When and How to Prepare for The GMAT


The GMAT as you might know, is one of the criteria students need to apply for an MBA program. This flexible standardized test can be attempted five times a year. While it may be tempting to schedule to the examination as per one’s professional and personal commitments, it is pertinent to remember that B-Schools require much more from applicants than just a suitable GMAT score.

As such admissions criteria would include completing an online application, providing reference letters from current and previous employers, essays and other documents as well. Most students will apply to as many as four or five B-Schools. This aspect complicates the process as many Colleges have overlapping deadlines. Since the purpose of attempting the GMAT is to get admission into a B-School, we must remember that the actual application will require just as much, if not more, effort than the GMAT.

With that in mind, remember to:

  1. Start early – study time can take several months and you will struggle when juggling all other aspects such as personal and professional commitments along with your applications and GMAT preparation.
  2. Give your best attempt the first time to avoid having to reschedule the exam.
  3. Focus completely on the purpose of the GMAT – avoid common pitfalls such as the excessive focus on grammar and avoiding AWA preparation until the last minute.
  4. Keep an eye out for college deadlines.
  5. Ensuring that you work on your college applications alongside so that you aren’t rushed at the last minute.

How to Prepare for The GMAT

While the “when” is simple, the “how” is not. Given today’s technological advancements, study methods have changed. While this may seem to simplify many aspects of our lives, it also tends to complicate. For instance, many students are overwhelmed with the amount of GMAT preparatory material online. One of the first mistakes students make is in thinking that “quantity” matters. So most will use various sources.

This is a misconception, as the GMAT tests your analytical and Math skills. Students fare better when they have a strong foundation and follow time-saving strategies. Hence, spending months completing practice test after practice test from several sources is a common pitfall. A smarter way to prepare for the GMAT is to religiously follow the syllabus set by GMAC and refer to books and examination material provided by the test-maker. Thereafter, if you have time, you can try additional sources.

However, remind yourself that questions from retired tests are never repeated and that your chances of getting higher scores are not dependent on how many times you practice the exam.

Here are some general tips:

  1. Dont write on books – for those of us still living in the dark ages, a pen and paper based study method works well. However the GMAT is computer-based, thus writing or highlighting important parts in books will cultivate unproductive habits. Following this study method will also render your books useless when you enter revision mode.
  2. Use official GMAC books – while it may be tempting to refer to many sources, the official GMAC material is designed to meet study requirements for all students – be it beginner, intermediate or advanced level.
  3. Not an exam of quantity – quality of preparation matters tremendously during the GMAT. Set your foundations straight, understand and practice time-saving techniques, and follow strategies to score higher in the Verbal and AWA sections of the exam.
  4. Follow a combination of classroom/ self-study for best results. We will be covering more about these study methods, their merits and demerits in a separate article.

Don’t forget to check out our article about maintaining your focus during the GMAT. This write-up will provide you with suitable advice – steps you should take as soon as you start your preparation to establish correct study habits and maximize your chances of scoring higher.

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