Yale School of Management

From the Assistant Director of Admissions: 5 Tips for Test Prep Success

September 9, 2016

The most common concern I hear from applicants relates to the Yale MBA for Executives program’s standardized test requirement. Rightfully so: many applicants haven’t taken a standardized test in several years, and the amount of books, courses, apps, and solutions dedicated to “beating” these tests can be overwhelming.

We require the GMAT or GRE as part of our application for several reasons. One reason is that there is only one MBA at the Yale School of Management—Yale MBA for Executives students earn the same Yale MBA as our full-time students. It’s important for applicants to remember that the test requirement is just one component of the application, which we review holistically. To help you prepare in advance of our Round 1 Application deadline on November 1, I have assembled five tips to help you tackle the standardized test requirement. 

1. Choose the test that is right for you.

We have no preference between the GMAT or GRE, but that doesn’t mean you don’t. Many of our current students chose to take the GRE because they were already familiar with it (32% of the Class of 2018 already hold advanced degrees). Another consideration is seeing which tests are accepted by other programs you are applying to. If you still can’t decide between the GMAT and GRE, try answering a few practice questions from each test.

2. Don’t let the GMAT or GRE “beat” you.

Don’t stress over the exam. I know this is easier said than done, but stress is your biggest enemy while preparing for and taking the GMAT or GRE. Stressing out over the exam prevents many great candidates from even applying to a program or taking the test. Instead, use test prep to your advantage. Alumni advise using test preparation time as a proxy for testing how you can fit the MBA for Executives program into your busy life.  Remember that the GMAT or GRE is predictable—you’ll know the format and types of questions beforehand. Also remember that your standardized test score is only one component of your application.

3. Try your best to enjoy it.

The best advice I’ve heard from current students is to try and enjoy test prep—it’s much easier to stick to a study schedule if you enjoy it. For many applicants, this means registering for a test prep course and meeting other aspiring MBAs. If additional structure and “social” studying isn’t effective for you, then try to choose an environment where you can completely “disconnect.” This might mean turning off your email and phone and heading to the library. A lot of current students have told me that they enjoyed the mental stimulation that test prep offered, and that some of the skills they were honing were applicable to what they were doing professionally. If you still can’t find any enjoyment in test prep, it’s OK. Just keep reminding yourself of your end goal and why you are studying for the exam in the first place.

4. Be realistic.

This means devising a realistic “study plan” and setting realistic goals. Many of the test prep resources will offer a suggested number of hours for effective test prep. It’s okay if you can’t dedicate as many hours as suggested. The key is consistency. If you’ve studied a second language, you know that consistent practice is key to proficiency. You can’t cram eight hours of language study into a day and then expect to pick up where you left off a month later. I know several current students who used their daily commute to study for the GMAT or GRE. There are several “on-the-go” test prep options, including flashcards and apps. If you go this route, just remember to occasionally take a full practice test every once and a while. Be realistic about your score, too. It’s all right if you don’t get the score you were hoping for. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

5. Choose a test date and commit.

Choosing a test date early and committing to it will help structure your study plan and will also help motivate you to study and actually take the exam. This sounds simple, and it is. Don’t let stress or procrastination get in the way of your goal of earning your MBA.

Most important, don’t let a standardized test get in the way of your MBA aspirations. If you’re still concerned about the GMAT or GRE, our admissions team is available to help at emba.admissions@yale.edu. You can also join our upcoming application tips webinar for additional tips for presenting your strongest candidacy possible.

Happy studying!

Reilly Hartigan
Assistant Director of Admissions, MBA for Executives

About the author

Rémi Moët-Buonaparte

Associate Director for Digital Communications