The 5 Best Tips to Ace the GMAT

Posted on January 8, 2014 | Filed in GMAT

Best ways to prepare for the GMAT. Ace the GMAT with 5 of the best tips.

Best ways to prepare for the GMAT. Ace the GMAT with 5 of the best tips.

After hours of research and soul-searching, you’ve decided to get an MBA. Good for you!

Now all you need to do is prepare for a great score. First thing you should know is that the GMAT is unlike any other test. It’s one you can’t cram for either. In terms of test difficulty, it’s thought of as as middle-of-the-road. However, there’s good news ahead. At Manhattan Review we tell applicants that if they’re disciplined and prepare well, they’ll get a great score.

The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test (CAT) which means that the difficulty of the questions adapt to your performance. Here’s how it works: the computer estimates your level of ability based on answers you’ve already given and the difficulty of those questions/answers. Then the computer selects the next question that you should have a good chance of answering correctly. The goal is to get as much information as possible about your true level of ability.

Here are 5 of the best tips to ace the GMAT:

  1. Know there are no unknowns.

    The math in the Quantitative section is high school level – problem solving and data sufficiency. For the Verbal section, you’ll have to brush up on basic grammar, but nothing new here either. The reading comprehension portion of the Verbal section is a little dense but there are techniques for eliminating common wrong answers. In the analytical writing section, you’ll be asked to analyze an argument. All in all, you won’t be faced with any ‘unknowns’. You may have to learn a few new skills here and there, but nothing outrageously unusual.

  2. Sharpen time management skills.

    When asked – after taking the GMAT – how well he prepared, an applicant told us, “I knew how to answer the questions, but I hadn’t spent enough time practicing how to answer them under time constraints”. He decided to retake the exam. The most important skill an applicant can master is time management. Pacing is extremely critical – and there is a penalty for not completing sections of the exam. Incorporating time limits into your practice tests is a great idea. Further, while you are actually taking the exam, an onscreen clock displays on the computer. Remember to keep this clock on the screen for the entire test time so you can pace yourself better. The average is roughly 1¾ minutes for each verbal question and about 2 minutes for each quantitative question give or take a few seconds.

  3. Know the GMAT format.

    The GMAT is comprised of three major sections with a break between each one. The first section is analytical writing, where you’ll be asked to write an essay exploring an issue and another essay analyzing an argument. This period lasts a total of 60 minutes followed by an optional 10-minute break. Remember the breaks are optional so if you feel you need more time, you can continue on with no break. The Quantitative section is next and is made up of 37 questions and lasts 75 minutes followed by another optional 10-minute break. The exam ends with 41 questions in the Verbal section, which lasts about 75 minutes. Memorize the test format so you’ll eliminate the uneasy sense of newness about working within a format you’ve not seen before.

  4. Do a practice test.

    You’ll find practice tests online made up of retired questions from former GMAT exams. In terms of books, some of the best ones are the ‘official guides’, which contain hundreds of GMAT questions, answers and explanations. Obviously each question on the exam differs, but the methods used to answer them generally stay the same. Familiarize yourself with all types of questions, and develop a process for answering each type.

    Then, the next thing to do is to analyze your practice test. Look at the areas that you should improve and the areas where you did well. Generally, the GMAT rewards all-around capability more than excellence in one test section. For instance, if you did very well in reading comprehension, but stuck out on sentence completion, you’ll want to practice sentence completion drills for at least a week and see your Verbal score jump.

  5. Understanding the Score.

    Total GMAT scores range from 200 to 800 and two-thirds of test takers usually score between 400 and 600. The Verbal and Quantitative scores range from 0 to 60. Both scores are on a fixed scale and can be compared across all GMAT test administrations. The Verbal and Quantitative scores, however, measure different concepts and therefore cannot be compared to each other.

    If you do not finish in the allotted time, you’ll still receive scores as long as you have worked on every section. However, your scores are based on the number of questions answered, and your score decreases substantially with each unanswered question. Lastly, find out way beforehand the score you’ll need to get into a particular MBA program. Business schools announce what GMAT scores they are searching for so it’s important to know this before taking the exam.

Having a personalized test strategy based on your strengths and weaknesses is essential for a good GMAT score. If you feel you have practiced enough but still don’t have a personalized test strategy, seek outside help with a qualified individual or an organization that specializes in GMAT test prep.

The biggest piece of advice is not to stress. And reward yourself after taking the test. Good prep should always pay off!

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