Free GMAT Preparation vs. Online GMAT Course
The major advantage of free GMAT preparation over a GMAT online course is that it’s free, obviously, but that is probably the only advantage. This is not to say that GMAT preparation without third party assistance is impossible, but it is much harder, more time-consuming, and less likely to take you to your target GMAT score. Here’s why.
First, most of the free GMAT study guides and practice tests are not exhaustive; they do not always represent the kinds and extent of theory and questions you will face on the GMAT. Indeed, if all that free GMAT content so heavily advertised online was sufficient, why would anyone pay for online GMAT services?
Second, many GMAT blogs and articles are written by freelance bloggers who have a very general idea of the GMAT but are more interested in attracting attention to their articles than they are in giving you useful information. Of course, you can rely on the information you find in blogs and forums presented by GMAT prep companies; those are written by expert GMAT instructors. But do you really think those companies would give away ALL the information you need for GMAT preparation, making their own GMAT courses unnecessary?
Still, if your target score is not far from your current GMAT score, if you are ready and able to search and filter online information, and if you have sufficient time for study, you might succeed with free GMAT preparation. Given the number of IFs in the last sentence, however, this is not likely to be your situation, and taking a good online GMAT course will probably work better for you.
If you decide nevertheless to try free GMAT preparation, here are several helpful hints:
Register at mba.com, the official website of the Graduate Management Admission Council, and download free GMATPrep software. This software is free and contains two full-length GMAT tests that consist of questions previously used on actual GMATs. This free GMAT software is the only way to determine accurately what your GMAT score would be if you were to take the GMAT right now. (To get the most reliable result, do not use a calculator or anything else that is not allowed on the GMAT.) It’s a good idea to take one of the tests before you start preparing, so you can see where you need to focus your preparation, and then take the other one when you think you are ready for the GMAT, just to check.
Make your GMAT preparation semi-free. Probably the only must-have book for every GMAT student is The Official Guide for GMAT Review; it may not be an exhaustive source of theory but it has hundreds of retired practice questions—real GMAT questions that were once used on the GMAT. This book and free GMAT software combined will show you what you can expect on the GMAT.
Learn all the theory that the GMAT tests—math, formulas, grammar, etc. Pay special attention to data sufficiency and critical reasoning questions, as they are probably different from questions you have seen before. If you are a non-native speaker, make sure your English is good. You will not be able to answer Reading Comprehension and Sentence Correction questions properly if your English is not close to native. In fact, native speakers should also devote significant amounts of time to Sentence Correction questions; you may be surprised to discover how much your spoken English is different from formal standards of English usage.
Successful free GMAT preparation is possible, but it requires effort, research, and diligence. If you can afford to enroll in a good, reasonably priced online GMAT course, do so. It will give you the materials and guided practice that, together with some effort on your part, will take you to your target GMAT score.