Tips About GMAT and GRE from an Admissions Director

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Standardized tests seem to invoke some not-so-warm-and-fuzzy feelings. Let’s be honest -- when it comes to the GMAT and GRE, anxiety, pressure, and stress about finding time to study and take the exam are pretty common. You may be wondering- do I have to take a test? What’s the best way to study? I’m not the best test taker, how do I succeed? What do I need to score to be competitive?

As someone who has taken one of these exams before, and as an admissions director, let me take a moment to talk about both exams and provide some tips and best practices to manage your psyche and break those testing barriers.

Which exam works for me?
Your MBA application is all about offering the best glimpse of you as possible. This goes for the standardized test as well. Chicago Booth requires either the GMAT or GRE, but we don’t have a preference between them. They are different exams, so give yourself time to look into each before deciding which to take. Consider your strengths relative to the structure of each exam.

Practice the test before, during, and after studying.
Consider: 1. Where to target your studying 2. Has progress been made, and 3. Where you stand before your actual test. Practice tests are a good way to get your mental muscles going again in the way the tests require, which you may not have used since undergrad. You want the real test to feel as normal as possible. This will greatly decrease anxiety and stress, which can do wonders for your score.

What to study? Well, not everything.
Trying to study every component of the exam will likely provide minimal returns. Plus, do you really have that much time? Target your prep. Where do you have the most potential to make up points? In what sections do you struggle? The official website of the GMAT provides great free and purchasable study material and practice exams, and Educational Testing Services does the same for the GRE. These are great places to start.

Create a study plan and timeline – stick to it.
There is no right or wrong way to go about it as long as the plan works for you. Whether that involves purchasing study prep or taking online or in-person classes with Kaplan, Veritas, and Princeton Review, just to name a few. Set yourself up for success. Better to delay applying to b-school than rushing an application without giving these exams the time and effort they deserve.

Taking the test more than once will not hurt your application.
Booth will always consider your highest score, and most people do better the second time around. There’s different feeling to actually sitting in the testing center, hearing the clicks and coughs of other students next to you, than at your desk at home. Not to mention the material on the actual exam will be a bit tougher than those practice tests. Again, the more familiar you become with the test, the better you will do.

Ask your admissions counselor…
…whatever your question is. Booth is not trying to trick you with this, nor do we want you to overthink things. Whether it’s about the exam in general, your score and how competitive it is, and everything in between, we are here to help.

Let’s face it, you’re going to have to take an exam if an MBA is in your plans, and I hope this helps ease some of your nerves. For a positive spin on it, doing well on the exam will boost your confidence in your ability to succeed academically at Booth. I promise, it is worth it when you get that admit call! Feel free to reach out to us anytime at eveningweekend-admissions@chicagobooth.edu or 312.464.8700.