Application Breakdown Part 2: GMAT/GRE
Updated: Jul 13, 2022
The thing that EVERY prospective MBA student dreads, the dreaded: GMAT (or GRE). If you’re going for one of the M7 or really any school in the top 25, it’s unfortunately unavoidable. Furthermore, for better or for worse, it is also one of the more influential parts of an application because it’s a reflection of your current academic “ability”. The good news is if you have a weaker academic record, a high GMAT/GRE score can offset that. In general, I encourage you to try and reach that “700”, especially if your academic record is weak. However for many programs, 680 is a sufficient score if paired with a strong application. So how does one tackle the GMAT/GRE? Here are my top recommendations for those who would like to study on their own:
Choose the right test. The GMAT is still heavily favored for MBA with some schools only accepting GMAT only. Contrary to popular thought that the GRE is easier, in general the GMAT’s verbal tends to be easier than the GRE. The GRE wording of quantitative however tends to be more approachable which draws a lot of people who feel like their quantitative is weak. I personally always push for people to do GMAT over but of course if you feel better with the GRE, go with that.
Start Early. Unless you’re one of those rare creatures that just magically does well at standardized tests, studying as early as possible will never hurt. Remember, a GMAT/GRE score is valid for 5 years. Some people take it soon after undergrad since you’re still in fresh study mode and have relevant knowledge. But if you’re just looking into getting your MBA now, I’d say start studying early. At minimum you’ll need one month to review the basics and most people end up studying for it 3 months to a year. It varies and just depends on you and your test taking abilities + studying.
Establish a benchmark - after understanding the basics of the test I think it’s crucial to know your starting point. There are many sources of free practice tests (including an official one) so taking one early on to get an idea of where you stand is a great way to understand how much you’ll likely need to study and what that study will look like
Get the Right Material. Make sure to acquire the best test studying materials. I always recommend the Official Books as the base and then another set of books that goes over specific topics. After talking to others, I personally utilized the Manhattan Prep books but encourage you to do some research with whichever company books you end up buying from. Get a good notebook to follow along and take notes.
Create a study schedule and stay consistent. Whether you’re planning on studying for the GMAT full time or do it around your work/life schedule, create a schedule for it and stick with it. Do what works for you but aim to be practicing out of the books 3-5x a week and bi-weekly practice tests. It’s definitely grueling but just remember that mostly everyone who gets their MBA goes through this process. Burn the night oil - I promise you the rest of the application gets easier.
Study Smart. As you study, use practice tests to gauge your progress. Use error logs to pinpoint topics that you need to review and skip parts that you’re strong in. I think one of the biggest errors I see with most people studying GMAT is this failure to adjust and adapt. Again, studying for GMAT is grueling so optimize the time and effort by checking in on your own progress and honing on parts that need work
Hire a tutor/class. If all else fails, consider taking a GMAT/GRE course or tutor. I personally didn’t do this route as I was able to utilize my experience as a private tutor. I think that the class helps provide a structure and accountability more than anything so in my humble opinion, if you’re thinking of the additional help, consider a tutor who can help personally pinpoint your shortcomings and provide you insights on how to improve.
Again, I can’t emphasize enough how tough the GMAT/GRE is in the application process. Most will agree it’s the worst part, but hang in there. If you’re able to stay disciplined, consistent, and study smart - a 700 is well within reach. And even if you don't hit the magical 700, all is not over. Given how well an application is crafted, chances are still good.
For more info and guidance on GMAT/GRE strategies or concerns over your score, please reach out to me for a free 30 min. chat where we can further discuss your MBA application journey.