If you are considering an MBA, the GMAT is one of the first hurdles in the application process. How should you prepare and set yourself up for success on exam day? Here are some tips from those who have been there.
What is your #1 piece of advice for prospective students regarding GMAT prep?
Emily Sherry, Senior Business Analyst at Starbucks
I would recommend planning on taking at least a couple of practice tests, beginning with one early on in the studying process. I had been stressing out about how little time I would have to do each question, but when I took my first practice test, I actually had more time than I imagined I would. That took the pressure off a little bit and helped me pace better. Taking one early on can also help guide your preparation strategy by showing you which areas and types of questions you need to spend the most time studying. I would also recommend opting to spread the practice tests out, and not save them until immediately before taking the actual exam; it’s easy to get burnt out doing them and you don’t want to feel that way when it comes time to sit for the real thing.
Logan Fouts, Design Engineer at Boeing Commercial Airplanes
The GMAT isn’t hard; it’s just material you probably haven’t reviewed in a long time. Take the time to refresh yourself on the skills needed for the GMAT, which you likely learned in high school.
I studied for about six weeks. I used a guidebook and just worked my way through it. I went with the strategy of doing a lot of practice problems and I believe that helped me.
Mike Mulligan, Account Executive- Advertising at Amazon
My #1 piece of advice for taking the GMAT is DO IT! I’ve found that the single largest barrier to getting an MBA is deciding you’re serious enough to invest time/money in studying and taking the GMAT. I talk to countless peers who are thinking about getting an MBA but never get around to the GMAT. I was fortunate to have access to an online GMAT prep class which, while not critical to success, gave me deadlines to be accountable to studying and practice tests. Really, the accountability to move forward is the most important part whether it is a class, test date, study buddy, or something else. You need to set yourself up for success with a positive and motivating environment. I probably gave myself three months to prepare, study, and practice before I took the GMAT, and that felt like a good amount of time. The most valuable element of studying was taking practice tests in the actual allotted time that they were designed for and going through the areas of opportunity identified in those tests. The GMAT is like a video game and each answer is like a level that you beat or lose, taking you up or down a level. Just like a video game, the more you practice the levels, the more likely you are to get the high score. Have fun and go get the high score!
Sarah Eytinge, Associate Director of MBA Admissions
The best thing you can do to perform well on the GMAT or GRE is to practice. There is a direct correlation between amount of prep time and standardized test scores so make sure you put the time and energy into preparing to take the test. I think understanding the format of the test is one of the first steps all candidates should know – how long does it take, how is it broken down, how many questions in each section. Being comfortable in the exam room can be simply accomplished by knowing what will be coming over the course of the four hour exam – and that, in return, can easily help your score. As for specific study tips:
- Figure out when you are going apply and work backwards to schedule your test prep: I always tell candidates that they should figure out to which admissions deadline they plan to apply and then at least take the GMAT one month before that deadline. Since you can only take the GMAT or GRE once every 30 days, planning to take the test at least a month in advance gives you the security in knowing that if you aren’t happy with your first score, you can still take it again before the admissions deadline. Also, if you are happy with your score, then you can spend the last month fine tuning your essays, resume and other application requirements.
- Come up with a study plan: Once you decide the deadline to which you will apply and you have a good sense of what is on the test, come up with a study plan: when will you study, what will you study how will you measure your progress. This is where you have to figure out what will keep you motivated the most: some people benefit from signing up for a prep course, where a study schedule will be created for you. Others can work independently through a test prep book. Make sure you take into account personal or work commitments when devising your study plan: if you know that a personal commitment is going to take up a lot of time or will keep you away from studying, accommodate for that.
- Think outside the traditional test-prep options: I’ve heard from a lot of students that they’ve found benefit in taking a class in a related subject, like calculus, economics or statistics. While these courses may not directly feed into a study curriculum for a specific standardized test, they do help in becoming more comfortable with quantitative problem solving.
- Practice, practice practice: Whatever your study plan may be, make sure that you periodically check in with how you are doing. There are a lot of free resources that you can use to test yourself and many resources will break it down in to the specific types of questions in each section. Thus, if you are having a difficult time with the geometry questions on the Quantitative sections, you know you probably should spend more time reviewing concepts that will help you in that area.
- Foster will take your best score – so don’t be afraid to sit for it more than once:The question I get most often regarding the GMAT or GRE is if it looks bad if candidates have to take the GMAT more than once. The answer is an NO! In fact, we respect that you are making efforts to improve your scores: Foster will take your best overall score when evaluating your candidacy and we want you to apply with a score which you feel best reflects your abilities and strengths. If you’ve taken the test multiple times and are still not satisfied with your score, schedule a one-on-one appointment with an Admissions Team member. We are happy to answer your questions and discuss your preparation strategy so you can demonstrate your academic proficiency on the GMAT and throughout the application process.
- And Remember: the GMAT or GRE is not an indicator of your self-worth nor does it determine your fate: The Foster Admissions team considers many different factors when we evaluate candidates so your future does not rest on the results of a four hour test. If you have concerns about your score and how it will be evaluated, schedule a one-on-one appointment with an Admissions Team member so you can learn how to accentuate other areas of your application.
Every candidate is different. Whether your GMAT prep plan is six weeks, three months, or longer, make sure to take into consideration your learning style and your schedule, and follow the strategy that works best for you.
For questions regarding GMAT prep and the application process, make an appointment with the Foster MBA Programs Office. Give us a call at 206-543-4661 or toll free at 1-866-778-9622 or email us at [email protected]
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