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5 Tips for Busy Moms Studying for the GRE or GMAT

By Lana Whitehead on October 3, 2019

Graduate School Resources

mom-studying-for-greYou are a rockstar, Mama! If no one has told you yet today, you are doing an outstanding job! If you have not been thanked yet today — thank you for going to bed later than your family so you could pick up the house, waking up earlier than your family to pack the lunches and getting the kids ready for school, and doing all of this with patience and joy (as much as you can muster).

Mamas — we see you and we appreciate you.

The decision to return to grad school is never a simple choice for anyone, but we especially applaud you for taking these first steps in advancing your career by registering for the GRE/GMAT. In addition to your full or part-time profession, and your full-time job raising healthy human beings, finding time to study for these graduate entrance exams will not be easy, but it will be worth it. Here is a quick overview of the tests and five tips to help you study, as you juggle all of your many hats. 

What is the GRE/GMAT?

The GRE and GMAT are both graduate level exams that help showcase your knowledge and skills as part of the admissions process to master’s, MBA and specialized master’s in business programs. Not all master’s programs require these tests, and some prefer one over the other, so it is best to ask which test (if any) is preferred for the degree program you are pursuing.

The exams are designed to evaluate your analytical writing, quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning skills. The results are used by admissions or fellowship panels to supplement your undergraduate records, recommendation letters and other qualifications for graduate-level study.

There are slight differences between the tests. Experts agree that the GRE provides a significant advantage with the ability to go back and answer skipped questions. Some business schools require GMAT scores to be considered for their programs, although it is wise to check because many schools give the tests equal weight.

Now that we've covered the exams, here are five study tips to help you ace them!

Tip #1 — Get Your Family In A Routine

Not only is a disciplined routine good for children and their parents, it will really help your children when you are studying for the GRE and eventually going back to school. As you begin your studying and preparation, sit your kids down and have a conversation with them. Let them know that mom is studying for a big, important test, and the routine around the house is going to be really important.

It will take some adjusting and practice, but as they acclimate to the routine you’ve set up, their independence will equal more study time for you. These reliable chunks of study time will most often be after the kids are down for the night or before you wake them in the morning.

Tip #2 — Study Smart

There are so many ways you can study smart as a mom. When you do sit down to study for the test, make sure you are using your time efficiently. It may seem simple, but actually studying the material that is on the test, identifying and focusing on your areas of weakness and using good prep materials can make a huge difference.

Next, pick a place that will allow you to study productively. Perhaps this is locked away in your room or at a local coffee shop. Designating a space for study can help you to focus better during your study sessions.

Having a set time and place to study will help you get the most out of each session, but don’t forget to bring work with you everywhere you go. Always having your materials on hand will allow you to maximize your productivity, and those 15- and 30-minute study opportunities add up quickly.

Tip #3 — Enlist Help

Set up a study group with others online or in your area who are taking the test. You can find groups online or through GRE/GMAT prep courses. If possible, try and find a mentor to walk through this process with you. It could be a person who has taken the test, an old professor or a GRE/GMAT test prep instructor. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions or for advice, and to reach out to them when you are struggling.

Enlist help around the house. If your children are old enough, assign them some of the household chores. If you have a spouse or partner, communicate with them and ask them to assist you in protecting your study time. When you go off to study, they take the kids. If you do not have a spouse or partner at home, ask family members and friends for help. You might also consider hiring a babysitter a few times a week so you can do some uninterrupted studying.

Tip #4 — Shift Your Expectations

It is okay to shift your expectations in a few areas of your life right now. For this season of life, the house might not be super clean, the kids might not have the most creative lunches, all the laundry might not get done — but everyone will learn to cope and life will go on. If the house is a wreck, everyone is eating PB&Js for the fourth time in a week and the temptation to feel like you let your children and family down hits you — remember that you have not, and cut yourself a break.

It is important to recognize that your kids are learning from your example. Your priority of bettering yourself for your family and persevering in furthering your education is an example that speaks far louder right now than an immaculately clean home.

Tip #5 — Remember To Take Care of Yourself

With everything going on, it is easy to forget about caring for yourself. However, you can’t be a happy mother, a good student or a productive employee if you don’t spend a little time on yourself. Make sure that you care for your mental, physical and emotional well-being. When you take care of yourself in these areas, it leads to more productive and focused study time.

At Kent State, we are committed to supporting mothers studying to better themselves and their families. We have several resources to support you, like our Kent State Women’s Center. The center assists women through advocacy, education, offering referrals, education and information programs and services, and promoting dialogue and collaborative outreach support.

Studying for the GRE/GMAT and going back to grad school is possible as a mother. You are strong, smart and extremely capable of achieving your dream. We can’t wait to see you thrive — you got this mama!

If you are looking for more information about how to navigate the path back to grad school as a busy parent, we want to help! We've created a comprehensive guide that walks you through the process: Everything Moms Need to Know About Going to Grad School.

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Download the Guide


Lana Whitehead
Written by Lana Whitehead

Lana Whitehead is the Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies and the Director of Graduate Admission at Kent State University. Lana attended Northwestern University and enjoyed a consulting career in Chicago before becoming a stay-at-home mom of six children. After earning her master’s degree from Youngstown State University, Lana embarked on a career in higher education. Lana has held positions in academic support, advising, student services and enrollment management. In her free time, Lana enjoys landscaping, gardening and spending time with family.

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Lana Whitehead on October 3, 2019

You are a rockstar, Mama! If no one has told you yet today, you are doing an outstanding job! If you have not been thanked yet today — thank you for going to bed later than your family so you...

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