If you’ve got as far as deciding to apply for an MBA, you’ll likely know that you must prepare for GMAT; a standardized test to submit together with your application. The score you achieve for the GMAT exam gives an indication of your academic readiness in terms of taking on business school.
IESE Business School states that “a high score does not guarantee admission, while a below-average score does not eliminate a candidate.” Indeed, it’s worth pointing out there is a lot more to the admissions process beyond GMAT.
That said, it’s a crucial part of the whole. The exam lasts three hours and tests analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and integrated reasoning. A good rule of thumb for a decent GMAT target score is often 20 points more than the average GMAT score of your desired business school.
Get an Honest Take on Your Current Ability
IESE MBA applicants often find the GMAT more challenging than previous standardized tests they have taken due to the emphasis on reasoning skills rather than knowledge of a specific academic subject. But knowledge is power – you can absolutely learn the ropes of this exam; some may just be newer than imagined.
The first thing you should do on your GMAT journey is to measure where you’re currently at, using one of many online testing tools. Measuring your starting GMAT ability is essential to then work out the preparation time you’ll need ahead. Then it just remains to work an exam date into it and forge ahead in the five areas explained below.
Devour Practice Exams
Taking an initial full practice exam will provide a benchmark for you to judge your current aptitude and create a baseline from which to judge your future test results. Then you should keep taking them, and don’t stop until you’ve passed the actual exam.
As you go, you’ll be able to identify all the areas in which you need improvement, gradually develop your testing stamina and be able to finetune your timings for the real thing.
To be successful in the GMAT, you will need to skillfully balance your approach with your skillset, in fact just as you will need to during the MBA itself. In the case of the GMAT it is not just about the knowledge you gain, but how you can answer questions within time constraints – under pressure.
Choose One Good Guide
Here is a handful of the best as recommended by The Economist:
Manhattan Prep’s “GMAT Strategy Guides” are among the most popular GMAT study reference books, known for their prep strategies and a wide range of moderate to difficult questions.
The “GMAT Grail” series by Aristotle Prep is comprehensive and well-regarded. Featuring over 300 pages of comprehensive data, their “GMAT Critical Reasoning Grail,” for one, is considered authoritative. It highlights multiple approaches to different types of reading comprehension questions and provides a precise vocabulary list.
The “OG,” or “The Official Guide for GMAT Review” uses questions from old GMAT exams and provides an opportunity to examine the styles and formatting utilized by GMAT test writers.
Exploit the Internet
It is quite possible that you’ll find answers to most of your questions by searching online forums. Book publishers usually hold space for these, and there is no shortage of threads on a wide range of study topics.
Tackling the GMAT requires a significant amount of dedication, discipline, and focus. Blindly mixing a massive amount of information with time constraints can be a recipe for stress and anxiety.
Add to this the wider pressure of the MBA admission and taking the GMAT can be very daunting. So, you’ll need to weave stress-management techniques into your plan as a priority. Sidelining this will prove a mistake. As indeed it would during the MBA and the career to follow it.
Listen To Those Who’ve Been There
Finally, you might want to look at the IESE MBA Blog, where MBA students who made it (the Class of 2020) share their strategies and give inspiration.
Marc Puigvert from Spain would have approached his studies slightly differently, he writes. “I would definitely start the GMAT preparation process earlier. My IESE application submission relied too much on my exam date. Now I feel that it is better to prepare for the GMAT as soon as you realize the next step in your career will be doing an MBA.”
Carla Tagliaferri from Italy advises, “Be consistent. Study every day. Book your GMAT test date as soon as possible! Not only will this serve as good motivation but test dates do get booked up.”
Rika Uekusa from Japan split her preparation into two parts, using the GMAT app and the Manhattan GMAT exams. “I did not use any vocabulary book but I attempted to memorize any difficult vocabulary from the questions that I had practiced,” she adds.