We Took the GMAT With No Preparation | TopMBA.com

We Took the GMAT With No Preparation

By Niamh O

Updated August 9, 2019 Updated August 9, 2019

Preparing for and taking the GMAT can’t really be avoided if you’re planning to study an MBA. The fact it’s inevitable doesn’t necessarily make preparation any easier though.

But have you ever wondered what it would be like to take the test blind? With no preparation and minimal knowledge of what to expect on the GMAT?

To find out just how difficult the GMAT can be without adequate preparation, six of our editorial team – Craig, Sabrina, Chloe, Julia, Steph and myself – sat down with some sample questions to see how we got on. The short answer? It was not a fun experience.

History of the GMAT

In 1953, representatives from nine business schools – Columbia Business School, Harvard Business School, The Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern), Rutgers Business School - Newark and New Brunswick, Seton Hall, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Michigan Ross School of Business, The Wharton School, and Washington University in St. Louis – came together to establish a standardized entry requirement to assess qualified candidates.

That fateful meeting saw the creation of the Admission Test for Graduate Study in Business, now known as the GMAT. In the first year, only 50 schools received exam scores, and only 2,553 students took the test, a mere fraction of the 250,000 exams given throughout the year today.

The paper

We sat and tried our sample GMAT questions in the office under exam conditions, and you could feel the stress in the air.

As all of us hadn’t taken a standardized test for quite a few years, trying to get our heads in exam mode proved to be a shock to the system.

But God loves a trier and try we all did. Unfortunately, if I was taking the GMAT for real, it would have been a hard fail. Let’s take a look section by section at how we got on.

Quant sections

The silent exam conditions in the office don’t last long. “What’s an integer?” asks one person, while another confesses they’ve forgotten what the word perimeter means.

These sections sent me right back to high school, my brain trying (and failing) to remember any sliver of algebra knowledge, or proficiency in finding solutions.

Having gone through this experience of the GMAT’s quant sections, I can appreciate why many GMAT takers have described it as a more concentrated form of the math you learned at school.

By far the toughest questions for everyone were the data sufficiency questions. Exclusive to the GMAT, these were unlike any math problems we could remember from school. By asking if you have enough algebraic information to be able to solve an equation, the questions replicate how managers will need to make decisions, but all six of us were pretty stumped by the unusual question format.

Highest score: 11/14 (Craig) – “Trying to dredge up memories of math lessons from over a decade ago was hardly ideal but I remembered more than I thought I would!”

Lowest score: 2/14 (me) – “This was a blow to the spirits, in the end I guessed quite a few answers, which didn’t work in my favor. I won’t be applying to business school soon, that’s for sure.”

Qualitative sections

As a journalist, I deal with words, syntax and sentence formation every day, but that didn’t prepare me for the minefield of critical reasoning and sentence correction skills necessary for the GMAT.

I’m of the opinion that the business world isn’t just black and white, there’s an element of grey when it comes to solving a problem, so this was one of the more infuriating elements to the test.

As there is only one right answer per question, the qualitative sections are designed to throw you a curve ball and confuse you, making you second-guess your thinking. The reading comprehension section in particular provoked fierce debate over whether the correct answer was “fair”.

These debates showed that to take the GMAT successfully you need to be able to train yourself to think in a specific way and understand what the questions in the reading comprehension and sentence correction sections are actually looking for. It’s much harder to make sense of this without any prep, so practice loads and keep your wits about you.

Highest score: 10/15 (Craig) – “Some of the questions in this section are really confusing if you’ve never had any practice of how to answer them properly.”

Lowest score: 5/15 (Steph) – “This has really made me appreciate all the hard work and preparation MBA candidates need to do in order to sit the test.”

How did we do?

29 sample questions were given to each of us and I don’t think any of us will be ready to sit the GMAT any time soon. Even the highest scorers admitted a fair amount of luck was on their side, while most of us struggled to get more than half of the questions right.

Sabrina and Chloe both came close to the 50 percent mark and shared their thoughts with me afterwards. Sabrina confessed: “In some cases, I simply gave up trying to understand the question and just guessed! I haven’t studied math in a decade, so I was very rusty in that part.”

Chloe said: “Saying it was challenging would be an understatement, but I can see why it’s used as it covers a lot of ground and I feel like it gives a very good indication of the way your mind works. Mostly though it was just traumatising.”

Fortunately, you don’t need to find the GMAT as traumatic as Chloe. By following a thorough test prep plan, you’ll be confident in your abilities by the time you’re sat down to take the exam. Head to QS Leap for free test-prep services to ensure your GMAT performance is as strong as possible.

This article was originally published in August 2019 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.