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How To Position Yourself for Success on the GMAT

GMAT scores are on the rise for the top business schools in the US.

According to data published by Poets & Quants, 38 schools out of the top 50 are on an upswing in the five-year trend of average GMAT scores, at an average of 9.9 points. Only seven schools in the top 50 have seen a drop-off over the last five years, while two have remained flat and data for two others is incomplete. The average GMAT score at the top ten schools is now 727, according to US News.

In a new article, Matt Symonds, a contributor at Forbes, discusses what the GMAT means to b-school applicants and how learning to “fall in love” with the standardized test can make the experience just a little bit easier.

Fall in “Love” with the GMAT

For one, Symonds says, the GMAT is a special type of standardized test.

“The GMAT is uniquely positioned when it comes to business schools,” Symonds writes. “It’s the only standardized assessment created by business schools for business school admissions. It’s been around for 50 years, so there are five decades of validity studies behind it. It’s true that no standardized test will do a perfect job in predicting who will be successful in an MBA program.”

Why is the GMAT so Important?

“They want to prove ahead of time that a candidate will actually get through their entire program, and so the GMAT helps them make that decision with some level of confidence,”

Camille Coppock, marketing director for the Americas region at the Graduate Management Admission Council, tells US News in an interview.

If anything, Symonds says, the GMAT allows for an equal playing field—especially amongst the increased competition and diversity of the MBA applicant pool at top b-schools.

“Your score is important, particularly because the student composition at tier-one programs has become truly globally diverse,” Symonds writes. “How do you compare the entrepreneur in Eretria to the Bain consultant from Silicon Valley? The GMAT helps level the playing field by offering a consistent data point for evaluating candidates against each other.”

How Long You Should Spend Studying

The easy answer to this question is, the more you study, the better prepared you’ll be.

According to Symonds, applicants who scored above 700 report studying at least 80-100 hours for the GMAT. But that doesn’t necessarily mean studying 80+ hours will guarantee a score above 700. The important lesson, Symonds says, is that when it comes down to doing well on the GMAT, it requires time to develop skills.

“It’s not like the SAT, where some folks just walk in and nail a great score,” Symonds writes. “And that’s because the GMAT looks at skills developed over time. Data sufficiency, for example, isn’t a skill set that comes intuitively, it’s a skill set that you build with practice.”

In addition, Coppock says the amount of time spent studying depends on an applicant’s comfort level with logic exams as well as what their target score is.

It’s a tough answer to the question, but the reality is, success on the GMAT takes a great deal of practice and time spent studying.

“Too often, people get caught up in search of a ‘fast, easy, secret recipe’ for earning a 700+ GMAT score,” Woodbury-Stewart, Target Test Prep Founder and CEO Scott, tells Forbes. “They become hyper-preoccupied with the efficiency of their preparation process at the expense of real learning and deep mastery of material. The questions have logical, methodical solutions; there are no secret “tricks” to getting correct answers. The biggest mistake people make is underestimating how long it will take them to effectively prepare.”

A high GMAT score can do wonders to an application. And while it is important, it’s critical to remember that your score is only one component of your entire application.

Sources: Forbes, US News, Poets & Quants, US News.