Don't Quit Your Day Job: 4 Ways to Fit in Test Prep While Working Full-Time

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Posted by David Recine on 27 October 2016 / 3 Comments

Are you a working, adult professional with their eyes set on getting your MBA degree? If so, one of your biggest challenges when applying will be finding the time to study for entrance exams while you’re working full-time. But it can be done! Let’s look at a few ways you can make sure you’re able to prepare for your entrance exams while still meeting your work responsibilities.

1: Study before you start work

It’s easy to put off test prep until the end of the day. But studying in the evening actually tends to be the worst time of day to study.  After a full day of work most people find themselves too tired and tend have a lot of other things on their mind besides their studying plans. In addition, rigorous mental activity right before bed risks leaving you wide awake once you actually try to retire for the night. You can wind up sleeping very little and being even more tired by your next evening study session.

Instead, studying in the morning before work can be much more sustainable. As you prepare for your exams, try going to bed early and waking up early. Make an effort to get in an hour or two of test prep in the morning when you are freshly rested and well-focused.


2: Study a little on the weekdays, and a lot more on the weekends

You can spend as little as one hour per day on test prep… on the weekdays that is. But just five hours a week of exam prep isn’t enough for most prospective graduate students. You’ll need to make up for lost time on the weekends, ideally studying for at least 10 hours between your two days off. If you can, try to devote as much as 16 hours to study time over the weekend. (Or over whichever two days you have off during your work week.)

Some working test preppers may wonder if it’s OK to study only on the weekends. This can seem appealing, but it’s ultimately not a good approach. Frequent study sessions reinforce your learning and help you steadily build your test skills. If you go for five-day stretches without looking at the exam materials at all, you’ll partially unlearn what you studied on the weekend and your progress will be slow going.


3: Schedule some time off

Most jobs will let you take some days off from time to time. Taking several days off to focus exclusively on test prep is a good idea, especially as you approach “the home stretch”--- the week or two before test day.


4: Make a realistic study plan

The most important thing you can do is to make a realistic timeline for your test prep. You need to make a study plan that allows you to become completely test ready, while still leaving time for both work and self-care. This means giving yourself a lot of lead time before the test.

Because of this, a truly realistic study plan for GMAT and GRE Prep will be at least a month long. Of course, if you have the time, you should also consider study plans that are longer than one month. If you are particularly weak in some aspect of a test (math, reading, writing, etc…) a timeline of two months, three months, or even more might be for the best.


David Recine began his career in business as a consumer relations specialist for Disney and Wells Fargo. From there, he served as a corporate trainer for Hyundai and the Korean Exchange Bank, while also teaching MBA classes. Currently, David works in product support, marketing, and instruction for Magoosh, a Berkeley-based test-prep company.

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