1. Start studying now
If you think an MBA is in your future, take the GMAT soon. The test results are good for five years, so even if you delay your application, you’ll have a significant portion of the work done.
The GMAT is also a test that requires studying. Many GMAT test takers spend at least 100 hours studying prior to the exam. Four months of six hours a week gets you close to that 100-hour mark.
Check out mba.com, take a class, or attend one of the Wisconsin School of Business’ free GMAT workshops to get started. From there, find what works for you. A lot of test takers have success studying in groups—others do better solo.
2. Take a practice test … then take another one … then another one
“Practice will give you the best advantage of getting a better score,” says Wisconsin Full-Time MBA Director of Admissions and Recruiting Betsy Kacizak. “A good way to prepare for the GMAT is to take a practice test when you begin studying, one half way through your process, and one close to test day.”
Taking at least three practice tests lets you chart your progress and shows you areas where you need improvement. Mba.com even has retired GMAT test questions to give you an almost-the-real-thing feel when you’re preparing.
3. Practice in a public library
It’s important to practice in a space similar to the testing environment. Your GMAT testing room isn’t going to be as comfortable as your bedroom, and it won’t be silent. Get used to testing amidst minor distractions, so when the person next to you sneezes, you won’t be thrown off your game!
One other way to reduce anxiety is to visit the test center prior to exam day. Figure out how long it takes to get there, find available parking, and familiarize yourself with the location.
4. Tailor your studying to the program you want
If you want to specialize in finance during your MBA for instance, make sure you focus on the quantitative section.
To Kacizak, the GMAT is all about understanding a student’s individual academic ability. “Can they handle the rigor of our program and the pace at which we expect our students to go through it? For the integrated reasoning and quantitative sections, can someone understand problems and apply that understanding?”
Kacizak says don’t take for granted what you’re already good at. Students who prioritize sections that don’t come naturally to them, often neglect to hone their strengths on the GMAT and miss valuable questions.
5. If you take the GMAT more than once, do something different on your second try
It’s OK to not get your desired score the first time you take the GMAT. If you’re unsatisfied, take the test again. For the second try, change up your study methods. Figure out what type of questions you struggle with and work to improve.
Time can be an additional barrier for some students. It’s a four-hour test in full, and some test takers struggle with certain sections’ time limits. Make sure you answer all of the questions as opposed to laboring over a difficult few.
6. Don’t rule out your dream program because of your GMAT score
Just because you’re below your ideal program’s average GMAT score doesn’t mean you’re not qualified. For the Wisconsin Full-Time MBA and Evening MBA programs, the GMAT is used as a predictor for your academic success, but it is only one part of your admissions portfolio.
Undergraduate GPA is the other significant predictor of business school success, so if you received high marks in undergrad, this is viewed positively as a sign of your academic ability. Keep in mind that your undergraduate record along with your GMAT will be used to evaluate your academic success, and other characteristics such as work experience and leadership will factor in to your ultimate admissions decision.
Reach out to admissions staff at schools you are considering and get an idea of your fit—it prompts those personal conversations that can get you helpful info and support throughout the process.