How to Start Your GMAT Preparation on the Right Foot
By Ajay Amar, Ph.D., May 8 2014 03:27PM
Let me hit you with some facts. The mean total GMAT score in the U.S. in 2012-2013 was 532. The mean GMAT score of the top 50 MBA programs in the U.S. is about 669. People who achieved a GMAT score of more than 700 spent 102 hours studying on average. Only 23% of GMAT test-takers say that they prepared more than 100 hours.*
Clearly, taking GMAT preparation seriously is the exception and not the rule. If you don’t, your score may suffer; if you do, you have a better chance of beating the average. Now that I’ve set your expectations, here are some suggestions on how to kick off your GMAT prep.
Make a commitment.
To make GMAT prep work, you need to do the work. This means you will have to give up leisure time. Weekends are for studying, not socializing. You will have to temporarily shelve some responsibilities and plans.
Promise yourself that GMAT prep comes first. You need to commit that study time at the outset, and not try to carve out time around competing obligations. How you slice and dice the recommended 120 hours of GMAT study time depends on your own schedule. If you are not rushing to beat an MBA admissions deadline, I recommend that you plan to take about three months to prepare for the GMAT.
GMAT preparation requires self-discipline and motivation. Many people take our GMAT course to guarantee that they have time scheduled each week to focus on GMAT prep, and that they are surrounded by like-minded professional people pursuing similar goals.
Prepare to work on your strengths as well as your weaknesses.
Maybe you did well in college in certain academic areas such as math or English. Perhaps you went on to a career in which you use certain math or verbal skills every day. Your skills will work to your advantage when you take the GMAT exam.
It does not mean, however, that you can skip studying.
Many people start GMAT preparation with the incorrect assumption that they won’t actually have to study for every section of the exam. To achieve a high GMAT score, you should build upon your strengths as well as repairing your weaknesses. Don’t risk leaving points on the table.
Get a reality check.
Take a free GMAT practice test, available on the official GMAT website (www.mba.com), in the Prepare for the GMAT section. GMATPrep® test preparation software uses retired questions from past exams. Taking a practice test near the beginning of your GMAT preparation will help you gauge how you would perform on the real GMAT exam. (It should go without saying, but never take the real GMAT exam as a practice.)
Taking that practice test will tell you on which areas you most need to focus. You may be surprised.
Brush up on the basics.
A quick word on business school expectations: Reputable business schools expect you to know advanced math and accounting basics, and to be able to communicate on a professional level. In the U.S., b-schools also expect you to be fluent in English.
The GMAT test mirrors those expectations. If you really bombed that first GMAT practice test in either verbal or quant, do an honest self-evaluation. If you are very uncomfortable with math or grammar, or you don’t know English well, take a class or two to get up to speed. Austin GMAT Review offers a math boot camp for those who are a little rusty and need a review.
It’s not just about taking an exam; it’s preparing you for a business career.
Let me point out that one or two years of business school is much, much more of a commitment than the recommended 120+ hours of GMAT preparation. Find your motivation for starting this odyssey, write it down, and remind yourself of it during the months ahead.
Like business school, GMAT preparation is a challenge, and it can be fun. One of my favorite students, former Olympic champion Garrett Weber-Gale, tweeted, “Call me crazy, but I'm loving the preparation for the GMAT. I can feel my brain becoming more powerful!!” That’s the winning attitude that will help you make it through. You are getting ready to kick-start the next stage of your life and career, and GMAT preparation is your first step on the way.
*Statistics come from GMAC, the makers of the GMAT exam.
Austin GMAT Review is the premier GMAT preparation company in Central Texas, offering structured GMAT courses to professionals preparing to enter full-time MBA or executive MBA programs. Austin GMAT Review caters to busy professionals who don't have the time to sort through masses of generic study materials. Meeting with an experienced professor face-to-face in limited-size GMAT classes, students receive the personalized coaching that they need and strategies to excel on the GMAT test.