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How to Study for the GMAT while Working Full-time

Designed to predict how well you would perform in a graduate business program, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardized test that is often required by graduate business schools. Test scores give admissions directors an understanding of how you rank when it comes to critical reasoning, analytical writing, reading comprehension and other factors.

While the test itself is challenging, many who take it find that an additional difficulty is studying while working a full-time job. Since many who want to earn a Master of Business Administration are already employed, it means they have to figure out how to study for the GMAT while working.

With planning, savvy test prep and some diligence, it’s possible to prepare for the GMAT without taking vacation time to do it. Here are some strategies that can help.

Start as soon as you can. Even if you’re still deciding whether pursuing an M.B.A. is for you, consider looking through a GMAT study guide to understand how the test is structured, including what it covers. The sooner you start, the more time you’ll have to do in-depth studying later.

Create a schedule. Prospective students typically study 50 to 100 hours in the three months before the exam date.i Even at the higher end of that range, it’s only about an hour per day. Rather than trying to cram study time whenever you can, look at your schedule and set aside five to seven hours each week for study. Consider it a meeting that you can’t postpone.

Take a practice test. There are many GMAT study resource guides, both in print and online, and nearly all of them have practice questions. Find a resource that has a practice exam and test yourself before doing any studying. That will give you a good indication of what areas need most attention, and it provides you with a baseline that you can use to check your progress along the way and be more efficient in your studying.

Do a test session every few weeks. Similar to taking a practice test at the beginning of your studies, go through practice questions in an effort to simulate a real testing environment. Set a timer so you get used to taking the test within the specified three-and-a-half hour time limit. It can show you how your studying efforts are paying off along the way and help you feel more confident on test day.

Write more often. If you feel less than confident about your writing skills, be sure to practice those and budget more time if necessary to work on them. The verbal component of the GMAT focuses on how you communicate your ideas, so answer additional prep questions along these lines. Ask a mentor or colleague to read your work as assurance that you’re providing a competent, compelling answer to the GMAT practice questions.

You can find more information on the test, including format, test locations and study guides, at the Graduate Management Admissions Council website.ii

In general, making it a priority to prepare for the GMAT is important, and putting some smart time management strategies into place can go a long way toward a higher score, especially when balancing studies while working.

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iSmith-Barrow, D. “As the GMAT turns 60, experts discuss how to prepare for the test,” U.S. News & World Report. http://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/articles/2014/02/06/as-the-gmat-turns-60-experts-discuss-how-to-prepare-for-the-test (accessed 10/16/16).
iiiMBA.com. “Official GMAT exam website.” http://www.MBA.com/us (accessed 10/16/16).