All you need to know about GMAT preparation

Are you planning to sit for the GMAT and wondering what kind of preparation strategy to follow? When is the best time to start preparing? How many mock tests are enough? Then this special feature will give you answers to all your questions pertaining to GMAT by helping you to understand the nature of the test and provide you the right perspective to make the most of your GMAT preparation. 

By Anshuman Bharadwaj | Academic Head (Quant) | Study Abroad | IMS Learning Resources Pvt Ltd

1. How many Mock Tests should one take ideally for GMAT?

To answer this question, let’s first understand why mocks must be written in the first place. After having learned all the concepts that are tested on GMAT in the classes, and getting familiar with the application of those concepts through practise, students need to test themselves through mock tests and get a feel of sitting for an actual GMAT. It’s only though writing and analysing the performance on the mocks that one can perfect a strategy that works best for them. Ideally, a student is ready for GMAT once he/she starts getting the actual GMAT target score in the mocks. Thus, the number of mock tests that a student needs to take varies for every student. For some, the number can be as low as 2-3, for some it can be up to 15. Typically, students who get the best GMAT scores write between 5-10 mocks. But then again, there’s no magic number as such.

2. Is there a test taking strategy that one should follow?

The most important test taking strategy is ‘TAKE THE TEST’. As ridiculous as it may sound, you will be shocked to learn that the percentage of students who enroll for various GMAT Prep Courses out there and the ones that actually end up taking the test is well below 50%. The reason for that is because GMAT, unlike CAT and some of the other competitive exams does’t happen just once a year; you can take the test any day you want to. Now this flexibility that GMAT offers is a great thing in itself, but most of the students feel they’re never really ‘fully prepared’ for GMAT and hence end up not writing the test.

Effective test taking strategies are as follows:

Figure out what courses/colleges you’re targeting and what GMAT score is required to make that happen.

Take a diagnostic Test and analyse the gap between the desired score and the diagnostic score.

Take expert help available to chart out a plan and see what is the time and effort required bridging this gap.

Based on this action plan and the estimated time required to do this, BOOK a GMAT date and slot. Only once you have an actual Exam date, you can channel your efforts in the most efficient manner.

3. Is there a study plan that should be followed by GMAT takers?

Most definitely, Yes! As discussed in the previous question, a study plan must be prepared with the guidance of an expert based on where you stand right now and where you want to be with respect to your target GMAT Quant and Verbal score. And yes, this plan is different for different students and there’s no one ‘THE PLAN’.

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4. How many months should one keep aside in order to prepare for GMAT?

Always be mindful that GMAT Preparation consists of classroom training, post classroom practise, and the mock testing and the analysis phase. To give a generic timeframe, 2.5 to 4 months of preparation is good enough.

5. How to tackle each section of the GMAT?

For both, Quant and Verbal, one needs to be thorough with all the basic concepts of the subject that GMAT bases its questions on, and if you are familiar with the application types and concepts it is doable as the number of basic concepts required is limited and finite. One key thing to remember is that GMAT is a test that’s used by the best B-Schools in the world to gauge your potential as a manager. Hence, it’s not a subject expertise test but rather a test of efficiency and smartness.

Very subtly, GMAT tests your decision making skills, attention to detail, one’s ability to read between the lines and of course, reasoning skills more than the subject skills. Improving on the said managerial skills apart from the basic subject knowledge is one sure way of how one can really tackle the sections confidently.

6. How difficult or easy one might find preparing for GMAT?

Once you know you need to take the GMAT and get a target score in order to get into your desired program, it becomes a question of how much effort do you need to put in to get there rather than how difficult or easy GMAT is. Considering that GMAT is very standardised and tests a finite number of concepts and skills, even the ones who feel they’re not so good when it comes to subject knowledge can do really well by putting in the required effort.

7. Is there a preferable time of the year to take GMAT?

Because GMAT can be written any time of the year, there has to be some factors that one must take into consideration before one decides as to when to take the GMAT. For example, what are the Round 1/Round 2 deadlines of the schools that you’re applying for? Also, be mindful to give yourself a buffer time for the 2nd GMAT attempt before the final deadline.

8. How important it is to Ace the GMAT?

Let’s first discuss what Ace means in context of GMAT. There have been cases where students with scores of as high as 750 and above haven’t gotten into their desired programs and then there have been those who have gotten into their dream schools by getting a 600. So, who do you think aced the GMAT? Any student who gets the score that’ll help him/her secure the desired admit has aced the GMAT.

Tips to ace the GMAT:

Know the required target score.

Know when to write the 1st attempt.

Depending on the time you have on your hands, clearly define the kind of effort you need to put in to reach from the starting level to the desired level.

Track your progress all along.

9. How much time should I spend on studying for the GMAT every day?

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Whenever I get this question I have just one answer for the students. It is for the student to figure out and decide. What I can tell them is what all they need to be done with by the end of the week. If they feel just an hour a day is good enough to do the weekly task, great! If they feel they have to devote 4 hours each day as thay have to work on first strengthening their basic concepts, do that! So the point is, again, it’s very subjective and may vary from student to student. And again, there’s no magic number.

10. What exactly do I need to look at while analysing a test?

First of all, of course it is the questions that one gets wrong. A lot can be learnt about one’s present state of preparation just by analysing the mistakes made. A question can either be wrong if the underlying concept was not clear – which will guide the student as to which area needs to be worked upon -, or because of some careless error, which will bring to fore the various tendencies one might have developed over a time or the assumptions one unnecessarily makes. Apart from this, the questions that were right but took a long time solving should also be looked into. After all, it’s not just about getting the question right, it’s about getting the question right in a given amount of time. So the questions that take a long time to solve also usually reveal an underlying lack of conceptual clarity. In a nutshell, analysing a mock test is as important as writing the mock.

All the best!