Are you preparing for the GRE test or the GMAT test and have little time? Imagine the following. The deadlines to apply to graduate and business schools that interest you are close and you just found out that universities apply for the GRE (Graduate Records Examination) or the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). You do a quick search of course options and decide based on which one groups several hours of preparation in a few weeks. You think that this way, you will be ready faster to take the exam and you can apply by the deadline. You have always been a good student, so you assume that an intensive course will be enough to obtain a competitive score. In fact, if there is an option where you can study in two weeks, or a few weekends for six or seven hours in a row, it seems even more convenient.
The reality is that the intensive courses of the GMAT / GRE do not work in various situations, and will only lead you to invest time, effort and money to obtain slightly or moderately competitive scores. The main reason: these exams are complicated. Furthermore, the average Spanish speaker is unfamiliar with standardized tests, and is used to not preparing for them in time. In this post we will share several points that will explain why an intensive course is not ideal.
You don’t know the exam
Maybe during your life you have taken some standardized tests, probably the PISA test or the university entrance exam is your only experience. The GRE and the GMAT are not the typical exams that evaluate your knowledge, thus being great challenges that measure your skills and abilities in a time pressure situation. From the outset, they require an agile management of knowledge and strategies typical of these tests. In addition, they are in English, which adds an additional level of difficulty as it is not your first language. What is the worst that can happen? Not being familiar with the exam. If you do not know the types of questions, how they are structured and what they are like, there is little you can learn in an intensive course. Remember that the GRE and GMAT are complicated in many areas, and they can be confusing and confusing if you hardly know them at the time of the exam.
The above is related to a reason: your direct competition from other regions of the world is used to these exams and they are prepared well in advance. Therefore, the average Spanish speaker scores well below the international average. He considers that the vast majority handle English and mathematics and dare to take the exam as soon as they know it or not even knowing it. Statistics show that this is not appropriate.
Strategies or knowledge?
When you studied university and lower levels, do you remember how you prepared for your final exams ? You probably made notes, memorized everything you could, or sometimes even fell into the trap of just studying the night before and staying up for the exam. Maybe you were getting good results, or at least decent ones. With the GMAT and the GRE it won’t be like that. And, as already mentioned, there are several points that complicate these tests.
In intensive courses, you are usually shared with specific strategies for the exam. There is no doubt that they are very useful – but not enough – to achieve a good score, since they help you recognize the traps that include incorrect answers and give you the tools to raise your scores. However, for them to help you obtain a competitive score (the one that allows you to enter the best universities), you need to have the basic knowledge. Strategies alone will not reach you even to obtain a mediocre score.
On the contrary, having a solid foundation in quantitative and verbal reasoning is not enough to master the exam. Since you must answer the entire exam in a period of time, an essential skill is to perform the exercises quickly and efficiently, which is acquired only by practicing. Many exercises could be solved correctly with just knowledge if you had three or more minutes. However, during the exam, you have 60 or 90 seconds. Therefore, if you do not know the efficient way to solve each type of exercise, your score will also be much lower than what you could reach by preparing yourself properly.
Less time, less efficiency
Although there are several strategies to study for long hours and be able to be productive without losing concentration, studying intensively represents disadvantages in terms of time management and focus during the process. As long as you study, the distractions don’t go away. In a technological world, the average person checks his cell phone every 12 minutes, and these distractions last an average of 5 and up to 20 minutes.
Considering that an intensive study, let’s say a week, will require at least 30-40 hours. It is possible to study continuously for 1 or 2 hours, but having to study for up to 5 hours assures that you will have at least these distractions and they will take you more than 1 hour in total. Worse still, this will be encouraged because your brain, while studying for a very long time, will wander more easily. Imagine, for example, that you are in a typical college class. You can stay focused for an hour, two hours will cost you a little more work. Now plan to be in the same class for 5 hours a day!
Therefore, prolonged time will favor deficiencies in concentration and focus, which will, in turn, result in less efficiency and effectiveness. Greater distractions and lower productivity.
Even more, remember burnout, an emotional disorder caused precisely by stress that can generate the pressure of studying many hours in a row for your exam. This represents a probability that, the more you study, the more you stress and the exam you will arrive saturated, with a lot of stress, which will decrease your performance.
When preparing, therefore, you should seek a balance between the activities you do per day to give yourself time to distract yourself and concentrate only the time you dedicate (maximum for periods of an hour and a half and 2 hours), and that you study for a period of longer time (in days). An intensive course prevents you from doing this.
You don’t start the same as everyone else
Intensive courses, especially if they are massive, do not adapt to your needs and challenges. Each person assisting has a different starting level, but it is “understood” that everyone knows the same and from there we start. By not having time to do a more in-depth analysis of your profile, the probability that the learning you acquire will be very little increases.
It is common: if you find yourself in a classroom with many people, all with different levels of mathematics and English, it is possible that none of you will learn enough and at the end of the course you will have many doubts. Or also, it could be that you are very advanced, but when you start at another level, what you acquired will become null because you will already know what will be shared. Hence, before learning only the strategies and starting to do the exercises for the GRE or GMAT, you must determine your base level of mathematics and English to eliminate comprehension gaps. For the same reason, it is important that your teachers know this level and work together a plan so that your progress is strategic. This is an advantage that can never be offered in fully intensive courses.
The results of these standardized tests are meaningless if there is no benchmark for comparison. It is not a test where from a certain score you “pass” or “fail”, but rather it measures your skills with respect to the rest of the applicants. Therefore, each test taker of each test center is a candidate with whom you compete to have the best possible score. What makes you competitive is your percentile – the proportion of applicants you outperformed in scoring – which ranks against the percentiles of applicants from every part of the world.
Consider, then, that people from different countries prepare even more for these exams, so the competition becomes difficult, and even impossible, if you do not have a suitable strategy and action plan. Remember: Studying for just a couple of weeks is like pretending to run a marathon and wanting to get to the top with just a couple of weeks to prepare, while everyone else has run for years, practicing for this moment.
What do I do then? What suits me?
The first recommendation is to avoid, as much as possible, rushing through the postgraduate admission requirements. This includes the GRE and GMAT exams. A relatively adequate time is 4 months to prepare for the tests, but the ideal is 6 months. This time will allow you to know your base level, in terms of your knowledge and your initial score in mock exams, and practice what is necessary to reach your target percentile. In addition, you can begin to level yourself if you start at low percentiles, or practice very specific strategies that will help you reach very competitive scores.
Also, prepare a work calendar in which you establish how many hours you will study per day, when you must achieve certain objectives, and in which you mark the date on which you will take the exam. Remember, finally, that best scores are only acquired by practicing strategically, efficiently, and effectively. This is only achieved with a close and experienced accompaniment, not only in exams, but in education. This background allows you to develop action plans tailored to your needs, focused on your especially Spanish-speaking profile, which will help you advance at your own pace and methodically.
It is worth emphasizing that one of the most important factors in test taker success is taking a quality GRE or GMAT course. Here we have the PREP methodology, carefully developed by Harvard graduates with a focus on the Spanish-speaking profile. The success of the methodology is the knowledge and closeness with the students. Our courses offer you the possibility of having a follow-up until the day you get your score. From the beginning, you have individual strategy sessions with your teachers to determine how to study, and we follow up to analyze your action plan.
Part of the flexibility given by being an online course is that you don’t need to live in a certain city to take advantage of them. We have had GRE or GMAT students in Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United States, among other countries throughout Latin America and Europe. Such geographic scope implies taking advantage of all the advantages that Information Technologies provide.