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When to take Prep Course and GMAT

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When to take Prep Course and GMAT  [#permalink]

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New post 31 Jul 2019, 07:17
I'll be taking the GMAT my senior year, but will not be applying to MBA programs for another 3-4 years after taking the test. I want to take my first official exam in between first and second semester or early second semester so that I will have the flexibility to take the exam again if I want to before I graduate and start working full time. I know I want to take an in-person prep course (likely PR), but I am not sure what the best length and time is to take the course.

My first question is should I plan to take the exam over winter break, or should I plan to take the exam in late January to early March? I am worried about the timing of the exam with finals. The last month of the semester is usually a non-stop grind through finals, so I am worried it will be hard to maintain a consistent study schedule during this time. But I also want to make sure that I don't take the exam too early (since I only have five years to use the scores and I don't plan on getting my MBA right away) or take the exam too late (thus preventing me from taking the exam a second time before I graduate if I need too).

My second question is, which length of the GMAT prep course should I take? It looks like the options in my area are a one month course or a three month course. Is one month too rushed?

My final question is how should I time the prep course with the exam? Is it best to take the exam immediately after completing the course or would it be okay if there was a month gap between when I complete the course and when I take the exam as long as I am continuing to study? Where in my study schedule should I take the prep course: beginning, middle, end?

Any advice is greatly appreciated.
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New post 31 Jul 2019, 08:29
jerkatissm wrote:
I'll be taking the GMAT my senior year, but will not be applying to MBA programs for another 3-4 years after taking the test. I want to take my first official exam in between first and second semester or early second semester so that I will have the flexibility to take the exam again if I want to before I graduate and start working full time. I know I want to take an in-person prep course (likely PR), but I am not sure what the best length and time is to take the course.

My first question is should I plan to take the exam over winter break, or should I plan to take the exam in late January to early March? I am worried about the timing of the exam with finals. The last month of the semester is usually a non-stop grind through finals, so I am worried it will be hard to maintain a consistent study schedule during this time. But I also want to make sure that I don't take the exam too early (since I only have five years to use the scores and I don't plan on getting my MBA right away) or take the exam too late (thus preventing me from taking the exam a second time before I graduate if I need too).

My second question is, which length of the GMAT prep course should I take? It looks like the options in my area are a one month course or a three month course. Is one month too rushed?

My final question is how should I time the prep course with the exam? Is it best to take the exam immediately after completing the course or would it be okay if there was a month gap between when I complete the course and when I take the exam as long as I am continuing to study? Where in my study schedule should I take the prep course: beginning, middle, end?

Any advice is greatly appreciated.


jerkatissm - It sounds as if you have put a lot of thought into this. When I started reading, I thought you might not have been aware of the five-year limitation on score validity, but then you addressed that issue. Without a doubt, I would prioritize school before getting your feet wet by taking the GMAT, especially considering that many students opt to retake it in hopes of seeing an improvement. Why could you not take the GMAT during one of the years in which you were working, post-graduation? Your work life will not be the same as study-intensive college life, sure, but if anything, you ought to be able to dedicate more time to preparation without having homework, quizzes, or exams all the time.

Regarding the second question, in my experience as a tutor, the majority of students perform better over a one-month course than a three-month course of study. I know the GMAT is difficult, but most people cannot maintain a strict study schedule for more than 4-6 weeks before they burn out. Many people in these forums talk about qualitative study over quantitative, and I agree that when it comes to this test, sitting down and spending time with the material is much more valuable than sticking to a rigid x-questions-a-day schedule. Some people like to spread out their studying, others want to get in and get out.

As for how to time the prep course, that one is about as individualistic as you can get. If you think you will go with a PR course, then I would at least ask someone there whether they use a specific book so that you could look at some of those questions beforehand. See how self-study goes for a bit--get a feel for the test. I think taking a dedicated course is most helpful to students who are either just beginning their preparation or have hit a plateau in their self-study and need professional guidance as to how to push beyond. Once you have finished such a course, again, it is up to you when to schedule the test. Some students feel more confident and comfortable getting the test out of their system right away, even a day later, almost like a rite of passage--"I finished the course, now let's get this over with!" Others like to go back to hitting the books, perhaps practicing official questions instead, and see whether their training starts to pay off. I would probably not recommend waiting a whole month to take the test, during which time you might find yourself growing more anxious, allowing your mind to run off in directions you do not want. I think anywhere from a few days up to about two weeks has worked best for my own clients, but that is all I can speak to. Think about how you have prepared for other standardized tests in the past, about what has or has not worked for you. That is probably your best indicator of how you should approach the task at hand, even if the test is different and happens to be a little harder.

Good luck to you in your studies, whatever you decide to do.

- Andrew
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Re: When to take Prep Course and GMAT  [#permalink]

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New post 31 Jul 2019, 20:26
Hi jerkatissm,

To start, studying now - years before you'll actually "need" your GMAT Score - is a smart choice. That having been said, you should not try to 'rush' through this process - especially if your goal is to score at a really high level. Many GMATers spend 3 months (or more) of consistent study time before they hit their 'peak' scores - so you might want to consider that when putting together a tentative schedule.

Since it sounds like you're just beginning your studies, then it would be a good idea to take a FULL-LENGTH practice CAT Test; you can take 2 for free at www.mba.com (and they come with some additional practice materials). If you want to do a little studying first, so that you can familiarize yourself with the basic content and question types, then that's okay - but you shouldn't wait too long to take that initial CAT. That score will give us a good sense of your natural strengths and weaknesses and will help provide a basis for comparison as you continue to study. A FULL CAT takes about 3.5 hours to complete, so make sure that you've set aside enough time to take it in one sitting. Once you have those scores, you should report back here and we can come up with a study plan.

I'd like to know a bit more about your goals:
1) What is your overall goal score?
2) While it might be too early to have a definitive answer, do you have an idea of which Schools you plan to apply to?

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New post 01 Aug 2019, 10:56
EMPOWERgmatRichC,

Right now I am leaning towards a part-time weekend MBA program. I am going to be working as a consultant in Chicago after graduation (at a firm that does not pay for MBAs) so an evening part-time program won't be possible. I also don't see myself being in a position where I would be able to complete a full-time MBA program two-four years after graduation. With that in mind, the programs I am interested in are UChicago - Booth, Northwestern - Kellogg, UC Berkley - Haas, UCLA - Anderson, and CMU - Tepper. Additionally, I am strongly considering applying for UMinn - Carlson's 2+2 program at the end of my senior year.

I am shooting for at least a 720, but ideally a 750. I have very strong undergrad transcript (will graduate with a 3.9+ GPA), various extracurriculars, extensive internship experience, but I do not go to a top tier school. I am hoping that an impressive GMAT score, will give me an edge in an applicant pool that may otherwise be filled with students from top-tier undergraduate universities.
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Re: When to take Prep Course and GMAT  [#permalink]

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New post 01 Aug 2019, 11:08
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HI jerkatissm,

I’m glad you reached out, and I’m happy to help. I agree that before worrying about anything else, you should take a full length practice exam from MBA.com to get a baseline score. Once you take the practice exam, feel free to reach back out, and I can provide some further advice.

Regarding resources, I know you plan to take an in-person class; however, you may consider using an online self-study course. So, before making any final decisions, you may want to check out some of the success stories of past GMAT students as well as reviews of various GMAT prep courses to see what prep materials have worked for other test-takers.

Lastly, you may find it helpful to read this article about
how to score a 700+ on the GMAT.

Good luck!
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New post 01 Aug 2019, 11:29
I took one of the free GMAT Prep Exams last week to see where I was at. I received a 680 with no prior prep.
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Re: When to take Prep Course and GMAT  [#permalink]

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New post 01 Aug 2019, 17:03
Hi jerkatissm,

To start, a 680 is a fantastic initial CAT Score (the average Score on the Official GMAT hovers around 550 most years), so assuming that you took this CAT in a realistic fashion, this result shows that you're a naturally strong critical thinker - which is good. As such, you might not need a long study timeframe to hit your Score Goal - but you will need to be consistent with your studies. Many GMATers spend 10-15 hours (or more) each week on their studies. While you might need more or less time than that, if you're really interested in a 750+, then you have to respect that approximately 98% of Test Takers never score that high on the Official GMAT (regardless of how long they study or the number of times that they take the Exam). By extension, you might need to invest more time and energy that you initially think that you need to.

1) What were your Quant and Verbal Scaled Scores for this 680?
2) When are you thinking about formally beginning your GMAT studies?

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Rich
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New post 01 Aug 2019, 18:29
If you scored a 680 with no prep at all, I'd strongly advise you to reconsider your plan to take a prep course. You must already have a strong foundation in the core concepts to score that well. But in a group class, you'll be in a room with some 400-level test takers who haven't done any prep yet, and the class will need to proceed at their level. Group classes can be worthwhile when the teacher is great and everyone there is around the same level, but that's not going to be the case for you.

A 680 is an outstanding starting point, so you can almost certainly reach your target through self-study, provided you work from good materials, aimed at test takers at your level. If you were planning to invest in any instruction, finding a good private tutor who can teach the highest level material is much more likely to help than a group class. Good luck!
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Re: When to take Prep Course and GMAT  [#permalink]

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New post 05 Aug 2019, 19:59
Wow, 680 with no prep is a really nice score. Have you considered using a self-study course?
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Re: When to take Prep Course and GMAT   [#permalink] 05 Aug 2019, 19:59
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