Start preparing for the GMAT once you really know you are applying for an MBA, otherwise the process will be painful. Your motivation to get accepted into the MBA program is a great part of what actually got me excited when I was preparing. Yes, it requires work and discipline but many of us ended up enjoying it.
First of all, you need to understand what the best study method is for you. Not everyone likes self-study with a book. I bought a book because I prefer setting my own pace and having that flexibility. Chances are, you already know how you learn best. Once you start preparing, do not give up. It takes practice and often the difficulty does not lie in the content itself, but in the wording. Knowing what is being tested and how the parts are structured is essential and will allow building up speed.
Another great piece of advice I had received, as an international, was to identify potential difficulties due to different metric systems for example (understanding distances in feet, weights in ounces versus the meters and kilograms) but also some regularly used vocabulary.
I had two different books, in order to have different approaches which contributes to mastering parts of the GMAT. Also, I did not take any test up front, though some people prefer to. I wanted to limit any form of stress (‘I’ll never figure this out’ type of interior voice) so just took the parts one by one, working through the theory, getting to the practice exercises. I did not want to waste the full tests that were available so did few when I was 2/3 way but did most of them when reaching the end of the book.
I prepared for 2-3 months, mainly on weekends and wanted to obtain a score above 650. I believe the GMAT is only one part of the application. During the entire process, I stayed away from any forums or any discussions that were talking about ‘you need such a score to enter here or here’. Sorry, no time to waste on that, the application process was long enough like that. I would do my best the first time round, and if my score was under 650, I would take it again. My results were higher so I did not. Fight to do your best that first time. Never go in thinking you can take it again.
Also, on the day of, I brought earplugs which really helps for concentration and a granola bar/water. It helps to relax. Just make sure you know how the examination is organized in terms of day-of logistics and it makes the process much smoother and limits the anxiety. Do not pay attention to any comments/conversations people around you may have before the GMAT starts.
Smile and enjoy the experience! You’ll actually realize that you ended up developing a routine and had fun figuring out some of the GMAT questions. It’s a love/hate relationship. If you think I am crazy, let’s talk about it when you’ve taken it.
MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management, Class of 2013