Top 7 Misconceptions of the GMAT

Gain advice from Manhattan Review on how to study for the GMAT exam

It is no surprise that the GMAT is a difficult test, as it is the gold standard into gaining entrance for business school. There are many misconceptions about this test, ranging from incorrect test-taking “strategies” to untruths about the exam itself. Why waste your time on false beliefs about the GMAT when you could be taking practical steps to attaining a high score? The months leading up to your exam are of very precious value since time is a limited resource. We’re debunking some of these common GMAT misconceptions so as not to mislead, but help you succeed come test day.


1.            A month is long enough to prepare for the GMAT

The higher you want your score, the more time you’ll need to spend studying. A month, frankly is too short. Many 700+ scorers allocate 200 hours of work, or more, rationed over a time span of four to six months. At the bare minimum, the test requires 120-150 hours of prep time over two to three months. Treating the GMAT like speed reading simply won’t cut it. This is a test that requires patience to see progress.

The GMAT remains a necessity to enter business school, as it measures how well you perform in simulated, real-life conditions. Sustaining focus and concentration, using sound logic, making decisions under time restrictions – these skills are all crucial for business and the real world. Aim for a top score by allotting more time, not less.


2.            The GMAT is solely an intelligence test

The GMAT doesn’t test intelligence, it tests your aptitude to identify patterns in a predictable setup. Preparing for the GMAT like an IQ test won’t garner better results on exam day. It takes months of practice and more than a handful of hours, as it measures critical and analytical reasoning. Approach it with preparation and treat it as a skill you need to develop. Dedication is the key to acing this exam, not a reliance on brainpower alone.


3.            I must do well on the first 10 questions

There’s a bit of an age-old myth that success on the GMAT is dependent upon doing well on the first 10 questions. While there is some truth to this, as the paper-based, pre-1990s test did emphasize through an algorithm, importance on the first ten questions, this is no longer true of the computer-based GMAT offered today. Basically, get everything right that you can without wasting too much time and know the best scores come from disseminating errors throughout the whole exam.


4.            The GMAT is a math test

The purpose of the quantitative section is to evaluate critical and analytical thinking. You’re basically getting tested on high-school level math and applying its foundations, which is conceptually basic and simple to review, learn and master. Think of the math section as similar to the rest of the exam, only the word problems are replaced by numbers. Regard the GMAT as a riddle and not impossible trigonometry.


5.            Every question must be answered, no matter how difficult

The GMAT is really about pacing and many test-takers lose valuable time focusing on harder questions towards the beginning of the exam where, even if they are correct, don’t end up helping your overall score. By testing your ability to be a good businessperson, the GMAT is testing you on how well you manage your time, what your priorities are and what can be pushed to the side. It’s important to recognize which questions you should skip, guess, and which ones are worth completing.


6.            The GMAT is a business test

The GMAT is not a business test and doesn’t require business knowledge or concepts beyond an undergraduate level. This test does, however, require you to pay close attention to the details. Look at the GMAT as a series of riddles and brainteasers, where the questions aim to make your brain work, ranging from analytical and critical thinking to extracting and dissecting data. There’s no need to cram advanced business theories and models to get ahead on the test; instead, familiarize yourself with primary formulas and remain flexible in how you apply them to fit the context of the questions.


7.            Just knowing the topics is enough

The test-makers aim to discriminate amongst a well-educated audience, meaning there’s continual pressure to produce very difficult questions. Attempting to familiarize yourself with possible topics isn’t a good strategy, as the test-makers do whatever possible to increase the test’s difficulty. (For example, posing alternative question formats, presenting information in unhelpful formats, etc.) A previous knowledge of medieval architecture or quantum physics won’t give you a leg up for test day. Studying hard and consistently over months is a strategy sure to assist you in achieving a high score, not trying to cut corners by memorizing countless topics.

As you see, myths, falsehoods and misconceptions run rampant when it comes to the GMAT. Make sure you start on the right foot by avoiding these false impressions and get ahead of the game by devoting real study time that flexes both your analytical and critical reasoning muscles. Preparing for the GMAT is like preparing for a job interview; in the end, you will feel less anxiety and need a smaller amount of time on tricky problems if your foundation is built correctly. Know fact from fiction when it comes to the GMAT and map out the territory in front of you so that you don’t slip on something thrown your way.

Dr Joern Meissner
Written by Manhattan Review

Manhattan Review, providers of Manhattan Review GMAT Prep, was founded by Dr Joern Meissner (pictured), an internationally renowned business school professor, in 1999. Headquartered in New York City, Manhattan Review operates in many cities in the United States and in selected major cities around the world. It helps students gain entrance to their desired degree programs by working to improve their admission test scores.

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