Headed to grad school this year? If so, you may want to consider these eight best ways to study for the GMAT.
Preparing for the GMAT can be a daunting endeavor. Especially if you haven’t taken a standardized test in a while - remember the SAT? - you might be nervous about the structure and content of the test.
Luckily, as long as you plan ahead, there’s not much that you need to do in order to perform well on this challenging exam. Here’s what you need to know for the best way to study for the GMAT.
What Is The GMAT?
The best place to start when preparing for the GMAT is to understand what this test actually is. The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admissions Test, is a three and a half hour computer adaptive test that is used to predict how well you will perform in an MBA (Master of Business Administration) program.
In addition to the GRE (or as a substitute to it instead), this test is often used by graduate schools of business to determine a candidate's readiness and eligibility for graduate school admission.
The test measures certain reading, verbal, quantitative, writing, and analytic skills. It’s often likened to a harder version of the SAT, with an essay, math, and verbal sections, and multiple-choice questions. Like the SAT, it’s also scored on a scaled range of 200 to 800. The test assesses your skills in different ways from the SAT and is significantly more challenging.
Many GMAT questions use business-based scenarios to test your readiness for business school, too. The test is broken down into four sections - Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning. You'll have thirty minutes for the first two sections, 62 minutes for the Quantitative Reasoning section, and 65 minutes for the Verbal Reasoning section.
Like other standardized tests, you cannot jump around.
The exam is offered on-demand at test centers worldwide on most days of the year, so you can take it whenever you’d like - but you’ll want to schedule it far enough in advance.
Ideally, you should take the test at least six months before you intend to apply to grad school. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to retake your exam if you aren’t satisfied with the results.
8 Best Ways To Study For The GMAT
1. Plan Ahead
Start by planning ahead. The GMAT is not a test that you want to go into without the right level of preparation. If you’re trying to juggle your job, your studies, or other life commitments, it’s easy to let your study sessions slip by the wayside.
Ideally, you’ll dedicate about three months to solid studying. Preparing for this test is stressful enough, but it’s going to be even more stressful (and much less effective) if you wait until the last minute to prepare.
2. Invest In The Right Materials
You don’t necessarily have to spend thousands of dollars on study books - you don’t have to spend a dime, in fact, if you’re on a budget. However, you should at the very least invest in yourself.
Create a study schedule that’s reasonable and fits well with your schedule. Be realistic about exactly how much spare time you have every day to prepare - and about how many weeks of study you might need. Before beginning to prepare for the test, consider taking a practice exam that will give you a good baseline. That way, you’ll know which areas you need to work on before you begin the hard work of preparing for the test.
Then, you’re going to need to invest in some quality materials. You don’t have to buy every book ever written, but choosing just one can help you succeed. Don’t assume that books are your only option, either - there are all kinds of materials out there that can help you ace the test, including phone apps, books, and video lectures.
Choose the materials that work best for your budget - and for your unique learning style.
3. Acquaint Yourself With The Structure And Format Of The Test
Although the content you might encounter on the GMAT can vary, the structure and directions aren’t going to change in the slightest. Therefore, you’ll save a ton of time (and stress) on test-taking day if you already know the instructions.
Pay attention to the instructions while you are studying. Keep in mind that the directions on the GMAT are worded a bit differently than ones on other standardized tests.
4. Time Yourself
You should also familiarize yourself with how the test is timed. There is a time limit on the GMAT, as there is on most standardized tests. This can put a lot of stress on you when you’re taking the test, but one of the best ways to prepare is to time yourself ahead of time.
The time restrictions will limit you in how long you can spend on every question. Remember, you’ll only be able to see one question at a time. Therefore, it’s essential that you prepared ahead of time and know how many questions you have to answer each question.
When you do your practice tests, set yourself up for success by setting a timer and mimicking the actual testing environment, with no distractions, beverages, or food to help you get through.
Rely on Materials from the Test Makers Themselves
Who knows better about the GMAT than its creators themselves? The GMAT has so much information - but it also has a lot of study materials that you should take advantage of. These are often free.
When you’re preparing for the GMAT, make sure you check out the catalog of old GMAT questions so you can get a good handle on what you’re up against.
5. Consider Taking A Class
You can get all kinds of top-rated prep books out there, but if you aren’t the best at convincing yourself to study, you may want to invest the time and money in a GMAT prep class or a GMAT course. These classes usually maintain small class sizes so that you can get the right balance of attention and participation.
6. Brush Up On Your Strengths And Weaknesses
The GMAT contains a ton of information - that’s no question. However, its content is finite - it is possible to study everything that is going to be on the exam. Sure, it would be great to be able to memorize the answers for every single question for every single topic, but you would be best off figuring out your own individual strengths and weaknesses and then working to address those as you study.
For example, take a close look at your skills in math. Are they up to snuff? Do you read slowly? Do you get bad test-taking anxiety? Make yourself aware of your weaknesses as well as your strengths so that you can focus your attention on those topics while you are studying. Attacking your weaknesses head-on is a great way to prepare - painlessly.
7. Study As Often As Possible
The best way to prepare for the test is, of course, to practice. You need to study as often as possible. You’re better off spreading your study sessions out into shorter chunks that take place more frequently - for example, by studying for twenty minutes every day instead of engaging in a six-hour-long marathon session on the weekend.
Why? Your brain will remember information best when it is frequently presented with that information. Plus, it can be hard to dedicate a large chunk of time to marathon study sessions, so you might find yourself overwhelmed by attempting to block out those times all at once.
That said, you should try to incorporate a few longer study sessions into your study plan so that you can get comfortable with the conditions you’ll experience on test day. Make sure you take at least one complete, uninterrupted practice test in a single setting to help familiarize you with what it’s like to test on the computer for more than three hours.
8. Boost Your Confidence
The week before the test, brush up on your strengths. Try to focus your attention on areas that you perform well in - of course, don’t ignore your weaknesses prior to this! This can provide a nice, helpful boost of confidence as you are going into the exam.
How To Study For - And Ace! - The GMAT
Ultimately, the tips we’ve mentioned above will only come together to serve as one small piece of the puzzle on test day - even if you follow those tips to a T, the leg work is up to you. Luckily, the best tip you can follow to prepare for the GMAT is a simple one. You need to be as relaxed and confident as possible!
By going into the test and knowing what to expect, you’ll be a lot calmer. Plus, when you follow these best ways to study for the GMAT, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing you’ve done everything you can to prepare for this challenging exam. Good luck!