Wednesday, October 01, 2014 at 12pm

How to Get a 700+ GMAT Score

GMAT prep

For many MBA applicants, the GMAT is the most frightening part of a daunting application process.

Traditionally, the 700 barrier has been considered the threshold to surpass when aiming for top MBA programs. It is not a score which is easy to achieve. Therefore, as a recent GMAT test taker, I will try to share my thoughts on the most important aspects of test prep.

How to address GMAT preparation

1. Take the GMAT exam seriously

The common denominator among successful test takers is that all of them are committed to the task in terms of time and effort. The GMAT is a very demanding exam, and with the time-constraint, it will make you pay if you show up unprepared.

2. Official guides and GMAT test prep software are a must

Many students will benefit from a specialized course, while others may prefer using some of the many books and guides covering every section in the exam. Whatever the case, the official guide and the verbal and quant supplements are the only ones with actual GMAT exam questions. So they are a must. Besides, there are also extra sets of questions and more practice tests available at the website, if more is needed.

3. Keep an error log

No test taker gets significantly better just by taking practice test questions one after another; a successful student will always spend as much time reviewing those he or she got wrong as taking questions, in order to identify mistakes and weaknesses. It is imperative to do this in order to be more efficient and focus on the areas where improvement is needed.

I would also recommend reviewing even those practice test questions you get right, so you can rule out pure luck and also to learn if there is a better or faster way to solve them.

4. Pace yourself

Always keep track of the time spent on each question during your test prep because the exam gives you only around two minutes per question on average, and by the end of the preparation process, you must be capable of solving almost any question within that timeframe.

One important lesson to learn, very painful for me at first, is that passing on two or three questions won´t hurt your GMAT score significantly and it may give you enough time to actually finish the exam. It is not worth spending minutes on a question you had no clue on how to solve. If you have no idea after a minute, move on – you will need that extra time later.

The second important lesson, building on the previous point, is that the best method to solve a question is the fastest one. Unlike at school, the only important thing is the answer, not the method. I also had trouble with this at first, so the sooner you realize it, the better.

5. When taking a practice test, take it entirely

Keep in mind that in the real GMAT exam, by the time you reach the quant section you will have one full hour of work behind you, therefore it is in your best interests to take the opportunity to practice the AWA and IR sections in test prep, because that way the experience will be more similar to the real thing. Besides, It would be a shame if you got a great GMAT score but a below average IR or AWA score as a consequence of not paying enough attention during your practice tests.

Moreover, don´t waste a practice test if you’re struggling – 700+ scorers frequently have a success rate higher than 90% when answering questions in the OG. If you are far from that, you need either more or better practice. Once you reach that level, try to take a practice test every week, to keep the pace.

6. Adapt your study

The GMAT rewards intelligent students. As such, after a while preparing for the exam, you must identify several points for improvement. Those are where you need to spent the most time when the exam day is coming close.

I would suggest finding extra material if needed. Read National Geographic or The Economist to get familiar with expressions and themes that usually appear on the verbal section and that cause trouble if you don’t understand.

7. Rest is everything

I know it sounds like a cliché, but it is also quite true. Given the degree of concentration needed to solve questions in two minutes, even more if you are in a high difficulty level, if you are tired it will be reflected in your GMAT score.

On the day

Prepare well is the best advice I can give you for exam day, but of course there are other things that can help, besides luck.

1. Schedule the GMAT exam for the time of the day when you are at your best

If you are not a morning person, set an appointment for the afternoon. This is also a great option for those people who tend to get nervous before an exam and don´t sleep well.

2. Travel to the GMAT exam center with extra time

Just in case, and so you don´t add tension to your already nervous self.

3. Bring something to eat and drink during the breaks

Ideally something with sugar and maybe caffeine. However be careful not to drink too much, in case you suddenly feel the urge to use the restroom in the middle of the exam.

4. Try to relax as much as possible

The questions are the same as the ones you’ve have seen for weeks now; there is nothing new, and you know you can do it already.

5. Don´t try to guess if questions are difficult or easy

Don’t try and ascertain how you’re doing by how difficult you perceive the questions to be. You can only try to do your best, and move on.

6. If a certain section of the exam did not go well, or so you think, forget about it and focus on the next one

That is the only thing that is in your control now. Besides, you never know how it really went.

7. Beware of the clock!

Successful test takers are those who are able to perform well under pressure during the exam, just as they did at home. But never get overconfident and think that because you succeeded when taking the exam in your room, the result will be just as good on the real exam.

Good luck everyone!

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