This is probably the most commonly asked question among GMAT test-takers.

Lakshman Mody gives a very detailed overview of his study schedule, which helped him to score over 700 on the GMAT.

His answer was originally posted in Quora.

"This is how I scored a 730 (96th percentile) on the GMAT in 8 days: 

The summer before I started my senior year at Northwestern University, I finished my internship and still had a month left.  My brain was getting bored, so I picked up an LSAT book and decided to take the test.   After the first week, I put the book down.  I really did not like that test.  So then I opened up a GMAT book and took a practice test…it was much better.

I went back to college, and from time to time I would pick up the GMAT book, but never actually spent much time on it.

Read Reasons to Focus on GMAT

Then one day, I decided to take the GMAT.  Why? 

First, I thought it would be a fun way to test myself.  And second, it wouldn’t hurt to have the GMAT done incase I decided to apply to business school (once you have a job, it will be hard to find time to study).

So I attended a Manhattan GMAT (one of the top GMAT test companies) class.  The teacher handed us a syllabus and told us it would take a minimum of 3 months in total of preparation (2 months of class and 1 month of practicing on our own).  [...]

I went home after the class and started reading GMAT forums.  I remember reading everywhere that it took on average 100 hours to master the GMAT. 

I took a look at the next day that the GMAT was being offered…it was 8 days later.  I signed up, went to sleep, and woke up the next morning eager to start my 100 hours.

Why is this guide important?  As soon as I signed up, I looked for a guide for taking the GMAT in 8 days.  No guide was nearly this short.  The shortest course I found was the Manhattan GMAT course during which you stay in a hotel for 2 weeks and learn the GMAT non-stop. Materials to purchase (*):

* Purchase all of these in e-book format.

On the actual test, you are going to be looking up at the computer, down at your paper, and then back up at the computer.  Get in the habit of doing that by using electronic books. 

Additionally, time is a huge constraint; you need your books NOW.  Getting them electronically is a massive advantage as you can get them in seconds.  Personally, I downloaded all of mine off of Kindle.  Oh and also, since it was on my Kindle, I could pull up textbooks on my phone and study while commuting on trains or busses!

The test is broken down into 4 parts:

1. Essay

  • You analyze an argument

2. Integrated Response

  • Mix of quant and verbal

3. Quantitative

  • Data sufficiency
  • Problem solving

4. Verbal

  • Reading comprehension
  • Critical reasoning
  • Sentence correction

First, forget the essay.  At the time I took the test, most business schools had publicly stated that they didn’t care about the essay.  And literally, the only prep I did for the essay was the night before I took the test.  I went through about 20 essays (both in the official guide and the Manhattan GMAT guide) that had scored a perfect 6 out of 6, realized that they all had the same format, memorized the format, and reproduced that on the test the next day.  Sure, I only got a 5/6 on the essay, but when you only have 8 days, every second of study time is valuable. I have typed up my essay notes below:

Essay (formally referred to as the Analytical Writing Assessment):

1. Identify/ Summarize the evidence +conclusion

2. List the flaws (3 to 5)

a) Cause and Effect i. Conclude that x causes y when y causes ii. Conclude that x causes y when y causes x b) Statistical i. Sample is not representative of the entire population ii. Conclusion does not match statistics

3. Analogy i. Not enough similarities to draw conclusions

4. Other

i. Unsubstantiated assumptions ii. Vague words: some, many, few iii. Ignoring supply+demand fundamentals iv. Drawing a strong conclusion based on weak evidence

5. Find 1 or 2 ways to strengthen the argument

6. Choose the top 2 to 4 flaws -> write essay

7. Proofread

Essay outline:

  1. Tell what you are going to say
  2. Say it
  3. Tell ‘em what you told ‘em

Intro:

  • First sentence: paraphrase argument and state that it is flawed.
  • General Format: The author concludes x based on y, however…
  • Second sentence: In drawing this conclusion, the author not only fails to X, but also Y, furthermore, the author Z’s.

2nd Paragraph (biggest flaw)

  • State your point
  • Elaborate and/or provide examples
  • Explain why this indicates a weakness

3rd and 4th paragraph

  • Repeat what you did in the second paragraph

Last paragraph

  • Explain how the argument can be strengthened
  • Suggest ways in which we can evaluate the conclusion
  • State that the argument is flawed

-General format, “As it stands, however, the argument is flawed for the reasons indicated.”

GENERAL ESSAY NOTES:

  • Keep it simple- it’s a computer program and a person grading (and they only take 2 minutes to read your essay)
  • Time management
    • 5 to 7 on discussion points
    • 20 minutes writing
    • 3 to 5 proof reading
    • Vary length of sentences
    • Use transition words generously
      • ex: first, second, third, therefore, additionally, consequently, because, since, finally, similarly, conversely
      • Don’t refer to yourself

Integrated Response

For this section, I would only do the practice problems from the official guide.  Make sure you do the ones in the book, as well as the problems that come on their CD (it comes with the book).  I did both the official guide and the Manhattan GMAT guide.  I simply just learned way more from the official guide questions.  And unfortunately, I lost the CD with the additional practice questions :( When I took the test, most of the top business schools had publicly stated that they did not care about the IR section (Harvard Business School said that they would still consider it).  This was because the IR section was brand new when I took the GMAT.  Therefore, business schools didn’t have historical data to evaluate IR scores.

Quantitative:

2 sections

  • Problem Solving: basically like normal multiple choice
  • Data Sufficiency: you are given two statements, and you need to decide which of them are true (this type of question is unique to the GMAT)

Both quantitative sections test fundamentally the same skills: your ability to do math, so I will address them both at once.

Doing well on the quantitative portion comes down to how many practice problems you have done. 

The more problems you work through, the more likely it is that those same problems will show up on your actual test.  Don’t waste your time with the lessons.  Learn which problems you really don’t know by trying to do them and working through them with the answer key.  To cut down on time, start at the end of the Official GMAT Quantitative guide and work backwards.  Questions at the end are generally harder, so you will learn faster. I first started with the syllabus that the Manhattan GMAT instructor had given me.  It had lessons and then practice questions selected from the GMAT guide and the Manhattan practice books.  After the 3rd day of working through the syllabus, I knew I would not finish in time for the test, so I only worked on official GMAT math problems for the rest of the time.  One of the biggest takeaways that I got from doing both the Manhattan math problems and the official GMAT math problems was that the official math questions were much more accurate and helpful in terms of what was actually on the test. On the other hand, Manhattan solutions to problems usually showed faster and simpler methods to solving similar problems. Another key strategy is to use Khan Academy.  There are going to be times when you are burned out from working through problems.  When this happens, open Khan Academy and navigate to the GMAT page.  There I found that he had recorded himself working through every math problem in the old GMAT official guide.  This is extremely useful, since you can see someone work through problems and explain step by step what they are doing and why.  This was probably the best tool for quickly learning the math section that I used.

Along the way, you may realize that you forgot how to long divide or multiply two numbers.  You will also realize that it is easy to miscount zero’s and decimal places.  You have been warned.

Random notes on the Math Topics:

Ratios

You will see these a ton.  They are very easy to make a simple mistake on.

Factors and Multiples

You need to memorize divisibility rules.

Ex: A number is divisible by 9 if the sum of the digits is divisible by 9 You need to memorize the square of 1 through 20.

Rates

These probably gave me the most difficulty.  Drawing a picture of the problem helped.

Systems of Equations

Most times, this means just plugging one equation into the other.

Overlapping Sets

Quickly draw and label a Venn diagram.

Right Triangles

There will be a bunch of rules listed on these in both the Mahnattan GMAT book and the Official GMAT book.  You need to memorize all of these.

Inequalities

Rearrange the inequality.

Exponents

There will be a bunch of rules listed on these in both the Mahnattan GMAT book and the Official GMAT book.  You need to memorize all of these.

Percentages

If you have trouble on these, draw a box and shade in the appropriate percentages so you can visually see the problem.

Coordinate Geometry

Draw stuff and count spaces carefully.

Verbal – use the official guide

Reading comprehension

First, skim the questions so that you know what you are looking for Read it like it is a story.  Understand the general flow of the logic, and write a small note next to paragraphs so that you can quickly reference paragraphs when answering questions.

Critical reasoning

Just do a bunch of these.  Take all the ones you got wrong, and go over them with a friend.  This is important because when you initially try to solve the problem, you will create a line of logic in your head that makes sense to you.  It is hard for you to change your line of logic without someone else helping you to think differently.

Sentence correction

Both the Official GMAT Guide and the Manhattan GMAT Guide will have a list of common sentence corrections that you will have to look for.  I have reproduced my outline of this section below:

Types of Errors:

Misplaced modifier

Modifier is placed far away from subject, thereby not modifying it.

Dangling

Not really clear what it is modifying

Ex: I got some tips for how to protect myself from the police.

Squinting

  • Modifier may modify 2 different subjects
  • Ex: Students who miss classes frequently fail the course
  • Pronouns do not agree
  • Improper comparison
  • Wrong subject/verb agreement
  • Wrong verb tense
  • Improper sentence structure
  • Incorrect idiom: You simply need to memorize these.  I have listed common idioms below to kick start you…between: 2 people
  • among: 3 people
  • fewer: a specific #, ex: fewer children (countable nouns)
  • less than: a continuous quantity, ex: less devastation (quantities)
  • farther: distance
  • further: degree
  • contrast A withB
  • dated at
  • responsibility to
  • same to A as to B
  • so A as to be B
  • much: used for an uncountable quantity, such as rain
  • many: used for a countable quantity, such as people
  • aid in

Other tid-bits:

Where you study is important:  Fortunately, my girlfriend lived about a minute away from my house.  When I studied, I would only take my GMAT material to her place and study at her desk.  She would do work directly behind me.  Therefore, anytime I felt like taking a break, there was someone behind me to call me out on checking E-mail or Facebook.  This held me accountable and helped me to stay focused.

DietWhile studying for the test, I was on the Ketogenic diet.  I’m not sure how this affected my mental performance, but having cut out carbohydrates, I did feel like my energy was lacking at certain points in my study marathon.  On the other hand, it greatly simplified my choice of food, so I put almost no mental effort into choosing my food.  Maybe this helped me focus on the GMAT more?  I don’t know.

Signing up hereIf you are going to take the GMAT seriously, you need to sign up.  If there is no deadline (test date) and you haven’t paid the $250 to take the test, it is going to be much harder to motivate yourself.  Sign up here.

Wrap-up: At one point, I wanted to stop because life got boring.  I would literally study all day and eat really plain food (because of the Ketogenic diet).

However, during the last day of studying, I felt abnormally happy. 

I had come to appreciate the test since I had spent so much time learning it.  The strategy written above for hacking the GMAT in 8 days worked for me."

That was Lakshman's way of studying to score over 700 on the GMAT! Do you have tips you can add?

Do it in the comments below the post.

[interaction id="55b79090989ec6b1718abb4c"]