Re-Taking the GMAT: The Definition of Insanity

by , Jul 24, 2010

Pulling HairChances are that in life, there are always some things you would change if you had them to do over again. Maybe you would have chosen a different route to work after being stuck in traffic. I recently got married, and although the wedding was beautiful, I probably would have spent less money knowing what I do now. Rarely, however, are we giving that opportunity for a do-over. Luckily, the GMAT is one of those instances where we can try, try again. But is it really the best choice?

Should I Take It Again?

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. How can you make sure youre not just insane? There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding to repeat the GMAT. My colleague Anthony posted a great article a few months ago that reviews those factors and will help you decide if taking the test again is the right choice for you. If your answer is yesread on!

Im Taking it AgainNow What?

Ensure your sanity by making a comprehensive planthen stick to it! Dont repeat the same mistakes you made last time; instead, learn from them, and find your path to improvement.

Take a breather

Give yourself at least a week or two off of studying for the GMAT if you can. This will help you gather your strength and re-claim your personal life for a least a few moments before you are lost to GMAT land again. Use the time to reflect on your goals for business school, and why succeeding on the GMAT is going to continue to be a priority in your life. Motivation is one of the greatest challenges for re-takers. Make sure you have it from the beginning.

Set your schedule

The ideal amount of time to prepare for your first GMAT is 8 to 10 weeks. If you didnt spend this amount of time preparing the first time around, expect to finish it out. For example, if you prepared for 6 weeks the first time out, plan to go at least 2 weeks more, up to 4, to prep for your second test. For every month youve stayed away from GMAT material, add another week, up to the full 10. If youve been away from GMAT material for more than 6 months, youre going to want to plan as though you were starting again from scratch.

Plan to spend at least one hour on GMAT material every day you work, and two to three hours on days you dont work. Skipping a day here and there is fine, but adding that time later in the week will keep you on track (and will keep you from skipping TOO much). Finally, register for the test now; this will put the pressure on you to study, even when youd rather be napping or heading to the bar.

Review your strengths and weaknesses

Use your first study session to review your past work. What types of problems gave you the most trouble? Was there an area you didnt focus enough time on? What were you the least confident with on test day (if you can remember)? Know whether you need to focus more on the core content of the test, or time-saving strategies and pacing. Depending on how long it has been since you last prepared for the GMAT, you may even want to take a fresh full-length diagnostic test, like the one on The Princeton Reviews website, to receive a complete analysis of your challenging areas.

Use your time wisely

Here is where youre probably going to have to make the most changes. If youre taking the test again, there is something you feel you can do better this time around. Dont fall into the same traps you did last time. Are you doing every question under a time constraint? Are you tracking the questions you missed, and why you missed them? David had a great article not long ago with homework tips you should live by. These homework strategies are twice as important for the repeat test-taker who needs every study session to be productive and show results.

Dont freak out

As test day approaches, you may begin to feel your nerves start to get the better of you. If you find that you have test anxiety, or that your stress levels are hampering your ability to succeed even on practice tests, take some time for self-reflection and even, as corny as it may be, meditation. Ask yourself, Am I as prepared as I can reasonably be? If you have followed your plan, the answer will be yes. Does the GMAT determine my happiness or worth as a person? As much as you may get caught up in it, you know that the answer is no. In the week before the test, reason with yourself a little and remember that your success depends on many factors other than a few numbers on a screen.

With a new plan of action, a solid focus on your challenging areas, and an improved mental state, your second attempt at the GMAT can be successful and satisfying. Of course, check out The Princeton Reviews Classroom Course if you need some hands-on guidance through your second time around. If you have any questions about your upcoming re-take, or battle stories from a multiple attempts at the GMAT, feel free to leave them in the comments!