The GMAT, along with your undergraduate academic performance, is the most commonly used predictor of how you will do in the MBA coursework and plays a key role in the MBA application.
Your GMAT score is sometimes also used by prospective employers (consulting firms and investment banks mostly) in the pre-screening process for interviews, as well as by several organizations that produce MBA rankings. You cannot take the GMAT lightly, and if your intention is to apply to a top MBA program, you will need to obtain the highest possible score. This is not the type of test for which you can prepare in a few days. In fact, most of my clients spend several months preparing for it, and many of them take it more than once.
To avoid surprises later on, here are a few tips:
1. Start now. If you already decided to apply to business school, now is the time to start preparing for the GMAT. Your results will be valid for five years, so even if you are only finishing college and don’t plan on applying for another couple of years, start preparing now! You will be thankful you took it early and have it out of the way when the rush of the application season starts.
2. Set aside a time each day to prepare. The GMAT is like a marathon. You don’t start training the day before the marathon, but months before, particularly if you have never run long distances before. Sustained practice over a longer period is much more effective than cramming for a few days before the test.
3. Always work with a timer. One of the complaints I hear a lot from those who don’t do well on the GMAT is that they knew the answer but didn’t have enough time. If you always practice with a timer you will get used to thinking and answering fast, and will not have a problem the day of the test. Give yourself the same amount of time you’d get for a given section during the actual test.
4. Take practice tests as often as you can. This will help you get used to the format of the questions, and it will also train you to answer questions correctly even when you’re tired. Those word problems get harder after you’ve already answered 20 or 30 questions! Also, taking practice tests will allow you to evaluate your progress, see what areas you need to work on and which ones are your strong ones.
5. Once you have identified your strengths and weaknesses, make sure to spend more time on the areas where you struggle the most. It is a natural impulse to try to spend more time on the sections that feel easier and abandon the ones where you seem to struggle, as this provides a false feeling of security. Don’t make that mistake.
Preparing for the GMAT requires dedication, discipline, and lots of practice. Unless you are used to standardized tests, most people can only achieve a high score after many hours of study and dedication, but it’s worth it. A high score on the GMAT will mean another favorable point towards your application, a higher probability of acceptance, and a higher chance of a scholarship. The time and effort you spend preparing for the GMAT is definitely worth it.
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By Esmeralda Cardenal, previously the Associate Director of Admissions at Yale SOM, Director of MBA Admissions at MSU Broad, and consultant at Cardiff Business School in the UK. She is happy to help you showcase your achievements in your MBA application. Want Esmeralda to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• MBA Action Plan: 6 Steps for the 6 Months Before You Apply, a free guide
• 5 Killer GMAT Prep Tips, a free webinar
• How Does Your GMAT Score Fit into the Holistic MBA Application Puzzle?