So many GMAT success stories go something like this: “after taking three months off and studying non-stop I finally broke 700” or “studying for the GMAT was my full-time job.”
Yet for the majority of test-takers, a full-fledged GMAT vacation is not an option. Jobs can’t always be put on hold and the hustle of our daily lives must continue while we prepare for the test.
While it’s easy to imagine that with copious free time we’d be able to score as high as we want and put so much thought into our applications that no business school would refuse us, we must accept and work within the limits of our current schedule.
However, no matter how strenuous or frenetic your schedule, it’s no reason to give up on your goal GMAT score. Countless busy professionals have studied for and scored brilliantly on the GMAT while balancing the demands of work and life. Many more have made drastic improvements in their score without sacrificing their career. Studying for the GMAT while working full-time is possible; it takes an efficient study strategy and a determined mindset, which the following GMAT study tips will outline.
Studying efficiently when you’re short on time requires clarity: In order to arrive at your destination — your goal score — you first need to know where you are. Taking one of the official GMAT practice tests is the best way to begin as it gives you an idea of how much you need to improve and in what sections this improvement should occur.
Without an initial practice test, you’re studying for the GMAT blind — you don’t know for sure which test sections present your greatest challenge on the test, and as the second tip explains, efficient studying is about targeting your weaknesses.
To squeeze the most efficiency out of your study time, target the areas of the test you score the lowest in and only brush up on your strengths. If you have a solid quantitative background but struggle on verbal questions, then you should spend the majority of your time working on verbal questions.
Some test-takers may need to improve significantly in both quantitative and verbal. Even if this is the case, target what types of questions in each section are your weaknesses and focus on those while just reviewing the question types you know well. For example, perhaps percent change problem solving questions give you the most trouble along with idioms on sentence correction questions. The more you can specify your weaknesses to this level of detail, the more effective your study sessions will be.
If it didn’t mess up the transition from study techniques to mental strategies, this tip would have come first because it’s arguably the most important. Consistency is the unglamorous secret to GMAT improvement. Even if you can only fit an hour of studying in each day, the study gains you make will be greater than if you studied 10 hours straight one day a week.
Improving your score on the GMAT is about becoming familiar with the concepts and how the exam presents these concepts in questions. Familiarity is generated when you consistently spend time with a subject.
Undoubtedly you will go through stretches when you won’t want to study, when the demands of work or life weigh you down. This happens to everyone, but those who succeed draw off inner motivation and continue.
To reignite your motivation to study, always keep the why behind your GMAT prep present. Why are you taking the GMAT, and why is it important to get the score you want? Channel the energy gained by imagining where an MBA will take you and the positive ways your life may change with it.
This last study tip may appear to contradict tip three. However, when it comes to studying for the GMAT while working full-time, consistency and flexibility go together. You can’t always control how work will interfere with studying; sometimes life just gets in the way. Therefore, you need to be flexible in how you manage your schedule.
Sometimes this means saying no to other activities that fall below the priority of studying for the GMAT, or it may mean being creative in how you find time to study. Perhaps dedicating your lunch break to studying works the best for you or maybe rising a few hours earlier (if you’re a morning person) creates the study time you need.
Though you may feel restricted by your schedule, it can also be a tool, sharpening your focus because you simply have no time to waste. Be strategic in how you study, and most importantly, try your best to stick to your plan. Besides wouldn’t you prefer to spend your vacation time on a beach rather than in a coffee shop studying for the GMAT?
You can study for and do well on the GMAT while working full-time. The toughest challenge is finding the time. If you’re looking to fit studying into a busy schedule, check out the Prep4 GMAT app. It’s the top rated app on the iTunes App Store for GMAT prep, and it’s completely free. Practice 1000s of questions, review answers with detailed explanations, study concepts with bite-sized lessons and take quick practice tests. Download for iPhone, iPad or Android today!