One of the first obstacles a future MBA candidate is confronted with is the GMAT. There are some questions that naturally come up. Is the test really that important? How should I prepare for it?
You’re going to hear many answers to these questions. As someone who has been teaching the GMAT for almost 20 years, here are some of my thoughts.
How important is the GMAT to my MBA application?
The GMAT is one data point, albeit an important one, in the story of your application. A common misconception is that the GMAT is a classic undergraduate type of test—it isn’t.
The test questions are often more like puzzles. They do a good job of capturing your attention to detail and how you think. This rewards a different way of thinking about and preparing for the test. The format of the test also adds the element of time management.
The ability to read a question, dissect it properly and quickly, and execute the work makes this adaptive test a robust data point for admissions teams. Why the GMAT remains relevant in the application process is that a high test score positively correlates to good performance in business school.
Admissions teams do their best to ensure that admitted candidates have the foundation to perform well in the business school environment, and a strong GMAT score is a good indicator.
Should I study alone or find a GMAT prep course?
As part of your GMAT prep, you might choose to enroll in a prep course. Prep courses take a variety of forms, but the idea is to connect you with a live tutor or pre-recorded lessons that take you through your GMAT prep from start to finish.
As with any option, these courses may not be for everyone. If you feel confident studying alone, set yourself up for success: create a schedule that is manageable and maintainable, study in one to two hour sessions multiple times a week, and periodically take practice tests to keep track of your progress.
If you think learning with a tutor is the better option for you and opt for a prep course, your foremost question should be ‘what is the value-add?’
When we go back and look at what this test isn’t, we find the source of our answer. This isn’t a classic undergraduate test. A preparation course value-add is not in something like relearning exponent rules—you can get that from a textbook.
The most important prep course value-add is helping you think about questions in new ways.
What does a GMAT prep course do?
Prep course instructors are your strategic guides to help you navigate the content and learn to think about questions as not only a test-taker but also a question-writer.
Looking at not only what is on the page, but also what isn’t on the page. For example, is the word ‘integer’ present? Or is it a diophantine question? If not, then you should be conditioned to think about non-integers (fractions or roots).
Another value-add of prep course instruction is helping students manage their studies. Giving students the tools to successfully incorporate the added time commitment of GMAT preparation into their schedule is often an unexpected, but important, facet of GMAT prep.
The classic ‘cram’ or weekend study overload are rarely effective ways to learn. Guidance on incorporating GMAT study in a manageable and effective fashion is as important as the strategic guidance.
A final value-add is the natural confidence that develops as you prepare for the GMAT. The experience gained from a GMAT prep course can create that level of comfort and belief that you know what to expect, and in turn unlock the potential to perform at your best on test day—setting the stage for getting your best score and ultimately getting into the school of your choice.
As you embark on your MBA journey, taking the GMAT is one of many steps along the way. Research your options, sit in on a class, and decide what is the best path forward for you.
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