Understandably, most of the questions are about the GMAT, but the advice we give can also be applied to other tests such as the GRE, TOEFL, and IELTS.

What is the best way to prepare for GMAT?

There is not one universal best GMAT preparation strategy, but there are a few essential steps you must take if you are serious about cracking the exam. First, you need to familiarize yourself with the structure and contents of the exam. The GMAT has experienced a few changes recently; it now allows you to pick a section order. Get to know the different options and, depending on your preferences and test-taking methodology, choose your preferred GMAT section order long before you sit the test. Also, bear in mind that the GMAT was shortened by 30 minutes in April 2018. This means that the materials you use to prepare should reflect this change. Check out: 5 Commonly Asked Questions by B-School Applicants You can sign up for a group course, use the services of a private tutor, or prepare on your own, but regardless of your preparation methods, you need to brush up on core math and verbal concepts, get familiar with the types of questions in each section of the exam, and familiarize yourself with the various strategies and techniques to answer the questions. The creators of the GMAT like to lay traps designed to trick you. Learn how to identify them. Then, as a next step, start practicing. Take full practice tests that are as close to the real exam as possible. Always aim to achieve the highest score you can. Analyze the results and identify the areas for improvement. During your preparation, monitor your progress and make amendments to your prep if you fail to perform as you expected.

How long should I prepare for the tests?

Again, it depends on many factors such as your speed of learning, your English proficiency, the level of your analytical and critical thinking and quantitative skills, how you work with data from multiple sources (for GMAT and GRE), and of course, admissions deadlines. According to research by GMAC, the organization which owns the GMAT exam, successful GMAT test takers invest about 100 hours of preparation in the exam. A typical GMAT prep course is about 40 hours. Courses can span two or three months depending on their intensity. Additionally, test preparation should also involve self-study. Course participants receive regular homework tasks but future test takers are also advised to spend time studying on their own in addition to their homework assignments. 5 Test Prep Questions Commonly Asked by B-School Applicants Studying for language tests can be split into two phases – general language proficiency and preparation specific to the format of the chosen exam. The difficulty in providing some estimation of the time you will need to prepare for language tests stems from the fact that the first phase, i.e. the process of learning the English language, can take several years of intensive study. The second phase, or studying taking into account the specific format of the test, usually takes from one to several months, depending on your English language proficiency. One important thing to consider is that most of the language tests have a two-year validity of their scores, so you should not rush to take a test too early.

How important is the GMAT/GRE score in the business school application?

When asked this question, most admission officers will tell you that they do not regard test scores as more important than other aspects of the application package such as the CV, the English proficiency test result, or the interview. Business school applicants are well advised not to fixate on the GMAT. A top GMAT score is quite useless without well-written essays and good interviews. In fact, many top GMAT scorers are rejected by top programs because schools are not focusing exclusively on GMAT scores. They are more interested in profiles, fit, experience, and participants who can enrich their program. INSEAD’s 2018 MBA class average GMAT is 709. The highest score is 780; the lowest is 570. This means that someone gained admission to one of the most prestigious MBA programs in the world with a GMAT score of 570. However, test results can be very important, especially if you wish to receive a scholarship. Will Toussaint, Recruitment Manager at NEOMA Business School (France), says:

If two candidates have similar experiences, similar backgrounds, similar profiles, they are both applying for a scholarship and one has a GMAT score of 700 and the other has 600, it’s pretty hard to argue against giving it to the one with the 700 score. On this level, the GMAT can be a powerful tool because it’s an unbiased measurement.

How to prepare for a test if I have very little time?

Studying at the last possible moment should be avoided because it’s less effective and also because it is risky from a financial point of view -- you are very likely to end up paying a hefty exam fee and then achieving an unsatisfactory score. However, if you insist on sitting for an exam that is let’s say less than a month away, there are a few key steps you need to take. First, create a study plan. No matter how little time you have, preparation without a plan is pointless. Get together all the materials you will be using and settle on a (realistic) schedule. Another important thing – you should study every day. There is just no way around that, even if you have other responsibilities at work and at home. If you have a busy schedule, try to set aside some time in the morning and at night to study. Take a lot of practice tests, but do not cut back on sleep. Since you have very little time, you have to identify your weaknesses early on and address  them as soon as possible. The easiest way to identify your problematic areas is to take practice tests and evaluate the results.

What happens if I fail an exam? 

If you fail an exam, do not lose heart. It is vital to know why you failed and to take measures to avoid the mistakes the next time you sit the test. Failure is just part of the learning process. Applicants are advised to allow for failure when making their test taking schedules. Betting on achieving the necessary score the first time is a bad idea because you run the risk of missing the application deadline and having to wait for a whole year to apply again. Also, bear in mind that rushing to retake a test is generally a bad idea, unless you know exactly what went wrong the last time and are certain that this time you will nail it. Give yourself time to prepare well for the exam, even if this means studying hard for two or three months. It will be worth it. Find more information on GMAT preparation on PrepAdviser. Have your specific test prep questions answered by experts in the PrepAdviser Forum.