What to Do When You Have Little Time to Prepare for the GMAT

With regard to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. Manhattan Prep’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.

Some time ago, I flew over to London to give an all-day workshop at London Business School. The audience comprised about 35 students who had already been admitted to a weekend master’s program, but that admission was contingent upon taking the GMAT and getting a “good enough” score (as defined by the school). The students had only about a month or two to fulfill this requirement.

What can you do in a six-hour crash course? Not much more than an introduction and orientation—but even that is incredibly valuable in helping people get started and know what to expect.

So what should someone do who is in the position of taking the test in four to eight weeks and has not studied a ton yet?

First, take a practice test under 100% official conditions. I always recommend this first step for anyone, but this is especially crucial for someone with limited time. You are going to have to prioritize heavily, and you have no effective way to do that without good practice test data.

Next, identify the practice materials you want to use. You are going to need at least one source for official practice questions (perhaps the Official Guide 2021 Edition). You are also going to need some materials that help you get better in your areas of greatest weakness—for example, if you are struggling with word problems and sentence correction, then you are going to need some test prep materials that teach those specific areas.

When determining which question types and content areas to prioritize, remember two important things:

(1) All areas are not created equal. Struggling with Combinatorics? Great. Those are infrequently tested, so you can get away with just dropping that topic entirely. Struggling with exponents and roots? Those are much more common, so you are going to need to dig in there. Frequently versus infrequently tested areas can change over time, so ask an expert on an online forum at whatever point you need to figure this out.

(2) Timing is an enormous factor on this exam. Everyone has timing problems, ranging from mild to severe. I cannot tell you how many students I have spoken with who study for months but do not get much better on their practice tests because they have not been practicing timing. Everyone needs to deal with timing right from the start—and this is especially true for someone who has only four to eight weeks to take the test.

Last step: Start working! Tons of resources are available on the Manhattan Prep blog to help you in your studies.

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