Taking the GMAT at the last minute?

by Alex Mesterton-Gibbons, Recruitment Manager, Early Careers

Every year as the final application deadline approaches, we notice that our Early Career applicants start to panic while juggling final exams, applying to grad school and taking the GMAT. Whether they have registered for the GMAT last-minute or are trying to improve their scores, their unconscious decision tends to be to give up, try again the next year, or accept the fact that they discovered London Business School too late in the admissions cycle. There are so many misconceptions about the GMAT and the amount of time it takes to fully prepare for the exam that we would like to set the record straight by sharing with you some true stories and sound advice from current Masters in Management and Masters in Financial Analysis students.

Hopefully sharing my experience of sitting the GMAT exam might help to demystify some common fears that may be delaying you from booking the test.

My undergraduate final year exams took place during the summer term, and counted for 66% of my degree. As a late applicant, this meant that I was unable to prioritise the test before finalising my university exams. I had a nine-day window between my final exam, and the last GMAT test before the application deadline.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel defeated, like there would be no point in trying to cram with such little time and that there are numerous other whims on which the £300 would be better spent. Not wanting to have any regrets, I decided to give it a shot.

Retrospectively, I wasted the first two days by reading techniques in the official GMAT guide. Save yourself time and money by trusting me on the fact that expensive guides/tuition is unnecessary. If you don’t have friends who have previously sat the test, then use LinkedIn to connect with those that are happy to help share their papers. You will definitely need practice exams, they are the key to success. Learn by scrutinising your errors in the tests, and build stamina by practicing them as entire exams. A common downfall is not having the ability to concentrate acutely for almost four hours.

Given such a short window, I had to use strategic shortcuts, and I found it helpful to know that the mathematical and verbal sections do not carry equal weight. By this, I mean to say that having an 80th percentile score for verbal and 70th for maths would give a stronger overall score than the reverse. So assuming your maths is at a reasonably good base level, there are greater returns to improving your verbal score.

As a parting note, I would say despite how the odds may seem stacked against you, give it a shot! Don’t let a GMAT score delay your application when you might just surprise yourself.

   Lydia Cambridge, MFA 2018

Undoubtedly, the GMAT and its preparation can be an intimidating experience. It is your entry ticket into the top tier business schools, and there is no chance missed by GMAC and other resource providers to point this out to you. But believe me, we all had the same doubts that you may be having right now! I took the GMAT quite late, in February to apply by April, as I jumped right into two full-time consulting internships and a summer study programme in China after submitting my bachelor thesis at my university. There simply wasn’t enough time for full-time GMAT preparation. If you find yourself in a similar situation and must prepare for the GMAT whilst being employed full-time, you will not only face the issue of understanding the concepts and structure of the test, but also face additional complexity in managing your time during your evenings and weekends. However, there are numerous examples of great results achieved that prove that “not having the time to prepare” simply doesn’t count as an excuse. During my preparation period, the most valuable tips for preparing under time constraints were the following:

  • Plan Ahead – Before you rush into the material, take a few mock tests up-front to get an idea about your core strengths and weaknesses. It will be much more efficient if you focus on improving your major weaknesses, before fine-tuning your strengths. Sit down, find a large calendar (an actual calendar, not just your phone) and plan out your preparation road map over the whole time you have allocated yourself (including when to take mock tests or which free resources you can use, i.e. the Economist).
  • Be Open – Talk about your plans to take the GMAT with your peers, and whoever is supervising you. They will be more understanding than you might expect, and their support can be very encouraging.
  • Manage Your Resources – Don’t stress, specifically during the last weeks approaching the test date. If you can, try to secure some vacation days to take off the week before the exam. This will increase your confidence to take the test. However, even if you are short on vacation days, do not try cramming in new topics the day before the exam. It is important for you to be well rested. Take it slow, become focused and give your mind a break to unleash your full potential on test day.

After all, the best advice is probably not to doubt too much about taking the GMAT, but rather just sit down and start prepping. Yes, the GMAT can bring your patience to the limits and lead you through the most emotionally confusing ups and downs. But instead of moaning about it, why don’t we acknowledge why we really want to take it, as it will open a whole range of opportunities for us. The GMAT, and the ability to study at the most prestigious business school anywhere in the world, can take your life to a whole new frontier. Please don’t let feelings of pressure or doubt over-run the great opportunities that are right in front of you and start to map out your preparation road map as soon as possible.

   Jana Weinand, MiM 2018

“I prepared for the GMAT in less than a month and I believe anyone can do it. The most important step in my preparation was using the official practice questions and familiarising myself with the format and timing of the test. Then, by identifying the types of questions you find challenging and focusing on those in a structured way, you can dramatically improve your score over a very short period of time.”

   Florina Toma, MFA 2018

“I completed the GMAT in around three weeks, I’d say use one week to get familiar with the possible question types, and then spending about two weeks doing the practice tests online. By doing this I got the required score on first attempt. I did buy the whole set of the “GMAT official guide” but barely touched it, except for using the access codes to online tests.”

   Geraint Kong, MFA 2018

“It was during my full-time job that I decided to apply for a masters degree and I was sceptical about being able to manage the applications in my limited free time. In order to tackle the self-doubt, I decided to consciously adopt a positive outlook towards the entire process, which began with the GMAT preparation. I looked at the GMAT only as the learning opportunity that it was, and scheduled to give the exam on my birthday! Taking this huge step towards creating the future of my choice was going to be my present to myself. I had very little time to prepare, but the fact that I was enjoying the preparation, really helped. While everyone might not have such strategically placed birthdays, I would highly recommend you to take a step back, and start by tackling your fear or resentment towards the exam. Developing a positive state of mind can make a huge difference.”

    Sanskriti Mittal, MiM 2018

As you can see from the above, the key to completing the GMAT successfully is to simply attempt it in the first place and not let yourself doubt your own abilities. Stay positive!

We hope the above stories and advice will come in handy. We wish you the best of luck!

Read our blog on applying as a late applicant if you’re looking for more advice and information.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions!

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