So it’s no surprise that every year tens of thousands of hopeful MBA applicants seek out the same thing: How to ace the GMAT exam. The good news is that there are some basic tools to learn how to score high on GMAT.

Don’t forget to plan ahead!

No one sits down for the GMAT and walks away with a score in the 99th percentile without preparing significantly beforehand. No matter how developed your maths skills are or how fine-tuned your critical reasoning abilities, the GMAT is tough. A good boost in your GMAT level, according to the creators of the exam, will require about 100 hours of solid work. While you can put in these hours during the three weeks before your exam (as 35% of students end up doing), it’s better for your score and for your mental health to spread those hours out more evenly. Plan to spend three months studying hard and working regularly and schedule your test date accordingly.

Take a diagnostic test before you start studying

Take regular practice exams during your months of study. Approach your GMAT revision a scientist approach an experiment: look for quantitative proof that your methods are working. Unlike many other learning experiences, the GMAT offers a perfect way to check that your preparation is working. You can take practice tests along the way and check your score go up! If you see an improvement, you know you’re on the right track. If you don’t, maybe it’s time to find some new prep materials or a new approach. Taking a prep course or finding a private tutor can help guide your study and maximise your efficiency.

PrepAdviser GMAT Practice Test

Veritas Prep computer-adaptive GMAT Practice Test

Know your strengths…and make them stronger.

Many students focus solely on their wrong answers when studying. But just getting a question right does not mean you answered it in the most efficient way. The GMAT is a timed exam – 78 challenging questions in 150 short minutes – and efficiency is key to a top score. Using another approach, the right answer could have been found in half the time. Your correct answers can be just as valuable as the wrong ones – and they are an essential and often overlooked part of the study process. When you get a question wrong, make sure you understand why it is wrong, as well as understanding how to get the correct answer.

Don’t just study hard questions.

For most written tests, studying the hard stuff is the best preparation, but for the GMAT this is not the right approach. The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, which means it gets increasingly difficult with each question you answer correctly. Questions are ranked in terms of difficulty and range from moderately challenging to diabolically difficult. Indeed, easier questions require different test-taking strategies and different areas of knowledge to harder questions. While it’s certainly a good idea to get comfortable with the challenging material, if you haven’t mastered the basics, you’ll never see those hard questions you spent so much time preparing for. Make sure your study plan covers all the topics you’re likely to see on the exam, not just the 700+ ones.

Study for the GMAT in English.

English is not the native language of the majority of GMAT-takers. But a good understanding of English is absolutely vital for a good score. This is not just because the test includes a “verbal” section. It’s also because you have enough challenges when taking the exam – a language barrier should not be another. Get familiar with maths vocabulary if you have never studied maths in English; learn and relearn the basics of English grammar; regularly read news articles about science, finance, technology and any of the other subjects that usually appear on the GMAT. Make sure that by exam day, your English is in top shape.

Know your weaknesses and plan for them.

Of course you want to master every topic. Of course you want to solve even the most challenging maths problems. But the GMAT is not a test that rewards perseverance. You have under two minutes to answer every single question and spending too much time answering any individual question is not a good strategy. If you know you have problems in one specific topic and are more likely to get those questions wrong, you can actually improve your score by guessing and moving on. Save that valuable time for a question you can answer!

Practise on a computer from the very beginning.

Imagine taking a written test for four hours with only minimal breaks. Now imagine staring at a computer screen non-stop for four hours. Combine the two and you have the GMAT exam. Beyond being a test of logical reasoning and critical thinking, the GMAT is a test of physical endurance. Make sure you practise for it by simulating real test conditions as often as you can. No matter where you take your test, the GMAT is administered on an American keyboard. If you’ve never used a QWERTY keyboard, invest in one so you’re prepared when it’s time to take the test. You don’t want to spend two minutes trying to find the W!

Set realistic improvement goals and stick to them.

Even after dozens of hours of study, improvements in your GMAT score will only happen incrementally. Many test-takers begin with abstract and unrealistic goals: “I want to score above a 720 by the end of the month”. A better course of action is to set a benchmark for improvement rather than a desired end-result: “I want to improve my score by 50 points every two weeks”. Not only can you actually achieve a realistic improvement plan, but you can also celebrate a job well done every two weeks. This will both realistically boost your score and improve your confidence for the final exam.

Don’t forget to focus on other things as well!

While the GMAT is an important factor in acceptance to an MBA programme, it is not the only one. An applicant who has great GMAT scores but hardly anything else to offer will probably not beat an applicant with decent GMAT scores but also a top-notch application with a well-rounded CV, essays and recommendation letters. Studying for the GMAT requires time and patience. It can be all-consuming. But don’t let your GMAT preparation detract from everything else you have to do to get into a top MBA programme.

Choose the right prep course and study materials.

A prep course will take you through the important material you need to know for the exam; it will provide you with essential test-taking strategies and it will help you prepare in the least amount of time. It will also give you that extra push and the motivation to practice regularly and consistently so you have the confidence to succeed on test day. In addition, a prep course will tell you exactly what’s important and what’s not, so you don’t have to waste valuable hours doing that kind of research on your own. In terms of maximising practice and minimising time, a GMAT prep course is always a winning strategy.


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