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A GMAT student's interesting letter

Having decided to apply to college, here are the issues which you are likely to face before you actually apply.

GMAT

The first thing you must realize is that the GMAT is not a test of intelligence. Like all standardized tests it is a very unfair exam and not the true measure of your potential. Luckily for us, most business schools realize this. But having said that, it can be a big plus if your scores are good.

GMAT MATH

I started my GMAT preparation about June 20th and took it on September 15th. For the first two weeks I attended Math coaching. I divided the course into two parts 1) Numbers (ratios etc.) and Algebra 2) Geometry and Graphs. All this was for just the basics. I suggest that you do the same unless your basics are really good.

GMAT VERBAL

Verbal is divided into 3 parts-

1. GMAT Sentence Correction

For this part there are a couple of rules like identifying the subject and verb etc.Slowly one gets the hang of it. But the confusion remains till the exam.

The books I bought were Thomson and Martinet for grammar, but I never really used them- too much detail and too little time to go through the whole rigmarole.

2. GMAT Critical Reasoning

Keep on practicing - you will slowly get the hang of it.

3. GMAT Reading Comprehension

This is the most difficult part of the entire GMAT. I can't really help you out here except by saying practice hard. Actually that is really the key for the GMAT - practice, practice, and more practice.

GMAT ESSAYS

Write at least 10 Analysis of an Issue and 10 Analysis of an Argument practice essays. Although it does not really count towards your score, the colleges take it seriously while evaluating you during the admissions process. Another thing is that when taking a practice exam, always try to write the essays too. It is more a matter of simulating the actual test. Remember that one has to operate at 90-100% efficiency. The GMAT is also a test of stamina as you will be really tired by the end of it.

GMAT PRACTICE

Remember that practice is the key. I took around 23 paper based tests and around 14 computer based tests by the time I actually took the final test. For the 15 days leading up to the final day I took a test a day each. So actually a lot of hard work went in.

TIME FOR GMAT PREPARATION

Now for the time part- I would have spent 3 months between- June 15th (approx.) and Sep 15th. I would have spent about 450 hours averaging 4-5 hours a day. It's not true when people say that you must study 10 hours a day because the GMAT is different from other exams. In other exams you could be reading for 10 hours a day at 60-70% efficiency. But in GMAT because you have to continuously solve problems and questions within the specified time, you have to operate at 95-100% efficiency all the time. It is impossible to do that for more than 5-6 hours a day. But, I was totally obsessed by GMAT and even though I would work for 4-5 hours/day I was constantly thinking about it. I was doing nothing but studying for the GMAT during this period.

GMAT ATTITUDE

Another thing is attitude. This exam is probably the only thing in life in which you have got to be overconfident. YOU have got to seriously believe that you are the greatest and in your heart of hearts believe that you have got a good chance at scoring 800/800. Enough of overconfidence now. Get working !

COMPUTER BASED TEST

The coaching center or any book would tell you this but remember that the first 6 questions are absolutely critical and if you get all of them correct your score will be most definitely over 650. But having said that try to get everything correct, since your aim should be 800/800.

TOEFL

I don’t think you need any advice for this exam. I got full marks in two sections (reading and Grammar) but I got one wrong in the Listening, which is much tougher in the Computer Based test (CBT). My total scores before the Essays were 670/677. But in the CBT they add your essay marks too so my final scores were 660/677. Since I lost .5 marks in the essay- 5.5/6. Get this exam out of the way immediately. It could turn out to be a pain in the neck later on.

COLLEGE ESSAYS

This is probably the most important element in your application process. Have a look at the essay questions right now only to know what the B-schools are exactly looking for. Please don’t write the normal run of the mill essays because the essays are what will finally differentiate you.

RECOMENDATIONS

A very important part of the process. Don’t restrict yourself to only 2 recommendations. One has to be from a person who can comment on your work- boss etc. and the other preferably from your professor.

TRANSCRIPTS- i.e. GPA(Grade Point Average)

This is as important as your GMAT scores. It can be seen from the fact that GMAT scores are always mentioned along with the GPA . Try to increase your overall GPA. as much as you can.

Work Experience

A very very important part of the process. Be very careful in how you position your work experience in your essays. My view is that you need not work for big companies to show that you have good experience. Any firm, big or small, where you have made a significant impact is good.

Other Issues-

A) Start asking for all the US News top 50 colleges brochures- immediately because they will take some time to arrive. Ask for the brochures of even those colleges in which you are presently not interested. I must have changed my college list at least 10 times and my final list had hardly any colleges that were on my first list.

B) A very critical part- start very early. Get the TOEFL out of the way. And start preparing for the GMAT immediately. An early application is vital to get admission.

C) All these are my views and most of it will coincide with what others have got to say. But always talk to as many people as you can. Go to www.review.com & www.businessweek.com - the discussion boards are very informative.

D) What are you doing for the 16th year problem? Are you doing some master’s program or something? It is a major stumbling block. It put me out of the reckoning for a lot of colleges.

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