A ‘well-balanced’ GMAT score is an important part of an MBA application at top business schools around the world. Moreover, these scores are also used as a Consultant job application input by top strategy consulting firms.
Three Full-Time MBA alumni, who scored 700+ on their GMAT Exam, list the tips and tricks that helped them crack a good score.
James, Matthew and Anirudh took their GMAT before the exam got shortened by 30 minutes in April 2018. As the average time per question remained unchanged after the new format came into force, they surmise that their tips stay unaffected.
*Please note that these quotes were collected before the launch of GMAT Focus Edition; nevertheless, many of the principles remain applicable to the new GMAT structure.
The GMAT Official Guide (OG) and the GMAT official exam prep software for full-length exams are preparation must-dos.
Make sure you go over the questions you couldn’t answer correctly on the first attempt, and try to roughly time yourself. A set of supplementary materials and practice tests have been provided below.
Top tip: If you find yourself running out of time (say you have a minute left for five questions), it is best to take a guess, as there is a big penalty on leaving questions unsolved.
“I also used Kaplan GMAT 800 and Veritas Prep Youtube channel to supplement Verbal preparation.”
Preparing for the GMAT while still working
The OG provides revision materials on each section and relevant question times, which provide the basis for beginning revision and preparation. It is imperative to practice a little bit every day, and to set aside weekends for exam condition testing.
James said: “I first focused on reading through and writing notes on the revision material from the official guides, this gave me a good basis for which to start practice questions from the books. I aimed to do an hour of these each evening, alternating between numerical and verbal, as I felt quite well-balanced between the two. Closer to the time I began practice tests using the official software. Once I’d started revising and felt relatively comfortable with the practice questions, I booked an exam for sooner than I should have – I had a target score in mind but felt that I may have to sit the exam on more than one occasion to achieve it. The pressure of having a test deadline helped focus my mind and I ended up surpassing what I needed first time.”
Matthew said: “My studying revolved around taking a practice exam under real test conditions on Sunday mornings, then going through incorrect answers (and underlying concepts) on Monday evenings. The rest of the week I practiced out of my books during lunch breaks at work and for an hour or two each evening, specifically focusing on timing myself for each question. Don’t forget to practice your integrated reasoning and essay sections. They may not make up part of your soon-to-be 700+ score, but they still appear on the report you’ll send in with your application and companies who request it will see them as well.”
Anirudh said: “I set out an hour of practice every day. In the latter part of my prep I worked on the section my mock test results were highlighting as an area of weakness. As has been noted frequently by test takers, my score on the actual exam was very close (and in my case, the exact same score) as my final GMATPrep practice test. The most difficult challenge during my prep period was doing business travel two weeks before the exam, which I balanced by taking a four-day stretch off work before my test date.”
Order of sections attempted
Here is where we diverged in terms of tips. What all three of us agree on is to find the GMAT exam order that works best for you (as long as Quants and Verbal are being taken first) and stick to it. You can either choose to take your ‘weaker section’ first with a fresh mind, or your ‘stronger section’ first to maximize your score in that section.
Andrudh said “Quants was my strong section and I attempted to do it first. I felt pretty good about my score at the end of the allotted time so focused on minimizing damage in my Verbal section.”
James said “The Verbal section was my strongest from the very beginning, so I wanted to do the quantitative sections on my practice exams first while I was feeling as energetic as possible. This worked out well, so I used the same approach on my actual exam.”
Mathew said “I balanced my revision and practice as I felt that I was not weak in one particular area but just needed to improve my average score.”
Test day tips
James said “I made sure to stop studying two hours before bed the night before and did some personal reading to try and take my mind off of the exam. On test day, I woke up extra early and walked outside for a bit with my coffee to wake up as much as possible before my drive to the testing centre. During the exam, I kept a close eye on the clock and forced myself to guess and move on if I felt I was spending too much time on one particular question. This was really tough to do as I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to those questions later, but it worked on the practice exams, so I stuck with the strategy.
“Make sure to focus on your timing, once you have gotten to the point where you feel comfortable with the material. Timing will make or break your score in the end! There is no point in trying to estimate how you are doing during the exam. The algorithm that the testing programme follows is made to increase difficulty as you get questions right, so most people don’t feel that they’re performing well until they see their score at the very end.”
Mathew said “I arrived well before the exam, so I felt comfortable with the process and environment. They actually let me start before so there is no issue hanging around full of nerves. Throughout I made sure I took each break when they came up even if the sign in/out process is a bit cumbersome. This allowed me to relax and get my mind in gear for the next section.”
Anirudh said “I had a full night of sleep, got a double espresso in before I left and had an apple and a dark chocolate in the eight-minute break to keep my mind alert"