Your preparation for international Master’s or MBA studies includes taking those admission tests :
- An English language proficiency test (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC)
- Specialised aptitude tests (e.g. GMAT, GRE).
Official test scores are part of the application requirements for admission and often for merit-based scholarships as well.
Test scores ensure that you have the necessary skills to be successful in your chosen programme. Schools usually set requirements for the minimum score necessary to be eligible for admission.
The goal of test preparation
The main goal when preparing for the test is not simply a high score. It is to improve your skills, because you will need them during your studies.
During test preparation you should therefore aim to master reading, writing, speaking, analysis, reasoning, argumentation, quantitative skills, etc. and do all this fluently in English, the language of instruction in international Master’s and MBA programmes.
All these skills are essential for the success of your studies and are transferable to your professional life after graduation.
Usually, the most effective approach is a combination of guided preparation by professional instructors, self-study, and practice.
You can have the guided preparation either on a group course or during individual tutoring sessions. Both can be done face-to-face or online.
It is crucial to start your preparation early and plan for at least three or four months before taking a real test. Remember that a course by itself will not be enough and you will need to plan additional time for self-study and practice through numerous mock tests.
Check your starting level
It is important that you do a diagnostic or sample test in order to check your starting level.
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You need to find out whether you require any additional basic preparation such as improving your English skills, or refreshing mathematical concepts (for GMAT or GRE), before you begin the focused test preparation. If you have the necessary knowledge, you can immediately focus just on the admission test.
If your starting level is not sufficient at this stage, you should start by filling in the gaps. In this case, you might have to reschedule your test preparation because it will obviously take you longer. It is sensible to do a diagnostic test via a preparation centre because you can then get feedback from professional instructors on your level and on the best strategy to prepare.
Select preparation materials
If you are preparing with an instructor, you will get guidance about preparation materials. If, however, you chose to study entirely on you own, you need to do some research.
Start from GMAT Books
There is a huge choice of test preparation books, videos, online advice, sample questions and practise tests. Identify which of them cover the latest changes in the tests and which are most appropriate for your starting level and learning style.
Also, be aware that some books and tools are meant to be used with an instructor, while others are perfect for self-preparation. Always research the reputation of the source which has produced the test preparation aids. Always use the official publications of the test owners (GMAC for GMAT, ETS for TOEFL, British Council for IELTS, etc.).
Monitor your progress
It is important to be aware that test takers usually achieve a lower score on the actual test compared to what they have achieved on mock tests.
When you are working on your own it is critical that you set clear targets and monitor your progress in order to ensure that you are getting closer to your goal. If you are working with an instructor, then he/she will endeavour to keep you on track.
Although many students and even instructors will be using sample admission tests from a variety of sources, it is important to select a single source and use it as a standard to check your progress. Also use mock tests which reflect the difficulty level of the actual tests.
Finally, be open to adapting your approach to test preparation if you do not advance as planned.
Practising has different aims – to keep your concentration during the full test, to develop your sense of timing and time management skills, and of course to master the different types of questions and be able to solve them correctly as quickly as possible. Practising is usually structured at the various levels as you advance with your preparation – you practise a single type of question, or a single section at a time, and finally, you practise full-length tests within the time limit.
It is also important to practise the format of admission test which you will be taking – for example, TOEFL has a paper and pencil format (PBT) and a test taken on a computer (iBT). Even if the test is only offered on a computer, you have to make sure that you practise with the keyboard set-up which is used in the test centre. Also bear in mind that during the test you will naturally be under additional stress. Practising helps you prepare for the test day and perform at your best. Often, especially with the GMAT, test-takers feel that they could have done better, so many of them retake the test to make sure they do the best they are capable of.