GMAT Preparation

Introduction to GMAT Preparation

The vast majority of accredited MBA programs (and other master's-level business degrees) require the Graduate Management Admissions Test, or the GMAT. While similar in format to most standardized tests, the GMAT has unique ways of asking certain questions, making adequate test preparation more than just a matter of a good night's rest. Your GMAT score will last usually for five years, so quality preparation up front saves time, money, and frustration.

GMAT Preparation

How should I begin studying?

Studying for the GMAT may begin with a textbook purchase, a full-immersion classroom or distance learning experience, or a free sample test. Because of the highly competitive nature of the exam-scored anywhere from 200-800, with low- to mid-700s needed for the best schools-many students aiming at top-level universities will consider individual tutoring to ensure that they perform the best they can.

What types of questions should I expect?

As with most standardized exams, the GMAT includes an analytical writing portion. While some schools may disregard this score or consider it less heavily, your testing skills should be well-rounded before you sit the exam. Be sure as well to know how your target schools or programs will treat the writing portion. If they give it greater weight, be sure to practice outlining, writing, and thinking as it pertains to possible test questions. If, however, they do not, gear your training elsewhere. Verbal and mathematical sections offer sufficient challenges on their own.

What should I expect from the verbal sections?

In the verbal section, questions are composed of three types, displayed at random throughout the hour dedicated to testing verbal skills. These are sentence correction, critical reasoning, and reading comprehension. Schools with a high proportion of students without English as their first language will take into account lower scores that result from lower performance on the verbal. Test preparation courses for the GMAT will focus on grammar, mechanics, reading strategies, and logical analysis.

What should I expect from the math sections?

The logic basis in the verbal section is also tested in mathematics, which presents two types of questions: problem solving and data sufficiency. Both require basic mathematics skills, but present basic problems in complex settings. Data sufficiency questions are unique to the GMAT, asking you to approve neither, either, or both of a pair of corollaries to a given mathematical statement. For that question type alone, many students opt for a more extensive GMAT preparation course. Whatever the case, considering your target university, desired score, and past test-taking experience is vital in preparing for the GMAT.

How is my final score calculated?

While the GMAT does not penalize for guessing (an algorithm calculates the final score, taking statistical anomalies into account), it does penalize lack of effort. The test is computer-adaptive, meaning that the test assesses your performance as it goes, giving you harder or easier questions depending on your performance. Your final score takes that into account. Because of that, questions that are left blank receive a heavier penalty than those that receive an honest effort. With that in mind, you should focus your studies on being able to approach the various question types. Even if you do not answer everything right, completing the section helps your eventual score.