Hey remember when you were 17 years old and you were shoved in a classroom at 7am on a Saturday so you could take a stupidly long test called the SAT/ACT? Remember how much you hated your life that morning knowing that the test would play a major influence on your entire future? I even took the SAT the morning of my prom and you can only imagine how much I didn’t want to be there! So after taking the SAT twice and the ACT once, I remember thinking that standardized testing was the absolute devil. And I still think that, but despite my radical opinion, it’s so crucial to getting a higher education. And I was beyond thrilled when I found out I had to take the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), in order to be admitted into an MBA program.
Before I tell y’all about my experience with the GMAT and what I learned from it, I’ll first explain the test in simplest way I can. Graduate programs, usually MBA and related MS degrees, use your GMAT score as a way of determining how well you with perform at the graduate level – the better the score, the more apt you are for the next level. The GMAT is a 3 hour and 30-minute Computer Adaptive Test (CAT). This means the test adapts to your performance as you take it. So, if you get a question right, the next question is more difficult. If you get a question wrong, the next question is easier and so on and so forth, yada yada yada. Basically, it’s designed to find your average score on it’s four sections. The sections are Quantitative (math), Verbal (reading), Writing, and Integrated Reasoning (completely infuriating BS). By the time you’re done taking it, all you want to do is lay down and not talk to anyone for the rest of the day. When it’s all said and done, you will receive your section scores and an overall score that is out of 800 points. Typically to get into a ranked graduate school, you have to receive at least an overall score of 600. I know I seem really negative about this test, but I’m not going to sugar coat this thing. However, I will say it does separate the chump applicants from the decently competent applicants.
The GMAT was particularly important to my graduate school applications because I did not have any post graduate work experience since I was planning to go into my masters straight from undergrad. After I decided I was going to pursue my MBA, I quickly found out that getting into school was going to be harder for me as opposed to an applicant with post-graduate work experience. The reason admissions committees look for this experience is because it shows the applicant has more to offer than just their education. So, in order for me to get into a ranked program, I needed to make sure all other aspects of my application were stacked, including my GMAT score. In another post, I will talk about how I framed my application so that I was a desirable candidate despite my lack of experience.
After figuring out I was going to have to do ridiculously well on a standardized exam, given my former loathing of standardized exams, I freaked the freaking freak out. I mainly spazzed out because I knew it was going to be a major commitment and I was going to have to put my all into it and that was in itself, intimidating as all hell. But alas, I enrolled in an online test prep service through Kaplan and hit the ground running in May of 2017, two months before I was set to take the exam. I also had an online tutor that helped me in a series of one-on-one sessions. My tutor knew that I was paying the good bucks for this test prep service and he emphasized to me that it would only be worth it if I utilized Kaplan’s tools and resources to it’s full extent. He recommended that I spend at least 120 hours studying for the exam.
Before I began studying, I took a practice exam that would help me figure out what I needed to focus on. I was pumped to find out that I had scored very well and my tutor projected that I could get an ivy league qualifying score. So I spent the next two months attending online prep classes, doing endless practice problems, and bitching to my family and friends about the lack of life that I had beyond my computer. And you know how I did on my exam? Worse than I did on my diagnostic practice exam. Go figure. The entire experience was disheartening I thought I could never get into a school because of it. I started thinking about getting a “real job” and let me tell you, my parents would’ve been pumped if I had just done that. Much to their displeasure though, I’m more stubborn than Monica Geller playing ping pong against Mike (if you know, you know). I decided to take the test again and scheduled it for three weeks from my original test date.
When I went to my tutor with the news, he gave me some very valuable advice that helped me immensely on my second take of the exam. He told me 3 things:
Despite not getting the ivy league qualifying score that I wanted, I still achieved a score high enough that qualified me for merit scholarships and helped make my long path to being admitted a little bit easier. Beyond the tips my tutor gave me for studying, I do have a few pieces of advice to anyone planning to take the GMAT.
By the way, props to anyone who read this whole thing that isn’t planning on taking the GMAT - you must really like me or something. Anyway, I still hate standardized testing, but I sucked it up and I will never say I regret the time I spent studying.