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Military GMAT Prep: How To Vanquish the GMAT when You're on Active Duty

By Ajay Amar, Ph.D., May 26 2014 02:00PM

Jamison, an Army officer who will be heading to Wharton for his MBA this year, defeated the GMAT test with a score of 720. I asked Jamison to share his best advice on GMAT prep for military personnel. Below are excerpts from his email to me, written from his plane to Afghanistan.

Recommendation: For civilians, the standard advice is to take about three months for GMAT prep, but if you are in the military, forget that. Start as early as you can, preferably more than a year in advance.

“By far the biggest challenges I faced when preparing for the GMAT while on active duty was how unpredictable my schedule was and how far removed I was from any type of formal academic study. However, because I had started studying early enough (1.5 years prior to applications being due), I was in a position to take my time.

"This was my Number One benefit and the biggest recommendation I would have for anyone preparing for the GMAT or applying to business schools: begin preparing as early as possible. Especially for people in the military, where your schedule could easily change, or you may not find it possible to study for long periods of time.”

Recommendation: You don't have time to waste. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses early to plan your GMAT prep strategically.

“Throughout my studying I had assumed that I would be stronger on quant and weaker on verbal. This had been the case on my SAT, and my strength had always been in math. However, while taking the online class's practice exams, I realized that this was not the case. I was consistently scoring very high on verbal and fairly average on quant. I began to focus my studies almost exclusively on the quantitative section.

Another recommendation I have is to evaluate yourself and find your strengths and weaknesses early on in the process. I wouldn't say I wasted my time with my extra verbal studying, but I feel my time could have been better served focusing on quant earlier.”

We recommend that you initiate your GMAT prep by taking one of the free GMAT practice tests that are available on the official GMAT website (www.mba.com).

Recommendation: If you are stationed overseas, lean on online resources and community to help motivate you during your GMAT studies.

Jamison started by getting the GMAC Official Guide for GMAT Review books, the recommended books for GMAT prep. These books helped him get used to doing the math and verbal problems, but he felt that the answer explanations were not helping him to improve. He turned to an online GMAT course (Knewton.com, which no longer offers GMAT courses) to give him a foundation in GMAT skills and a study plan.

“This worked for me, because I could do it on my own time and on my own schedule. However, clearly if you can get yourself to a live/in-person class, this would be preferable.

“I tried to do the online course a few times a week at home after work, and saved my Official Guide book questions to do while traveling. I also signed up for BeatTheGMAT.com, which sent out weekly email newsletters with challenge problems and short GMAT articles. This also helped me stay focused on studying.”

Recommendation: When you are able to do so, fit personal coaching into your schedule. GMAT classes or tutoring can give you that extra push to a higher score.

Jamison started coming to Austin GMAT Review when he was stationed in Fort Hood. He set up GMAT tutoring sessions to coincide with his trips to Austin.

“I took my first GMAT in May 2012 and scored a 690. I was somewhat satisfied with this score, but during the test I felt that I had simply not done well on the quantitative portion. My timing for the test was off, and I ended up having to guess six or seven questions at the end of the exam to make up time. This is when I decided to try and get some in-person instruction.

“I worked with Professor Amar, and it was extremely helpful. We focused exclusively on quant. I would bring practice exams and problems that I had gotten wrong, and he would instruct me on the method to solving the types of problems I was struggling with. This was much more effective than the methods I had been using, where I was really only trying to learn how to do the specific problem I had gotten wrong, instead of how to do all problems of that type.

“I also received better study tools. For instance, instead of just powering through the Official Guide problems one after another, Professor Amar gave me a guide that outlined which problems fell into which math topic. … This let me see what type of GMAT math I was struggling with the most.

“I retook the GMAT in September and received a 720.

“Ending my studies with the one-on-one tutoring was best for me. I had got about as far as I could get on my own, and I used Austin GMAT Review to get over the hump to a 700 score.”

Recommendation: With many competing priorities, it's important to focus on GMAT prep first, and (to repeat) start early.

“At times it was difficult for me to stay focused, but I simply felt that improving my score on the GMAT was the best way for me to improve my chances of getting into the school I wanted at that time. Again, by beginning to study early in the process, I could focus entirely on GMAT.

“Now that I am done with that, I can focus entirely on putting together quality essays. I have talked to those who are trying to cram all of the application process into a short timeframe, as well as study for the GMAT. I can only imagine that balancing a hectic military schedule with that is extremely difficult and stressful. Good luck!”

Read more advice on preparing for business school in Military to MBA: How to Pursue GMAT Preparation and Applications While in the Military. Then check out Dual Mission: Destroy the GMAT and Find Military-Friendly MBA Programs.

A version of this blog post was originally published in November 2012.

Austin GMAT Review is the premier GMAT test prep company in Central Texas, offering structured GMAT courses and GMAT tutoring 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. Austin GMAT offers excellent GMAT prep for military personnel, as well as flexible scheduling and a military discount.

As a current member of the military, you may also be eligible to be reimbursed for the GMAT fee through DANTES (Defence Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support). Find more information on Military.com Education.