Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How I rocked the GMAT for less than $20

Okay, so you can't really rock the GMAT for only $20, after all it costs $250 just to take the test.  But I did spend less than $20 for everything else and only took the test once.  Here are some of the strategies I used: 
  • Used books - Study books for the GMAT can be pretty expensive and you'll want to have several to make sure you can get clarification and have plenty of practice tests.  I got mine from a used bookstore for less than $5 total.  I then gave them away to a friend when I was done.  Maybe there's someone selling their old textbooks near you.  At over $20 per book for four books you can save at least $80 by taking someone's used books of their hands. 
  • No courses - Taking a class is often just dedicated practice time with a baby sitter who can answer questions.  Odds are you're smart enough to figure out any content issues with the GMAT on your own or with a book (or four).  Testing-wise the GMAT is similar to the SAT but on a computer.  Nothing about it rocket science and you should be reluctant to part with several hundred dollars to pay for help from anyone that says different.  The real issue here is if you are disciplined and motivated enough to commit to studying on your own.
  • No tutors - See no courses except inflate anything with a $.
  • Find a study buddy - A free alternative to courses or tutors, meeting with a study buddy can make you accountable for practicing the material and dedicating time to preparing.  I did this and while it probably didn't make a huge difference it was nice to break up the monotony of studying at home on my own.
  • Practice, practice, practice - There is no substitute for spending tons of time with the material and familiarizing yourself with the types of questions you'll see.  I probably took around a dozen practice tests in preparing for the GMAT in addition to taking most of the practice sections in each book.  I may not have needed to be this thorough with my preparation, but it is far better to be over prepared, score well, and have wasted some extra time studying than be under prepared, have a poor score to hide, have to schedule another testing date and prepare all over again.
  • Free resources online - There are plenty of resources online for you to use that are free.  GMAC, the governing body of the GMAT, has a good website that had at least one free practice test when I was preparing.  Spend a little time poking around online to see what you can find if your books come up short.
  • Actually practice writing essays - This shouldn't need to be said, but it does.  Actually write at least two essays to practice writing for the test.  Time yourself and have someone else knowledgeable grade you harshly if possible.  The writing section isn't hard, but it is easy to dismiss practicing for it in favor of the easy and familiar multiple choice sections which provide immediate gratification.  This is a free (it's included in those prep book practice tests and you can find sample prompts online) and easy way to boost your score. 
Although the GMAT isn't the start and finish of business school admissions, you don' want a poor score holding you back.  You also want to minimize the stress and time invested into it since you're likely working and have applications to worry about as well.  This means that you should prepare well and over several months so you only have to take the test once and really score well.  Good luck!

Anyone have some other great study tips to share?

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    1. There is no sense wasting money on a course or tutor like you learned. I also set aside daily study time (about 30 minutes) for several months so that I didn't feel tension as the date drew closer.

    2. Similar to your find a buddy tip -- I got a part-time job in the evenings sitting with a teen that had trouble managing her time. She would work on her homework (I'd help her when she needed it) and I would work on a practice test. Sometimes, we'd race each other or have contests to see who could get the most answers right.

    3. Those English correction questions are the ones that trip me up usually...

    4. I took the GMAT without one ounce of preparation and didn't do the best because my English 'finesse' was awful. I have always hated taking English class and much preferred math.

      So, I bought a prep book and my score went up 120 points and I got into the school I wanted to. This was 22 years ago, but I think the premise still holds. Just take a little time to prepare and figure out what you don't know and go from there.

    5. Thanks for the website on studying for the GMAT.