Business schools around the world rely on the Graduate Management Admissions Test, or GMAT, to tell them whether prospective students have the skills to succeed in an MBA and in the world of management. The GMAT tests not only your quantitative skills but also your verbal reasoning and communication skills, which are just as important for a career in business as crunching numbers.
If you’re a college student planning to go to business school someday, you need to start preparing for the GMAT with plenty of time to spare before test day. Taking the test is expensive and stressful; the sooner you can get a good score, the better. And, because many of the skills tested by the GMAT are covered in high school or early college, it might be a good idea to take the GMAT while you’re still an undergraduate. Here’s why you should start preparing for – and potentially take – the GMAT as an undergraduate.
Your Skills Will Be Fresh and Up-to-Date
The biggest reason why undergraduates should consider taking the GMAT before graduation is: the sooner you take the test, the fresher and more up-to-date your skills will be. As a young college student, you have no idea how quickly your skills and knowledge start to degrade once you’re no longer using them in classes on a regular basis.
Most of the math skills you’ll use on the quantitative section of the GMAT were covered in high school, and they may have made an appearance in your intro-level college math courses. This means that if you take the GMAT in your sophomore, junior or even senior year, those math concepts and skills will still be fresh in your mind, and you’ll score higher on the quantitative section of the test than you might otherwise. However, if you wait until you’re a few years into the working world, your math skills will be much rustier, and you’ll have to spend more time, effort and money to get them up to snuff.
The same goes for your verbal skills. Business isn’t all about budgets and number-crunching; you have to schmooze, too, and that requires communication skills. These are the skills you’ve developed in your freshman year intro to rhetoric and composition class and in other undergraduate English and Communications courses you may have taken or be considering, like business writing or even creative writing and literature. Again, these skills will rust as you move further from your college days. Besides, if you’re still a student when you start preparing for the test, you’ll be able to schedule your upcoming courses with GMAT-relevant skills in mind and save on GMAT tutoring.
You’ll Have More Time to Study
Sure, most college students don’t have a ton of free time on their hands. Between attending classes, studying for exams, preparing midterm and final papers and projects and participating in extracurricular activities, you might feel like you simply don’t have time to study for and take the GMAT – but in fact the opposite is true.
It might seem impossible, but life isn’t going to get less hectic as you get older. A few years out of college, you could have a full-time job every day, a house to take care of in the evenings, a mortgage payment to make, a spouse to pay attention to and even some kids to raise. These adult responsibilities will make it hard to find time in your schedule for GMAT prep, especially because your co-workers and friends will be going out to the bar on Friday evenings while you’re going home to study. As a full-fledged adult with adult responsibilities, the question of how to prepare for the GMAT is going to get a lot more complicated.
As a college student, you’re already accustomed to making time to study for tests, and you’ll be surrounded by others who are also studying for the GMAT or other tests, like the LSAT, MCAT or GRE. You might have to sacrifice some of your free time, but you’ll be in the best position to put your studying and test-taking skills to good use while they’re still sharp, and you’ll be surrounded by a supportive community of others who understand the importance of prepping for the GMAT.
You’ll Gain Insight on What You Need to Do Before Applying to B-School
You may not do as well on the GMAT the first time you take it; you may decide you need to take it again, and perhaps again, until you get the score you want. The sooner you start preparing, the more time you have to sit the exam multiple times. Starting your preparations sooner also gives you the chance to prep harder for longer, so you can make a single shot at the test count, if that’s the way you want to go.
Most business schools want applicants with a few years of work experience, and the GMAT reflects that. By taking the GMAT early, you’ll gain greater insight into the kind of experience you need to get to beef up your b-school application. If you under perform on the test and retaking it doesn’t help, you can start strengthening your candidacy with the right work experience. Internships and other extracurricular commitments can help improve your chances as a candidate even when your GMAT scores are lackluster.
It takes years to prepare a b-school application, but strong GMAT scores are part of that. Your GMAT scores are good for five years, so you can take the test as an undergrad and still have time to gain work experience before applying to grad schools. Don’t put off preparing; you’ll be glad you started early.
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