Last week, we had the first part of an interview with Zack Goldman and Doron Aaronsohn of Ofek GMAT. Between them, they have decades of experience helping students prepare for graduate school admissions tests.
This week, we’re continuing the interview with questions about GMAT timing, test anxiety, and the differences between the GRE and the GMAT.
When is the best time to take the GMAT?
Zack: The best time to take the GMAT is during or shortly after your last year of undergrad. Your schedule is more open, you’re likely not working yet, you’re used to studying, you’re less likely to be stressed by the idea of test preparation.
If you think there’s a chance you’ll want to go to business school, take the test your final year. It will be much harder to find the time and re-learn the skills several years later. GMAT scores are valid for 5 years, so there’s no reason not to take it early.
What pros and cons do you see for testing multiple times? Should students be discouraged if they don’t get the score they’re looking for right out of the gate?
Doron: With the new GMAT changes, students can take the test again after only 16 days. This should take some of the pressure off – if you don’t like you’re score, it’s ok. You’ve got a couple more weeks to study and you can take the test again very soon.
Zack: Probably a quarter of the students who come to work with us have already taken the GMAT. Definitely there is nothing wrong with re-testing to get a better score. If you’ve got the time, then it is a great idea.
Do you have a sense of how much importance schools are placing on the Integrated Reasoning portion of the GMAT? Is this an important section for students to focus on, or should they not worry too much?
Doron: We usually work on the IR section after students feel comfortable with the verbal and quantitative sections. The skills transfer over, so if you do well on the quant and the verbal it’s highly correlated with doing well on IR.
Zack: Schools don’t place a huge amount of importance on IR. You don’t want a very low IR score, as it could raise questions and be a weight on your overall application, but it’s not something to spend a significant amount of time worrying over.
Timing is often a big source of test anxiety for students. What kinds of timing strategies do you recommend for the GMAT?
Zack: We take a different approach to a lot of other companies. Most of them start students out with lots and lots of timed practice tests. We start with the content.
We want students to build knowledge, confidence, and content mastery first. Only then do we work on timing, and students tend to find it a lot less stressful. They are just honing skills at that point. And again, it’s all personalized to the student’s pace and learning style.
By the time they finish working with us, students have taken dozens of practice tests, and answered thousands of questions. We don’t start out with timed practice. We work our way up to it and it becomes much more comfortable for students.
Do you see a lot of students taking both the GMAT and the GRE?
Doron: Most students choose one or the other. The tests are very different, although there is some overlap in skills. Some students do take both tests, or start out preparing for one and then decide to switch to the other test.
Zack: You should definitely talk to your MBA admissions consultant before switching tests. They can help you understand whether your target schools have a preference for one test over the other.
They can also tell you if a particular test might make your application stronger – for example, you may want to take the GMAT to show the applications committee that you do have strong quantitative skills if your background doesn’t highlight them.
Is there anything else you want students to know about taking the GMAT?
Doron: Don’t give up. Improvement is absolutely possible. You just have to commit to the work.
Zack: It’s worth it. Getting your MBA opens a lot of doors, to a better career, a better life. It’s worth the investment in yourself.
Preparing for the GMAT can be an intimidating process, but it also represents an exciting opportunity.