Have A GMAT Prep Question? Ask Andrew, Our Latest Resident Expert

Andrew Geller of Atlantic GMAT

Andrew Geller of Atlantic GMAT

How much time should you set aside to study for the Graduate Management Admission Test? What’s the best way to prep for the test so you’ll do well enough to get into a highly selective MBA program? Are there shortcuts to the de facto entry exam into business school?

These are among the questions Andrew Geller will help to answer as Poets&Quant’s new resident expert on the GMAT–along with any and all questions you might have on how to prep for the test. Andrew is uniquely qualified for the job.

He’s a GMAT expert who scored an impressive 770 on the exam. Unlike some of the nerdy GMAT tutors out there, Andrew can actually write. He’s been teaching since 2002 and throughout the past decade has worked for various big and small test prep companies helping people succeed on the GMAT, LSAT, SAT, ACT, and GRE. Throughout his career he has successfully taught people from many different backgrounds, countries, and starting scores.

He now leads Atlantic GMAT, a company which he founded to provide a creative and nuanced approach to GMAT preparation especially for students who have struggled to achieve their GMAT goals through big box test prep.

In his spare time, Andrew likes to play music, ride his motorcycle to the beach, play ping pong, and ski. Andrew spent a year teaching English in Brazil and is fluent in Portuguese.

If you have a question, fire away in the comments section below! Andrew will do his best to answer your queries.

Meantime, see his GMAT prep recommendations for Khan Academy video help.

  • Come on, man

    Andrew isn’t here to answer what can be easily found in a Google search. Are there “any” online portals for basic GMAT prep? Yes, there are plenty, and if you conduct five minutes of research you can figure out the best for yourself.

    But if that isn’t enough, Andrew’s introductory article at the top of this page already answers your question: “Meantime, see his GMAT prep recommendations for Khan Academy video help.” Why don’t you check that out?

    There is no need to be rude or explicitly entitled. If you want Andrew to respond, shouldn’t you ask a worthwhile question?

  • Rajiv Shukla

    Stop ignoring.V r here to ask u our doubts.

  • Rajiv Shukla

    Any online portal where I can start prepping for GMAT right from the basics?

  • Hi Rajiv,

    Thanks for the question. I think this one is better handled by an admissions expert. You might also just get in contact with schools to which you are applying and ask them how they handle the conversion. I wouldn’t be surprised by individual MBA programs handling the GPA conversion differently. But again: I’d ask someone with more experience in this area. If you have any GMAT questions please feel free to fire away!

    Have a good rest of the day,


  • Rajiv Shukla

    I was looking into WES website for my US equivalent GPA. I came across the following table for India.

    Scale U.S. Grade Equiv.
    70-100 A
    50-69 B
    35-49 C
    0-32 F

    Is this a trustworthy table as I juz want to get a rough estimate of my US equivalent GPA

  • Olá!

    Esse questão e bem difícil. Nao tem um mínimo mais e raro que uma pessoa pode pegar 200+ pontos. Mais, as veces da certo. Si você tem uma unível de Verbal muito bom (90+%) e o problema e o Quant e mais fácil fazer esses grandes movimentos.


    Quick translation here for the english speakers:

    The question is whether there’s a minimum score on a diagnostic test which would indicate the possibility of getting a 700+ GMAT score on test day. I’d say that there isn’t necessarily a minimum but that 200+ points is a herculean challenge for most people. The other thing to note is that the Quant/Verbal split matters. If someone is amazing at verbal (40+ without studying) and not so good at Quant then it’s usually easier to get big score gains.


  • Olá, Andrew. Vi que você fala português fluentemente e gostaria de saber qual a média que você acredita que um candidato deve ter em um diagnóstico inicial para alcançar um mínimo de 700 no GMAT? Agradeço desde já a sua atenção.

  • Hi James,

    Thanks for the follow up. Looks like you’re doing everything right with your GMAT retake studying. The exam packs are an excellent investment and I would get through those in the next 4 weeks. With everything that you’re doing keep an error log. Really make sure that you’re putting in thourough review so that on the quant side you have an easy/intuititave way to solve 95% of what’s on those exams. On the verbal, considering your goal, you’re aiming for 100%. In addition, you could work backwards in the official guide (focusing on the harder questions) and do the medium/hard questions from the question pack. Also keep an error log for this work. We’re really trying to tighten up that last 5-10% so staying organized with your review is key. If you want more test practice GMAT Focus 1-3 are solid though a tad on the expensive side. I think I already mentioned this but I have a set of quizzes that I’ve been working on to add that last bit of polish to the quant side. Feel free to contact me via email if you’d like to give those a spin.

    The other thing to work on is your attitude while taking the test. It sounds like you’re enjoying the studying. That’s perfect and certainly part of the recipe for success. Bring that positivity and playfulness into your test taking and, in my experience, you’ll be sharper, less fatigued down the stretch, and more creative in your thinking. If you’re ever getting stressed during a practice set or during the exam just remember to have fun. It’s fine to take a 10-15 second break to reset, refresh, and get hungry again. This is especially helpful on the verbal. Keep up the excellent work and certainly follow up with any questions!

    Have a good day,


  • JamesP89

    update: I took GMAC GMATPrep test #3 (I paid for the exam packs 1&2). Got my best overall score to date 750!, my second best verbal 44! and my best Quant 49!

    I think I’m at a really good place in my studies with a little less than 4 weeks until my test date. I actually think a 46V/50Q score is my highest realistic potential score. Do you have any tips on what makes the difference between a 44V/45V/46V or a 48Q/49Q/50Q score? I know the distinction is probably small but I want to learn everything I can to realize my scoring potential. At this point the GMAT has become a really fun challenge. I’ll continue to review problems I got wrong and work on my timing which definitely can be improved for Quant and less so for verbal. With that in mind do you have any other study suggestions for these next few weeks?

  • JamesP89

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for answering our questions.
    I’m getting ready to take the GMAT again. I took it in June and scored 690 (38V/47V). I thought I could do better with some more practice and I also thought I’d give the GRE a shot too. So I scheduled the GRE in August and the GMAT in October. I scored really well on the GRE (168V/166Q) but I’m still going to take the GMAT for two reasons: 1. It’s already paid for and 2. because of the great GRE score I can take the GMAT without pressure and that may help me knock it out of the park.
    I’ve taken the GMAC GMATPrep tests over the last month and I scored 730 (44V/47Q) and 740 (45V/47Q). I’ve really improved my verbal and feel very strong about it so I’m starting to focus more on Quant. I’m still practicing official GMAT verbal questions, especially the one’s I’ve gotten wrong just to make sure I don’t lose a step and don’t get overconfident.
    I have 5 weeks to get my quant score up. What kind of study plan would you recommend (I’ve been using Manhattan Prep for my studies)? My high goal score for Quant is 50 and my target goal is 49. I think I’ve mastered most concepts in quant but my execution, timing, and nerves are sometimes a problem. If I am aiming for a 49 or 50 how many questions should I be making educated guess on and then skipping? Part of the challenge for me is that I don’t want to give up on problems that are above my abilities and I waste time which causes me to rush later in the quant section thus increasing my errors on problems I should get right in a reasonable time. If I knew how many questions to skip while shooting for a 49 or 50 I think that would really help.

  • Hi Srishti,

    Apologies for the delay – I missed this one. Great work on the Quant! What practice tests were you taking? Were they official GMAT or third party? What materials have you used? For improving GMAT verbal (especially after exhausting all official materials) I’d do two things:

    1. Read a challenging article every day (there’s an article on the Atlantic GMAT site on how to approach this work).

    2. Do LSAT critical reasoning and perhaps reading comprehension. (there’s also an article on this.)

    Verbal improvement can be slow going so I would be patient with your studying. I’d plan a couple of months for this. Follow up with any questions!

    Happy studies,


  • Hi Metasebia,

    Thanks for the note- nice work on your verbal. I think that GMAT video courses can be OK for drilling basic content but I wouldn’t expect them to teach you the GMAT. Also, 3 weeks is likely not enough time to make a big leap on the Quant. I’d plan 7-8 weeks to make a significant dent. Send over any follow up questions!

    Happy studies,


  • Hello Andrew,

    I took the diagnostic test a month ago with 620 score 37Q 39V from GMAT Prep 2.4 which I definitely need to work on my quant. I am prepping for GMAT using Target Prep focusing on just Quant. I will be takin my GMAT in 3 weeks. Do you have any idea how effective Target Prep is?

  • jd

    Thanks for your insights, these are very helpful.
    As for the rationale for retake… well, I think I have every reason to give it another try. The 44 on verbal was on GMAT prep. So the highest score I got on GMAT prep was Q49 and V44. Given that’s at least 20 points higher than my current score, I feel taking the test one more time makes a lot of sense. And I’m in one of those competitive, traditional candidate categories, so a higher score will only help.

    Anyway, I’ll try the SC questions on OG and LSAT questions as well. I didn’t know about QP1 before, so thanks for that info as well.

  • Hi JD,

    Great job on the 730! Any specific reason for re-taking that? Was the 44 verbal on an official GMAT practice test or third party? I would 100% avoid third party verbal questions. In terms of practice going forward, I’ve advised this a bunch of times on this QA thread: do 3-4 weeks of LSAT work. I know that you mentioned SC as the weakness BUT making the CR and RC automatic will leave more time and energy for the SC. On the SC side I’d work through the OG, VR, and QP1 making sure that you have an easy solution (not necessarily what’s in the book) for getting through 95% of those questions. The extra reading is a great idea.

    I’d advise 6-7 weeks (90 min weekday sessions/2.5 hour weekend sessions for the first 3 weeks then ratchet up a bit on weekends for some practice tests) for this. It’s better to immerse yourself over a shorter period (if you can). For some guidance on the LSAT work there’s an article on the Atlantic GMAT site.

    Follow up with any questions!


  • Srishti Mehta

    Hi Andrew,
    I had been preparing for GMAT AND SCORING above 700 in all my mock tests. But in the real exam I scored 670 with 31 in English and 50 in quants… deeply disheartened!! Now I want to give my exam again in a month or so because I want to apply this season itself.. I have exhausted all my material.. please guide which materials and what strategy should I take to improve my English score.

  • jd

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for doing this on this forum. I’m curious to know what you think of my situation and the plan I have.

    After getting a score of 720 (Q49 V40) on my first try, I took two more tests, but came up short with 700 on each of the two tests. After a year or so of not studying, I went back to study for about two months (12-15 hours/week) and got a 730 (Q49 V41). Hoping to squeeze out 10 or 20 more points, I took the test after 3 weeks but got 700 again.

    I took Vertias and GMAT prep CATs, and my highest quant was 50 and highest verbal was 44 (not on the same test though). I feel I can get 20 or more points if I refine some of the quant skills and get better at SC, which is my weakest area :in the 44 verbal test, I got 6 wrong and 5 of them were SC.

    My plan is to take my time and maybe study 8 hour/week for the next two to three months; quant and SC split would be roughly 50/50. Additionally, I’ll read books 10-12 hours/week. I think reading books will help my verbal, and if nothing else, I’ll have read some books.

    Do you think this is an okay strategy? I’m not sure if I’m ready to do another month of 15 hour/week studying. The worse part is I’m not sure if that will help – maybe reading books can help me with some of the “core skills” needed to get that 43+ verbal score… I’d love to hear what you think.

    Thank you!

  • Hi Mahammad,

    Thanks for the comment! Quant/Verbal balance really depends on your profile and at what point your are in your GMAT preparation. For the most part I don’t have separate Quant/Verbal days. I think it’s better to deal with both sides of the test on a daily basis. That said, I will have some days (and entire parts of the preparation) that are more focused on Quant or Verbal. Just an observation: 3-4 hours of studying post a full day work seems like overkill. For most people, doing QUALITY GMAT work for 4 hours after having been at work for 8 hours is near impossible (you may be different). For weekdays I’d aim for 2 hours or so of really active practice and review. On the weekends, unless doing a practice test, I’d aim for 4-5 hours broken up into two study sessions (with a break in between to reset your brain). Hope this is helpful. Please follow up with any questions!

    Happy studies,


  • Mahammad Muradov

    Hello there,

    Thanks for giving us this opportunity.

    Dear Andrew,

    I’m preparing for the GMAT on my own. Now I’m experiencing difficulties on how to balance verbal and quant sections. As I work full time, (9 to 6) I have 3 or 4 hours left to study daily. Is it better to study one day for quant, the next day for verbal or to combine both in one day.(2 -2 hours)? What do you recommend? Which one would be efficient?

    Thanks in advance

  • Hi Dahn,

    This a super common GMAT issue. How have you prepared? Let me know and perhaps I can provide a bit more insight. There are a few things that tend to go wrong. Rather than highlight the negative I’m going flip around to what should happen:

    -The majority of practice should be on official materials (this includes practice tests)
    -Mistakes and questions that you have a tough time with need to be organized in an error log which you cycle through on a consistent basis (a little bit every day. no cramming review). You have to be thoughtful with your review really thinking about what is going wrong in your approach.
    -Studying needs to be organized with sessions put on a calendar. Consistent quality day after day is the way to go. Never cram!
    -All of your studying needs to be active. You must practice being alert. Any passiveness in your studying is at best a waste of time and at worst creating bad habits and actually harming you.
    -In your HW sets and practice tests you need to practice being in the drivers seat. Something not going well? Shift gears. Try something different. Or, move on!

    I hope that this is helpful. Please follow up with any questions. Happy studies!


    PS: I am planning on offering a GMAT DIY study course which will be be far cheaper than our tutoring program that will help people focus on the right things. But, that’s still at least 6 months away.
    PPS: If you want to get a sense for how to organize your studying you can take a look at the GMAT study schedules on the Atlantic GMAT site. They are on the older side at this point but still useful.

  • Dan

    Hi Andrew,

    I’ve been putting a lot of work into my GMAT studying the past 9 months and unfortunately, as I’ve been taking Manhattan, Veritas and GMAC tests, it feels like my quant score is getting worse. I do feel like I’m improving my skills, but it doesn’t seem to be translating to scores. Do you have any suggestions for this?


  • titan2602

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m planning to do my PhD from the United States and plan to take admission in 2018. I’m currently in my final semester of MBA in Marketing. Unfortunately, I dont have any research papers to my name. What I do have are a project report on my summer internship and a dissertation. Does this absence of a research paper, affect my chances of getting into a top college?

  • Hi Becky,

    Thanks for checking in! What was the breakdown (Quant/Verbal) on the 520? Was this an official GMAT practice test? I wouldn’t worry about the 520. It’s true that 520 to 700+ is a big jump that most people doing normal GMAT preparation won’t make. But it doesn’t sound like you’re most people and should you decide to tackle the GMAT hopefully you’ll set aside the right amount of time, get organized, and use the right materials so you can put yourself in the best position possible to achieve your goals.

    Follow up with more info and I’d be happy to provide more insight.


    PS: For top 25 you don’t necessarily need a 700+. It really depends on the rest of your application.

  • Becky

    Hi Andrew,
    I’ve found this site (especially your material) to be helpful as I am just starting the journey to evaluate 1) if I really and truly want to go to b-school, 2) if I should go the GRE or GMAT track and 3) where I think I would like to go.

    As part of this, I just took my very first GMAT diagnostic practice test today with literally zero preparation prior to taking it. My goal is to be competitive and only look at Top 25 programs, but to be honest I didn’t do nearly as well on the diagnostic as I had hope (520 with no preparation/background on the test). As someone who got a 4.0 in undergrad and who has always be a highly competitive and driven student, should I be concerned about such a low diagnostic score or is it normal to score so low the very first pass and still jump up to the 700 range for scores?

    I would love your thoughts here and would be happy to connect via email as well if that’s easier.


  • Hi Sunil,

    This is a big question:) The basic answer is: Focus on the verbal. At a v28 there must be some fundamental issues. I would work on your reading. Pick up a novel and read a challenging article every day. Be an active reader. I’d do that for a couple months before even approaching any test prep work. After that I’d do LSAT critical reasoning for a month. Then I’d start “normal” test prep folding in quant work and plan a test 7 weeks out. You may not have the timeline for this but that’s what I’d recommend. Shoot over any questions!

    Good luck,


  • sunil l

    Well, the score was not wasted. I graduated with MS degree in 2005. Now after 12 years of job, want to pursue MBA.

  • HBS

    Oh damn, man. Hate when the good scores expire.

  • sunil l

    Feel i am getting older, i am 40+ now and find it hard to focus 😉 nevertheless I got 2300/2400 in GRE in 2001. Further many Indians struggle and get 700+ after few attempts…

  • HBS

    I thought Indians automatically score 750+ on gmat.

  • sunil l

    Hi Andrew, I got 600 Q45 V28 AWA 4.5 IR 3 on GMAT 3 years back after 40 days of practice and highest practice score of 650 & 660 on official GMATprep software. My highest quant score during practice was 51. It was a big disappointment and I want to start preparing again now with 2 months time frame. I do not have the bandwidth to go for classroom coaching but can do it online. Want to define the strategy for maximum possible score in the time constraint. Need helpful advice.

  • Hi there,

    The best thing to do is to work on your reading. If you’re a sharp reader then you’ll probably have a good instinct for the verbal side of the GRE/GMAT. If you’re not a great reader then you’re going to struggle on the verbal. And unlike quant skills which can be improved dramatically in a relatively short period of time it usually takes a long time to improve reading skills. So I would certainly be tackling a challenging periodical on a regular basis and digging into some literature. Follow up with any questions!


  • Tglpickett@gmail.com

    As a freshman starting college majoring in either economics or business . Which discipline (finance accounting,marketing, analytics etc.) would you say best prepares you or classes best prepares you for the GMAT or GRE?

  • navyfinance

    Thanks for the response Andrew!

    I do think I’m ok with a 700. I just wanted to give the test one more shot while the information is fresh in my head, and my tutor told me that a +/- 30 point swing is possible from one test to the next with out changing anything.

    I ended up buying the Manhattan Advanced Quant and Manhattan LSAT Logical Reasoning guides. Hopefully I can bump up both areas just a little by next week.

  • Hi there,

    Thanks for the note – good work on your GMAT! A 700 is a very solid score. If you can I’d take a month to plow through some LSAT critical reasoning (and maybe RC as well). That work can really help boost the verbal especially when you’re already scoring in the high 30’s. For Quant I’d do all of the official practice tests (including GMAT focus), the question pack 1 (stick with only medium/hard questions), and the harder questions from the official guides (start working from the back). Good luck!


    PS: I have a set of Quant review quizzes that I’ve written for this purpose. At the moment I’m only using them with students but shoot me an email and I can give you access for a couple of weeks.

  • navyfinance


    Any advice for a 4th attempt at the GMAT.

    1 – 660(Q48/V32), Aug 16
    2 – 670(Q48/V34), Dec 16
    3 – 700(Q48/V38), Jan 17

    I’m hoping to bump up to a Q49 and break 40 on verbal. I have been studying since last April. I used all of the Manhattan Prep books for the 1st attempt, then enrolled in The Economist prep for the 2nd and 3rd attempt.

    FYI, I got refunded by The Economist for not meeting the 70 point improvement guarantee. It took 4 months to get to 90% completion.

    I’m scheduled to take the test in 2.5 weeks. I plan to complete the 2017 OG Verbal Review and two official practices before the test. I also still have access to The Economist Prep.

    Just looking for any helpful advice or strategy in the last 2 weeks of my studies. Verbal is the obvious weakness. My most recent ESR percentiles were CR: 84th, RC: 80th and SC:79th.

    Thanks for the help!

  • Thanks 🙂
    Look forward to it!

  • Hi Nicolás,

    Great to hear from you again! Congrats on the 700! That’s a great score. V27 to V38 is a massive improvement. I’m glad that the LSAT worked for you. Happy to get back in more detail in the next couple of days when I have more time but the short answer is: Yes. You’ve proven yourself a strong competitor so I’d say go for it!


  • Hi Andrew!
    Well, again, thank you very much for your candid support to all of us!

    I took GMAT on July 15th. Got the 700, with Q48/V38, after several months of self-studying (tough, to be honest). I decided to stop there, and start working on the application. I’ve just submitted it on Wednesday, and I’m considering now to work a bit more and see if I can improve that score (really improve it).

    Besides my background in economics, I could never break the 48 barreer in quant. Sometimes because I failed to correctly approach complex problems, and sometimes, I believe, due to time-pressure. Through the four official mocks I took, started in Q46 (in January) and never got beyond 48 (12 incorrect answers). How can I improve that? How would a tutoring could help me with that?

    On the verbal side, my biggest problem is SC. Both CR and RC are tough, but I improved a lot with practice (and your LSAT advice really paid off!!). In fact, the three passages from the test were short (one paragraph, which I believe are the tougher) and I got hit with two boldface CR (should I feel special about that? Haha!) I started from V27 in January, and reached a V40 a week before the exam. I really got through the major topics of SC (Parallelism, agreement, etc). But I may be loosing in the complex topics.

    I have two more official exams left, and roughly the toughest half of the OG16 also left as official material. I also got the Question Pack 1, but I exhausted the toughest ones of each type.

    Would it be worthy to give it another try? Whether to a post-submission update (I’m aware of the risks) or for R2?

    Thanks again!!!

  • ML

    Hi Andrew,

    Thank you very much for the prompt and in-depth response. I really appreciate it. I do recognize the substantial difference between the tests (learning a ton of material versus challenging critical thinking), and how it can make for different successful study strategies. That being said, I tend to be more of a “learn by doing” type of person, which I think lends itself to self-studying. If self-studying doesn’t turn out as successful as hoped, you may hear from me again but this time as a Atlantic GMAT client (I’m in NYC).

    Thanks again.


  • Hi Tanzim,

    Hope you are well! You may find the info in the post above helpful. I’d focus on official practice materials. Here are the things that I use in GMAT tutoring:

    Official Guide
    Official Guide Quant Review
    Official Guide Verbal Review
    Question Pack 1
    Exam Pack 1
    Exam Pack 2
    GMAT Focus
    GMAT Paper Tests (no math, just verbal)
    LSAT logical reasoning questions (take a look at the LSAT for GMAT article for some tips on this)

    I don’t think you’ll find a huge difference in the different editions of the MGMAT guides. Their strategies haven’t changed in a long long time.

    Follow up with any questions/comments!

    Happy Studies,


  • Hi ML,

    Thanks for the question – it’s a good one. If you haven’t taken an official GMAT practice test I would go ahead and do that. See how you do. Then you might have a better idea of how you should approach your work. Yes – you can self-study successfully. I was eating out last week and sat down next to two guys who were chatting about business school. We got to talking and of course we discussed their GMAT preparation. They’d both self-studied and had done very well on the test (both had just graduated from Harvard). But I think they are the exception.

    From my experience, most people find GMAT self-studying challenging. The GMAT isn’t like a CFA test (not taking anything away from the CFA). The GMAT can be a slippery beast as it is much more a critical thinking test than a memorization test. Self-study can work well to get down the basics of the exam. Beyond that you might find some guidance helpful. That said, I don’t want to discourage self-studying. You can do it. You have to do quite a bit of spam filtering but there is a lot of helpful information in the GMAT forums. At some point I’m going to update the Atlantic GMAT study schedule and add video lessons to it so that someone in your position, self-studying, has a solid roadmap and approaches for most of the major GMAT question types. But that’s at least 6 months away.

    What can be a good combo is self-study for a month or so to get acquainted with the test and then private tutoring to bring it all together. If you are a good self-studier I probably would not recommend any of the current GMAT classes.

    For practice I would stick to official GMAT materials:

    These are pretty much essential:
    Official Guide
    Official Guide Quant Review
    Official Guide Verbal Review
    Question Pack 1
    Exam Pack 1
    Exam Pack 2

    For GMAT tutoring I also use:
    GMAT Focus
    GMAT Paper Tests (no math, just verbal)
    LSAT logical reasoning questions (take a look at the LSAT for GMAT article for some tips on this)

    What else you might need depends on where you are starting from. Some people would be all set with using official materials and the GMAT forums for explanations – learning by doing and reviewing. Others might need a more structured approach with a lot more teaching on the front end before working through questions. I don’t endorse any third party materials but the MGMAT guides should be fine as reference books.

    Follow up with any questions. Good luck!

    Happy Studies,


  • ML

    Hi Andrew,

    First, let me say thank you for all the advice in your posts. I found the GMAT OG 2016 review particularly useful.

    I self-study very well, and prefer this method as it allows me a more flexible schedule (as opposed to classes) so I can vary the amount of studying each week depending on how busy things are at work. I just passed CFA Level 3, and for all the levels I used Schweser books just self-studying, no classes or video lectures.

    My question is what materials would you recommend for self-studying? Are the materials from GMAT sufficient (figure Quant Review, Verbal Review, and OG, maybe throw in the question/exam packs as needed)? Or would I be best served using materials from a third-party vendor? And if so, which vendors do you think are the best? Also, would my self-study approach not serve me as well for GMAT given the important of testing “strategies” as opposed to just learning material?

    Thank you in advanced for any advice you can offer.


  • tanzimislam0@gmail.com

    Hi Andrew,

    I am starting my GMAT prep and I was intending on doing it as a self study exercise. I was wondering if you could give me some pointers as to what books to go with, from scouring the forums a lot of people have recommended the Manhattan GMAT books as well as the GMAT OG’s and thats what I was intending on purchasing, but I wanted your opinion on this.

    Further to this, is there a big difference in the various editions of the books for instance if I were to get the 4th or 5th edition of the Manhattan GMAT series am I handicapping myself?

    Look forward to your reply.

    Kind Regards


  • Hi Prasenjit,

    Thanks for the note. I think a lot of people feel the same as you do. Once you are out of school and in the workforce you’re not left with a ton of time and energy to devote to other big life projects. That said, many other people have made it work. I think if you take a hard look at your schedule you will find that there is time for GMAT studying. Can you do a bunch of activities besides work while studying? Probably not. But, studying is temporary. And the faster you can make it a priority which doesn’t get bumped around by other things the faster you’ll be done with it. You’ll find a bunch more info on getting organized in my GMAT schedule blog post, but here are a few things to think about:

    1. Take an official practice test to get a baseline score. Based on this score, set a goal. If you scored a 400 you might not want to make your first goal a 700. Start with a smaller goal. I wouldn’t shoot for more than about 100 points at a time.

    2. If we’re thinking about this 100 point scenario, set aside about 12 weeks. If for the next twelve weeks you have a bunch of commitments or a huge project at work then you probably shouldn’t start studying. Find a time period that works. Don’t force it!

    3. Create a schedule. Know exactly on what days and at what times you are going to study. Be serious about this. Treat study times as you would treat important meetings. The more consistent you are the easier it will be to keep up the studying and the better the outcomes will be.

    Avoid focusing on the score. Just focus on doing quality work. Also, in GMAT tutoring I tend to have to put a little pressure on students to get GMATs booked. Many people don’t want to book a test until they feel 100% on the material. Two things to think about:

    1. You may never feel 100% on the material. That’s fine. That doesn’t mean that you won’t achieve your goals.

    2. Waiting forever to take a test just adds to the pressure. It’s so much better to get in there and face it. If you don’t get your score the first time (or the second time) that’s OK. Learn from the experience and move forward.

    Good luck with your GMAT studying – follow up with any questions!


  • Prasenjit Choudhury

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m preparing for the GMAT for almost six-months now, and I’m not able to find time enough to completely devote to studies. I work full-time and often something or the other comes up.
    I have 6 years of work experience and the last time I wrote a competitive exam was a long time back.
    So, apart from my lack of regular study schedule, I have this paralyzing fear that I’ll score bad in the GMAT and further lower my self-confidence.

    Any pointers?


  • raghav19agarwal@yahoo.co.in

    Thank you so much for the feedback !

  • The AWA score is on the low side. I don’t know that I would directly explain the AWA score but certainly use your apps to demonstrate writing ability. And, after-all, you got a 41v so you’ve certainly proven a high level of verbal reasoning.

  • Hi Raghav,

    First off: congrats on an awesome GMAT score! A 750 is a real slam dunk. I wouldn’t worry at all about the 600 and the 620 from 2012. I’ve had numerous GMAT students start tutoring already having taken the GMAT multiple times go on to top 10 programs. In my small sample size, I’ve never seen multiple GMATs be an issue. I think that your improvement shows perseverance.

    Also, keep in mind that the rules for GMAT cancellation/score reporting have changed. So, these days someone could take the GMAT an unlimited number of times (in theory) but only report the score of their choice. That this is now possible supports the idea that multiple GMATs are not an issue.

    Hope that is helpful. Follow up with any questions!

    Good luck with admissions,


  • raghav19agarwal@yahoo.co.in

    Hi Andrew,

    I have appeared for my GMAT and am applying to B schools presently. I had 2 concerns :

    1. 2014 – 750 ; 2012 Attempt 1 : 600 ; 2012 Attempt 2 : 620

    Since most B schools ask for the number of times one has given the GMAT, would having appeared for GMAT 3 times overshadow the relatively good score ? Or would they just count the best score and move on ?

    2. I got a 4.0 on my AWA while a 7IR 41V 50Q. Would the low AWA score hurt my application or does it need explanation ?


  • Hi M,

    Good work on the 690! Making a schedule for your studies is a great way to keep yourself accountable. Put your study times in your calendar. Plan them at least a week ahead of time. Beyond that, be realistic about how much work you can put in every week. Find a sustainable rhythm. Quality over quantity. Don’t focus on volume. Focus on learning.

    Good luck,


    PS: There’s a GMAT schedule on the Atlantic GMAT site which should give some guidance.

  • Hi Irfan,

    Glad you’re putting up good numbers on the QP1 software. Those questions provide some excellent, tough, official practice and are certainly a part of a group of materials that can help you achieve a 700 GMAT score. I would avoid using third party questions as a gauge of your progress. Good luck with the preparation!

    Happy studies,


  • Irfan Sheik

    Hello Andrew,
    I answered 95% of the questions from Question Pack 1 in Gmat prep software correct, but I would like to clarify whether such practice would help me get past 700 level on the actual gmat as I am unable to answer some of the hardest questions available on gmat platforms such as gamtclub or gmatforum.
    I got good scores on gmat prep cats, very near to my target.

    Thanks a lot

  • M

    Hey Andrew,

    What’s the best way to keep focused and stick to timelines when preparing for the GMAT? There’s always something else that seems to come in the way of me and my prep. I find it hard to keep myself accountable. FYI, I wrote the test last year after a decent amount of prep and scored a 690. I’m targeting the top 10 B-schools for the class of 2020. So, I have time on my side but I definitely need to get my score higher if I want to be competitive.

    Thanks for the help!!

  • Hi Sam,

    Good to hear from you! Can you ask the admissions people at the school in question? My two cents is that the GMAT score isn’t holding you back. Will a little improvement make a difference if you’re already in an acceptable range? My guess: unlikely. Will a big improvement make a difference? It could. Is it worth attempting? That’s really tough to say. That depends a lot on you. 6 weeks is plenty of time to make a dent in the GMAT but improving what I assume is a 700+ score is a real challenge. All that said, for admissions queries I’d ask an admissions expert. I’m sure they can give you more insight than I can.

    Good luck,


  • Sam

    Hey Andrew,

    I’ve been waitlisted to a certain top 10 program and my GMAT score is above the average score of the previous class, but not by a large margin. I also have a very low GPA for which I have taken 3 rigorous courses (online with proctored exams) and gotten “A”s. Would trying to increase my score be a waste of time? I would need to take the exam in 6 weeks and am not sure where to start my preparation.



  • Hi – you’re welcome! Question pack 1 is a great resource and certainly adds some excellent tough questions on both Quant and Verbal. That said, you only get 20 hard CR questions and 16 hard SC. I like to use these in the last couple of weeks before the exam for some spot on tough official practice.

    For LSAT work take a look at the LSAT for GMAT article here on P&Q or on Atlantic GMAT. That should get you going in the right direction. I’m almost done with an LSAT for GMAT book which will make using LSAT questions for GMAT studying very easy.

    Keep in mind that verbal improvement can take time. You might want to break it up a bit. Usually CR takes longer to improve than does SC. Maybe it’s worth tackling that first?

    Happy studies,


  • Andrew! Thanks a lot for your answer! You were really clear!

    Ok with your suggestion. Analyzing my Official Prep test, my percentage by type of verbal question was: 69% right in RC, 55% in CR, 47% in SC.
    So, yes, I need to work a bit more in CR and SC (although most of my wrong answers from each type were in the final questions).
    I’ve just started to work with LSAT exams, following your advice.

    I have two more questions, if you don’t mind:
    1. The Question Pack from GMAC solves the “easiness” issue from the OG?
    2. Which would be the best way to work with LSAT? Just official exams questions? Or it would help to follow some study guide?

    Again, thanks a lot!!

  • Hi Nicolás,

    Good to hear from you! First thing to think about is the third party CATs. Across the board, the scoring is inaccurate. Beyond that, especially in the verbal, the flavor of the questions can be quite different than the flavor on official GMAT verbal questions.

    For verbal I would steer clear of third party questions and stick to official materials. At this point, the only time when I will use a third party CAT is when a student has been studying for so long that they have no other source of fresh questions. Still, I would guess that the results of the CATs is not just due to stamina issues. It is likely that you’ve got some underlying weaknesses in your verbal approach. You might take a look at your results to see if anything in particular (CR, RC, or SC) is causing a big issue.

    Your OG2016 results look good BUT keep in mind that many those questions are easy. That’s why I assign LSAT material. So that students can get a ton of practice in the medium to hard levels that you will see on your GMAT CAT on test day.

    The Economist reading will certainly help. Learning the grammar in context is a great idea. Be patient – it can take some time. Really focus on identifying parallelism (comparisons and lists), agreement (verb and pronoun), and modifiers. Those are the big three of GMAT sentence correction.

    Hope this is helpful. Follow up with any questions!

    Happy studies,


  • Hi Andrew! Thanks a lot for the time you take to help us with this!

    I’m preparing by my own for the GMAT since mid-2015, mostly in the quant aspects. I’m not native, but I am confident (or was) about my logical reasoning and the fact that I am used to read complex texts in English. I work full time, have three young kids (5, 3, 1 year each by now), so I do not have plenty of time, but I managed quite well so far. My goal is 700+ (so original for me, haha).

    A few weeks ago I tried my first Mock Test with the GMAT Prep Software by GMAC. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. I scored 600 (IR7, Q46, V27). I was specially surprised by the IR score, since, to that moment, I have not even seen a single example of the questions are asked in that section (mostly, because I was more focused on the Q&V sections).
    Now, the funny thing is that my biggest problem was I ran out of stamina by the end of the verbal section. Let me name you the questions I answered wrong in each section:
    IR: 3, 5, 8, 10, 12.
    Q: 1, 4, 7, 14, 15, 18, 19, 23, 24, 26, 29, 30. 1h 11m in the section.
    V: 1, 3, 11, 15, 16, 20, 21, 26, 28-35 (yes, 8 in a row!!), 37, 40. 1h 03m in the section. I didn’t skip any questions, I just could pay enough attention by the end.

    So, after that, I thought to myself: well, I need to start taking more exams, in order to build stamina.

    A few months ago I had bought 7 exams from Veritas Prep.
    I have already taken two of them in the last two weeks, and the results were not which I expected.
    In the first one, my score was 580 (Q42, V28). In the second one, 590 (Q43, V29).

    Unlike the first exam, this time my stamina was better, my wrong answers were more “distributed” (although I had 4 wrong answers in a row each time in each section), and I could reach the end of the exam with my brain in order. But my score was almost the same as in the official (even more, my quant was pretty much lower).

    So, I’m wondering now if just working on stamina will be enough, or if I’m having real issues in the Verbal to work with them.

    I’m methodically doing the OG16 exercises, and generally my answers are quite well (in a round of 30 Q questions (15 from each type), no more than 3-4 wrong; similar to the V questions). I also average about 1m30s per question (but I still go by the 60th question in each section, so I guess they are still easy questions).

    Summarizing, is there an issue with the Veritas Prep exams that the real GMAT does not have? I still don’t want to take another GMATPrep CAT, until I’ll be closer to the real test date. I’m also planning to start working in actively reading The Economist, analyzing each sentence, clause, etc, in order to improve my fluid reading of complex texts, and specially, for Sentence Correction (I find difficult to memorize grammar rules. I want, at least, to learn them in context).

    I’d love to hear (or read, in this context 😉 your thoughts.

    Thanks a lot!!

  • That all makes sense. It’s often the case that GMAT studiers get over-focused on their weaker section to the detriment of their strength. For many native speakers that means neglecting the verbal. I’d go 50/50 with your studying. Getting the verbal to a consistent 40+ is going to do wonders for your score. That said – you probably don’t have all of the time in the world to study. Juggling a bunch of different subjects can be a real challenge. With that in mind, most people who are already strong readers can give a majority of the focus to sentence correction and critical reasoning leaving the reading comprehension work for the 2-3 weeks before GMAT day. For your verbal work stick to official GMAT materials. You can also consider adding some LSAT work to get some tough critical reasoning practice.

    On the math side I’d also stick with official materials as much as possible. The MGMAT tests tend to be tougher than official tests. That might seem like a good thing but in my mind that level of difficulty can get you into some bad habits and make you feel more anxious about the quant. In addition, I find that the questions are difficult for the wrong reasons. For the most part they tend to be more labor intensive.

    Have you worked through question pack 1? That’s a great resource. I have an article on the Atlantic GMAT site about using QP1 in your studies. I’d also suggest going back through the official guide. You could work from back to front so you can focus on the more challenging content. In doing your Quant work make sure to keep an error log so that you can be organized in your review. An easy way to do this is to take a screenshot of every question that you either get wrong or have a tough time with. Put these questions in a folder and do 5-10 of these review questions before every study session. Once you’ve mastered a question, delete it from the folder. With all of this work, consistency and quality trumps quantity by a long margin.

    Focus on the fundamentals. Focus on your organization. Yes there are a bunch of GMAT gadgets/tricks that can be helpful but those are secondary to good old fashioned organized critical thinking. Even though it may appear complex, most of the GMAT quant is very basic. That’s not to say that the questions are easy but that what is difficult about them is not the math.

    Hope this is helpful. Feel free to follow up with any questions!

    Happy Studies,


  • Anna

    Thanks, Andrew. The drop in verbal came about because I didn’t study for verbal at all and focused solely on quant. I used Magoosh for quant prep, and hence the jump. I’ve tried Veritas classes, and didn’t find them super helpful. My timing is ok – I didn’t struggle with that in the practice test or the real exam. My scores in the practice tests were quite similar to my actual performance as well, so I am really not sure where I’m lacking. I started out by going through the official GMAT guide, and then practicing Manhattan tests.

  • Hi Anna,

    Thanks for the note! Solid work on the verbal – why the drop from 38 to 34? Any thoughts on what’s holding you back there? On the Quant you jumped up quite a bit. Good to see the forward progress. If you were to piece together a 44/45Q and a 40V you’d be in an excellent position to apply just about anywhere for your MBA. I guess what I’m saying is: you’re somewhat close.

    It would help to have a bit more info. How have you prepared thus far? How was the timing on the Quant on each test? What were scores on the last three practice tests?


  • Anna

    Hi Andrew,

    I am an aspiring applicant to b-school. I am a very poor standardized test-taker. I took quant classes in college (I was an economics major and did well in math and finance classes, so I am not afraid of numbers!). I’ve also published various articles, so I really don’t know why I am unable to do well on the GMAT. My scores so far: Attempt #1: V38 (85%) Q 39 (42%) Attempt #2 V34 (71%) Q43 (56%). How would you suggest I approach this issue? I’ve tried the GRE too, but not much luck there either.


  • Hi Tala,

    Hope you are well! You’re not alone with the high verbal percentile/low quant percentile GMAT. I’m actually starting a GMAT class in NYC this spring focusing on this group. A good chunk of my GMAT tutoring students have this tilt. And while a great majority of them improve their Quant by a significant margin, most still end up having higher verbal percentiles than Quant percentiles. How does this affect admissions? That really depends on the specific numbers.

    First off, the old 80th percentile rule doesn’t apply for Quant. I’d say the 60th percentile (45+) is closer to reality. So if you have a 45Q 42V or 44Q 44V both extremely lopsided in favor of the Quant you’re probably OK at any school. Below a 44Q, some schools might be wary of your Quant skills. Still, this is NOT a hard cut-off – the rest of your application/profile is more important than a few points on your Quant score. My guess is that schools that have similar GMAT medians have different ideas on the importance of the Quant score. I’d check-in with specific schools or chat with an admissions person to get an opinion on your specific profile. Hope this is helpful!

    Happy Studies,


  • Tala

    Hi Andrew,

    My background is mostly in the humanities and business, but I haven’t ever had to do much math. I’ve taken the GMAT and I’m planning on retaking once more. My verbal score is great, but there is a huge difference in my q and v, and I’m sure that although I can raise my Q, my V will remain substantially higher. How do top b-schools view this? I think they prefer people to be even or slightly higher quant.

  • Awesome job! Thanks for checking in. Good luck with admissions!!


  • Hi David – I completely missed this! Apologies. You already got your answer:) But just to sum it up: Although I do use some third party materials for certain “special occasions” most GMAT studiers would benefit from sticking to Official GMAT Material for 90%+ of their preparation. I would be especially careful using third party GMAT CATs. The scoring tends to be inaccurate (regardless of the marketing claims) and the flavor of the questions, especially on the verbal side, is different then that of Official GMAT questions.

    Happy Studies,


  • David

    Just took the exam today. Got 720 Q49 V40. Thankfully Veritas Prep’s CAT wasn’t very accurate after all…

  • David

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for running this page, this is very helpful. I wanted to get your thoughts on my situation.

    My most recent practice scores are as follows: Economist GMAT 690 (no breakdown) MGMAT 680 (Q44, V38), Veritas 630 (Q44, V33). On quant sections I get more than 12 questions wrong, but when I do the questions on 2016 quant review, I get over 85% correct. I do understand the test is adaptive and all, but the discrepancy between the OG questions and the questions from the 3rd parties seems too big to attribute to the adaptive aspect of the test. If I look at my quant sections in those practice tests, I get most of the first 15 questions right, and then from there I get more questions wrong.

    Any thoughts on my situation and the real difficulty on the real exam would be greatly appreciated…thanks!


  • Hi Freddie,

    Thanks for the note. You’ve certainly given some thought to this verbal timing strategy. That’s helpful. First off – taking your time to read and understand the reading comprehension passages and the critical reasoning arguments is the right way to go. Never rush. To make up time it is better to do some strategic skipping/guessing. I would avoid doing all of the guessing at the end because then you are left with no choice but to guess even if the question is easy and you will end up guessing on back to back questions. I would focus most of your guessing strategy on the middle of the test.

    What should you skip or guess on depends on how you are doing on the content. If you are tending to get 50% wrong on CR and 90% right on SC I’d say guess on more CR:) If it’s an even split then you can make a judgement after you read the question. If you are really understanding the text (in CR) or are seeing the splits (SC) then stick with the question. If you are confused then move on! The other way to skip is to just pick some fixed points ahead of time depending on how much time you generally need to make up. So let’s say that you are generally 8 minutes behind then you might pick 4-5 spots between 11 and 30 to guess on (Maybe 12, 16, 20, 24, 28). Try to avoid blind guesses on consecutive questions.

    Beyond outright skipping/guessing you might need to give up a bit sooner on a few questions. It is important to get a sense for when you are spinning your wheels and just eating up time. For most people, more time spent on a question during an exam doesn’t equate to getting that question correct. That doesn’t mean rush. That just means be aware of when you don’t have a plan.

    In addition to strategy you could also try to improve your basic skills. Considering that you already have the fundamentals down you might approach some LSAT logical reasoning. It’s tough and dense and makes for great GMAT practice. If you can get the LSAT questions done in the same amount of time that you would allot for GMAT questions then your GMAT timing should improve. I’m writing an LSAT for GMAT book which aggregates 300 super tough LSAT logical reasoning questions that are relevant for GMAT preparation. That would be the easiest/most cost effective thing to buy but it won’t be out for a few weeks. In the meanwhile you could buy the superprep LSAT book which is one of the few books with explanations.

    Hope this is helpful – good luck with the preparation!

    Happy Studies,


  • Freddie

    Hey Andrew – I just thought of one more thing to add on:

    Would it beneficial to use the majority of your “guess” questions towards problems that take longer than others? For example, if it took you about 3 min/ CR question, would it be OK to just guess on 4-5 CR questions? (assuming your accuracy for all sections is equal). I could be off on this, but on the GMAT Prep software for the mock tests, it looks like the software gives you a score for each section, and then takes a rough average to calculate your total score. No one knows the real algorithm & I’m sure there’s much more that goes into it, but I was just wondering what your thoughts were on this?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Freddie

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m having trouble with the pacing for the verbal section. Although I’m a native English speaker, I find that I usually do my best when I really take the time to read and comprehend the problems. Unfortunately, this always results in a pacing problem for me, and I always leave about 5-7 questions unanswered per section. I’m sure that there are other people out there experiencing similar pacing issues, and I was wondering if you knew anything about the strategy behind the verbal section, or just had some advice on how to best approach the section.

    For example, is there a difference/do you have a preference between any of these ideas:

    a.) skipping/guessing a handful of problems in the middle

    b.) skipping/guessing all the ones you can’t finish at the end (and making sure you have an answer selected for each one obviously)

    c.) skipping any problem that one finds too hard/time consuming at any point in the test (I’m sure a lot of people have heard the rumor that there is an extra emphasis placed on the first 11 questions or so, and so I don’t know how that relates to this/if that myth is even true)

    d.) a variety of all the strategies

    e.) something different?

    As you can see, I’m clearly confused with how to approach the strategy aspect of the verbal section. Any advice/input would be greatly appreciated!



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  • Hi Janet,

    Hope you are well. I replied to this a couple of weeks ago but for some reason the post didn’t go through! The short of it is: If you already have the Official Guide 13th or 2015 then you probably do not need to buy the Official Guide 2016. If you don’t have any of the books and are buying for the first time then it would be a good idea to purchase all of the newest 2016 editions. If you need extra verbal work, the verbal review would be helpful. I would also suggest getting Question Pack 1.

    Happy Studies,


  • Hi Javed,

    Great to hear from you again – congrats on the GMAT score! A 670 is very solid and puts you in a good position for the European business schools.

    The reference should be a balance of how well the person knows you and what prestige they offer. A reference from President Obama is going to be great regardless of how well he knows you:)

    In terms of essay writing I would consider chatting with an admissions consultant. They would be the best source for this type of information.

    Good luck with the applications. Let me know how it all goes!


  • Javed

    Hi Andrew,

    Nice writing to you again.

    I gave my second attempt at GMAT and scored 670 (Earlier Score 590).

    I am quite happy with my score given that i hardly found time to prepare for exam after my work schedule.

    I have INSEAD France,ESMT Germany,SDA Bocconi Italy,IESE Spain and ISB India as my targets.

    Could you give me some valuable tips for these b-schools?

    Also if you could guide me to some useful resources for essay writing,that would be of great assistance.

    Also how to choose a person for Reference in b-school application?
    Does their designation matter or the information on how well they know the applicant?.
    I have prepared a list of references and would have to choose the best and request them to a reference for me.
    Thank you for all the encouragement.


  • Hi Dave,

    Epic GMAT score! Great work. My guess is that this score isn’t going to be the thing that keeps you out of any school. You have to ask yourself whether it’s really worth the effort to retake for arguable returns. A 740 is a monster score regardless of the breakdown (you would be bringing up the GMAT average of ANY school in the world). I’ve had people want to retake up to a 720 with low quant but beyond that I’ve never suggested a retake.

    That said, at a 44 there is still low hanging fruit. So if you want to get back in the batters box there is a decent chance of improvement.

    For materials I would master:

    -The Official Guide (13th, 2015, or 2016)

    -Question Pack 1

    -All the GMAT Prep Tests

    -All of the GMAT focus tests

    Really know your stuff inside and out so there’s zero hesitation applying the fundamentals. Don’t worry about oddball questions. Really focus on the meat and potatoes.

    If you can work 90% of these questions backwards and forwards you should have a good shot at pushing that 44 up a few points. It also may not be a bad moment to hire someone for the extra push. Again – my thought is really think hard about whether it’s worth it. Have you asked an admissions expert? Sorry for the ramble – hope this is helpful.

    Have a good day,


  • Janet

    Hello Andrew,

    Great article with breakdowns of the differences in different sections! I am taking the test in about 3 weeks and I can’t believe I didn’t think about the official guide until now (been studying other prep books I borrowed from the library) and I actually just borrowed the 13th edition from a friend. I see that you said the 2016 version is similar to the 13th edition, do you think it is necessary for me to buy the 2016 version if I already have the 13th edition? If not, should I buy the 2016 Verbal review since verbal is my big weakness. Thank you!


  • Dave

    Hi Andrew,

    I recently took the GMAT and got a 740 (Q 44, V 47). While my score is above average at all my target schools (top 5-10), I am worried that my lower quant score will be a red flag to some of those schools, particularly the more quant-focused ones. I self-studied for months before this test and think I may have reached my limit without outside help. Would it be worth hiring a tutor and retaking the test? Alternatively, are there any resources you would recommend outside of the MGMAT books/tests, MGMAT Advanced Quant and the OG?

    For full disclosure, 1) I am applying next year so there is plenty of time to take it again, and 2) I have quant work experience and an undergrad business major, both of which might help counter the quant score.


  • Hi Richie,

    Hope you are doing well. I would certainly buy the GMAT Official Guide 2016. In addition I would get:
    -Question Pack 1
    -Exam Pack 1

    Optional but helpful:
    -Quant Review 2016
    -Verbal Review 2016
    -GMAT Paper Tests
    -GMAT Focus Quizzes (bundle of three)

    For GMAT tutoring I use all of these materials.

    In terms of teaching materials that’s really up to you. For free GMAT help, there is a lot of good stuff on the GMAT forums. You can also take a look at the Atlantic GMAT question of the day which has a ton of GMAT tips/tricks. Careful though – the questions are mostly 700+. Hope this is helpful – good luck with the preparation!


  • Hi Firas,

    Nice work on the Quant. Sorry to hear that the verbal wasn’t so hot. First off – there is no GMAT question type that has more weight than any other question type. So RC = SC = CR. I will say though that it is tough to do well on the verbal if you struggle with Reading Comprehension. Unfortunately, it takes time to improve the reading. I would do two things:

    1. Read a challenging article every day (NY post isn’t tough enough. Go for a weekly (the economist) or even a quarterly journal). Focus on active reading for 100% understanding.
    2. Tackle reading comprehension from the GRE and/or the LSAT. This work will be very challenging but there is a ton of excellent practice available. I wouldn’t expect to see improvement until you’ve done three weeks of consistent work on this.

    If you are struggling to understand why many of the correct answers are correct and why your incorrect answers are incorrect then you might need to hire someone to help orient your logic. Good luck!

    Happy Studies,


  • Hi Agnish,

    Good work so far! Three things that can help improve GMAT SC:

    1. Find the easiest mistake first. Be patient.
    2. When you find a mistake in one answer choice, look for that mistake in the others.
    3. Read a challenging article everyday to build up your warehouse of solid grammar.

    These are three broad things that can give the sentence correction a boost.

    Happy Studies,


  • Agnish Ghatak

    Hi Andrew,

    I am preparing for GMAT close to 2 months now. Have exhausted the OG and GMAT Prep Tests ( 710 and 700 ). My verbal score, which is not increasing from 35 range. On review, SC comes out to be a major weakness. The dead block is that when I reattempt the questions I got wrong, I get most of them correct ( this is without seeing the answers).

    I could be very grateful if you could help me overcome this lacuna.


  • Firas

    Hi Andrew,

    I took my GMAT 2 months ago and I scored really bad (Q47 V26). I got a very low verbal score. The lowest shocking score I have ever gotten (compared to my prep scores). This didn’t demotivate me, but this will definitely take a chunk out of time to prep for my essays for the 2016 intake. My action was to right away buy the CR Powerscore bible and start reading through it and it’s been helpful so far. As to the SC, I already went through every OG SC problems twice. What should I do next? The RC part is what I hate most to be honest. I do admit I am weak in this section and I do read every day (subscribed to the NY post), but for some reason I can’t take pressure reading very well. But I believe that RC is not as important as SC & CR and does not weigh as much. Am I approaching this the right way.

    Quant wise, I can’t complain. I should slow down a bit during the test, I was doing my last question with about 12min left. I know I can do better.

    Any advise on the strategy I should implement?

    Thank you 🙂

  • Hi Ali!

    Good question. Yes – the LSAT for GMAT work can be super helpful for boosting the GMAT verbal score. Great job getting through it! There are a few things to think about.

    Is your GMAT score below the median for most schools you are applying to?

    Does something else in your application balance out the lower GMAT (high GPA, amazing work experience, super diverse background)?

    Will you improve your GMAT score on the retake?

    My guess is that the answers to these questions are yes, no, and maybe.

    Provided that you don’t have to sell an organ to pay the $250 for re-taking the GMAT and that you have the time/energy to put a bit more effort into studying I would seriously consider a mulligan. I would actually blast the maximum five GMATs that you can take in a year.

    Your current score is within the margin of error of 700+. The composite of your best scores is 700+. Maybe the 48q and 39v were pure luck but I doubt that. There’s certainly the potentially for putting these scores together in one exam. Maybe with a bit more work you can even push that verbal to a 40.

    You can cancel the score if you don’t beat the best that you have already. So the only major downsides are the $250 and the time that you will put into preparation.

    If you don’t hit the 700+ after that then at least you can say that you did everything reasonable in order to put yourself in the best position for admissions success.

    That said, applications take a lot of effort. So you have to take a good hard look at your schedule to make sure that you have the bandwidth to do all of this work in a quality way.

    Further, if you were asking this question and had only achieved a 630 I probably would not give this same advice in that the person with the 630 score would most likely need some significant GMAT preparation to snag the 700+ and therefore would likely be just blasting money and time on GMAT retakes. For people who have studied for some time and who still have sizeable gap (let’s say 50+ points) I would advise getting some help, probably in the form of GMAT tutoring.

    In terms how schools look at scores, different schools will look at the scores differently. My guess is that most will just take your best overall score. I’m sure there are schools that will take the best from each test but I wouldn’t count on that. For more detailed info I would either talk to an admissions expert or contact the specific schools.

    I hope this helpful. Follow up with any questions.

    Happy Studies!


  • Richie Adaman

    Hello Andrew. My name is Yerlan. I am from Almaty (Kazakhstan). Me and my
    friend here had chosen to take GMAT and we want apply for some 1,5 year MBA
    program. We want to pass GMAT test. Our goal is to get scholarship at some good
    business school in USA or Canada. We have no experience at GMAT at all but we
    both have some background. We both have higher education. We analyzed materials
    available for GMAT preparation; also analyzed Amazon ratings for different
    books, and decided to buy one of these:

    “The Official Guide for GMAT Review 2016” – 840 pages (with Quantitative
    and Verbal review from Official Bundle it will be 1392 pages)
    “Manhattan Complete GMAT Strategy Guide Set” – 1912 pages

    We are planning to apply to some business school in January 2016.
    Roughly, we have 4 month to prepare. We have a question to GMAT experts. Can
    you please give us some advice what will be better to choose for preparation
    taking into account our current level and available time. Is it possible to get
    high score by preparing with “The Official Guide for GMAT Review”? I am afraid that we won’t be able to be in
    time if we go with “Manhattan Complete GMAT Strategy Guide Set” because we have
    4 months for preparation.

    4 months – 120 day.
    To finish Manhattan Guide it will take 15 pages per day.
    To finish The Official Guide it will take 7 pages per day ( or 12 pages
    if it is whole bundle)

    Based on your experience can you tell us what will be better to go with
    in order to prepare for GMAT. We want
    high scores because we really hope to get generous scholarship.


  • Ali

    Hi Andrew, I just wrote the gmat today and got a 690 q45 and v39. This is the same overall score as my 2nd attempt in 2012 but the subscore is diferrent. It was q48 v36 then. The lsat tests and the economist articles really helped in boosting the verbal over time. My question is do you feel it makes sense to retake again to break the 700+ barrier. Would the top schools look at it and take an average or the highest subscores across the 2 attempts or would they just look at the overall score and think hmm yeah he is still 30 points below our average and still didn’t break the 700+ level… What are your thoughts around this given your experience. Thanks so much!

  • Just a quick follow up here. According to GMAC, the “C” cancelled score code will no longer be used. MBA admissions people will not see the number of tests that you’ve taken unless you want them to. So the multiple tests is bad argument is finally put to rest:) In addition – the wait period between GMATs has been shortened from 31 days to 16 days. Good news for people who had a crappy test day and want to re-take ASAP. Effective July 19th!

    Happy Studies,


  • Hi there,

    Good question. I get this one a lot in GMAT tutoring as I work with many people who by the time they get to me have already taken the GMAT multiple times.

    I’ve actually never (not using this word lightly) seen multiple GMATs keep people out of top schools.

    Quick list off the top of my head from this year of students with multiple tests getting into top schools:

    Harvard: 3 GMATs, 4 GMATs

    Stanford: 5 GMATs

    Columbia: 5 GMATs

    In my mind, if you hit the score then you’ve hit the score. Although if you have taken a ton of tests you might need to address that in your app. Maybe that’s a strength in that it shows endurance and perseverance? Also keep in mind that the average person takes the GMAT 2.7 times so at three GMATs you’re not much above the average.

    It may be that admissions people prefer a “one take GMAT”. I haven’t heard a definitive ruling on this from an actual admissions person. But I can say that in my tiny universe multiple GMATs don’t seem to make a practical difference in terms of admissions to top tier MBA programs.

    I would also talk to an admissions coach to get their take. Hope this helpful. Good work on the 700!

    Happy Studies,


  • ST

    Hi Andrew, thanks for doing this!
    I have a question about taking GMAT multiple times. I canceled my first GMAT at the end of the exam and my second GMAT was 700. I didn’t devote myself to GMAT completely when I took it the first two times because I was overloading courses at school and I prioritized my GPA. I didn’t realize taking GMAT multiple times might reflect badly on my candidacy until after I finished all my regular coursework and had more time for GMAT. I am aiming for 750 and top 7 MBA (ideally 5). I will take it again, but I am also worried that taking it 3 times will hurt my chances no matter what. What is your thought on this? Thanks! Greatly appreciate it!

  • Hi Abhro,

    Hope you are well. Great work so far! A 36 is a solid verbal score. I can’t really comment on the E-GMAT course but I would be skeptical of any outlandish claims/guarantees made by anyone. Three things that can help boost verbal:

    1. Read a challenging article every day to work on your active reading. There’s a post on my site explaining this work.

    2. Work on LSAT for GMAT critical reasoning and reading comprehension practice. Also an article explaining this on the Atlantic GMAT site.

    3. Avoid third party/non-official verbal.

    6-7 weeks of this work should give you a boost. Will it push you from a 36 to a 42? Maybe. That’s a big jump.

    Is there a particular section that’s tough for you? Are you consistently able to find conclusions/assumptions/main ideas?

    Happy Studies,


  • Hi DK!

    GMAT boldfaced questions can be tough. Here are a few things to things to think about when approaching these beasts:

    1. Read the full passage and identify the main conclusion regardless of whether it is part of the boldfaced sections.

    2. For the boldfaced sections ask yourself: is it a premise (fact, support, evidence) or a conclusion (opinion, claim, point, position)? If it is a premise does it support the author or someone else? If it is a conclusion is it the author’s conclusion or someone elses conslucion?

    After figuring out the above go through the answers 1 statement at a time (this is critical!). Start with the statement that you feel most confident about. I am going to post a longer breakdown of boldfaced questions along with examples on the Atlantic GMAT site but this should get you most of the way there. Shoot over any questions!

    Happy Studies,


    PS: I would do LSAT now and then as the test approaches only official GMAT questions.

  • MMG16

    Thank you so much Andrew! I just saw your response here – I have to admit, it does feel like a little bit of a challenge/uphill climb in trying to move the needle in Quant, but I really appreciate your tips and the pointers laid out. Will follow this plan and reach out with questions, if needed. Have a lovely day!

  • DK

    Hi Andrew,

    I plan to take the GMAT in August this year. While I am otherwise doing decent in Verbal, I tank every time I face a boldfaced critical reasoning question. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I got a boldfaced question right! Is there a strategy to it? Can you suggest some study material/online video or blog to sharpen my skills in this particular area? Also, I am finished with my Official Guide CR questions. Should I now start with Gmat prep or LSAT for critical reasoning? Please advice.



  • Abhro

    Another add – on query: What is your take on the e-GMAT verbal for non-natives online course? Is it as good as it is made out to be in forums? I wish to apply this year, so am really looking forward to your input. Thanks!

  • Hi Colleen,

    Good question – you could just “skip” the Quant, Essay, and IR sections by skipping through all of the questions but it’s not possible to just take the verbal section on its own. So unfortunately: no GMAT discount:(

    Good Luck,


  • Colleen

    Hi Andrew,

    The program I am applying to only requires that I submit my Verbal scores. Is there a way to only take the Verbal portion on the test? Would I still have to pay the $250?

    Thank you!

  • Abhranil

    Hi Andrew,

    I took my GMAT exam today and scored a 710 (Q 50, V 36). I am quite disappointed with the verbal score. Given that I am an Indian male with a conventional engineering background, I would like to score comfortably above the average scores of my target schools. Could you please share some tips on how to increase the verbal score. Please note that I extensively practiced my verbal, but have reached a point where my score is not improving anymore(I get 36-38 in mocks, always). I would like to target a score of 42 or above for verbal, and possibly give the test again in the next two months. Please advice.


  • Hi Tono,

    Sorry for the delay here – this completely fell through the cracks.

    We’re looking for the least possible score so we should try to maximize two of the teams while keeping in mind that no team can have more than 6 points. I would make a chart of some sort. Charts are SUPER helpful on the GMAT Quant.

    The possible points that a team can earn:

    1st place: 5
    2nd place: 4
    3rd place: 3
    4th place: 2
    5th place: 1

    Team 1 could get 1st and 5th for a total of 6.
    Team 2 could get 2nd and 4th for a total of 6.
    Team 3 is left with 3rd place for a total of 3.

    Hope this is helpful!


  • Tough question! Great job so far. Unless something dramatic went wrong on test day, pushing the Quant up from a 47 will take some work. I could write a book about this but let’s keep it simple:)

    Run through the MGMAT tests twice. Remember that those tests are a bit tougher than the real thing or at the very least have questions that require more computation than the real thing so don’t be discouraged if your scores are less than stellar. Use these tests to work on your timing. Work on letting go when you don’t have a plan. Shooting for 48+ I’d aim to guess/skip/move on quickly on 4-6 questions. Also use these tests to work on your application under pressure. Take your time to plan out your attack before starting to crunch numbers. Think about alternate strategies (picking numbers, estimation, # properties). Given that these are not official questions feel free to ditch 10-20% of them in your review. Do not do the verbal on these tests.

    Go through the Official Guide again. Start from the back. Keep an error log and re-work the stuff you get wrong until you are 100% on it. It is OK to leave 5-10% of the questions. No reason to spend an hour reviewing one question:) Focus on the 95%!

    After you have done the above do the HARD PS and DS from the Question Pack 1 (there are enough hard questions so that you can make two 37 question Quant sections), do the GMAT Focus Quizzes, re-do the GMAT Prep tests, and do the two tests from Exam Pack 1.

    In addition you could hit the Atlantic GMAT question of the day. There are about 100 questions in the database most with thorough explanations. Many tips and tricks there.

    With the above study plan you should be able to move the needle on your Quant. Good luck. Let me know if you have any questions!

    Happy Studies,


  • MMG16

    Hi Andrew!
    I recently took the GMAT and scored a 700 (Q 47, 68 percentile, V 40, 91 percentile, 7 IR, 81 percentile). I would retake the test if I can push up my quant score. Do you have any tips to improve my score? For the first go-round I studied from MGMAT strategy books, and took 5 full length tests online (2 GMAC, 1 free kaplan, 1 free veritas, 1 free babson) in addition to doing the OG problems (I went through about 80% of the problems for quant in that). In trying to decide whether to retake the exam, I bought the MGMAT CATs this weekend and took the first test. I scored a 670. I would only retake the test if I can improve my score, so please let me know if you have any suggestions for raising my quant score.

    Many thanks!

  • Tono

    Hi Andrew,

    asking for your valuable help again. Any tips on how to solve this one:

    For a certain race, 3 teams were allowed to enter 3 members each. A team earned 6-n points whenever one of its members ended in nth place, where 1<=n<=5. There were no ties, disqualifications or withdrawals. If no team earned more than 6 points, what is the least possible score a team could have earned? (answer options are 0, 1,2, 3, and 4).

    Thanks again


  • Hi Tono,

    Good to hear from you again – sounds like you are on the right track! Two weeks out I would focus on timed practice and would make sure to have a good timing strategy for the real GMAT. It will help to get through all of the official GMAT practice tests (GMAT Prep 1/2 and the Exam Pack). It will also help to get through the medium and hard questions of Question Pack 1 (do all of this work timed).

    For these last two weeks focus on consolidating what you know rather than adding on things. Along with the timed word keep attacking your error log!

    In terms of reading comprehension: keep reading. The economist work does help. The level of the reading is similar to the level of GMAT reading. Yes – it is probably more interesting:) But one trick on GMAT reading comprehension is to force yourself to really connect emotionally with what you are reading. Care about those boring science (or whatever passages you don’t like) and you will improve!

    Happy Studies,


  • Tono

    Hi Andrew, again thank you very much for your reply below. 2 weeks til the test now… took the one of the gmat prep tests and got 600; also simulated one from the gmac online questions repository and was also around that range. Fine so far; any additional tips from the ones below to get a few more points?

    for now following your tips about reviewing previous wrong answers; seems I need to stress more about reading comprehension as that seems to be the weakest. I’d to the Economist as you recommend though for me that’s nice reading so obviously not as challenging as some of the gmat passages

    thanks again and hope to get the chance to read from you



  • Hi Tono,

    Thank you for the kind words! If you don’t have a ton of time to study I would focus on working backwards through the Official Guide (starting with the hard questions), working through the hard/medium in the question pack (in timed sets), and taking all of the Official GMAT CATs (the two free GMAT CATs and the two from the exam pack). Try to “plan” your attack on questions rather than “reacting” to questions. Take your time to think about how you want to approach something before starting in with the number crunching. It is OK to get a lot of questions wrong. The important thing is to have an organized review so that you learn how to approach the questions in the right way. Two things to help with review:

    1. Take a screenshot of every question that you get wrong or have a tough time with. Put these screenshots in a folder. Work through (5 to 15 questions) a portion of that folder every day. When you are 100% on a question then take it out of the folder.

    2. To help with your approach search for the questions in the GMAT forums. Usually there is at least one good explanation.

    In addition to this work read an article from the Economist every day (I know that I am a broken record with this recommendation):). A significant part of improving verbal is improving reading.

    Hope this is helpful. Good luck!

    Happy Studies,


    PS: You can get a lot done in an hour a day IF you approach your work in an organized way. Your goal isn’t far off!

  • Tono

    Hi Andrew,

    thanks for all the useful comments below. i’d like to get your insights as to what I’d do prior to the test in the coming days. I’ve been studying about a couple months ago, on average one hour a day (work, travel and family permitting). I took the GMAC online diagnostic test and I was above average on pretty much everything but problem solving. Also, as some of the cases below my timing was bad on this component. From what I read below it seems that my Engineering background is not helping as much as I’m solving the problems in a structured way.

    I have until early May to take the test though it is unrealistic to assume I can dedicate to study until then. With a family and full time job it surely is not going to work. I’m hoping to take the test in roughly a month (April 20th). I took a Princeton test and got 550 (timing was my problem there as well); also took the test a few years ago and got 570. With my experience and current graduate studies I’d need above 610. Can you please comment.

    Thanks again and have a great day


  • Hi,

    If you already have a 730+ I wouldn’t advise re-taking unless you really just enjoy studying and taking tests. At that level you are just splitting hairs and there are other things on your application that are more important. Multiple tests shouldn’t be an issue. My guess is that most schools just look at the highest score. That said, this is really a question for an admissions specialist.

    A lot of test anxiety comes down to:

    1. No plan or a barely practiced plan for timing.
    Certainly figure out a timing strategy that works for you and practice that strategy. This isn’t something to google the night before the GMAT:)

    2. Unrealistic expectations/Putting too much pressure on yourself.
    Be fair to yourself. Set realistic goals. Stay positive.

    3. Studying for wayyyyy too long before taking a test.
    I would try to keep any study period to 3 months or less. Not that you can’t study for longer but don’t wait longer than three months to take a real GMAT (you can always take another one).

    4. Lack of preparation.
    This one is pretty obvious:)

    Hope this is helpful. Good luck!

    Happy Studies,


  • Guest

    Hi Andrew –

    I know that some schools reward ‘mega’ GMAT scores (Sloan, Wharton). If I had a score in the 730-750 range, would it be advisable/inadvisable to take the GMAT again and try to get a ‘mega’ score? I’m pretty confident if I buckle down and study, I can increase my score (the last 3 practice tests I took before my official test were in the 760-780 range). But I also get a bit of test anxiety.. so I’m not 100% sure if I will actually perform come test day. Is there a downside to taking the test again? Would it look bad to schools if I took the test again and did not significantly increase my score? Any advice on test anxiety? Thanks in advanced for your thoughts!

  • Hi Javed,

    Thanks for the post. I’m sorry that you didn’t achieve your goal on this past GMAT. Going for 100+ points is tough so certainly be prepared for a lot of work. I would find a study schedule to follow (there are various companies that have them posted. I would recommend the Atlantic GMAT study schedule because it actually breaks things down by the day but take a look around and see what works best for you.)

    In terms of study materials I would invest in Question Pack 1, the GMAT Paper Tests, and the Exam Pack. These are all useful. For Quant I would consider an MGMAT CAT subscription. I’m sure that there are other 3rd party tests that will work fine. I recommend the MGMAT ones because I am familiar with them (understand their strengths and weaknesses) and they are relatively cheap:)

    Last thing – it may be more realistic to shoot for the high 600’s. Not that 700+ is impossible. If it happens then great. But I think it is less stressful to have a slightly easier goal.

    Good luck!


  • Hi there,

    I would focus on doing the questions the “right way”. If you are doing the questions in an organized way then the timing should fall into place naturally. Remember: the GMAT is NOT a sprint. It is a jog. Never rush to save time. Skip questions to save time.

    For quant – look up solutions on the forums. There are usually a few different ways to solve a question. Explore different solutions so that you really understand the questions. This will help you find the “best” way to solve. You can also explore the GMAT question of the day on the Atlantic GMAT site. There are many GMAT shortcuts/tips/tricks in those explanations. Remember that the GMAT is a critical thinking test not a math test. Trying to rely on traditional math strategies for every question will be ineffective. You have to combine math fundamentals and practical thinking.

    Hope this is helpful!

    Happy Studies,


  • Javed

    Hi Andrew,

    I gave my GMAT last week and scored 590 (Q42,V29) and IR-8. When writing the exam,I could sense that my scores may go down as I was getting easy questions on a frequent basis.

    I was not able to dedicate regular time for preparation and I see the result. Wish i had followed a proper study plan.

    Mid-June is the deadline for INSEAD application.I have 9 years of full-time work experience in banking from 3 countries.I am learning Spanish and German languages as well.

    It would be a big-miss if i don’t qualify for INSEAD this year.They do not consider candidates with 10+ years work experience for MBA program. They would offer EMBA instead and that is of little interest to me.

    I have 2 options in mind
    1.)To go ahead and apply for INSEAD admission with the current score.

    2.)To give one more attempt in May with a target close to 700 score.

    If you would recommend option 2,please advise a study plan and materials that would help me achieve this target.

    I have the following materials:Official Guide GMAT Full,Verbal,Quantz,Kaplan Total GMAT Guide.

    I scored 600,620,610 in 3 mock tests that i wrote prior to GMAT. So i assume that i need to cross 700 in mock tests in order to score 680+ in real GMAT.

    Kindly advise.


  • Ticks

    Hi Andrew,

    Again thank you for your valuable support! Been doing Reading and CR; used the official guide and answered the practice questions starting from the ones in the middle. Overall I’m around a 75% accuracy though time is still challenging. What I’m struggling with is if I’m taking more time to think and learn or should I just do it within the time allowed duiring the test. Please comment.

    I started also with a few quant and sentence correction questions. Around 80% accuracy in quant though still time is the issue. I mean, my background is in Engineering so it’s not that I don’t know the solution it’s just talking longer than test parameters to solve the problems.

    Is there any best practice to improve the answer timing? Thanks again and have a great day!


  • Niccolo

    Hi Andrew

    I am currently looking at online tools to help me study for the GMAT. Is there an article on that topic for further reference? Can you tell me something about: GMATpill and the GMAT tutor of the Economist? Can you recommend any of those?
    Thank you for your help and advice!

  • Hi Ticks,

    Hope you are – it’s a privilege to help! Not to bag on Kaplan too much but I wouldn’t use the Kaplan CAT score as an indicator what you will score on your actual GMAT. Most (if not all) third party tests don’t get the scoring right (even though the marketing department will throw all kinds of statistics out there talking about how well their algorithm tracks the real one). That doesn’t mean that the tests are useless – they can be good practice. So the first thing you might do is take an official GMAT practice test (GMAT prep) to get an idea of where you are scoring.

    For the next month I would blast through the Official Guide 2015/2013, Question Pack 1, and all 4 GMAT prep tests. If you need extra verbal practice then do the verbal on the GMAT Paper Tests (not the Quant as it is too easy). If you want to get extra practice test experience I would do the MGMAT CATs but only the Quant. No third party material is perfect but these will give you some tough timed quant practice and will not break the bank:) You can get away with taking each the CATs twice. Don’t worry about the scores on these; having seen tons of results I’ve found that the algorithm tends to suppress the score a bit. Focus on getting your fundamentals and timing in good shape. Don’t worry about knowing how to solve 100% of the questions. Get super solid on the important 80%. The meat and potatoes are what add up to a great GMAT score.

    For a general outline I would suggest something like this:

    Week 1

    Weighted towards Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning. Really get your momentum going on these two.

    Week 2

    Take your first two MGMAT Quant CATs here. Start taking full practice tests at the end of week 2.

    Week 3

    Go full blast with practice tests. Try to take a timed section every other day (or every day if you have the time). Do a bunch of MGMAT Quant CATs here. This is the week to get intense!

    Week 4

    Cool it a bit with the practice tests but do still focus on timed work. Get the right amount of rest and relaxation.

    Break down your HW into a daily schedule. You can see examples on my website. Remember that review is critical so keep track of the questions that gave you a tough time. A good way of doing this is to take screenshots of those questions. Keep them in a folder and visit that folder every day. I would do 5-10 review questions before starting your daily work. Take questions out of the folder once you’ve mastered them.

    My quick suggestion for timing would be 25 minutes for the first 10 questions, 30 minutes for the middle 17 questions, 20 minutes for the last 10 questions. Settle in on the first 10 and skip 0-2. Be smart in the middle 17. Skip 4-6 questions in this area. Be solid on the last 10 and finish up strong. Skip 0-2.

    Hope this is clear – let me know if you have any follow up questions.

    Happy Studies,


    PS: Let’s not forget to work on your general reading skills! Check out the Economist Reading Comprehension on the Atlantic GMAT site for some guidance on this. The economist reading can be really helpful.

  • Ticks

    Hi Andrew,
    first of all thanks for your support through this venture. My question is, took a Kaplan Diagnostic test 2 weeks ago, 550 pretty much 50% of V and Q correct. I basically had studied an average of 1 hour a day a bit more on weekends for around 6 weeks. 6 years ago I took the test and got 570 which was good enough for my school thank God. Question is: I have a month now and need 630 at least. I now have a bit more time as I finished a couple projects at work that prevented me from studying more. What do you recommend given this time frame? Got great insights from you regarding aversion loss; unfortunately that was after the Kaplan test. One of my big mistakes was the time spent on each answer. At the end the last 10 or so where not even guessed… Please tell me what’d be my strategy. Thanks again

  • Hi There,

    This is a classic GMAT factoring question. Go ahead and factor out the 3^x-1 so you are left with 3^x-1(3-1) on the left side (multiply that out and you’ll see that it is the same as the original). That simplifies to 2*3^x-1 = 2*3^13.
    Cancel the 2’s so: 3^x-1 = 3^13 Now that the bases are the same you can drop them and set the exponents equal: x-1 = 13. x = 14.

    Hope that helps!


  • Bogen

    Andrew I have a specific question regarding a mathematical equation for some reason I am having difficulty with. I was hoping I could get your interpretation if you can solve it…. Here it is: 3^x – 3^(x-1)= 2(3^13), what is X? hint: it involves factoring out… (for some reason I cant follow the solution in the book

  • Hi Amit,

    Thanks for the post! I think this question should be posted over with Jon Fuller in the admissions QA. I’m sure that he has a better idea of how to advise you on this. If you have any GMAT specific questions feel free to come back and fire away!

    Have a good day,


  • Amit Singh

    I am an IT professional working in an India based subsidiary of one of the leading bank in US. I am a B. Tech. in Electrical Engineering.
    I graduated with GPA of 7.8 (on a scale of 10) from IIT Delhi in 2014. I also work for an NGO in child education program on weekend basis. I have just started my career and aspire to get an MBA from one of
    the top B-Schools in US. It is very early for me to think about this but with a score of 760+ in GMAT, what else will I need to have on my CV
    to screen the admission process as quickly as possible.
    My another concern here is the job here is not that demanding. The job requires very minimal effort and man hours from me. I also have another
    option of working for an 4 year old start up. The job in the other company in demanding, offers challenges and offers really wide scope of
    knowledge in IT and data science.
    My concern here is does it matter at all that how much bigger organization I was part of as my work experience and if it does, will it hurt my
    chances of getting into best B Schools in US and by how much?
    I thank you for giving this opportunity to write to you.

  • NL

    Thank you, Andrew.

    I’ll let you know how it goes. Likewise, happy holidays!!


  • Hi NL,

    Here are some thoughts on GMAT prep materials:

    Quant: The Khan academy is great to brush up on the basics so certainly keep up with that. There’s an article on this very site with some suggested videos which relate to GMAT quant topics. After getting your fundamentals in place you might try the free book from GMAT Club. That along with explanations from the various forums can get you pretty far. If you want more instruction then look into the MGMAT Quant books. In addition I would buy the 6 MGMAT CATs and the GMAT Club CATs (Only for Quant work). If you want a strategy for any specific question type I have probably written about it on the Atlantic GMAT question of the day. So you can just google Atlantic GMAT question of the day “Insert Quant Topic Here” and find a pretty thorough review of the subject.

    Verbal: If you are just starting out and are not a verbal wizard then you might want to warm up with Critical Reasoning questions 1-30 from the Official Guide 13th/2015 and Verbal review 2015 and all of the easy questions from Question pack 1. After doing these questions and doing some research on how to tackle assumption based arguments I would dive into the LSAT work. Start untimed and then add timing as you get used to the difficulty level.

    Let me know if you have any questions!

    Happy Studies and Happy New Year,


  • Hi NL,

    Thanks for the questions – I should have time to get back tomorrow. Sorry for the delay!

    Happy studies,


  • Wow! Stellar GMAT score. Congrats!!! Best of luck with your apps.


  • – S

    Sir Andrew,

    Worked like a charm. Got a 780 :). Those GMATClub Quant CATS were great. Thanks so much!

  • NL

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m also an international student looking forward to taking the GMAT by 2016. I have a good amount of time to focus on each part of the test, so I want to make sure I cover all my bases. To be honest, I haven’t looked at anything math related since high school, so this should be my weakness.

    1. Which books would you recommend I buy to study for each section?
    2. I’ve taken a few courses on Khan Academy and found them to be great aid, so maybe I could start catching up with their videos. What do you think? Also, I’ve read that SAT prep also works for the Quant portion.
    3. You’ve recommended LSAT practices for the Verbal, is there any other to start with or should I dive in with this on?

    I’ll look into prep courses or formal counseling once I’m a little more advanced and can benefit better from them.



  • ken

    Thanks for the insightful reply. Now that I think more about my CR weakness , my lack of understanding the passage probably contributes to so many incorrect questions. I quickly read through the passage and try to find the flaw, assumption ,weakness, or etc, but I often get stuck down to the 2 remaining answer choices after eliminating the others. And I may not even understand why these last 2 are relevant to the passage. I think the logic/analytic thinking such as cause and effect relationships trip me up. Have you seen other students make this kind of mistake?

    I’ve actually ordered the PowerScore CR already and will go through that. Wish your book was already out!

    I took this past weekend to go through Atlantic GMAT and found some great help there. Thanks for helping the GMAT community.


  • Hi Ken,

    Hope you are well! Sorry that the most recent GMAT wasn’t your best. An easy way to boost your score is to solidify you timing on the Quant. Skip questions that are difficult for you. Invest in things that you know. It is likely that you could have solved those questions in the end. Especially because they were most likely right at your level.

    I don’t know of a book that provides really thorough critical reasoning explanations that you can learn from. I’m working on one right now but it won’t be released for a couple of months. As a pure teaching book, the Powerscore book has some good information but it is very dense. Is there a particular question type that you find challenging?

    My general advice for verbal is to improve reading. If you’re not doing so already I would read an Economist article every day. I have some instructions on how to approach this reading on the Atlantic GMAT site. I would also avoid third party verbal questions. If you need extra verbal practice I would use LSAT questions. But – beware – LSAT questions are tough. So this isn’t work what I would do a week before the exam. It might be demoralizing.

    Remember that GMAT verbal improvement can take some time so be realistic about your goals and deadlines (measure twice cut once:)). Scheduling each day of GMAT HW can make the process much easier. Good luck!


  • That’s great news Samantha – congrats!!

  • Samantha

    Thanks, Andrew! Your advice helped, I took the test this weekend and made a 700 (47Q, 39V). I appreciate your help!

  • Hi Samantha,

    Sorry to hear about the drop in the verbal. Interesting question. I’m going to assume that you worked on a bunch of Kaplan verbal questions. My general suggestion would be to avoid any third party verbal. Good verbal questions are very tough to write and I haven’t seen consistently acceptable verbal questions from any GMAT company.

    I’d suggest focusing on official GMAT verbal for the next week. I would do an AM and a PM session using questions from the Official Guide 13th or 2015 edition (same questions in these books). Starting from the end of the book (questions are in order of difficulty and we want to focus on the tougher stuff) do sets of 10-15 questions for critical reasoning and sentence correction. Also do one reading comprehension passage per session. Give yourself 1:50 per question (multiply by the # of questions to figure out the timing for the set). For CR and RC forget about the tips and tricks. Focus on good reading. Focus on understanding the passages. That’s most of the battle.

    For sentence correction look for the big/easy issues: agreement, parallelism, and modifiers. Also – think about the meaning of the sentence. What is the message? Find the answer that best conveys that message.

    Hope you snap back!

    Happy Studies,


    PS: If you run out of questions from the OG use the question pack 1 software.

  • Samantha

    Hi Andrew – I’m taking the test this weekend and would love some quick advice on how to “unlearn” what the Kaplan method teaches for the Verbal section. I have spent the majority of my study time focused on the Quant section, knowing that Verbal is one of my key strengths. I took a few practice tests and consistently scored in the 91st percentile for Verbal, without studying for that section. However, once I made it to the Verbal section of my Kaplan book and worked through that section then took a practice test my score dropped. My verbal score went down to the 67th percentile. Oops! Do you have any recommendations as to what I can work on this week to get back to my original, natural method and not over-think the Verbal section this weekend? Thanks!

  • Hi there,

    Thanks for all the info. Good work so far! A few observations/questions:

    1. 70%-80% correct is tough to judge without context. Were these from the beginning, middle, or end of the OG13?

    2. For the 20%-30% that you got wrong did you do a thorough review? Did you understand the mistakes in the review to the point where you could actually teach the question to someone else?

    3. SC is usually the easier of the three questions types to improve. Usually my ESL GMAT tutoring students find the RC/CR more challenging. Do you have a strategy for each type of SC question? Are you approaching them from a structural standpoint? Are you supporting your eliminations with evidence?

    It is very tough to give you advice on an entire section especially considering that you don’t have a lot of time. But there are three things: If you’re not reading a challenging article every day then start doing that. I have a post on the Atlantic GMAT site about how to approach this reading using the Economist.

    Find a simple approach to SC that focuses on the major mistakes (Agreement (verb/pronoun), Parallelism (lists/comparisons), Modifiers). Most SC can be solved by thinking about these three categories.

    For Quant run through all of the GMAT Club Quant tests. These are tough so don’t worry about the scores but with this practice you should be able to add 1-2 points to that 47.

    For timing – consider skipping questions. It is much better to skip difficult questions in the middle of the test then to be forced to skip questions at the end of the test that you might have been able to solve. Invest your time on things that are possible rather than wasting time on things that you will most likely get wrong.

    Let me know if you have any questions – good luck!!

    Happy Studies,


  • Bagcan

    Hi Andrew,

    I have started to study GMAT before approximately 4 months ago. I spent 1-1.5 hours during weekdays and 4-5 hours during weekend. Since I have graduated from one of the best universities in Turkey, I was so confident about my math talents. I studied only using OG13 and Manhattan GMATbooks. OG13 and MGMAT’s math questions seems so easy to me and I had no problem with both of them. However, as a non-native speaker, I was sure about facing obstacles with Verbal part. After solving questions of OG13 and OG Verbal review, I have realized that I am pretty good with CR and RC. My success ratio for both section ( I used timer during solving questions) was somewhere around %70-%80. Sentence Correction part raised some questions in my mind because in each 10 bucket question, depend on my mood, I was making at least 5 or at max 8 questions correct. Since I was planning to apply in Round 2 in this year, I decided to take a real exam on 27 Nov.

    I needed a score over 680 in order to apply B-Schools in my target. However, I took the GMAT and scored 620 (Q47 V30 IR6). I have studied a lot and devoted a serious effort for it but still somehow i could not achieve my target score.During the exam I got behind six verbal and six quant questions and chose an answer choice randomly.

    Here is my question, as a non-native speaker, what should i do in order to improve my verbal skills in one month? I have time constraint as one month because I want to complete my applications in Round 2?

  • Hi GB,

    Thanks for the note. Tough question. I think that I would need more information about what you’ve done so far, what kind of test taker you are, and what your goals are in order to give an insightful answer. To start though I would be reading the Economist (or any other relatively challenging periodical) every day. In terms of a detailed study schedule it might be helpful to take a look at the GMAT study schedules on the Atlantic GMAT site. They should give you an idea of how to plan out your GMAT work.

    If you have just started your GMAT studying, December is cutting it close. I would certainly plan for another exam. Let me know if you have any questions.

    Happy Studies,


  • Girlboss

    Hi Andrew,
    Im planning to apply for Round 2, Fall 2015. I had unavoidable family circumstances and couldn’t give the exam earlier. I am currently running my own start up with a very supportive business partner. I wanted to know how I should prepare for the exam which I plan to give in the first week of December. Since, I am an international student, I was wondering if things don’t go as planned, would it make sense for me to apply in Round 3?

  • Hi Ramalo,

    You’re welcome – I’m glad that some of this is helpful. The most cost effective way to do the LSAT work is to buy one of the ten packs of tests (the next 10, 10 more, another 10…). Be aware that the tests do not include explanations.

    It’s tough to find extra practice for sentence correction. You can look to the SAT for some extra practice but the SC there is easier than GMAT SC. Other than that the elements of style is a nice grammar book which can be of help with learning some GMAT SC rules.

    I haven’t looked at a Kaplan test in a long time. My favorite third party Quant CATs are from GMAT Club and Manhattan GMAT. I never assign third party verbal practice (besides LSAT/GRE).

    Good luck with all of this. Let me know know if you have more questions.

    Happy studies,


  • Ramalo

    Looking forward to hearing from you Andrew!

  • Ramalo

    Thanks for the advice andrew. Ya 49q and 39v is usually a 720 but unfortunately not for me 🙁

    In verbal which LSAT logical reasoning/reading comprehension book are you referring to exactly? Also which other verbal books can I use. It would be great if you could provide a suggestion for sentence correction as well.

    I will definitely stop using the pause button all together now onwards.

    Thanks for all the advice so far

  • Good luck – check back in!

  • Hi Ramalo,

    Hope you are well. 49q 39v normally translates to a 720. I guess that CAT was having a bad day:) But great work so far! For Quant you can probably still get value by re-taking the GMAT Club Quant tests and the MGMAT tests. You also have Exam Pack 1, Question Pack 1, and GMAT Focus. I would also humbly suggest working through the throngs of Atlantic GMAT Questions of the Day. That’s plenty to work on if you are doing a thorough review of everything.

    For verbal you can use the OG verbal review, the GMAT Paper tests and LSAT Logical Reasoning/Reading Comprehension. The latter could help you get 40+. This work will be challenging so don’t worry if you have a rough start.

    In terms of your timing: NEVER use the pause button:) I wish that button could be removed from all practice tests. If you don’t have time for a practice test or expect to be interrupted in the middle of it then it might be more beneficial to work on something else. Practice as you want to perform. You might also improve your timing by getting better at moving on from questions for which you don’t have a plan so that you can put some time back on the clock. This is especially important on the Quant.

    Happy studies,


  • Ramalo

    Hi Andrew,

    Here’s my issue. I gave my gmat in jan and got a 710 (49q 39v) but I thought it wasn’t my best effort. I thought a 39 on verbal was pretty close to my capabilities but a 49 in quant was low. So I decided to retake the test and took it last week. However to my surprise my new score was a 680 (48Q and 35v). This has left me doubting my abilities all together. In my preparation I had gone through most books (OG 13, MGMAT books, kaplan 800, gmatclub, powerscore, etc). Ive also used up all my tests (6mgmat + 5 kaplan + 2 gmatprep). I’m not sure what to do now. I still at some level believe that I am capable of improving on a 710. But just not sure of where to start. I know one major issue for me is test taking itself. During most of the mock tests I didn’t follow the allotted time periods and used to take breaks in the middle etc. During my mocks I was getting close to 720. I think fundamentally during both my tests I just got flustered big time mainly due to bad time management.

    Now I don’t know what more I can study fundamentally in quant or verbal. I know my fundamentals in quant especially are relatively stable. What more can I do to improve my score? what books should i refer to for verbal and quant? Also most importantly which other tests can I use now? Ideally I would like to give my test again within a month.

    Kindly advise


  • Hi Mike,

    You’re welcome – I’m glad that the info here is helping in some way. I’ve been thinking about your situation over the past couple of days and have come up with a few things:

    1. If you’re scoring in the high 30’s/low 40’s on the Quant then you probably have some gaps in your fundamental knowledge and may be having some issues translating words into algebra. I would slow down your work on GMAT questions and focus on building your overall math fundamentals. Build up the base before tackling the more nuanced GMAT quant. The Khan academy is a good way to do this.

    2. Not focusing on verbal is a common GMAT pitfall:) Improvements on the verbal section can have a huge impact on your composite score. Not to mention that if you’re a verbal ace that takes the stress off your quant performance. Less stress generally equals better performance.

    3. Have you taken a class or worked with a tutor? I wouldn’t recommend a class but it might be helpful to hire someone to help with the quant. I’m all for the rugged individual but working with someone who knows their stuff could help you avoid a bunch of headaches.

    Giving you a specific timeline is tough. I’ve had students make MASSIVE leaps in 6-7 weeks BUT those students were already very good at math and just needed to be taught “GMAT” math. Considering that you’ve been studying for a while and haven’t seen much improvement, this might take a bit longer. I’d suggest breaking down the quant improvement into three levels: Solid 40+, 45+, and 48+. Tackle one level at a time. I’d also consider making this leap in three GMATs. Take one two months from now. This will be the meat of your preparation. Then take another test three months from now and potentially a third test four months from now. This way you’ll have some shorter term goals to keep you engaged.

    I hope this helpful. Good luck!

    Happy Studies,


  • – S

    Incredibly helpful. Can’t thank you enough. You just gave me my study plan. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you!

  • Mike


    Thank you for all of the great information and insight you’ve provided on this blog.

    I’m stuck in the high 30s low 40s for Quant and cannot seem to improve my score to something around the 85th percentile. I’ve tried studying MGMAT subject guides and answering a ton of quant questions (sometimes randomized, sometime sequences of the same type) but my score has literally never improved by more than 5 points. I keep an error log and try to analyze each incorrect answer as much as possible.

    I’m willing to commit as many hours as it takes to improve my Quant score to something in the high 40s or ideally low 50s, but I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.

    – Do you have any frameworks or study plans that could help me go from maxing out at 600 level questions to answering 800 level questions?
    – Are there any common GMAT-prep pitfalls that I might be getting trapped in?
    – What should a realistic time frame (or just raw number of hours spent studying) be for me to go from a 39 to a 49 in Quant?

    Happy to provide more details if necessary. Any tactical or strategic advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again!

    Best regards,

  • Oh and take the test on the weekend of week 6.

  • Hi,

    I think it would make sense to spend 2-4 weeks before the time off polishing your verbal and then use those two weeks to do a GMAT club test everyday. You could do something like this:

    3 Weeks (2 hours a day) LSAT Verbal + GMAT Question of the Day
    2 Weeks (off from work) GMAT Club Quant CAT Everyday + LSAT Verbal + Official GMAT (especially SC and all the toughest RC/CR)
    1 Week (back at work) 1.5 hours a day (Official GMAT only)

    Hope this is helpful.

    Have a good day,


  • – S

    Awesome. These are really excellent resources. What do you think is a decent time horizon given that I have no real pressing need to take it as I’m not applying until net year? I am thinking that I will take 2 weeks off from work this December and get all of this training in. The question is if it would be more valuable to take it right then or to keep studying.

  • Hi S,

    Awesome work so far! Great score. Considering that you’re already scoring well in the Quant you could improve your timing and accuracy by working on some really tough questions. Two suggestions:

    1. Question of the Day on the Atlantic GMAT site. There are about 100 really tough questions there along with full explanations. Work though those I can pretty much guarantee that you will learn some helpful Quant strategies.

    2. GMAT Club Quant CATs. GMAT Club has 25 Quant sections. These are great training for people who want to push the Quant. I would take a month or so and knock out all of them. These are tough so don’t worry about the scores.

    I know that you’re not asking about verbal but for that last 1% you might look to LSAT Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension. These questions provide really challenging practice that should give you an edge on the GMAT verbal.

    Good luck with all of this.


  • – S


    Thank you so much for this fantastic resource. What tips would you give to someone with a good score who wants to improve it further? I scored a 740 the first time I took it, but this was without studying. Now that I know that I want to go to b-school, I want to maximize my score for scholarship opportunities.

    My primary weakness I felt was a general tendency to take too long solving the quant problems, as I only hit 76th percentile quant (48Q) in spite of the fact that I studied math and economics in college.

    Do you have any tips that could put me over the edge and help net a 770+ score?


    – S

  • Hi Farooq,

    Thanks for the note. Your first question is a tough one to answer. I certainly don’t know what the magic GMAT algorithm is inside of the GMAT CAT. Still, I wouldn’t advise either of your strategies. You would be better off taking a more balanced approach of skipping questions throughout the exam. If you don’t have a good plan for solving something then you should consider moving on so that you can save the time. This way you’ll have a better chance of skipping questions that you would ultimately get wrong anyways and will potentially avoid a mad rush at the end of the section. I would also suggest that you put down at least a guess for every question for that 1/5 possibility of a correct guess and to avoid the penalty for unanswered questions.

    The IR section has no affect on your composite GMAT score. That is Quant and Verbal only.

    Hope this is helpful – have a nice weekend!


  • Farooq

    Hi Andrew,

    I have a couple of quick questions about the way GMAT scoring works.

    1. What will hurt my scores more:
    Rushing through and randomly guessing the last six to ten questions on Verbal and Quant sections just to avoid being punished for not attempting all questions


    Properly (correctly if possible) answering as many questions as possible in the given time even if this leads to being punished for not attempting all questions.

    2. What’s the weight of integrated reasoning in the overall score of GMAT? If one performs poorly on this section, how much damage it can do to one’s final score?


  • Guest

    Hi Andrew
    Thank you for your feedback.
    Yes, I am working but I am on leave for a month so that I am able to concentrate

  • Hi Niketa,

    Thanks for the note – hope you’re having a good day. 600 is a good starting point and I’ve certainly seen plenty of people start at around 600 and get to 700+ GMAT scores. Doing so in a month is possible but not typical. Are you working full time? Most people who are working need at least two months to make that leap and there are plenty of people who take longer than that. If there’s something obvious going wrong, like your timing, then it’s possible that with a little change you could see your score rise a whole bunch BUT it sounds like you still need some time to really understand the logic of the test.

    If you feel that you are improving on your own then just give yourself more time to get to your goal. If you feel a bit stuck then you might consider getting some help. One place to start is the GMAT forums. There is a lot of non-sense flying around but there’s also some excellent information. If you need some help getting organized you can take a look at my site – there’s a day by day GMAT schedule for people going for 700+ and a whole bunch of organizational tips. Two things that are critical for GMAT success:

    1. Approach your studying in an organized way. Schedule your study sessions. Know what you will focus on each day. Keep track of and review mistakes.

    2. Give yourself an appropriate amount of time to get to your goals. Rushing usually leads to disappointment. It is much better to have realistic expectations. You’re not a robot. You can’t expect to read about how to do something and then all of sudden know how to do that thing yourself. Learning takes time:)

    Let me know if you have any questions. Good luck!


  • Niketa

    Hi Andrew,
    I have started preparing for GMAT from around a month. I am planning to give it in Mid October.
    I have been using Manhattan material for my prep. However, I am facing issues with the QA. I am aware of the theory but I am unable to master the application, also I am taking a lot of time to solve the questions.
    I am getting a score of around 600 as per 2 practice tests given by me. I want to improve to 700+. Is it possible for me to do so in a month’s time? Kindly suggest me how to go about it. Thanks in advance!

  • Javed

    Thank you very much Andrew!.. I have started reading the contents of your site. Have a Nice Day!

  • Hi Javed,

    Thanks for the note. It sounds like you have a good start with your GMAT prep. The most important thing is to stay organized with your preparation. Put your study sessions in your calendar or make a GMAT study schedule. Create a framework for yourself. There are a bunch of GMAT study schedules out there on the web. I have one on my site that plans out every day of studying for 11 weeks. If you have any specific GMAT questions please check back. For admissions advice go ahead and post in the admissions section and I’m sure that someone will give you some guidance.

    Good luck,


  • Javed

    Hi Andrew,
    I have started preparing for GMAT and am planning to give the exam in Dec/Jan.

    Current resources i have are GMAT Hacks Verbal,Maths and Kaplan Math Workbook.
    My plan is to utilise weekends and try my best to prepare atleast 1 hour everyday.

    My only target is INSEAD Jan 2016 batch for which i need to apply in March 2015.

    Please give me tips on GMAT prep and also about INSEAD.

    I am an engineering graduate with 8 years of work experience in European Banks.

  • clueless

    Hi Andrew,

    I understand you deal with GMAT questions but my questions is about GRE, hoping that you have some insights on this as well. My GPA is 3.3, engineering degree from a top canadian university. Would like to know what my GRE score would need to be (Q/V/essay) for Harvard MBA?

    do let me know, many thanks.

  • Simón

    What is your problem?

  • Hi Kazo,

    Thanks for the post. I’m sure that a bunch of other people will be able to relate to your position in that they haven’t quite reached their goals and are wondering what to do. The good news is that with the right preparation an overwhelming majority of people can improve their GMAT scores. Can you improve from a 550 to a 700+? Yes. Absolutely. Do most people improve that much? Nope. That kind of improvement takes a significant amount of work and resources that many people can’t commit to investing.

    I’ve heard of Manhattan Review but I can’t really comment on the quality of their tutors. My general recommendation is that if you want private tutoring then hire a private tutor and not a GMAT Company. If you are set on hiring a GMAT Company then I would get the contact info for your prospective tutor so that you can chat with him/her on the phone about your GMAT preparation. Find out how he/she plans to prepare you. Find out how homework will be assigned. Will he/she be monitoring your progress in between sessions? How will the program be structured? What materials will you use? Get a sense for what this person’s style is. Are you comfortable chatting with them on the phone? That will give you some indication of whether you will be comfortable with this person as your GMAT tutor.

    Are there tricks on the GMAT? Sure. I would consider memorizing the formula for the area of an equilateral triangle a “trick”. I would consider knowing that |x| = √(x^2) also a “trick”. There are many little tricks that can help you. Overall though, the GMAT is a critical thinking test. So the most important thing to develop is a solid process for solving problems. An organized way of thinking.

    Good luck and happy studies,


  • Kazo

    Hi Andrew,
    I have already taken the GMAT before and received a score in the 500s. This is without any guidance , classes or tutors. My friend and I just registered with a private tutor from Manhattan Review(what do you think about them?) and we absolutely must get above 700 to get into a good school. Do you think this is realistic considering my previous score or am I over reaching. I struggled the most with the Test structure rather than the actual content, combined with stress, I believe this what hampered me the first time. Do you believe that there are certain tricks to follow to beat the test?
    thanks in advance.

  • Hi Sky,

    Doing the GMAT and the LSAT together is a real challenge but it’s doable. I took the LSAT after having taken the GMAT but I would recommend doing things the other way around and studying for the LSAT first. After studying for the LSAT your verbal will be sharp and you’ll be able to carry a lot of what you learned to your GMAT. So for your GMAT you’ll just have to acclimate to the GMAT style of verbal, tackle the sentence correction, and toughen up your Quant. I’d be happy to chat more about working on this. Feel free to contact me through my website.

    Have a good night,


  • Sky

    Hi Andrew,
    I am an engineer interested in getting a JD/MBA and as a result I need to kill it in the LSAT’s and the Verbal portion of the GMAT.
    My quantitative skills are strong but I was wondering if you could help design a customized approach with online tutoring for me specializing in Verbal for GMAT and LSAT and really advanced quant to get a score above 50.

  • Hi John,

    Good question but not an easy one to answer. I’d think more about finding a good teacher than choosing a brand. Find out who is teaching the GMAT classes in your area and speak with the different teachers (you can also consider online classes). If you like the way that a certain teacher communicates his/her ideas and you find them knowledgeable about the test then you might consider taking the class. If you can’t get somebody on the phone then I would be skeptical.

    I appreciate that you are looking for a class to keep you focused and to provide some structure. I think a class can do just that. Be aware that most GMAT classes should really be called Intro to the GMAT and so be prepared to be an active learner outside of class. There are lots of great resources out there (GMAT Club, Beat the GMAT, Khan Academy to name a few) to help you on your way to a great GMAT score. Good luck with everything and certainly check in if you have more questions.


  • John

    Hi Andrew,

    Can you elaborate more on the third party services you would tell students to avoid when it comes to preparing for the GMAT? I know there are a lot of different companies out there that provide test prep (Kaplan, Veritas, Princeton Review, etc) and, I myself, need that discipline of being in a classroom in order to maintain focus and drive.

    I appreciate your time.

    Best Regards,

  • AJ

    Hi Andrew,

    I don’t know if you can answer my questions but I was really curious for how you prepared for all the different aspects of the GMAT as I am determined to improve both quant and language skills.

    1) For GMAT preparation can you recommend any books and practice/past examination papers, which you have come across that would be helpful for preparation?

    I am aiming for a top mark in the GMAT (>800) and I have plenty of time before I apply for an MBA. 2) For someone in such a situation, who is ambitious and willing, what sort of training/study besides reading textbooks (I can see you also mentioned reading weeklies like the economist) would you advise?

    3) GMAT language/essay section related:
    How can someone avoid using ‘for’ twice in my first sentence and still sound clear and concise – I have the impression that using the same word twice in a sentence is low-quality English – also, I have heard that the book by Joseph Williams (“Style: Towards Clarity and Grace”) is a good book for improving English, can you recommend other books on improving written and oral (professional speech-giving level) English?

    4) You touched upon being an active reader by analysing arguments and verb/subject structure etc. Is there any good books/sources to consult on this?

    I would greatly appreciate your advice on these queries and apologies for the long post.

    Many thanks in advance!

    PS – is your site down? I tried accessing it but it doesn’t seem to load…

  • Hey Chris,

    Glad that worked for you. Hopefully a few other people will pick up on that too.

    Happy Studies,


  • Guest

    Hi Andrew,
    awesome explanation, thank you so much for your help! Tried it out already on a few problems and definitely saves time.

  • Hi there,

    I hope you are doing well – you are welcome! Good question.

    Having a method for factoring is super important for your GMAT. You are off to a great start by making a chart with all of the factors of the “c” term, 540 in this case. Writing out the the factors is an excellent way of finding the right combination of numbers. Now – we could get a little more GMAT brain with this and narrow down that chart.

    In your first example, a^2 + 12a – 540 = 0, we are looking for the factors of 540 to sum to 12. Well, the numbers are going to have to be pretty close together. For instance, 540 and 1 are way too far apart to get anywhere near 12. So start your chart in the middle. Where’s the middle? If the number is a perfect square then the square root is the middle. If not, work with the range in between an easy perfect square below and above your “c” term.

    In this case 20*20 = 400 and 30*30 = 900. 540 is right between there. Those were the first easy numbers that came to my mind. You could have chosen a narrower range of let’s say 25*25 and 30*30 but at the end of the day easier/simpler is usually better. If you can create the range with numbers that are factors of your “c” term then all the better but no need to labor on that. One thing that helps is knowing your divisibility rules so you can easily spot factors. The most important ones are for 2, 3, 5, 6, and 9.

    The next step is to test the top and bottom of the range first to make sure that you are searching in the right place.

    20*27 difference = 7 We have established a bottom. These numbers are too close together so we know that the correct combo is further up somewhere.

    30*18 difference = 12 (pure luck that we got this on the first try)

    Now you might have to try a few more numbers but this method should get you to the important range of the chart. The GMAT is about using simple tools (the factor chart) in a smart way (narrowing down the range with a little GMAT common sense).

    For the second example you can also use a chart. But I agree that this method can feel a bit haphazard. So let’s add an option to the factor chart method that takes the guesswork out.

    5x^2 – 34x + 24

    Multiply the coefficient of the first term and the last term: 5*24 = 120

    Make a factor chart for the resulting product, 120. Look for the terms that sum to the middle term, -34.

    1 120

    2 60

    3 40

    4 30 Here’s the winner

    5 24

    6 20

    10 12

    Now split up your middle term into the two factors above. Make sure to have the signs correct so the numbers sum to the middle term. In this case they should both be negative to sum to -34.

    5x^2 -30x-4x+24

    Now group and factor. You can see that 5 and 30 will work together so that the 5 is cancelled. The same will happen with the 4 when you factor 4 and 24. The goal is to leave only one x in each parentheses.

    5x(x-6) – 4(x-6)

    Factor out the common term (x-6)


    Both of these shortcuts will require practice. It is likely that the first few times that you try either of these methods that you will take longer to solve the question. That’s fine. Just keep practicing these things. And beyond that keep pushing to develop that GMAT way of critical thinking. Often you just need to add a new spin to a simple tool. If you need more practice on this second method do a google search for quadratic grouping or factor grouping.

    Data Sufficiency 99 in the Official Guide 13th Edition is a great example of how factoring and quadratics can be tested in the DS. It is an abstract and tricky question but if you really know how the three terms of the trinomial and the roots of the equation interact then you should be able to solve it. Let me know if this is clear. And certainly fire away with more GMAT questions. Good luck!

    Happy Studies,


  • Guest

    Dear Andrew,

    When factoring, is there any trick to find the correct numbers quickly? For example, for the equation a^2 + 12a – 540 = 0, I would start writing down all the possible factors for 540 in a table: 1*540, 2*270, etc. until I find a solution with factor 1 – factor 2 = 12

    Or e.g. for the equation 5x^2 – 34x + 24… Any better approach than trial & error to come up with (5x-4)(x-6)?

    Thank you very much for your help and time, really appreciate it!

  • Hi Bagcan,

    The GMAT is already a beast for native English speakers so I really admire all of you international students. I would be happy to help. Here’s one thing that should be in every ESL GMATer’s study diet and a few general things that are wholesome for every GMAT prepper:

    1. Let’s start with a bit of advice for international students: Read a challenging article every day from a quality periodical. The Economist is a good option although any quality periodical will serve. I would suggest a weekly as opposed to a daily as the articles in weeklies tend to have more depth. Whatever you read: Be an active reader. Take as much time as you need to understand the article. Think about how the author supports his/her argument. Think about the main idea of the article. Also consider the grammar structures by tracking down subject verb agreement, tracing the parallelism of lists/comparisons, and identifying modifiers. Read with the aid of a dictionary and look up all words that you don’t know. Commit to this and your overall verbal score should see a nice boost.

    2. Get the most out of your time by making a GMAT Study Schedule. Plan out every study session. Know what you will study ahead of time. Have a goal for each session. Put the sessions in your calendar and treat them as important business meetings. This may seem extreme but breaking up your studying into daily chunks will make this whole process more manageable.

    3. For verbal the vast majority of your practice should be on Official GMAT questions. With OG 13, the verbal review, question pack 1, and the GMAT paper tests you have tons of practice. Avoid third party questions as they have a different flavor than official GMAT ones. If you need extra verbal practice better to use LSAT questions as they are super high quality and have the added benefit of being a notch more difficult than GMAT questions. Best save them for when you have a solid verbal foundation as LSAT work is tough.

    4. If you are targeting an epic quant score you might consider a GMAT Club CAT subscription. These tests are super difficult and probably not appropriate until you are scoring in the mid 40s but they are excellent for learning many useful GMAT tips and tricks. They are especially good for getting your Data Sufficiency in championship form. Don’t pay attention to your scores on these – just focus on the learning.

    5. You have about 4 months. Long term studying can be stressful and there is a real threat of burning out. Plan on taking the GMAT twice to split up the time a bit. So take a test after three months and then again 4-5 weeks later. You’ll also have the added benefit of less pressure on the first exam.

    Let me know if you have questions on any of this stuff. I could spend the next week writing about how to approach your studying but let’s pause here. If you have more questions fire away!


  • GMAT-student

    Thank you Andrew!

  • Bagcan

    Hi Andrew,

    Can you please give tips and advices about GMAT to non native English speakers? I have started to study to GMAT almost one month ago and I started with Quant part which can be evaluated as my strongest part. Since I want to apply to an top MBA program in Fall 2014, I have to take a score over 700 till the beginning of September. What will be the most effective program for such a limited time?

    Thank you for your kind answer..

  • Hi GMAT-student,

    Thanks for the post – conversion is one those GMAT quant fundamentals that is certainly worth sorting out early on in your studying. I have seen students tackle tough rate problems only to bungle the conversion at the end and ultimately get the wrong answer. It’s always good to double check what units the question is asking for.

    So what we’re talking about here is converting from one unit to another whether it be miles to kilometers, dollars to pounds, or minutes to seconds.

    One way to tackle this is to set up a proportion. This will always work and doesn’t require you to remember anything special except for how to set up a proportion, a skill that you will need on the rest of the GMAT as well.

    Let’s say that you want to know how many feet are in 96 inches. Well, you know that there are 12 inches in one foot. If you double the number of inches to 24 then the number of feet must also double. With that principle in mind you can find any number of feet given a certain number of inches and vice versa.

    The left hand side of the equation should be the proportion or ratio that you know. In this case we know that for every 1 foot you get 12 inches. The right side of the equation should follow the same format as the left meaning that if you have Feet/Inches on the left you need to have Feet/Inches on the right. You can’t have Feet/Inches = Inches/Feet.

    The amount of feet in 96 inches is your variable (what you are solving for) so we can label that X.

    1 Foot/12 Inches = X Feet/96 Inches

    (X feet)(12 Inches) = (1 foot)(96 Inches)

    X = 96/12

    X = 8

    If you are doing a multistep conversion say from seconds to hours it can help to approach one conversion at a time. In this case from seconds to minutes and then from minutes to hours.

    Whether you are a GMAT expert or beginner it is good policy to double check that your answer is in the correct format. This comes up in a variety of question types but I have seen it most often in Rate/Work and Geometry questions.

    Let me know if you have any further questions – Happy Studies!

  • GMAT-student

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks a lot for your time and help!

    Could you please describe the way one best approaches conversion problems?

  • Sandhurst

    “family WHO believes”?
    “They have never seen anyone do anything different throughout their entire LIFE ”
    & more errors….

    Dude, do you really want to study at an American b-school?

  • Hi Tom,

    Thanks for posting. I hope you are well. That’s a tough situation with your family – I’m glad that you are pursuing what you want. That’s important.

    I am not an admissions expert so I think that this question is a bit more in Jon Fuller’s camp (he is the P&Q admissions guru). I will say that it will be tough to determine your admissions standing without a GMAT score. That said – Jon may be able to provide some insight for you.

    When you have some GMAT questions come back! I’d be happy to assist.


  • Tom

    It is easier said than done in India. And as I mentioned I come from an orthodox family who believes in earning a decent living and that is all they want in life. They have never seen anyone do anything different throughout their entire life or even seen their ancestors do anything different.

    I am not giving up to their whims and fancies anyways. I am fighting everyday as I know I am right.

  • devils0508

    You’re an adult, you shouldn’t have to convince your parents of shit. You can do what you want. Do not write in your essays how you are in your mid-20’s and are still controlled by your parents.

  • Tom

    Hi Andrew,

    I am from India.

    GPA: 3.4 graduating July’2014 in IT. I am yet to give GMAT.

    I have been working on a startup in education since the past 3 years and will also continue for another 2 years before I plan on doing an MBA from US. My startup has been recognized globally with awards from Dell and top Indian MBA colleges. It was also selected for an accelerator program for 6 months by a top ivy league college. I have also spent some time in Europe on an internship in IT.

    I come for an orthodox background where it was very difficult for me to convince my parents to let me continue my startup. Infact it is was also difficult to make them agree for an MBA. I had to fight and struggle for literally anything different I wanted to do in my life. I didn’t sit for placements as well and lied about the same to my parents.

    I want to know if my chances stand good at the end of 2 years starting now for an MBA from US. What else can I do for the same?

    It will be very helpful if you can answer my queries as it will be easier to put forth facts in front of my parents and follow my dream.

  • Hi aaaa,

    See the post above!


  • Andrew Geller

    Hi aaaa,

    Good question! Are you planning on applying to business school within the next 5 years? If so you might consider taking the GMAT as an undergrad or the summer before you start your first job after college. This can be a great option as you are already in study mode and although there are your courses to keep up with you most likely have more time than you would if you had a full time job. From a learning perspective you are in an excellent position to approach GMAT studying. At the moment I have a GMAT student who is a senior at Brown and he is doing great work.

    Unfortunately there’s also a bit of a downside to taking the GMAT as an undergrad: you may have to retake in future because your GMAT score is only valid for 5 years. That’s the GMAC policy. Yes, 5 years is a long time but the average MBA student is about 28. So if you are somewhat similar to that average MBA then you would end up re-taking your GMAT when applying to business school.

    If applying is more than 5 years away then I would start studying about 1 year before you need your score for applications. Not that you will necessarily need a year of studying but this will give you plenty of breathing room to re-take in case you don’t knock the GMAT out of the park on your first try. Also – the applications themselves are a challenge. Applying to school is a much more pleasurable process if you don’t have to worry about applications and GMAT studying at the same time. I hope this is helpful – Let me know if you have any further questions!


  • aaaa

    As a college junior who is thinking of a MBA in the future, when would be the best time to start preparing for the GMAT?