GMAT: 0 – Chad: 1

November 21st, 2008

This has been a big year for me.  First, I decided to move to Chicago after living in California for about 13 years.  Second, I ran a marathon, one of those life long goals that I’m happy to have completed.  And yesterday I took the GMAT, the first (and some say the hardest) step towards getting a MBA and a new career.

Not only did I take the GMAT, I took it by the horns, wrestled it to the ground, and said “Who’s your daddy?”  Ok, not really, but i did do much better than I expected.  I could have done worse – I was low on sleep and low on practice (practice CAT exams). I also know I did not do my best, and I firmly believe with more practice I could have done better.  In fact, practice is the most important thing.  Here’s all the tips I have learned.

  • Practice – The most important thing by far.  I recommend taking a few practice tests at first (or just answer tons of questions) so you get a feel of where your natural strengths and weaknesses are.  Then study (more below on that), ending by practicing again and again.  During this latter phase of practicing, make sure you do CAT tests, not just non-computer paper tests. This is important if you’re targeting a high score, since most of the CAT questions will be very difficult and time consuming, as compared to non-CAT exam questions which you might be able to finish with time to spare.
    • Download sample test from (windows required)
    • Take MGMAT tests online (see Manhattan GMAT below).
  • Study –  This depends on how much time you have to prepare, but try to spend 1-4 hours at a time at least 3 times a week.  I studied for about 8 weeks, 80 hours total, logging 30 of those hours during the 9 days prior to my exam. I would not have studied that much if I had a full time job.  Lucky me?
  • Class – Unless you’re rich, don’t take a class. If you are rich, get a tutor for custom help.
  • Books – You can learn almost everything you need from these, strategy and practice questions. Amazon comments compare books better than I do, but here’s my nuggets:
    • The Official Guide for GMAT Review, 11th Edition – the bible.  Authored by GMAC, the guys who do the test.  The most practice questions. Good place to start to identify your weaknesses.  There’s also 2 other versions, verbal and quatitative (math), that I bought but don’t think were needed.
    • Manhattan GMAT 2007 – I bought 3 of the 8 books in this series, they were good but not great (I liked the sentence correction the best).  Get at least one new one so you have access to their online tests – one book gets you one year access and 5 complete practice MGMAT exams with hard questions and solid answer explanations.  My favorite practice tests.
    • Barrons’s 14th ed, 2008-2008 – I thought this book was a good overview, nice to get the same basic information in a slightly different way.  However, I found some errors in the answers to this book, making it a bit frustrating since I felt I could no longer trust all the answers.  I don’t recommend it.
    • Kaplan’s or Princeton review – I chose not to buy based on a few reviews, but never read them myself.  In hindsight I would recommend Kaplan’s over Barron’s.
    • McGraw-Hill’s 2008 -first book i got, from public library.  Not a bad book, but if you’re buying there are better ones.
  • Online – You will have some questions that books won’t answer.  Or you might want to join or start a MBA study group in your area. I found the beat-the-gmat forums useful.

Got any more suggestions?  Leave me a comment!!

Now the next step is researching MBA programs. You can send 5 copies of you GMAT scores to business schools for free the day of the exam, normally it costs $28 per copy per school.  So it makes sense to figure out which programs you might attend.  On test day you have to pick the schools before you get your score – I sure wish you got your score first. I’ll still in the middle of this research, although I love sustainable and socially conscious programs (yay for Beyond Pinstripes Top 100). Stay tuned for a future blog on this one.

I’m still working on finding a job, so if you know anybody who wants someone who is great at problem solving and is a very effective communicator, point them to my resume.