# Category Archives: GMAT

## Guest Post: Reviewing the 3 Main GMAT Prep Options

Guest post by Mark Skoskiewicz, founder of MyGuru By now you know the GMAT is a very important test, especially for those aiming for Top 10, and particularly Top 5, business schools. However, you don’t …

#### Guest post by Mark Skoskiewicz, founder of MyGuru

By now you know the GMAT is a very important test, especially for those aiming for Top 10, and particularly Top 5, business schools.

However, you don’t need a 770 to go to Harvard Business School, and the GMAT is just one of about five key elements to the application.  But, this blog post is about GMAT prep options, so I’ll stick to that.

There are three common ways to study for the GMAT:

2)      Take a GMAT prep class

3)      Work with a private tutor

The GMAT assesses core math, reading comprehension, writing, and analytical skills, yet it also has unique features and quirks.  So, you’ll do much better if you put in the time to properly prepare for the particular problem types that the test writers love to use year after year.   You can perform extremely well on the GMAT by choosing any option above, but folks in specific situations may fare better choosing one option over another.

### Studying on your own is a good option when:

1.       You can score in the mid 500s or higher (which is an average score) when taking a practice test “cold,” and your performance is average or higher in all of the sections. You also aren’t obsessed with scoring well above 700 by the time you take your official GMAT.

The GMAT will make you remember the rules of triangles, how to factor equations, how to read critically, and many other skills you may not have used since college.  If you can score about average right off the bat on a practice test, you’ll probably be able to score well above average after studying on your own for a few months.

2.       You have a lot of time.

Let’s say it takes 35-50 hours of studying for most people to reach their full natural ability on the GMAT.  If you don’t have a job that’s too stressful, and you have six months until you plan on taking the GMAT, you’re in a better position to figure things out on your own.

3.       You are an independent worker.

You prefer working on projects by yourself.  You didn’t mind classes in college where the professor didn’t explain things very well.  You are a natural at figuring things out on your own.

4.       You are very structured and organized with your time.

To properly study for the GMAT, you need to develop a plan of attack and stick with it.  Each week, you should devote 3-4 hours to studying.  You need to methodically review each of the sections and then answer and review practice problems.  If you have trouble structuring your time or aren’t naturally organized, you’ll find it hard to study on your own.

5.       Expense is an important consideration.

A good test prep class will cost you \$500 to \$1,500.  Private tutoring costs anywhere from \$25 to \$250 per hour.  Obviously, self-study costs much less: roughly \$25 for the Official Guide to the GMAT, \$30 for some additional practice tests, and \$50 for a supplemental bank of practice questions.

With this in mind, let’s review the two other GMAT prep options available to you.

### When should someone consider taking a GMAT Prep Class?

It’s not quite as simple as taking the inverse of the above five points, but it’s close.  A GMAT prep class is a good option for someone who:

1. Scored below average when taking a practice GMAT cold. This means they are missing a few (perhaps not too many) core skills that will be tested on the GMAT, and a prep class can provide a reasonably priced review of those skills.
2. Has the free time it takes to work through the prep class.  Most classes meet once a week for a few hours for eight weeks or so.
3. Benefits from having a teacher explain key concepts.  You won’t get customized instruction from a prep class teacher—after all there are 10-30 other people in the room—but you will have somebody explaining the material.
4. Needs the structure that the prep class provides.  You’ll show up each week at a given time, review new content, and be assigned practice problems to complete.
5. Is willing to spend some money to do well on the GMAT.  Some prep classes are expensive, but it’s a reasonable middle ground between self-study and private tutoring.

### OK, so who should hire a private GMAT tutor?

If you’ve read through this blog post so far and don’t feel like you fit in one of the above categories, then a private GMAT tutor might work for you.  Specifically, a private GMAT tutor works well for folks who:

Scored either well below or well above average on an initial practice GMAT, taken cold.  If you are well below average, the prep class might not be enough instruction to get your skills up.  If you are well above average, you might already know most of the stuff taught in the prep class.   After all, a prep class has to make sure it is covering concepts that the average person in the class needs to be taught.  So, if you aren’t somewhere close to average, a prep class is probably not for you.

1. A side note:  If you are trying to score above 700 on the GMAT, you’ll encounter some pretty difficult questions.  Many people find that a tutor can quickly reveal the core concepts at play here, oftentimes in cases where self-study or a prep class simply would have failed.  If you’re dedicated to trying to break 700, a tutor starts to become a better option.
2. You may not have much time because you’re taking the GMAT in four weeks.  Or, you may be taking it in three months but you work 80 hours a week, leaving little free time to prep.  If you don’t have much time, a private tutor is the most efficient way to fill in the gaps in your knowledge base.  A tutor can quickly assess your situation and focus on your weak areas.
3. If you don’t mind listening to someone else explain something (vs. having the satisfaction of figuring it out completely on your own), a private GMAT tutor will work well for you.
4. When it comes to being organized and structured with your time, almost anyone can benefit from a private GMAT tutor.  Why?  If you aren’t naturally organized, the tutor can help you develop and stick to a plan.  If you are, you can use the tutor to answer specific questions or review questions you had trouble with while following your own plan.
5. Unfortunately, a good GMAT tutor can be expensive.  With some research, you can find a good tutor for between \$50 to \$100 per hour.   But, if your score improves from 630 to 700, and you ultimately get into a Top 5 business school, the \$1,000 to \$2,000 you might spend ends up being very well worth it.

Have I missed any other major ways to study for the GMAT, or any other key considerations? What are your thoughts?

###### Image credit: Bill Selak  (CC BY-ND 2.0)

***

Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, a boutique provider of customized, 1-1 GMAT tutoring, as well tutoring for most other standardized tests.  He also has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Posted in GMAT, Test Prep Advice | Tagged , ,

## B-Schools Give GMAT’s New IR Section Mixed Reviews

According to a recent poll of 265 business school admissions officers, early opinion of the GMAT’s newly introduced Integrated Reasoning (IR) section is decidedly mixed. As a new season of applicants prepares to submit the …

According to a recent poll of 265 business school admissions officers, early opinion of the GMAT’s newly introduced Integrated Reasoning (IR) section is decidedly mixed. As a new season of applicants prepares to submit the first set of applications with GMAT scores that include the IR section, Kaplan Test Prep‘s 2012 survey reveals that more than half of MBA programs still aren’t sure how important IR scores will be in the evaluation process.

While 54% responded “undecided” to the question “How important will a student’s Integrated Reasoning score be in your evaluation of their overall performance on the GMAT?”, 22% say IR scores will be important, and 24% say IR scores will not be important.

The four question types found in GMAT Integrated Reasoning ”“ table analysis, graphics interpretation, multi-source reasoning and two-party analysis ”“ feature scatter plots, sortable tables, and multi-tabbed data.  Such question types, introduced in the new section in June, 2012, are novel compared to the formats traditionally seen on graduate school-level admissions exams such as the GRE, LSAT and MCAT.

Among the major findings:

• In Kaplan’s 2012 survey, 41% said IR would make the GMAT more reflective of the business school experience, a big drop from the 59% who answered that way in Kaplan’s 2011 survey.
• Those who weren’t sure if IR would make the exam more reflective rose from 37% in 2011 to 49% in 2012.
• Admissions officers who said IR would not make the exam more reflective increased from 5% in 2011 to 10% in 2012.
• Somewhat similarly, 54% “do not know” if Integrated Reasoning makes the GMAT more reflective of work in business and management after business school; 36% say it does; and 10% say it doesn’t.

“Schools generally prefer to gather performance data on a new test or test section before fully incorporating it into their evaluation process,” says Andrew Mitchell, director of pre-business programs at Kaplan Test Prep.

“Not all applicants in 2012 will submit GMAT scores with an IR component,” Mitchell adds. “We can expect that, as more data is available, schools will determine clear policies, in which Integrated Reasoning may play a key role. In the meantime, GMAT test takers should not take GMAT Integrated Reasoning any less seriously than the Quantitative or Verbal sections.”

Mitchell notes that because test takers receive a separate score for the Integrated Reasoning section, poor performance can’t be masked by stronger performance on other sections of the test.

Posted in General, GMAT |

## GMAC Reports Historic Highs in GMAT Testing Volume

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), owner of the GMAT exam, has announced that last year was a record year for the exam. Volume for the 2012 testing year (July 1, 2011, to June 30, …

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), owner of the GMAT exam, has announced that last year was a record year for the exam. Volume for the 2012 testing year (July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012) was up 11 percent from the prior year, and eight percent higher than the previous record of 265,613 in 2009.

A total of 286,529 GMAT exams were taken, with 831,337 score reports sent to 5,281 graduate business and management programs around the world ”” all historic highs, says GMAC.

The record volume partially reflects increased interest in the exam brought on by the addition of the Integrated Reasoning section on June 5, 2012. Historically, test volume rises just before changes are made to a standardized exam as test takers opt for a familiar format at the transition.

GMAT testing outside of the United States continues to grow quickly. Tests taken by non-US citizens rose 19 percent in 2012 and represented 59 percent of global GMAT volume.

Chinese test takers, the second-largest citizenship group after the US, represented 20 percent of global testing. In 2012, the number of exams taken by Chinese citizens increased 45 percent to 58,196 exams. Meanwhile, Indian citizens, the third-largest citizenship group, took 30,213 GMAT exams, a figure that increased 19 percent in 2012.

The percentage of exams taken by women hit 42.9 percent in 2012””a record for the third straight year.

“Today’s global students ”” who may be a citizen of one country, study in second and choose to work in a third ”” recognize the significance and the superiority of the GMAT exam in gaining admission to the best management programs around the world,” says David Wilson, GMAC president and CEO.

“Business and management skills are needed more than ever in an ever increasing variety of organizations. Business schools have responded by offering a deeper portfolio of programs to meet these diverse needs,” Wilson adds.

Posted in GMAT |

## Map Out Your MBA Timeline

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com Once you’ve decided to pursue an MBA, you’ve got your work cut out for you. MBA applicants need to fit studying for the …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com

Once you’ve decided to pursue an MBA, you’ve got your work cut out for you. MBA applicants need to fit studying for the GMAT and developing essays in with other personal and professional commitments. If you’re planning to apply to business school in the fall, now is the time to come up with a game plan for completing the admissions components within a schedule that doesn’t necessitate sleepless nights and a jumbo bottle of Maalox. The best way to do this is to put together your MBA application timeline months before your target deadlines.

Allot time for essays and the GMAT: We’re slightly more than three months away from Round One at most schools. If you haven’t started your applications and are wondering if you still have time, it depends. Among the factors you should weigh: how much time you have in your schedule, how difficult it is for you to write essays, and how focused and motivated you are. In general, three to four months is enough time to submit several applications in the first round. You’ll be working hard, but that is a realistic timeline.

The amount of time MBA aspirants will spend on their applications will vary, depending on writing abilities and general work efficiency. That said, plan to spend between 40 and 60 hours preparing four to eight applications. Non-native English speakers will also likely need to allot more time on their applications, particularly on writing, revising, editing, proofing, formatting, and inputting essays.

The other piece of this puzzle is, of course, the GMAT. Have you completed the GMAT and are you satisfied with your score? If you still need to take the GMAT, you may have a lot of work ahead of you, as applicants typically devote at least 100 hours to test preparation. Depending on where you are in the process, you may have to take a prep class and perhaps take the test more than once. If this is the case, Round One may not be a realistic option.

Structure your work sessions: Some people work most efficiently when they can break up tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces, while others prefer to devote several hours to their writing in one sitting. MBA applicants should be aware of the way they work most effectively and structure their writing and editing sessions accordingly.

I’ve had candidates call me a week before applications are due, planning to take the week off of work, deprive themselves of sleep, and devote all of their time to writing essays to submit in the first round. They figure that 100 hours of work should do the trick. While that may be plenty of time, I’m a big believer that the time should be spread out. Because this is such a personal, soul-searching process, sometimes you just need to call it a night and sleep on it””tough to do when you only have a week.

I typically recommend that candidates allocate two to three hours each time they sit down to work on their essays, particularly for the first few drafts. Essays should be approached holistically; you won’t have a compelling final product if you snatched 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there to cobble together that “knowledge into action” essay for the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania.

Conversely, most applicants should also avoid the “marathon session.” Few people are still sharp or creative eight hours into a writing and editing session. If you need to make up for lost time, try breaking it up with a session in the morning and another in the evening.

Allow some distance: Applicants should also build several weeks for reflection and feedback into their MBA timeline. If you can come back to your essays days later with fresh eyes, you’ll often think of a better example or more inspired language to illustrate a certain point. This won’t happen if you’re forced to work at warp speed.

Distributing your writing and editing over a reasonable period also makes it easier for friends, family, or colleagues to provide feedback. It’s unfair to ask someone to turn around comments in a 24-hour period, so provide them with a few days to give you their critiques. Leave yourself adequate time to reflect upon and incorporate their feedback.

We’re just getting into the thick of things for most schools. If you’re planning to apply this year, now is the time to get started: on GMAT prep, writing essays, selecting recommenders, or just generally piecing together your strategy. The b-school application process is stressful, but careful planning will make the experience manageable and help you channel your energies into continually improving your candidacy until the moment you submit your applications.

Posted in General, GMAT, Test Prep Advice |

## The Do’s and Don’ts of Applying to Business School

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com We’re coming up on MBA application season again, with Round One deadlines just a few short months away. If you’re applying to business …

#### This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com

We’re coming up on MBA application season again, with Round One deadlines just a few short months away. If you’re applying to business school in the fall, now is the time to set your strategy. Here are some of my top tips to ease your journey as you navigate this challenging process.

Testing strategies:

In a sea of highly qualified candidates, the GMAT is an important screening tool, so take this element of your application seriously, as it’s very much within your control.

DO take a class in order to prepare rigorously. Establish and adhere to a study schedule and practice exams in a realistic environment. One basic key to success is familiarity””both with question type and the computer-adapted format.

DON’T wait until the last minute to sit for your GMAT. Take care of it early in the season, before you have to hone your focus on other aspects of the application.

DO plan to take the exam more than once. Calmer nerves and more experience often lead to a higher score the second time around.

DON’T cancel a score, no matter how badly you think you have done. Schools will evaluate only your highest score. In any case, it will provide valuable information about your testing strengths and weaknesses. And you may be surprised that a score is not as low as you expected.

DO consider sitting for the GRE. Because the GRE isn’t reported in class profiles and isn’t a factor in b-school rankings, if you struggle with the GMAT but have good grades and other strong credentials, submitting a GRE may make it easier for a school to take a chance on you. If you do well on the GMAT, though, submit it.

DO apply to your dream school, even if it’s a stretch. This is your only chance, so don’t leave yourself open for regrets later.

DO apply to at least four schools of varying levels of competitiveness to maximize your chances of success.

DON’T apply to more than six schools. This is an intense and time-consuming process. Applying to too many schools leads to burnout and diminishing returns.

DON’T rely solely on rankings when deciding where to apply. Only you can decide which program is the right fit for your personality and goals, so engage in first-hand research by visiting schools and speaking with current students and alumni.

Recommendation letters:

Letters of recommendation are an essential part of the admissions process””some top schools have said they are the most important part””so choose your recommenders carefully!

DO use references from your current and most recent jobs. An academic reference won’t be able to answer the most common recommendation questions. Insights from your supervisors help create a picture of you now. The admissions committee isn’t as concerned with how you behaved eight years ago.

DON’T be tempted to seek a letter of recommendation from the CEO of your company, or another high ranking person, if he or she hardly knows you. The admissions committee always prefers placement over prestige, so make sure your recommender knows you well enough to comment in a thoughtful way, with supportive examples that help flesh out the candidate they see on paper.

DO prepare your recommenders and manage them closely. These references are a small but crucial test of your management abilities. If you can’t ensure that your recommenders submit on time or follow other directions, what does this say about your skills as a manager?

The interview:

As with all aspects of this process, it’s important to prep for the interviews. The subject matter of the interview will be you, and you will be expected to be the polished expert.

DO practice out loud, rather than just mentally preparing answers. Conduct mock interviews with a friend, or speak to yourself in the mirror.

DON’T opt to interview on campus if you would perform better off campus. Set yourself up for success by choosing the environment where you’ll feel most relaxed.

DO follow up with a thank you note, via E-mail or regular mail.

Reapplying:

Many schools welcome reapplicants; it shows you are seriously interested in the program. If you approach the process correctly as a reapplicant, you can feel cautiously optimistic.

DO be sure to highlight how you have progressed since your previous application. Demonstrate professional and personal advancements. Help the admissions committee understand how you’ve evolved and become a better applicant since your last attempt.

DON’T completely overhaul your application. Some schools ask you to submit an entirely new application, but too much change can signal that you’re not being honest.

DO apply to new schools in addition to the old ones. If you were unsuccessful the first time, it may be because you applied to the wrong set of schools.

Posted in GMAT, Stacy Blackman in the News |

## Kaplan Survey Says GMAT Still Reigns Supreme

Has the increase in business schools accepting the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) as an admissions alternative swayed prospective applicants away from the GMAT? Not so much, a recent Kaplan Test Prep survey reveals. Just 16% …

Has the increase in business schools accepting the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) as an admissions alternative swayed prospective applicants away from the GMAT? Not so much, a recent Kaplan Test Prep survey reveals.

Just 16% of prospective MBA students said they considered taking the GRE route. Of the 84% who said they never considered taking the GRE instead of the GMAT, 60% said the primary reason was because some or all their target schools only accept the GMAT; 19% said it was because they felt applicants who submit a GMAT score have an admissions advantage over applicants who submit a GRE score; and 8% said it was because they thought they’d do better on the GMAT than on the GRE.

Lee Weiss, director of graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep, says students reporting that they never considered the GRE due to it not being accepted at their target schools may have skewed the numbers out of a lack of information. Many of them would be surprised to know that most, if not all, of the business schools they plan on applying to accept the GRE in addition to the GMAT, Weiss adds.

“However, it’s still a smart business school admissions strategy to take the GMAT if you are only applying to business school, and not considering applying to graduate school too.  According to a separate Kaplan survey of business school admissions officers, applicants who submit a GMAT score have a slight admissions advantage over applicants who submit a GRE score.”

Kaplan Test Prep believes an increasing number of business school will accept the GRE in the years to come, though applicants who submit a GMAT score may continue to hold an advantage, especially because the GMAT is adding an Integrated Reasoning section in June to reinforce its status as the best predictor of student success in business school.  Kaplan will continue to track this trend.

Meanwhile, ETS announced last week that starting in July 2012, anyone taking the GRE will be able to take advantage of a new option called ScoreSelect, which allows test-takers to decide which test scores to send to the institutions they designate, so they can send the scores they feel reflect their personal best.

Posted in GMAT |