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Why You Should Always Start Your GMAT Prep With A Test Date In Mind

The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution – Igor Stravinsky, Composer

The GMAT can be taken the all-year round but test-slots are not available with equal ease all year round — test-slots are easy to get during the first six months of the year (you can get a slot even if you try book today for a slot in a couple of days) but as the year draws to a close it is almost impossible to get a slot of your choice!

Most of you would know the reason for the same — the application deadlines of schools start towards the end of the year (around September). So while we are free to choose a test date of our choice, we refuse to do so for a variety of reasons, some valid and some invalid:

  • #1 the reason for most cases of inactivity – Newton’s First Law: Every body continues to be in its state of rest or of uniform motion until compelled by an external force to change that state — the external force in this case being application deadlines that usually fall in the last two months of the year
  • to give maximum time for preparation so that you can get the best score possible
  • given the unpredictability of work hours better to give yourself as long a rope as possible in terms of time
  • appraisal happens in April, frustration begins in May, thinking things over in June and acting on things in July (not very precise but more or less)
  • the CAT is finally out of the bag, in terms of all results being declared, only by the end of May the GMAT — the usual plan B — starts rearing its head and in actual prep starts in June after a recuperation period of a few weeks

The only reason that can be considered valid of all the ones listed above is the last one.

A great application is not about the GMAT score alone

Given the fact that in India fates are decided solely based on test scores be it XII boards or JEE or AIEEE, Indian GMAT-takers tend to place an inordinate amount of importance on the GMAT score. They book a date for the test just a few weeks before the application deadline, giving themselves enough time and more time to crack the test.

While the GMAT score is an important component of your application, an equally important component is the quality your application essays. A great GMAT score, even a 780, does not guarantee an admission. There are occasions when students come to me with stories of their friends who did not get through even with a 740 or 760. The usual follow up question is — what do these schools look for?

Apart from the GMAT score, they look for academic accomplishments, quality and diversity of work experience and personal profile, extra-curricular accomplishments.

All of the above can be captured in a resume format. Apart from this they look at your vision or life-goals, your leadership qualities, your attitude towards life, your approach to adversity etc. All of these things are measured through your application essays.

Given the fact that Indians are not native speakers of the English language and are not used to writing marketing pitches for themselves, the writing of these essays can be daunting to say the least. In fact, quite a few years back a friend and I worked on his essays and both of us agreed that getting a good GMAT score was way easier than writing those essays.

Plan a test date keeping the application essays in mind. Given the importance of your application essays in the selection process it makes sense to arrive at a test-date with at least a 30-day window before your first application deadline.

Profile – College Selection – Deadlines – GMAT Date – GMAT Prep

Ideally planning for an MBA should be done in the sequence above. But as discussed before given the Indian system in which the test is all-important, all that the aspirants want is to get a “good” score so that they can get into a “good” college. Given this the normal sequence for the Indian students is in reverse where we start preparing for the GMAT and then think about everything else later.

To enter into the best schools and later succeed as a management professional or business leader, one needs to have the ability to think strategically, plan in advance and execute; the MBA application is a great place to start developing this capability.

You should find the best-fit colleges as per your profile and your career plans so that you maximize the long-term returns from your investment in an MBA. So the best place to start is to with the college selection and end with the finalization of the GMAT date.

More importantly seeking professional help for the same will be more than helpful since different schools look for different profiles so college selection and essays have to be tailored accordingly — something friends and peers might not be experts at.

It is better to run a race with a finish line

So rather than deciding your GMAT date when you feel you are ready, it is better to know by when you should be ready. Everyone, including yours truly, performs at their best when there are deadlines to meet. Remember, even a test match has to be finished in 5 days!

The question you will still have in your mind — What is the optimum time to prepare for the GMAT? We will take that up in the next post.

In the next post we will take up the optimum time required to prepare for the GMAT.

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