For those who aspire to enroll in a graduate school in the United States, standardized tests such as GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) may seem like big hurdles. Although I do not claim myself as an expert, I can proudly say that I did pretty well on both tests. I hope I can point out several helpful tips for you potential test-takers to score and pave your way to your dream graduate schools.
The general assumption about GRE and GMAT is that GMAT is a prerequisite for business school admission, while GRE fits for every other major. While it was true before, many reputable business schools nowadays have started taking GRE tests as prerequisite instead. Thus, it is mighty important to check the requirement from the school of your choice. Do send an email or speak to their academic councilor if necessary.
Both GRE and GMAT test your qualitative, quantitative reasoning as well as analytical skill. Your result will be valid for five years, with the exception of retakes. The major difference between the two tests lies in how they are structured. GRE focuses more on the analytical section of the section – a whooping 75 minutes section with two essays combined with 30 minutes of quantitative and qualitative section. GMAT, on the other hand, emphasizes on quantitative and verbal reasoning (75 minutes section each). GMAT usually take three and half hour for completion- good half an hour longer than GRE in general – and it is more expensive as well – it costs $250 for GMAT application, compared to $195 for GRE ones.
I hope that anyone notice that given the information above, these standardized test are obviously physically and mentally demanding. It is clear that that effective preparation has to be done as early as possible. The most popular way to prepare for these tests way would be to join preparation classes such as Kaplan and Princeton Review. Even most universities in the United States have facilitated their own preparation classes. I highly recommend them because these classes are tailored specifically and proven to be able to guide you mastering GRE or GMAT within few short months. Another alternative would be an self-study by several textbooks and online study guide. I found that ETS Powerprep Test and Manhattan GRE and GMAT Practice Test are among the best free resources available.
I personally went through the self-study route. The main reason behind this is because self-study provides flexibility in schedule and study methodology. Initially, I skim through each section’s questions to get a ‘feel’ of what was expected for the first few weeks. I found one particular helpful method would be to chart the answers in excel spreadsheet early on, which I could go back, sort and track should they need extra attention. After understanding the overall concept, I started tackling the questions and increase the duration of study by an hour every three to four days. I recommend test-takers to mix-and-match sections in each study session to gain more insight of sections’ characteristics.
I cannot stress enough the importance of understanding the ‘type’ of question through repetition. This is especially important in the quantitative and analytical section because I found out that the whole point of GRE and GMAT is to carve your algorithmic mindset in a specific way. The most effective way to achieve this is by tireless repetition. There is no shortcut for greatness. Trust me: hard work and perseverance pay their dues.
I purposely did not exercise essay writing until the very last week before the tests since it was a more subjective section. My reasoning was that I would be more aligned to the appropriate critical mindset by that time and thus, able to address any topics given on the test with higher relevance. However, this really depends on your learning methodology. I do recommend test takers to purchase a product called GMATWrite, which scores your essay with the algorithm used by GMAC, in order to assist your preparation more effectively. This was very helpful in setting the benchmark that GMAC were looking for.
Putting technicalities of the tests aside, I believe that it is easy for everyone to overlook personal health in the midst of intense study marathon. In an absence of good physical and mental health, you will not be able to focus and reach your full potential. Please remember to exercise regularly and eat healthy meals. Socializing with friends who do not care for your score once in a while also help lessen the pressure to perform. On the day before the test itself, get a good night’s sleep to increase your focus.
Last but not least, you would notice that I did not specifically put duration for each process. There is no fix formula that translates certain hours of studying to certain grading. It is highly recommended if you start preparing early and stick to your schedule throughout the whole process faithfully. Do not stress over some personal limitations. You owe yourself that much.
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