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GMAT Practice Exams: The Lesser-Known Benefits

Nick Harland

Nick Harland

Nick Harland is a freelance writer specializing in business education. His work has been published by organizations including the AACSB, MBAGRADSCHOOLS, INSEAD Business School and the University of Sheffield.

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Forrest SeamanEvery MBA student has their own story to tell – but Forrest Seaman’s is more unique than most. He was in the military before his MBA, serving for eight years in the United States Marine Corps.

Now a second year MBA student at University of Texas McCombs School of Business, he explained to us how he balanced his military work with GMAT revision, the value of GMAT Official Practice Exams, and how the exam has continued to benefit him during his MBA and beyond.

GMAT Exam Prep: Forrest’s Top Tips

1. Use all of the resources available to you

You’re not on your own when it comes to the GMAT. Together with GMAT Official Prep materials, there are a number of resources available that can help you on your way. Forrest points to three test prep organizations (TPOs) he used to support his learning: Target Test Prep, Magoosh, and Manhattan Test Prep.

Forrest used these resources in different ways. Target Test Prep allowed him to create a tailored study plan and answer test questions based on his weakest areas. He used Magoosh, an online TPO for graduate school students, to segment his revision into 15-minute sessions through interactive challenges and flashcards. Alongside these online resources, Forrest also highlights the importance of having a physical test prep book to help with your revision.

“I was in the military at the time, so sometimes I didn't have great connectivity," he says. "When I didn't have great connectivity, I would take my test prep book out. And when I had 15 or 20 minutes, I would practice a couple of tasks, questions here or there and check my answers.”

Whether you use GMAT Official Prep materials, call on the support of family or friends or look up external resources, the most important thing is to explore all the resources that are out there. You never know: the one you least expected could turn out to be the most valuable. 

2. Create a solid plan – and stick to it

When you start revising for your GMAT, it’s going to be tough to balance the extra workload with your personal and professional life. That’s why creating a focused study plan is so important.

Forrest was able to do that using Target Test Prep. After taking an initial test, the software automatically created a personalized study plan for him to work on his weakest areas and improve his overall score.

“It helped keep me in line,” he says. “When I wanted to take my first test, what it did was it ran and created a three-month program that I was then able to follow very sequentially.”

3. Be consistent

Forrest soon found that the key to revision came down to one thing: consistency.

Rather than feeling like you have to study for a certain number of hours or days per week, simply revising on a consistent basis is more effective. Even if you just run through your flashcards when you get a spare 10 minutes, it’s that consistency which helps you to retain the information you’re learning.

“It was very helpful [to be consistent],” says Forrest. “Because I think the skills are very perishable. So, if you're not practicing them, then you could forget them.”

“My advice to people as they go through, and they study for the GMAT: consistency is what matters. You don't have to do three or four hours every night for three months. Do what you can to make sure that you're focused when you sit down, and that you're dedicated to the process.”

The value of GMAT Official Practice Exams

Revising is only one piece of the GMAT puzzle. To really understand how well your revision is going, it’s vital that you take GMAT Official Practice Exams. These full-length, adaptive practice exams simulate the real test-taking experience and leverage the same scoring algorithm as the real exam, aiding in time management and focused study. After Forrest took the practice exam, he soon realized that his success wouldn’t just depend on being able to answer the questions.

“I think the thing that was most eye opening to me, the first time I took that practice exam, was the time constraint,” he says. “That was something that I hadn't really considered. But the time goes very, very quickly, and you have to pace yourself, and you have to have a plan going in. And I was able to refine that plan, doing the practice exam so that when I got to test day, I was used to what kind of cadence was needed in the actual exam.”

The practice exams were also invaluable in helping Forrest assess his potential performance on the actual exam and in turn, played a significant role in guiding his choices regarding which schools he should apply to.

“When I took the GMAT Official Practice Exam, I would say it was plus or minus 10 points to what I actually got in the test. So, I thought the practice exams were very, very unique and very good for estimating your actual score.”

Four little-known benefits of the GMAT

1. You’ll learn how to learn again.

Like many MBA students, Forrest went into the program at Texas McCombs after several years away from education. And that presents its own challenges. After all, studying is a skill, and if you don’t practice it then it will only get more difficult in the future. It meant that Forrest had to learn how to learn again.

“I hadn't been in a formal educational environment for about eight years,” he explains. “And getting back into the GMAT made me appreciate the process that you have to go through to learn things.”

The GMAT also reaffirmed Forrest’s belief that he was on the right path. He enjoyed the process of learning new things, which is something he knew he would be doing even more of in his MBA.

2. It fills the gaps in your knowledge

MBA students come from a wide range of professional backgrounds. It means that not everyone will necessarily have knowledge of the business fundamentals you’ll need to succeed in the program. Although this does help to create a diverse cohort, it also means that the program can be a steep learning curve for some students.

Forrest’s military background gave him valuable skills in leadership, communication, and management, but he was lacking in the more quantitative and analytic aspects of the program.

The GMAT helped to plug those gaps before the MBA.

“I do think there's a lot of value in taking the test and demonstrating that you are able to handle the quantitative and analytical coursework,” he says. “I think it's particularly useful for people that maybe don't have a quantitative or STEM undergraduate degree.”

3. It prepares you for the demands of an MBA

Forrest spoke about the cadence of both revising and taking the GMAT, and it’s something that also applied to his MBA. After revising for the GMAT, he began to understand the study routines he would need to get into during the program.

“Having learned the value of consistency studying for the GMAT, I came into the MBA program understanding that I didn't have to maybe cram things for multiple hours. And as long as I was routinely practicing the material that we were learning in classes, that led to success in grades.”

An MBA places huge demands on your time, and so keeping on top of it is just as important as mastering the content of the program itself. For Forrest, the GMAT taught him how to manage his time and study effectively at a pace that suited him. It turned out to be one of the most valuable skills that he was able to take into his MBA.

4. It gives you the confidence that you can do an MBA

Forrest learnt plenty of so-called ‘hard’ skills during his GMAT revision – things like data analysis, verbal reasoning, and time management. But perhaps his biggest takeaway was something you can’t quantify.

“I had been out of academia for about eight years. And having gone through the process of studying for the GMAT, once I got the scores that I needed to get accepted I became more confident in my abilities. I think the GMAT helped me gain that confidence,” he says.

Nothing can prepare you better for an MBA than being confident in your own abilities. Forrest acknowledges the role the GMAT played in that journey. It gave him the confidence that he was capable of doing an MBA, and he continues to reap the rewards today.

“Looking back from where I am now, I learned a lot of important things [from the GMAT] that I was able to translate into success here within the MBA program.”

Nick Harland

Nick Harland

Nick Harland is a freelance writer specializing in business education. His work has been published by organizations including the AACSB, MBAGRADSCHOOLS, INSEAD Business School and the University of Sheffield. Nick holds a bachelor’s degree in English Language and is currently based in Sheffield, UK.