By taking the time to understand the test mechanics particular to the GMAT, students can raise their scores by 50 to 100 points. It is valuable to know that the first five questions on the test disproportionately influence your score and that failing to finish a section on time will lose you a relatively larger amount of points.
Familiarizing yourself with the question types particular to the GMAT, such as the custom-designed Data Sufficiency questions, will also eliminate unnecessary confusion and distraction on test day. Additionally, students who have been out of school for some time will benefit from reviewing basic concepts they may not have employed since their undergraduate careers.
While all of these factors may sound intimidating, proper test preparation can transform the GMAT into an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your intellectual abilities and your preparedness for business school.
Where to Start: Practice Tests
An important element of any GMAT prep routine will be taking practice tests. Practice tests allow you to identify areas that need improvement, measure your progress and build your stamina for the nearly four-hour test. It is a good idea to schedule time to take a full-length practice test once every week or two, especially as test day approaches.
In order to replicate the actual testing experience, you should take computerized tests rather than paper-based practice tests. GMAC offers free practice materials you can use to get started. Taking a practice test now will give you an idea of how close you are to your target score (high 600s to low 700s for top business schools). If you ace your first practice test, you can spend your preparation budget on a celebration. Otherwise, it’s time to prepare for some serious studying.
How to Select Test Preparation Resources
When deliberating whether to study out of a GMAT book or in a GMAT prep course, the most important considerations will be personal. Some students may not have the flexible schedule to attend in-person classes or may prefer working one on one with a tutor. Consider these four questions when selecting your test preparation method:
- Budget: How much money can you invest in your GMAT preperation?
- Time: How flexible is your schedule? How much studying time can it accommodate?
- Learning style: How much engagement with others do you need to be successful?
- Discipline: How effectively can you create and implement your own study plans?
If you have the funds and the time, an in-person or online course will likely be a wise investment. Few ventures are as rewarding as education, and scarcely any type of education pays off as well as an MBA. However, if you have a tight budget or a restrictive schedule, and you know that you have the discipline and organizational skills to study effectively on your own, you may be able to do just as well with a GMAT prep book.