How to Prepare for Your GMAT Exam: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Prepare for Your GMAT Exam: A Comprehensive Guide

The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, is a standardized exam that is used by many business schools as part of their admissions process. It measures your analytical, quantitative, verbal, and writing skills to determine how well you will perform in an MBA program.

As a university student preparing for the GMAT, there are several things you can do to ensure success on the exam, with effective preparation being the key to achieving a high score. In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about studying for the GMAT.

Understanding the GMAT Exam


The first step in preparing for the GMAT is to understand what it entails. The GMAT exam structure consists of four sections: 

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) – measures your ability to think critically and communicate your ideas in a written format. This section consists of one essay prompt that you must complete within 30 minutes.
  • Integrated Reasoning (IR) – tests your ability to evaluate and analyze data from various sources, including graphs, tables, and text passages. This section consists of 12 questions that you must complete within 30 minutes.
  • Quantitative Reasoning (QR) – assesses your mathematical and problem-solving skills, including algebra, geometry, and arithmetic. This section consists of 31 multiple-choice questions that you must complete within 62 minutes.
  • Verbal Reasoning (VR) – evaluates your reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction skills. This section consists of  36 multiple-choice questions that you must complete within 65 minutes.

Each section of the GMAT is computer-adaptive, meaning that the difficulty level of the questions will adjust based on your performance. This ensures that the exam accurately measures your abilities. The implication of this is that you must answer each question to the best of your ability, as skipping or guessing may negatively impact your score.

The total score for the GMAT ranges from 200 to 800, with each section receiving a separate score: AWA (0-6), IR (1-8), QR (0-60), and VR (0-60). The overall score is determined by a combination of the scores from all four sections.

Planning Your GMAT Preparation

Now that you understand the structure and format of the GMAT, it’s time to create a study plan. Start by determining your target score and how much time you have available to prepare. It is recommended to give yourself at least three months for intense preparation.

Next, assess your strengths and weaknesses in each section of the exam. This will help you determine which areas require more focus during your study sessions. For example, if you struggle with math, you may need to allocate more time for the QR section.

Some tips for assessing personal strengths and weaknesses include taking a practice test, reviewing your previous academic performance in relevant subjects, and asking for feedback from peers or instructors.

It’s also crucial to schedule dedicated study time and stick to it. Find a quiet and organized place to study, eliminate distractions, and set specific goals for each session. Taking regular practice tests is also highly recommended, as it will help you track your progress and identify areas that still need improvement.

Test Scores Needed by Schools

In order to gain access to the top business schools, you will need a competitive GMAT score. Each school has its own required or preferred score range, so it’s crucial to research the specific requirements of the programs you are interested in.

On average, most top business schools have an average GMAT score of 720 and above. However, keep in mind that your overall application is also evaluated based on your work experience, academic performance, and personal qualities.

Here are some top business schools and their average GMAT score requirements:

  • Harvard Business School: Average GMAT score of admitted students is 730.
  • Stanford Graduate School of Business: Average GMAT score of admitted students is 737.
  • Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania: Average GMAT score of admitted students is 732.
  • MIT Sloan School of Management: Average GMAT score of admitted students is 724.
  • University of Oxford Saïd Business School: Average GMAT score of admitted students is 690.

Keep in mind that these are just averages, and it’s important to research the specific requirements for each school you are interested in. Remember, a high GMAT score can help strengthen your overall application, but it is not the sole determinant of your admission.

Effective Study Strategies

When it comes to studying for the GMAT, time management is key. Here are some strategies you can use to make the most out of your study sessions:

  • Break down each section into smaller tasks: Instead of trying to tackle a whole section at once, break it down into smaller chunks and focus on one task at a time. This will help you stay focused and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Alternate between sections: It’s important to give equal attention to all four sections of the exam. Instead of studying only one section at a time, try alternating between different sections to keep your mind engaged and avoid burnout.
  • Take regular breaks: Your brain needs rest in order to function at its best. Schedule short breaks during your study sessions to recharge and refresh your mind.
  • Use practice tests effectively: Practice tests are a valuable tool for tracking progress and identifying areas that need improvement. However, don’t rely solely on them and make sure to also review concepts and strategies in between taking practice tests.

Remember, studying for the GMAT is not a sprint but a marathon. Stay committed to your study plan, seek help when needed, and trust in your abilities. 

Test-Taking Strategies

Exam day can be stressful, but with effective test-taking strategies, you can confidently tackle the GMAT. Here are some tips to help you manage your time and effectively approach each section:

  • Use the computer-adaptive format to your advantage: Remember that the difficulty level of questions will adjust based on your performance. Don’t get bogged down by difficult questions; instead, focus on answering each question to the best of your ability.
  • Pace yourself: The GMAT is a timed exam, so it’s important to manage your time wisely. Allocate specific amounts of time for each section and stick to it. If you are struggling with a particular question, move on and come back to it later if there is time.
  • Read carefully and don’t rush: It’s important to understand the questions and answer choices thoroughly. Don’t be in a rush to finish quickly; read each question carefully and make sure you are answering what is being asked.
  • Use a process of elimination: If you are unsure about an answer, use the process of elimination to narrow down your options. Eliminating even one or two choices can increase your chances of selecting the correct answer.

Remember, staying calm and focused during the exam is key. Trust in your preparation, manage your time effectively, and don’t let any difficult questions discourage you.

Additional Tips and Advice

Studying for the GMAT can be a challenging and overwhelming task, but with the right strategies and support, you can achieve your desired score. Here are some additional tips and advice to help you along your journey:

  • Consider seeking support from GMAT tutors or joining study groups: Preparing for the GMAT on your own can be difficult, so don’t be afraid to seek help from experienced tutors or join study groups with other students. Tutor Ocean is a great resource for finding personalized support, while AI Tutor provides adaptive learning technology to help you target and improve your weaker areas.
  • Stay motivated and positive: Studying for the GMAT can be a long and strenuous process, so it’s important to stay motivated and have a positive mindset. Set small goals for each study session, celebrate your accomplishments, and don’t let setbacks discourage you.
  • Take care of your physical and mental health: Your well-being is crucial during the GMAT preparation process. Make sure to take breaks, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and practice self-care to keep your mind and body in top shape.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others: Each individual has their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to test-taking. Don’t compare yourself to others, and focus on your own progress and improvement.

Remember, the GMAT is just one aspect of your overall application process. With dedication and perseverance, you can achieve your desired score and reach your academic and career goals. 

Ace Your GMAT First Time

With the right mindset, effective study strategies, and test-taking techniques, you can ace your GMAT on your first attempt. Remember to research the specific requirements for each school, create a comprehensive study plan, seek support when needed, and stay committed to your goals. We wish you all the best in your GMAT journey!

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