When it comes to GMAT preparation, planning is key. This blog gives you 10 Top Tips to help maximize how you prepare for your GMAT, including: how much to study, how to optimize your study program, ensuring you have the test information you need, creating and sticking to a study plan, becoming familiar with the test structure and questions, training your mind to get to the right solutions faster and staying calm!
Quality versus Quantity
It’s the question everyone asks: How much time to set aside to prepare for the GMAT? On average, 65% of GMAT test-takers spend more than a month studying for the GMAT. 48%of students spend between 4 and 9 weeks preparing for the GMAT.
“The optimal time is between 6 to 8 weeks,” argues Oren Jackman, one of the founder of examPAL. “Less is inefficient, and, on the other hand, if you give yourself too long, 3 to 4 months, you’ll start forgetting what you learnt at the beginning. This is important, because all the knowledge is interconnected.”
How many hours? Using data collected from January to December 2014 from more than 4,271 GMAT test takers, we can see that 56% of test takers spent at least 51 hours prepping for the exam.
As one would expect, those who do better tend to spend more time studying. But studying 107 hours does not guarantee that you will score in the 600 range.
Please note: These charts are just a guideline as the times are self-reported and estimates only.
Be Honest About Your Abilities
Adapt Your Study Habits to Areas that Need Improvement
Focus more practice time on your areas of weakness. If it helps, keep a learning diary. Consistency is important, so it’s preferable to have short, daily training sessions rather than cramming on the weekend. If you can, give yourself more time to prepare in the period leading up to the test. Set time milestones so that you can see that you are in line with your practice schedule.
Be Informed About the Programs You’re Interested In
Decide which schools you want to apply to, and check their application deadlines and admission requirements (test scores, GPA, essays, interviews, etc.). In order to reach your required GMAT score, your preparation should target a score of at least 50 higher than you ‘need’ as many of those taking the test score around 30 points more or less than they were expecting.
Get the Information You Need.
Check out mba.com for information on schools and programs, the GMAT exam, and prep materials. Download the free GMAT® Handbook to learn everything you need to know before sitting for the exam.
Register for the GMAT Exam
Register for the exam with school application deadlines in mind. Set up your GMAT exam ahead of time so that your scores are reported prior to application deadlines. The further in advance you register, the more choice of available exam dates you’ll have. Search for a convenient testing location that has available seats.
Develop a Study Plan
Your study plan should list when and what you need to study. Also, think about how you can best prepare, given your discipline levels, motivation, and preferences. Do you prefer one to one tutoring or are study groups best for you? Do you need prep courses or can you self-study?
Familiarize Yourself with the Test, its Structure and Types of Questions
It pays to be familiar with the GMAT exam and know what it measures. It’s not about memory recall, it’s about measuring the reasoning skills needed to succeed in business school. This includes quantitative, verbal, analytical writing, and integrated reasoning. The GMAT has questions that other exams do not. For example, for Data Sufficiency, you just need to determine if there is enough information to answer the question. If you’re unfamiliar with this question type, you could waste lots of time trying to solve the problems.
Learn about the GMAT exam structure and get an overview of the four sections: Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing Assessment.
Study for the GMAT exam until you are comfortable with the question formats and timing. Plan a strategy that gives you the right amount of time to feel prepared and addresses your challenges. That way, your exam result with reflect your ability and not your lack of knowledge about the test.
Try to Find the Best Path to the Right Solution
Take practice exams. After spending time practicing each exam, test yourself again. How well did you do? Do you need more time? Did you improve in your weaker areas and maintain your strengths?
But don’t bombard yourself with practice exams. Instead, try to find the best path to the right solution. Train your mind to move from one approach to another, quickly. examPAL can help you find your best solution approach by monitoring each and every answer you give, seeing all the answers that thousands of other students have given, and finding the perfect match between your way of thinking and what proved effective for others.
Try to stay positive and calm. Realize that you cannot completely master everything to the last detail. However, you need to be properly prepared. Some students get overly anxious about the test and score badly because they panic.
Do not neglect your basic needs. Make sure you get into habits of good nutrition, exercise and enough sleep. It’s also important to spend time doing recreational activities and hanging out with friends as this helps prevent test anxiety.
Here are some strategies to help control your anxiety:
- Positive Internal Dialogue: Improve your perspective on the GMAT. It’s only a test and it can be taken again. Try and create a positive internal dialogue that you can say aloud as this will reduce your anxiety.
- Deep Breathing: With a few breaths, you can relax your whole body. To practice deep breathing, follow these steps: Sit straight and close your eyes, place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen. Take long, slow, deep breaths through your nose. Hold your breath then slowly exhale. Continue this exercise until your breathing feels comfortable.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This can help decrease symptoms related to anxiety. Simply follow these steps: Tense the muscles in a specific part of your body for a few seconds while you deeply inhale, exhale, and then inhale. On the second exhale, release these muscles while visualizing the tension in these muscles flowing out of your body. Breathe deeply while noticing how calm your muscles feel. Repeat the initial steps with other muscle groups. Try to relax your muscles from your toes to your head. At the end of the exercise, all your muscles should feel relaxed.
On the day before the test try to avoid junk food and caffeine and choose natural foods. Try not to study too much. Do things that relax your body and mind and ensure you get enough sleep. If you feel anxious, practice relaxation techniques.
On the day of the test, try not to cram new information. It will simply add to your anxiety.
If you feel anxious during the test, use your relaxation skills, deep breathing and positive self-talk to refocus your attention. Try to visualize the tension leaving your body.
Retake If Necessary
You can retake the GMAT exam once every 16 calendar days, but no more than five times in a rolling 12-month period. In the scheduling tool, if you enter a date fewer than 16 days from your last appointment date, you will receive an error message asking you to choose another date. Read the GMAT Handbook for more details about GMAT policies and retest policy appeals.
How can you tell whether it is worth trying for a higher score? You may think it will improve your chances of getting into a business school or getting the right internship. It may also be a personal goal. Do some research to assess whether a better score will make a significant difference. Look at the average or median score for last year’s incoming class at your preferred schools. If your score is already higher than that, it may not make such a difference. Also, check GPA statistics. If your GPA is lower than average, it would be better to have an above-average GMAT.
Most business schools just look at your highest grades so you shouldn’t be deterred from taking the test. The main disadvantage is the time it takes. A re-take might use up time that you had planned to spend on other parts of the application. If you have no volunteer/community or leadership experience, it might be preferable to get this rather than another 30 points on the GMAT. If you are about to get a promotion, it might be worth working harder during this period so that you can put the promotion on your application.
If you want a large increase in your score, you need a comprehensive re-take plan. Try to remember what you found difficult, whether timing was the issue. Were you very anxious and do you think this affected your score? If so, try techniques to lessen your anxiety.
Whichever way you choose to prepare for your GMAT, we wish you good luck and the best of success!