The GMAT is, arguably, one of the most important factors in your MBA application—especially if you’re applying to a top B-school.
“Indeed, if you come from a common applicant background or a group that tends to do well on the GMAT, a below average score could keep you out—even if the rest of your application is competitive,” according to Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.
So, if the GMAT is so important, how exactly does one achieve a top score? Fortune recently spoke to experts on what it takes to score over 700 on the GMAT—from prep strategy to self-awareness.
AIM FOR SIX MONTHS OF STRATEGIC PREP
On average, experts say scoring beyond 700 requires around six months of prep and practice. And when it comes to GMAT prep, how you prepare is critical.
“Most people preparing for the GMAT do the same thing over and over without significant improvement, but never change their tactics because they’re so deeply ingrained from their time in school,” Mike Diamond, director of curriculum development at Apex GMAT, tells Fortune. “Many people spend way too much time preparing in a low yield way—doing tons of problems and then reviewing the ones they get wrong—they should instead be focused on what they’ve done correctly on problems they’ve gotten correct, and on how to extrapolate that to more challenging problems.”
In other words, it’s not only about how long you prep, but also how strategically you prep.
“We’re talking about changing behavior, so it depends how good someone is at changing their behavior and their routine,” Keith Blume, a GMAT instructor for Manhattan Prep, tells Fortune. “If you think about changing a behavior in three months, that requires almost daily discipline—you have to build new habits.”
STRATEGIES FOR TEST DAY
On test day, experts suggest a few strategies to help ensure as many correct answers as possible.
“I learned to not let some of the words trip you up, because they may use words that you may have never seen before,” Antoine Lee Keels, an accepted Wharton applicant who scored 770, tells Fortune. “That can be distracting, but getting hung up on it will just waste time and really raise your anxiety—and every time my anxiety rises, I make more mistakes.”
One of the biggest mistakes test-takers make? Letting stress and fatigue take over.
“In my experience on the test, around the 30-minute mark is where I see students start to struggle with their attention,” Blume tells Fortune. “I can see it in their results where they’ll miss a group of questions in a row, and when they go back and review them, they don’t know why they missed them.”
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