1. Practice with computer adaptive tests.Because the GMAT is computer adaptive, it’s important to practice taking computer adaptive tests. I found myself playing a mind game – “this question’s too easy, I must be failing!” and needed to learn to tune it out. Practicing with the format can help you focus during the test and spend your mental energy solving the problems rather than trying to make sense of the test.
2. Don’t pay for an intensive preparation book or course until you understand what you need.
Instead of immediately signing up for an expensive and time consuming class, start with a practice test to see your score and also which problems you missed and why. Were they questions that you didn’t know how to solve? Was there one consistent topic that confused you? It may be worthwhile to invest the time and energy in a class, but you may also find that brushing up on some concepts and practicing can make the difference. However, a class can be helpful if you are far from your target score, don’t improve with practice, or can’t find the time to study.
3. Sign up for the exam.
I bought a book and then didn’t open it for a year. Once I decided to get serious about the test, I signed up for the exam with three months to prepare. It was a great motivator and I was able to prioritize preparation. I scheduled practice exams and stuck to the time I had planned. If you’re not sure how much time you’ll need to prepare, give yourself a deadline to decide.
4. Give yourself time to take it three times.
If you can, give yourself the opportunity to take it three times. Even if you end up satisfied with your score the first time, knowing you can take it again will relieve some stress when you actually take it. And if you do need the time, you’ll be glad you planned ahead.
5. Remember that it is not the only part of your application.
Taking the GMAT is about understanding the test and about not stressing about it too much. It is only one part of your application and the other components that make you amazing – and aren’t just based on three hours spent in front of a computer answering questions – will give you a great shot.
Judy Herbstman, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Stern School of Business at NYU
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