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Prepping for the GMAT Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
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The Graduate Management Admissions Test, or GMAT, is a common admissions requirement for most MBA programs, especially for applicants who don't have a lot of work experience. The GMAT is a long and difficult exam that tests your command of the English language in extreme depth and challenges your quantitative abilities, too. Your score on the GMAT could literally determine your future - and because the test is so difficult and costs so much to take, you want to make the most of your chance, so you hopefully don't have to take it again.
Most students give themselves about three months to study for the GMAT, but study experts recommend giving yourself much longer. Many successful GMAT takers give themselves years to prepare for the GMAT, taking the test for the first time while they are in their second or third year of undergraduate studies. If you're prepping for the GMAT, give yourself plenty of time to prepare, tailor your study program to your personal strengths and weaknesses, establish a studying routine and take regular mock exams.
Give Yourself Plenty of Prep Time
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do when it comes to GMAT prep is to give yourself plenty of time to study for the test and prepare. You'll need at least four to six months to prepare for the test, but the more time you have, the better. Some top-scorers recommend doing the test while you're still an undergraduate. This has two distinct advantages for the aspiring MBA applicant:
First, you'll leave yourself plenty of time to prepare before you have to take the test because it's time to put your grad school applications together. GMAT scores expire after five years, so if you take the test while in your junior or senior year of college, that leaves time for you to gain a few years' work experience before you send out b-school applications. An increasing number of MBAs attend online graduate programs, so they can stay in the workforce while they're earning their degree. If you're considering this option - or even if you want to go to a traditional brick-and-mortar program - taking the GMAT while you're still in college could be a good option for you.
The second reason why you should take the GMAT while you're still in college is because it allows you to take the exam while your academic and test-taking skills are still sharp from constant use. It'll be easier to set up a study schedule when you're used to studying every night, rather than to wait a few years and have to force yourself to stop going out to happy hours to stay home and study. It'll be easier to prepare for math and grammar questions when you've had a math or English class fairly recently. You'll also be surrounded by others who are studying for graduate admissions exams, so you'll have access to emotional and, perhaps, practical support.
Work Hardest on What Gives You the Most Trouble
GMAT prep classes typically divide their time equally between the verbal and quant sections. If you think you need equal prep for both sections, such a class might be the right fit for you, but if you're like most people, you're better at one thing than the other. That means you should probably focus more of your time and energy on studying the section that comes hardest to you. Whether that means following a plan of solo study or hiring a tutor, or both, consider your personal strengths and weaknesses when developing a plan of attack for the test.
Have a Study Routine
If you've ever studied a foreign language, you know that the more often you're exposed to new material, the better your brain learns and retains it. An established study routine will help you prepare for the GMAT much more effectively than sporadically studying here and there. Carve time into your schedule, so you can establish a routine of studying often. Even if your study sessions aren't that long, studying more often will be of more help than studying for a longer period, less frequently. For example, studying for half an hour three days a week will do you more good than studying for 90 minutes once a week.
Take Mock Tests Regularly
Mock tests let you know how well you're learning the information and can help you track improvements in accuracy and performance. They can also give you an idea of what you can expect to score on the real GMAT. Taking mock tests as often as you can builds your stamina for sitting in the test-taking facility, helps you see how you're progressing, and gives you an idea of where you still need to improve.
Your scores on the GMAT will help determine whether or not you get an MBA from your top choice school. Don't find yourself scrambling to cram at the last minute; leave yourself plenty of time to prepare for the test, so you can do your best work when exam day comes.