GMAT Study Guide: How To Study and Prepare for the GMAT or GRE
Wharton requires a very high academic caliber of students in the MBA Program for Executives to ensure parity between the full-time MBA and executive MBA programs. Having the same standards of performance for both programs has been a bedrock principle since the EMBA program’s inception more than 45 years ago.
To ensure parity in both programs, Wharton requires applicants to take the GMAT or GRE (or the Executive Assessment for those with more than 10 years of work experience), which are diagnostic of intellectual aptitude as well as preparation in the analytical disciplines. Applicants’ willingness to undertake the preparation for these tests is an important signal to the Admissions Committee. The tests are also an indicator for the applicant of what to expect in Wharton’s EMBA program.
If you are uncertain or indifferent about which test to take, schedule a chat with a member of the Admissions Committee. Check out the study guide below for study tips from Admissions staff and alumni.
How to Study for the GMAT & GRE
Step 1: Understand your capabilities
The first step is to consider how you learn. How much structure do you need? Will taking practice tests be sufficient? Do you need an online course, or will an in-person instructor or private tutor keep you more focused?
Kristina: At first, I wasn’t too worried about the GMAT because I usually test well. However, after attending a GMAT review session at Wharton San Francisco, I realized that a review course would be very helpful. I was traveling a lot for my job and have a young family, so I decided a course would help structure my study time. I signed up for an online course that ran on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 7-10 am. Leading up to the test, I took official GMAT practice exams.
Lizzie: I started working with a tutor. It was like having a personal trainer … My tutor taught me timing strategies. I learned when to abandon a problem and to pay attention to the clock.
Step 2: Choose a test: GMAT, GRE or Executive Assessment
Step 3: Choose a study strategy
Determine whether you will self study, complete an online course, attend an in-person class, or hire a tutor. Depending on your progress and personal study habits, you can utilize any of these options to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.
Step 4: Decide when you will be studying
Think about when you will study. What time can you carve out of a day or week. If you have children, can you study after they go to bed? Do you have commuting time on a train or a longer lunch break to study? If you take an in-person course or hire a tutor, when will that fit into your schedule? Come up with a study plan that works for you.
Lizzie: When I was studying, I was pregnant and had a young son who was a great sleeper. So I would come home from work and spend time with my family. After he went to bed, I would study from 7:30-9:30 pm and then wake up at 5:30 am to study more. It required planning and communication with my husband to carve out that time.
Kristina: I have two young boys (they were 8 and 5), and at first it was difficult to find time to study. My family lives in the area and they were very supportive. They took turns taking my boys out when I was doing my course on weekend mornings or for an afternoon so I could study. Also, I travel a lot and thought I could study while traveling. But there isn’t that much room on a plane for your text book, papers, and calculator. Think through how and where you’ll study.
Step 5: Decide when you will start studying
While the time required to prepare for a test differs among students, two to three months seems to be the average recommendation from current students and alumni. The time depends on an applicant’s quantitative background and comfort with the principles on the test.
Step 6: Create a study schedule
When you decide to start preparing for the test, make sure you have enough time to take the test again (if needed) before the admissions deadline. All applicants must submit standardized test results by the application deadline to be considered for admission. Everyone’s schedule will vary, but here is a possible timeline for preparation:
If you are applying for the Round 1 deadline in early December, start studying in July with a plan to take the test in September. If a second test is needed, you’ll have time for additional preparation before you take the test again in November. You’ll also have the option of taking more time to prepare and applying in Round 2.
If you are applying for the Round 2 deadline in early February, start studying in September with a goal of taking the test in November. If you decide to take a second test, you can retake it in January.
Kristina: Make sure you carve out enough time to take the test. Don’t try to squeeze it into your schedule; you want to be in the zone when you take it. Also, leave enough time in case you want to take the test again before the admissions deadline. I was planning to apply in Round 1, so I took the exam in November. Unfortunately, I tried to cram it in between business trips when I had 12 hours on the ground in San Francisco – that was a big mistake. I did OK, but didn’t perform like I felt like I should have. So I took it again when I could dedicate more time to the test and made sure I was really focused, which added 50 points to my score.
Step 7: Take the test
Make sure you know where the test center is located and how long it takes to get there. Pack snacks to keep your energy up. Click here to learn more about taking the test.
Step 8: Chat with an admissions officer (optional)
If you would like feedback on your test score, schedule a chat with an admissions advisor. They can discuss your application and whether additional tests would be helpful.
Lizzie: I was a good student and I work in finance, so I didn’t think the GMAT would be that hard. I did some self-study and then took the test during my first trimester of pregnancy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling so great that day and wasn’t at the top of my game. Needless to say, I didn’t do that well. Afterward, I had a conversation with an Admissions Committee member who suggested that I take the test again. I started working with a tutor … That did the trick and I improved my score by 70 points when I took the test again.
Step 9: Retake the test (if needed)
Step 10: Submit your application
Lizzie and Kristina both took the GMAT, but their advice and tips are also relevant for the GRE and EA.
Lizzie Tammaro, WG’18
Department head at Vanguard in Malvern, PA
Kristina Best, WG’18
Chief of staff, access and channel management at Genetech in San Francisco
View Lizzie and Kristina’s full article here.