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).

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How to make your profile attractive for MBA Admission in Harvard or LBS?

If you are reading this, then Congrats! I am sure you are bitten by the “Global MBA” bug and hence interested to read on! Not only that. It’s actually amazing to know that you want to do your MBA from one of the top B-Schools such as Harvard, Wharton, LBS, INSEAD or MIT Sloan. Definitely it’s a great ambition given that you have the ability, determination & perseverance to fight it out with the top class Global MBA aspirants from across the world.

But before we start discussing what it takes to get into one of these Top 10 Global B-Schools for your dream MBA, let me share a few pertinent points for you to ponder upon:

  1. WHY MBA? Why do you need to do an MBA at this stage of your career? Is it because one of your cousins or friends is doing it/ has done it? Do you want a career shift or a career progression that is possible only through an MBA degree?
  2. WHY NOT AN INDIAN MBA? Why don’t you plan an MBA from one of the top Indian B-Schools instead? Why a Global MBA? What’s in it that attracts you? Are you looking for an international career?
  3. ARE YOU A POTENTIAL CANDIDATE? Are you really sure that with your current work experience and management exposure you are a prospective MBA candidate in these top B-Schools? As you know the top B-Schools are crazy about the quality of students. People who apply there can be a Consultant in McKinsey or a Subject Matter Expert from Google or a Quality Manager from Tata Steel or even a Sales Manager at General Motors. They will typically have a high GPA and a 700 plus GMAT score. Some of them have been to 3 or 4 different countries as a part of their studies or work. While exceptions are there (say, a Navy Corps with 4 years experience in combat zone having a low GMAT of 660 or a just an average graduate who started an online gaming portal that gets 1 lac hits a month having a GPA of 2.2 etc.). But these are “outstanding exceptions”. So, do you think that you fall in that “high quality” or “outstanding exception” bracket?
  4. CAN YOU AFFORD? Can you afford the Tuition Fees (even considering that you get a good amount of Education loan) at these premium B-Schools? Say, Harvard MBA will cost you approximately INR 1.2 Crores (all inclusive) in 2 years? How do you plan to finance it?

While I don’t want to sound a spoilsport, but answers to these questions are going to be very crucial if you really want to achieve your dream of getting an MBA admit from Harvard or LBS.

Considering you are through with the above points and still want to pursue your dream, now let’s come to your main question.

How do you make your profile “attractive”? Actually you don’t even try to do it!

I mean the Ad-Com is too smart to understand this profile makeover thing. They are not attracted to the superficially attractive profiles. So don’t even try to get into the mess. Rather be honest and logical, highlighting on your strengths. Make it interesting. The Ad-com will be interested to know your interesting story. They would like to understand and assess your potential as a future leader. Give them a “compelling true story” that focuses on your strengths and achievements.

So, if you want to fall into that “high quality” potential leader bracket, what do you need to have in your profile? What do you need to show so that the Ad-Com of Top Global B-Schools will be interested in you?

  1. Academics: You will need consistent and above average Academics – a high GPA! Besides, academic honors/ ranks/ scholarships/ dean’s medal/ cum laude/ academic papers whatever you have achieved from high school till college. I know you can’t do much about this right now, but in case there are any gaps/ inconsistencies make sure that you have a reasonable explanation for that.
  2. GMAT: A fascinating GMAT score – very important if you are eyeing these top B-Schools. Although there are instances of people getting in Harvard or MIT with as low as 650, but most of them are exceptional. For a more generic profile, a score of 720 plus is required. Of course, higher the better.
  3. Work Experience: When I say experience it doesn’t mean number of years you have worked. You will need a great work exposure that shows you have business acumen. Work profile that shows that you do something interesting and something valuable for the company. Not “run of the mill” coding or testing or selling or coordinating. It should focus on your management exposure, business understanding and leadership skills. Think about team handling, project management, client interaction, critical problem solving, cross functional & multi-location team work etc. If you have helped your organization to close a few business deals worth some million US$ or to save a few million US$ that’s really great!
  4. Certifications: Additional certifications (like PMP, Six Sigma, Google Adword, SAP etc.) from reputed institutes/ bodies/ authorities that are related to your academics, area of work or are important for your future career goals can also be a good add-on. It shows that you are ready to take on extra load in order to excel in your professional career.
  5. Extra Curricular & Activities: Don’t fool yourself by trying to food the Ad-com. Don’t just join an NGO 1 year prior to your MBA application to show that as your extra-curricular. If you have any significant achievement or involvement (well documented from reliable sources) in Extra Curricular (could be sports/ arts/ music/ NGO anything) or if you have been Vice President of the College’s Student Council or if you are a part of your organization’s cross functional team for “Go Green Policy” then it’s helpful. But please don’t “make it up” for the sake of the admission.
  6. LOR: Two solid “Reco” (Letter of Recommendation) from someone senior with whom you have shared a working relationship of more than one year. I mean don’t end up getting a Reco from a friend who is working in your project. Not even your ex-Team Leader. Try getting a recommendation from the Project Manager/ Delivery Manager or still better a Senior Partner in your current or previous company. Ideally the person should know you very well and must know what it means to get into a Harvard or Stanford. Recommendation letter should be very personal and it’s not possible for someone to write a personal recommendation if the relationship is not cultivated over a period of time. You can even take it from someone senior in your Client team (that is if you have a client interfacing profile in the first place). Especially if your client is a globally reputed MNC and your referee is some Sales Director (an alumni of one of the Ivy League colleges) in that company, the LOR is going to carry a lot of weightage.
  7. MBA Essays: Well these were the ingredients. Now you can mix them up well and come up with nicely written MBA Essays that show the strengths of your candidature. Be prepared to write at least 5 Essays for each top B-School you are applying to. And the cut-paste job (that is write one essay for Harvard and paste it for INSEAD, MIT Sloan, Stanford and LBS) won’t do. It is because the essay questions are different, the B-school ethos is different and what they expect from the candidates vary widely. So keep writing.

After reading all these, if you are still determined to go for it, my suggestions will be:

a) Prepare hard for GMAT. If you are confident and have sufficient time then go for self-study. Else you can go for a good institute or a personal coach. But please don’t end up in a coaching institute that will make you sit in a batch of 15 to 20 people. What you need is guidance and personal attention from the faculty. Go for the good ones where the batch size is 5 or less. Ideally the faculty should know what GMAT is all about (still in India, most of the institutes work with CAT faculty for their GMAT batch and it’s like using Coconut Oil for cooking Pasta).

b) Once you get a good GMAT score, you should take the help of an Admission Consultant or a friend/ senior who has got accepted in one of these top B-Schools in the last 2 to 3 years.

Best of luck if you decide to embark on this fascinating journey. Believe me it’s worth every bit of it.

For any support for your GMAT or MBA Admission please call us at +91 9674350993.