GMAT Preparation Tips

Richard Lee, TMMBA Student (Class 2010)

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve notice a lot of potential students at the Eastside Executive Center (EEC).  I’ve also had some co-workers ask me about the TMMBA program.  As all applicants know, taking the GMAT is one of the main milestones in getting into an MBA program.  To help out, I thought I’d share some of my tips and experience regarding the GMAT.

Prep Books

big0976570904GMAT books is how many (if not most) people prepare for the exam.  Not only do they provide practice problems, but they also describe what to expect – the format of the exam, the number of questions, the material that needs to be understood, etc.

Of the people I’ve spoken to, the clear consensus is that the “The Official Guide for the GMAT Review” is essential.  The official guide is published by the GMAC (makers of the GMAT) and has actual problems from the prior year’s exam.    In addition to the official guide, I highly recommend at least one other prep book.  Although the Official Guide has actual GMAT problems, it gives few hints on how to “attack” the exam.  For this, turn towards the big names in GMAT prep books: The Princeton Review, Kaplan, and Manhattan.

Personally, I used the Official Guide along with the Princeton and Kaplan prep books.  In my opinion, the Princeton guide did a much better job in describing the strategy of taking the GMAT.  However, the Princeton practice problems seemed less rigorous than the Kaplan Guide.  Also, I’ve heard good things about the Manhattan guides, although I have not used them myself.  In sum, I recommend the following:

  • Get and complete the Official Guide for the GMAT review
  • Read the first half of Princeton Review’s GMAT guide
  • Get and complete either the Kaplan or Manhattan GMAT guide

Prep Courses

There are many lectured GMAT prep courses out there, with some costing well over $1,000.  I haven’t taken one myself, although one of my TMMBA teammates has.  He told me that the strategy of taking the exam was the focus of what he was taught.  If that’s the case, I’d recommend an extra book over a prep course.  However, I think someone’s learning style would dictate the decision more than anything else.

Richard’s top two tips

I don’t have many test taking tips as most of them can be found in a prep book.  Below are a couple of tips that I learned from my own experience.

  • Do practice problems under a time limit:  When prepping for the exam, I thought I had a good grasp of the math portion.  However, when I did my first practice exam, I discovered that it took me the entire 75 minutes allotted to complete half of the math section. 
  • Bring/use ear plugs when you take the exam:  The test center I used was made up of a large room with 30-40 three-walled cubicle stations, each with one computer.  I did not foresee how loud and unpleasant the sound of 30 clacking keyboards is, especially when taking an exam.  Thankfully, they had ear plugs at the desk and I had taken a pair.  I suggest others do the same. 

Other Resources

This is the official site of the GMAT.  There a couple things that every GMAT test taker has to do on this site.

First, you’re going to make your GMAT appointment here.  I recommend making an appointment as early as possible, especially if you don’t plan on actually taking the exam until late-summer.  The application deadline for the majority of MBA programs is around the end of August.  If you don’t reserve in well in advance, you may find yourself unable to take the exam in an area near you.  I’ve heard of people who had to drive 50+ miles to get to the next available test center.

Second, download the free test-prep software which includes sample problems and a full length practice exam.  Unlike other GMAT software, the one found here looks and feels EXACTLY like the real exam. or
(view the Problem Solving or Data Sufficiency playlists)

If you’re worried about GMAT math, the youtube video links above will help immensely.  Salman Khan walks step-by-step through every single math problem in the 11th edition of the Official Guide for the GMAT.  Although the 11th edition of the Official Guide has been superseded by the 12th edition, the material Khan goes over is still valid.