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Manhattan GMAT prep vs Real GMAT score

Manhattan GMAT books and MGMAT test prep software has been a long time favourite among GMAT exam takers. When working with Manhattan GMAT material, a common question that arises is whether the level of difficulty is the same as the actual GMAT or is it harder or easier.

Before we tackle that question, let’s go back in time and dig up a little bit of history. Always good to have the big picture perspective before drilling deeper. Right naa?

Manhattan GMAT and Kaplan

For many years (8 to be precise), Manhattan GMAT operated as an independent test prep company. They competed with another big name in the test prep business – Kaplan. And then, as is inevitable in any competitive industry there was consolidation. The bigger fish Kaplan, which also has a formidable presence in other test prep areas, acquired Manhattan GMAT in 2009.

The management team at MGMAT clearly saw value in the M&A deal. However competitors see it in a different light and talk about key team members from the earlier Manhattan GMAT team leaving the ship, the revenue declining, morale being low, lesser focus on innovating and re-directing the resources to other Kaplan products.

What’s true, what’s speculation? We don’t really know. What we do know is that the Manhattan GMAT Prep brand is still going strong not only across the world, but in India as well.

MGMAT books, strategy guides, SC guides have been selling well. In fact, MGMAT offers GMAT classes and courses scheduled for students in India. But compared to the local courses in Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and our all-time favouraite Jhumri Talaiyya…the Manhattan GMAT in India option is quite expensive.

How does MGMAT stack up versus it’s competitors (including the official GMAT prep software) when it comes to practice vs actual scores?

Is Manhattan GMAT more difficult than the real GMAT?

The official word from someone who’s part of the Manhattan GMAT online Marketing team is that they try to make the MGMAT tests as close to the real GMAT as possible. For instance, according to GMAC (the company that owns and runs GMAT), in the actual GMAT test the standard deviation (if you are technically inclined, they refer to it as ‘in student’ standard deviation) for scores is around 30 points.

This means that if you were to take the test multiple times without altering your competency, there is a high chance that your score range will be within 30 points of the other tests.

Manhattan GMAT tests are designed to have a similar ‘in student’ standard deviation of around 30 points. Every few months, the technical team re-calibrates the scoring logic by taking inputs from the thousands of practice tests taken by its users.

That’s the theory part. So, how do GMAT test takers who have no clue (or interest) in the behind-the-scenes technicalities and algorithm related discussions fare with MGMAT tests?

There isn’t a clear trend as you’ll find opinions that go in both directions. But a majority of Manhattan GMAT reviews on GMAT forums seem to indicate that the MGMAT tests are slightly tougher than the actual GMAT i.e. the real GMAT scores have been higher than the practice test scores.

Going by the simulation tools such as the GMAT Club GMAT score calculator, if you ignore the other tests and just play around with the MGMAT slider for multiple scores, it shows that the real GMAT score is 10 points lesser than Manhattan GMAT tests.

Interestingly, for higher values for ‘Performance under pressure’ the score improves. But again, this is a simulation based on user entered data for a limited number of volunteers. We don’t really know if the sample size is big enough for us to assume that this trend can be extrapolated for everyone.

Here’s another aspect that makes it tougher to address the MGMAT tests vs actual GMAT topic in simple terms.

The practice of re-taking tests is generally discouraged when you are using practice tests from GMAT Prep (the official version) or private players like Knewton. But Manhattan Prep allows you to reset your CATs. That means, as you get better with easier questions, the test can throw tougher ones at you using its adaptive nature. So you can take the same tests again and have a different experience and score.

One explanation to this might be that the number of questions available in the MGMAT question bank is probably significantly bigger than the others. So the likelihood of questions getting repeating is lesser, compared to other tests that have a limited question pool.

Have you used Manhattan GMAT prep books, tests or online classes? What has your experience been in the real GMAT exam? Did you score higher or lower than your MGMAT practice tests?

Have you tried our free GMAT practice test? Also if you aren’t planning to shell out big bucks on formal classroom training, check out the best GMAT prep books. If nothing else, at least pick up the GMAT Official Guide OG.

Disclaimer: We have no affiliation with Manhattan GMAT or Kaplan.

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

11 thoughts on “Manhattan GMAT prep vs Real GMAT score”

  1. Hi

    Actually i have passed my B.Tech in Applied Electronics & Instrumentation in 2009. I was placed in a good software company and One large MNC conglomerate at college. Since that year was impacted by recession , i joined the later one because it gave me joining even before results were out.But to my utter disappointment i was placed in construction sector.But due to some impending liabilities i had to reconcile & continue my job.

    However 5 years down the line, i realize that my carrier growth is somewhat stagnated.Is the recourse to MBA a feasible one????If so shall i go for CAT or GMAT.If not suggest me pragmatic ways to improvise my profile or changing my work domain .

    Soliciting your kind response in this regard

  2. Hi Sameer,

    Went through the website and I must say you doing a wonderful job by providing career guidance. Like all I am also facing such issues in my career and would need your advice in this matter. To brief you with my background, I have completed my engineering in Electronics and Instrumentation and having total experience of 3.7 years as of now. I am working as an Information security analyst with Tata Consultancy Services since starting of my career. I now want to change my career path. Thus I am planning to give GMAT (not yet started with preparations though) , Parallely I am also thinking to change my job as there are no good opportunities with in the same company, I am confused that should I change my job or give GMAT? Is my experience enough to get through some good colleges as my academics are not that great Are these part time MBA worth enough? Please guide me what is beneficial for me job change or doing MBA? Looking forward for your positive reply.

  3. Avni: Thanks for the kind words.

    Your work experience is fine for GMAT MBA programs. But an MBA can be very expensive and risky. If you can manage a career change without an MBA, that’s the best move.

  4. Good evening sir ,

    I am working in a MNC and have around 20 months (IT sector) experience.
    I have a poor academic background( X-75 , XII – 70 and B.Tech CSE -66).
    Thus in order to compensate for it I wanted to gain experience for 2 years.
    But with so much work load(even have to extend on weekends) at office I am not able to study.
    I am also convinced that this is not what I want to do rest of my life. I only continued the
    job to gain experience to compensate for poor acads. I tried to slog to study an hour daily
    and on sundays,thought of going for leave for a month in october but till now it has not
    given any positive result. Infact it has brought more frustration(It is not an an option anymore).
    So i am left with following choices

    1. Leave the job and give a genuine crack at cat. It is a risk but I am confident of clearing written exam. I getdisheartened when I see some of my friends not able to convert good b-school even after getting 98 percentile (which is the minimum I require to get good b-school calls).Also profile (acads + ex) has become a vital factor in getting a good b-school.If it is not meant to be then I can look at other options like study for gre,gmat. I am going to leave the job eventually then why delay the decision?

    2. Continue with job to gain 2+ experience and give exams next year. Keep patience and hope for best.
    Am I being foolish to leave job to study mba? or By continuing with job I am postponing things and wasting a year?

    Is there a big difference in 20 and 24 months work ex? Will leaving the job backfire at me during interviews?
    will 20 months not solve my purpose of compensating for poor acads at interview? Is having 2 years work ex that important?
    Is 2 years the minimum experience required to get any notable importance at cat(even for gmat,gre).Am I giving to much attention to smaller details
    and thinking too far ahead? Should I just focus on getting good percentile in different mba exams.

    The constant pressure of job and cracking cat is sapping energy out of me. Everyday I go to office I feel
    disgusted(feel like a mental laborer). I am becoming cynical and frustrated. I have thought about it
    alot keeping about pros and cons of both but I am going around circles and not able to take a decision.
    Can you please share your thoughts on this?

  5. Hi Sameer,

    I am kamal prajapati, BE Civil with 13 years of experience. From last few years, i am planning to take MBA, but with family and changing job, the dream has become a total dream. Now again i have started preparing for GMAT, but after 13 years.

    I need following help from your side:

    1. Is it worth taking MBA after 13 years of experience.
    2. Which school is good for MBA (India and overseas)

  6. @Dinesh: I can’t comment much on CAT MBA programs as our focus is on GMAT options. For the latter, you still have plenty of time. Rather than rushing into the GMAT test center, take your time.

    If the job is making life so difficult, consider a change of company. It takes time to find a good job. By the time you change it, your psychological milestone of 2 years would also be crossed.

    @Kamal: You could look at programs like IIMA PGPX and IMD. Other than that the options drop radically for candidates with 10+ years experience.

  7. Hello

    Myself Tathagata Mukherjee from Kolkata, India.

    I am new to gmatclub and this is my first post

    I am an engineer passed out in 2005. After that, I did my MBA from NMIMS, Mumbai, passed out in 2008.

    Worked in middle management as Area Sales Manager at Titan Industries and Bajaj Electricals for 5.7 years

    Due to my father’s treatment, I had to leave my job in Feb 2014 and since then I am out of work

    I have started preparing for GMAT since last 2.5 months. Plan to sit for it during mid July

    I have given around 3-4 mocks (Gmat Prep (2), LBS free CAT and Economist Free Mock) Scores are in the range of 650-680

    Need guidance and advice regarding :

    i> type of colleges I should target given my experience and gap
    ii> how to go about it in these last 30 odd days
    iii> how to improve my weakest sections : DS & SC

    Please advice

    Tathagata (TG)

  8. Hello
    I’ve come across your website many times now, and I’d like an honest advice! I’m a fashion design graduate from NIFT Mumbai. I graduated last year, and I’ve been working for the last 8 months. I was working as management trainee in Future Group, after which I joined as a strategy associate in a fashion marketing start up. I’d like to pursue fashion management program at a good university. I’m seriously considering GMAT. My GMAT scores in mock tests have ranged from 650 to 710. I scored 92.4% in std X and 79% in std XII. My university grade is average at 6.5 CGPA (however I scored better in management related subjects). My GMAT scores do need improvement though..! Could you suggest how I can boost my GMAT score? Also, with these credentials, which uni would it be wise to target? *I’m keen on NYU and UCLA as they are well known for fashion management programs*

  9. @Nandini: We’ve shared the success stories of many folks here. Hopefully you’ll find some tips to help.

    Ultimately it boils down to evaluating your own weakness and taking corrective steps for those. So, don’t follow anyone’s suggestions just because they cracked the test using some study plan.

    You don’t have to limit yourself to programs that are known to have electives (and contacts) in fashion, though it surely helps. But since you already have a background in the field, any good program that offers you a well-rounded management education and the opportunities to reach out your target employers should work.

    Keep in mind that the recruitment process in the fashion industry isn’t as evolved and international as the conventional optons (like consulting, technology). Most may not be willing to hire international applicants, mainly for the pain involved in getting them work permits.

  10. Hi, I am currently preparing for GMAT. I enrolled with MGMATprep and have took 5 out of the 6 practice tests. I have also used the 2 free tests offered by GMAC. I was planning to buy the remaining 4 practice tests from GMAC but after giving the 2nd GMAC test recently, i realised that their report is not useful enough to find out my areas of improvement. Can you please suggest which practice test series should i buy so that i am able to analyse my test report and then improve the required areas? Also, would it be better to reset the MGMAT tests as their report is quite good?
    I even attempted one free VeritasPrep CAT but i found some questions to be similar to the OG.


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