GMAT Coronavirus Delay: How should you study?

How to approach your preparation during the GMAT Coronavirus delay

Covid 19 (Corona Virus) is a serious threat. Staying healthy and keeping others healthy by following CDC and WHO Coronavirus guidelines is critical. Err on the side of caution. Stay safe. Keep others safe.

OK, now back to the GMAT coronavirus delay. Yes, Pearson Vue has announced that all US test centers are closing until April 16th. If your GMAT is scheduled for before April 16th you should have received a cancellation email with re-scheduling instructions. You should also receive a refund for the cancelled test. To schedule a new GMAT you’ll pay the standard $275 (in the USA).

So what does this mean in terms of your GMAT preparation which was tailored to a March/April exam? The bad news: you’re not going to have the satisfaction of checking the GMAT off your list. I know that’s frustrating especially considering the effort you’ve likely put into this over months of studying. The bright side is: your hard earned GMAT skills are going to stick with you.

If you’ve been studying effectively you’ll have built up strong fundamentals and sharpened your general reasoning skills. In my experience GMAT tutoring for the past decade-plus I’ve found that students hang onto these skills for quite some time. We've had a number of clients take a couple months off from studying and often they only need a few weeks of consistent work to get back to where they left off. There’s a lot of GMAT muscle memory that lingers.

Should I keep studying or take a break during this GMAT Coronavirus hiatus?

That really depends on your situation.

Just starting out with your GMAT Prep

Easy. You’ve got at least several months ahead of you and by then it’s not unlikely that we’ll either have a better handle on Corona or Pearson will have figured out a way to provide testing that keeps risks acceptably low. Considering that the economy is grinding to a halt and many sectors are slowing down you will probably have a multi month lull at work and a rare opportunity to focus on the GMAT. This pandemic is horrific. No doubt about that. But this extra study time is a silver lining. If you’ve been planning to tackle the GMAT it’s a great time to get started. Not to mention: you might want to get going on your MBA applications.

Mid-Cycle GMAT

This is a little trickier as you might already have had a test planned or at the very least been eyeing test dates in the no-GMAT-window. Even if you’ve started the final sprint towards test day it might be a good time to slow things down to take an honest inventory of your GMAT skills. 

Are your quant basics really rock solid or are 45-45-90 triangles drifting into the ether every once a while? On critical reasoning are you often deciding between what you consider are two right answers? Getting lost on dense reading comprehension passages? 

Rather than marching forward into competition mode it might make sense to spend more time building up your individual skills. You could take another 4 weeks for that and plan a test for mid-May, which, even if we get another four week delay, could still be a viable test date.

If you’re running low on materials look to:

  1. GMAT Official Practice Questions
  2. GMAT Advanced Guide
  3. Official Guide for Verbal
  4. Official Guide for Quant
  5. GMAT Paper Tests (these are old but the verbal is still pretty good. The quant is OK but on the easier side).

Also, I’d use LSAT to study for GMAT verbal. There’s an almost unlimited supply of LSAT reading comprehension and critical reasoning questions.

With all of that in mind I’d wait on practice tests until at least April. Let’s blast them once you’ve got a solid test date planned. Appointments are filling up rapidly so you may want to book for mid May now. I’d aim for at least 4 weeks past April 16th to be on the safer side.

On the launchpad

Worst case scenario: you were 100% prepared and had a test booked March 17th. Sorry about that. It’s a bummer. But all is not lost.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist/obsessive person in terms of test preparation and enjoy the challenge of studying (probably why I’m a GMAT tutor). So, for me, test day being postponed would be an opportunity to improve even more. A bunch of years back I slept through an early morning GMAT. I’d been in a GMAT-study-bunker for too long so missing the test did feel like a mini-catastrophe. 

I had to reschedule to a few weeks later. Looking back, those three weeks of extra studying really helped. I was aiming for a 760 and snagged a 770. If you’re running out of fresh questions same advice as above but I’d day:

  1. Exam Pack 1 and 2 (these contain Official GMAT Practice Test 3, 4, 5, and 6)
  2. GMAT Focus 1-4 
  3. Atlantic GMAT Quant Review Quizzes (these are free for two weeks so only activate when you need them)

Also, if you’ve already done official tests 1-6 you can still retake them. Yes, you’ll see repeats but there is still value there especially if you haven’t done them in a while.

But what if you’re burnt out? 

Well, this is a great time to take a break. Leave the GMAT behind for a couple of weeks. Again, especially if you’re well prepared, I don’t think 2-3 weeks will derail your GMAT prep and, for some people, the break could help put things in perspective. And even if you do get a little rusty you’ll shake that off relatively quickly once you get going again.

What if the GMAT is delayed beyond April 16th?

Not impossible. For people just starting out I don’t think another delay or even two would have a big impact (unless the testing backlog made getting a GMAT appointment very difficult) in that you’ll still be somewhat early in the preparation. For mid-cycle people follow the “on the launchpad” advice. For the people who were prepared for March 17th there’s just no way to spin it: you’re going to have to dig deep and keep at it. Hopefully we’ll publish an updated guide providing some advice if there is another delay.

Keep Reading!

It’s not unlikely that you’ll have some time on your hands so regardless of whether you continue studying or take a break this could be a great moment to do some extra reading. I’d go ahead and read the Economist and pick up a challenging novel. Read actively every day. So even if you’re not studying you’re still working on reading skills which are fundamental to GMAT success. Here are some suggestions for using Economist articles for GMAT verbal improvement.

Covid 19 is going to change the way we conduct our lives over the next bunch of months. In the big picture the GMAT delay is a very minor issue. That said, I know how vital the GMAT can feel so, again, I just want to reassure you that GMAT skills are durable and that if you do need a break you should feel AOK taking one especially if you’re feeling stressed about the day to day we’re now living in. Stay healthy everyone.

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