Top 5 GMAT Study Tips

Although the GMAT can be a bit intimidating, those who properly prepare for it can achieve their desired score. It is a however a test you need to study for. Don't expect to do well, or even pass, without focused preparation and study beforehand.

There are some general GMAT test preparation concepts you should be aware of before purchasing any study guides or signing up for an expensive GMAT preparation class. The following tips can be extremely helpful if you decide against either of these preparation options.

Below you'll find five effective strategies that will help you prepare for the GMAT:

1) Go to the source.

The best way to prepare for the GMAT is to practice with questions and problems from previous tests. To better help people prepare for the GMAT, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), releases study guides containing problems and questions from previous GMATs. Before purchasing any study guides from other organizations, we highly recommend acquiring as many GMAC Official Guides as possible, and that you begin reviewing the questions and problems contained in them.

We also recommended the free GMAT preparation software available at This software program provides you access to a couple of practice tests and problems from previous tests, and it utilizes the same algorithms used for actual GMATs. However, test preparers should not exclusively rely on this software. Those taking the practice tests should keep at least one completed test to refer to in the future in order to have a good idea of how much study is needed to adequately prepare for the real GMAT test.

Test preparers will also benefit from other study resources. The ManhattenGMAT preparation materials can be particularly helpful. These preparation guides are useful because they provide answer explanations, which many test guides lack. Instead of having to guess or discover the necessary steps to arrive at a correct answer, these guides provide easy to understand explanations and problem-solving strategies.

Study guides containing test questions from previous GMATs are usually the best study resources. Since ManhattanGMAT's study guides have many similarities to study guides released by the GMAC, they are also good resources to use for GMAT preparation.

2) Build up, not down.

A common mistake people make while preparing for the GMAT is focusing too much on difficult or complex problems. Many assume that if they master difficult problems they will have no problem correctly solving easier ones.

Do not fall for this trap.

Test takers who consistently answer less challenging problems correctly, within the permitted time frame, usually achieve high scores.

It is to your advantage to focus most of your study time on less challenging problems than really difficult ones. If you can consistently find the right answers in the time permitted when you take practice GMATs, you should do well on the actual test. This preparation strategy will also increase your confidence on test day.

Those preparing for the GMAT who are able to get to the point where they've mastered less challenging problems usually come to understand and avoid the common mistakes made by test takers, the concepts underpinning each problem, and what is being asked in each type of question.

So how do you know when you've gotten to the point of question mastery? When you're able to explain to other people the required steps to find the correct answers to each type of GMAT problem you're there.

After you are comfortable with your ability to consistently solve less challenging problems within the permitted timeframe, move on to more difficult problem types. If you want to obtain a GMAT score in the upper percentile, you must also be able to solve more complex problems. However, do not focus too much on these problems until you've mastered the simpler ones.

3) Turn enemies into friends.

People preparing for the GMAT are often conflicted on whether they should focus more on areas of weaknesses or areas of strength.

Although it's advisable to focus on both your strengths and weaknesses, if you have limited time, it's best to improve weaknesses.

For example, if you can correctly answer critical reasoning questions without too much difficulty but you struggle with sentence correction questions, you should focus on sentence correction questions since the GMAT is adaptive. In other words, if you're correctly answering critical reasoning questions, you'll more than likely begin receiving more difficult questions, which could include sentence correction questions.

Do not be intimidated by difficult sections. With hard work and perseverance, you can turn weaknesses into strengths. (Note: At the same time, don't forget to "Build up, not down" as pointed out in the previous section.)

4) Mix it up.

During your preparation for the GMAT, balance your study between practice tests and topic-based exercises. Spending time completing topic-based exercises is a great way to enhance your strengths and improve in your weak areas. Again, we also recommend doing practice tests to prepare you for the adaptive format since you'll be given random questions on the actual GMAT.

In other words, topic-based exercises improve your skills, while practice tests prepare you for the randomness of the test.

Those who excel at the GMAT learn how to decipher patterns and solve problems in a limited amount of time. After studying for an extended period of time, many people preparing for the GMAT are able to develop their own strategies for solving complex problems.

During your preparation for the GMAT, it isn't necessary to complete a daily practice test. Those who take a daily test often do not have an adequate amount of time to review test results, and as a result, they are unable to identify trouble areas. Likewise, taking a daily test can be overwhelming, which can lead to counterproductive discouragement. While practice tests are one of the best ways to prepare for the GMAT, don't over do it. Take enough time with each practice test to make sure you're learning the concepts and making improvement.

Instead of taking a test every day, it's recommended to work through problems from past tests on a regular basis. These problems can be found in the GMAC's Official Guides.

Topics within the GMAC's study guides are arranged by topic and level of difficulty. While taking practice tests or completing exercises, practice under test day conditions. In other words, be sure to set a timer and approach each question very seriously. Once you're done, take time to review your answers to see what you did right or wrong. After enough practice you should be able to recognize patterns.

Again, consistency is the key. Take time to practice every day, especially as test day approaches. The more you practice, the greater your confidence will be.

5) Know what you know.

As test day approaches, avoid cramming. If you've prepared adequately, cramming isn't necessary. Instead, continue completing practice problems and reviewing each answer. This will help you improve on areas where you're lacking and sharpen strengths.

Right before the test, do not try to comprehensively review everything. Rather, we advise picking a few problems you're very comfortable with and completing them under test day conditions. This is a good way to determine your level of GMAT preparedness. Finally, take time to review problems you've struggled with through the course of your studying.

As you study, develop strategies for answering each type of question you might encounter on the GMAT. Be versed enough in each type of problem that might appear on the test, that you can develop alternative strategies if questions are set-up or presented differently than what you practiced during your preparation period. This way, you won't got bogged down and waste time if you encounter a confusing or challenging problem.

A few weeks prior to the actual GMAT, complete a few practice tests, but do not burn yourself out. If you adequately prepare for the GMAT, you should confidently enter the test center.

These 5 aforementioned strategies are effective ways to prepare for the GMAT. No matter how innovative or creative your test preparation may be, hard work and perseverance are indispensable for GMAT success. In fact, according to the GMAC, there is a correlation between preparation time and test results. Students who prepare longer, and start their preparation sooner, typically do better on the test. You if want to obtain the highest possible GMAT score you should expect to spend more than 2 months or 100 hours studying. An high GMAT score requires dedication and effort.

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