Thought I'd share a bit about my experience as a form of community service:
I took the GMAT 6 years ago.
Didn't prepare because work was hell at the time and I was under a lot of stress.
Managed to get a 710 on my first and only try, which was below my SATs but decent enough I assumed.
I then made a very bad, very STUPID mistake.
I took a MBA at a UK school. The program was ranked quite highly at the time, but the school's ranking was awful.
Didn't realize the severity of my decision.
Since then, the MBA has done astounding damage to my career.
Did my bachelor's at a "big" name school, but with a relatively crappy and unknown MBA, the first and only question I've been getting at the few interviews I got were: "What school is this?" "Is it accredited?" "Why did you go there?"
I've made FAR less money after my mba (graduated into the crisis) and the only interviews I've gotten were through my contacts. Shitty MBA + resume gap + lack of meaningful experience = death
Instead of better jobs, it's been like a pair of soiled underwear, to the extent that i've decided it would probably be better to drop it altogether. That's my good deed for the year, a sincere word of advice that things can go south very quickly if you're not very careful about where you do your MBA and you graduate into rough times. I'm now working for free to stop my resume gap and about to redo my MBA at a good school this time.
1. What is the consensus on the best way to prepare for the GMAT? Buy the books?
Sign up for one of those online help programs?
2. How much prep time is standard?
I'd like to improve by 70-90 points over what I could get without preparation.
You took GMAT 6 yrs ago. Things have changed considerably + you might have forgotten a lot of what was intuitive to you at that time.
So take the GMAT prep test first. Figure out where you stand right now and where you would like to go. Find out your weaknesses. Then decide how you would like to work on them.
There is no 'best way to prepare for GMAT'. Different things work for different people. You got 710 without prep. Some people work for 6 months and still get 500. There are others who wake up one fine day, take their test and score 780. Some people study best at home; some people belong to the classroom. From your profile it seems you can discipline yourself. You can definitely try getting the books and studying on your own.
Again, there is no 'standard prep time'. There are many factors that will decide your prep time. How many hours will you put in? Will you work over the weekend? Do you need to read something many times before you are finally comfortable or is one reading enough? Are you weak at Geometry or Sentence Correction? etc etc
Again, from your profile it seems that a month or two may be enough for you to get the score you want.
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