From August 26, 2012
DLIH Original Post
We are currently in an economy that is not exactly the kindest to the working class. Due to the lack of jobs, many of us are seeking a return to school hoping that when we graduate there will be more opportunities and we’ll be better prepared for them. If your interests lie somewhere in the business realm, you’re probably looking into getting your MBA – Masters of Business Administration. The thing about B-School is that it can be a pretty pricey endeavor. If you’re gonna do it, you need to do it right. And that starts with the GMAT. The GMAT is a standardized test in the fashion of the SAT. It’s scored on a 800 point scale with 700 being that magical number, as most of the top programs average around 700 for each of their incoming classes. Stanford topped the list in 2010 with a mean score of 728.
So where do you start? First, you need to decide why you’re going to b-school. Do you want to leave your current job as a teacher to join an investment bank, or maybe run a non-profit? Do you want to go work at a top marketing agency, or maybe just need an MBA to become an exec with your current company? The reasons will vary, but find your own because schools are better in some areas than others and you should go to the best school you can afford/get in to. If you can’t afford to take two years off work or if you’re just going to school to advance in your current career and your job will sponsor you at a local partner school, you might be constrained to local schools. Either way, this is an expensive undertaking. You will be giving up time, money and effort to achieve this so benefit as much as you can from it.
They say you need around 100 hours of studying to “beat” the GMAT, but know yourself. If you tend to do badly on standardized tests, you’ll probably need more time. If you’re not trying to get into a top tier school, you probably don’t need to study as hard. Then you need to realize if you’re better at verbal or quant (words or numbers…but if you need this explanation…nevermind). Start by doing some basic study on your weaker topic and then give yourself a quick overview of your stronger topic. Your main purpose here is just to give your mind a refresher. It’s likely you haven’t done much school work in a few years and it’s good to remember the basic formulas and rules you’ll need for the test. Now it’s time to take the practice test itself.
The GMAT is a Computer-Adaptive Test (CAT). This is a computer test that bases its questions off the answers to the preceding questions. If you get the right, they get harder; wrong and they get easier. This means that no matter how well you’re doing, it’ll likely seem pretty hard. They key is to make sure to average 1 question every 2 minutes. On the GMAT, unanswered questions hurt more than wrong ones (as do strings of wrong answers), so timing is paramount. But this first test is just about assessing yourself. Try to always take your practice tests how you’d take the real test: go to sleep early, don’t drink the night before, no 5 Hour Energy unless that’s your style, etc. Don’t pay too much attention to your score, just focus on the questions you got wrong and the ones that took too long. Look for patterns, places you struggle. At this point you should go through all of the problems in the Official Guide (OG). You should also get a few other books. Manhattan GMAT has an entire line of books that go in depth on each subject. I would start with their Foundations of Math and Verbal and also get the subjects you struggled with on your first CAT. When you’re studying, make sure to time yourself. You want to get a feeling for how long you should spend on a question. When you’re checking your answers (I would do one page of questions at a time and then check the answers before going on), make sure you understand why you got the wrong answer. It’s good to mark down rules and formulae you come across on flash cards so you can study on the go. Then make sure to go over your questions at the end of the week. You should give yourself 1-2 hours of study every day but no more than 2 in a row. Make sure to clear your mind every now and then with a book or a walk in the park. Bad studying is worse than no studying. You end up skipping over topics thinking you have down, or have to go back and double up. Either way, it doesn’t help you any. At this point you’re ready to take your second CAT. I scored a 680(48Q 39V) on my second CAT and my GMAT was scheduled for 2 weeks later. I went back and studied all my vocab flash cards and scored a 700 (43Q 42V) on my GMAT. Put in the hard work and you can get the score you want.