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How to prepare for GMAT - The GMAT Preparation Guide

GMAT Test Prep

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is conducted by GMAC to assess the eligibility of a candidate for admission to nearly 5400 management courses in various Business schools. It is a computer-based test, which is considered as the criteria by many institutes, which definitely hints to its popularity, authenticity and acceptance. Hence many candidates will be appearing for the test, and you will have a lot of competition.
So before you take the test, you need to prepare yourself first. Understand the GMAT test format in detail - all the four GMAT sections and the marking criteria. Once you get an idea of how the test is conducted, start preparing for each section.

GMAT Quantitative Section

The arithmetic segment of GMAT is precisely referred to as the Quant section.

Since GMAT is computer adaptive, the future questions - tough or easy will entirely depend on your performance. For example, If a student can crack tough questions, then the next questions tend to be tougher, but this is a boost to the scoreboard. If the student fails to solve problems, then the level of questions becomes easier, and this affects the GMAT score card.

So be smart and solve all the questions in the quant section accordingly.

Remember, all GMAT math problems can be solved in three steps. To achieve this, GMAT test takers just need to begin the sums correctly. If a geometry related quant question appears, make sure you redraw the pattern on a rough sheet for the accuracy of the calculation.

First and most importantly learn how to solve math in precise methodologies and then focus on the time limitation part. You will get about 20-24 problem-solving math questions during the GMAT. At times, the quant section might have Roman numbers. Do not get confused with them. Just solve the problems and select the right roman number option from the given ones.

Below are few books for GMAT Quant section that will help you improve your problem-solving techniques -
  • GMAT Advanced Quant: 250+ Practice Problems & Bonus Online Resources (Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guides).

  • The Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review 2017 with Online Question Bank and Exclusive Video.

  • GMAT Foundations of Math: 900+ Practice Problems in Book and Online (Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guides).

  • Advanced GMAT Quant (Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guides).

  • Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Examinations by R.S. Aggarwal.

GMAT Integrated Reasoning Section

The Integrated Reasoning (IR) is the latest addition to GMAT question paper. It is pragmatic and enables B-Schools to judge your analytical capability.

In this section, questions provide complex scenarios in the form of graphics presentations, from where you need to analyse and derive conclusions and solve the problem.

GMAT IR section has both good and bad news for you! the good news is that there is no partial marking or negative marking. The bad news is that GMAT does not allow you to go back on the computer.

You need to remember that the entire IR part of the GMAT is presented through various screens consisting of many questions. And each question of the IR section has multiple parts to answer. You will only get marks on answering all aspects of each question accurately. So before switching between screens, make sure you answer all parts of the question on your screen and then move forward.

Integrated Reasoning questions can be practised from online resources, study materials and books too. The more you practice, the easier it will be for you to crack this section. Make complete use of the drop-down calculator provided especially for quant-based IR questions. And while solving graphics interpretation, make sure to click on the drop-down arrow to see all the probable provided answers.

Here are few books of GMAT IR section that will help better your analytical capabilities -
  • GMAT Integrated Reasoning and Essay (Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guides).

  • GMAT Premier 2017 with 6 Practice Tests: Online + Book + Videos + Mobile (Kaplan Test Prep).

  • GMAT Integrated Reasoning Practice Questions: Volume 1 (Test Prep) Integrated Reasoning and Essay GMAT Strategy Guide, 5th Edition (Manhattan GMAT Strategy Guides).

  • McGraw-Hills Conquering the GMAT Math and Integrated Reasoning.

GMAT Verbal Section

The verbal section of the GMAT is an integral part of the four sections of the exam. It comes as the third section during the GMAT.

If you plan to crack the verbal segment of the GMAT with daily English that you use, then the challenge is quite severe. To bag a good score, you need to prepare for the verbal section of GMAT well in advance. And preparing for this particular section of GMAT requires time, effort and patience. Because the test takers are expected to answer 41 questions in 75 minutes.

The verbal section of the GMAT comprises three types of questions - Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension. Know how each question is going to come in the test. It is essential to understand the format of the GMAT verbal exam as it helps to save time and solve fast.

For the reading comprehension, assign time so that you can read each of the passage once thoroughly. Use the flashcard method to improve your vocabulary or stock of words, as it helps to improve your score.

Start preparing for the GMAT Verbal section at least a month before the exam. Use test materials, books and online resources to practice the GMAT verbal section. Also, get your work corrected by professionals or GMAT trainers.

Here are few books for GMAT Verbal Section that will help improve your vocabulary -
  • The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review 2017 with Online Question Bank and Exclusive Video Paperback.

  • Kaplan GMAT Verbal Workbook (Kaplan Test Prep) Paperback.

  • GMAT Foundations of Verbal (Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guides) Paperback.

  • Verbal Workout for the GMAT (Graduate School Test Preparation) Paperback.

  • GMAT Verbal Strategy Guide Set (Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guides) Paperback.

GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment Section

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section of the GMAT assess your capability to communicate and express ideas, viewpoints of general and trending topics and English writing capacity.

The AWA section of the GMAT undergoes two sessions of checking. According to GMAC, the first round is by the qualified professors or professionals from the industry and second round is by an essay scoring engine , an automatic computer program. The two individual scores from the human examiner and computer program are then averaged to mark each write-up.

In the AWA section of the GMAT, you are expected to develop a critical view on a given topic. Of the entire 30-minutes, preserve 10-minutes separately. Use the first five minutes to draft your answer, while the last five minutes to review your AWA writeup.

While writing the essay make sure you maintain a pace so that you complete the write-up and not leave it halfway due to lack of time. And before you attempt this section read the questions carefully to understand the query and only address that while writing. During preparatory days, get your AWA writeups checked by qualified English professionals.

Here are few books for GMAT AWA Section that will help improve your writing skills -
  • GMAT Analytical Writing: Solutions to the Real Argument Topics (Test Prep Series Book 1).

  • The Official Guide for GMAT Review 2017 Combo Set.

  • Ace the GMAT in 40 Days.

GMAT Exam Books

When someone asks me - how did you prepare for the GMAT? The first thought that comes to my mind is 'BOOKS.' Books are our best friend!! It helps us during all situations right!

GMAT books are essential during your preparatory phase to understand the subject clearly.

Along with good books, you require a tailored study plan and the knowledge of how to utilize the resources. As they say - 'A passenger without a ticket does not know where he is heading.' Along with the book list which is being provided, it is advised that you build a study plan which suits your needs.

Here is a list of books that you can browse through online or offline to prepare the best for your GMAT exam:

GMAT Verbal Review 2017

This interactive book comes with video series, audio clips and online question bank which will help you perform the best in GMAT. It's penned down by qualified professionals and touches through all aspects of GMAT. These study tips and strategies will surely lessen your performance pressure.

Complete GMAT Strategy Guide Set (Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guides)

Since GMAT syllabus has undergone several changes and alterations, it is a bit difficult to understand the exact format, especially when you are starting to prepare for the test. This book is an ideal pick as it is adaptive to the changing GMAT and also offers you the latest approaches to score in the top percentiles.

GMAT Critical Reasoning (Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guides)

This paperback book from Manhattan helps to prepare for the Critical Reasoning section. Examples and their explanations will make the Critical reasoning section easy to crack. The book also lists approaches, styles and tactics of how you can score better in GMAT.

Ace the GMAT in 40 Days by Brandon Royal

If GMAT date is near and you are yet to start your exam preparation, then here is the first book you should order. This book gives you a brief about the entire GMAT paper format and also introduce you to each section of the GMAT exam.

GMAT Sentence Correction (Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guides)

If you are concerned about the sentence correction portion of the GMAT, then this is the book to pick. It lists examples, approaches and tips to score well in the sentence correction section. The book is easy to read and handy guide for GMAT applicants.

GMAT Reading Comprehension (Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guides)

This Manhattan guide for the Reading Comprehension has solved examples and also allows you to browse through the practice sessions, to score the best in GMAT.

Cracking The GMAT Premium Edition (Graduate School Test Preparation)

In 2016, the latest edition of this book was published. The book gives a comprehensive idea about the entire GMAT exam format, style and pattern. If you are a new applicant, get this book at the very initial stage.

GMAT Advanced Quant: 250+ Practice Problems & Bonus Online Resources (Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guides)

This paperback book lists all kinds of GMAT questions and answers. The book is an extensive cover of GMAT syllabus and can be your constant aid during GMAT preparatory days.

GMAT Critical Reasoning Bible: A Comprehensive System for Attacking the GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions by David M Killoran

As the name suggests, this book aims to boost one's preparation for the GMAT Critical Reasoning section. In the book, the author lists innovative methods and techniques and how to solve the Critical Reasoning portion of the GMAT efficiently.

GMAT: Problem-solving techniques for top-score by Mathivanan Palraj

When you buy this book, make sure you get the 2nd edition of it which covers topics like Inequalities, Exponents, Descriptive Statistics, and Functions. The book should be a constant guide especially for those aiming for a high score in GMAT.

How to score 700+ in GMAT?

Quant-49 (74th percentile) and Verbal-35 (76th percentile) will get you 700. That is a well-balanced break up in the two sections. So, how easy or difficult is it? The percentile numbers do the talking. Many of you should be able to manage it, but with a little bit of effort.

How to go about it? - One at a time

Nail one section at a time! Start with quants. Spend a month to 45 days focusing only on the quant section. Sign up for an online or offline course. Even though there is enough information available online, nothing beats taking in a structured training program. You will be saving a lot like the search cost of finding, comparing and bringing structure to free content is high and you will also have a mentor to help you out during the difficult phases of preparation.

Lets race!!

The first week is usually spent in cranking the engine and establishing a preparation rhythm. That is the max you can allow yourself before you accelerate your pace. Within the next 4 weeks, cover the basic concepts in all relevant quant topics including solving medium to difficult questions. Reserve the last week to recap all that you have learnt and push quant to low gear and get ready to switch to verbal.

How do you measure your preparation? It is neither the number of hours of prep nor the number of questions that you solve that matter. What matters is whether you feel confident about answering questions on each topic that you have completed.

Maintain a spreadsheet to track progress, then repeat the same process with the verbal section. You will need another 4 to 5 weeks to get to 700 level preparedness in the verbal section.

Even if you have scored better, one thing you cannot master in verbal is RC.

Usually, many candidates face issues with the reading comprehension section. Please remember that more than a third of the questions in GMAT verbal section are reading comprehension questions. You have to master this part. The best part is the skill that you pick up for RC will help you comprehend passages better in CR. How well and quickly you understand plays a significant role even in the quant section. Improve your focus when reading to score high in RC. It works all the time. I know it is easier said than done. Figure out your own way of improving focus.

Time to put efforts of last 10 weeks to the test - a feedback loop.

Now, revise quant and verbal one after the other. Start taking full-length practice tests and set up a feedback loop for each test. Always pick two areas in each - verbal and quant that you want to improve based on the analysis. These two areas will give you the maximum improvement in the least possible time. Ensure that you have gained sufficient ground in these identified areas before taking the next test. Repeat the feedback loop for every test and validate it against score improvement.

Lastly, practice as much as you can as no amount of prep would seem enough. Schedule a 12 to 14-week prep timeline, commit to test date and work your schedule from day one.

How to prepare for GMAT

in 3 months?

3 months is probably the most ideal time to prepare for the GMAT. Carl Barks, famous American cartoonist once said - 'Work Smarter, Not Harder'. So, you do not require anything more than a 3-month window of preparation to do justice to the test. Here justice means scoring upward of 680 in the GMAT.

Week 1: 3 tasks - Survey

Task 1: Take a full-length test available at the official GMAT website. Make a note of your score before you start any serious prep. Do not worry much about what your first score is. What is relevant is getting a first-hand idea about what exactly is tested in the GMAT. You need 4 to 5 hours to complete this task.

Task 2: Browse for various preparation options available. Take help from your friend or colleague who has taken up GMAT before to choose a best private tutor or online GMAT preparation courses. Go through what they have to offer. Draw a list of must-haves from your GMAT prep course - it could be a course that is focused on quant because you are weak in quant.

There are quite a lot of options including free resources. Do not over analyse what is offered. Shortlist 2 to 3 options to help you with your GMAT prep. Complete this task in 2 to 3 days. It is better if you join a course because it provides structure and discipline to your prep and reduces search cost substantially.

Task 3: Ask for a demo class if you are choosing an offline course. Take trial sessions if it is online. Use this time effectively. Go through all the facilities/services offered and ask all questions to the student counsellors to know whether you are signing up for what will work for you. You should complete this task by the end of week 1 and get ready to start your prep.

Weeks 2 to 8: Core Learning Phase - No compromises.

GMAT tests quantitative reasoning topics that are taught at high school level. And in the verbal section, the scope of what is tested will again fit how the language is used during the undergraduate study. However, GMAT places a great deal of emphasis on the 'why' and 'what' of each concept as much as the 'how'.

For instance, we all have learnt how to factorise a quadratic equation at school. Some of us may have forgotten how to do it - but in less than 45 minutes you will be speeding up on factorising quadratic equations. So, the how to do is something you can take for granted. But how many of us really know what the geometric representation of a quadratic equation is. What shape are you likely to get when you plot a quadratic equation on a graph sheet? What do the roots of the equation represent on the x-y plane? Will the shape that you get be different for real and equal roots? How is it likely to be if the roots are imaginary?

The idea is to focus on the why and what as much as just the how .

GMAT quant has about 20 topics. And the break up of what is tested is 40% arithmetic, 40% algebra and 20% geometry.

Whatever that s mentioned about the way you should prepare for quant holds good for verbal as well. For instance, when it comes to GMAT Sentence Correction, grammar is important. But it is not all that is tested. GMAT SC focuses on communication - so knowing grammar rules is necessary but not sufficient.

So, spend your time and effort during these 7 weeks grasping as many concepts as you can. The more fundamental the idea - the better will its use be in acing the test.

Weeks 9 and 10: Section tests

Take timed tests in each subsection. Set up a 60 minute, 30 question test in geometry. Or a 20 minute, 12 question test in sentence correction. If you are working, budget to take one section test in quant and one in verbal each day. About an hour of testing and another hour analysing the tests to plug in the gaps in preparation. And triple your effort during weekends.

If you have taken a holiday to prepare for the GMAT, take two sections test each in quant and verbal each day. By the end of this phase, you should have taken about a couple of dozen tests, each in quant and verbal.

Weeks 11 to 13: Take Full-length practice - iron out rough edges.

Take full-length tests. You have about 3 weeks in hand. You should plan to take anywhere between 6 and 9 full-length tests before you take the actual exam.

What is more important than taking the test is the quality of analysis you do with the test. Maintain a log of areas that require attention. Create a timeline to address them and put a check mark as you complete those tasks. Maintain an error log of the typical mistakes you do. Go through the error log before every subsequent test you take - it will help you stay alert during the test and avoid some of the avoidable mistakes.

Do not try to do it all yourself. Find a mentor. Your objective is to reach your target score. Get as much help as you can.

Find a study partner.

Find a mentor within the framework of your GMAT prep course or outside it - to help you correct along with your journey.

It helps a great deal if you can find a study partner. Ideally, someone who can complement your strengths and whose target scores and intensity of preparation are closer to yours. A study partner helps to stay focused and motivated. Warning - find one or max two study partners to work with - and not a dozen of them.

Do not expect miracles on test day.

If you have gone through the preparation process as outlined, you should have no problem reaching your target score. However, pay heed to what your practice test scores indicate. If your target score in the GMAT is 710 and the maximum you have reached in your mock tests is only a 650, revisit either your target or test schedule. Very few test takers have surprised themselves with such an improvement in score on the real test.

If 710 is what you need, stay committed to your path and postpone your test. Scoring 710 a couple of weeks later is way better than settling for something lesser.

Lastly, enjoy your GMAT preparation. You are likely to do way better in the exam if you enjoy the challenges it poses.


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