“Take the GMAT as soon as possible! It requires a lot of hard work and discipline. You will need to focus on your weaknesses, as well as identify strengths early on. You’ll also need to cope with the fact that you will get ~50% of the questions wrong (even with a good score). It’s important to identify the questions you should skip and use that time for more difficult problems. Once the GMAT is out of the way, you can spend quality time on essays and applications; this is where your story will shine!”
Study content in several different formats so you have the ability to answer GMAT-type questions in any context, not just in the way one publisher writes the question. My process started with the GMAT Prep by Kaplan because the book is broken down into subject areas (arithmetic, algebra, geometry, sentence correction, reading comprehension, etc.). I buckled down and read GMAT Prep by Kaplan like a college student absorbing information from a textbook. I then added a second layer to my studying, which was completing practice questions from The Official Guide for GMAT Review published by GMAC. The companion website for the book comes with practice questions online, which allows you to simulate testing conditions since the GMAT is computer-based. Finally, I used GMAT Flashcards by Magoosh in the App Store to round out my study plan. This app is a spaced repetition flashcard program, which was very useful because I could rate my knowledge of a question (“mastered,” “reviewing,” or “this content is new to me”) and then see the questions again at a frequency that would eventually help me master all of the questions.
“When you sit down to start the process, you’ve got to be “all in” with your studying. Going for “just one drink” with your friends during that time you had allotted for studying only prolongs the painful process. Decide the target mark that you need to achieve, and—even though it’s tough—keep taking the test until you get there. It’s not about getting any better at math or mastering the subtle idiosyncrasies of the English language; it is about learning to take the test.”
“If I were to do anything different, it would be the approach I took for the GMAT. If I could start the process over, I would approach the GMAT with a longer and more structured study program. First, I would sign up for and take the actual GMAT before studying to get the best gauge of where I was at. From the results, I would focus 75% of my efforts toward the weakest areas and 25% maintaining the areas in which I did best. I’d break down my studying into 90-minute practice sessions six days a week. Each practice session would focus on one specific area. Every other Saturday, I would take a practice exam online. I would maintain this schedule for the length of time needed to study every area in which I needed to improve. Once complete, I would want to take the official GMAT within three days of the last study day.”
“Be resourceful about your time and find creative ways to study! While traveling, GMAT Flashcards proved to be incredibly valuable because all I needed was my phone to review questions mid-flight or when waiting in line. At home is where I could focus on building my stamina; I would block off hours at a time to complete a practice test from the GMAC website, mimicking test day as closely as possible (timing of breaks, no outside distractions, etc.).”
“Having a strong, written-out study plan is very beneficial in preparation for the GMAT. I would suggest studying during the same time block each day to gain a routine. Sometimes, this is not possible because of commitments to one’s current job, but I found that if you are consistent with your study plan, more information will be retained. Furthermore, to simulate test conditions, complete problems under rigorous time constraints to gain comfortability working under pressure.”
It is so important to frequently practice the GMAT exam under real world conditions. Every Saturday leading up to the exam, I woke up early, headed to the library and completed a full practice test. I tried to simulate exam conditions during my practice sessions. I took 8 practice tests prior to the real test. I was incredibly comfortable on exam day and I believe that my extensive use of practice tests is what earned me a great score.
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.