GMAT Study Plan for Working Professionals

I often come across this particular question from many working professionals: “Being so busy with my work schedule how can I actually prepare for GMAT?” I also hear questions like “Being a working guy, can I prepare for GMAT in 2 to 3 weeks?”. Hence I decided to share my views with all working people aspiring for a Global MBA through GMAT.

First, let me tell you that almost 70% of serious GMAT takers are working professionals and hence they have to prepare along with their hectic work schedule. So if you are one of them, need not worry. Despite your busy work schedule you do stand a very good chance to crack GMAT with a good score!

Next part of the question deals with something more generic – that is how much time one needs to prepare properly for GMAT. Now depending on one’s IQ level and the amount of quality time available in a day for studies, a standard GMAT preparation for a working professional can take anywhere between 12 to 24 weeks (I know a lot of people do it in 1 or 2 weeks. But here I am not talking of the geniuses). Anything less than 12 weeks, is kind of leaving it to the luck factor a bit too much. And if you are taking it more than 24 weeks, there are high chances that your energy level during the last few weeks may taper.

Now let me share with you a Study Plan for GMAT. Please note that this Study Plan is based on my experience of working closely with more than hundreds of working professionals in the last 5 years as their GMAT Coach/ Mentor.

18 – 20 Weeks GMAT Study Plan for Working Professionals:

  1. Start with an Assessment Tests – it should be a comprehensive one with questions from multiple topics trying to assess your fundamental concepts in Maths, Grammar & Comprehension abilities. Generally at Diksha we use a 60-question Assessment Test for this purpose.
  2. Your Study Plan should be based on a proper review of the performance in the Test. I know it’s a cliche, but it helps to understand the gaps and work accordingly rather than taking a “cover it all” attitude. Ideally you should take the help of a pro in designing your personalized Study Plan.
  3. Pick and choose the right books/ online materials/ study materials/ mock tests for yourself. Again, take the help of a pro or at least a friend who has good exposure of GMAT. At Diksha, we provide the students with a very well-balanced comprehensive Study Material along with hand-picked reference books and materials as required for acing the GMAT.
  4. Dedicate a particular time slot of the day for regular studies. Should be at least 1.5 hours a day (the more the merrier) for 1st 8 weeks, at least 2 hrs a day for next 5 to 6 weeks. Thereafter you can have couple of days in a week with 4 hours in the day (I know this is difficult, so try the weekends) followed by 2 hours a day schedule.

By the way, when I say a “week” you can safely assume it to be a 6-day study week. You can keep the remaining 1 day free for your leisure/ family/ friends/ office depending on your priority.

A typical 18 to 20 weeks Study Plan should be broken down into 4 distinct phases.

  1. CONCEPT PHASE (First 8 weeks): Devote yourself to all the fundamental concepts of Maths, Grammar & Critical Reasoning. Besides, dedicate at least 30 minutes every day to improve your reading skills. Cover everything possible within the period. Solve problems, but the focus should be on concept. This is the Learning phase.
  2. PRACTICE PHASE (Next 5 to 6 weeks): Practice hard. One day you can do 20 PS, 1 RC passage (4 to 5 questions) and 15 SC questions. Next day you can do 10 DS, 1 RC passage (4 to 5 questions), 10 CR questions & 1 Argument Essay. Whenever you are getting stuck refer to the concepts learned earlier. In case you come across questions that test concepts that you have not learnt earlier then learn those now. This is also the period where you start taking the time pressure. Keep measuring your performance in terms of % Attempted and %Accuracy till you hit at least 80% in both the areas. Thus, if you are not hitting the 80% mark either in % Attempted or % Accuracy, this period might get extended. And if you start hitting the 80% mark from Week 1 itself, then keep on moving towards 90% or 100%. PLEASE DON’T SHORTEN THIS PERIOD TO LESS THAN 5 WEEKS.
  3. MOCK PHASE (Next 4 Weeks): It’s for the Mock Tests. Take a mock test and review it thoroughly over next couple of days. I mean SPEND TIME on Review. Know your weaknesses (in terms of concept/ approach/ strategy/ timing) and take actions to amend those. You should improve with every Mock Test. Ideally you should review with a mentor who can tell you the gaps and how to plug them quickly. Never shy away from going back to the concept material at this stage, if you feel the need. Ideally 8 to 10 good quality Mock Tests should give you the idea that how you are faring.
  4. COUNTDOWN PHASE (Last Week): Take it easy. You have done whatever could have been done. Go through the concepts once more. Revise your time strategy & other approaches that you have already finalized by now to ensure that you can adhere to those on the D-day. Keep 1 or 2 Mock Tests for the last week at the max. The last one of course should be the one from GMAC (Official GMAT Exam Website: Prepare & Plan for Business School). The day before the exam just relax. Go out, may be have the lunch with a couple of close friends, don’t think much about GMAT. But remember to keep your documents (GMAT Registration & Passport) ready for the next day.

I know most people expects or propagates a 4 to 8 weeks Study Plan for GMAT. But based on my experience in last 8 to 10 years, I have not seen many people coming up with a good score in that short duration (again, please note that I am not talking of the geniuses and toppers and mavericks of the world).


6 Winning Strategies for Visa Interview for Study Abroad

Congratulations that you have got an admit with 100% Scholarship at a top Global University in US and the University has sent you the coveted I-20 required for the US Student Visa!

After toiling so hard for a top score in GRE & TOEFL exams, after researching for hours for your application essays and after preparing hundreds of documents for your applications, now it’s the time to relax and cherish the moment!

Sorry, but most probably you have forgotten the most important last step. The Visa Interview!!!

For the uninitiated, Visa Interview can be one of the biggest challenges that students face during the entire study abroad application process is the visa interview.

In order to make sure to sail through your Visa interview, here are some tips and guidelines from DIKSHA LEARNING SERVICES that specializes in Study Abroad Test Preparation and Abroad Study Admission guidance:

1) Documentation shows Dedication

Ensure that you have copies of all the required documents with you during the interview, arranged in proper order and ideally coded with a proper marking.

Ideally you should classify the documents in following categories & in following order:

  1. Visa related: I-20, Visa Fee receipt & Visa Interview confirmation letter
  2. Admission related: Admission Letter, Scholarship Letter (if applicable), University Fees receipt, Education Loan Approval Letter (if applicable), Any other Letter from the University related to admission that you deem fit
  3. Academic related: Degree transcripts, Degree Certificates, School Leaving & High School Leaving Certificates, Test Scores of SAT/ GRE/ GMAT and IELTS/ TOEFL, any significant academic achievement certificates
  4. Work experience related (if applicable): Appointment Letter of current and last 2 employers, last 3 month salary slips (as applicable)
  5. Extra-curricular related: Any significant extra-curricular certificate

At DIKSHA we always tell our students that the ordering & marking of the Document Files is important so that it becomes easier for the interviewer to find things easily. And in case he/ she asks you to show something from your file, you should not fumble – you should be prompt and confident. A neatly arranged document file gives an impression of the application as someone who is highly dedicated, systematic and thorough in his approach. And trust us, the Visa interviewer is going to like that.

2) Focus on Finance

To get your student visa, you need to furnish several financial documents. These documents prove that you have the necessary resources to pay for tuition fees, living expenses, accommodation etc. If your parents (or any relatives) are funding your education, then you will need to submit their bank statements (or, liquid asset statement) including original bank records, Income Tax returns of the last three years along with fixed deposit receipts or certificates. This may also include Scholarship Confirmation letter or Education Loan Approval Letter.

But we have already included these in the “Documentation” part. Why are we repeating? Very simply because we have seen that most of the Indian students don’t know their finances! And during the interview if asked a question on this matter, some of the brightest students just go numb!

“Well my dad is paying. Go and please ask him…” It’s a typical attitude of many Indians. But this doesn’t go well with the interviewer. At DIKSHA we always advise our students aspiring for abroad studies that they should actually know their finances well.

“How much will it cost? How much can I afford? And from where do I get the funds?” Get your calculations thorough on these lines. Don’t miss out possible escalation in expenses (like a provision in the University Fees rule that says Tuition Fees will go up next year or can increase in next semester if you opt for Subject X or even the possibility of the living cost going up next year). Ideally you should comfortable show that you can afford more than what it will take to study for 2 or 4 years.

And one more thing, talk in Dollars ($). A visa interviewer is certainly going to be more comfortable if Indian Rupee is avoided. 

3) Prepare or Perish

Just like the way we prepare thoroughly before going for a job interview or the grand viva, the preparation is the key. Remember the following points that you need to be prepared for:

  1. Course related – the duration, subjects, electives, important dates, study breaks, internship options, credit points and credit hours. If you are not very acquainted with the concept of “Credit Points” and “Credit Hours”, please learn it from someone who knows it well.
  2. University related – about the particular university, which campus (if there are multiple campuses) you will be studying, any significant landmark in the history of the university, eminent professors or alumni (if any)
  3. Country related – about the country, its demographics, about the city/ place where the University campus is located, a bit of history and culture, food habits, important cities/ monuments/ places to see, important personalities

4) Making the logical Match

This may be the tough part that moves away from information into the realm of “persuasion”. Questions like “Why this Course” or “Why this University” can make or break your interview.

So be well prepared and match these four things: Your skills and qualities, your career aspirations, the course and the University. You can refer to your SOP or Application Essay and try to ascertain that how this particular program in this particular university is going to help you in achieving your career goals.

DIKSHA suggests its students not to be dramatic and emotional in their responses to such questions. Ideally you should just be logical and establish the relationship between these four things – how they connect. The facts will certainly help here, but the focus should be on the logic in match making!

5) Unsettling the “Settler” trap

A visa interviewer is like a gate keeper and the visa interview is a process to “close the gate” for a potential “settler” or an immigrant i.e. a person with an intention of settling down permanently in a foreign country.

So, the interviewer may try to trap you. Some of the students of DIKSHA have come across questions like “Ok, so after your MS in Artificial Intelligence would you like to join Google Head Office in California or a Tech Start Up in San Francisco?” or something like “Don’t you think that once your course is over and you join a job, you should bring your parents to the US so that you can take care of them?”. Beware of such questions. These are blatant traps! The Visa Officer is trying to catch you on the wrong foot regarding your intention. Don’t fall for them.

Your answers should be perfectly clear in stating that your purpose for studying abroad is Higher Studies only and it has nothing to do with settling down in that country. Please find logic and passion in convincing the interviewer that you are not seeking employment in the foreign country. After the course you will plan to return to your home country equipped with the degree, knowledge and skills that you have acquired there.

Here it’s important to note that your long term career goals should be related to your home country.
Just for example, if you are going abroad for an MS in Biotechnology you should be able to tell the interviewer how you see the potential of qualified Biotech professionals in India in near future. Or, if you are going for your PhD in Artificial Intelligence you should be able to convince the interviewer that how this PhD from this reputed University would help you to get a dream job of an Assistant Professor in one of the IITs.

Please remember you should categorically try to distinguish yourself from a potential immigrant or a potential job seeker.

6) Overall Impression is Important

Finally, it’s about your soft skills. This is the usual staff. But many a times, students tend to overlook these basics. Don’t be one of those “over-lookers”!  Remember:

  1. Be on time
  2. Be well groomed, dressed in formal wear
  3. Be courteous and polite but don’t be submissive
  4. Don’t get agitated or irritated on any particular question or remarks
  5. Be calm, composed and confident
  6. Be ready for some “strange” or “intimidating” or “trap” questions. Don’t panic. The questions are just to test your intention, attitude, skills, knowledge or common sense. Answer them with conviction. If you don’t know, please say so!
  7. If you can’t understand a particular question first apologize and then ask to repeat the question
  8. Keep your answers short and relevant. Don’t go overboard. Be specific.

And last but not the least “be positive”. Despite following everything as mentioned above there is always a probability that the Visa officer is not convinced. In an unfortunate situation where you are denied a student visa, please refrain from arguing with the interviewer. Instead you can request the Visa Officer to provide the reason(s) for the denial along with a list of documents that he or she would suggest that you bring next time to ensure that you are granted the student visa.  Ensure that you leave with a lasting positive impression.

For any query regarding your Visa Interview for Abroad Study please feel free to connect to Diksha Learning Services Pvt. Ltd. You can call us at +91 9674484100.