Category Archives: Test Prep Advice
May 12, 2015
This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com Just about every MBA candidate needs to submit a GMAT or GRE score as part of their business school admission package, but not …
This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com
Just about every MBA candidate needs to submit a GMAT or GRE score as part of their business school admission package, but not everyone has a clear grasp on when and how the exam fits within the context of the whole application process.
In an ideal world, you would take the test just coming out of college, while you’re still in study and test mode as a recent student. Since both GMAT and GRE scores are valid for five years, getting the exams out of the way years in advance would free you to focus on all of the other elements of the application.
If, like most applicants, you didn’t have the foresight to take the exam right after college, the next best step is to plan your application strategy so that the GMAT is finished before you finalize your list of schools. Your score isn’t everything, but it is an important part of the admissions equation.
If you bomb the exam and can’t improve your score, you may need to reassess your target schools to include less-competitive options. Conversely, you may be able to add one more reach school if the score was higher than expected.
Round one of business school admissions is about four months away at many schools, and if you still need to take the GMAT, you have a lot of work ahead of you. Unless you’re a natural at taking standardized tests, you’ll need to train your brain to get it back into test-taking form.
Most applicants devote at least 100 hours to test preparation, and 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, the first round may not be a realistic option unless you’re able and prepared to completely immerse yourself in the process.
One client, Tasha, came to us just five weeks before the round she was targeting with some idea of her school choices and a GMAT score she wanted to improve. With her limited time she needed to schedule the GMAT for two weeks before her application deadlines. That meant she did not have the luxury of focused studying for the GMAT in all of her free time.
To help Tasha manage her time, we wrote down all of her tasks, including the number of essay iterations we expected her to go through, and then we worked backward from her deadlines to see how many days she had to work. Tasha then started alternating essay writing and GMAT study until the day she took the test.
This abbreviated yet methodical time management system worked for her, and Tasha was able to improve her GMAT by 30 points and submit a strong application to her three target schools. She ultimately gained admission to Stanford Graduate School of Business and Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.
Tasha’s strategy won’t work for everybody, but we see applicants pull off the impossible every season.
I typically advise clients to plan for two attempts at the GMAT, leaving a buffer for a retake if needed. There’s no harm in taking the test two or even three times, and unless you score really well right out of the gate, you often will do better the second time. This is because you’ll have fewer nerves, more familiarity with the process and no big surprises. There is no such thing as a bad test, just opportunities to build on and learn from.
Average scores are creeping higher every year at the top MBA programs, making it hard to offset a bad GMAT score. It truly is a level playing field, and I often cringe when I read essays where people try to rationalize a low score.
What you can do, however, is acknowledge the score and say you don’t find it truly reflective of your abilities. Then show why you are actually strong in quant or going to excel academically by pointing to your college GPA, work experience or by encouraging your recommenders to focus heavily on your intellect.
Timing and planning are key to reducing the stress of the application process. I generally encourage applicants to not cram everything into too short of a timeline, but everyone has their own style and you need to figure out what makes the most sense for you, your goals and your schedule.
February 3, 2015
The Graduate Management Admission Council has launched a new GMAT Enhanced Score Report, providing test takers with access to an in-depth analysis of their overall performance on the GMAT, including their performance on the various …
The Graduate Management Admission Council has launched a new GMAT Enhanced Score Report, providing test takers with access to an in-depth analysis of their overall performance on the GMAT, including their performance on the various sections and subsections within the exam.
The report provides metrics that describe everything from the test taker’s average time to answer each question type, to overall time management relative to other test takers, and provides insight and analysis about how students might use the report to talk about or improve their score.
This new GMAT Enhanced Score Report is delivered to a test taker following their sitting of the exam. In 2014, GMAC introduced the Score Preview feature for the GMAT exam that allows test takers to cancel a GMAT score if it isn’t up to their standards or expectations, before sending it to a school.
Both Enhanced Score Reports and the Score Preview feature provide test takers with greater control over how and when they report their scores to the schools to which they are applying.
“The value of the GMAT Enhanced Score Report is that, used alone or together with the GMAT’s other prep and score reporting features, it can help students strengthen their performance, improve their scores and be better prepared for the process of applying to business school,” says Ashok Sarathy, vice president of Product Management at GMAC.
The GMAT Enhanced Score Report can be purchased following the taking of the GMAT exam for $24.99 (USD) through the mba.com store.
January 26, 2015
This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com While I occasionally hear tales of MBA applicants offered admission in a top business school with a 640 GMAT score, the truth is that accepting students …
This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com
While I occasionally hear tales of MBA applicants offered admission in a top business school with a 640 GMAT score, the truth is that accepting students with stellar scores of 700 or higher is more the norm at the most competitive programs.
Before you start to panic and become hung up on achieving the highest score possible, or fixate on the average GMAT score reported by the schools, I urge test-challenged clients to focus instead on aligning their scores within the 80 percent range, which schools usually list within their admitted class profile.
Many experts in the test prep industry advise all students to plan on taking the test twice. If your score after the first attempt is already at or above your goal, you can always cancel the second sitting. Remember, top schools want to see scores in the 80th percentile in the quantitative section. So if you score 100 percent in verbal and low in quantitative, you would want to retake the exam, especially if you don’t have a strong quantitative background outside of the GMAT.
[Learn about ways to fix a low GMAT score.]
There is absolutely no reason to retake the GMAT when you score over 700, test prep company Magoosh says emphatically. You’ve already proven you can handle the quantitative component of the curriculum, so turn your focus toward ensuring all of the other parts of your application are as strong as possible.
Keep in mind that this high number is primarily for those targeting a top-tier MBA program. If you scored a 680, the decision to retake should be carefully considered, as you may be better off focusing on your essays or coaching recommenders instead. Applicants looking at programs in the top 20 or 50 should check the average scores of admitted students to determine their personal target GMAT score.
If illness, nerves, exhaustion, or simply a lack of adequate preparation resulted in a low score, then a second attempt becomes a necessity. Repeat test-taking, with additional preparation, typically results in a higher score as students become familiar with the experience, and therefore, less stressed out.
Although the Graduate Management Admission Council allows you to take the test as many times as you like, you must wait 31 calendar days before retaking the exam. Make sure to check your target schools’ application deadlines in order to allow enough time to send in your final scores.
Applicants self-report their highest score, and it’s worth noting that the admissions committee doesn’t have an issue with students taking the exam more than once. In fact, committees may look positively on the dedication you’ve shown to improve upon your prior performance. Mind you, I’m talking about a score report with two or three scores, max – not one that shows you’ve sat for the GMAT seven times.
After your first test, it’s time to go over your entire GMAT performance to determine your weaknesses and double-down in those areas as you resume your studies. Don’t completely ignore the sections you did well on, however. You wouldn’t want to improve in one area but do worse in another the next time.
If you studied alone or took a class for your initial preparation, you might consider studying one on one with a GMAT tutor for the second go-round. A test prep expert can work around your schedule and tailor the curriculum to your needs.
Finally, some people aren’t natural test-takers and have a less-than-optimal performance no matter how well they know the material. One of the primary causes is stress under pressure, and it may help to watch this video tour of the GMAT Test Center and detailed explanation of all procedures to increase your comfort levels about what to expect.
If that familiarity still isn’t enough to calm your nerves come test day, consider using relaxation techniques such as meditation and visualization to reduce test anxiety. Also, taking the GMAT in the same center will help you feel more comfortable with the test-taking process and any logistics that may have thrown you off the first time.
Business school hopefuls can be incredibly hard on themselves when they make mistakes on the GMAT, but each error is a learning opportunity and a chance to improve. So don’t become discouraged if your first score isn’t where you’d hoped. Relax, and think of it as a dress rehearsal for a stellar performance to come.
January 2, 2015
If you were a Round 1 applicant this season, over the last few weeks you may have received great news, upsetting news or a mix of both— otherwise known as placement on the waitlist. First of all, the waitlist is great feedback. It means that you are qualified to attend the program, and that the school was interested in your application and your profile. Unfortunately, it was a competitive year and they couldn’t offer you a solid place in the class. No matter the reason, the waitlist is still a tough place to be.
Will I get in?
There is almost no way to know if you will be admitted off the waitlist. It certainly does happen, often, yet you have little information about the ranking of the waitlist, how many people are on the waitlist, or whether the school will reach the yield they are looking for with regular applicants. Therefore, being on the waitlist means a certain comfort with ambiguity. Hopefully you were admitted to another school and can decide whether to remain in limbo or not.
Should I stay on the waitlist?
The decision to stay on the waitlist depends on your interest level in the MBA program you have been waitlisted for. If it is your top choice, you may be willing to remain on the list until school begins, especially if you are willing to move quickly and give up a deposit on a school that has offered you firm admission.
If the waitlisting program is not your first choice, or you would like to settle your MBA plans before school starts, you may choose to remove your name from the list. It is a great service to another applicant if you do so promptly, allowing someone else a chance at their MBA dream.
Can I improve my chances of admission from the waitlist?
You may be able to improve your chances. The number one rule of waitlists is to follow directions. The school provided you with instructions about how to handle the waitlist process, and you must follow these directions to avoid having a negative impact on your standing with the admissions committee. If the school tells you that no additional materials are required, no additional materials are required, and you should not submit any under any circumstances.
If the MBA program does provide the option of submitting additional materials, apply consistent application strategy to the task. The AdCom may welcome letters of recommendation, improved GMAT scores or additional essays/letters from you. Carefully consider your strengths and weaknesses and what may be most beneficial in your situation.
If you have recently been promoted at work, have accomplished a personal goal, or have completed an academic class with a strong grade, it may be worth writing a letter to update the admissions committee with your news. Try to keep your essay or letter factual, and do not repeat information that was already included in your original application.
A supplemental recommendation may add information about you to strengthen your position on the waitlist. If you have been involved in an extracurricular activity, know someone associated with the school, or can use a letter to strengthen a part of your application, the letter may be the right direction to proceed in. Make sure your additional recommendation is brief, focused and adds significant additional information to your overall profile.
Factual information like improved GMAT scores or transcripts from successful business related classes could go a long way towards bolstering your chances.
While the waitlist may be frustrating, it is a positive indication for your application, and you may be fortunate enough to receive final admission from your chosen program.
November 28, 2014
Guest post by Rich Cohen, Co-Founder, EMPOWERgmat The process of putting together a study plan for tackling the GMAT can be a daunting one. First, there are a myriad of different resources. Second, it’s tough …
Guest post by Rich Cohen, Co-Founder, EMPOWERgmat
The process of putting together a study plan for tackling the GMAT can be a daunting one. First, there are a myriad of different resources. Second, it’s tough to predict how much time will be required. Third, there’s no way to know if your plan is actually going to help you succeed until you get deep into it (and realize that you may have made some ineffective choices along the way).
After putting together a reasonable plan and studying for some appreciable amount of time, the nightmare situation happens: you’re STUCK at a particular score level! Maybe it’s the 500s, maybe it’s the low-to-mid 600s, but you can’t seem to get past it. So now what?
The above situation is arguably the most common problem to strike GMAT test takers during their studies. Thankfully, the solution isn’t that hard to come by, but some serious adjustments must be made.
1) Acknowledge that what you’ve done so far has not gotten you to your goal. Continuing to approach the GMAT in the same way is NOT going to magically fix your problem. Investing in new materials and lessons, and putting in the necessary practice to change how you approach the GMAT, is what’s required.
2) The little areas that you “cheat” on (or skip altogether) during practice are costing you BIG when you take the GMAT. The “reality” of test day should not be ignored. For example, the GMAT requires you to face the Essay and IR sections, so you should include those sections when you take your practice CAT tests. Think about all of the little details that will occur on your test day and do your best to mimic them during practice.
3) YOU are likely causing your pacing problem. Maybe you keep rereading and rereading and rereading prompts. Maybe you don’t take enough notes. Maybe you’re trying to solve a problem the “long” way when faster, more efficient methods are available.
4) Mental acuity is tied to physical well-being. If you have trouble focusing or you lose your will at the end of the Verbal section (and think “I just want this test to be over”), then your problem might actually be physical.
The EMPOWERgmat Score Booster has become wildly successful in helping thousands of test takers to improve on their existing scores, and it’s currently free to try out at www.empowergmat.com. Studying for the GMAT is a BIG task, but it doesn’t have to be a hard one. With the right tools and the proper guidance, you can get “unstuck” in a hurry.