Many students preparing for the GMAT find themselves in the same situation. With a limited budget, they can’t afford a private tutor. With limited time, they can’t schedule time for a class. With limited GMAT resources in their area, they have to use what’s online or in a nearby library. This leaves students to navigate GMAT prep on their own.
These students have to create their own path to success. With little guidance, this can be quite a challenge. But if you are a strong self-studier, or know the self-studier’s approach, you can properly prepare for the GMAT.
Establish a Plan
The smartest thing a student can do before preparing for the GMAT is set up a plan. This means finding a GMAT study schedule, adapting a study plan, or making your own. When evaluating a study plan or making your own, here are some important points to consider:
- Make sure you factor in how much time you have to study each day along with how much time you have on the weekends.
- Don’t budget a seven-hour block of time to study. Rather, schedule smaller blocks of time with breaks. You will only be productive for about an hour at a time so make sure you plan accordingly.
- Don’t dedicate all your time to one thing. Every 20 minutes or so, move on to something else. This will keep your mind fresh and keep you interested.
- Schedule ‘flex days’ that you can use when you miss a study day. Life is unpredictable and you won’t always be able to follow the plan exactly, so plan for the unexpected.
- Adapt as you go. The more you study, the more you will know about your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t just follow along blindly. Make the changes as your knowledge and understanding changes.
- Plan to take practice tests. It is crucial to have as many complete practice tests under your belt as possible before the test. If you are looking for free practice tests, I recommend the free GMATPrep software from GMAC.
Know What You Don’t Know
Above all else, self-studiers know their strengths and weaknesses. Without this self-knowledge, very little improvement can be made. Self-studiers wouldn’t know where to begin their studies and where to focus their energy. Also, self-studiers know that these strengths and weaknesses are in flux and require consistent assessment. Finally, a good self-studier has an objective metric for measuring how well they understand a certain topic. This last point I think is key, so let’s dive a little bit deeper.
For those looking for a way to measure understanding, assign a numerical value to your knowledge:
0 = “I have no idea what is going on, and I think I might have forgotten where I live in the process.”
1 = “I think I might have seen this before, but I don’t know where and it isn’t helping me to make progress.”
2 = “I remember this from Mrs. Pythagorean’s geometry class, but I need a little help to set up the problem and solve it.”
3 = “I can answer these questions correctly when working through a set of problems.”
4 = “I can see this concept among other concepts and answer the question with ease.”
5 = “I know this, understand the underlying concepts, and could explain it to a friend.”
These are the stages of knowing what you need to be familiar with. Track yourself as you learn new concepts and answer questions. Either keep a journal of your progress or make a mental note each day. Having a sense of your zeros and your fives will inform your study plan and how to allocate your time.
Mistakes are the sauce to your pasta, the crust to your pizza. Without mistakes, no learning can occur. With each mistake, a path opens before the self-studier. The student knows which path to walk down and what concepts to focus her energy on.
Each time self-studiers miss a problem, it sets off a chain reaction. First, they read through the explanation of the question and investigate the answer choices. Next, they ask themselves what about the problem caused them trouble: Was it the wording of the problem? Was it how to set up the problem? Was it a distracting answer choice? Was it a known concept presented in a new way? Or was it an unknown concept entirely? After all the inquiries, they assign a value to their knowledge of the question and then take steps to learn more. This means they post a question about parallelism to Beat the GMAT, watch videos that cover probability, or study GMAT Verbal strategies.
This guest blog post is written by Mark Skoskiewicz, Founder of MyGuru.
I’ve encountered many different types of students looking for help on the GMAT. One helpful way to bifurcate students is into those that are more concerned with improving performance on the math, or quantitative, section, and those that are concerned with the verbal section. This post is for those of you that find yourself more concerned with improving performance on the verbal section of the GMAT.
Let me start with a quote by one of our most experienced GMAT tutors in Chicago, John Easter -
“Humans come factory-equipped with language and, paradoxically, that is the main obstacle when it comes to improving one’s verbal score – especially in reading comprehension. How you read and comprehend is a 15-year old habit by the time you take a college entrance exam, and an even older habit by the time you take something like the GMAT. Breaking this habit, making some fundamental improvement, and not reverting under time pressure is extremely difficult. In my experience it’s nearly impossible and most reputable test prep companies offer skimpy advice about RC (reading comprehension) and verbal in general…”
So, that sounds like bad news, but hopefully it makes some intuitive sense. John continues, offering some positive news about the math section of the GMAT, and summarizes with a view that improving performance on the GMAT verbal section simply takes time and consistent effort.
…”Math, on the other hand, is completely different. Humans are notoriously bad at math, and once we’re not using it (which is all too easy with all our technology), we unconsciously data-dump our mathematical knowledge, but paradoxically this makes it easy to learn the math that standardized tests focus on…the only thing you can do (to improve on the Verbal section) is practice, and the longer you practice with a plan, with consistent review, and continuous focus, the better you’ll get.”
So, let’s assume you are ready to put in the time and effort to improve your GMAT verbal score. What should you do, exactly?
Tip #1: Start practicing early and with a plan – improving will take some time
Per the above, it will take some time to fundamentally improve your GMAT verbal performance. You’ll be breaking old habits, and learning to think a little differently. So, not to beat a dead horse, but you need to start early, and you need to write down a plan. The question remains, though, what should you do when you decide to start practicing early? What should be in your plan? Certainly, traditional test prep books, courses, or online programs will have courses of study and lots of practice problems with explanations to help you improve GMAT verbal score. Those should be part of your plan, but I’m not going to focus on that here.
Instead, I’ll suggest that –
Tip #2: The best long term practice is simply to read more…
You need to start reading hard, challenging material every day, outside your explicit GMAT prep. The Economist is widely considered the best weekly journal to read regularly. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the fact that the articles tend to offer clear perspectives, make cogent but sometimes complex arguments, and of course, offer evidence in support of those arguments in a logical way. It also covers a wide variety of topics, but with a lot of economics, business, and finance stories. The GMAT is similar across all of these dimensions. As a young adult in a business setting, you might also notice that the Economist is simply a great way to stay up-to-speed on world events, politics, etc., which helps you engage in more conversations and push your critical thinking and communication skills. This is helpful for the GMAT, business school, and more generally in the business world after you obtain your MBA degree.
Tip #3: …but you also need to read more actively…
To really build your reading comprehension, vocabulary, and logic skills, it isn’t enough to just read a lot (although, it certainly helps). You also need to engage fully with the material and become an active reader. This means you need to ask yourself questions about what you’re reading:
- What is the main idea of this article? Can you summarize it in 1-2 sentences?
- What is the author’s tone?
- Where are the main arguments?
- What evidence is he or she using?
- Are there any logical flaws you can identify?
It can help to actually write down your answers as you go along. Underline key points in the article, jot notes in the margins, etc.
Tip #4: Know the question types…and common strategies for each type
Your chances of answering a GMAT verbal question correctly improves when you can quickly identify the type of question being asked…and apply appropriate strategies for each one. Is it a “find the main idea” question type within the Reading Comprehension section, or a “Strengthen the Argument” question within the Critical Reasoning section. Once you are comfortable with the type of question, it’s easy to identify the correct answer to it.
Magoosh’s free guide to the GRE does a good job of reviewing these question types and associated strategies.
Improving your GMAT verbal score takes time. You might be able to quickly learn a range of new mathematics skills and practice hundreds of problems in a short span of time to significantly improve your GMAT quantitative score (say, within 2-3 weeks), but that’s unlikely to happen with the GMAT verbal section. So, be sure to start early, and incorporate lots of active reading into your preparation plan.
Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, a private 1-1 tutoring company in Chicago. His belief is that the key to performance in school and on standardized tests has a lot more to do with consistent, focused effort than innate intelligence.
I am asked all the time about which standardized MBA test applicants should take – the GMAT or the GRE?
In certain instances exogenous factors like school acceptance, cost constraints, test availability or multiple applications might dictate one test or the other. More than five times the number of business programs accept the GMAT versus the GRE, but more and more schools are accepting the GRE in lieu of the GMAT with each passing year. On the other hand, the GRE both costs less and is available in certain parts of the world where the computer-only GMAT is not given. Furthermore, some dual degree applicants might need the GRE for their other application and only wish to take one test.
For more information visit Magoosh at http://magoosh.com/gre/2014/gre-vs-gmat/
The deadline for completing the 2014 AIGAC MBA Admissions survey is March 31st. Any person who has recently applied, been admitted or will be applying to graduate business school with a 2014 start date is eligible to complete the survey. Everybody who completes the survey is eligible to enter a drawing where the winner will receive a $500 cash prize sent via PayPal (please submit your email address once you have finished the survey). The survey only takes 10-15 minutes to complete. Your answers are completely confidential.
AIGAC (Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants) is conducting the MBA Admissions survey to gain insight into MBA applicant goals and needs. Each year, AIGAC presents its survey on the MBA Admissions Process at its annual conference (held in New York City this year). Administered by Huron Consulting Group, the survey compiles anonymous data to provide a better understanding of MBA profiles, information sources, consulting company experiences, and other various decision making factors. For the data to be statistically significant, we need many responses and appreciate your help. Again the survey can be accessed here. Click 2013 AIGAC MBA Admissions survey to see last year’s survey.
Related Post - Complete 2014 MBA Admissions AIGAC Survey & Win $500
MIT Sloan just released its Employment Report covering full time and internship employment for its 2013 and 2014 MBA classes. Included are top hirers, top functions, top industries and salary statistics broken down by function, industry, geography, undergraduate major and professional experience along with signing bonus information and other guaranteed compensation. Also, provided is the timing of the offers, acceptances, job source and reason for acceptance.
Full Time – Class of 2013
Compared to 2012 figures, median salary inched up by 1.25% to $120,000. The percentage of students entering consulting increased from 29.2% to 31.95%. McKinsey & Company is still the top hirer, but with less students than last year. Bain & Company, on the other hand increased its full-time hires.
|Company||2013 Full Time Acceptances||2012 Full Time Acceptances|
|McKinsey & Company|
|Bain & Company|
|Boston Consulting Group|
The percentage of students entering investment banking continued to decrease dropping from 12.8% in 2012 to 8.1% in 2013. Goldman Sachs hired the most full-time students with 5 acceptances.
Internships – Class of 2014
More than 1 out of every 3 offers resulted from summer internships in both 2012 and 2013. So, the Internship statistics are very important. Compared to 2012 figures, median salary inched up by 6.25% to $8,000.
Consulting again represented the #1 industry area with summer acceptances increasing from 20.4% in 2012 to 23.8% in 2013. Again, McKinsey & Company is still the top hirer with 5 more acceptances than last year. So, McKinsey’s dip in 2013 full-time job acceptances might be an aberration rather than a trend.
|Company||2014 Full Time Acceptances||2013 Full Time Acceptances|
|McKinsey & Company|
|Boston Consulting Group|
|Bain & Company|
For the complete report visit – http://mitsloan.mit.edu/cdo/employment-reports/current-reports-mba.php
For those MBA applicants who have yet to take the GMAT, the Economist GMAT Tutor is giving an opportunity for applicants to improve on the GMAT and win a scholarship.
Per the Economist GMAT Tutor’s press release:
Economist GMAT Tutor, a product from Which MBA? at The Economist Group, announced the launch of its first ever Brightest Minds MBA Scholarship Contest.
The contest is open to all prospective MBA or EMBA students worldwide. The winner will be the student who scores the highest on The Economist GMAT Tutor simulation test. The simulated GMAT exam utilizes adaptive technology similar to that of the real GMAT, so the difficulty level adjusts according to the test-taker’s ability. The winning student will be awarded a $25,000scholarship towards tuition to one of the premiere business school sponsors:
- The Rady School of Management
- UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School
- International University Of Monaco
- Melbourne Business School
- Audencia Nantes, School of Management
- CEIBS – China Europe Int’l Business School
- University of Virginia Darden School of Business
- National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School
- HEC Paris MBA
- Indiana University Kelley School of Business
- Yonsei University School of Business (Yonsei Global MBA)
- University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business
- Warwick Business School
- University of Florida MBA Programs
- Grenoble Graduate School of Business
- University of Edinburgh Business School
- The St. Gallen MBA
- Weatherhead School of Management Global MBA
“Many of our readers develop a relationship with The Economist as students and early in their careers because they recognize the increasing importance of a global perspective to business success,” said David Kaye, SVP of Economist Media Businesses, who added, “We are pleased to connect students with schools that can help them take the next step in their careers while offering a few outstanding students financial support towards their goals.”
The contest officially opened February 1, 2014 and will close at 11:59pm EDT on April 25, 2014. The winner will be announced on May 15th at the Which MBA? Online Fair. Five runners-up will receive a free GMAT preparation course from Economist GMAT Tutor, worth $550 each.
GMAT® is a registered trademark of the Graduate Management Admission Council™. The Graduate Management Admission Council™ does not endorse, nor is it affiliated in any way with the owner or any content of this web site.
About Which MBA? (economist.com/whichmba )
Which MBA? is a division of The Economist Newspaper Group, NA, which offers a suite of online products serving both prospective MBA students and business schools who wish to reach this audience. Our consumer products for prospective students include a GMAT preparation course, annual MBA rankings, and content on Economist.com. We offer multi-media advertising solutions for business schools ranging from online MBA fairs, to traditional online and print mediums, to custom white-label lead generation tools.
About The Economist (economist.com )
With a growing global circulation and a reputation for insightful analysis and perspective on every aspect of world events, The Economist is one of the most widely recognised and well-read current affairs publications. The paper covers politics, business, science and technology, and books and arts, concluding each week with the obituary. Its website offers articles from the past ten years, in addition to web-only content such as blogs, debates and audio/video programmes. The Economist is now available to download for reading on Android, iPhone, or iPad devices.
*Audit Bureau of Circulations UK and Alliance for Audited Media US, January-June 2013
To enter the contest, click Brightest Minds MBA Scholarship Contest..
If you have recently applied, been admitted, or will be applying to MBA programs with a 2014 start date, please complete the 2014 AIGAC survey and be eligible to enter a drawing for a $500 cash prize sent via PayPal (just make sure to submit your email address upon finishing the survey). Your answers will be completely confidential and the survey only takes 10-15 minutes to complete.
Each year, AIGAC presents its survey on the MBA Admissions Process at its annual conference (this year to be held in New York City). Administered by Huron Consulting Group, the survey compiles anonymous data to provide a better understanding of MBA profiles, information sources, experiences with consulting companies, and other various decision making factors. But in order for the data to be statistically significant, we need many responses and appreciate your help. Again the survey can be accessed here. Click 2013 AIGAC MBA Admissions survey to see last year’s survey.
The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants promotes high ethical standards and professional development amongst graduate admissions consultants, increases public understanding of graduate admissions consulting, and enhances communication with complementary organizations and entities. Its membership now comprises 71 consultants from 9 countries, including the U.S., Brazil, Japan, China, Russia, Spain, and Israel. Inspired by the collaborative spirit and camaraderie of the consultants who attended Tuck School of Business’s Conferences for International Educational Consultants in 2005 and 2006, Linda Abraham of Accepted.com and Ricardo Betti of MBA Empresarial (Brazil) joined with Graham Richmond of Clear Admit and Maxx Duffy of Maxx Associates to form a not-for-profit association to set industry standards for graduate admissions consultants. In November 2006, AIGAC was officially incorporated in the State of California.”
For most applicants there is no need to mention the GMAT score in the application. Obviously, the score is part of the application, and that should suffice. There is no reason to be redundant with the information in the application. There is limited space to fit professional, educational, and personal experiences, so don’t use vital space to discuss something that is included elsewhere in the application.
But for some applicants, a small few, mentioning the GMAT score will help their application. And not just mentioning the GMAT score, but elucidating the path to the GMAT score. Describing the time, energy, and effort that went into achieving a good GMAT score can help in specific situations.
One situation is when a student re-applies to a program. Often when a student re-applies, the school wants to know what the student has done for the past year. They want to know what has changed and why the student is a better candidate now. For example, Georgetown asks students who are re-applying:
How have you strengthened your candidacy since your last application? We are particularly interested in hearing about how you have grown professionally and personally.
Now if you know that your GMAT score was low and probably a reason that you were not admitted to a program, and you spent the year studying and practicing to retake the GMAT, and you increased your score, then this is something you should explain in your application. Don’t focus so much on technical details of the retake. Rather tell them what you did to improve, about your mental state and your resolution to improve. Admission committees love to hear stories of failure and gumption, so tell them your GMAT redemption story—how it felt to fail and what you did because of the failure.
Speaking of, you might mention your GMAT score on the application if the first time you took the test you did terribly, and had to re-take it to improve your score. Yet I hesitate to mention this scenario since a lot of students probably went through a very similar experience, so talking about it won’t help you to stand out. Just because you went from a bad score to a good one is not enough in and of itself. There needs to be more to a story, something that could answer a question like this from Cambridge’s application:
What did you learn from your most spectacular failure?
Your story really needs to be compelling for you to include it in your application. Spend time really considering other experiences to write about in your application that would stand out as unique and fantastic. There is probably something more gripping than talking about scoring poorly and the month-long GMAT study plan you used to boost your score. Remember that a story about studying for the GMAT is as average as it gets for MBA applicants.
Finally, you may want to mention your GMAT score on the application if there are extenuating circumstances that explain a particularly low GMAT score. Schools will often provide space for students to explain aspects of their application that might need explaining. This is the most likely scenario for discussing your GMAT score. Duke’s application has one such question:
If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware, please explain them in an optional essay (e.g. unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, or any significant weakness in your application).
For some this might mean discussing a learning disability that makes timed testing not a good gauge of abilities. Or it might mean talking about a history of poor performance on standardized tests that doesn’t correlate to your performance in an academic or professional setting. Some people just naturally can’t handle the pressure of a time test, but excel otherwise.
The vast majority of applicants do not need to include any mention of their GMAT score. Submit the your scores to the school and that’s enough. But in some cases—a low GMAT score, an extenuating circumstances, an extremely compelling journey to a good GMAT score—the applicant would want to mention the GMAT score.
Indian School of Business (ISB) is to offer five Global Scholarships to citizens of North America, South America, Europe, Asia (applicants of Indian Origin are ineligible) and Australia. ISB is also offering five Bridge to India Scholarships for Non-Indian passport holders who are of Indian origin. Scholarship applicants must write a 300-word essay available online.
To apply, log in to Application for the Class of 2014-15, write the essay and submit it along with the application.
For detailed information about the application and selection process, visit http://www.isb.edu/pgp/fees-financing/Scholarships, email Intladmissions@isb.edu or call +91-9949292946, +91-40-23187403/7401.
In a blog post on MBA Application Components, I discussed the different parts of your MBA application, which includes an Employment History section and an MBA Resume. Here, I will answer some common questions about the MBA resume.
How is an MBA resume different from a job resume? You are addressing the MBA Evaluation Criteria which could be different from job criteria, especially if you have a technical resume. So, in an MBA resume you would be emphasizing promotions, accomplishments, leadership, and global impact in professional and community dimensions, and de-emphasizing maybe some of the technical aspects of your job that would be relevant to non-MBA employers, but not an MBA school or post-MBA employers.
Should a resume be one page or two pages? Certain schools like HBS allow two pages, while other schools like Wharton want a one page resume only. One guideline is for younger applicants to use only one page and executives two pages but this guideline can be tailored to the candidate’s professional experience, academic background, community service, etc.
What are the different sections of a resume? The core blocks of a resume are professional, academic and additional sections, although other sections can be added or substituted dependent upon the client background and resume length. For example, if an applicant has published articles then a publication section might be advisable to emphasize the candidate’s thought leadership. The Professional Experience section is usually broken down by organization containing name, employment dates, roles, and accomplishments. Remember to try to quantify the impact wherever possible in terms of dollar amount or percentages. If you saved your company money, how much? If you increased the efficiency of something, by what percent? This section can be organized functionally, if the applicant has similar job functions across multiple companies and wishes to highlight competencies. I advise clients to use the STAR model (Situation, Task, Action, Result) for concisely explaining accomplishments. The Educational Background section contains institution attended, degree attained, year graduated, years attended, GPA (do not include if not high) and other information. This information can include extra-curricular activities (if not a separate section), internships (if not rolled into full-time positions), employment while attending school (a good reason for explaining lower grades) and other items. The Additional section can contain your community service (if not a separate section), certifications (if not a separate sections), awards (if not a separate section), hobbies and anything else relevant. You can see there is flexibility to label sections in a way which best positions your application.
Why is readability important and how do I make my resume more easily readable? Readers or interviewers will skim your resume and then drill down into the areas that interests them, so you should structure the resume in a compelling, but straightforward, manner. That means using logical hierarchies (bullets and sub-bullets), expressing similar ideas with parallelism in structuring items and bullets across the resume, avoiding multi-line descriptions, and maximizing white space wherever possible.
Finally, how do I make my resume standout? Reflect on the unique aspects of your professional background and ensure your resume captures this in a manner easy for the reader to glean. You are investing considerable time to ensure that the reader – who might only spend a few minutes reading your resume – forms the best impression of you possible. Therefore, use strong action words, prioritize the most powerful content first, and create unique sections to emphasize significance. If you have served on non-profit boards, create a section called non-profit board leadership. If you have considerable leadership experience, create either a separate leadership section for the overall resume or within each job.
In closing, whereas in the Employment History section, you answer the work-related questions the school asks, in the MBA Resume you have greater freedom to position the various parts of your background to best meet each school’s MBA Evaluation Criteria as long as you convey the overall professional, academic and additional information.