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  • Writer's pictureTrudy Horsting

How to Improve Your GMAT Score

The GMAT is an important indication for admissions counselors on your potential to succeed in their MBA program. Unfortunately, you may not do as well as you want the first time. It’s a unique test that takes dedicated preparation. Even then, the pressure can lead to you not performing exactly like you did in practice.

If you didn’t do as well as you liked during your first run, you may want to do things differently as you plan for a second round of studying.

Make Sure you Understand the Format

There are so many test prep services out there. There is no reason you shouldn’t know the style of questions you will be asked. This is one of the many tests where studying matters. You may think you know the content, but you also have to know the style.

If you don’t understand the style of the test, no amount of studying business concepts will help you perform well. Know the format.

An easy way to do this is to take a practice test from the Official GMATPrep Software site. Taking a diagnostic practice test will provide insight into what areas of the test need most of your focus. Give yourself a target score and assess this to your score from the practice test.

Analyze Your Mistakes

Analyzing what mistakes you’ve made in the past is essential for doing better. Taking practice test after practice test without assessing what you’ve done wrong will only reinforce previous mistakes.

As you go through, question by question, think about the specifics of your error. Even if you got it right, maybe there was an easier way to solve the question, or a faster method which will save you time on other parts of the test.

Think about what areas you need to study further, which mistakes you made, what concepts you need to study more, and what habits you need to change.

Give Yourself Sufficient Time to Prep

Studies have shown that those who spend more time studying, perform better on the GMAT. About half of everyone who takes the GMAT spends 50 hours studying. About a quarter of those who take the test spend less than 20 hours studying.

Think about it, the more comfortable you are with the questions, the more comfortable you will be on test day. You’ll be less likely to second guess yourself or make silly mistakes on test day.

It’s important to be realistic about the time you plan to study. If you overschedule yourself, you won’t be able to live up to your unrealistic expectations. Learning how to manage your time while studying will allow you to simultaneously learn how to manage your time while taking the test.

Something to assess while studying is how long it takes you to answer each question. This will allow you to pace yourself so that you can use your time effectively on test day.

Preparing for Quant

A lot of students report that the quant section of the GMAT is the most difficult. If you feel the same, spending time reviewing basic math concepts can make a world of difference. Brush up on algebra, geometry, statistics, probability, and trigonometry.

Once again, use practice tests to assess which concepts you need to focus on and how they are asked.

It’s often recommended to write out your calculations for quant questions. Since you aren’t allowed a calculator while taking the test, and it is difficult to do math in your head, writing out your work can help you ensure you get the correct answer. If you don’t get the correct answer, you’re able to go back through your work and visually see where you made an error.

Preparing for Verbal

Just like you should go over basic math concepts for the quant section, you should go over basic grammar rules for the verbal section. This section has many questions which assess your ability to understand proper grammar. Familiarize yourself with which grammatical errors the test most frequently asks about.

Additionally, reading comprehension is a critical skill. The test asks students to analyze texts that are between 200 and 400 words. The texts aren’t always about business topics, so it’s important to learn how to understand complex information generally. Try reading complex academic work and assessing whether you are able to summarize what you’re reading.

Experts also explain that it's important to translate your reading comprehension skills to the entirety of the GMAT. This is an often underlooked aspect of studying for the GMAT. It’s easy to read things incorrectly when you’re moving too fast or when you assume what a certain question is asking before reading it thoroughly. For instance, you may overlook qualifying words like many or most. Additionally, you may not catch subtle, nuanced differences between words. For example, economic development may be different from economic growth. If you don’t read carefully you may miss something important and answer in a way that doesn’t match what the question is asking.

It’s important to read carefully when you’re taking the test and when you’re going over any answers you might have missed. Think about why the answer you selected was wrong, why you were tempted by the answer you selected, what the correct answer is, as well as why you thought the correct answer was initially incorrect.

If you can comprehend some of the traps you have fallen for in the past, you may be able to avoid falling for them in the future.

Finally, in regards to the essay portion of the test, practicing outlining essays can be extremely helpful. If you become skilled at outlining within five minutes, you can use more time to write your essay. Additionally, you’ll have to spend less time editing.

Words to the Wise

Remember that the GMAT is made for students to make mistakes. It is very rare to answer all questions correctly, and that’s okay. You can still earn a very high score if you make mistakes.

If you don’t know an answer to a question, guess quickly, and move on. Spend most of your time on the questions you think you will get correct. Spend some of your time on questions you aren’t positive about, but have a pretty good chance of getting right. Spend essentially no time on guessing when you know you have no chance.

It’s common to have test anxiety. But for a test like the GMAT, know that you’ll be forgiven for wrong answers. Focus on what you can do, and if you retake the test, focus on learning a bit more on the areas you first fell short.


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