Study Smart for Your Best GMAT® Exam Score

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There are some basics that you should understand to make the best use of your prep time and achieve your best score.

When it comes to studying for the GMAT® exam, there are no secrets, magic formulas, or silver bullets—just planning and preparation. That said, there are some basics that you should understand to make the best use of your prep time and achieve your best score to help you stand out in the admissions process. 

Know the Test

First and most important—become familiar with the GMAT exam itself and understand what it measures. It’s an assessment of the skills that matter most in business and schools view your score as a predictor of your ability to succeed in their programs. When you perform well on the GMAT exam, you demonstrate the commitment, motivation, and ability to succeed in business school and your career. Read more in the GMAT® Handbook

Unlike most of the tests you’ve taken in your lifetime, the GMAT exam assesses your reasoning skills, specifically quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing. Becoming familiar with the test structure and types of questions you will face is critical to achieving your best score. Read an overview of the exam format and timing and learn what you can expect at the testing center

Register Several Months in Advance 

The further in advance you register for the exam, the greater your choice of available dates and times. We recommended that you register two to three months prior to your preferred test date, and at least 21 days before your earliest business school application deadline. You may register up to six months prior to your preferred test date. Click here to find test centers nearest you. 

Develop a Study Plan 

You should develop a study plan that details not just when but also what you’ll study. Like the GMAT exam itself, your prep is more of a marathon than a sprint—you want your mind to stay fresh, so don’t cram too much prep into the last couple of weeks. For a sample study plan, check out this GMAT Prep Timeline

Establish a Baseline and Start Studying 

Access the free GMAT Official Starter Kit and Practice Exams 1 & 2 for two full-length computer-adaptive practice GMAT exams with answers. On your first practice test, don’t stress over your score. Your goal should be to become more familiar with the exam itself and set a baseline for measuring your progress to come. Use your first practice test to identify which areas you need to devote the most time to studying. Adjust your study plan accordingly. 

How much time should you devote to prep? The answer is unique to you based on your baseline, study habits, and desired score. Data collected from registrants can serve as a helpful guideline. Most candidates report spending more than 50 hours total on prep, but keep in mind that those who achieve higher scores tend to put in more study time. The GMAT® Official Guide 2018 contains more than 900 real GMAT questions—including 130 never-before-seen questions—from past exams plus answer explanations.  


 OG Blog Research Graph GMAT Prep

Assess Your Progress 

As you advance in your study plan, review your progress and plan strategies to improve your weak areas. The store has a range of test prep materials for specific question types, such as the Verbal and Quantitative review books, GMAT Write® essay practice writing tool, and the GMAT Focus® Online Quantitative Diagnostic Tool

The free GMAT Official Starter Kit enables you to select the order of the exam sections, just as you will be able to do on your exam date. Use the software to experiment and identify the order of sections that you are the most comfortable with and will give you the greatest confidence. 

Remember to replicate actual test conditions during your practice exams:

  • Don’t use a calculator or study materials.
  • Try to complete all the questions within the allotted time. 
  • Pace yourself: Practice to the point where you don’t need to keep re-reading the question prompts.
  • Develop a sense of when to work through a question and when to make an educated guess; it will be helpful on your exam day.
  • Note that because the GMAT exam is a computer-adaptive test, the questions will get harder as you answer them correctly, so it will feel more difficult as the exam progresses. 

Preview Your Score and Evaluate Your Performance 

After sitting for the exam, you can preview your score before sending it to your designated schools, giving you the control to decide whether you want to accept your score and send it to schools or cancel it and retake the exam later. Your canceled scores do not appear on any score reports sent to schools. 

Either before or after you take the exam, consider purchasing the GMAT Enhanced Score Report to gain a detailed view of how you performed on each section. You’ll know exactly what questions took you the longest to complete and you’ll see how you compare with other test takers. If you plan to retest, the Enhanced Score Report gives you a deeper understanding of how you can improve your score. 

For more on test-taking strategies and advice on mistakes to avoid in the GMAT exam, see Prepare to Perform Your Best on Test Day