S2S MBA Guide

Beating the Test

1) Test Prep Company or Not

Test prep companies such as Veritas Prep, Manhattan Prep, and Kaplan offer structured environments that are ideal for military applicants out of school for several years. Test prep companies are thorough because they cover every aspect of the test. Some companies such as Princeton Review are known for covering the basics, while other test companies like Manhattan Prep are known for their detailed instruction on even the most arcane and rarely tested material. More than just test coverage and analysis, the test prep companies aid military applicants because they provide a structured setting. Hence, we usually recommend that veterans take a prep course. While the majority of the classes offered are in a structured classroom setting, some test prep companies offer self-paced online instruction. Also of note: many test prep companies offer a military discount.
The downside to preparing with a test prep company is that some prep companies provide material that is too basic or moves too slowly over topics that an applicant already understands. Moreover, some transitioning veterans who are still serving simply do not have the time to take these classes. For those who are busy with work, two good options are online classes or self-study.
With self-study, studiers can move at their own pace, focus on weaknesses in a certain area, and forego paying for a test prep class. However, we are generally skeptical of self-study because it is difficult to keep disciplined for several months without getting distracted. Also, score improvement guaranties offered by many test prep companies are another compelling reason for vets to use a test prep company. Should you decide to take the individual study path, you still should rely on the test prep material provided by prep companies provide.

2) Simulate test conditions and eliminate areas of weakness

Whether you decide to self-study or enroll in a test prep company, it is very important that one balance studying with test taking. Taking numerous tests without focusing on weaknesses is poor management of time. However, practicing on sample problems to hone overall ability can lead to a false security as doing so eliminates the “time stress/crunch” of test-taking under simulated test conditions. The military stresses rehearsals and battle drills. Battle drills are analogous to simulated test taking and sample problems. A transitioning veteran needs to do both in order to succeed. Because it is so important to simulate actual test conditions, it is also imperative to find and study questions that have been used in previous exams. While test prep companies often provide their own questions, the best questions are those previously administered by the standardized test prep companies.
Save yourself money by not taking the test if you have not yet simulated test conditions or worked through multiple problem sets. A test score will not improve just because you have taken the actual test multiple times . However, your score will improve if you are diligently studying and preparing. A good target is to take 4-6 full length practice tests under timed conditions before ever sitting for the actual exam.

3) Prepare as early as possible; use backward planning

Beware of not allocating enough time to study for the test. Ideally, you will begin to study at least a year prior to your application. . The best possible scenario is that one has prepared for six months and takes the real test. Hopefully, the test taker is satisfied with the score but realizes that one can do even better. The applicant continues to study and six months after taking the first test, one gets the score of one’s dreams. Although one and done would be ideal, it is often not practical. Hence, one should not wait to take the test just days prior to an application is due. Oftentimes this is not feasible because many tests do not report official scores until weeks after the test has been administered.

4) Set Goals

With everything in life, setting goals helps one focus on the mission. Create a list of the schools you want to gain admittance into, and see what they report as their median test score for their latest incoming class. That is the score you should aim to getbeat . Applying to schools is a numbers game. Schools want applicants who have a proven track record and who can handle the rigorous curriculum which students will encounter while they are attending the school. Aim to score either above or at the median test score that schools report. Ideally, one’s test score is not handicapping one’s ability to gain admittance into a certain school.

5) Take time to rest and refit.

One can only take time to rest if one has planned accordingly. That’s why it is really important that one allots plenty of time for test preparation. If one has several months to prepare, one can take breaks in order to avoid test fatigue. Plus, the brain needs to recover after a hard workout (test preparation). When taking a test, bring along a healthy snack that will help sustain your body through several hours of test taking. Taking a four- hour test can be a mentally and physically draining exercise. Bring whatever snacks you prefer, however, make sure you also use these snacks during your mock tests. You don’t want to bring a snack you’ve never had before and then have an unexpected physical reaction. Taking a break can also help avoid straining relationship. Test preparation can be stressful to one’s immediate family, as often it can feel like one test will determine one’s fate. Taking breaks and adding fun activities between intense study sessions will help one break away from the gravitas of test preparation.

6) Leverage online content, but take it with a grain of salt

There are many great websites that provide strategy and helpful hints on how to “defeat” a test. These sites also are great places to share “war stories” about how one did or how one is feeling. However, don’t waste too much time on these websites. Some advice given at these websites should be taken with a grain of salt. While websites geared towards a test or graduate school can be fun and entertaining, they can also include misleading statements.