Overcoming the Big, Bad GMAT

October 8. 2013
by Anna Lucia Roybal

The seasons in San Diego tend to follow this trend: warm, slightly warmer, cool, slightly cooler, and warm again.  Just for fun, you can toss in a few rain showers and some fog.  It’s what I love about San Diego, and a big part of the reason as to why I live here.  Sometimes the only way I can tell that it’s fall is because Target has brought out the holiday decorations, and….I start receiving a lot of questions regarding the GMAT. 

Whether you’ve started your final year as an undergraduate or you’ve entered your 15th year of professional work experience, everyone has the same sense of trepidation when they’re faced with taking the GMAT.  It’s not an easy test, and it requires preparation.

The most frequently asked question that I receive from MBA applicants is this, “What can I do to help me prepare for the GMAT?”  Unfortunately, I don’t have a cookie-cutter answer for this question simply because it depends on the individual. 

There isn’t a miracle preparation course or textbook that fits everyone’s way of learning.  You have to prepare in a way that makes sense to you.  If that means you only have to purchase GMAT for Dummies to feel test-ready, then congrats to you for only spending $20.  Some folks may require a formal course or a tutor.  Regardless, the best place to start is http://www.mba.com/.    

I recently read a helpful article (Do This, Not That) on their website discussing which GMAT test-taking mistakes to avoid.  Here are some of the tips that stood out to me:

  • Completion trumps Perfection – failure to complete the exam results in a definite penalty based on how many questions you did not finish.
  • The Difficulty Level Roulette – trying to guess if a particular GMAT exam question is hard or easy, or if you answered the previous question correctly, will only make you anxious
  • Take 2 – don’t take the test over and over, expecting a different result.  The average score only increases by 33 points
  • There is no magic number – admissions offices look at entire applications, not just one or two elements, to ensure you will be a good fit in their program

This is particularly true at the Rady School.  We take a holistic approach to evaluating applications, and your GMAT score is one aspect of your entire file.  I would also say that, if you do decide to retake the exam, we don’t average your scores.  However, please give yourself some additional time to prepare – try not to schedule your exam only 30 days from when you last took it.  Seriously.  This will not help you.

If you’re still filled with dread at the thought of taking the GMAT, you may want to check out our application checklist to see if you qualify for a waiver.  Any questions regarding your qualifications can be emailed to MBA Admissions (RadyGradAdmissions@ucsd.edu), and we’ll be happy to get back to you.  Even if the answer is bad news, the good news is that you have plenty of time to prepare.    

Anna Lucia Roybal is the Assistant Director of MBA Recruitment and Admissions at the Rady School of Management. A southern California girl through and through, Anna is a UCSD alumna – class of 2002.