Top Ten Study Tips for the GMAT™ Exam

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As part of the global effort to contain the spread and mitigate impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus), GMAT™ and Executive Assessment testing has been suspended in many locations worldwide. While we work towards providing an interim online test-taking option in mid-April, now is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of extra study time. Following are ten tips to guide your process. Work toward your best GMAT score with our top ten best study tips:

1) Plan ahead. Business school applications have many components, and the last thing you want is to juggle all of those while preparing for the GMAT on a condensed timeline. To avoid this situation, give yourself at least six months to a year to devote to studying and practice tests. Stay disciplined and use this time wisely by committing to a study schedule.

When establishing a study plan, consider the type of program you’re applying for and focus your energy accordingly. For example, if you’re studying for a Master in Data Science, put extra time toward improving your quantitative score since admissions will likely look more closely at that section than others.

2) Know what to expect. Before you formulate a study plan, make sure you know the structure of the GMAT exam. The test has four main sections:

Analytical Writing Assessment - which measures your ability to think critically and communicate your ideas.

Integrated Reasoning - which measures your ability to analyze data and interpret information displayed in varied formats.

Quantitative Reasoning - which measures your ability to reason mathematically, solve quantitative problems, and interpret graphic data.

Verbal Reasoning - which evaluates your reading comprehension skills, editing abilities, and whether you can make sense of written arguments.

Learn the most frequently tested concepts in each of these sections and practice those until you have a firm grasp on them. You can learn more about exactly what to expect from each section by visiting the pages at mba.com dedicated to Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning.

3) Pick your study materials wisely. There’s an abundance of test prep resources available but choose carefully—not all of these resources are created equal. To best prepare (and simulate the real test-taking experience), use GMAT official prep materials. Since they’re created by the makers of the GMAT, they use the same GMAT scoring algorithm as the actual test, and contain real questions from past exams.

4) Identify your weaknesses (and work on them). While focusing on frequently tested concepts and using official test prep materials are two must-do’s, figuring out which skills need extra attention is also important. You may be self-aware enough to know your weaknesses, but to confirm, take several practice exams to gauge your abilities. Analyze your results and from there, create a custom, targeted study plan to brush up on the areas where you need to strengthen your skills.

5) Keep track of time. Because you have limited time, pacing yourself is paramount to your GMAT success. Once you’ve practiced enough and understand the concepts, start keeping track of time so you can train yourself to efficiently problem solve. Considering the total duration of the test is three hours and seven minutes, you’ll need to pace yourself accordingly as you work through the four timed sections on practice exams. 6) Don’t stay stuck. Remember, there’s a penalty for not completing each section of the test and with each unanswered question, your score decreases significantly. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to answer every question correctly. Do your best, obviously, but stick to a pacing strategy. Don’t invest more than two and a half minutes on any one question. If you’re stumped, make a strategic guess—which brings us to our next point.

6) Don’t stay stuck. Remember, there’s a penalty for not completing each section of the test and with each unanswered question, your score decreases significantly. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to answer every question correctly. Do your best, obviously, but stick to a pacing strategy. Don’t invest more than two and a half minutes on any one question. If you’re stumped, make a strategic guess—which brings us to our next point.

7) Use process of elimination. Don’t waste precious time when you come across questions where you’re unsure of the answer. When in doubt, rule out the wrong answers to get closer to the correct answer. Select the best of the remaining choices and move on to the next question.

8) Practice visual literacy. We’ve established that time management is a critical GMAT test-taking strategy. Looking for one simple way to increase your efficiency? Master visual literacy, or the ability to read symbols, charts, and tables. This type of visual data is commonly featured in the GMAT, so learning how to interpret it quickly is a critical skill.

9) Improve your mental math. Mental math is a time-saving tool you’ll want in your arsenal when it comes to the quantitative section. As you’re practicing, resist the urge to reach for your calculator every chance you get. Instead, practice doing calculations in your head. You won’t have a calculator for the real quantitative section of the test, so honing your mental math skills is a must.

10) Take practice tests. Pair your studying practice tests. By simulating the real test experience, you’ll familiarize yourself with the test format and frequently tested concepts. Not only will this boost your confidence, but it’ll help you to identify weaknesses so you can work on areas that need improvement. Before you even start studying, take a practice test to establish your baseline score. After you’ve started studying, assess your progress periodically with additional practice tests. There are even free practice exams to get you started. 

Don’t just take our word for it! Hear firsthand how one business school student came prepared for GMAT success with these study tips.

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