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Should I quit my full-time job to study for GMAT exam?

It’s not a typical question you’d hear from GMAT exam takers living in other countries. However, it pops up way too often among Indian GMAT MBA applicants. When you ask this question on an international GMAT forum (like GMAT Club or Beat The GMAT), many international MBA consultants would probably not get the context of why Indian applicants are asking this, while others aren’t.

Here are the reasons why some Indian GMAT test takers are more than willing to leave their jobs to focus full-time on the test.

1. Among the most crucial MBA entrance exams in the world

The GMAT is the single most important entrance exam for MBA colleges abroad. Unlike in India, where the CAT has several alternative MBA entrance exams offered by some Indian business schools (SNAP, XAT, JMET, MH-CET, CMAT), when it comes to the top overseas MBA programs in the world, with a very few exceptions, almost all the others insist on a good GMAT score.

Sure, you have the GRE as well, but GMAT still comes up on tops for MBA applications. Read this post – GRE vs GMAT.

2. Precedents in other entrance exams

You’ve heard your seniors doing it for other entrance exams for MBA (like CAT) and other competitive entrance tests (e.g. IAS / Civil Services). And you do hear stories about some folks who’ve cracked those entrance exams in the second or third attempt. So it might seem natural to quit your job for GMAT as well.

3. Unbearably high work pressure

Even if you were able to prepare for it along with your job and get a decent GMAT score, your fellow applicants will plant the seeds of self-doubt in your head.

There’s always the nagging feeling that you might’ve done much better if you didn’t have the regular distractions and stress of a regular job interfering with your GMAT study plans.

Should I quit my job to prepare full-time for the GMAT exam?

The short answer is – Don’t do it. Here’s why it is bad idea to leave a job for GMAT prep even if you have a super solid study plan to crack the GMAT.

1. MBA Application Evaluation process for GMAT MBA colleges is different

Unless you have a very low GMAT score, it won’t be a make-or-break decision for Admissions officers. They’d be interested in seeing what else you bring to their MBA class.

The other extreme is also true. Getting a perfect 800 score on the GMAT surely looks impressive. But it won’t guarantee you a seat at the elite B-schools. In fact, you might have other issues to tackle with an abnormally high score.

2. It reflects poorly on your time-management and multi-tasking abilities

These are traits that are highly crucial for managers and leaders of the future. Your post-MBA employers will expect that you have these. In fact, why only after graduation, these qualities are important for you during the MBA course too.

The big uncomfortable question – if you can’t manage a single entrance exam before the official program has started, how will you traverse the rigours of multiple assignments, presentations, projects and pre-class work (e.g. case studies) and keep pace with the rest of your classmates?

3. Your competitors from other countries aren’t doing it

Unlike in India where some Adcoms might at least have the context (though not the appreciation) of why you might’ve quit your job, Admission officers abroad are more likely to raise their eyebrows when they see a gap in your resume.

For them, the more probably reasons are those that apply to applicants from any other country – that you got laid off from your job or took a voluntary break for some another reason (e.g. illness, family issues).

4. Your decision to resign from your job will have other repercussions

Remember that you have a whole year or more to go before your MBA classes start. And that’s assuming you score high…and put in a strong application…and get into a good MBA school…and are able to arrange the MBA education loan…and clear the F1 student visa approval process.

There are too many uncertainties along the way.

Alright, let’s keep things simple and assume Murphy doesn’t play spoilsport along the way. and you do get an admission in the program of your choice. Quitting a job one year (or more) before the MBA program officially starts would mean you’d have to start hunting for another job after you have completed the MBA application process.

Not worth it, my friend.

I understand. But my job commitments just don’t allow me to study for GMAT.

We have come across some applicants who work in locations where even the basic infrastructure is missing. Others are stuck in a work culture and shouldering workloads that truly make it impractical to do justice to any extra-curricular activities (including GMAT prep).

If you are in such a situation facing genuine difficulties, here’s an option where you don’t have to resign from your job just for GMAT prep.

Make use of your mandatory / casual leave. If you’ve started planning early for your MBA applications, take care not to exhaust your casual leaves. The annual casual leaves offered by most companies is enough for you to squeeze in the bulk of your test prep work. Even if you can’t complete the study plan.

If you don’t have any CL left, you could request the HR department for a sabbatical (unpaid or otherwise).

What if all options fail, and you are forced to quit your work in the single-minded pursuit of your dream?

In that case, try to convey the rationale to the Adcoms in your application. Don’t make them use their imagination to connect the dots. The optional essay might be a good place to do this. Not the best way to make an impact though.

Are you planning to (or have already) quit your job for GMAT study? What prompted you to take the decision?

If you’re looking for some professional help to increase your odds of getting into your dream school, check out our top-rated admissions consulting services.

Also read:
GMAT study plan for working professionals
How hard is the GMAT?
Low GMAT score success stories
Colleges accepting low GMAT scores

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

32 thoughts on “Should I quit my full-time job to study for GMAT exam?”

  1. hey i have completed my graduation , currently pursing my mcom frst year and preparing for gmat so its this the valid 16th years of education profile of mine for MBA in us .?

  2. I have done my and am yet to join in job. I am very serious aspirant of MBA, as i belong to civil, my work is much at site than in office so i will have very less time for preparing for GMAT. How can you help me.

    • We can’t help with GMAT prep, Naren.

      You could develop a self-study plan that suits your schedule by picking up a few good GMAT books or considering online GMAT courses that you can take at your own pace.

  3. Hi Sameer,

    I am a Post Graduate in Science. I have held Senior Management and Middle Management positions in the IT Industry including some top 10 Software companies in India and Worldwide, for 24 years.

    I am on a sabbatical now and would like to utilise this time productively. I plan to go back to full time employment in Corporate sector after this. However, I would be 50+ by that time and I am not sure if I can get a full time employment due to the age discrimination widely prevalent in the Industry. In such a case, I want to do Private Practice / Consulting or take up teaching. It is also possible that I may relocate to USA or Singapore.

    I think an MBA in Finance or Strategy would help me in getting back into Senior Management position. Other options that I am thinking about are CISA, CIMA, CFA, Actuary (ACET) and / or LLB so that I can be a Actuary / or Copyright / Intellectual Property Consultant.

    Since I am not sure about my future employment prospects, I can’t afford to spend huge money as Course Fees. I may be forced to keep my current savings as my retirement corpus. Secondly, I would prefer a Weekend program since it gives me an opportunity to take up some employment even now. Thirdly, if attending classes in the weekend, I can do so at Bangalore only. You may kindly keep this in mind. Regards.

    I would greatly appreciate your Advice in this regard. Since I want to do the course from June 2015, your early reply will be very helpful. Thanks.

    • Shankar,

      You are right about the psychological barrier that corporates seem to have about recruiting experienced MBA grads.

      We wrote this post to break some myths – Why hiring executives from one year GMAT MBA programs in India is a good idea

      However, there are also limitations about what an MBA can do for someone with ‘too much’ experience (from Adcom’s perspective).

      Part-time and weekend programs come nowhere close to full-time programs in building credibility for career changers.

      With all the experience that you have, it would help you to explore opportunities where you aren’t put in the same boat as those with relatively low experience (which is what an MBA would end up doing).

  4. Hi Sir,

    I currently have 7+ years of work exp. with ITES/BPO company,i am 30 years old.I wish to apply for the PGP program at ISB for 2016 batch.I wish to prepare for GMAT by taking a 2 months sabatical.Please advise if i should prepare for GMAT along with my job or take a break for a better score.

    Also kindly advise the GMAT cutoff score for ISB.


  5. Hi Sameer,

    I must say that this is a brilliantly written article! I have driven myself crazy and spoken to admissions consultants, posted on forums, checked with alumni and others who have done their MBA to verify if resigning to prepare for the GMAT is a wise decision but always received mixed responses. Your article articulates the pros and cons very well and has helped strengthen my determination to continue working and studying for the GMAT together. If others can, so can I! So, thank you 🙂

    • Alison,

      Glad that you found the post helpful.

      While a lot of queries in the MBA process (self-study vs classroom courses for GMAT, admission consultants vs independently managing essays, 1 year vs 2 years) might have a ‘Well, it depends‘ kinda answers, this is among the few where we are pretty clear about the approach.

      Good luck with your applications.

  6. Hi Sameer,

    Thanks for all your inputs on MBA and GMAT,I found,this site had complete info on whole MBA process.I had some queries on my MBA career,i feel,your are the right guy to help me.I had completed my BE(Mechanical Engineering) in 2007 and same year went for PGdiploma in Project Management in UK.And came back to India after 3 years and started working in IT concern from 2011 to still date.After that i started preparing for my GMAT.With this background, do I able to get an admission in any good named univ around the world? Do I have any options on finance support from universities (I am not well financially).And what will be the best score to get the scholarships from universities.

    Thanks in Advance,

  7. Sir,

    I have completed my Engineering in E&C . After that i am working for past 4 years in industrial automation in a company called ABB Ltd hence an exp of 4+ years. Our job is mostly on site and no fixed periods. But that don’t discourages me to go for GMAT. But right now i am bit concerned about where do i start from and what is the way in which i should proceed. Should i get enrolled into some tutorials??? Moreover which books should i refer kindly provide me some reference. Where and how should i start and proceed so that i can get decent colleges from where i don’t have worry about my future.

    Kindly please suggest me as I am at sea.

    You graceful suggestion is awaited.

    Thanks in advance

    Avirup Chakravorty

  8. Hi Sameer,

    Here is a gist of my profile:

    X: 85.46%
    XII: 74.17%
    BE(IT) : 70.13

    Total 4 years 9months years of experinec in IT (resigned from job)
    Includes 15 months of onsite(US) experience

    Extra curriculars not much:
    Carrom competion winner at engineering college
    Member of fun event organizing committe at organizational BU level
    Awarded with “Pat on Back” and top rated consistently at office.
    Client appreciations and awards
    Adventure sport – skydiving

    Due to unavoidable circumstances had to resign and would have 4yrs 9 months exp by Aug mid(my last date)

    I am more interested in Ecommerce and IT.However open to operations/marketing.

    Would you suggest going for CAT 2015(category candidature may come handy) along with GMAT by the end of year.
    What are the colleges that i can look for(1-yr course) – SPJAIN/IIMs/Great lakes
    Also could you please suggest what is the best time for GMAT keeping the dates for college admissions?


  9. @Harish: Sure, you can apply for an MBA. Your post-graduate degree from the UK might help, if it was selective and rigorous enough. On the financing part, you could write a strong application and aim for GMAT MBA scholarships.

    @Avirup: Here’s something to get you started: How to get into the top MBA programs in the world.

    @Tushar: Ditch the CAT and focus on GMAT. Round 1 deadlines are in Sept/Oct. It’ll be good if you can get a good GMAT score a month or two before, so you can focus on your MBA essays, recos etc.

  10. Hello Sameer,

    I completed my engineering in 2011 and have been working in Tech Mahindra for the last three years. I’ll be completing 27 years of age, come Nov 1st, 2015.
    Please suggest if an executive MBA in India would be worth it at, this stage of my career or should I be putting stress on an MBA from a foreign university.
    Awaiting your thoughts upon this.

    Warm regards,

  11. Dear Samir Sir,
    I am an elec engineering gold medalist from NIT. Currently i am working in a public sector corp in India for the last 2 years. Besides my academic achievements, i have been involved in community services as well since my school days. I wish to pursue masters in business admin. however, my current work culture and schedule has stymied my prep plans (i m wrking fr almost 14 hours on a regular basis with no offs, even on sundays). I m desperate to quit my job and go for full time prep…kindly suggest in this regard…

  12. Hi Sameer Sir

    I am a Grad followed by a Post Graduate In Banking along with a 5 years Plus Experience in Banking – Financial Sales . I am looking for an Executive MBA or an Masters in Finance with an Aim to specialize and learn more about Financial Strategies & to enhance knowledge in the financial domain, to make a stronger career in Finance . Considering the Job role I am in , I am finding it really difficult to study along with the Job for GMAT prep. Moreover with a 5 year gap between the last education and now , a bit of time would be required to brush up and then garner a respectable GMAT score . Although I read the post thoroughly and suggestions came for CL , Sabbaticals , but it seems it would be very difficult to get that at my Role . I understand that Multi tasking definitely needs to be practiced .But i would still ask, How relevant would be a move to resign and study for GMAT prep & college entrances . What would you suggest in this scenario ??

  13. hey sameer
    i had to drop out of my job for family reasons. However i am planning to take the GMAT in the coming month and planning to apply fr the next year. Should i search for another work or can i be involved with some charity organisation like MAD??…

  14. Hello MBA Crystal Ball,

    I am an Indian student who completed bachelor’s in computer application last year. I am trying to figure out a few things and i hope that you can help me out.

    My degree score is just around 60% and ive not attended the GMAT yet. I was thinking about doing an MBA (specializing in marketing), abroad so that i can get a rich international exposure as well as a great experience. I would like to know which countries are the best option for me considering the current situations. Please sort some options considering factors like Cost of living, Quality of education, Job Prospects etc.

    Also I am planning to do well in the GMAT and get a good score. Will universities just take me in given my good GMAT score or reject me since my degree scores are low regardless of the good GMAT score.

    P.S What do you think about doing an MBA from Germany ? Will be able to land a job there after my course ? I would certainly learn German but would prefer the course to be taught in English. Do you know some good universities.

    Thanks in advance
    Yours Faithfully

  15. Hi Sameer,

    I am an indian chartered accountant with 8 months of post qualification experience.I have also passed my CFA level one exams.I work in a boutique investment bank.
    I am considering doing a masters in finance degree(since it would open up geographies and give me a fresh start on recruitments, dont have a strong undergrad degree) from a school such as the Sloan school of business.I would like to break into a top management consulting firm, investment bank or a private equity firm.Do you think it is a good idea?
    would it help my MBA prospects?


  16. Hi Sameer,

    I am a Chartered Accountant with All India Ranks at all the three levels of CA course. I have also cleared Level 1 – CFA exam and have other two levels lined up in June 2016 and 2017. I have three years articleship (internship) experience at PwC (one of the big 4 firms, so the work was good and challenging).

    I also have various achievements and awards at office (work related) and few in school.

    I have interests in the MBA course and have been reading a lot of articles of yours. What is the best time to do an MBA course, if I am aiming for a B-school at the UK?


  17. Hi,
    I quit my job to relocate to Bangalore from Vadodara, without any job offer in hand. I need to go back to Bangalore and start searching for a job.
    Is it a right choice to take a 2 to 3 months gap before joining (if I get a job immediately) and finish my GMAT (i have been planning for my MBA and I have 3 and a half years of work experience)?

  18. Hi Sameer,

    I have recently quit my job due to some profile issues and now I am actively searching for a job. I am also planning to prepare for the GMAT and try to score well. So shall I start preparing and simultaneously look for a job or first get a job and then start preparing. Kindly advise.

  19. Hi Sameer

    I am a commerce graduate with a total of 6 yrs of work-ex – 2 yrs of work-ex in operations with the best invest bank and 4 yrs of work-ex in corporate banking (business role) at one of the biggest pvt sector banks in India. Since a sabbatical isn’t an option and my current job doesn’t allow me time to prepare, I plan to resign and prepare for the GMAT and apply to B schools in India, US and Singapore. This article articulates why it’s not a good idea to do that.

    I am passionate about travel and have always wanted to do a 2-3 month travel before my program commences (after my admission is confirmed). I have an orthopaedic issue which requires me to rest to begin with and work on my fitness to be able to take the tour. My tour also includes working for various NGOs along the way. Prior to the tour and after I resign I also plan to volunteer at NGOs in my city. Given these reasons, if these are articulated, would it be accepted/considered by adcoms?


  20. Hi,

    i’m currently working with an IT MNC. I’ll complete my 2 years here in the month of October.So i’m really worried about the work experience criteria these B-schools have, some of them do not mention in their eligibility criteria, but I’m aware the preference is given to those with good no. of years as work experience. And also it affects studying there, like after I have been admitted in one of the universities, the other guy in my class has 7+ years of work experience,and I’m still 2+. should I go gmat now or should I wait for more years ? How does the work experience effects the selection process and all?

  21. @Nikhil and Rahul: You will not get a job immediately after beginning the search. You can prepare for the GMAT and find a job in parallel. That’ll be a better use of your available time.

    @VR: That’s quite a complicated and risky schedule. Why put your health at risk (given your orthopaedic issues) just before you are going to make one of the biggest investments of your life? If I were you, I’d focus on one thing and get it out of the way first and then think about the other.

    @Mahak: It’s better if you wait for 1-2 years more and then consider a foreign MBA, for the exact reasons you’ve cited.

  22. @Sameer Thanks for the Article. Very well written and informative. I work as a Country Manager for 2 countries in the Middle east. My current work does not allow me time for myself or the GMAT prep. I have decided to take a break and pursue the MBA dream. Planning to give the GMAT by December.

    Regarding the “Adcoms connecting the dots” statement you made, if I can get strong references from my current organisation and also show my commitment in achieving a great GMAT score (by quitting a well-paid job) in my essays, would it be convincing (according to you) for the Adcoms..

  23. Sameer,

    Iam planning to quit my job due to health issues that cropped up due to long working hours. Once i quit i plan to take up CPA ( iam already a CA with 5 years post qualification experience at a big 4) and study for MBA as well since i will have some free time on my hands. Cant i offer health as a reason to the Ad com if questioned about the career break ? Should i do something else additionally to ensure the break doesnt reflect badly on my multitasking skills ?


  24. Sir
    I gave my gmat without any prep and got a 540 on Gmat which is very low.i am a gold medalist in electrical engineering with pretty good acads.
    Engg:8.8 pointer.
    I have a work experience in Reliance industries of 2.5 years.i am planning to quit my job.
    Can i get into any B school like great lakes or Nus singapore?or should i give the gmat again?

  25. Hi
    I have already quit my job because of recurring cultural and moral issues in my company where I worked. I was fed up. I have been unemployed for 3 months during which I worked towards starting my own business unsuccessfully. I tried looking out for work opportunities but I am unable to find any. Now I plan to take the GMAT and get into a B-school, how badly would it affect my chance of getting into a good college, or how do I save my case?

  26. Hi Sameer, I am shubham , I have been working with TCS for last 3 years and have tried to squeeze in my GMAT preparations wherever and whenever I could but now with the added roles and responsibilities I am having a tough time coping with both. I am planning to quit my job and prepare for GMAT so as to try for the September intake.

    Please suggest what should I do.


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