Unlike the CAT, the GMAT can be taken at any time during the year. All you need to do is to select the date and time convenient for you. Earlier the availability of the time slots in a test center might have been a limiting factor, but now you can even take the test online and at home. So, what is a good time to take the GMAT?
The time that you get for yourself as a student is usually more than the time that you have for yourself when you start working. Also, as a student, you are more likely to be used to taking long exams. Remember that the GMAT takes approximately 3.5 hours to complete. Also, you may be more in touch with basic math and verbal skills that are tested on the GMAT. You can choose to study in a relaxed manner and take the exam when you are still a student.
The GMAT score is valid for five years. You can even choose to work for a few years and then apply for MBA programs.
Another advantage of writing the GMAT when you are still in university is that you can apply for programs such as the ISB YLP, Harvard 2+2 program, Yale Silver Scholars program, or the Booth Scholars Program. Though you have the luxury of time, working backwards from application deadlines is important.
Many top international MBA programs require at least 3 years of work experience. But as a working professional, the demands on your time will be many. You may have to juggle your work and life commitments to find time to study for the GMAT. So, you may require more days to reach your target score, as you may be able to spare only a few hours in a week to prepare for the GMAT. If you are a working professional, the application deadlines become even more important.
Whether you are currently a student or a working professional, here’s how you can decide what is the right time for taking the GMAT test.
Many students miss out on this important and crucial step in their GMAT prep. Write down on a piece of paper the reason why you want to prepare for the GMAT. Also, write down the next steps after your GMAT exam. For example, some students may want to apply for an MBA abroad and then work for some time in a particular country. Others may want to get international exposure to broaden their horizons before they join their family business. Some students may even want to specialize in a specific management area (such as marketing or HR) and may actually be more interested in research and teaching. So, be honest and clear with yourself about your goals.
It is equally important to be aware of the limitations of your situation and the compromises that you find acceptable. For example, some students want to start their program at the earliest while others are limited by location or cost factors. Many students lose focus because they lack a clear goal or the perseverance to achieve the same. So, writing all these down before you start on your GMAT journey can help you stay on track.
As part of the initial goal setting, you should have written down the cost range that is acceptable for you, the locations that you are interested in (countries or universities), your final goals post GMAT and post MBA/study. The duration of the study also varies by country/ program and this may be important for some students. Do some research to select and shortlisted universities and programs that you wish to apply to based on your needs and profile.
For the amount that you pay to take the GMAT, you can send your scores to five programs. This means that even for the same university, a full-time MBA and part time MBA counts as two different programs. Every additional score report that you wish to send would cost an additional 35 USD. You can look up target/average GMAT scores for the programs to which you wish to apply.
After selecting programs, it is important to look up the application deadlines for the programs. University application deadlines and even the academic years vary from country to country. Many universities have multiple rounds of applications, but it is always better to apply early.
Once you are aware of the application deadlines and necessary GMAT scores, take a full length GMAT mock test. This can help you get familiar with the GMAT paper pattern and get an understanding of the GMAT syllabus. Manya Princeton Review offers a GMAT mock test free.
Taking a full length GMAT practice test can also help you set realistic expectations about the time and effort required to reach your target score. So, if your current score is low, you would need more time and practice to reach your target score.
Next step: the actual preparation for GMAT. You have a wide range of options ranging from best books for GMAT preparation, GMAT mock exam series, and coaching classes (in person or online). Whichever method you choose for your prep, remember to take GMAT sample tests at regular intervals to judge your current level of prep and understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Sometimes, in spite of the best preparation, students may not be able to do their best on the day of the exam. You can retake the GMAT once every 16 days up to 5 times in a rolling year (365 days). There is a lifetime limit though – you can only take the GMAT eight times in a lifetime. So, factor in the time for at least two attempts before your application deadlines.
It is important to understand that the GMAT score is only part of your application. There are many other parts to your application. These include getting good letters of recommendation and having a good resume. Having unique work experiences and extracurricular interests will always add value to your profile. If you do not have much work experience, good grades and extracurricular activities during university can help set your application apart. If you have the luxury of time and have started your GMAT prep early, you can also spend some time improving your resume. Most MBA applications require you to answer essay-type questions which can ask about your leadership abilities and ambitions. Answering these essay type questions can require more than one draft and hence will require time and effort.
Many English-speaking countries require you to take the IELTS or TOEFL exams also. You may need to share these scores with the university and these scores can also be a requirement for the visa. Though these exams only test basic English language skills (such as Reading, Speaking, Writing, and Listening) they have unique testing formats. It is important to actually spend time and effort to understand the exam requirements and practice well in order to do well in these tests.
So, the right time to take the GMAT depends greatly on the application deadlines for the program/country/intake for which you wish to apply. If you have the luxury of time, you can take the GMAT when you have prepared well and can reach your target GMAT scores in at least 3 consecutive tests.
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