Beat the GMAT: Preparing for the GMAT with a full time job

Tips to Beat the GMAT

Do you want to beat the GMAT in spite of a busy job that gives you little time? If you are preparing for the GMAT while also working full-time, you will soon realize that the task is quite complex. Not only do you need to manage your office work so that it does not spill over, but you also have to account for the free time you would have normally devoted to leisure pursuits such as watching TV, meeting friends, and taking a vacation.

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So how do you do it? How do you beat the GMAT without having the luxury of available time to dedicate to understanding the concepts and practicing them? Here is a checklist that we prepared based on our own experience. This checklist assumes that you will be studying for the exam entirely on your own (i.e. not taking any study classes or participating in a study group). Here are the steps to beat the GMAT at its own game:

1. Make yourself familiar with the test content: According to official statistics given out by GMAC, the people who conduct the exam, about 30% of the 8,000 test takers that they sampled put in four to six weeks to prepare, and 18% put in seven to nine weeks of preparation. A further 17% put in ten weeks or more. That means 65% of test takers sampled by GMAC put in at least 4 weeks to prepare for the exam, and 35% put in significantly more than this amount of time. GMAC itself states that its results indicate students who put in more hours studying for the GMAT tend to do better on it. As a first step, therefore, buy the GMAT Official Guide (OG), and make yourself familiar with the topics you will need to study.

2. Estimate the time you will need to study: After you know the topics you are going to be tested on, try to gauge the amount of time you will need to prepare each topic thoroughly. People who have graduated from college recently might need less time, and those who graduated a long time ago might need more. In this step, estimate the approximate number of hours you will need in order to master each topic. Once you have reached a total hourly estimate, increase it by 20% (this is important). This will ensure that you are able to handle spill overs from work without letting them upset your study schedule.

3. Estimate the time you will need to practice: Although understanding the concepts that the GMAT tests is the first step, it is not enough to beat the GMAT. Practice is critical. This is not the sort of test you can ace by just mugging up the concepts without practicing them through real problems. The GMAT Official Guide, along with the Verbal and Quantitative guides put out by GMAC, is your best friend in this pursuit. You will need at least 15 hours of study time to fully go through the OG, and a further 10 hours each to go through the Verbal and Quantitative guides. Add these critical 35 hours to your overall estimate. In addition, you will need at least 10 hours to go through the practice tests offered by GMAC (known as GMATPrep), and a further 5 hours to go through the practice questions contained in the software. Add these 15 hours too to your schedule for a total of (at least) 70 hours (50 hours + 20%) spent just on material from GMAC.

As a next step, if you are also using extra reference material (i.e. more that one source for reference material), then make sure that you account for the (approximate) time you think you will need to spend reviewing the material there. Err on the side of caution when estimating.

4. Register for the exam: Once you have estimated the time required, project it forward from when you intend to start. For example, if you tend to start preparing next week, and have estimated that you will need a total of 160 hours of preparation for the exam, then if you study for 20 hours every week (2 hours after work every weekday and 5 hours each day on weekends), you will have everything done in about eight weeks. So you need to schedule your exam at least 8 weeks away. Remember to schedule your exam right now rather than after you are done.Scheduling your exam now rather than later helps you in many ways:

-It imbibes in you a discipline to study regularly in the coming weeks as you know that you have a deadline looming.

-It ensures that you do not miss out on being able to register close to the exam if there is a high volume of test-takers around your intended test date.

-It helps you plan your work and life around a specific target date to complete your mission of preparing well for the exam and taking it head on. For instance, you don’t want to be stuck in a situation where an office project will require you to be regularly putting in extra hours at work around the last weeks of your preparation.

Here are some exam scheduling tips from GMAC.

5. Chart out a regular study schedule, as worked out in step 4: Once you know how many hours you need to study each week, and each day, chart out a regular schedule around it. For instance, work out when you will be doing the studying (late at night / early in the morning) and keep a rigid schedule around it. Any social event / fun / relaxation / laziness should be allowed to strike at anytime in the day other than these sacred hours. Discipline is an essential characteristic required to beat the GMAT, especially when one has little time at hand to study.

6. Go over the basics first, practicing along the way: Make sure you understand the basics of each topic before you decide to plunge headlong into tests. This advice is different from that many people will give you – that you should take your first GMATPrep test right at the beginning of your preparation to know where you stand. We think you should take the first GMATPrep test when you are fairly comfortable with at least 80% of the topics being tested on the exam. If you want to see the kind of questions that are tested, go through the topic-wise review provided in GMATPrep instead. Not taking the practice exam (which by the way is really a very close simulation of the real thing) too early will ensure that you don’t get too discouraged too early, don’t under-rate yourself, and take the practice exam when you should take it – after you have gained some familiarity with the basic material.

In this stage of your preparation, you should first study a concept, understand it, and then do practice questions based on it from the GMAC books.

7. After you are done with your preparation, take lots of tests: Use the GMATPrep software to its full, taking and retaking tests to make sure you exhaust most of the questions the software has in its database (it will give you different questions based on your performance, so you can even get new questions purposely by doing some questions wrong). Also take other tests that you feel you want to, but remember to calibrate the results of these tests with actual GMAT scores. This can be done through a simple google search, and is very important. For instance, if you are taking a Kaplan test, then expect to get a score which is significantly (70-100 points) below what you should expect to get on the GMAT. As you take more tests and become familiar with the experience, you will automatically decrease your nervousness centered around test mechanics on test day. This will make it much easier to beat the GMAT – remember, it is about eliminating one by one those things that can cause you to perform below your best on test day.

8. Keep 2-3 days towards the end just for revision: This is your last phase of revision, and should be used to solidify shaky concepts, practice questions related to them, and also revisit material that you feel you are less confident about. You may take these last days before the exam off from office if you need to, but if you have been sticking to your schedule, this should be unnecessary.

9. That’s it, go crack it: If you have followed the first 8 steps correctly, this last one should not cause much fret: go out there, and beat the GMAT! Here is a link which will help you to become familiar with what you can expect inside the test center on test day.

3 Comments

  1. Farhan
      May 3, 2013 at 4:12 AM

    Good read..But can you please tell me if there are any Indian b-schools that accept candidates with a GMAT score lower than 650? I am an Indian residing in Dubai and want to come back to India after my MBA. Have 3 years of experience as a process engineer. Please suggest.

  2. aryan pawar
      May 15, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    good article..yes I also have the same query that Farhan has…..can you please help us..

    1.   May 15, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      Farhan And Aryan….pl see the article below, which contains a list of Indian MBA programs accepting GMAT scores:
      Indian MBA programs accepting GMAT scores

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