The GMAT is administered year-round, so, unlike other standardized tests, you can take it at almost any time. However, test dates and times fill up quickly, especially during MBA admissions season. As with the rest of your business school application, planning ahead of time is key. Here are three timelines for GMAT success in 2016 based on your application deadlines.
Applying in a year: Round 1 or Round 2 2016-2017 season
For those of you applying in the next MBA admissions season, time is on your side. You have approximately nine months to prepare all the pieces of your application. Work backwards from the earliest deadline at your target schools. The Round 1 deadline for top 10 MBA programs like UC Berkeley (Haas), MIT (Sloan), and Northwestern (Kellogg), is usually September or October, so plan accordingly. Look at your calendar and pencil in both a date and a backup date for your GMAT, at least a month apart. You can register up to 6 months ahead of time, so you may have to wait for the slots to open on the GMAC website. Both test dates should ideally land in the summer so that you have the fall months to polish the rest of your application, and take the GMAT a third time if necessary.
Now that you’ve identified your GMAT dates, take a practice exam or diagnostic test now to determine how much you need to prepare. Even if you know you’re a great mathematician or the best reader in your office, you need to know what your abilities are specifically on the GMAT. Depending on your skill level and available time for studying, you should schedule 2-3 months of prep time before your first official GMAT test date. Building your proficiency over this period will provide a solid foundation for the exam.
Applying in three months: Round 3 or Round 4 2015-2016 season
With the demands of the holiday season, followed by New Year’s Day, Groundhog Day, and Valentine’s Day, your MBA deadlines of March or April will arrive sooner than you think. Take a practice exam or diagnostic test now to determine what you need to work on. Then, based on the studying you need to accomplish before test day, pick a date and register for your GMAT exam, by February at the latest. Depending on the deadlines of your target schools, you may or may not have the luxury of securing a backup GMAT date. Schedule study blocks on your calendar for 1-2 months. Make your preparation count, and consider working with a tutor. For a free consultation on how to increase your GMAT score in a short period of time, click here or call 866.60.TUTOR today.
Applying in a month or less: Round 2 or Round 3 2015-2016 season
First things first: schedule your GMAT exam now. Open dates will be limited, and it can take around three weeks for your official GMAT score to be reported. Let your schools know about your GMAT situation, so that if your official score arrives late, your application won’t be marked incomplete.
Additionally, you still need to prepare for the GMAT, so take a practice exam, preferably from the official GMAC website. This will help you determine what areas to work on and familiarize you with the structure and pacing of the test. Clear your schedule until the day of the exam so that you have room. Study strategically; you don’t have time to learn and apply everything. Finally, think about alternative courses of action. If you score much lower than you hoped, then consider retaking the exam and applying the following year.
As you can see from the timelines, when you have a higher number of months until your application deadline, you have more opportunity to prepare for and succeed on the GMAT. Furthermore, your score lasts for five years. So, if business school is on your horizon, then study for and take the GMAT as soon as you can. Get the test out of the way so that you can spend your energy making the rest of your application the best it can be.