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Honing Your GMAT Strategy

Strategies for preparing depend on how long you have before the test. Here's how to make a plan

Your GMAT preparation strategy can vary dramatically based on how much time you have to prepare; a two-month preparation plan will differ from a two-week plan. One thing remains the same, however: The more time and energy you devote to preparation, the better your odds are of achieving your goals.

You should figure out now when you're going to take the test (if you haven't determined that already). To help you determine your schedule, first establish two things: (1) what score you're already making, and (2) what score you want to make.

To find out what score you're already making, take a practice test. When you take practice tests, it's best to create as realistic a testing environment as possible, so clean up your work area, get out some scratch paper, turn off your phone, and let roommates and family members know you're not to be disturbed.

Also, tell yourself that this is the real test so that you can have a similar adrenaline reaction to what you would have on test day. (For many testers, this actually helps their scores, but either way, your reaction is part of creating a realistic environment.)

Clear Other Commitments

To figure out what score you want to make, do some research on the schools you would like to attend; find out what their average GMAT scores are and what other factors play into their admissions decisions. Also, ask how they use the GMAT in admissions. Many schools will tell you that no single GMAT score will guarantee you admission; some have a "baseline" score that is required, but among candidates who have reached that score, the GMAT is not used to further determine admission.

Of course, if you know where you want to go to school and your admission deadline is approaching, you may have no choice but to prepare for the GMAT in a few weeks. That can be done, but it will require hard work, and it's best if you can clear other commitments as much as possible before sitting for the exam.

Be sure to schedule your exam once you know when you want to take it; you don't want to wait too long and then have to change your plans because your local testing center doesn't have an available test date that works for you.

For more information on GMAT preparation, including practice tests and customizable action plans based on the amount of time you have available, see McGraw-Hill's GMAT. To register for the GMAT, visit.

Adapted from McGraw-Hill's GMAT by James Hasik, Stacey Rudnick, and Ryan Hackney. Book-only and book/CD-ROM versions available wherever books are sold.

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