How Preparing for the GMAT Prepares You for B-School
As business programs are faced with a dramatic increase in the number of applicants from a greater diversity of backgrounds, the importance of a standardized metric to measure them against each other grows as well. Business schools use the GMAT because without a standardized test, it would be impossible to compare an applicant who went to a highly-touted engineering college in China against an applicant who was a Renaissance History major at a small liberal arts college.
Research has found that there is also a high correlation between success on the GMAT and success in business school academics. This is because the GMAT can accurately rate an applicant’s proficiency across a wide range of analytical areas, both verbal and quantitative.
Let’s look at some of the many ways in which preparing for the GMAT can prepare you for success in business school:
When most people think of the coursework involved with getting an MBA, they think of accounting, finance, economics, and statistics. While these quantitative-analysis based classes are important, equally important is the ability to write well. Learning the proper rules of grammar while preparing for the GMAT will make you a more accurate, clear writer, and it will give you a leg up on the competition. Much of the work you do in business school may require quantitative skills, but almost everything you turn in will include a large written component. Learning proper grammar will give you the ability to turn in well-written, well organized papers.
The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) part of the GMAT measures your ability to analyze and critique an argument under time pressure. The topic of the argument will usually have a business theme, and you will be required to analyze and then respond to the cogency of the argument within 30-minutes.
This is a good preview of what you will be doing in a lot of your business school classes. The case study method of teaching involves more detailed situations in which you will be forced to analyze a variety of responses to a business crisis. You will be asked to make an argument for why your particular course of action is best, and the AWA will prepare you by giving you practice in recognizing both good and unpersuasive methods of argument.
Learning to Skim
During your core coursework for your MBA, you will be given volumes of materials to read, and you will not have time to read every word of every reading assignment. Part of the business school learning experience is learning to be efficient with your time, and being able to filter out paragraphs that are irrelevant to the task at hand. It is important to learn how to skim documents and focus your time on only the relevant parts.
This can be a difficult skill to master, especially to perfectionists who are used to completing every task. The time constraints in your program will force you to master this skill, and it is also a skill that will serve you well in the business world.
From almost the first day of business school, you will be asked to both make arguments and to analyze the cogency of your classmates’ arguments. You will have to zero in on conclusions while recognizing the hidden assumptions behind certain arguments.
The critical reasoning section of the GMAT forces you to pick apart arguments to their component pieces, and then make sure that they combine to support a coherent thought. As a future business leader, you will often find yourselves in situations where two different interests are attempting to sway you in two different directions. One of the most valuable skills you will develop in business school is the ability to discern between good and bad arguments.
One of the biggest gripes we hear at Manhattan Review is the inability to use calculators on the quantitative section of the GMAT. Why, in a world with powerful graphing calculators and spreadsheet programs, are we required to take a test without the use of modern tools?
The answer is that your ability to do mental math will determine how quickly you are able to draw conclusions when working with real-life numbers, even outside of a calculator and spreadsheet setting. We mentioned the importance of skimming a moment ago – this corresponds with an ability to skim documents such as financial statements and balance sheets as well. Mental math acuity will give you the ability to quickly analyze a balance sheet and make sure that the numbers make sense. They will also set off alarm bells when a company’s debt ratio is far too high.
Think of the GMAT as your chance to show off the analytical qualities that business schools want in their program. The GMAT has been the benchmark for measuring business-relevant verbal and quantitative skills for almost 60 years, so a high score on the GMAT will mean that you compare favorably with some of the best and brightest that the business world has ever seen.
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