspond to the brand awareness that recruiters have towards the several schools and are a good indicator if the schools can be considered tier 1, tier 2 or even tier 3.

Start with the schools that have been continuously in the Top 10 (Top 20) over the past couple years and cross-compare different rankings (Financial Times, Economist, Forbes, Bloomberg, Business Insider). Work your way down from the top and cross out all the schools that do not comply with your Stage A and Stage B requirements.

You should be left with only a couple of schools that make it into Stage D.

Stage D — School specific pros and cons

This is the part where you actually have to conduct your own research. You are trying to figure out which of the schools are strong in the areas that you consider important. Now it is not only about facts and figures but also about your personal feeling towards the school. Can you picture yourself studying there? Assess the following areas to get a full overview:

Campus location

  • Country / Area
  • City vs village
  • Lively and crowded campus vs quiet campus
  • Commute distance and time from housing to campus
  • Language
  • Climate

Class profile

  • Diversity of nationalities
  • Diversity of industries
  • Male / female ratio
  • GMAT average
  • Class size and overall students


  • Collaborative vs competitive
  • Conservative vs liberal
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Strength of bonds formed
  • Individual support


  • Electives
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Exclusive opportunities such as business labs or real world consulting projects
  • Case method vs various teaching methods
  • Grading system (bell curve?)


  • Demanding vs relaxed
  • Amount of workload
  • Time pressure


  • Industry ties
  • Hiring firms on campus
  • Partnership with other business schools
  • Brand awareness
  • Mission values and goals

Costs and Scholarship

  • Total tuition fees
  • Living expenses
  • Likelihood to receive a scholarship

Alumni network

  • Size and spread of alumni network
  • Interpersonal bond of alumni and personal identification with the school
  • Number, frequency, size, and location of alumni events

Industry focus

  • In which field do most graduates find a job?
  • What is the school known for?

Career services quality

  • Percentage of students finding a job after the MBA
  • Total salary and salary increase

Once you completed all four stages you will have a selection of schools that you can apply to. Get in touch with the admission team to discuss your profile and get help with your application. Be aware that a campus visit will not only give you great insight on the “feel” of the school but will also give you an edge in your application essays. Towards the admission committee, it is a strong sign of dedication and will be considered in your favor.

All the best with finding your future business school!


About the Author

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Andreas on the roof of IESE in Barcelona

Andreas is a Class of 2018 MBA candidate at IESE Business School in Barcelona. He went from his first MBA research in October to taking the GMAT in December to getting 100% school admits in January.  As a diploma master mariner, he currently sails the world on a 500-person cruise ship where he leads 160 crew members. His interest in the management world was sparked when he interned in his families maritime ship supplier business. He loves to read about tech, innovation, and stock markets and keeps himself fit with running, gym workouts, and football. You can read more from Andreas on his blog at

School Profile: Duke MBA

Perhaps known best for its men’s basketball team – winners of five national championships, including last year’s  – Duke University is also home to an elite full-time MBA program. Located in Durham, NC, the Fuqua School of Business’ MBA program graduates about 400 students annually. Over the last fifteen years, US News & World Report and […]