Planning for an MBA? Here’s When You Should Take the GMAT or GRE

Planning for an MBA? Here’s When You Should Take the GMAT or GRE

If you are planning to obtain an MBA, you’ll need to take the GMAT or GRE. When should you do that? The short answer is that sooner is generally better than later. In fact, you should consider studying for these exams while you are still in college. Your senior year is often the perfect time to take the GMAT or GRE.

MBA program applications are evaluated based on a variety of factors. Undergraduate GPA, professional progression and responsibilities, leadership, community service, and GMAT or GRE score all play a role. Many undergraduate students who know they may want to someday earn an MBA assume that the best time to study for the GMAT or GRE will be a few years before they apply. They just meld GMAT or GRE prep with the process of submitting an MBA application in their minds. But, one can take the GMAT or GRE long before they actually fill out an MBA application. Still other undergraduate students have a vague sense that getting an MBA might be something they consider in the future but have no idea if they’ll actually pursue one. These students may not even have thought about the GMAT or GRE at all.

In this article, we’ll explain why studying for an taking the GRE or GMAT while you are still in college is a reasonable way to improve your score and chances of admission to a top MBA program. And really, the same logic applies to any sort of graduate school program (which would then require the GRE, not the GMAT).

Why Could Taking the GMAT (or GRE) While You are Still in College Improve Your Score?

There are two basic reasons that studying for standardized tests while you are still an undergraduate can improve your score.

First, you probably have more time to prepare during your senior year of college than when you are in your second year of your first job. You might feel extremely busy when you are in college, particularly if you hold a leadership position in one or more organizations or are still looking for a job. However, although you can’t realize this while still in college because you can’t peer into your own future, you’ll likely be even busier when you are working full-time (i.e., with increasing amounts of responsibility, perhaps a new spouse and/or other family responsibilities, etc.). If you have more time to prep, it will be easier to build GMAT or GRE prep into your weekly schedule and consistently spend time on it.

Second, some, not all but some, of the skills you’ll need to excel on the GRE or GMAT will be much fresher when you are still in college.  Both the GMAT and the GRE test things like: mathematic ability, vocabulary skills, knowledge of grammar, problem-solving, logic, and reading comprehension skills. Although these exams are much less like academic math tests than many people believe, you’ll still need to know the rules of algebra, probability, and geometry.  If the last math class you took was 6 months ago instead of 6 years ago, you’ll be much better positioned to absorb the conceptual material so you can focus on test-taking strategy. If you haven’t taken a math class for nearly a decade, you might quickly find yourself considering a GMAT tutor.

So, if you know you want to get an MBA someday, you should strongly consider taking these exams while you are still in college. But perhaps more importantly, even if you don’t know whether you do or don’t want to get an MBA, you should still consider taking one of these exams while you are still in college.

How Long Are GMAT or GRE Scores Good For?

The astute reader might point out that GRE and GMAT scores have a shelf-life. They are not valid forever. Your GMAT score will be valid for five years from the day you take the test.  When you are applying to a top MBA program, they will treat your GMAT score the exact same whether you took it 1 month before applying or 59 months before applying. GRE scores are also valid for five years.

The fact that your GMAT or GRE score is only valid for five years is obviously relevant. You certainly don’t want to spend 12 weeks studying for the GMAT, get a great score, and then not apply to an MBA program within five years. If you follow that path and then decide you DO want to get an MBA, you’ll have to take the GMAT all over again. However, although it varies over time, typically 2-4 years of professional experience is more than enough to put forth an excellent MBA application. In fact, if you wait for 5+ years before applying for an MBA program, you can quickly become one of the older applicants. So, taking the GRE or GMAT during your senior year sort of forces you to prepare for applying to an MBA program within 5 years, which is not a bad plan.

Furthermore, many admitted students can defer matriculation for at least one year. So if you have an expiring GMAT score, you can apply, get admitted, and then defer for one year.

Should you take the GRE or GMAT?

Are you convinced you should take the GRE or GMAT during your senior year of college? Great! But which should you take? Top MBA programs all accept both. The question is how many truly treat them equally in the application review process. MBA programs typically place a slightly higher degree of importance on GMAT or GRE quant performance. And the GMAT is an MBA-specific exam that tends to be more challenging from a quant perspective. So, if you are serious about getting an MBA and want to demonstrate that to MBA programs, you might consider the GMAT. On the other hand, if your quant skills aren’t the strongest, the GRE might allow you to put a much strong foot forward. Schools may marginally prefer the GMAT, but if they see a 90th percentile GRE quant score and a 70th percentile GMAT quant score, that GRE quant score is going to be considered much more impressive.

And of course, if you are considering other types of graduate programs, the GRE makes perfect sense, since it’s accepted for MBA admissions and many other types of graduate school programs. For the college senior who really isn’t sure what the future holds, taking some time to study for the GRE is a fantastic use of time.

Conclusion

Generally speaking, the sooner you can take the GMAT or GRE, the better. The older we get, the busier we tend to get, and the more responsibilities we have (and therefore we have less time available to study). And the older we get, the longer it’s been since we engaged with the academic coursework these exams will ask us to recall.

About the Author

Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, a boutique provider of private GRE tutoring and test prep for a wide variety of exams. He holds a B.S. from Indiana University and an MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University. 

Test Optional Does Not Mean Test Blind

Test Optional Does Not Mean Test Blind

Important article via Applerouth on the move to test-optional at many schools. This mirrors what we have been discussing with clients. In short, test scores can and will still matter for most clients. Read the full article here–and some highlights:

While test scores are no longer required to complete an application, the vast majority of test-optional schools still welcome test scores and value strong scores in the admissions process

Test-optional admissions policies were already on the rise before COVID-19 led to test cancellations this spring. For many colleges, adopting a test-optional admissions policy can be beneficial. Test-optional schools tend to see the following changes in their admissions patterns:

These factors have been at work for years!

Whether you are looking at a school that is temporarily test-optional for the coming year or one that has a permanent test-optional policy in place, the same wisdom applies: test-optional does not mean test-blind. Sometimes students think that if a school is test-optional, test scores will no longer play a major role in admissions. This is a misconception. 

Test-optional admission opens a lane for students who do not test as well or have limited access to testing and supportive resources, like test prep, while continuing to value strong test scores. There are effectively two admissions tracks with slightly different criteria. Students who do not submit scores will be evaluated on the rest of their application, including grades and extracurricular involvement, but they lack the additional evidence that test scores can provide in a competitive admissions environment.

As we move toward a landscape with more test-optional schools, be careful not to conflate test-optional with test-blind. Testing continues to play an important role for many students applying to test-optional schools and will do so for the foreseeable future. It’s only natural: in the midst of heavy competition, applicants will take every opportunity to distinguish themselves.

 

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March Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

March Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

 

Seniors:

  • Many of you will be waiting on final admissions decisions, and then finalizing your college plans this month into next. Happy deciding, and don’t forget to thank everyone who helped you along the way.

Juniors:

  • Please make sure you are engaging in extended research/outreach with the schools on your list. Are you going to sit in on a class? Do you want to try to meet with someone in your intended department of interest (major, minor, etc.)? Have you been reaching out to and talking to students or alumni? Not all schools offer formal pathways to these opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them happen.
  • Continue prepping for and taking standardized tests, as well as updating your resume. Now is also the time to confirm your summer plans.
  • Are you curious about which schools super score the ACT? SAT? Some schools super-score one test but not the other! Read more here: https://www.compassprep.com/superscore-and-score-choice/
  • Interested in seeing some schools? Take a tour via CampusReel. Visiting campus in person is great, but you won’t be able to tour all of the schools on your list. Plus, formal campus tours can be a bit limiting! CampusReel is one of my favorite ways to get a real insider look at colleges.

Sophomores and Freshmen:

  • Have you thought about what major(s) you will mark on your application? Most schools don’t hold you to it (you declare a major by the end of sophomore year at most schools), but they do want to better understand your academic interests and potential major path. Does your resume/activity sheet speak to your academic interests? Now is the time to start thinking about this!
  • Next summer is a wonderful time to do something meaningful, perhaps even fun, that will help you explore your interests and tell your story for college! Keep in mind: you don’t need to take a class for credit or attend a formal summer program. There are many ways to spend your summer that are beneficial.
  • Continue working on your resume/activity sheet. Some summer programs and internships may ask for this, so it’s useful to have it handy.
  • Interested in seeing some schools? Take a tour via CampusReel
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July Action Plan – By Grade

Photo by Ryan Jacobson on Unsplash

Rising Seniors

  • As you continue your essay work, open a Common App account, and begin filling out the base data (Profile, Family, Education, Testing, Activities). Unlike in past years, if you open up an account now, it will not be deleted before August 1, 2019. There is no better time than now to get your CA base data completed. However, keep in mind the CA is down July 28-31 as it’s updated for the 2019-2020 app season.
  • If you’ve finished testing, it is time to review your college list and application strategy. Pinpointing your top 5 or so schools now can help you maximize your time over the summer doing research and outreach (and writing supplemental essays!). Need help with your essays? Contact us
  • If you are not finished testing, continue to prep.
  • If you have summer college visits planned, take advantage of the summer slowdown, and prepare meetings with your department of interest ahead of time. Interview if possible, too. You should always prepare for interviews, even if a school states they are not evaluative. Extended research and outreach can make a big difference in your admissions outcomes.
  • Many colleges don’t proactively ask for online resources yet, but you may have an interest in creating a digital portfolio (LinkedIn, SoundCloud, personal website, and/or blog). If you do, aim to complete it over the summer.

Rising Juniors:

  • Continue working on your resume, and think ahead about the activities in which you want to deepen your involvement in 11th grade and beyond. If there are activities you took were involved in during 9th/10th that no longer serve your or your interests, drop them.
  • Come up with a plan for test prep. Summer before junior year is a great time to begin test prep! Here are a few resources to get you started if you are not quite ready to work with a tutor 1:1: = PSAT, ACT, SAT, SAT on Khan.
  • Thinking about how to explore your academic interests this summer? I hope so! There are tons of options, and you should be doing something “academic” this summer if possible. Please note: something “academic” is not limited to a class or formal academic program. Examples of ways you can explore your interests at any time of the year = Khan AcademyCoursera or edXTed Talks or Ted-Ed.
  • Volunteer work is also beneficial. It can be helpful to choose a few volunteer engagements and stick with them through high school/12th grade, so try to pinpoint something you will enjoy and plan to stick with it.

Rising Sophomores:

  • Continue working on your resume.
  • Explore your academic interests this summer! If you are unsure what they are, that’s even more reason to get out there and do some exploring. Figuring out what you do not like is often just as important as figuring out what you do like. Please note: something “academic” is not limited to a class or formal academic program. Examples of ways you can explore your interests at any time of the year = Khan Academy, Coursera or edXTed Talks or Ted-Ed.
  • Volunteer work is also beneficial. It can be helpful to choose a few volunteer engagements and stick with them through high school/12th grade, so try to pinpoint something you will enjoy and plan to stick with it.

 

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Khan Academy Launches Free LSAT Prep

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.June 1, 2018 – From PRNewswire-USNewswire:

Against the backdrop of a spike in the number of applications to law school and renewed enthusiasm among students for a career in law, the Law School Admission Council and Khan Academy are pleased to launch Khan Academy Official LSAT Prep, the first free and official test prep program for the LSAT, the law school admission test.

Last year, more than 100,000 prospective law school students took the LSAT.  Many students can’t afford to pay for commercial test prep, which can cost hundreds of dollars to more than $2,000 for various LSAT packages.

Today’s announcement marks the launch of Khan Academy’s second official test prep for critical standardized exams. In 2015, Khan Academy launched Official SAT Practice with the College Board. Nearly six million people have used Official SAT Practice, and research shows that practice on Khan Academy advances all students regardless of high school GPA, gender, race and ethnicity, and parental education level.

Read the full press release here.

The 5 Biggest Differences Between the SAT and ACT Explained

 

Test prep is not really my thing, but it plays a big role in the college admissions process for many students. That said, be on the lookout for some testing-related guest posts in the coming months! The article below is by Nicholas LaPoma, the owner of Long Island-based Curvebreakers Test Prep.

1. Timing

Possibly the most important difference between the two tests is timing. In short, you get less time per question on the ACT. Check this out:

As you can see, you get much less time to complete any one question on the ACT. One of the most important examples is on the Reading tests. On the SAT you get 13 minutes per passage, on the ACT you get 8 minutes 45 seconds per passage. That is a huge difference! So, if you struggle with timing, the SAT is likely for you.

2. Question Distribution

The SAT and ACT have a vastly different distribution of questions in terms of subject matter. This is especially true in the Math section of the tests, as the ACT has a large amount of Geometry and Trigonometry questions and the SAT does not. The SAT is more Algebra focused.

Further, the ACT is considered an achievement test (What you learned) whereas the SAT is often considered to be a trickier, more aptitude based test (based on skills).  If you hate Algebra, and like straightforward word problems, the ACT Might be for you.

3. No-Calculator Math

A similar but important consideration is how one will handle no-calculator Math. Many students are used to punching every question and operation into their calculator and are totally reliant upon the calculator for basic multiplication and division. These students will struggle on the no-calculator portion of the SAT, as you may have to do long division. Some schools do not allow students to use calculators until a certain grade level – those students will be better equipped to tackle this section.  If you really struggle with no-calc, the ACT might be for you.

4. Science Section

As you probably know, the ACT contains a science-based section. This is actually a reading / chart reading / graph reading task, so it often correlates well with reading score. That means that the ACT is mostly based on reading skill, whereas the SAT is mostly based on Math skill.

As indicated above, the Science section actually makes the ACT a more reading based exam, where the SAT is a more math based exam.

5. Question Difficulty

The SAT is typically considered an aptitude test. It is based on your skills in each area that is tested. The acronym SAT initially stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test, proving the point. The SAT is unable to move away from its roots and become a totally achievement based exam, so many students “feel” that the questions are more tricky or difficult. If you like more straightforward questions, the ACT may be a better test for you. We find little difference when preparing students for the exams, but some students in particular find one test more appealing than the other for this reason.

 

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Planning Your Testing Calendar in 2017

 

Great post by the team at Applerouth! All juniors (and sophomores who want to get ahead) should give it a read!

It’s the start of a new year, and with the new year, new questions that need answering, especially those related to finances. If you are a junior who will meet with your college counselor in the next few weeks to begin the college admissions journey, you will want the SAT or ACT tests to be on your radar this spring. If you have already taken an SAT or ACT at least once and are wondering if you should try again, or if you have yet to sit the official test, helpful information awaits.

In 2017, the SAT will be offered this semester on January 21st, March 11th, May 6th, and June 3rd. This is the last year for the January SAT date and the first year for an August SAT administered this summer on August 26th. The ACT will be offered on February 11th, April 8th, and June 10th.

In determining which test(s) you should take, there are a few considerations to make in order to ensure that you position yourself to get your highest score. Most importantly, you will want to prepare adequately. Take a practice test at the College Board or ACT website, evaluate the scores you receive, and begin preparing for the content, strategies, and timing pressures that you will encounter on the test. Ideally, you will devote at least a month of daily practice, with a few timed practice tests, to give your first test a solid performance.

Not only is preparation essential, but you will also need to consider your own schedule. Do you have an important robotics competition that would prevent you from taking the February ACT? What are your spring break plans? Is finals week sufficiently stressful to preclude you from taking the June SAT? Look at your academic and extracurricular calendars, and discuss a potential date with your family to see if there are any conflicts.

Finally, if you are planning on taking the SAT, you might be considering taking an SAT Subject Test or two to submit to colleges. Those tests take place on the same day as the SAT and, while you may take up to three SAT Subject Tests on any one test day, you cannot take both the SAT and a Subject Test. Typically, students will take SAT Subject Tests around May or June in order to coincide with AP Exams, since both tests are content-heavy. If you were planning on taking the SAT as well, you will want to consider how to organize your calendar to accommodate both tests.

Maybe you took the SAT or ACT this past year and are wondering if or when you should take the test again. Taking the SAT or ACT test is an investment of time and energy, not to mention money. Is it worth spending another Saturday morning in a high school classroom, working on math problems and reading passages? In most cases, an extra test is worth the extra effort when accompanied by a few necessary steps.

In order for a student to do her best on any number of SAT or ACT tests, preparation is paramount, no matter how many times you have taken the test previously. A student may take the test a dozen times, but you will likely get the same score if you have not devoted considerable time to understanding the test format, building mastery with the content, and practicing the testing strategies.

Often, when you take the test the first time, you might feel considerable anxiety. Once you make it out of the testing center and realize that an SAT or ACT test is totally doable, you might perform better on the second test, simply because much of the burden of anxiety has lifted. You know what the proctor will say; you know how to pace yourself for each section; you can manage the various demands placed on you. Sometimes, it may take an additional test for a student to overcome the effects of those stressors.

Of course, it might be that you don’t need to take the test an additional time. You adequately prepared, felt that you performed your best on each of the test dates, and have the scores that put you in a competitive position with your colleges. In that case, you can focus your attention on other aspects of your application – boosting your GPA, contributing more to extracurriculars, arranging those teacher recommendations – or taking a well-deserved break.

Each student’s history of test preparation and test performance will differ; however, there are abundant opportunities this spring either to prepare for and take the test for the first time, or to shoot for one final test to achieve your highest result.

Read the full article here!

Kaplan Will Offer Free Online PSAT Prep

Kaplan Test Prep is announcing today that it will offer free online PSAT instruction, starting in October. Kaplan will offer eight one-hour sessions live, with recordings available for those who can’t participate live. Kaplan’s announcement noted that, for many students, the PSAT is “the first meaningful step on their path to college.”

The move comes at a time that more testing services are offering free test prep. The College Board has been boasting about the free test prep it is offering for the SAT through the Khan Academy. In April, ACT and Kaplan Test Prep announced a collaboration to provide free online instruction, taught by teachers, for low-income students. That service will be available to all, but those who are not low income will have to pay a fee, estimated to be under $200.

Asked if the latest announcement was part of competition in the free test prep space, Lee Weiss, Kaplan Test Prep vice president of college admissions programs, said via email: “Not at all. Kaplan has been developing our live online instruction capabilities for years. We know that good live teaching makes a meaningful difference in student performance, and we’ve recognized that quality live instruction is not available at scale. As technology has evolved, we saw an opportunity to use technology and our respective expertise to create something that didn’t yet exist.”