So, you want to go to business school? Well, that means that you will have to face a necessary challenge: the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Taking this test only takes about four hours out of your life, but it looms large over the entire business school application process. The good news? This beast can be defeated – but it does take preparation and planning. Here’s how:
1. Know the test
You can’t do well on a test if you don’t know how you are being tested. Take some time with the official book from the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) and learn the structure of GMAT. Understand the types of questions in the various sections. Know the kinds of essay topics you can expect to see. Learn about the Integrated Reasoning section, which is still relatively new (and still confusing for many test-takers). It is also important to note that the test is computer adaptive – that comes with its own set of issues and required strategies that you need to get familiar with well in advance of test day.
2. Meet the test
Your preparation for the GMAT has to start with a baseline score. This could be a score from an official GMAT that you’ve already taken (if this is not your first time or one of the full-length practice tests that the GMAC includes with its official materials. You just need to know where you started so you can know how well you’re progressing along the way. Also, this initial evaluation lets you know what sections of the test are of particular concern for you, so you can then approach your preparation with these sections in mind. Take this diagnostic seriously, but don’t stress over it; it’s a tool to help you improve!
3. Study for the test
There are many ways to accomplish this – take an online course, get a strong GMAT guidebook, work with a private tutor, or do a combination of all three. Just commit to your strategy of choice and know that there’s a lot of studying ahead of you. You should be doing some type of work for the GMAT every day. You have got to drill problems and analyze answers until you thoroughly understand them. The more problems you solve as homework, the easier it will be when you see those same problems on your actual test.
4. Take the test
Throughout your study period, you should be taking practice tests regularly. Of course, you’ll be doing problem-sets that are focused on the concepts that you need to improve your understanding. You’ll be learning individual strategies for the different types of problems that are on the test, and you’ll practice using them. However, you’ll only be able to truly put it all together when you take full-length practice tests, in test-like environments – not in your apartment and not with your cell phone ringing. By taking a full-length test every week or two, you’ll not only continually update your progress, but you will also get used to the length of the GMAT, which makes the process of taking it easier each time.
5. Own the test
Too many students feel defeated before they even step into the testing room. Some haven’t prepared enough, so there’s no way they’ll do well. Others haven’t been honest with themselves, thinking they are better prepared than they actually are. Many are just totally scared of the test, so they convince themselves that they’ll never be able to learn a certain topic or that they just won’t be able to understand lengthy reading passages. None of these attitudes are helpful. Be prepared and prepare in a smart way; give yourself constant, honest self-assessment, and you’ll know you can tame this GMAT beast.
Toby Blackwell is a professional GMAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. He graduated with honors and received his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University