Monday, September 06, 2010

Preparing for the GMAT Exam

Ashok Sarathy, Vice-President for the GMAT Programme, Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), offers tips

A growing number of students in India are discovering the value of an MBA degree for a successful career in today's highly competitive global marketplace. An MBA degree offers you the opportunity to pursue your goals and enhance your earning potential.

The Graduate Management Admission Council 2010 Corporate Recruiters Survey indicates that more employers in India and around the world are recognising the value of business education. Two-thirds of the companies surveyed said they planned to hire MBA graduates for mid-level positions within their organisations. For many, the MBA is also the path to success as an entrepreneur.

If you are planning to apply for admission to a business programme, you are probably also thinking about how to prepare for the GMAT exam. Almost 5,000 programmes at approximately 1,900 business schools around the world use the GMAT exam as an important part of the application process. These include some of the most prestigious institutions in India, such as the Indian School of Business, the Indian Institutes of Management, XLRI and S.P. Jain, among many others. I'd like to share some insights about how students in India say they prepare for the GMAT, as well as additional advice and information to make your preparation as effective as possible.

Where to begin
The first step in preparing for the GMAT is to take some time to become familiar with the exam, including the types of questions and their formats. You can go to our web site, http://www.mba.com/, to understand the test structure. The GMAT exam has some questions that other exams do not have. For example, critical reasoning questions are designed to test the reasoning skills involved in making arguments, evaluating arguments, and formulating or evaluating a plan of action. For data sufficiency questions, you only need to decide if there is enough information to answer the question. If you don't understand this format, you could spend unnecessary time trying to solve the problem.
Now you're ready for the next step in the preparation process: taking a full-length practice GMAT exam, also available at http://www.mba.com/. By seeing how you score in the separate verbal and quantitative sections, you will have a good indicator of where you need the most preparation. GMATPrep offers you two free tests. Alternatively you can take a diagnostic test (GMAT Focus) to give you a sense of how strong your quantitative reasoning skills are.
Once you've identified your weaknesses, using the benchmark or diagnostic test, then devote more time to address these weaknesses. Are you a whiz at mathematical reasoning? You may not need as much time preparing for the quantitative section as you would for the reading and writing sections. An English major may want to spend more preparation time on the quantitative section. Take another test and see how well you do. Repeat this cycle of preparing and testing until you feel you've mastered the content to the best of your ability.
Some test takers consider a test preparation course as a good method to study for the exam, since it allows you to interact with tutors who have a level of mastery over the content and the types of questions that you will encounter on the GMAT. You can also learn how your peers are studying for the exam and may be able to join a study group. However, beware of those courses that promise you a certain GMAT score. Nobody can guarantee a GMAT score only your detailed preparation and your performance on the exam date will determine your GMAT score.

Preparation Time
Performance and the amount of practice will vary from one examinee to the next. We recently surveyed GMAT test takers about the amount of time that they devote to preparing for the exam and these are the results that we found for GMAT test takers in India: nearly 70% of the test takers began preparing for the test at least four weeks in advance of their test date and 52% of the examinees studied for more than 50 hours for the test.

Putting more hours into preparation will not necessarily ensure a higher GMAT score. Remember that this data is self reported and each test taker may be estimating his or her actual study time. So use the data in an advisory capacity. It's up to you to determine how much you should prepare,but I would suggest that you prepare for the exam so the results can reflect your ability and not your knowledge of the test.

Conclusion
While the GMAT is an important part of the admission process, it is only one amongst many factors that schools consider. These factors include your undergraduate grades, the quality of your work experience, recommendation letters, interviews and your application essays. A good GMAT score certainly strengthens your case for admission but doesn't guarantee it. For more information,visit the website (http://www.mba.com/).

Source: The Times of India (Education Times), September 6, 2010
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