GMAT Preparation Tips

Dhawal Ogale, TMMBA Student (Class of 2011)

1. How to start

Once you decide you want to enter a B-School, the first hurdle is the GMAT. The GMAT exam should be scheduled early so there is enough time for your scores to reach the B-School and also so that it does not clash with your B-School application preparation.

2. Books / Material

GMAC suggests reading the “The Official Guide for GMAT Review”. You would also buy the Kaplan Review and Princeton Review. I have found the Kaplan more useful for Maths section and Princeton for English. I suggest you create your own cheat sheets of formulae and principles, something that you can read just before you head to the exam center. You should create these lists early and refine them as you study and solve practice tests.

3. Practice Tests

Solving Practice Tests is your way to ascertain your level of preparation. I suggest taking a practice test before you start your preparation. Then do one pass through the material and take another test. Your score should have improved in this test. You should take multiple tests as you tune up your preparation. A few days before the exam, you should take a test to evaluate your preparation. My score on this test was within 20 points of my score in the GMAT exam.

I did not buy extra practice tests on the internet. In hindsight though, I feel that more tests would have helped my preparation.

4. Understand Computer Adaptive Format of the Exam (GMAT CAT)

The GMAT is a CAT (Computer Adaptive Test) which means the difficulty of questions on the exam changes with the examinee’s answers to previous questions. Though the GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) does not confirm this, the first 10 questions have at least a little more weight than rest of the questions. The reason could be that if you answer the first few questions wrong, it gives you easier questions and they carry lower marks thus lowering your score. However, if you answer the first few questions correctly, then you get more difficult questions and they carry more marks thus increasing your score.

As you near the end of a section, questions carry progressively lower weightage. So if you have to nearly guess on the last 3 questions and you did good on rest of the questions, then you will still get a good score.

5. Keep Track of Time

Each question on the GMAT gives you about 2 minutes on the average. You might want to spend a little extra time on the first 10 questions and later catch up on that average time of 2 mins per question. On my exam, I kept calculating constantly (something I won’t recommend you do). However, if you keep some ballpark figures in mind, such as the first 10 questions in 20 mins, 20 questions in 40 minutes, etc. If you are going too slowly, you might want to speed up.


6. Process of Elimination

Let’s accept it – there will always be questions where you don’t know the answer. You can roll a dice to choose your answer (probability = 1/6 = 16%). As you can figure, rolling the dice is probably not a great choice for you. How about tossing a coin instead (probability = 1/2 = 50%).

To get to the coin from the cube, you will have to apply the Process of Elimination where you rule out obviously wrong answers and increase probability of getting the right answer.

On one of your scratch papers, you can make a table of question numbers and 5 answers for each (one row for each question). As you read a question and its answers, cross out answers you think are obviously wrong. This should become an involuntary action – read an answer choice and if you think it’s absurd, you cross it out on your table. Thus, if you decide to guess the answer for a question, you have already narrowed down to a smaller list of possible answers.

7. Complete All Questions

The GMAT exam penalizes you for not attempting a question more than for a wrong answer to that question. So make sure that if you have only 5 mins (or perhaps 3 mins) left on the clock and have 10 questions, then take about 10 seconds each and answer the remaining questions.

8. Keep list of Universities handy at the exam center

At start of the exam, you’ll be asked a list of 5 universities that your score will be sent to. In my case, I gave a list of top universities from some list, but not specific universities that I had researched. In the end, I never applied to those universities and thus wasted this resource. If you are thinking of applying to the Foster Business School, make sure you have the appropriate department code handy.

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