GMAT prep is a critical step in , since this standardized test is a common requirement for graduate business schools. Preparing for the GMAT is tough, but necessary if you want to score well on the test and get into MBA programs, which are notoriously competitive. This is reflected in the and , where average GMAT scores are a strong deciding factor. In this article, we’ll learn about the best GMAT prep strategies, a step-by-step guide to success, plus sample questions and answers to practice with.
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The key to successful GMAT prep is to use personalized prep strategies. Every student has different ways of learning and studying, and the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) is not a one-size-fits-all challenge.
By personalized prep strategies, we mean the best GMAT prep is to use the studying methods that work best for YOU. Some students learn best by using prep books or watching webinars. Other students might prefer a or one-on-one tutoring. Maybe you prefer reading test questions aloud to yourself to reason out the answer. Or you might enjoy working in study groups to bounce ideas off of each other.
There is no secret recipe to ace the test, and there is no guaranteed strategy to approach its different sections. Conquering this exam means employing the prep strategies that work for you and applying them to the GMAT’s unique format.
The format of the GMAT is one of the things which makes this test so hard to master. Fortunately, the skills required to ace the test are skills you can learn and improve. And with a personalized GMAT prep plan, you can develop these necessary skills in a way that works for you.
How Hard is the GMAT?
Just how difficult is the GMAT? It is one of the most difficult graduate level entrance exams out there. It is often compared to the LSAT for law school admissions and the MCAT for medical school admissions. Although not as long as the grueling MCAT or unique as the LSAT, the GMAT is undeniably tricky.
This is because the GMAT does not require subject knowledge or memorization of content. It tests your ability to reason and problem-solve more than anything. The questions are complex and intentionally tricky to understand. Very few students can go in and ace the GMAT on their reasoning ability alone, since this is a skill that takes time to develop and needs to be sharpened before the test.
The GMAT is also an adaptive test throughout, meaning that with every question you answer, the next question’s difficulty will change. If you answered a question correctly, the next question will be more difficult. If you answered wrong, the following question will be easier. So theoretically, every right answer increases the difficulty level of your test, making earning a progressively harder.
Does GMAT Prep Matter?
Yes, GMAT prep is important, especially if you want to earn a competitive GMAT score. Your score does matter if you want to get into competitive business schools, including the and the , since these programs strongly consider GMAT scores in admissions.
GMAT scores can determine whether you move ahead in the MBA admissions race or not, since business schools make admissions decisions based on past accepted GMAT score averages. If you don’t meet the average score of past students, you risk being rejected from a program. For example, the average accepted GMAT scores at and are 727 and 738, respectively, out of 800!
If your goal is to get accepted to a top MBA program, you stand a better chance of acceptance with a very competitive GMAT score. And your best chance of earning this excellent score is through effective GMAT prep.
Do I Need to Take the GMAT?
The difficulty of this test can intimidate students hoping to get into business school. While there are , even requirement, the vast majority of business schools do require and use the GMAT to evaluate applicants. Some allow you to choose between the , but the test is still one of the most common .
If you do need to take the GMAT to get into your top choice business school, know that it is possible to prepare for the GMAT and earn a good score. The test IS hard, but it’s not impossible to master.
To help you with your GMAT prep, we’ll dive into everything you need to do to get started and the strategies you can use to ace it.
To get the right start on your GMAT prep, there are a few steps to take before you buckle down and start studying. We’ll cover each of these steps you need to take so you can set yourself up for success on GMAT test day.
#1 Learn what’s on the GMAT
The first step to effective GMAT prep is, you might have guessed, knowing what’s on the test. While the different GMAT sections and question types might be familiar to you, giving them a thorough review will ensure there are fewer surprises.
Here’s a look at the entire GMAT, including the different sections and time limits, as well as the score ranges. It’s a good idea to review how the GMAT is scored and the so you can understand how you are being evaluated in each section.
#2 Take a diagnostic test
The easiest way to become acquainted with the GMAT is to take a diagnostic test. This is an initial practice test, so you can better gauge what your weaknesses on the test are, what your strengths are and give you an overall impression of the GMAT’s challenges.
There are official practice tests you can use for your diagnostic test, offered by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the organization that administers the test.
A GMAT diagnostic test will be the best way for you to make a self-assessment. You can find out which question types were most difficult, or which sections you disliked the most. It’s the same strategy as using an to prepare for MBA admissions interviews. A practice test is the closest simulation to the real thing, just as a mock interview is a way to rehearse your interview before the real deal.
#3 Choose your GMAT prep resources
Once you have a better idea of what the test is like and how well you scored on your diagnostic test, you can start preparing your GMAT prep resources. This might be decided by your own study preferences and how you study best.
Again, personalized prep is the key here, so use the studying materials that work best for you. If a studying strategy isn’t working for you halfway through your study schedule, you’ll be losing out on valuable prep time and won’t be effectively preparing yourself for the GMAT.
Decide if you’d rather self-study or if you think extra help might be worth it for you. Gather all the study materials you’re going to use, so they are close by and on hand when you start studying for the test.
#4 Choose a GMAT test date
The GMAT comes in both a written version and an online version. Test-takers can also choose whether they want to write the test at an official testing center or complete the online test at home. When choosing your GMAT test date and registering, you’ll need to consider:
- What test format you prefer (online or written)
- What testing location you prefer (testing center or at home)
- Your MBA application deadline
- When your GMAT scores will be released
- How long you need to study for the GMAT
- If you’ll need time for a retake
for the online version of the test open 6 months ahead of time. This essentially gives you a 6-month study period if you choose the earliest available date. If you feel like you need more prep time, you can choose a later date. You can also schedule an online GMAT up to 24 hours before the available testing slot, but you may not be able to cancel without a fee.
When selecting a date, you’ll also factor in when your MBA applications are due and when you can expect scores to be released so you can send them to MBA programs on time.
Many MBA programs accept your highest score in the event of multiple test attempts, so if you’re unhappy with your score or concerned you won’t score high enough, give yourself enough time to schedule a retake and time to study with an improve strategy.
There are hundreds of GMAT testing locations, but there may not be a convenient one near you. If there isn’t, you can opt to take the test at home, so long as you have a suitably quiet location and meet all the technical requirements. If you do plan to take the test at a testing center, review the test day requirements so you’re prepared and don’t forget to bring anything vital on the day of your exam.
#5 Review test day requirements
This might seem like a straightforward GMAT prep step, but it can eliminate surprises and reduce stress!
Checking in at a test center for the GMAT involves a fairly intensive security screening process. You’ll need to provide an acceptable, valid ID, sit for a digital photograph, provide a digital signature and even have your palm vein scan, in some cases.
The GMAC provides a full test day checklist, including acceptable forms of ID and prohibited items at the testing center, so review these instructions carefully!
If you’re taking the test online at home, you’ll need to review the system requirements and regulations ahead of time. If you don’t follow testing regulations, your test date or scores may be canceled.
#6 Create a detailed study schedule
Creating a detailed study schedule will give your GMAT prep some structure and purpose. It will keep your studying organized and keep you accountable for your set studying hours.
To create a schedule, you’ll have to determine how many hours per week you can block off for studying and how many months your schedule will be. The recommended number of study hours is around 100-120 hours. Most students take 2 or 3 months to study for the GMAT, but this schedule can be shifted to accommodate your own schedule and the number of hours per week you have free to study.
A majority of your studying time will be taken up by taking practice tests or completing practice questions, rather than straight content review or memorization. Take into account when you’re building your schedule that it will likely take several hours to complete and review a practice test or set of practice questions.
When taking timed practice tests, you’ll want to simulate the real test environment as closely as possible, which means eliminating distractions and blocking off a solid 3 hours to write it uninterrupted. Give yourself flexibility when creating your study schedule and set realistic weekly studying goals.
Now that we’ve covered the initial steps of GMAT prep, we’ll explore what additional strategies your test prep should include.
1. Content Review
Content review is an important part of your GMAT prep, although this is more about gaining familiarity and understanding of how the test functions than memorizing subjects or topics. Prior subject knowledge won’t help you answer questions any better, but understanding the different GMAT question types and some of the concepts covered on the test will.
For example, in the Quantitative Reasoning section the questions will be focused on problem-solving and data sufficiency. The Verbal Reasoning section includes, of course, reading comprehension questions and critical analysis, but also asks you to identify sentences with correct grammar and spelling. The Integrated Reasoning section is a bit more complex, but it requires careful reading, analysis of visual data and for you to make inferences and draw conclusions based on limited information.
2. Personalized prep strategies
Once you understand what’s on the test and the types of questions to expect, you can better implement your personalized prep strategies. As we’ve mentioned, these are the key to acing the test.
You may choose to join a study group, use question banks and flashcards, create quizzes for yourself or explain test concepts or arguments to someone else. It can also help to read questions and answers aloud and explain your reasoning verbally or on paper. For the analytical writing assessment, you can find past GMAT essay topics and write short essay responses for them.
Of course, there are solid question and answer strategies you can employ for GMAT questions. As an example, the integrated reasoning section relies on you analyzing and interpreting visual data. There are some strategies you can use to tackle these questions more easily, since they are similar to .
3. Practice tests and questions
Taking practice tests and completing practice questions are the best way to practice using your personalized prep strategies. Essentially, repeat, repeat, repeat until you are consistently getting the score you want on practice tests.
The reason why practice tests are so useful and important is because they are a simulation of the real GMAT. Use the official practice tests if you want the closest simulation in both difficulty and format, but practice questions can help, too.
It’s a good idea to practice with both timed and untimed practice tests. When you’re taking a timed practice test, try to simulate the real testing environment, too, by finding a quiet place free of distractions and using only the materials permitted in the testing center. The real GMAT also allows you to choose from 3 different “section order” selections, so mimic your preferred choice during your practice tests.
4. Test stamina building
The GMAT is a long test, and the ticking clock can cause some anxiety for test-takers. With the level of difficulty and the 3+ hour time limit, this can lead to mental fatigue and burnout if you’re not used to it. It’s a good strategy to build your “test stamina” with timed practice tests so you can essentially practice staying focused for many hours at a time and staying sharp.
It also takes some time to puzzle out the answers to the different questions, read carefully and check your work. Practicing your time management and improving your test speed are essential to your GMAT prep.
Below we have some practice questions and answers for each section of the GMAT you can use as part of your GMAT prep! It’s important to practice with sample questions from all core sections of the test and learn how to approach each GMAT question type.
Integrated Reasoning Practice Questions and Answers
1. Multi-Source Reasoning Sample Question
2. Two-Part Analysis Sample Question
Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions and Answers
1. Problem Solving Sample Question
2. Data Sufficiency Sample Question
Preparing your MBA statement of purpose? Here's a quick guide:
Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions and Answers
1. Reading Comprehension Sample Questions
2. Critical Reasoning Sample Question
3. Sentence Correction Sample Question
Analytical Writing Assessment Sample Passage and Question
In this section, you will be asked to write a critique of the argument presented. You are NOT being asked to present your own views on the subject. Specifically:
- Evaluate the argument and plan a response before you begin writing
- Organize your ideas and develop them fully
- Provide relevant supporting reasons and examples
The recent surge in online education platforms has transformed the way people access education. With the availability of online courses, anyone can learn at their own pace, without the constraints of traditional classroom schedules. This democratization of education is undoubtedly a positive development, as it allows individuals from all walks of life to acquire new skills and knowledge.
However, it is important to recognize that online education is not without its drawbacks. One significant concern is the lack of direct interaction between students and instructors. In a traditional classroom setting, students have the opportunity to ask questions, engage in discussions, and receive immediate feedback from their instructors. This level of interaction fosters a deeper understanding of the material and encourages critical thinking.
Additionally, online courses may not be suitable for everyone. Some individuals thrive in a structured classroom environment, while others may struggle with self-discipline and motivation when learning independently online. Without the physical presence of classmates and instructors, some students may feel isolated and less engaged in the learning process.
In conclusion, while online education offers many advantages, it is important to consider its limitations, particularly the lack of direct interaction and the potential challenges it poses for certain learners.
Discuss how well-reasoned you find the argument. In your discussion, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may consider whether the argument makes valid points and supports those points with relevant examples.
Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
What are some of the study resources that can help you with your GMAT prep? Whether you’re looking for paid, professional prep sources or free, self-studying tips, there are many to choose from.
1. What is the best GMAT prep?
The best way to prepare for the GMAT is to use personalized study strategies. Because the GMAT is a fairly unique test that relies on your ability to reason and problem-solve on the spot, traditional study strategies for memorization and subject knowledge will not help you here. Your best chance of success is implementing question and answer strategies that work best for you.
2. How long does it take to prepare for the GMAT?
It’s recommended that you take between 100-120 hours of studying to prepare for the GMAT. A study schedule of 2 or 3 months is the most common, although this can depend on how many hours per week you’re able to study and how long you feel you need to prepare for the test.
3. What should my GMAT prep include?
Your GMAT prep should include personalized test strategies, a review of the GMAT’s content, plenty of practice tests and practice questions (both timed and untimed), and timing strategies to build your test-taking stamina.
4. What is a good GMAT score?
A good GMAT score is typically anything over 700 on the 200-800 scale. At the top business schools in the US, a GMAT score above 710 is considered more competitive. For other business schools with lower average GMAT scores, a competitive score is still well above 630.
5. Can I prepare for the GMAT by myself?
Absolutely. It is possible to prepare for the GMAT with self-study alone. However, every student is different, and it is up to you whether you feel that expert study help is necessary or will help improve your score. If you feel confident in your self-studying methods and are consistently getting a good score on practice tests, you may be fine studying on your own.
6. Do I need to take the GMAT?
The GMAT is commonly required by MBA programs around the world. Although many business schools have moved to a test-optional policy, there are many that still require you to submit GMAT scores. A few business schools may accept the GRE in place of the GMAT, too.
7. Is the GMAT hard?
Yes. The GMAT is an undeniably difficult test, mainly because of its format and the complexity of its questions. While the GMAT is not the easiest, it can be prepared for with effective test strategies and efficient GMAT prep.
8. How many times can you take the GMAT?
You can take the GMAT a total of 8 times in a lifetime, and no more than 5 times in a year. If you plan to retake the GMAT, you’ll need to wait at least 16 days before scheduling a new test. If you decide to retake the test, give yourself plenty of time to improve your study methods.