This is the third post in a four-part series I wrote to describe my experience applying to MBA programs. Here’s a link back to the first post about why I decided to apply in the first place, just in case you want to start at the beginning.
The short answer to the question about whether test prep is worth your time is, yes, absolutely.
I suck at math. I may have already mentioned that in my last post about school selection. So when it came time to enroll in test prep, enroll I did. Rather than choose between Kaplan and Princeton Review (the two main options when I was applying) I chose… both. I found Princeton Review to be better. For what it’s worth, they had more questions tailored to my level (relatively high, compared to the mass market). Regardless, both Princeton Review and Kaplan taught me some very important tricks for the math section.
A few things to keep in mind regarding test prep
1. Learn “the tricks” will save you time
Sure you don’t NEED the tricks to find the correct answers, but if you do use the tricks you will save precious time. And time WILL be a consideration for you on the GMAT, I guarantee it. Especially once you start answering correctly, and the questions start to get super-challenging.
2. Taking practice tests will help you score better:
Taking practice tests in simulated conditions is a critical benefit of proper test prep. When you do get to the test center itself, you will feel so much more confident if you have been in similar settings, previously. Practice makes perfect.
3. The importance of test scores is INCREASING:
In a world where application essays get shorter every year and where interviews are done by freshly-minted alums… test scores are a critical way to stand out from the pack. Don’t screw up your tests just because you didn’t spend the extra $1K to learn how to study.
Actually the most valuable thing that I did in studying was buying a book purely with practice questions. Once you have learned the tricks (which can be done either online through a company etc.) the key is to drill.
Once my classes had ended, I simply I looked at the number of days left before the test. If memory serves it was about 50 days. My book had about 3,000 questions. This meant that I would do 60 questions every day, until the day I would take the GMAT. If I got ahead of myself, I’d simply redo questions. Actually, repeating questions that way can be VERY valuable.
Teachable Moment: The Role of New Test Prep Options
Today there are countess online test prep options, some of which have great reputations. The world has evolved well past Kaplan and Princeton Review. Research your online options wisely and well, and take full advantage of the NEW slate of online test prep options. There are many, and some are extremely good and highly reputable.