If you haven’t heard of The Economist by now and are applying to business school, you will hear of it almost immediately (and you should probably start reading it so you have things to talk about come interview season). While The Economist is not the biggest name in test prep, its GMAT prep course offerings provide students robust and engaging material on par with its more easily recognized competitors.
You are probably familiar with The Economist if, like me, you were required to subscribe to it when you took Introductory Macroeconomics. It is ubiquitous in both the professional and academic halves of the business world. In addition to providing generations of economics, finance, and business students the opportunity to improve their reading comprehension of business jargon, The Economist also offers test prep.
The Economist offers what I consider to be the most narrow range of GMAT test prep course offerings compared to competitors. They do not have official GMAT test prep books, offer in-person courses, or sell stand-alone practice tests.
I would also consider The Economist’s offerings to be moderately expensive compared to competitors, as the entry point for studying with its materials is $799. While this price is about the same or less than other test prep companies’ online courses, The Economist’s offerings do not include instruction. They are basically all self-study, which makes the price quite steep.
I give The Economist’s GMAT prep course offerings four out of five stars. If you’re looking for a top-notch self-study prep course that has the safety net of a real and accessible human tutor and you are willing to pay The Economist’s price, you will have access to a comprehensive, adaptive, and mobile-friendly GMAT prep experience. The Economist is so confident you will do well that they even offer a 70-point score improvement guarantee, which is a brave target to hit—competitors usually offer a 50-point option.
If you’re not excited enough about your brand new Economist subscription (either required by a class, out of obligation to business school prep, or as a result of signing up for one of these prep programs) but want to read more about its benefits, read on below for why The Economist gets one of my highest ratings for any GMAT prep course.
As I discussed above, The Economist offers one of the most narrow approaches to GMAT test prep in the field. They do not have physical prep materials (books) and do not offer stand-alone practice tests (great for benchmarking, available with their programs). The price range for The Economist’s offerings is pretty narrow and their programs are fairly similar, but my favorite and best pick is the Premium plan. These plans are also regularly on sale (for up to $300 off), so take a look or scan the internet for discount codes—they exist.
The Economist offers enterprising and online-oriented GMAT test-takers the following GMAT prep course plans:
The Economist also offers test-takers the option to extend whatever plan they’re on for an additional 3 months at a reduced cost, though this has to be negotiated by the test-taker. This is great for anyone who signs up for the shorter Complete or Premium plans and finds themselves wanting to push further. It is also ideal for the test-taker who has to extend their test-day registration due to some extenuating life circumstance. Flexibility is always a plus when it comes to test prep.
All of The Economist’s GMAT prep course options include a digital subscription to The Economist—great for improving reading comprehension. It will help you with one of my tips for preparing for business school: reading the business research literature. All of these programs also include access to The Economist’s mobile app, which I’ll discuss more below.
Some logistic drawbacks to The Economist’s GMAT prep course offerings include that they do not offer stand-alone GMAT practice tests. Also, when compared to competitors, the difficulty of the material is on par with the standard difficulty of the actual GMAT (objectively good) but does not necessarily push test-takers.
That being said, student reviewers consistently note that their GMAT practice tests offer test-takers a range of high quality questions, thorough answer explanations, and an accurate and dependable scoring system that was consistent with their GMAC practice test and actual test-day results. Unfortunately, you cannot buy these practice tests directly from The Economist, which is a downer.
I do recommend, in addition to taking advantage of the two GMAC practice tests that come with registering for the actual GMAT, to sign up for the free 7-day trial of The Economist’s materials. This trial comes with one practice test and it does not require a credit card (it’s actually free). It is a great way to assess your progress if you are not actually engaged with one of The Economist’s GMAT prep course offerings.
Finally, The Economist offers an industry-standard plus score guarantee. For their Premium and Ultimate plans, they offer a 70+ point score improvement (50+ for the complete plan, which is still great), and boast an average improvement of 102 points on the GMAT. Unlike some of their competitors—whom I have chastised for having unnecessarily and arbitrarily complicated refund processes—The Economist’s process is both simple and straightforward.
I discuss a few more highlights and drawbacks to The Economist’s GMAT prep course offerings below.
While many of the test prep giants (Kaplan, Princeton, Manhattan) boast world-class instruction, curriculum development, and support staff, the people at The Economist stack up. The Economist’s packages do not offer any structured, classroom instruction but, when students take advantage of their live tutor sessions or ask-a-tutor questions, they see results.
Test-takers and reviewers across all levels of success (from perfect scores to people who had legitimate complaints about the program) are in agreement that the tutoring and support staff at The Economist offer test-takers both excellent customer service and the test expertise you should expect from a paid test prep experience.
While The Economist does not offer video support, they make up for it by providing ask-a-tutor support via video chat. If you want to speak to a real, caring, qualified human being during your experience with The Economist’s GMAT test prep course, you can. That cannot be said for everyone.
If you have read any of my other reviews, you will know that I am kind of a hard-ass when it comes to judging the online and mobile prep capability of GMAT test prep companies. Most of the apps or mobile experiences offered by GMAT prep companies are frankly not that good and, other than serving as a selling point for the current smartphone and app-obsessed generation, most test prep apps do not provide students much functional utility to prepare for the GMAT.
The Economist’s GMAT prep course online and mobile options stand apart from the rest. Unlike some of their competitors, the app does not just offer students the opportunity to review concepts and questions on the go like they are flipping through a pile of flashcards. The mobile functionality is virtually the same as the desktop and browser options and allows students to engage with tutors via chat. This feature is great for students who may have a question on a topic they are studying up on between classes, meetings at work, or while commuting.
It might seem contrary to the ethos of most test prep companies, but The Economist’s GMAT prep course does not offer any physical books or materials. While you can certainly pair The Economist’s GMAT prep course offerings with physical books—I get it, maybe you just want to read a few paragraphs on the subway—the adaptive, in-depth course means you do not necessarily have to.
I offer my suggestion for which physical materials The Economist’s GMAT prep course pairs well with (spoiler alert, it is the GMAC Official Guides), but not having to pick up physical copies of your study materials is a huge plus for me. An all-online experience means you can start when and where you want, and that is ideal for a lot of busy on-the-go test-takers.
A lot of test-takers and course reviewers mention that they love how The Economist’s GMAT prep course adapts to your performance and prioritizes what it thinks you need to work on. The actual GMAT test has computer-adaptive sections that flex according to how well you are doing, and having a similar test prep experience is a good way to get used to it.
Unfortunately, a lot of reviewers comment that the way this works in practice is confusing, nonlinear, and can sometimes force you to study material you either do not feel compelled to care about or actively do not need to work on. Specifically, some reviewers mention that, while they like that the course pushes you in some directions, they don’t like that you can’t really push back.
Without a semi-linear process of “unlocking” subject material and course options, test-takers using The Economist’s GMAT prep course find themselves having to slog through material they don’t need to brush up on, or being unable to access what they really wanted to focus on. Similarly, reviewers consistently note that, while the summary information at the end of each module is helpful, it is “inconvenient,” “disappointing,” and “stupid,” that you can’t return to a particular section’s material on a whim.
One reviewer even described their experience as great due to the “freedom to bounce around” but restricted in that “ultimately the software decides for you.” The inability to comprehensively review past content might be a dealbreaker for some test-takers.
Some competitors offer comprehensive analytics options so that test-takers can understand where they went wrong, where they did well, and how they can improve. The Economist does not offer anywhere near the breadth or depth of performance analytics that it could.
While many test-takers rave about the benefits of the analytical writing assessment corrections, some are quick to point out that The Economist does not provide an error log or a user-friendly way to track mistakes and improve. This is a major drawback to an otherwise solid test prep program.
The Economist does not offer physical test prep materials, and I’ve previously ranked GMAC’s Official Guide 2020 as the Best in Show for Early and Overall Preparation. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) writes the test and they are the best equipped to write prep materials on which students should rely. The Economist’s prep course offerings are great for overall preparation, but if you want a hardcopy book, check out what GMAC is selling for $28.49 on Amazon.
Similarly, The Economist’s materials might not be what you need to push yourself. If you are on the hunt for the highest possible score, consider GMAC’s Official Advanced Questions. I’ve also rated those as Best in Show for pushing yourself. The additional 300 questions, explanations, strategies, and Online Question Bank are great to compensate for mid-range difficulty programs and are ideal for students who really want to run that extra mile. This book is an affordable $27.55 and, if you’re already in the $1,000 range for GMAT prep, is probably a worthwhile expense to push your score into the dream school range.
If you are not already familiar with The Economist and you are preparing for business school, you should get to know their name, content, and—if you like an online-driven experience designed for maximum score improvement—their GMAT test prep course offerings.
What The Economist offers students preparing for the GMAT is comprehensive, rigorous, and if you are motivated enough to engage in self-study, fairly priced. If you love hardcopy books, in-person instruction, or just need to be pushed by a class, The Economist might not be for you. If you are comfortable with keeping yourself accountable and want an online and mobile-friendly way to prepare for the GMAT, check them out. They earn a solid four out of five stars.