If you have hopes of attending business school for an MBA or another competitive graduate program, you’ll have to take the GMAT. While some schools accept GRE scores, if you want to apply for a wide range of programs, you’re likely better off taking the GMAT, which is more specialized to test your aptitude in a business-related program.
Before you begin your prep test for the GMAT, you’ll want to devise a clear strategy for studying. The following tips can help you optimize the hours you spend preparing and help you reach your highest potential on the exam.
Start with a Quality Prep Course
There are countless resources available online that can help you study for the GMAT. If you have the time and resources to commit to your preparation, taking a course taught and developed by professionals can go a long way. However, not all prep courses are created equal—some are certainly more worthwhile than others. So how do you find the best GMAT prep course online? When comparing your options, look for the following course features:
- A comprehensive guide to the structure of the exam and the types of questions asked
- Complete practice tests in addition to question banks
- One-on-one support from instructors
- Analysis tools to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses
- Flexibility in terms of pacing yourself through the course
Make a Timeline and Schedule
Regardless of whether or not you choose to enroll in a test prep course, you should make a study timeline to help you stay on track. Plot out your goals for each day of preparation, including how many topics or practice questions you want to work through. Be sure to build in time to setbacks, such as difficult topics you need extra time to review.
Familiarize Yourself with the Exam’s Composition
The GMAT includes four distinct sections, and the test taker has some freedom to choose the order they complete them in. The four sections include:
- Analytical Writing Assessment: This portion of the exam will test your critical-thinking ability and how you communicate or express your ideas on paper. You have 30 minutes to answer one question.
- Integrated Reasoning: This section is all about how you analyze data and evaluate information presented in numerous formats, such as graphics and tables. The Integrated Reasoning section includes 12 questions, which you have 30 minutes to complete.
- Quantitative Reasoning: Apart from data analysis, this section of the exam also measures your ability to solve problems using logical reasoning. It includes 31 questions and lasts 62 minutes.
- Verbal Reasoning: Verbal Reasoning is all about reading and understanding written material, evaluating arguments, and correcting written material to conform to the norms of standard written English. You have 65 minutes to answer 36 questions.
Once you have a firm understanding of each test section and have analyzed your own performance in each, you should decide which order to take the exam in. Once you’ve decided, stick to that order for all the practice exams you take and the official exam. You have the option to take the test in whichever of the following formats you choose:
- Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal
- Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
- Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
Focus on Your Weaknesses
When it comes to preparing for the GMAT, the old adage “work harder, not smarter” certainly applies. The GMAT covers a wide range of topics and tests numerous skillsets. If you have limited time to prepare, you’re better off focusing on your weakest points. Through practice questions, you should be able to identify which sections and which specific question types give you the most trouble. Focus your time and efforts on those areas of weakness, and you’ll improve your practice test scores in good time.
Simulate Sitting for the Exam
This lengthy exam tests your endurance and focus just as much as your mathematical, verbal, and analytical skills. To perform your best on the exam, you need to understand the time pressure and possibility of distraction that you’ll face on the day of the exam. In the weeks leading up to the official test, be sure to take multiple full-length tests following the actual time constraints of the exam. Be sure to follow the other rules and guidelines for the test while practicing, such as when you can and can’t use a calculator.
Reaching Your Highest Potential
Like all standardized entrance exams, the GMAT is designed to test your limits. However, if you diligently prepare for the exam, you’ll know exactly what’s coming and what you need to do to attain your target score.