For many, the most agonizing component of completing the b-school application process is the GMAT exam. It does not have to be as stressful as it seems, so long as you plan ahead, and prepare yourself accordingly.
First and foremost, timing is key. This is not like cramming for your history exam in college; staying up the night before hoping to cover all of your class notes and sleeping with the text under your pillow to absorb the material by osmosis. From the moment you consider attending b-school, you should also begin considering the GMAT, including researching potential dates and locations for the exam to help give yourself an idea of what kind of time frame you will have to study. Many Admissions folks will recommend a preparation time of at least 6-8 weeks, with the idea that a couple of hours each night you will be able to dedicate taking practice exams and familiarizing yourself with the format of the exam.
Practice makes perfect. Try taking practice exams online before the big day, and determine what areas could use more attention in your studying to avoid concentrating too much effort in any one area that you have already mastered. It is best to sit down and complete an exam as if it were a real life situation. This will give you a fairly good idea of what to expect when you sit down for the real thing.
We recognize that taking the GMAT does put a dent in your wallet, but there is nothing like having the expertise of surviving an actual GMAT exam under your belt! Prior experience will likely help put you more at ease on your second or third testing day. Most Admissions Offices will take the highest score you have achieved on your exam when considering you for admission to b-school. That being said, taking the exam more than 2 or 3 times will not be entirely useful, nor will it be cost effective, as you apply to MBA programs. My advice is to take the exam, and determine whether or not the score you receive is the score you feel confident in submitting along with your application. If you believe that you can score better a second time around, there is no harm in trying again. If on your first try you are fortunate enough to achieve a score that you are confident with and proud of, then by all means, use this score for your application! Bottom line; do not rush to submit an application that does not have your full confidence. Many schools will not allow you the opportunity to resubmit your scores once you have clicked the submit button on your application, so while you are being deadline conscious in applying, you want to put your best application forward, not your fastest.