Study Smart for Your Best GMAT

Sep 19, 2013
Tags: GMAT Prep, Official GMAT, Prepare for the GMAT, Study Tips for the GMAT

Know the Test and Bring Out the Best of Your Abilities

When it comes to studying for the GMAT exam, there are no magic formulas, no secrets, no tricks—just planning and preparation.

Sign up for Official GMAT NewsletterThe most important way to prepare is to become familiar with the GMAT exam to know what it measures and what it doesn’t. It is not an achievement test or a test of your knowledge or memory recall; rather, the GMAT exam assesses your reasoning skills—specifically quantitative, verbal, analytical writing, and integrated reasoning. Remember, the GMAT exam was designed to measure the skills you will need to succeed in business school.

Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Well

The keys to a successful GMAT exam are:

  • Knowing your own skill and ability level, what areas you are good at, and what you still need to master
  • Adjusting your own study habits accordingly
  • Being patient with yourself and the study process
  • Pacing yourself

Of course, the No.1 question most candidates ask is: How much time should I spend studying for the GMAT exam? Frankly, the time you should spend preparing is unique to you, for all the reasons listed above, and not something we can prescribe. We do know how much time others spent this year to prepare for the exam. Using data collected from January to June 2013 from more than 2,500 GMAT test takers, we can see that 52% of test takers spent at least 51 hours prepping for the exam.

Hours Preparing

Study Hours

Those who do better on the GMAT exam tend to spend more time studying for it, on average. But there is no cause–and-effect process at work here. Studying 92 hours does not guarantee that you will score in the 600 range.

We advise you to use the information in the charts as a guideline. And be mindful that the times shown in these charts are all self-reported and are only estimates, not a test-taker’s actual study time. The goal is to determine the time and resources YOU need to prepare. Pacing is key. Here is some further guidance on preparing for and taking the GMAT exam:

Gather Information About Your Target Programs

  • Identify the schools where you want to apply, and check their application deadlines and admission requirements (test scores, GPA, essays, interviews, etc.).
  • Explore mba.com for specific information on schools and programs, the GMAT exam, and available GMAT prep materials.

Register for the GMAT Exam and Develop a Study Plan

  • Keeping in mind school application deadlines, register for the exam. The further in advance you register, the greater your choice of available exam dates.
  • Download the free GMAT® Handbook to learn everything you need to know before sitting for the exam.
  • Develop a study plan that lists not just when but also what you’ll study. Think about how you can best prepare, given your discipline, motivation, and personal preference (e.g., self-study, one-to-one tutoring, study groups, and prep courses).

Familiarize Yourself with the Test Structure, Format, and Types of Questions You Will Face

  • Learn about the GMAT exam structure and get an overview of the four exam sections: Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing Assessment.
  • Download and use the free GMATPrep® software with 90 free practice questions (including Quantitative, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning question types) with answer explanations, and two full-length practice tests based on retired questions from the official GMAT exam. Also check out our free downloadable list of current Analytical Writing Assessment Analysis of an Argument topics.

Establish a Baseline and Pace Yourself

  • Take one of the two free practice exams included in the GMATPrep® Software to identify the skills you most need to study. Remember to replicate actual test conditions during your practice exams: Don’t use a calculator or study materials and try to complete all questions within the allotted time. Remember: Pacing is key. Practice to the point where you don’t need to keep re-reading the question prompts.

Start Studying

  • Study for the GMAT exam until you are comfortable with the test question formats, timing, and pace. You may want to start out with our Official Guide for GMAT® Review, 13th Edition—print or Mobile App version—either of which will link you to more than 900 review questions and answer explanations including Integrated Reasoning.
  • Review your progress and plan strategies to improve your weak areas—the mba.com store contains a range of test prep materials that address specific question types. Select study products that fit your study needs, such as the Verbal and Quantitative review books, GMAT Write® essay practice writing tool, and the GMAT Focus™ Online Quantitative Diagnostic Tool.
  • The GMATPrep® Question Pack 1 Software pairs with the free GMATPrep® Software and includes 404 additional practice questions with answer explanations including Quantitative, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning question types.
  • NEW! Check out our newly released GMATPrep® Exam Pack 1. The software application pairs with the free GMATPrep® Software and includes two new full-length practice tests based on retired questions from the official GMAT exam.

Assess Your Progress

  • After spending time studying for the exam, take your second free GMATPrep® practice test. How well did you do? Do you need more time? Did you improve in your weaker areas and maintain your strengths? Use the results to further direct your studies.
  • Focus on your problem areas but don’t forget to review the areas where you do well.

Ultimately, it’s how smart you study, not just how long you study that matters. Plan a study strategy that allows you however much time you need to feel prepared and one that addresses your own test-taking challenges so that your exam results reflect your ability and not your knowledge or lack of knowledge about the test.

For more test-taking strategies and advice on mistakes to avoid in the GMAT exam see Prepare for the GMAT®.

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