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5 Tips for studying for the GMAT

Updated: May 11, 2021

If you're applying for an MBA programme then you will have probably heard of the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). Recognised by business schools across the world, GMAT is used as a way of differentiating candidates at the admissions step of the process. The exam measures applicants' analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills. If you are looking to apply for an MBA in the near future then you may be in the middle of studying for the GMAT. If you have not registered or begun studying, then you may want to start as it is recommended to take the GMAT at least two months before your first application deadline.

Below are a few tips as you begin studying for the GMAT.

1. Plan ahead.

This may sound simple, but as mentioned, it is recommended that you take the GMAT at least two months before your first application deadline. Most schools have several application deadlines (rounds) throughout the year; however for very competitive schools, if you miss round-one, it may lessen your chances of admission success. As a result, planning is important. Pick your top-5 MBA programme choices, find our their round-one deadlines and aim to have taken the test at least two months before the first round closes. Make this your starting point.

2. Know your target score range.

Although there must be a few "whizzes" out there that find studying for the GMAT a breeze, for most people it is a challenging test that needs proper preparation if you're hoping to get a "competitive" score. Some schools have explicit minimum score requirements whilst others are vaguer and simply say "satisfactory" score required. Looking at class profiles can help you gauge where you need to fall in order to be considered.

For example, Warwick Business School's average GMAT score is 660; Columbia Business School's average GMAT is 726, with a range of 580–780; Harvard Business School's current GMAT range is 620-790, and Cambridge Judge's 2020 median score is 700. For more 2020 school GMAT ranges take a look HERE.

If you are planning to rely on your strengths in either quant or verbal to secure a top score, bear in mind that some schools explicitly state that they are looking for a balance between the two sections.

3. Create a study plan.

One classmate we spoke to shared their exact GMAT study schedule. It was set over 19 weeks, roughly 5-months before the test date. Some key tips that allowed them to crack the 700-mark:

  • Kept a weekly, disciplined study schedule

  • Attended an 11-week, weekend GMAT prep course

  • Post-course studied 1.5 hours every night after work

  • Studied verbal and quantitative material together, as opposed to on alternating weeks

  • Took off from work for 10-days right before the exam date

  • Took mock 5-6 mock tests (official mocks and from third party sites like Veritas and Manhattan) to evaluate current standing and fine-tune weaknesses

A sneak-peek into their private study timetable:

Planning ahead, prioritizing your time and knowing your target range will all help boost your chances of getting a high GMAT score, but you may be wondering, what resources should I focus on?

4. Identify GMAT resources that others have found helpful.

At the onset, it may seem compelling to book yourself onto a GMAT prep course. Our friend in Tip #3 did and it paid off; however, from other people's experience, courses can be hit or miss. As a result, it is best not to rely solely on GMAT prep courses to ace the test. To get you started, we asked some of our Warwick Business School classmates which study resources they used that worked for them. Their answers included:

  • The GMAT Club "This was really helpful for me. It segregates questions by level, 400-500- 600 and so on. And also by different sections of the Math and Verbal section."

  • Jamboree India "One of the best GMAT coaching institutes in New Delhi, India"

  • Manhattan Strategy Guides. Buying the full set of these is expensive, but gives you access to a comprehensive guide to each section of the test plus online resources, including Computer Adaptive Tests (CATs). Alternatively, you may just want to buy one book to brush up on a specific weakness. For example, a member of our cohort mentioned they just used the Manhattan Reading Comprehension Guide.

  • Manhattan Foundations of Math for GMAT. If you are dreading the quant section of GMAT or haven't done any maths since school then this is the book for you. It takes you through the basic principles of the underlying math used in GMAT questions as well as highlighting the tips and shortcuts required to perform calculations at the fast speed the GMAT demands.

5. Don't stress

If you are reading this and it is very close to the final round of your dream school's admissions deadline and you still have not taken the GMAT, speak to the school. Some MBA programmes have their own tests (SHL-type) that they will use in place of the GMAT in certain circumstances. However, use this as a last resort. Many of the top consultancies and post-MBA rotational programs will ask for your GMAT score, so best to have one.

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