Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

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Katie Gardon is Director of Finance & Administration at Real Food for Real Kids, and a Rotman MBA 2015 candidiate.

Even deep into the MBA program, the memory of the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) still lingers. After taking it twice, I realized a significant part of the challenge is the psychological stress, not the content of the GMAT itself.

My experience with the GMAT

Once you start to consider applying to business schools, you’re bound to be overwhelmed with the myriad of GMAT study “advice” on the Internet. You haven’t even seen a practice question and the stress has begun!

The fear of failure got the best of me the first time I prepared for the GMAT and I strung out the studying far too long – about 4 months. Too much procrastination and psyching myself out = burn-out. When I got to the test centre, their elaborate check in process, including hand scanning, stressed me out even more before I was thrown into a room where my time management skills were put to the ultimate test. I don’t remember much other than the rapid beating of my heart.

While I fared well on the first go, I wanted better results, so I retook the test. The first time around, I steered clear of prep courses and avoided booking the test until I was ready. The second time around I found great on-demand study resources and booked my test in advance. This gave me about 6 weeks to study and the opportunity to create a study schedule. Preparing properly made it clear that the test wasn’t really that bad – the hard part was having to answer all the questions under stress and strict time constraints.

So what does this mean for you?

  • Don’t get caught up in the legend that is the GMAT! If you are considering an MBA you likely already have the organizational and time-management skills to hunker down and map out time to study.
  • If you are applying to the Rotman Morning or Evening MBA, or any part-time working professional Master’s program, studying after work and on the weekends will be your reality, so no harm in getting used to it now.
  • The worst thing you can do is procrastinate and worry about how hard it will be.
  • If you need the extra structure and guidance – signing up for a course can definitely help you keep to your schedule.
  • Once you are comfortable with the GMAT material, the best thing to do is to practice the test under actual time constraints. If you can master the pace outside of the exam room, you’ll be in a much better position to obtain your ideal score.

The GMAT is absolutely doable. Just remember to take some deep breaths in between questions.


Rotman offers free GMAT mock exams every few months. Check our Rotman working professional programs admissions event calendars to register for the next one.

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