Great GMAT Study Tips From Part-Time MBA Students Who Scored Higher Than 700+

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If you’re exploring the Online MBA program at Michigan Ross, the prospect of carving significant time out of your busy schedule to study for the GMAT can seem daunting.

What activity should I give up to make room for this? How can I possibly study for the GMAT successfully without making huge sacrifices in other areas of my life.

But it doesn’t need to be that way. Developing a successful and balanced approach to studying for the GMAT is within reach, no matter the multiple priorities you’re currently juggling.

To show you how, we’ve asked a few students currently enrolled in our Weekend MBA program to share their best tips for how to study for the GMAT (and earn high scores).

These students had to balance multiple priorities when studying for the GMAT and applying to business school, and each scored on the high end of the averages for their incoming class. If anyone has sound advice for how to perform well on a big test while simultaneously living a full life, it’s this group of Michigan Ross Weekend MBA students.

Here are their best tips for setting yourself up for GMAT success.

Find Time In Your Schedule    Build A Support Network    Prepare For The Testing Environment    Take Advantage of Resources


ON FINDING TIME IN YOUR SCHEDULE

It’s not easy to find time in your schedule to add in the necessary studying time to perform well on the GMAT — here’s how our students managed the task:

JASON VERSICAL, MBA '20  

“I would encourage you to set regular weekly study times on your personal calendar. I sent myself an invite for two to three nights per week after work and blocked out some time on Saturday afternoon.

The point is, you need to try to make this part of your weekly routine as much as possible. Talk to your partner or spouse before you sign up and let them know you plan to prepare for the test and the reasons why doing well on the test is important to you.”
 

KATHERINE THOMPSON, MBA '20

“Find out what works best for you in terms of study times. I generally found I was more productive on weekends because I could devote larger blocks of time. I also tended to study on weekends at the local library, which turned out to be an easier place to focus.

It's important to be forgiving and flexible with yourself, too. I gave myself permission to take a night off or re-arrange a study session if I felt I needed to. I tried to plan my studying on a weekly basis, taking into account work commitments and other obligations for the week.”
 

SCOTT HOFFMAN, MBA '20

“Try to get into a routine of a few days per week vs. ‘binge studying’. This helped me avoid getting burned out, gave me time to digest the content that I was studying, and also gave me the chance to evaluate whether or not I was really ready to commit to pursuing the workload of a part-time MBA program.  

Studying for the GMAT three days a week was a good way for me to simulate what it might be like to study during the program. Also, if possible, try to avoid putting yourself in a time crunch: schedule your test far in advance and not right before the application deadline.”
 

JOE McCARTY, MBA '20

“I treated studying like a job. If you think you'll study when you feel like it, you'll never feel like it. I would plan to study two hours each weeknight, meaning I would stop around 9 p.m. and still have time to relax before the next workday. On weekends, I would stop around 6 p.m. and take the rest of the night off.”

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ON BUILDING A SUPPORT NETWORK

SCOTT

“Before you sign up to take the GMAT or pursue an MBA of any kind, you will likely have answered for yourself, "Why am I doing this?" Once you know that, I'd recommend sharing those motivating factors and goals with the people around you.

When you talk about your goals and dreams and people understand your commitment, it has been my experience that they tend to be supportive and that they can even help hold you accountable when your own motivation is momentarily lacking.”
 

JOE

“I made it clear to my managers that the GMAT was important, and that I would have to leave by 5 p.m. most days. I had the benefit of a reputation as a hard worker, so my management was understanding when I'd be one of the first people to leave the office.

I made sure coworkers knew I was doing it, too, so I wouldn't feel bad about not getting back online in the evenings. After getting home, Red Bull was often called for to propel me through the studying.”
 

JASON

“I think any change, such as preparing for the GMAT or enrolling in an MBA program, can be difficult for a family. It was important to me that I spoke with my fiancée about my reasons for taking the GMAT, and why I was interested in pursuing an MBA, so she could understand that when there were times that I needed to study, we’d have to sacrifice things we would have otherwise done during that time.

It was also important that I acknowledged my spouse was sacrificing as well so I committed myself to cut out on my personal leisure activities as much as possible, such as watching sports on TV, in order to keep the time I did have available for things we liked to do together.”
 

KATHERINE

“I did, at times, struggle to set boundaries and manage expectations in terms of social commitments. It can be hard to decline invitations to do things with friends, but sometimes you may have to. It is important to strike a balance and to be open with others about your study plans so that they can understand and support your schedule and needs. If you explain your situation, you’ll find that friends and family will be supportive and encouraging.”

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ON PREPARING FOR THE TESTING ENVIRONMENT

KATHERINE

“The GMAT environment was actually quite different from any other standardized test I'd taken before (not surprisingly, since the last one I took was the SAT). It was a little strange to take the test on the computer, but it helped that I had taken the practice tests online as well. It was also different from other tests in that you receive your score immediately.

For some reason, that unnerved me a bit at the beginning of the test. Remind yourself just to concentrate on each problem as it comes rather than allow yourself to worry about the end result.”
 

SCOTT

"The test itself was nearly identical to the practice tests, except it took place in a monitored computer lab with about 10 people taking other proctored exams (GMAT, professional certifications, ACT, etc). Before entering, you're required to fill out a form, confirm your identity, and lock your cell phone and any belongings in a locker. The proctors provide scratch paper to work through equations on and earmuffs to keep things quiet.

During the test, you choose the order in which you tackle the various sections of the test. I was offered a break between sections to use the restroom, but I opted to just push through. I took the test in the morning, as I feel my mind is sharper then vs. the afternoon, and I made sure to show up 30 minutes early to ensure I'd be relaxed and calm before the test started."
 

JOE

“The morning of the test, I did a couple practice questions before leaving the house, to get my mind working. One piece of advice I took from Manhattan Review was to visit the test center before the test date, to ensure there's no added stress on exam day from figuring out where to park, which floor the test center is on, etc.

On the morning of the exam, I showed up early with my almonds and coconut water and knew exactly where to go.”
 

JASON

“I did some light math problems in the morning and ate a healthy breakfast so that might have helped a bit. If I could do it again, I would have prepared better to get a good start to the written portion because I ran out of time sooner than I would have liked on that section.”

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ON TAKING ADVANTAGE OF RESOURCES

JASON

“I took two electronic practice exams from GMAC (one a few weeks after I began studying and the second a couple weeks before my test date) so I could evaluate what sections were most challenging to me, and I could focus my study on improving those areas. These helped me a lot with my score on the real test.”
 

KATHERINE

“Don't get too distracted researching all the test prep classes/books/programs available — I found all of these resources very overwhelming. I did not take a class, but I found the official GMAC guides to be very useful and true to the test. My local library also had some current GMAT prep books that I checked out once or twice. Do not feel like you need to buy all the books. Just figure out what works best for you, and definitely take a practice test first to identify your relative strengths and weaknesses and ruthlessly prioritize your test prep accordingly.

My undergraduate studies were in the humanities, and I had not taken a math class since high school, so I needed a lot of prep on the quantitative side of things. I devoted the vast majority of my study time to this area.”
 

SCOTT

“Plan on taking both of the free electronic practice tests. Take one before the halfway point of your planned study program to help isolate key ‘problem areas’ that bear greater focus, and take the second within two weeks of your test to make sure you're sharp.

I experienced pretty significant improvement from the 1st to the 2nd test and scored almost exactly the same on my ‘real’ GMAT as I did on the 2nd practice test. Don't let your performance be a surprise.”
 

JOE

“One thing you have to deal with is the huge amount of resources available for the GMAT. Talk to people who have done it and get their advice on the best resources. I bought books from Manhattan Review and Manhattan Prep, and took an online course from Manhattan Prep that was just OK (four hours every Saturday for eight weeks, in the middle of my 11 weeks of study).

I discovered Sherpa Prep from a coworker half-way through studying, and their resources turned out to be the most helpful. My study method was to read these materials and take careful notes in a Word doc in order to process the information. I ended up with 62 pages of notes, and that turned into a good study guide in the week leading up to the exam.”

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Connect with Michigan Ross        

SCOTT HOFFMAN

Best Tip:

“Try to avoid putting yourself in a time crunch. When making your plan, give yourself a few weeks to ease into the habit of studying.”

Other Commitments While Studying:
  • Full-time work
  • Family and friend obligations
  • Spending time with wife
  • Taking care of two dogs
  • Home maintenance
Study Schedule:
  • 2 months
  • 3 days per week
  • 3-5 hours per week

KATHERINE THOMPSON

Best Tip:

“Be open with others about your study plans so they can understand and support your schedule and needs.”

Other Commitments while studying:
  • Full-time work
  • Just moved to a new city
  • Trying to navigate a new role in a new company
Study Schedule:
  • 5 months
  • 5-8 hours per week

JASON VERSICAL

Best Tip:

“Set regular weekly study times on your personal calendar.”

Other Commitments while studying:
  • Full-time work
  • Family obligations
  • Responsibilities around the house
Study Schedule:
  • 3 months
  • 3-5 hours per week

JOE McCARTY

Best Tip:

“I found it helpful to treat studying like a job. If you think you'll study when you feel like it, you'll never feel like it.”

Other Commitments While Studying:
  • Full-time work
  • Just moved across the country
  • New homeowner
  • Family and friend commitments
Study Schedule:
  • 11 Weeks
  • At least 2 hours every day
  • 20 hours per week

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