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5 GMAT Tips Every MBA Applicant Should Know


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Thinking of going to business school? Then there’s a good chance you’ll need to take the GMAT before applying.

So, whether you’re hearing about the GMAT for the first time or taking the test in a week—here are some important things you’ll want to keep in mind:

MIZZOU Trulaske College of Business1. Practice, practice, practice

There are formal test preparation courses you can take, but there is also plenty of free GMAT practice available online. Think about it—the test is computer based, so it only makes sense to begin your GMAT training online.

Here are a few helpful tips for finding GMAT practice resources:

  • Download free test software from the official GMAT test maker.
  • Kaplan Test Prep offers free GMAT practice, test insights, and other useful resources.
  • Scan the internet for free practice events and downloads. There are a ton of MBA focused sites and test prep companies that want you to try their products for free.

2. Just breathe

Remember, you can take the GMAT more than once. As a matter of fact you can take it up to five times, waiting just 16 days in a rolling 12-month period.

At $250 a pop, however, retaking isn’t the most efficient strategy. Nonetheless, reminding yourself that a bad test day won’t necessarily seal your fate can be a helpful way of dealing with stress. If you’ve already taken the GMAT once or twice, if you choke on test day, or if you otherwise didn’t get the score you were hoping for, don’t fear. You still have another shot.

3. Make your own good luck

The best performing GMAT students don’t simply attain high scores because they’re lucky—they work hard and devote at least three months to preparing. According to a GMAC survey, students who scored a 700 or higher studied an average of 102 hours prior to test day. Start developing a study plan to break this number down into a weekly schedule that works for you.

As you plan, pay attention to your application deadlines. Most business schools operate on a rolling admissions basis. That means you want to have the first application on the pile, as more seats will fill up during later admissions rounds.

4. Know the test

There are plenty of sites out there for learning about each of the four sections on the GMAT. Here is a quick breakdown of what to expect. Click on the links to learn more about each section.

At the end of the test, you’ll need to decide whether you want to report your score or cancel it. For this reason, it’s important to go into test day having a target GMAT score in mind for each program to which you’re applying.

As of June 27, 2015, GMAT takers are permitted to see their score before deciding whether to send it to their target schools or cancel. You can choose up to five business schools that will receive the report (with a fee for any additional reporting beyond those five). Knowing in advance how high you should be scoring will allow you to make a more informed, strategic decision on test day.

5. Expect the unexpected

Preparing for test day requires more than just studying. You’ll also need to anticipate the actual, physical experience of getting to the GMAT testing center and sitting for the test. There are more than a few horror stories about last-minute GMAT crises—people running late because of construction, parking issues, getting lost, etc.

To avoid a test day disaster, it’s wise to expect the unexpected. Do you need change to feed the parking meter? If your center is in a larger building, do you know the suite number?

Here are some general test day tips:

  • Arrive 30 minutes in advance
  • Bring valid identification
  • The test administrators will likely scan your palm and take your photo
  • Most testing centers provide personal lockers in which to store your phone, watch, coat, food, etc. during the exam
  • A noteboard and marker will be provided for problem solving
  • Anticipate potential distractions, such as others in the room entering and exiting
  • You are allowed two breaks during the test and can access your locker for food
  • To take a break, raise your hand and let the proctor escort you