Admissions Director Soojin Kwon Koh at the Ross School of Business has evaluated more than 10,000 applications since joining the admissions team in 2004. In the latest MBA newsletter, Soojin shares advice on how to excel in your GMAT preparations.
Ross accepts both the GMAT and GRE and looks at these test scores in addition to your previous academic performance to assess your ability to handle the academic rigors of the MBA Program.
The key to giving either exam your best shot is putting in the proper training and preparation ”” don’t go in cold, Soojin says. Most applicants submit GMAT scores, so for simplicity, her suggestions reference the GMAT. But the advice holds true for both exams.
Soojin’s first piece of advice: “Everyone’s training; if you want to be competitive, you should too.” Below are her suggestions for tackling your test prep just as you would train for a marathon–slow and steady.
Step 1: Set a goal
To determine your target score, use the GMAT averages and ranges of the schools to which you are applying as a guide. Scoring in a school’s middle 80-percent range puts you in the running. A higher score doesn’t necessarily increase your chance for admission; there are plenty of applicants who scored higher than our average (which was 704 this year) but were not admitted. But given a similar professional background and undergraduate performance, a higher GMAT score will make you more competitive.
Step 2: Set up a training schedule
Take a practice test to know where you stand. Then set up a study plan to which you can commit. This might involve taking a test prep class, working with a tutor, using study guides for preparation, or other activities. If you choose to prepare on your own, carve out regular study time on your calendar.
Mark down the day or days you plan to take an entire practice test to assess your progress. There are no tricks or shortcuts that will enable you to “beat” the test, and as in most situations, thorough and disciplined preparation is a key to success. We’re not looking for perfection, but we are looking for a score that will allow us to be reasonably confident you won’t struggle in Ross’ rigorous curriculum.
Step 3: Simulate the test day scenario
The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, so it’s very difficult to exactly replicate the exam environment. But close your door, turn off your phone, set a timer, and take a practice test. Do it around the same time of day that you will be taking the actual test.
Endurance often is the key, and it’s important to remain focused throughout the duration of the exam. Continue these “training runs” and your preparation regimen until you score in your target range and feel you can go into the actual test with confidence.
Step 4: Go for your PR (personal record)
You may hit your goal on your first try, or you may not. It’s okay if you don’t. If you think you can do better, and can muster up the stamina to give it another shot, you should ”” our admissions committee considers the highest total score. In fact, a majority of our applicants take the GMAT more than once.
We look favorably upon applicants who retake the GMAT rather than submitting only one low score. If you decide to retake the test, follow steps two and three again ”” don’t just sign up for the next test date and go in without training. Refine your preparation strategy; focus on the sections that challenged you the most.
Reality check: The GMAT won’t make or break you.
Keep in mind that the GMAT is only one aspect of your application. At Ross, we evaluate applications holistically; no single element of your application will guarantee admission or denial. So for those who ace the GMAT, don’t rest on the laurels of your strong score. Make sure the rest of your application is strong as well.
The same advice applies to those with scores that are lower than you’d like. Everything counts, not just the GMAT. So go for a personal best on every application component.
Interested in reading more? Click HERE to see more test prep advice.