With our full slate of March GMAT courses right around the corner, one of the most common questions we encounter at this time of year is, “When should I take the GMAT?” Many prospective MBA students know the GMAT is in their near future, but for a variety of reasons, they aren’t sure they want to deal with it just yet.
Sure, they could take a course in March and have the test done by May, but why not wait until July? We always encourage our students to look at their own individual situations first and foremost, but as a rule of thumb, we tend to encourage test-takers to tackle the GMAT early in the calendar year, whenever possible.
We offer five reasons for taking (and prepping for) the GMAT early:
- Taking the test early preserves all of your options. One major part of test-taking psychology is to prepare for success and treat your first GMAT examination like it will be your only examination. That said, having options is always a good thing. Given that MBA candidates who sit for multiple GMAT exams are generally not punished during the admissions process, it makes sense to preserve the possibility of taking a second test. The last thing you want to encounter is a timeline that gets jammed up because you want to take the GMAT again. The earlier your prepare for and take the test the first time, the more cushion you allow yourself to repeat the process if necessary.
- Having a score banked allows you to do proper research. The GMAT plays a major factor in determining admissions possibilities for an MBA candidate. A 30-point difference can send an HBS or Stanford hopefull back to the drawing board in search of a lower-ranked school that might offer a great fit. Alternatively, we’ve had many clients email us to announce that they “got a 730!” … but now they have “no idea which schools to look at.” The GMAT score serves as a critical benchmark for determining prospects and schools and it is difficult to dive into the school selection process without knowing that score. Late spring is often the best time to visit MBA programs and engage in exhaustive research, but unless you know that the schools are appropriate, that type of activity can wind up being wasted effort.
- The earlier you are aware of a quant weakness, the more time you have to address it. We talk a lot in this space about how test scores work on two levels: as a raw number and also as an indicator for key admissions themes. When it comes to that second consideration, there is much candidates can do to offset negative admissions themes derived from their GMAT score … but only if they act quickly enough. In particular, if the quant score is out of balance, an applicant can take some quant-heavy courses over the summer and help alleviate any concerns that the business school has about that student’s ability to do the work.
- No time like winter! It sounds ridiculous, but it can often be harder to buckle down and study during the summer months when the weather is great, the days are longer, softball leagues are happening … you get the idea. Summer is a season that competes for our time like no other stretch of the year save for the holidays. Avoid the conflict and chase out the final days of winter with some serious GMAT prep.
- Candidates are slaves to the GMAT. Above all else, the GMAT has the capacity to cripple an applicant’s entire operation. So many of our admissions consulting clients wait to start working with a consultant until the test is over. Many other candidates won’t even touch the essays until they have the GMAT squarely in their rearview mirror. Many applicants are linear thinkers and like to clear hurdles one at a time. Since the GMAT is often the first hurdle, and it is a task that people push off for later, it tends to set back the entire process. The sooner that you can tackle the GMAT, conquer it, and put it in your trophy case, the sooner you can address the rest of the process – essays, interviews, and everything else – with a clear mind and a sense of purpose.