Reaching Your Ideal GMAT Score

surferDevelop a RhythmOnce in position, paddling starts slow. Long, deep strokes in the water while maintaining balance are key to getting in motion. The surfer will continually look back at the wave to retain proper positioning.

Begin studying with the basics. Relearn all that math and grammar you haven’t thought about since high school. If you use Manhattan Prep, read each strategy guide and delve deep into each concept before moving on. You should become an expert and have a solution strategy for every type of problem that you study. To achieve a 700+ score, you need to get the 700+ level questions right, so focusing intently on a few subjects in which you can get the toughest problems correct will serve you better than scratching the surface of ALL the subjects.

Do not push yourself to study too hard in the beginning because you will burn out by the time you take the test. Pacing is key. Start slow, perhaps studying for 5 to 10 hours per week. Get into a rhythm so that your mind gradually adapts to the added stress.

Raise the IntensityAs the approaching wave draws nearer, the surfer picks up the pace by paddling faster and harder to acquire speed. Without sufficient speed, the wave will swallow up the surfboard instead of carrying it along for the ride.

In the final stretch before the test, perhaps the final month, you should dramatically increase your studying time. Manhattan Prep has excellent online practice tests that emulate the real GMAT and adapt to your skill level after each question. Take these tests every few days so that your brain gets comfortable with the timing. I believe the caliber of the Manhattan Prep verbal questions is not as difficult as the GMAT, so I suggest studying additional verbal questions from another resource. Do all the questions in the Official GMAT Guide book before you take the test. If you struggle to find enough hours in the day to study (as I did), then find holes in your schedule when you can keep your mind active. I even studied in the shower.

This will be the toughest part of the process. Your friends will be out enjoying their lives while you’ll be inside studying. Not only that, but you’ll also feel dejected from all the questions you get wrong. Push through this arduous time and do whatever you need to do to stay positive, balanced, and motivated. Ideally, you’ll achieve a state of flow.

Go Confidently and Don’t Be Afraid to WipeoutThere’s only one thing left to do… surf the wave! Getting onto the wave is a quick motion that requires confidence. At this point, it’s no longer about thinking but about doing. And if a surfer falls, no worries, there are plenty more waves to come.

When it’s finally test day, you should be in such a rhythm that taking another GMAT should feel expected. You should already know the score you’re going to receive, give or take 20 points, due to all your previous practice tests. Don’t worry about potentially getting a bad test score because a new rule allows you cancel your test score after you receive it. You can take the test as many times as you want.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is this:

The GMAT process takes longer than you initially anticipate. If you are planning to cram hard and study nonstop for weeks, I urge you to consider pushing back your business school application a year. The stress and pain you will cause yourself from the GMAT will bleed into other aspects of your life and only hurt you in the long run. Don’t compare yourself with others and stay positive. With enough time, you will achieve your score.

Zoheb Davar has a background in finance and a passion for sustainability, writing, and traveling. He plans on enrolling at a top business school in the fall of 2016.  He tweets at @humphreyzogart and blogs at


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