I was a senior in college when I decided that I wanted to take the GMAT and prepare for b-school. I had some free time with my course load, my online business was winding down, and I had a real interest in planning out my future which would be formed by – at least in part – the outcome of the GMAT. I remember heading back to my room after class and deciding that I was going to see what the Internet said I needed to do well.
My search proved rather fruitful. For starters, I learned the test was computer adaptive which was something new to me. There were tons of articles telling me what to do, what sections to focus on, how to prepare, and examples of typical questions. One place that even had an outline of how to spend my time given the level of effort I wanted to exert. There was everything from the 5 hour plan all the way up to something like 200, 300, or even 500 hours. My first thought was “wow, that’s a lot of time.”
Armed with far too much and, at the same time, far too little knowledge, I set my strategy which was, unsurprisingly, very pragmatic. My plan of attack:
- Take a practice test.
- See where that falls on the bell curve.
- Evaluate what schools I wanted to get into.
- See if my sample score aligned with those schools.
- Pick a level of effort to dedicate based on how much my score need improvement.
My first practice test landed me somewhere around 540. Not a bad score. Not a great score, but not a bad score. When looking at the bell curve of score this put me at about average. It was at this point when I decided that the practice tests didn’t mean all that much because that score was obviously wrong. I had no basis for that conclusion (other than perhaps my ACT score) but I figured there were only two options from that point. The first was that the score was right and all hopes to get into a Top 20 school would quickly evaporate. The second was that the score was wrong, I would do better, and – due to my plan outlined above – I would have to dedicate a little less time to trying to improve my score.
The path of least resistance won and gave me a nice confidence boost at the same time (as I was now assuming I was smarter than the test software). The very next thing I did was set a date for the exam.
Establish a deadline. Stick to the deadline. Meet the deadline.
With a goal and a focus I knew I was setting myself on the right path.