When it comes to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. In this weekly blog series, Manhattan GMAT’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.
Welcome to December, the most stressful time of the year for GMAT takers. Around this time, many potential business school applicants are wondering what they can do if their second round deadlines are approaching and they have not yet achieved the score they want. Back in September, I wrote a post on this topic, giving general suggestions. Here, I offer some concrete things you can and cannot do if you are in this tricky situation.
What you CANNOT do
You can try some things—but you should not expect miracles. If you tell me that your test is in less than two weeks and you want a more than 100-point improvement… you should also start examining your other options. These could include accepting a lower score, changing the schools to which you apply or postponing your candidacy to a later round or a later year. Some people, thinking through this, end up deciding that they would rather wait a year anyway and take their time with the whole application process.
As a general rule, unfortunately, not a lot will change over a period of a few weeks. If, on the other hand, you have four to six weeks, you might be able to lift your score a decent amount (50 or so points).
What you CAN do
I want to make very clear that there is no guaranteed way to lift your score in a short period of time—if such a thing existed, I would be very, very rich. You do have options you can try, though.
Timing problems can improve in a four- to six-week time frame. Something like 98% of people have timing problems. Many people think their timing is fine because they do not run out of time on the test, but this does not mean that they have good timing.
If you are not convinced that you do have a timing problem, use this article to analyze your most recent Manhattan GMAT (MGMAT) CAT.
You will not completely fix your timing issues in a short time frame—but if you can get better, that might just help lift your score.
Next, if you have not already done so, use the first article I linked to in this post to analyze your most recent MGMAT CAT(s). Compare your list of strengths and weaknesses to a list of the most commonly tested topics and question types. (I will provide a list here, but note that this can change over time!) Look for things that are of “medium” weakness and also commonly tested; these will give you the biggest return for your time investment.
As of now, here are the things that tend to be tested most commonly on the GMAT:
- Algebra: anything to do with equations (linear, quadratic), including translating words into equations; exponents
- Number Properties: positive, negative, odd, even, divisibility, prime
- Fractions, Decimals and Percents: fractions and percents (especially in “word” form)
- Word Problems: statistics (average, median), general word problems that need to be translated to math
- Geometry: triangles, polygons
- Sentence Correction: modifiers, meaning, parallelism
- Critical Reasoning: Find the Assumption, Strengthen, Weaken, Inference
- Reading Comprehension: Inference, Specific Detail, Main Idea
Set a Plan
Do not try to do a little bit of everything. Pick a subset of things and tackle those strongly. You also likely have to change your study methods—your current methods have not gotten you far enough.
Did you know that most of your learning actually comes after you finish working on a problem? You learn from your review and analysis of your work after you are done!
This article discusses how to analyze a practice problem. Unless you are getting to this level of understanding, you are wasting a lot of very valuable time. Want examples of how this actually works? Take a look at the MGMAT blog for more.
Finally, be realistic. You might be able to achieve a more than 50-point increase in four to six weeks, but this cannot be guaranteed. Plan for multiple possible outcomes. If you do not get the score you want, what would you prefer to do?