9 Top Tips to Ace the GMAT

We ask GMAT experts for their top tips to improve your GMAT score

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is an important part of most business school applications. Admissions committees look at applicant scores to see if they fit into a range typical of the class they are seeking to form. They want to be sure you can handle the coursework and be successful. 

Scoring lower than the school’s range does not necessarily mean an automatic rejection, but higher scores can only help your chances. Together with your previous GPA and academic record, the GMAT gives admissions committees an idea of the rigor you could withstand. Of course, it’s only one part of the application. Admissions staff members remind applicants that they look at the whole of the candidate’s application and never make a decision based on one metric.

Still, increasing that score is a priority. We get it. So, we asked GMAT experts to offer their best tips for test takers:

 

Be the elephant

Having a good memory comes in handy when taking the GMAT. After you’ve been studying for a while, redo questions you answered incorrectly at the start, to see if you have a new perspective, suggests Dennis Yim, Kaplan Test Prep’s director of academics. Just keep practicing.

 

Keep a steady pace

“The GMAT is not a test you want to, or can cram for,” says Yim. “You need a long, realistic runway, and you need to make sure you have a game plan that focuses on learning strategies that you can take with you to test day.” 

In addition, you have to work within a certain timeframe. Take timed practice tests as often as you can to get used to the process and reduce stress, says Mike McGarry, GMAT curriculum manager at Magoosh.

 

Find your zen

Discover stress-reducing techniques. Slow, deep-belly breathing, mindfulness, meditation, and walks in nature are among the activities McGarry suggests. Unplugging from TV, movies, and devices can also be calming, he adds.

Just like math and verbal questions, stress-reducing activities require constant practice, says McGarry: “If you can cultivate an assiduous commitment to cultivating deep whole-body relaxation as a regular state of being, then you will be able to bring a level of focus and presence to the GMAT that eludes almost everyone else.”

 

Embrace errors

The GMAT is an adaptive test. This means that the more questions you get correct, the more difficult the test will become. Some applicants become frustrated as the test goes on because it becomes more challenging to answer correctly, says Yim.

“Focus in your studies on building your experience of how the GMAT might challenge you, so you can be confident and comfortable by test day,” he adds. “Start your study sessions by stopping once you have five to seven things wrong to review and explore further. Use your mistakes to guide you.”

 

Work around the boredom

One of the biggest challenges for business school applicants is shifting gears to the verbal portion of the test. After all, many b-school applicants feel their strength lies in number crunching. In addition, the reading comprehension passages can be boring and laborious to get through, says Yim.

“You are not reading to learn content - don't obsess over details,” he adds. “Instead, focus on the author's purpose and never forget your primary goal in reading comp, which is to earn points. Most questions will ask you to consider the author's opinion and tone. This is the information you want to glean from the passage, through a variety of keywords. Don't skim, but quickly determine if you need the information or not.”

 

Pick up ‘mental math’ skills

Doing math in your head can serve you well. “The entire time you are preparing for the GMAT, resist the urge to reach for the calculator whenever you need to do some real-world calculations,” suggests McGarry. “Learn the tricks to doing mental math (It’s way easier to add 59 + 27 by adding 50 + 20 and then 9+7; then add the sums together.)”

 

Have a strategy for sentence correction questions

To get the correct answer in sentence correction items, you must first find the wrong ones, says Yim. “Eliminate commonly tested errors in other answer choices until only one remains,” he adds. “Many times the correct answer will not sound great but that's not the goal; you are trying to pick the error free answer.”

 

Practice visual literacy

McGarry says visual literacy is a necessity. He advises applicants to become familiar with efficiently analyzing charts, tables, and imaginary symbols, which are commonly featured in the GMAT. Using official test prep materials, or those from third parties that come closest to the real thing are your best bet, says McGarry.

 

Go for the gold

Determination and setting your mind on performing well is a big part of test taking – or really any challenge you undertake. McGarry believes this should be the cornerstone of your studying habits.

“You see, the vast majority of folks who study for the GMAT have access to all the information needed for an excellent performance, but only 10% cross the magic 700-threshold,” he says. “The difference is not the content, the information, which essentially everyone has. The difference maker is the level of yourself that you can bring. Excellence comes from the heart. If you can pursue excellence with the heart of a lion, you will be on the way to success.”

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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