If you’re hoping to get into a graduate management program like an MBA, you’ll have to take the GMAT. The Graduate Management Admission Test examines applicants in a variety of ways, including testing their analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills. It’s an extremely rigorous test and requires extensive preparation in order to achieve a score that will allow you to apply for the top schools in the country. More than 2,300 graduate business schools worldwide require a GMAT score as part of their selection criteria.
If all this information makes you nervous and apprehensive, don’t worry! There are lots of ways to get support and prep for this test with ease. As such, here are some of our best tips to help you ace the GMAT.
1. Start studying between six months to one year out
It’s generally recommended that students who are new to the GMAT start studying anywhere from six months to one year in advance. This gives them enough time to not only study the material but also familiarize themselves with the format of the test. If you’re re-taking the test, or if you’re already familiar with these types of computer adaptive tests, it’s still a good idea to start studying at least eight weeks ahead of the test date.
There are lots of courses and guides out there that you can use, but do some research first to make sure you’ve picked out the one that’s right for your learning style.
2. Organize a neat and tidy study space
Once you’ve set your test date and acquired your study materials, set up an effective study space. It doesn’t matter where it is. You just need a place where you can work uninterrupted. You’re going to be doing a lot of studying and having a dedicated space will help you separate your study sessions from the rest of your home life.
Many GMAT test prep instructors recommend studying at least 15 to 20 minutes every single day. It will help keep the material fresh and ensures you’re not cramming in long, exhausting sessions as you get closer to your test date.
3. Do a thorough content review, then tackle one section at a time
Although the GMAT tests advanced, high-level skills like quantitative reasoning and analytical writing, it does require a baseline knowledge of specific grammar and math concepts.
During the initial phase of your study, it’s a good idea to review these concepts. Books such as Hacking the GMAT: Sentence Correction will help give you a baseline understanding the grammar, sentence construction, algebra, geometry, and math knowledge you’ll need to understand your study materials.
Once you’ve reviewed this baseline knowledge, tackle the study material one section at a time.
4. Find a study group
A great way to break up the tedium of studying on your own is by joining a GMAT study group. This will give you a chance to talk to other people who are in a similar situation.
There are lots of test prep courses run by organizations like Kaplan, but these are often quite expensive. Joining a website like Meetup will allow you to search in your area and find groups who are prepping or tutoring for the GMAT.
Studying with a group gives you the opportunity to talk through questions and compare answers, but also serves as a support group. These tests, along with the rest of the MBA application process, can be extremely stressful. It’s a relief knowing that you’re not going through it alone.
5. Prep using a computer and a scratch pad to simulate the feel of a real exam
Students who are taking the GMAT are given exactly 127 minutes to complete the four sections:
- 30 minutes for analytical writing assessment;
- 30 minutes for integrated reasoning (30 minutes);
- 62 minutes for quantitative and;
- 65 minutes for verbal.
As of 2017, students can choose which order they’d like to complete the test. The entire exam is taken on a computer, with only the use of a plastic erasable scratch pad for notes.
While there are plenty of hard copy study materials out there, it’s a good idea to do at least a few practice problems or practice tests on the computer, using the same format as the final exam. This will make stepping into the exam room less intimidating and allow you to get used to taking notes on the scratch pad.
6. Practice using the process of elimination to narrow down your options
The GMAT tests your ability to think critically and solve problems efficiently. There is always the same number of questions on each test, which gives you less than 2.5 minutes to solve each one. You are not allowed to skip questions or go back to correct your work.
Your GMAT score will go down significantly if you’re unable to finish an entire section. If you don’t immediately know the answer to a question, it’s best to use the process of elimination to weed out the answers that you know are wrong. If you’re unable to solve the question efficiently after 2.5 minutes, make your best guess and move on so you can focus your energies on a question that you can solve.
7. Pick up a prep tool that specifically targets trouble sections
Unless you’re a special kind of genius, chances are there will be sections of the GMAT that feel easier than others. This will depend on your interests, as well as your academic background and personal aptitude.
If you find that there’s one section where your practice scores are lacking, pick up a prep tool that will target the areas where you need to show improvement. Tools like the GMAT Write, IR Prep Tool, and GMAT Focus Online Quantitative Diagnostic Tool are available for as little as $19.99 and will offer immediate feedback as well as a plan to help you improve.
8. Plan your exam day route in advance
Now that you’ve done all your preparation and have been studying for months, the best thing you can do is make sure you’re ready on the day of the test.
Plan your route to the testing center in advance and give yourself plenty of time to account for delays or transit problems. Having to rush will only kickstart your anxiety and prevent you from thinking clearly during the first part of the test.
During the test, there are two optional eight-minute breaks, which most test prep instructors recommend taking. The test itself is over three hours long, which is a really long time to be sitting in one place. Walk around a bit, stretch, drink some water, and eat a nutritious snack. You’ll feel much more clear-headed afterward.
Taking the GMAT may feel intimidating, but there are so many things that you can do to help yourself prepare. There’s no need for rush, stress, or anxiety if you’ve studied well in advance and have done everything you can to learn the material. All you need to do is step into the examination room with courage and use the knowledge you’ve gained to ace that GMAT.
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