I am, and always have been, your typical “average” student. Don't get me wrong, I did alright for myself in high school and during my engineering days but I was never one to go the extra mile, showcasing my mental prowess by memorizing text books word for word while simultaneously solving complex calculus computations in my mind. If you ask me, that was always for the birds (my apologies to the Hermione Grangers of the world).
That being said I am going to share what little I can about my GMAT experience and hopefully help some of you out there who are currently in the belly of the beast. Now I am no expert on test taking so I would advise you to take everything I say from here on in with a grain of salt.
Step 1: Researching as much as humanly possible and psyching yourself up for the journey ahead
We've all heard the clichéd 'knowledge is power' phrase. Well in this case this cliché is your best bet at arming yourself for the battle ahead. Thankfully we live in the age of information. There are countless resources and apps available to aid you on your quest for that elusive 700+ score. Your first stop should of course be the official GMAT website. Read up on the test and figure out exactly what you're up against. I would also personally recommend http://www.beatthegmat.com/ and http://gmatclub.com/ These are excellent avenues for anyone who is planning on giving the GMAT. No matter what stage of your prep you are at, spend some time with the articles and forums on these sites. I guarantee it will be time well spent.
As for the psyching yourself up part, I suggest you take a look at the success stories on these websites. Reading them can really help you picture that glorious moment of seeing that 780 flash across your screen, having your pick of b-schools and having the bragging rights to an almost perfect score. Believe me, it does wonders for your confidence. Take everything you can learn from these GMAT veterans, absorb it and then strive towards it.
Step 2: Coming up with a game plan that will work for you
The first step to coming up with a study plan is to give a practice exam. Again there are a plethora of them available online to get you started. The official GMAT practice tests are by far the most accurate but I suggest you save them for the end of your prep. This will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses section-wise and topic-wise.
Now comes the hard part. Actually sitting down with the wealth of knowledge you gained online and from the practice tests and coming up with a plan on how to tackle the next few months of your prep. Ideally you would have at least 2-3 months of 3-4 hour days to put aside for your GMAT preparation. For those of you stuck on this step I would recommend checking out the 60-day GMAT study guide available on http://www.beatthegmat.com/ The plan eases you in to the routine of daily study without being too cumbersome. Daily emails will provide you with a few topics a day to cover with plenty of practice problems from the OG13 or OG14 and lessons from the Manhattan or Veritas study guides.
Step 3: Sticking to your plan even if it kills you
Remember when you were a kid and somebody left a candy bar lying there on the counter. Just within reach, not a grown-up in sight and it was your favourite nougaty flavour too. The temptation is just too much for one 6 year old to handle. Well, the temptation to flake on your GMAT prep is going to be 10 times harder. Especially for those of you on full time jobs the last thing on your mind after a hard day’s work is coming home and hitting the books. I know it might seem inhumane to ask you to do algebra at that ungodly hour but I urge you to stick with your study plans as much as you can.
Step 4: You know it - Practice Practice Practice
Once you're done with a section of your study plan or whenever you feel the need for a re-assessment of your skills take a crack at a practice exam. Like it or not it’s the only sure fire way to know where you stand and to help you improve upon your weak areas. There is no such thing as too many practice tests. Give as many as you can find and then some.
Step 5: Preparing for G-Day
There's a lot of info out there about what to expect on test day. Here are some of the things I remember.
There is such a thing as over preparing. Keep your last day of prep short and sweet. Get a good night's sleep to make sure you wake up refreshed and ready for judgement day.
Utilize the break as best as you can. After your done going toe to toe with the GMAT quantitative section some of you braver souls might be tempted to go right ahead and tackle the verbal section. Take a break to recharge your batteries by having a power bar or a drink of water. It will help clear your mind. Remember that it's just the eye of the storm.
Take a day to visit the test centre before you take your test. Familiarize yourself with the surroundings. Do everything to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible to be able to perform your best on test day.
For those of you who have stuck with me through this long and rambling journey here are some additional nuggets of wisdom:
Flash cards: I know it may sound juvenile but flash cards can really help cement the foundations of those pesky basic quant and verbal skills you forgot in elementary school. I used them every day on my commute to and from work and loved them. Look them up on the https://www.manhattanprep.com/gmat/ or on the other sites I mentioned earlier.
Error Logs: Again these are available on the http://www.beatthegmat.com/ They are a fantastic tool for keeping track of your prep and serve as a diagnostic tool as the questions are segregated topic-wise.
Advanced Guides: For those of you really aiming for the stars there are a lot of advanced study guides and advanced material available to give your prep that extra nudge in the posterior that it requires. I personally used the Manhattan GMAT Advanced Quant and Verbal guides and was extremely pleased with the results.
Whatever your final score is the key is not in letting the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat get to you. Either way you still have a long and arduous admissions process ahead of you. I was extremely pleased with the 700 I received but the next few months were still some of the most stressful months of my life.
Looking back on the whole experience now, I can't think of a better way to prepare students for what lies ahead once they make it into a business school. Preparing for the GMAT requires careful planning, strategizing and sacrificing more than a few nights of blissful sleep. From the last few months that I've spent at the MYRA School of Business I can testify to that fact wholeheartedly. So enjoy the spoils of war or sit back and lick your wounds and then come up with a plan to make sure you do yourself justice by finding the right b-school to fit your needs, your future goals and aspirations. All the best to all you aspirants out there!
Joann Ben Mathews
The MYRA School of Business