The 3 Most Important Steps to Nailing Your GMAT
Career Growth

The 3 Most Important Steps to Nailing Your GMAT

by Ally Freed
Photos Mallory Benedict | September 08, 2015

COMPLETING THE GMAT IS NO EASY FEAT, BUT WITH THE RIGHT PREPARATION AND PERSPECTIVE, YOU'LL BE ON YOUR WAY TO NAILING THE HARDEST TEST OF YOUR EDUCATIONAL CAREER. 

You’ve decided attending business school is the next step for propelling your career, and you’re already dreaming about listing M.B.A after your name. But before your dreams can become a reality, there’s one more hurdle: the Graduate Management Admission Test, fondly known by most as the GMAT.

The GMAT is the defining exam for all prospective business students. Most business schools have a standard minimum score they require of all incoming students, while the top-rated programs tend to prefer scores well above the standard. Doing well on the exam can set you apart from other applicants, and it’s a necessary step for admission into nearly every program.

Doing well on the exam can set you apart from other applicants, and it’s a necessary step for admission into nearly every program.

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Here’s the problem: the exam is a bit of a beast. Lasting 3.5 hours from start to finish, it covers four areas: analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal. {Click to Tweet} The good news is that performing well on the GMAT is possible. Follow these three important steps, and you’ll be nail it.

PLAN AHEAD AND PREPARE LIKE IT'S YOUR JOB.

It’s true that some people take the GMAT without any preparation, but that strategy comes with risk. The GMAT is unlike any other exam you’ve taken, and it requires you devote energy to studying. Give yourself enough time to work–the rule of thumb is 6 weeks to 3 months. {Click to Tweet} The ideal schedule differs for each applicant, depending on background and skills. Be strategic. If you’ve already got strong analytical writing skills, devote most of your study time to the quantitative section and vice versa.  

The GMAT is unlike any other exam you’ve taken, and it requires you devote energy to studying. Give yourself enough time to work–the rule of thumb is 6 weeks to 3 months. 

There are tons of resources available for studying for the GMAT, but before you buy all the books you can get your hands on, stop and do some research on what will actually work for you. Having too many resources will overwhelm, not optimize, and you’ll spend your time trying to wade through materials rather than focusing on nailing the GMAT. Pick a few trusted options and devote your study time to mastering them.

And don’t focus solely on books–there’s been a surge in online and mobile GMAT resources. If you’re traveling often or commuting to work, consider downloading an app to supplement your studies.

Set up a study plan that’s realistic. Calculate how much time you can devote. Each week may change, and that’s okay, but the key is staying consistent week after week. Study in the environment that works best for you. Aim to study in segments lasting from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours and take breaks between sessions to give your mind a rest. {Click to Tweet}

Calculate how much time you can devote. Each week may change, and that’s okay, but the key is staying consistent week after week. 

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PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.

Practicing taking the GMAT will most ensure your success. It gets you comfortable with the format of the exam and will give you confidence in your abilities. The GMAT’s format is tricky: taken on a computer, the way you answer the first questions determines future questions. Don’t try to figure out why you’re getting various questions, instead focus on the best answer to each question at hand.

Always time yourself when taking a full-length practice exam. Keeping track of time is crucial on the GMAT because points are deducted for questions left unanswered. {Click to Tweet} Your goal should be to complete every question. Pace yourself by spending around 2 minutes on each oner. If you get stuck along the way, make a note to come back to the question and if all else fails, take a guess. Guessing on the GMAT is better than leaving questions blank.

Always time yourself when taking a full-length practice exam. Keeping track of time is crucial on the GMAT because points are deducted for questions left unanswered.

Know how you practice most efficiently and utilize those methods. If you prefer in-person teaching, sign up for a GMAT prep course or get a tutor. The GMAT is widely recognized and nearly every testing program has resources for applicants.

KEEP PERSPECTIVE.

The GMAT may seem like a huge obstacle to tackle, but it’s really just a small part of your journey toward achieving your M.B.A. It’s important to remind yourself of that perspective– it’s simply a test and doesn’t define who you are or how successful you will someday become.

On the day of the exam, remind yourself how much you prepared. Tell yourself you’ll nail it. Your preparation and practice were hard-earned and now you get to demonstrate your skills and knowledge. Arrive early, relax, and take comfort in knowing you’ve done everything it takes to succeed.

Your preparation and practice were hard-earned and now you get to demonstrate your skills and knowledge. 

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If you’re not pleased with your score, remember you can take it again. Applicants can take the GMAT one time every 16 calendar days and no more than 5 times in a calendar year. Most business schools will only consider your best score. Learn from the exam, modify your studying, and you’ll do better next time.

You’ve already got what it takes for business school, now you just have to prove it on your GMAT. Plan ahead, practice, keep perspective, and go for it!

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Let us know what steps you’re using to nail your GMAT in the comments below.