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Power GMAT Study Plan for Young Professionals

Many young professionals begin considering an MBA a few years after they start working (for those considering, see our posts When is it time to go back for an MBA? and Managers Not MBAs : Critical For Managers, MBAs and Those Seeking Either). One of the first steps towards applying is getting your GMAT completed. I recently went through the process of preparing for the GMAT and received some great advice from my brother-in-law, Noah Bieber, who has graciously allowed me to post it for your perusal below. As a caveat, he went through law school so he was less worried about the verbal section of the test and focuses more on the math section but, it is a great general guide.

High Level Study Timeline

1) ASAP – take a diagnostic test so you know what to work on. The Kaplan software (see below) has a diagnostic that told me to focus on math.

2) 1-2 months out: Focus on general topic lessons. Princeton Review Math Workout for the GMAT. I read all of the math topics and worked some of the practice problems. Good book and I highly recommend it, it identifies all the types of problems and explains them really well.

3) 2-3 weeks out: start taking full-length practice tests.

Testing Software and Practice Tests

-I bought Kaplan’s 2005 GMAT software for $20. The lessons were terrible, but it had several computerized practice tests. I recommend doing computerized practice tests so you can get used to the computer-adaptive difficulty settings. This will help you practice timing to get to the optimal difficulty.

-The math tests always got to the point where I could not do the most difficult questions, so I tried to practice deciding when I hit the “too-difficult” level, eliminating obvious wrong answers, and quickly guessing. Then, I would get one wrong and the questions would get easier, but you get fewer points for them.

-After you do the computerized tests, they will tell you what topics you need to work on. Since the Kaplan lessons were crappy, I looked up these topics in the Princeton Review book and read through them again.

– I usually skipped the writing practice tests because it was largely irrelevant to my admission and scholarship decisions. I had an easy writing topic and a really hard one, and without practicing, my writing score was 4 / 6.

-Toward the end, I ran out of Kaplan Practice tests, so I borrowed Peterson’s Mastering the GMAT from the library. This book’s lessons were more advanced than the Princeton Review. Honestly, it was too difficult and too late for me, so I just used the practice tests

General Observations and Tips:

-If you can find software with more practice tests than Kaplan, I would get that – I would look for about 12-14 computerized practice tests if possible.

-The practice tests were graded much harder than my actual GMAT. I was consistently getting 600-650 on the practice tests, but I got above much better than that on the actual GMAT. A buddy had a similar experience with the Kaplan practice tests.

Do you have similar or conflicting experiences? Share your tips in the comments.

Photo Credit: Online MBA Degree Program

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  1. Hey!

    I took the GMAT about a year ago before starting at the University of Washington Evening MBA program last fall. I have always learned best when taking practice tests and that definitely was the most helpful thing for me while studying.

    I would also recommend to play to your strengths. If you are really good at verbal then go ahead and spend time on it. I was thinking about skipping studying for verbal since I consistently scored really high on it in practice, but I ended up spending the same amount of time on both the verbal and quant sections. My verbal score ended up so strong it carried my overall score to where I needed it to be. I am not sure I could have done much better than I did on quant so that high verbal score ended up being a lifesaver.

    Also, I believe GMAT has a couple free practice tests at that are really good as well.

    Good Luck!


  2. Hey Jason,

    Thanks for the comment! I agree with the strengths approach as well although I didn’t spend as much time on the verbal section and did better. I found the official GMAT prep tests you can download for free to be the closest to my actual score while still a bit low/harder.

    Thanks again,

  3. Hi,

    I used different materials when I studied the GMAT, but I like your general approach to studying. I think 2-3 months is about the right amount of time to study for the test. Otherwise you would probably just get burned out and lose focus. Anyways, for anyone else, two other sites were really helpful for me, and I hope you find them useful. Thanks again.

  4. Just what I exactly did but I wasn’t able to finish my MBA due to personal reasons and financial constraints.