How to Prepare for the GMAT

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a 3.5-hour standardized exam that business schools use to determine an applicant's ability to succeed in MBA or other graduate-level business and management programs. Learn how to prepare for this important step toward a career in business.

Preparing for the GMAT

To fully prepare for the GMAT, students should consider graduate-level education goals far in advance of taking - or even registering for - the exam. Upon deciding to pursue an MBA or other graduate-level business degree, students should first research business programs to determine their schools of choice. This list will help to not only determine the GMAT scores needed to meet admission requirements, but also decide when to take the exam in order to meet application deadlines.

Studying for the GMAT

Students study for the GMAT exam differently and for varying lengths of time, depending upon both their study preferences and the time they have available for preparation. While there is no definitive guideline, the Graduate Management Admission Council - which administers the GMAT - says that students should plan for roughly two months, or more, of study time. The majority of test-takers study for the GMAT for at least 51 hours and those who spend more time studying generally achieve higher scores. In 2014, for example, those who earned GMAT scores of 700 or higher spent more than 120 hours studying for the exam.

A GMAT study plan should focus on familiarization with both the exam's subject matter and the format of the questions. Students are advised to utilize practice tests throughout their studies to gauge progress and to identify areas of weakness. Along with GMAT practice tests, many resources are available to help students prepare for the GMAT. Online courses are an ideal option for those looking to study on their own time and at their own pace. Study.com's online GMAT Prep: Tutoring Solution, for example, is a self-paced course that simulates the benefits of one-on-one tutoring by offering video lessons to help students master specific lessons and subjects, along with practice quizzes that measure progress.

Understanding the Content of the GMAT Exam

Test Section Description Test Time Score Range
Analytical Writing Assessment One essay illustrating analytical and critical reasoning competencies, along with the ability to communicate those skills 30 minutes 0 - 6
Integrated Reasoning Twelve questions measuring the ability to interpret and analyze graphics, multi-source information and data 30 minutes 1 - 8
Quantitative Thirty-seven questions requiring reasoning skills to solve mathematical and quantitative equations 75 minutes 0 - 60
Verbal Forty-one questions measuring writing, critical reasoning and reading comprehension skills 75 minutes 0 - 60

Total GMAT Scores are a scaled combination of the Quantitative and Verbal sections. Total Scores range from 200 - 800.

Practical Test Day Preparations

While mastering the exam's content is the major focus of GMAT preparation, students are advised to also make practical preparations to ensure that test day goes seamlessly. A few considerations:

  • Test-takers must have a valid form of identification that includes a photo and matches information (name, date of birth, citizenship) provided during GMAT registration.
  • No food or beverages are allowed into the testing center during the 3.5-hour exam, so students should conduct practice tests under similar conditions.
  • Know what to expect at the test center. Video tours are available on the GMAT official website (mba.com).

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