The 2021-22 MBA application season is upon us. If you are planning to apply for MBA this application cycle, now is the time to start your preparation. MBA application journey is a highly time-intensive and demanding process, but you can enjoy the process if you strategize, create an action plan, and follow it.
The first step in this process is GMAT. We always advise MBA hopefuls who reach out to us to get the GMAT out of their way before starting their application prep. Since your entire application process begins with your test score, GMAT/GRE prep should be your first step in your MBA application journey.
GMAT prep strategy is one of the key discussion topics in our video interviews with our successful students. We always ask them about their suggestions based on their experience. In this article, we have compiled general tips and advice from some former MER students. We hope that their experience and insights will benefit the prospective GMAT test-takers.
1. Start Early and Have a Plan:
Mansi (Harvard MBA'20; GMAT- 770)
"The best advice I can give to prospective applicants is to start early so they have as much time as they can for not only GMAT preparation but also GMAT retake, in case they need to improve the score. To start with, start early and have a lot of time on your plate. Secondly, make a good plan, identify what you want to work on, whether it is quant or verbal, or both. Make a step-by-step plan and work on that to get your desired score. All this helps in putting the preparation together and takes you to your target score. I took an e-GMAT online course and all the GMAT resources in terms of the official guide. I also took some online tests, which were in packages of one to six. I think the official resources and the e-GMAT online course are enough to prepare for the entire GMAT."
Click here for Mansi’s video interview and transcript.
Eduardo Silva: (Kellogg MBA'18- GMAT- 740)
"Late in 2011, I decided to buy a GMAT book to see how hard the test could be, and I found it intellectually challenging and interesting! I imagine it may sound awkward to most, but I actually enjoyed the GMAT journey! For around one year and a half (2012-2013), I studied about three times a week in 1.5-hour sessions. It was a slow pace. Instead of hiring someone for GMAT preparation, I learned with guides (Manhattan Guides, Veritas) and Official Guides. My goal was to score at least 720. So I took several mock tests and decided to schedule and take the test only when I could score in the range of 730-760 for five mock tests in a row. I ended up with 740 on the actual GMAT."
Click here for Eduardo’s video interview and transcript.
2. Take Adequate Breaks While Studying, Understand the Concepts, and Internalize Them:
Rohit (Kellogg Admit' 20- GMAT- 760)
"I took my GMAT quite late in the process. Given my demanding job as a civil services officer, it was more challenging to find time for GMAT prep. But I decided to be slow and steady on the path. I cannot state that I was committed to the number of hours every day because I had to balance many things. But I was regular in my studies, and there was a rhythm. Though that rhythm was slow, I stuck to it for the entire duration. I tried to be committed and regular and avoided being overwhelmed with too much information at a time. I made sure to take adequate breaks while studying, understand the concepts, and internalize them, so I enjoyed the process and scored a 760."
Click here for Rohit’s video interview and transcript.
3. Be Consistent; I Prepared for GMAT for 5 Months and Practiced every Single day:
Shekhar (Booth Admit'21 -w/ scholarship- GMAT- 780)
"One thing that I can say from my experience is that I was consistent. I prepared for my GMAT for five months, and I do not recollect a single day where I did not practice, even if it was for 30 minutes. So as far as quantitative ability is concerned, my understanding was that it is about testing my comfort with concepts. You feel that you excel in understanding the concepts and then start thinking about the application in a time-bound manner. Taking time tests is the key here. As an international student from South Asia, I have always found that quantitative abilities are not something that my geography struggles with. Generally, it is the verbal ability with its three sections- sentence correction, critical reasoning, and reading comprehension. Each requires a different set of understanding. I felt that sentence correction was something that I could easily master because it is more predictable, and it is more grammar, so my focus was on excelling in sentence correction and ensuring that if there were twelve questions, all 12 of them were correct for me or maybe one or two wrong. For critical reasoning and sentence correction, I have found that the strategy guides on the GMAT club are helpful, and really set the stage. I went back to them multiple times during my preparation. For sentence correction, I also found this"Thursdays with Ron", which I believe you can now find on YouTube also. I would advise everybody to at least do that once during their preparation cycle.
Reading comprehension was never predictable, and I could never figure out my accuracy in those questions. Of course, you would need to prepare for reading comprehension, and I have found it useful that reading novels or books or even newspapers is useful in improving your language skills. But I do not think they are directly related to how you will be comfortable reading comprehension and comprehension passages. If you want to be better at solving reading comprehension questions, you must make yourself comfortable with reading those often boring and abstract passages and make sense of their language and structure. I would be available, and I am sure Poonam would share my contact details. I would be available to anybody who is struggling with preparing a robust GMAT strategy. I could look at their strategy, what they are doing, where they are going wrong, and maybe advise them as well. But I am no expert. When I went for the test in 2019, I was not expecting a 780. I would have been happy even with the 740 or 750 because the test is unpredictable, and you are not sure what you will get."
Click here for Shekhar’s video interview and transcript.
4. Learn How the Test Works, Manage Your Time, be Regular, and Practice:
Eduardo Schuch (MIT Admit GMAT- 710)
"For me, it was four months of preparation in total, and I took the GMAT twice. Your life can be much easier if you understand how to study. I did not have any close friends who could give me some initial tips for the GMAT, so I started my preparation reading from many sources. The first one was the Official Guide, which I believe can give you a strong base to understand where to focus afterward.
I have two main tips for those who are studying for the GMAT. First, it is important to understand how the test works, and that is where I failed on my first attempt. As it is adaptive testing, you must manage your time and risks and decide which questions are worth doing and which ones you should skip. It is also important that you finish the test; the last questions can give a substantial uphill or downhill on your score. In my first attempt, I did not have time to finish the test, and my score was 630.
Second, the GMAT is all about practicing. My score went up when I started to practice the test in real conditions. There are many mock adaptive tests available on the internet, and I did more than 10. Over these four months, my routine was studying for two hours at night every day during weekdays. On Saturday and Sunday, I did a full mock test in the morning and studied all the questions (even the correct ones) in the afternoon. My score was 710, which is an ok score. If possible, I would start to prepare sooner; probably six months of preparation is a good goal."
Click here for Eduardo’s video interview and transcript.
5. If You Get a 700 score on the mock Test, Retake the Test to Improve:
Nithish (Rice MBA'20- GMAT- 740)
"I took GMAT twice. The first time, I scored a 700, and the second time I scored 740. In practice tests, I was getting 720. So after the first attempt, I went online and asked a couple of people for advice about what should I do? They said you are consistently scoring 720 in your practice tests, so there is no harm in giving another attempt. So I decided to put in a little more time and improve on my weaknesses. Since I was not scoring very well in verbal, I focused more on verbal. I ended up with 740 (38 in Verbal and 51 in Quant). So I suggest that if you consistently score a particular score in your practice tests and score less than in actual GMAT, you should retake the test because another 20 or 30 points will definitely help."
Click here for Nithish’s video interview and transcript.
6. If You are at a Basic Level, Hire a Tutor (I raised my score from 560 to 700):
Andre: (IMD MBA'19- GMAT- 700)
"GMAT was a headache for me. I tried it three times and really struggled to get a high score. I am a vet, so I had not learned any Math for the last 13 to 14 years. I had to start from scratch as I did not know the basics. I started preparing with Manhattan Prep. Then I realized it was probably too soon for my kind of level, and if I want to have a good score, I will have to spend some money and time. So I hired a GMAT tutor for the quant part to help me from basic to a high level. Though most of the time my verbal part was quite good, I hired a tutor for verbal as well. That was a good investment. My first GMAT score was 560, and in my third attempt, I reached a 700. It was a big jump. Most people say it is impossible, but it is not.
My advice is if you have just graduated from college and have Math still fresh in your mind, or if you are working with these concepts and already have a decent score, you can go through regular GMAT prep service, which is cheaper. However, if you start with a low score, it might be tough to get a high score unless you hire a tutor."
Click here for Andre’s video interview and transcript.
7. Take e-GMAT’s Verbal; Sentence Correction Techniques Helped me Push my Verbal to 40:
Tanay- (Smith MBA'18- GMAT- 710)
"I had three attempts at the GMAT (580, 600, & 710) and two attempts at the application process. I faced challenges throughout and felt like giving up many times during times of failure. But the thought of going to business school kept driving me. I always had high expectations of myself and kept working hard towards my goal. From a GMAT point of view, I found e-GMAT's online course the best out there for working professionals. The video format of learning suited me as I found it really difficult to attend classroom coaching. But e-GMAT's verbal, especially their sentence correction techniques, are incredible and helped me push my verbal score (V40)."
Click here for Tanay’s interview.
8. Practice a Lot and Familiarize Yourself with the Test's Format:
Pablo– (Ross MBA'19- GMAT- 710)
First, the tests are hard for a non-native speaker because we don’t process English as fast as our native language. You need to practice a lot and familiarize yourself with the test format to become quick at answering the questions. I used to work long hours at the time, so I did not have much time to retake the test. I was also investing several hours a week in English training to build the required level of proficiency as an international student. I got 710 on a single attempt and applied with it.
Click here for Pablo’s video interview and transcript.
9. Do not Retake the Test too Frequently; Retake GMAT after you are Confident of your Preparation:
Dinesh (Schulich MBA ’21- GMAT- 640)
"Honestly, I didn't plan my GMAT preparation very well. My first GMAT attempt was in March 2017. Initially, I went through various websites and studied material on the internet and got a 630. This was not competitive for top B-schools, so I wanted to retake the GMAT to improve my score. In between, I was promoted and transferred to Chennai. I enrolled myself with a consultancy in Chennai for a two months’ course and retook the GMAT but could not improve it much. So, I knew that I was wrong somewhere in grasping the concepts which are essential for the GMAT. I think it is not the hours that matter but the quality time you are putting in. The main reason I could not improve my score significantly was my demanding 12-hour work schedule. In my subsequent attempt, I could boost it to 640, and I applied with this score.
Another major mistake I made was that I took the GMAT exam too frequently. I attempted GMAT in 2017 three times in two months, and again, three times in two months in 2018. This was the biggest mistake. By the time I realized that I was taking the GMAT too many times, I had exhausted my six attempts out of eight. At that time, I realized that I was left with only two more attempts, and I wanted to keep these as a contingency plan if a situation arises. I advise the candidates not to make this mistake. They should have sufficient preparation time so they can introspect where they are lagging in the conceptual part, correct their mistakes, and reschedule the GMAT only after they feel confident in their preparation."
Click here for Dinesh’s video interview and transcript.
10. Put Aside at Least Three Months of Complete Dedication to GMAT:
Praveen (ISB & IE Admit,21- GMAT- 690)
"As I did not have any formal schooling, and I was home-tutored, my basics in English were a bit on the rough edge. For me, it was like starting everything from scratch. I gave my first attempt way in 2018. I could hardly score 560 with the preparation of two to three months. I did not understand where I was going wrong. The only skill that I possessed was critical reasoning and reading comprehension because, in medicine, we go through an enormous number of books and comprehend them. But I struggled with sentence correction because a lack of schooling showed up there. At that point, I joined a classroom session of e-GMAT; it taught people who were already well-versed in everything. So, everything went over my head. Later, I joined e-GMAT as such, and that helped me a lot in building my basics. I took my second attempt in March 2020 and scored a 650, so e-GMAT took me from 560 to 650. But I was stuck there for another one or two attempts. Again, I tried something else, and that 40 -point improvement took me to 690, my final score. I could not take any more attempts since I had exhausted all my attempts.
I made a few mistakes in my GMAT prep. I should have devoted some amount of time clearly to that, but that never materialized. I would advise people to put aside at least three months of complete dedication to the GMAT before doing anything unless they were absolute wizards with an excellent quantitative and verbal background. The exam looks pretty simple on the surface, but it is not. As you come from 650 to 680 to 700, the difficulty level increases drastically."
Click here for Praveen’s video interview and transcript.
Everyone has their own learning style, so what works for one person may not work for another. Create the study plan that is best for you and follow it. Good luck with your GMAT.
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You may email Poonam at email@example.com with questions about your application for the 2021-22 admission cycle.