Tuesday, October 20

Preparing for the GMAT – Confused???

Various questions pop up in the mind of an MBA applicant while preparing for the GMAT: How much time should be devoted to preparation?, whether to book the date first or prepare first, Is it good to pre-pone/Post-pone the date?, Which material to use?, When to start giving Mock CATs, How many Mock CATs etc etc.

When i first thought about giving GMAT, i knew nothing about it. All the information that i could get on the net only increased my problems. So much material and so many Mock CATs to choose from, different plans employed by various candidates to crack the GMAT. My friends who have given the GMAT cleared up a lot of doubts but each one of them suggested a different approach and different set of books to prepare for the exam.

I believe most of the GMAT applicants are confronted with following questions:

1. How much time shall I keep aside for GMAT preparation??

There will be people who will simply book a date a week ahead and crack 770 and there will always be people who will slug it out for months and get a jaw dropping score such as 550. Its good to aim high but its better to know your capabilities and manage your expectations. Its easier to go from 500 to 650 or from 500 to 690 but for every 10 point gain in your score post the 690 mark hard work alone won't help, Smart work along with rock solid determination, laser sharp focus and an insurmountable desire to succeed is required.

To be honest the time will depend upon your capabilities and your target score. The preparation time is inversely proportional to your capabilities and target score. But anything from 45 days to 180 days is more than enough. A longer preparation period can lead to burnout and you might peak before your G-day.
So, how to find out the ideal prep duration? I would say go ahead and book a date 3 months ahead. This takes us to our next two questions:
Whether to book the date first or prepare first,
Is it good to pre-pone/Post-pone the date?

Not everyone has the determination to put in few hours of preparation everyday. Booking a date might give you the much needed kick and invoke a sense of urgency. You might ask what if I am unable to cover the course in 3 months? Now I will say you can always go ahead and post pone the exam. I know I am going to draw flak for saying this but I would like to give my rationale. Normally a prep plan looks something like this:

1. CR -- Go through the fundamentals using Manhattan or Powerscore -- 7 days
2. Start practising CR questions -- OG-11 - 5 Days, OG-12 - 5days, 1000 CR - till 30 Feb -- as many as possible
3. Manhattan SC guide-- 7 days
4. SC practise -- OG-11,12 , 1000SC -- 25 days
5. Quant prep -- bla bla
6. Mock CATs -- bla bla
But one soon realizes that it is not so easy to execute the plan. Some might have to put in long hours in the office, some might have to travel, some might get injured or ill {like me :'(}, some have to devote time to their family.

Above all at the time of preparing a plan one is not sure as to how much time it would take to complete a given topic. A lot of candidates have not touched quant or verbal books for years after the college and for this reason many candidates feel rusty when they start solving the questions. The plan which was prepared earlier is gone for a toss.

CR - Powerscore bible -- 7 days {oh hell, i can’t even go through those 500+ pages in 15 days and my G-day is coming}, the anxiety of not completing a given topic within the timeline takes the toll of the preparation. The quantitative approach takes over the qualitative approach for test preparation. Candidate simply wants to do as many questions as possible without properly analyzing the questions and Mock CATs. If you want to know how to analyze the questions and Mock CATs then BTG{Beat the GMAT} has tonnes of info.

If you feel that you are taking some time over and above what you had initially allotted to a section/topic then don't let the quality suffer. Do each and every question with utmost dedication, check out each and every answer choice and make sure that you know why you are crossing out a particular choice and why you are selecting a particular choice as the final answer. {So how am i going to meet my deadlines?? My G-Day is coming} that’s why i said: you can always postpone the exam. Don’t make it a habit though, don’t take undue advantage of the fact that this exam can be postponed but use this flexibility to benefit yourself.

Take the stock of the situation, by preparing for 15-20 days you will get a fair enough idea of your abilities and the time that you need to attain the peak. Accordingly either pre-pone the exam or post pone it. Why pre-pone the exam?? Ok, you have prepared well for 45 days and now you are getting 750+ in the Mock CATs and you still have 45 days to go. If you are sure that you won't get burnt out by the end then don’t pre-pone otherwise you know what my suggestion would be.
Fair enough, i have taken a date 3 months ahead, i have given one Mock CAT now what? Which material shall i use? Again, this is a very subjective question. The choice of material totally depends upon your curent level. If you lack the basics then attempting the Manhattan Mock CAT quant will only shatter your confidence. And if you are finding it hard to understand what is parallelism and what is subject verb agreement then there is no point in attempting the questions from OG. Choose the prep material wisely.

One question that is bugging me right now is whether to start giving Mock CATs or wait for few more weeks. I think a lot of candidates face this problem while preparing for GMAT. I don’t want to give a lot of CATs because doing so might lead to a burn-out and giving too few CATs might leave me a bit unpolished before my date with the beast.

As of now i am not well prepared to tackle the quant section. I am making all sorts of careless and calculation mistakes. I am not well acquainted with fundamentals of Set theory {esp 3 sets}, Progressions, Combinatorics and Stats. I am through with the fundamentals of CR and SC but still haven't achieved a good hit rate {esp in SC :'(, lack of concentration is dragging my accuracy.}. I am not sure whether it would be good to waste time on Mock CATs while i am still brushing up Quant fundamentals or go ahead and track my progress in verbal section.

Some people are of the opinion that one should first be well versed with all the sections of the GMAT before attempting the Mock CATs. While others support the strategy of giving as many Mock CATs as you can before the real GMAT.

Give one Mock CAT in the begining to know where do you stand and then wait till you are well versed with basics of all the sections. Once you have covered all the sections start giving Mock CATs and analyze them in detail {as explained in the article written by stacy}. You must know your strengths and weaknesses, after giving Mock CATs you must develop a gut feeling as to when it is best to guess and move ahead.

Don't try and give each and every Mock CAT,

I would like to invite thoughts of fellow bloggers.


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anecdotalMBA said...

Nice post Mr. Wallace.

Be careful not to underestimate the value of hard work and lots of practice - it can make a huge difference in your score.

I took the GMAT last December and knocked it out of the park, but only after studying 10-15 hours per week for 11 grueling weeks. My first practice score was in the low 600s. My advice: take lots of practice CATs and don't get discouraged.

I've posted a graph showing my GMAT score progress over time - come check it out:

==> Click on the "GMAT" label

Good Luck,

Braveheart said...

@anecdotalMBA - I dont underestimate the value of hard work .. and am not discouraged :) ... why would i be?

anecdotalMBA said...

That was directed to your readers who, like me, may not be as brave as William Wallace :-).

I got pretty discouraged about four weeks into studying for the GMAT - it wasn't clear that my hard work was going to pay off. But eventually it did; just took a lot more work than I expected.

Braveheart said...

:) ... i was in a lighter mood...i never felt offended by your comment ...

and thanks a lot for sharing your experience ....

I guess as i approach my G-day i might start feeling nervous and if my score in prep test is not upto the mark then discouragement will follow