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Top 10 Study Tips for the GMAT™ Exam

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As you’re researching business school admissions requirements and mapping out your application plans, one of the most important things you’ll need to account for is studying for the GMAT™ exam. With a strong GMAT score, you’ll stand out in the admissions process and may even qualify for scholarship opportunities to help you cover the cost of your degree.

While the thought of GMAT prep may sound daunting at first, rest assured that with a solid study plan, an effective test prep strategy, and our expert GMAT study tips, you can set yourself up for success and earn your best score.

Make progress toward your business school goals with these top 10 study tips.

1. Develop a GMAT study plan early

MBA and business master’s applications have many components—including essaysletters of recommendations, resumes, and more—and the last thing you want is to juggle all of those while also preparing for the GMAT on a condensed timeline.

✔ Free guide: The Ultimate Business School Application Checklist and Timeline

To avoid this situation, set a GMAT study plan early in your journey to business school. Did you know that you can prepare for the GMAT exam in just eight weeks? From the makers of the GMAT exam, the free Official GMAT Exam 8-Week Study Planner gives you the goals, tools, and tips you need to work toward your business school goals in as little as two months. 

2. Know the test sections and consider them in your study plan

Before you formulate a study plan, it’s a best practice to ensure you know the structure of the GMAT exam. The test has four main sections:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA section) - which measures your ability to think critically and communicate your ideas.
  • Integrated Reasoning (IR section) - which measures your ability to analyze data and interpret information displayed in varied formats.
  • Quantitative Reasoning (Quant section) - which measures your ability to reason mathematically, solve quantitative problems, and interpret graphic data.
  • Verbal Reasoning (Verbal section) - which evaluates your reading comprehension skills, editing abilities, and whether you can make sense of written arguments.

Use the free GMAT Official Starter Kit + Practice Exams 1 & 2 to get acquainted with the test and its different sections. The two free practice exams match the real exam format and increase in difficulty, just like what you’ll experience on your test day.

3. Pick your GMAT prep materials wisely

There is 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), we recommend using 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.

Not sure which Official GMAT Prep resource is right for you? Take our quiz to get matched to your personalized GMAT prep plan!

4. Identify your GMAT weaknesses (and work on them)

Figuring out which skills need the most attention is critical to your overall prep strategy. We recommend using the GMAT Official Guide Series to gauge your abilities and pinpoint your weak areas. Analyze your results, and from there create a customized, targeted study plan to brush up on the areas where you need to strengthen your skills in order to reach your goals. 

And remember to be realistic with yourself—scoring a 700 or higher on the GMAT isn’t always a reality. Take the GMAT™ Mini Quiz for an instant estimated score range and get a sense for what’s an achievable goal for yourself.

5. Keep track of time as part of your GMAT prep

Because you have limited time, pacing yourself is paramount to your GMAT success. If you know the Verbal section will be challenging for you, for example, refine your verbal skills but also make sure you can execute on them quickly.

Once you’ve practiced enough and understand the concepts, start keeping track of time so you can train yourself to efficiently problem solve. You’ll need to pace yourself as you work through the four timed sections on practice exams.

You can score and pace yourself against the same algorithm that'll be used on exam day by adding Practice Exams 3 & 4 to your prep after completing the free exams 1 & 2. That’s four full-length practice exams with performance metrics for less than US$50!

6. Don’t stay stuck on a GMAT question

Remember, there’s a penalty for not completing each section of the test, and with each unanswered question, your score could decrease.

Don’t fall into the trap of worrying whether you are answering 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. That brings us to our next point.

7. Use process of elimination on the GMAT exam

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.

Just in case you run out of time (despite your best pacing plan), figure out a “guessing strategy” in advance to avoid unnecessary GMAT score deductions.

To guess or to skip? Here’s what thousands of GMAT records say is the best approach.

8. Practice visual literacy during GMAT prep

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. In the GMAT Quant section of the exam, you may even encounter non-standard mathematical notations (or symbols specific to a problem), so it’s important you are comfortable with visuals and can remain unflustered.

9. Improve your mental math as part of your study plan

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 Quant section of the GMAT test, so honing your mental math skills is a must.

10. Push your limits with Advanced Questions

Do you have your eyes set on earning a seat in one of the world’s leading MBA or business master’s programs? You can increase your odds dramatically with an elite GMAT exam score. To push the upper limits of what you’re capable of, there’s no better resource than the GMAT Official Advanced Questions.

Get instant access to 300 hand-picked hard GMAT questions, all from past exams. You’ll also get access to an Online Question Bank that allows you create customized practice sets. This is the best choice for those who aspire to earn a high GMAT score—the kind that can get you that MBA or business master’s acceptance letter you’ve been dreaming about.

As you navigate through your graduate business degree journey, make sure you have the resources you need to succeed. With the help of mba.com, receive exclusive content, GMAT prep materials, and the tools you need for each step along the way. To get started, create an mba.com account today!