When my student Lanette came to my GMAT course, she had been out of school for almost 20 years. Having extensive bookkeeping experience, Lanette hoped to be accepted to the top-ranked Masters in Public Accounting (MPA) program at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas - Austin. However, she hadn’t had a math class since college. Lanette hadn’t taken a practice GMAT exam (“out of fear,” she said), but she guessed that her score would be about 450. She had just two months to prepare for the GMAT in time for the school’s application deadline, so yes, she was serious.
Today, Lanette holds an MPA from McCombs, is a CPA, and is a successful tax accountant. How did she get the GMAT score that launched her on a major career transition?
When Lanette raised her GMAT score more than 170 points, I asked her to share her GMAT prep study plan – both the things that worked for her and those that, looking back, she wished she had done, given that she had so little time before her exam. Here is her study plan.
Breathe. You can do this. Even if you don't believe it, keep telling yourself you can.
At no point should you look for shortcuts beyond the ones that Dr. Amar teaches. Do the work.
Do the work. ‘Doing the work' entails a number of things that I found successful:
Set aside 3.5 hours every non-class day for non-interrupted practice time focused on understanding and applying rather than memorizing. The practice immediately following the class should have 1.5 hours of focus on the class materials just learned (check the flight plan for suggestions).
An ideal practice schedule may go like this:
a. One hour review of weak areas. I purchased the extra review materials and found these very helpful.
[Austin GMAT Review provides the GMAT Official Guide, which includes two free practice exams, and you can find 90 additional questions offered for free on mba.com. GMAC offers two additional books, The Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review and The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review, each with an additional 300 official GMAT practice questions, as well as four more practice exams for purchase. https://www.mba.com/exam-prep]
b. One hour review of strong – or least-weak – areas. I actually didn’t do this, and it turned out my strengths were just areas that were less weak.... Had I spent a bit more time here, I think I would have improved my score greatly. For example, after only one week of GMAT verbal review, which was my area of strength (I thought), my verbal score increased by four points. Had I spent two months doing a little review, well, it likely would have been an amazing increase.
I went through two 100-page spiral notebooks (front and back) each month. By the end of the program I had a system for approaching everything, including a clear and consistent shorthand that worked for me. I was also dreaming in math...If two people are at this street corner and they start walking toward those two over at that street corner 50 feet away, how many steps would it take if the people who are walking wear a size 6 shoe and the other a size 9?
a. Try to mimic the testing environment as much as possible.
b. Take a test at least once a week, even at the beginning, twice a week toward the test date.
c. Do not overtake the practice tests.... I did a practice test everyday toward the end. A bit overkill because I was looking for my score to improve through practice tests rather than going and doing more problems systematically.
After one month, my GMAT practice exam was quantitative 31; verbal 36; total 560.
After two months, I was averaging quantitative 39; verbal 36; total 615.
GMAT Test Day (almost exactly two months after starting Austin GMAT Review with Dr. Amar): quantitative 35; verbal 39; total 620. (Yes, my scores flipped on me. The last week in preparing for the test, I focused on verbal and let my quantitative slip...and I was lazy with a couple of key algebra concepts while I studied.)
My ultimate score was not my dream score of 700, but adequate for the purpose of graduate school and significantly higher than it would have been (at least a 170 point bump, if not 200 points, in just two months). It could have been higher, regardless. Toward the end, I was anxious to be done and more focused on finding shortcuts than I was on solidifying the concepts I learned in class. For example, rather than learning to understand ratios, I kept looking for a formulaic approach that would require math skills rather than reasoning...but GMAT is all about the reasoning skills!
Again, you can do this! Find fun in the challenge of the quantitative and find the idiocy behind the wrong answers in the verbal, and you may like the whole experience of preparing for the GMAT a little...or as I did, a lot.
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.