GMAT preparation is not only important because you need to achieve a certain score. The real value of GMAT preparation is that it improves the skills that you will need for success during your MBA or Master’s degree studies. Furthermore, these are skills that can help you be a more efficient manager.

Prerequisites to starting GMAT preparation

A prerequisite to starting your GMAT preparation is to have a high level of English language proficiency. GMAT does not test your language skills, but it is conducted in English. You need a good overall level of vocabulary in various subject areas.

High school or college level maths knowledge is also essential, as well as knowledge of the corresponding maths terminology in English. Even if you are good at maths, if you have not studied it in English then this might be a challenge for a while.

Step 1: Get to know the GMAT

GMAT is a challenging test and it requires focused preparation. Successful GMAT test takers invest about 100 hours in study and practice. That is why you should not be discouraged when you first look at a sample GMAT test.

The best first step is to take a sample GMAT. Choose an untimed version, and take your time going through all the questions. Plan for several hours - the actual GMAT test takes about 3.5 hours to complete. Be patient and give yourself the best chance to familiarise yourself with the content and structure of the test.

Step 2: Refresh your maths

The GMAT tests how you use your maths knowledge to solve different types of problems. So you have to start with the basics. Check out a list of the maths content that is needed for the GMAT and make sure you have a quick refresh of all the content. This is just a quick refresher. You will go deeper at a later stage.

Here is a summary of the maths content you will need to go through. Don’t be embarrassed if most of it doesn’t ring a bell. The reason may be not lack of knowledge, but rather the English terminology of the maths concepts.

  • Arithmetic: Properties of Integers, Fractions, Decimals, Real Numbers, Ratio and  Proportions, Percentages, Powers and  Roots of Numbers, Descriptive Statistics, Sets, Counting Methods, Discrete Probability
  • Algebra: Simplifying Algebraic Expressions, Equations, Linear Equations, One Unknown, Linear Equations, Two Unknowns, Solving by Factoring, Solving Quadratic Equations, Exponents, Inequalities, Absolute Value, Functions/Series
  • Geometry: Lines, Intersecting Angles and Lines, Perpendicular Lines, Parallel Lines, Polygons, Triangles, Quadrilaterals, Circles, Rectangular Solids and Cylinders, Coordinate Geometry
  • Word Problems: Rate Problems, Work Problems, Mixture Problems, Interest Problems, Discount, Profit, Sets, Geometry Problems, Measurement Problems, Data Interpretation

Step 3: Refresh English Grammar

GMAT is not an English language test although it is conducted in English. However, good knowledge of Standard English grammar and idiomatic expressions is needed to perform well in the Analytical Writing Assessment and the Verbal section of the GMAT.

Here is a summary of the English grammar that you will need to master. Don’t get stressed out if some of the grammar terminology in English sounds unfamiliar. It is important to practise the usage and know some of the rules.

  • Nouns
  • Verbs
  • Pronouns
  • Adjectives and Adverbs
  • Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases
  • Conjunctions
  • Proper Use of Problem Verbs
  • Basic English Sentence Structure
  • Subject/Verb Agreement and Placement
  • Questions
  • Comparisons
  • Commands
  • Double Negatives
  • Relative Clauses
  • Gerunds and Infinitives
  • Causative Verbs
  • Affirmative Agreement
  • Negation
  • Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Step 4: Take a diagnostic test

After refreshing the basic knowledge that you need in order to master the GMAT, the time has come for a more precise evaluation of how to structure your preparation. Take a diagnostic test that is not timed and that records your replies for review after the test and displays explanations of how each question can be solved.

Step 5: Get professional feedback

The best option is to take a diagnostic test with a GMAT preparation company so that you can get personal feedback from experienced GMAT instructors. In this way you can make a realistic and focused plan for your preparation that will be tailored to your starting level, to the areas that are particularly challenging for you and that will take account of your strengths.

Step 6: Commit to focused GMAT preparation

Mastering the maths and English language knowledge that is needed for the GMAT is not really enough to achieve a high score. The GMAT actually tests your skills in using this knowledge and applying it to analytical thinking, working with large amounts of information, decision making, analysing arguments and expressing yourself in writing.

To that end, there is always a most appropriate way to approach each question in the GMAT test. This is why preparing with experienced GMAT instructors by your side is the most effective approach.

In addition, the GMAT has a unique format. It is a timed, computer-adaptive test that defines rather precisely the level of your skills. The way this is done is by adapting the level of difficulty of each question in your test depending on your performance. This format, along with the exhausting duration of the test, which is over 3.5 hours, and the average pace of about a minute per question, certainly requires you to master some additional test-taking strategies.

Check out: How to Prepare for GMAT – Essential Guide

It is never too early to start your GMAT prep if your English is good enough and you have the basic maths knowledge. It usually takes about four months of focused preparation before sitting the GMAT for the first time. It may however take longer, and more than one test, before you can achieve your best score. Your commitment is usually well rewarded because a high GMAT score always makes a difference in MBA admissions, scholarship competitions and even job applications.