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Last Minute GMAT Advice

Preparing for the GMAT in two weeks or less is not ideal. A miniscule percentage of people can study for such a short amount of time and achieve a score that meets business school requirements. Most students spend months preparing for the test.

With such a short amount of time, there is not much that you can do to improve your reading comprehension or critical reasoning. The math facts you know now will probably remain unchanged until the test. What you have in terms of knowledge and skill will remain fairly constant. But there is something that you can change and learn before the test—the ins and outs of the test itself. Let’s see what we can do.


What’s the Rush?

Before you try to cram for the test in one or two weeks, ask yourself if you have to take the test so soon. If you are not under a strict deadline, I highly recommend rescheduling your test so that you have more time to prepare. You’ll have to pay $50 to change your test date, which is cheaper than signing up to retake the exam after such a short study period. If this is the case, change your date and use a proper study plan.

If you don’t have a choice and must take the test right away, continue reading.


14 Days Left

The time is now! Schedule as much time as possible to prepare for the GMAT. Aim for short bursts of studying over a long period of time in a day. You will retain more information and stay energized this way as opposed to power studying sessions lasting multiple hours.

  • First, spend your time learning about the sections, question types, instructions, test format, and timing.
  • Do practice problems as part of learning the question types. The more question that you can answer the better. But make sure you take the time to analyze your mistakes. Keep a log of your mistakes and what went wrong.
  • Start to time yourself based on a clear pacing strategy (Verbal: 90 seconds a question and 2.5 – 3.5 minutes for a reading passage; Quant: ~2 minutes a question; Integrated Reasoning: ~2 minutes a problem).
  • Take two practice tests, one at the beginning of the week and one three days later. Take the time to analyze your mistakes and errors. Keep track of your errors and review them every time you sit down to practice.


7 Days Left

One week to go, and you still have a lot to do. Stay focused and dedicated. Study each day until 24 hours before the test.

  • Take another practice test, seven days before the actual exam. Make sure to include all the essays and an experimental section too. If you have time later in the week, take another practice test.
  • Review your notes, especially problems and concepts that you have struggled with. It’s important to have everything you’ve learned fresh in your mind on test day. And it’s important to know where you are making mistakes so you can be on guard.
  • Continue to work through practice problems. You need to get as many questions under your belt as possible before you sit for the actual test. If you feel up to it, take another practice test, but only if you have the energy. If your test is in 48 hours, I would probably just work through problems and not take a full practice test.


1 Day Left

Don’t do anything! That’s right. Sounds crazy, but the last thing you should do is try and cram a bunch of studying in before the test. Cramming is not going to help you one bit on the test. You’ll do better if you walk into the test rested, alert, and confident.

  • No test preparation all day! Seriously!
  • Eat a large, healthy, leisurely dinner—no alcohol!
  • Gather all that you will need for test day.
  • Go to bed earlier than usual.
  • I said no test preparation! 🙂


Day of the GMAT

  • Eat a large, protein-rich breakfast.
  • Do relaxing, fun activities to pass time until the test.
  • Light exercise is a great way to burn off anxiety and prime your mind for the test.


What to Bring on Test Day

Besides an approved ID, GMAT appointment confirmation, and list of schools that you are applying to, you should also bring the following:

  • A liter of water
  • Healthy energy-packed snacks (nuts, protein bar, etc.)
  • During breaks, make sure to get up and move. Moving and stretching the large muscles of the body (legs, torso, and back) will get oxygen flowing, which will help keep you awake and keep you thinking clearly.


A Final Thought

Although your task is daunting, it is not hopeless. Some of you may not need to reach a “great” score. Some of you might be stellar test takers, scoring well-above average on previous standardized tests. Regardless of your situation, there is one last GMAT strategy that you should remember on test day—stay positive. A positive mental state will have beneficial repercussions. You’ll be more confident and more self-assured, and you’ll trust yourself more during the test. So remain upbeat and positive as you study and when you walk into the testing center. At that point, a lot is out of your control, but you still have control over your attitude and approach. Happy studying!


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One Response to Last Minute GMAT Advice

  1. Carla December 11, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    Thank you for this, Kevin! Got to stay positive!

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