Hillhouse GMAT Class Syllabus

Hillhouse GMAT Class Syllabus

Course Instructors

Verbal Instructor: Nicholas Santalucia, +84 126 970 2112, nick@hillhouse.us

Quant Instructor: Anh Pham Ngoc, Ph.D, +84 93 203 3840, anhphamngoc2009@gmail.com

1-on-1 Teaching Assistant: Don Phan, M.A., +84 90 673 9862, don@hillhouse.us


The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is a standardized test commonly used for master’s of business administration (MBA) programs. Nearly 90% of MBA applicants submit GMAT scores. Although it is primarily known as an exam for MBA programs in the United States, graduate schools outside of the United States have adopted the exam. Graduate schools use GMAT test scores to make admissions and scholarship decisions.

Why Do I Have to Take This Test?

The test does not cover material students typically encounter in an MBA program. So why use it? Because it is a standardized way to compare students across different majors, universities, and countries. How do we compare students with easy majors from famous schools with students with hard majors from less famous schools? How about a woman from Economics University with a 7.2 grade point average with another woman from RMIT with a 7.7 GPA? What if they graduated 10 years apart and have different majors? And how do we compare this candidate against another person who studied engineering in France? It is not possible for admissions committees to know every undergraduate program intimately, so admissions committees must rely on standardized tests, such as the GMAT and GRE.  As MBA programs become more international, common standards have become more important.

Intended Audience For This Class

This class is intended for students who are scoring below 600 on their practice exams or real GMAT exams. The typical student will be a young Vietnamese working professional who has been out of school for a number of years. Students in their last year of university are welcome to take the course as well. Test scores are valid for five years. Many working adults complain that the burden of studying and working at the same time can be difficult to manage. University students who intend to pursue an MBA in the future should consider getting the test out of the way now. From The New York Times:

“Mean GMAT scores decline with age: 26- and 27-year-olds score on average a 572; 28- to 30-year-olds, 565; 40- to 49-year-olds, 501; and 50-plus, 486, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the test.”


The class assumes a proficient level of English. Mr. Nick’s teaches his verbal classes in English, while Dr. Anh teaches his quantitative classes in Vietnamese. Hillhouse believes this is the most effective way to convey the course material.

Distribution of Scores


Test writers from the Graduate Management Admissions Committee (GMAC) first created the GMAT test with a normal distribution in mind. This is common for standardized tests. Above is how test scores were supposed to be distributed, with 500 as the center point (50th percentile), with half of test takers scoring above and below. 100 points would equal one standard deviation, so a score of 700 would be two standard deviations above and would have gotten test takers ~95th percentile.

Training methods have improved and there has been a gradual increase in scores. Scores have shifted upwards. 50th percentile is now closer to 550 and 95th percentile is closer to a GMAT score of 720-730. Many students ask us to promise scores of 700+ and above. This is incredibly difficult to promise and we typically refuse unless the student is willing to commit to a rigorous study contract and has a history of high performance on other psychometric exams (such as the SAT, ACT, and GRE). Remember, this is a standard distribution of GMAT test-takers. Most GMAT test-takers will be college graduates across the globe, so the curve is of very educated people.

You should be wary of any company that claims to be able to guarantee scores above 700, especially if you are scoring ~500 or below. This is nearly two standard deviations. While it is possible to increase your score by nearly two standard deviations, students should expect to study intensively for six months to a year to see dramatic improvements like this. Students who take our course, do all of their homework, and correct all their practice exam mistakes can reasonably expect to see a score improvement of a quarter to half of a standard deviation.


Students are expected to show up on time to every class and to complete all the assigned homework before class. Because the course is short and there is so much material to cover, students can easily fall behind. Students should ask the two instructors and teaching assistant any questions they have. Hillhouse keeps class sizes small so students can easily interact with our instructors.

Practice Exams

Students will be required to take 2 full length practice exams. Two sessions will be dedicated to reviewing practice test problems.

Computer Adaptive Test

The GMAT is a computer adaptive test. This means that the questions will get harder or easier depending on how you answer the previous question. Many students will have no experience with an exam like this.

Performing Under Pressure

The GMAT measures how test-takers perform under pressure. You must be calm under pressure. Many very smart students cannot handle the stress of only having five minutes left on the test. You must practice test-taking under real conditions so you are familiar with this stress. This way you understand how to overcome stress and still think clearly under pressure.

Further Reading



GMAT blog from Charles Bibilos, an experienced GMAT tutor who scored 800. His blog is the best GMAT blog we’ve seen: http://www.gmatninja.com/

Click here to view the GMAT Syllabus

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