MBA Round 2 Deadlines: GMAT Action Plan
You can’t stop them or even slow them down. MBA round 2 deadlines are upon us. But you know what: deadlines are good. They get you moving. Still, time is a resource. And you have less of it now than you did yesterday or last week. And if you don’t already have a great GMAT score nailed down the clock is ticking.
Time to panic? Maybe.
But there are still 6 weeks or so to get this done and there’s a lot you can accomplish if you put your shoulder into it. We’re going to outline some practical steps you can take to ring in the best GMAT score possible for round 2.
Take an honest inventory
If you’ve spent the past six months hacking away at the GMAT then you’ve got quite a paper trail to investigate. Are there any obvious deficiencies?
At Atlantic, we often see people who are neck deep into their GMAT prep but lacking basic fundamental quant knowledge. Mainly we’re talking about memorizing formulas (think 30-60-90 triangle) but also all those little rules you need to operate with numbers.
Be brutal here. You need to assess if there’s something that you just didn’t consolidate well enough. Do you understand the basics so that you have a variety of ways to approach your arithmetic? For instance, do you find it challenging to switch from fraction to decimal? Or from roots to exponents?
Yes, I’m sure you feel “comfortable” with basic exponents rules and could tell me, for the most part, how to operate with them but do you really know the rules backwards and forwards so that wrapped up in a GMAT puzzle in the pressure cooker of test day you won’t hesitate?
These should be things that you do automatically without using much brain power.
You need that juice to actually address the “puzzle” part of the question.
Yes, there are some genuinely gruesome GMAT quant questions but most people falter on the easy and medium ones that are the bedrock of a solid score.
It’s possible that you have the basics down but are stumbling on the more nuanced content. Then go ahead and dig in there. But in general, avoid rabbit-holing. If there’s some obscure thing that you’re not nailing then that’s OK. Focus on the meat and potatoes. Get your general problem solving approach in shape and that will solve many of your issues.
Did you study verbal at all? Many people, especially native english speakers, are less afraid of GMAT verbal so tend to leave it behind in favor of the quant. Not good. Most people overestimate their verbal abilities (and underestimate quant ones). Also, an outstanding verbal score can compensate for a weak quant score. Lastly, sharpening your verbal reasoning skills can have a positive impact on the quant side as well.
So get going with the verbal practice!
Assuming you have been a diligent studier chugging away on your GMAT verbal but need some insight, here are some things to think about:
Reading Comprehension (RC) and Critical Reasoning (CR)
Do you have an organized reading strategy for RC passages? My general suggestion for most people is to invest in the passage. Don’t skim or skip anything. Try to summarize each paragraph in your head or write a quick line on your scratch paper. Stay engaged. Care about the topic. The more you get into it the more sensitive you will be to the author’s tone and point of view, things that will help you tremendously once you get to the questions.
For CR and RC, are you generally aware when you don’t understand a passage/question or are you surprised when you get a low score?
Are you arguing with the correct answers?
Answered “yes” and “no”? That’s great as it shows that you ultimately understand the logic of the questions. It’s not unlikely that you can buckle down and see some movement on your verbal score in the next month and half.
If you have trouble understanding when you don’t understand something or are at odds with the answer key then there may be some deeper issues that need to be addressed. If verbal is holding you back then it could be that you will need to postpone to R3 or next year in order to put in the work needed.
I don’t mean to be doom and gloom but want you to have the best chance at success. Better to succeed a little farther in the future than not at all.
Sentence Correction (SC)
On sentence correction, do you have a structured approach or are you just seeing what feels right and wrong?
If you’re shooting from the hip and absolutely wrecking sentence correction then that’s fantastic. But if there’s room for improvement then aim for more structure. Most people do better avoiding getting super granular with the grammar rules. Focus on big issues: verb agreement, pronoun agreement, parallelism, modifiers, and comparisons.
Get better at sighting those SC whales and you’ll see your hit rate improve and probably get through questions faster.
Re-evaluate Your Round 2 Score Goals
It’s important to take another look at your target score. It could be totally fine but more often than not we see people biting off more than they can chew. It is better to be reasonable so that you don’t stress yourself out aiming for something that is somewhat unattainable in the short period before R2 deadlines.
Well, I guess it’s all possible. But really, aiming for more than 80 points in 6 weeks is going to be a stretch. And if you’re already in the mid 600s, aiming for more than 50 points is going to be a heavy lift.
Of course, if you’re starting totally fresh (haven’t done any GMAT prep), have a 650 baseline, and 6 weeks to commit 100% to GMAT then that’s a different story.
I’m talking about someone who may have started at a 550, battled to a 650, and then is looking for a 750. In that context, the improvement to a 750 GMAT score would be a whopping 200 points total from the baseline.
Why not go for gold?
You might say, well why not just go for gold? Is it really going to hurt me to set extremely challenging goals?
Yes, I think it can hurt you. If you really want a 750 GMAT score then let’s make a realistic plan for that. But wish-hoping to improve from a 550 to a 750 in 6 weeks when you’ve only improved from a 500 to 550 in 6 months isn’t going to help, especially when you also need to perfect your applications, a process that is very time consuming that most people totally underestimate.
Let’s make your GMAT Action Plan for Round 2!
I can’t make this plan for you because there are so many factors that go into it that me providing a specific plan doesn’t make sense. But here are ten guidelines to consider for your retake:
- Critical reasoning and Reading Compression improvement takes longer. So start hitting those as early as possible.
- Sentence correction can be ramped up relatively quickly so can wait a couple of weeks.
- If fundamental quant is at all an issue, start drilling right away. Avoid the more challenging quant for a couple of weeks so that you can get your foundation in a decent place.
- If you are scoring around your goal on official practice tests but just haven’t converted on test day and the quant has been lagging then consider doing a quant super intensive (info on this below)
- Commit to a realistic timing strategy for test day, especially on the quant side. A great majority of people need to skip a few questions to finish the section comfortably.
- Plan out your study sessions. Put them in your calendar or in a google sheet. Keep track of everything that you’re doing.
- Spend at least half of your time reviewing. This is a classic mistake. Tread-milling through questions but never really learning anything.
- Don’t just review with your eyeballs. Put pen to paper and completely re-do questions you got wrong or had trouble with. Dig in!
- Unless you are doing the quant super intensive then leave practice tests for a few weeks. They will be distracting in the beginning and a waste of resources.
- Focus mostly on official GMAT materials especially for verbal. You need that oh so special GMAT specific flavor in your practice so that you are 100% dialed in for test day.
At this point I would avoid signing up for a GMAT group class or doing a video on demand GMAT course. They are way too broad and time consuming. You might consider hiring a GMAT tutor but with the deadline I’d really only recommend that if you’re relatively close to your goal. Otherwise, if you want to hire a tutor, have that person help you reflect on how much space you’re going to need to reach your goals so that you get the most value from the service. With more time the structure and lessons from tutoring will have more impact.
A Mulligan + Mix and Match Retake Trick
GMAT day didn’t go so well? It happens. That doesn’t mean that your studying was worthless or off base. Maybe you just had an off day. Got up on the wrong side of the bed. We all have them. You may need multiple attempts to hit your peak. That’s OK. That’s most people.
Oh no: you didn’t’ budget enough time for the 16 day waiting period?
Here’s a neat little trick to avoid the waiting period between GMATs. I call it: Mix and Match.
If you took an in person test then you can take a GMAT online with no waiting period. If you took an online test then you can go ahead and take an in person with no waiting period.
So if you mix and match you can take back to back GMATs.
Oh, and despite what opinions peddled as facts you may find inhabiting the reddit GMAT forums (amongst others), the GMAT online is not harder than the GMAT in person. Same test.
Switch to GRE
I already took all my online tests! Arghhh. Ok. Don’t panic. GMAT and GRE are both widely accepted for MBA admission and if you are very well prepared for the GMAT you just might make a successful switch to GRE with only a tiny bit of realignment.
Do blast through the GRE official guide and take all the official GRE practice tests. Really familiarize yourself with the format and especially with quant comps and the vocab questions as those are unique to the GRE.
GRE timing is different than GMAT timing so get your head wrapped around that and go take a hail mary GRE!
Switch to Executive Assessment
GRE didn’t work either?
All is not lost.
Does your school accept the EA? Great. Then practice a bunch of integrated reasoning as it features prominently on the EA. Then figure out a timing strategy for EA since the structure is quite different from GMAT or GRE structure.
Blast the four official EA practice tests to get acclimated.
And go ahead and take an EA.
Consider R3 or next year R1
If you’re pretty far from a competitive score and aren’t a super studier then it may not worth driving yourself crazy and running yourself ragged for r2 deadlines. You also have to consider that if you fail to convert you will have blasted not only limited official GMAT study materials and all that energy and time but lifetime GMAT attempts. You only get 5 per year and 8 lifetime.
So it may be worth thinking a little more long term about your MBA goals. Why not R3? Yes, R3 may put you at a disadvantage. But, R2 with a so-so GMAT score is a worse disadvantage than R3 with a great GMAT score. Also, you’ll have more time to improve your application. So better GMAT + better app most certainly outweighs the potential issues with R3.
If you don’t like the odds of R3 there’s always next year R1 for which you will be supremely prepared.
You’re young. A year is not the end of the world. You’re much better off doing this right and having a stellar MBA application with an outstanding GMAT score than trying to squeeze it all in for what might be an artificial deadline.
Still, a lot can be accomplished in 6 weeks of effective effort so let’s get started taking the right steps to have the best chance possible at having a great GMAT score for round 2 application deadlines.
What is a Quant Super Intensive?
I just came up with that name so don’t hold me to it! The basic idea here is to bulletproof you for test day and get you used to the stress by annihilating you with tough quant sections. This works well for people who have done a great job studying but are seeing quant scores droop on their official tests vs their practice tests.
We do this as needed in the GMAT tutoring program and it’s a winner. One thing though: students complain about it. A lot. Because it’s tough. And can be a real morale killer. So be ready to suffer a bit and see crappy scores. It’s all about the process!
Here’s what to do:
- Buy the 6 Manhattan Prep CATs and the 25 GMAT Club Quant CATs
- Starting with Manhattan, take a CAT quant section every day (if possible). Ignore verbal.
- After you’ve declared victory over Manhattan and GMAT Club go back to the GMAT Official Practice tests and take all 6 quant sections. Every day is great but structure this as it makes sense for your schedule.
- For the last week ahead of your test go ahead and work through the super tough Official Guide Advanced and the stellar but often forgotten GMAT Focus (aka GMAT Official Quantitative Practice). These are great official resources for the end of your preparation. No practice tests this last week so that you can rest up for test day.
The Manhattan and GMAT Club tests can go astray a bit in terms of GMAT flavor and content. So don’t worry about perfecting every single question. If there are 3-4 per test that you feel are just too far out there then leave them behind. No need to bang your head against the wall. Also, mostly go ahead and ignore the scoring as that can be quite a bit off the mark as well.
Have a question or a different experience? Comment away! Good luck and happy studies.