How to use the GMAT to your advantage in business school

By Morgan Bernstein

Whether you are considering a part-time MBA program or a full-time MBA program, returning to school after two years or ten, one thing nearly all prospective MBA students share is a dread of the GMAT or GRE.

But contrary to popular belief, a standardized entrance exam for business school isn’t just an annoying hurdle to clear and forget about—it can actually help prepare you for your MBA studies in several useful ways.

Scott Olszewski, Berkeley MBA for Executives studentScott Olszewski, a student in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program, found test preparation helped him develop the time management skills and discipline to study after working for many years. “I had not taken a test for ten years, so I took a GMAT preparation course,” says Scott.

“At first it was a little shocking, but the process helped me get back into the cadence of learning and studying again, not just watching TV in my free time,” says Scott. “When I started my MBA program, I was already back in the right mindset.”



GMAT_tips_Erin_Robinson.jpgSimilarly, Erin Robinson of the Full-time Berkeley MBA Program believes studying for the exam helped her learn to balance competing priorities. “Like a lot of people, I took the GMAT while I was working full time.

“Learning how to balance that becomes very relevant when you are back in graduate school and dealing with many different priorities: studying and academics, the career-search process, school leadership positions, as well as the other social and personal aspects of your life,” says Erin.

Knowing how to quickly process a large amount of material is another key skill gained through the entrance exams that students apply to their MBA studies.

“Business school involves reading a lot of case studies,” says Scott, noting that in some courses, such as Competitive and Corporate Strategy, up to 80 percent of the material involves case-based learning. “Understanding how to filter information and pull out what is important in a short period of time is very valuable.”

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Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Student Mayank KaushikFor Mayank Kaushik, a student in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program, the critical thinking required for MBA entrance exams was also directly transferable to case studies. “In the reading comprehension section of the test, you have to think critically about what’s presented: What could be wrong with this? Is this argument sound?

 “A lot of the case studies in business school require evaluating a business decision in a similar way—you are always analyzing a case and thinking about it critically,” says Mayank.

“Evaluating case studies is a skill that extends beyond business school,” points out Erin, who has worked in the consulting field, and notes that companies increasingly ask job applicants to analyze case studies during job interviews.

Even the grammar review required for the tests can help students later on. Mayank appreciated the exam’s verbal section that addresses sentence structure, especially because English is not his native language. “Studying for the test gave me a lot of good information about good sentence structure, how to leave out extraneous details, and how to make my writing more concise,” he says.

Taking entrance exams may never be a popular component of applying to business school, but it can and does help students once their MBA studies begin. “No one will say they love standardized tests,” says Scott, “but the GMAT does help prepare you for your MBA studies, and it will also help you decide if you are ready to return to school.”

Want more information on preparing for business school entrance exams? Download our free ebook, Avoiding the GMAT/GRE Blues.

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Posted on February 16, 2016
Themes: Applying
Morgan Bernstein
Morgan was the Executive Director of Full-time MBA Admissions at Haas from 2016-2019 as well as a graduate of the program. She enjoys making personal connections with prospective students and guiding them through the MBA admission process.