Before beginning your graduate school application, you will want to get your entrance exam out of the way. This, however, can be a daunting prospect for many applicants. For students who are planning to go to graduate school to get their Master's of Business Administration, taking the GMAT is a requirement in almost every case.

It can be intimidating to think about preparing to take another standardized test, especially if you've been out of school for a while. However, as long as you have the correct GMAT study material, you can be assured that your preparation will be successful.

What Is the GMAT?

The GMAT is one of the entrance examinations that applicants who are applying to business school need to take. While not every school requires that applicants take the GMAT, most do. Those that do not require the GMAT will often accept the GRE as a substitute, but in every case, students will need to take some sort of standardized test, so that the school can evaluate their mastery of the material that they will need to know before they can begin the rigorous coursework required in a business school program.

The GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admissions Test. It is the test that is most desirable to take if you are looking for admission to a top business school. It is also the test that tells the admissions evaluators the most about your ability to do the kind of work you will be responsible for as an MBA student in the first place. The GMAT is far from the only kind of criteria that business schools will look at before they admit you, but it is certainly one of the most important, especially if you are applying to a highly competitive school.

Business schools receive tens of thousands of applications, to say nothing of the number received by top business schools like Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Stanford and the like. Most of the applicants who make it to the final stage of the admissions process will have similarly strong grades from their undergraduate years, strong personal statements and supporting materials. In an effort to make a distinction between the students who have similar backgrounds, a student's GMAT score may be a deciding factor.

Why Take the GMAT?

While some schools do allow business applicants to take the GRE in lieu of taking the GMAT, it is most often advised that students take the GMAT. The GMAT is a test that those with strong quantitative skills and experience working with data and interpreting numbers tend to excel at. However, while business schools at the upper echelon of the academic hierarchy want students with strong business acumen, many want students who have skills that have generally been associated with the GRE.

The GMAT contains four sections: the Analytical Writing Assessment section, the Integrated Reasoning section, the Quantitative Section and the Verbal Section. Each of these sections is of equal importance. By contrast, the GRE contains three sections: the Quantitative Section, the Verbal section and the Analytical Writing section. Historically business schools have wanted students who have strong math and analysis skills, but lately, as the innovation economy has changed the way the landscape looks, business schools have been attempting to recruit students with a diversity of skills and skill sets beyond the traditional.

Highly verbal and even highly visually creative individuals are actively courted by business schools these days, and those students may find that they fare better on the GRE. Ultimately, look at the schools you want to apply to and see what they accept, and then decide which test you think will give you the highest score.

GRE and GMAT Study Plan

Once you've decided to take the graduate school test, it's time to begin your preparation. There are a number of ways that you can plan for and prepare for the GRE or the GMAT. While the most popular or most traditional way is to study at home with the aid of GMAT prep materials and the GMAT official guide, many students now choose to take courses, either online or in person.

Many people who are considering business school are working full- time which makes test preparation time hard to come by. Other people have families and have precious little time to themselves to study in the first place. For students who are pressed for time, they may find that an online course is one of the best and most efficient ways to prepare for the test. Much of the GMAT preparation online free material will allow test-takers to pinpoint the areas of study where they really need to bone up and help them to move forward quickly with their preparation.

Companies like the Princeton Review, Kaplan and others do an excellent job of helping students prepare for the GMAT with targeted study plans that move at a student's own pace and which can offer targeted extra help for those who need it in a particular area. Once you've scheduled your test date, it is a good idea to evaluate realistically the amount of time that you have for preparation and help that inform your study methods.

How Do You Prepare for the GMAT?

If you've determined that you need a study course, either online or in person, try to make your choice, so you can begin to prepare as soon as possible. You may want to take a practice GMAT before you commit to a particular course, just so you can see what you need to learn, and what you already know. Getting a sense of your level of mastery of the material will go a long way to helping you decide what kind of studying you need to be doing. You may find that you don't need to pay for a costly course, so you just need some targeted practice questions and a chance to get familiar with the concepts.

For students who opt out of participating in a course and choose to study at home on their own, there is a lot that they can do to prepare. It is still a good idea to begin by preparing yourself with a practice test. A practice test can help to be a barometer that can show you where you are and where you need to go. Once you have that assessment, you can begin to move forward with a targeted study plan. Computer-based practice tests can be particularly helpful because they can show you a breakdown of the questions that you got wrong, and help you to pinpoint the concepts you're missing.

Give yourself as much time as you think you need to prepare, even if it means rescheduling your test date. You don't want to rush this piece of your business school application, and getting a high score is basically the only way to guarantee that you are going to get into one of the best business schools in the country. For students who absolutely need to get into a top school, there is no such thing as being too prepared. Devoting your free time to memorizing concepts, practicing your writing skills and working on your analysis will absolutely pay off when you get the acceptance letter you have been craving.

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