Sameer Kamat is the founder of MBA Crystal Ball, an MBA admissions consulting venture with resources for GMAT preparation & coaching, Bschool applications (MBA profile evaluation, MBA essay writing, interview prep) and MBA careers. He completed his MBA from the University of Cambridge and worked in the area of Mergers & Acquisitions for five years before becoming an entrepreneur. He is also the author of the best-selling Beyond The MBA Hype.
With MBA admissions season heating up, aspiring candidates are working around the clock to get the pre-requisites in place – GMAT score, business school selection, MBA essays, recommendations, TOEFL/IELTS score. The starting point for most applicants is the GMAT. For working professionals who have been away from studies for several years, getting back into the test preparation mood can be a challenge. Here are some tips to make the journey easier.
1. Realise the importance of the GMAT score in the application process
Many MBA aspirants over-focus on the GMAT without realising that there are several other aspects that Admissions Officers will look at while evaluating the strength of the profile. This is the primary reason for the high anxiety levels of first-time test takers.
Getting a strong GMAT score is important, but not at the cost of submitting weak essays and applying to the wrong schools. While you are preparing for the GMAT, ensure that the rest of the areas are not getting neglected.
2. Know the structure of the GMAT test
With the introduction of the Integrated Reasoning section, the format of the GMAT test has been tweaked. But this only impacts one section on the test. Also, though the actual questions and the difficulty levels vary, the basic structure of the test is quite predictable.
The number & nature of the sections, the format of questions and in fact the answer choices for some question types are predictable. If you can go in knowing exactly how each section works, it can save you several precious minutes that you can use to tackle additional questions.
3. Focus on getting the concepts clear first
The GMAT relies upon concepts that don’t really need an advanced degree to grasp. Many of the topics would have probably been covered in the high-school. The permutations and combinations of these concepts make them difficult to crack.
The difference between a good score and a great one can often be linked to how well the candidate understands the fundamentals of verbal and quantitative theories.
4. Get a error recording and correction mechanism in place
A typical test prep approach is to solve as many problems and practice tests as possible (GMAT preparation forums being a good source for such content), in the hope that the errors will disappear over time.
Maybe if you get the exact same question next time, you’d know the correct answer (just because it’s been provided in the practice questions). But if there’s no error recording mechanism in place or an attempt to rectify them, there’s a high likelihood that the same type of errors will re-surface in other forms.
5. It doesn’t have to be a make-or-break attempt
If you score lower than expected in your test, there’s no reason to be devastated. Often, in the first test attempt, apart from your knowledge about GMAT concepts, there are many more variables that can influence the score – the test center ambience, the noise level and the anxiety to list down a few.
The best part about the GMAT is that you can take it multiple times and bschools will take the highest of the lot. If you’ve taken the test early enough and you feel the score could be notched up by 30-40 (or more) points, you could consider re-taking it. But ensure that you’ve spent time fixing the weak areas and you are confident of gaining substantial ground in the second attempt.
If you are hoping to go beyond these high-level tips and explore some more topics in greater detail, here are a few posts that could help you excel on the GMAT verbal and GMAT quantitative (maths) sections.
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