For all you “early birds” who are planning to apply to business school this fall, we wanted to offer a few tips on managing your time as it relates to the GMAT exam. Because this is an important element for many applicants in determining at which schools they will be competitive, it’s best to prep intensively and get this out of the way early in the process.
You should ideally be finished with the GMAT by mid-summer. The reason for this is that you will want to reserve the months of August, September and October for essay writing, school visits, managing your recommenders and other miscellaneous application-related tasks. The last thing you want to be doing in September is juggling the demands of GMAT prep alongside your MBA applications, your responsibilities at work, your extracurricular involvements, etc.
Of course, putting the GMAT to rest by mid-summer is much easier said than done. Given the strength of the test-taking pool and the importance of earning a high score when targeting a top program, in order to be successful, you should ideally budget time for a GMAT prep course or 8 to 12 weeks of solid self-study. You should then consider the fact that you may need to take the exam more than once.
Given these considerations, here is a rough schedule to follow:
April, May: Attend a GMAT prep class and spend as much as 2 hours each weekday doing problems; use the weekends to take full-length tests (under realistic, timed conditions).
June: Take the GMAT early in the month. If you are unsatisfied with your score, work towards taking the exam again. Ideally, you’ll take a short break of one to two weeks (to clear your mind) and then leave at least four weeks to prep for the second sitting of the exam. Consider hiring a tutor to address your specific needs.
July: Take the GMAT again, hopefully achieving a score that is within the range of the MBA programs on your list. If your score doesn’t improve, it may be time to reevaluate your target schools and expand your roster to ensure that your selection is realistic.
In some cases, it may make sense to mirror your work on the GMAT by simultaneously enrolling in a calculus or statistics class at your local university or community college. While this is especially true for applicants who have a weak track record in quantitative subjects and need to build an alternative transcript, in general these classes can often help applicants get the most out of their GMAT preparation.
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