Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Head-To-Head Analysis: Veritas Prep versus Manhattan GMAT

For people looking at which GMAT courses to take, many seem to debate between Veritas Prep or Manhattan GMAT. Both programs seem to have great offerings on their websites and both contend that the only way to really decide which program has the advantage is to take both courses and decide for themselves.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to do just that.

My GMAT Background
Self-study with Kaplan Premier Program 2008 Edition: 7/2007 - 10/2007

Veritas Prep 7-week course (Woodland Hills, CA): 10/2007 - 12/2007

Manhattan GMAT 9-week course (Westlake Village, CA): 1/2008 - 3/2008

For each program, I took advantage of every available resource, including all classes, homework, online lectures, and CAT exams.

First Look
Veritas: The course met twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday between 7-10PM. This class met in a conference room in the Trillium Towers, with a class size of about 8-12 students.

MGMAT: The course met once a week, every Saturday between 2-5PM. This class met in a classroom at Pepperdine University Westlake Campus, with a class size of about 8-12 students.

Overall: MGMAT has the advantage here. The university classroom setting is much more conducive to learning than the conference room setting. Meeting every Saturday rather than two evenings per week may be more suitable for working professionals.

Teaching style
Veritas: During a typical session, the instructor would use the first 30 - 45 minutes to go over the previous session's homework problems. The instructor would then spend some time going over the material in the current strategy guide. He would then do the classroom problems contained in the strategy guide, and even some homework problems if there was extra time at the end of class. Outside the classroom, students were expected to finish the rest of the homework problems from the strategy guide.

The Veritas style is reminiscent of the way classes at the K-12 level are taught. Most of the learning is done in the classroom, with some homework from the strategy guide due every week.

MGMAT: During a typical session, the instructor would cover the week's material from a MGMAT PowerPoint presentation. Classroom problems would be covered throughout the lesson as well. Outside the classroom, students were expected to view supplementary online sessions called "labs". The students were also expected to read the strategy guides on their own and finish the problems from those strategy guides. Each strategy guide also had a list of online questions at the MGMAT website called "question banks" for even more practice. Students were also assigned homework problems from the three Official Guide books, which was published by the creators of the GMAT test.

The MGMAT style is reminiscent of the way college classes are taught. The instructor would cover all the necessary topics in class, but most of the learning is done outside the classroom. MGMAT provides a plethora of materials required for success but it is up to the student to utilize them.

Overall: MGMAT has the advantage here, especially since most people taking the GMAT are quite familiar with the college course teaching style already. What it allows is the ability to maximize the amount of material taught without being limited by classroom hours. Even for those who prefer the K-12 style, they are constrained by limited classroom hours and may not be able to learn all the necessary strategies needed to attain a satisfactory GMAT score.

Veritas: My instructor for this course was George Yates. George stated that he scored in the 99th percentile on the GMAT. He is extremely intelligent, though his teaching ability was average at best. He knew the Veritas strategies and materials very well, though not much else, such as Veritas services provided online. George's biggest shortcoming was that he was quite unfamiliar with the actual GMAT itself. Often times, George could rarely give a confident or correct answer when students questioned him on details around the real test. He also wasn't familiar with basic strategies for the GMAT, such as avoiding the myth that states that the first 10 questions are the most important.

George would also struggle with questions not from the Veritas material, especially difficult questions students would bring in from CAT exams. For Quant, George would usually only provide his favorite way of solving problems, limiting some students' ability to learn multiple ways of attacking problems. For Sentence Correction, George relied too much on his ear and not so much on hard grammar rules, making it difficult for those students that did not have that same ear to learn successfully.

MGMAT: My instructor for this course was Pete Eisen. Pete also scored in the 99th percentile on the GMAT. He is also extremely intelligent, though his teaching ability was better than George's. Pete, in contrast, knew quite a lot about the GMAT itself. This was due to not only that Pete had taken the real GMAT multiple times, but also that MGMAT equips its instructors with updated GMAT facts, something Veritas does not do.

Pete was quite good at approaching difficult questions he had never seen before. For Quant, Pete would sometimes give three different approaches to solving the same problem, allowing students to choose their own preference. For Sentence Correction, Pete explicitly stated not to rely on the ear. Pete knew the hard rules of grammar, and explained how the ear could only be trusted on a few problems, such as those that tested idioms.

Overall: MGMAT's instructors have the advantage since they are knowledgeable not only about their own program's materials, but also about the actual GMAT itself since MGMAT spends the time to equip them with such information. They are also more versatile in their teaching style and teach the best ways to approach difficult problems.

Strategy Guides

- Problem Solving
Veritas: The Veritas strategy guides start by teaching a math concept and then provide a slew of practice problems that use that concept. The strategy guides cover about 80 - 90% of the concepts that are tested on the GMAT, though there are definitely some noticeable gaps. For example, factoring quadratic equations is noticeably missing. The strategy guides also cover some topics that are not needed on the GMAT. For example, only about 3 of the 30 pages on the probability strategy guide pertain to the GMAT while the rest of the section is not needed at all.

MGMAT: The MGMAT strategy guides also start by teaching a math concept, but then they go further by teaching the tricks and pitfalls of each concept the GMAT test writers like to exploit. After uncovering many of these possible tricks, old GMAT problems from the official guide are used as examples of those pitfalls. These strategy guides indeed cover every single math concept needed for the GMAT. But again, MGMAT goes even further by cutting out math concepts that are not needed for the GMAT. For example, rather than teach the traditional method for combinations/permutations, they teach a simpler anagram method since that is all that is needed for the exam.

Overall: MGMAT's strategy guides for problem solving comes out ahead. They not only teach all necessary the math concepts, but also teach what pitfalls to watch out for that the GMAT often likes to use in its questions, something that Veritas does not do. MGMAT is also are more focused on the GMAT, teaching only what is needed and going no further, while Veritas admits that some of its material are not needed for the GMAT.

- Data Sufficiency
Veritas: Veritas covers Data Sufficiency in week 4, which is a bit late in the course. For selecting an answer choice, the strategy guide recommends setting up a decision tree, a method which is not completely intuitive. The guide also covers Yes/No Data Sufficiency questions and go over a few simple Data Sufficiency reminders.

MGMAT: MGMAT covers Data Sufficiency from the first week and continues throughout almost every week in the course. For selecting an answer choice, the strategy guides recommend setting up a AD/BCE diagram which is easy to follow and has noticeable benefits. The MGMAT guides also cover the same simple reminders as Veritas's does, but does not spend much time on them. Rather, MGMAT focuses most of its attention on "rephrasing" Data Sufficiency questions, a technique that is extremely useful, especially for the most difficult questions.

Overall: Though the simple reminders are covered by both, MGMAT has the advantage on several levels. MGMAT has a more sophisticated answer selection method while Veritas's is not very intuitive. MGMAT also teaches the importance of "rephrasing" while Veritas stops at providing simple Data Suffciency reminders. Lastly, MGMAT engages Data Sufficiency earlier in the course while Veritas does not cover it until half the course is over.

- Sentence Correction
Veritas: The Veritas strategy guides start by identifying 7 different types of sentence correction errors, and gives a description about each one. What is noticeably missing, however, are the hard grammars rules and strategies on how to attack each of those question types. The back of the first book contains a long list of grammar rules listed in such a haphazard way that my instructor would not even touch it. The second book covers idioms in more depth, giving examples of 11 total idioms.

MGMAT: The MGMAT strategy guide starts by covering the importance of the correction, clarity, and concision when approaching any sentence correct problem. It then spends one chapter for each of the 7 major error types, covering hard grammar rules which are used to successfully identify errors. Each chapter also contains strategies to more effectively identify errors in an efficient manner. Also, the guide has a final chapter which gives problems that don't fit the 7 error types and the hard grammar rules and strategies for attacking those as well. The chapter on idioms also contains over 100 of the most popular idioms used on the GMAT.

Overall: MGMAT is the clear victor in this space. While Veritas identifies the same errors as MGMAT, it goes no further than a simple description. On the other hand, MGMAT goes above and beyond by identifying those errors, teaching the proper grammar rules and covering strategies to make the process more fluid. MGMAT truly covers all aspects of sentence correction in depth.

- Critical Reasoning
Veritas: The Veritas strategy guides begin by covering the structure of an argument. They then go over 6 types of critical reasoning questions, devoting a small paragraph on each type, followed a number of critical reasoning questions. The guides also make a poor attempt at boldfaced questions, showing only one type of boldfaced question without any strategies to approach them.

MGMAT: The MGMAT strategy guide also provides the structure of an argument, though it goes in more depth. For example, they not only discuss the importance of identifying the conclusion, but cover the three of the most common types of conclusions. Even before going into question types, the guide goes over the concept of diagramming critical reasoning questions. Though this may not seem helpful for easier problems, the benefit comes when faced with extremely difficult questions where the logical flow is not immediately apparent.

Next, the strategy guide gives basic but useful strategies such as how to deal with boundary words, extreme words, and "Except" questions. Finally, it devotes complete chapters to 4 major types of critical reasoning questions, going into pages of detail about what strategies to use for approaching each one along with examples. There is also a complete chapter for boldfaced questions, which contains a basic strategy on how to approach them in general. Lastly, the strategy guide also has small blurbs on how to approach 7 minor types of critical reasoning questions that don't appear as often on the GMAT.

Overall: MGMAT has a clear advantage here. MGMAT strategy guides cover critical reasoning more completely, with more in-depth strategies, and a diagramming method that is extremely useful for difficult GMAT questions.

- Reading Comprehension
Veritas: The Veritas strategy guide quickly covers three reading passage types, and gives a short blurb on focusing on the scope, tone, and main point. It provides a few words on the two types of question and gives a couple of pages of advice that don't strictly pertain to reading comprehension specifically, but to test-taking in general.

MGMAT: The MGMAT strategy guide also covers the two question types, but actually spends a good number of pages on what strategies to use to approach them. But what sets MGMAT apart here is that it begins with distinguishing between short and long passages and teaches a way to diagram each type. The idea here is that when coming across difficult reading passages like those on the GMAT, diagramming, or note taking in general, enhances comprehension.

Overall: This really depends on personal preference. Some test-takers are able to read the GMAT passages, understand it right off the bat and can answer the questions without much difficulty. In this case, the MGMAT diagramming method may slow the person down without much benefit. However, most other test-takers, myself included, who often struggle with GMAT passages would benefit from diagramming the most. Reading a dry and difficult passage after just having spent hours on essay writing and difficult math problems often lead to zoning out and a lack of passage comprehension. The diagramming method reduces this risk, so the amount of time used for diagramming is worth the increase in accuracy.

Also, while using the Veritas strategies, questions about specific passage details would often feel like an Easter egg hunt. On the other hand, MGMAT's diagramming method creates a map so details can be easily located in the passage.

- Overall
Veritas: Though the Veritas strategy guides does lack in several areas, the information that is provided should be good enough for a score in the 600's. They cover about 80-90% of the needed material at a high level. On the other hand, the strategy guides do seem a bit old and dated, with poorly divided page spacing in terms of the diagrams and examples. Much of the most recent material is also eerily similar to when the guides were first introduction between 2002 and 2005.

MGMAT: The MGMAT strategy guides are extremely useful, and provide the skills and strategies needed to break the 700 barrier. All concepts are tied directly to specific strategies, which are then tied to previous GMAT questions The strategy guides well presented and looked like an actual textbook, and seem to be continuously updated.

Computer Adaptive Tests
Veritas: Though their website claims to offer 15 CAT exams, Veritas itself actually does not offer any exams. Rather, Veritas gives its students exams purchased from third parties. The breakdown of the exams is as follows:

- Two exams are given free by GMAC, available here:

- Three exams are on a CD from the book Master the GMAT 2006. The newest 2008 version of the book, which includes a CD, is available for $23.75 here:

- Five exams are from, available for $24.95 here:

- Five exams are from, available for $45 here:

Most of these exams were average or even below average at best. The only exams here that will truly aid in preparation are the two free GMAC CAT exams.

MGMAT: MGMAT offers 6 self-made, adaptive exams. For each of these exams, you are able to see what level each question is, along with detailed explanations for each one. MGMAT also strongly recommends using the two free GMAC CAT exams.

Overall: Do not let the offering of CAT exams be the deciding factor for choosing Veritas over MGMAT. The 13 exams Veritas purchases feel inferior to MGMAT's six exams and both programs recommend the two free GMAC exams.

It is interesting to note that a person could actually take the MGMAT course ($1090) and purchase the same exams as Veritas does ($93.70), and come out a couple hundred dollars ahead of the Veritas course ($1500). However, after taking the MGMAT CAT exams, you would see that the other purchased exams are really not worth the time or money.

Veritas Prep is for you if:
-You are looking to score in the 600's
-You prefer the K-12 teaching style
-You have the time to attend class for two sessions a week, 3 hours per session
-You have the money to pay the premium for those additional classroom hours ($1500)

Manhattan GMAT is for you if:
-You are looking to to break the 700 barrier
-You can thrive in a college course teaching style
-You have the commitment and drive to take advantage of the full program outside of what's taught just in the classroom

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please feel free to email me at Please put "GMAT Blog" as the subject line. I usually respond within 1-2 days.

All information regarding Veritas Prep is true as of December 13, 2007.
All information regarding Manhattan GMAT is true as of March 29, 2008.