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Seven Study Hacks for the GMAT

Start your prep for the test with our seven study hacks for the GMAT.

We often get calls from hopeful students who recognize the benefits of an MBA and are seeking to know the GMAT score they need to achieve to be considered for a Krannert School of Management master’s program (The short answer? It depends. Here’s a graphic of the averages for the different programs). After we discuss the different programs and the average scores for accepted students, the next question is usually; “do you have any study tips for the GMAT?” With this in mind, we’ve compiled this blog post with seven of our best study hacks for the GMAT. 

1. Know What to Expect

First up, and probably most importantly, you need to know what to expect when you sit down to take your GMAT exam. The exam is three parts (writing, quantitative and verbal) and you’ll have three-and-a-half hours to complete it. The writing section includes two 30-minute essays, one where you analyze an issue and one where you analyze an argument. The quantitative section involves questions on data sufficiency and problem solving. You are given 75 minutes to complete 37 multiple-choice questions. The verbal section, includes 41 critical reasoning, reading comprehension and sentence correction questions to complete within 75 minutes. Unlike the SAT or GRE where each section of the exam is scored individually, the GMAT only gives one comprehensive score ranging from 200 to 800. The scores you receive on your analytical essays do not go towards your final score.

2. Two-Minute Rule

Based on the number of questions and the time allotted for each section, you will have about two minutes per question. If you find you’re spending more than two minutes on a question, you should probably move on.

3. The First Ten Questions

The GMAT is a computer adaptive test, which is a fancy way of saying the test is performed on a computer and the subsequent questions the test gives you change based on your answers to previous questions. Essentially, the more questions you get right, the harder the questions you’ll get and, therefore, the lowest possible score you can receive increases. So, if you’re going to focus more time on any question, make it one of the first ten, because they carry the most weight. 

4. Practice Smarter

Chances are you’re not used to taking timed tests on a computer in a wide range of subjects, with video cameras on you, and just a small, yellow, laminated notebook for sketching and working out problems. For those that are anxious test takers, this GMAT study hack is especially important: practice like it’s the real thing. Research shows that taking the practice test at least once can increase your score significantly. In fact, according to GMAC, those that take the GMATPrep exam once, have the potential to increase their score by 52 points. Those that take the practice test a second time have the potential to increase their score by 84 points. 

You can buy a notebook similar to the one you’ll have on test day, and you can take timed, online practice tests. Besides calming nerves, the practice tests will show you areas of improvement and give you an idea of what score to expect. Additionally, we recommend only using the official study guides to make your studying as efficient as possible. Why? So you can practice with actual questions that were on past GMAT exams.

5. Have a Score Goal

Early in your studying process make sure you have an idea of what the averages or minimum scores are for the programs you’re interested in. This knowledge will help you with figuring out a good goal (you should be getting around your desired score or higher on practice tests) and can give you an idea on which schools to send your scores to on test day.

6. Meet and Befriend Data Sufficiency Questions

One attribute unique to the GMAT (and is the Achilles’s heal of many test takers) is data sufficiency questions. This type of question isn’t on any other standardized test, so practicing them (and mastering them) is crucial. 

7. When in doubt: Google

Sometimes an answer key isn’t enough to understand the logic behind the correct answer, or you took longer than two minutes to finish the question, or you simply cannot find the answer. When you find yourself stumped, try plugging the question into Google. Prep Scholar recommends finding the many forums where students studying for GMAT post questions (and answers); you may be dealing with the same question a peer had a few months ago. Just make sure the person that is responding is a reliable source.

We hope you find these study hacks for the GMAT helpful! Our last tip? Make sure you remember the benefits of a MBA degree when studying, as an end goal is always beneficial. If you’re considering a MBA, we’d love to see an application from you! 

Benefits of an MBA

Nick Rambo
Assistant Director of Recruiting
Krannert MBA & MS Programs