Use the appropriate GMAT strategy to perform at your best on the test.
There’s nothing particularly difficult about the GMAT or particularly brilliant about the people who do well on it.
The GMAT tests basic grammar and reasoning skills, and the math portion of the exam rarely goes beyond a 10th grade level. Knowing that, it might be surprising to learn that the average GMAT test taker gets only half of all the possible points available on the exam. That’s because the test is designed to trick you and then take advantage of your mistakes.
How Should I Prepare for The GMAT?
You'll need to brush up on your high school math and learn a little about English grammar. I don’t recommend, however, that you practice with grammar guides or with high school math books. The GMAT tests a very narrow range of grammar, reasoning, reading and math skills, so going outside the curriculum to a general purpose math or grammar book would probably be a waste of time.
Take a GMAT prep class if at all possible, and if a class isn't possible, buy the Official Guide for GMAT Review and another book from a test prep company. The Official Guide has the most accurate questions. (It contains real questions from old exams.) Because it's written by ETS (the company that writes the exam), however, it won’t tell you about the test's secrets. That’s why you'll need a book from a prep company.
Read the prep book first and then practice out of the Official Guide. (I don’t endorse any of the available GMAT prep book because I don’t think they go into enough detail about the exam and how to beat it. But you need something to explain the more obvious tricks, so choose a book you like.)
What's the Most Common Mistake Made on the GMAT?
Blowing the timing.
It isn't just the most common mistake, it's the most costly mistake I see students make. When the computerized test first came out we used to think this wasn't a big problem. We (at the big test-prep company I used to teach for) told our students to spend a disproportionate amount of their time on the early questions and not to worry too much if they ran out of time on the final questions. While there's still a little bit of truth to that, there's only a little.
The big problem we're now seeing with that approach is that students spend too much time on problems they can't solve and don't get to problems they can. The result is a significant drop in scores. My students who blow the timing on their first try and get the timing right on their second usually improve almost 100 points.
So don't stick with the most difficult problems too long. Blow them off quickly and get onto the next question.
How is the GMAT Scored?
This is the tricky part. The short answer is that the test adjusts the difficulty of its questions until the test taker reaches a level at which he misses approximately 50 percent of the questions. That level of difficulty is then correlated with a score ranging from 200 to 800 points.
Your first question will be of medium difficulty. If you get it right you'll get a harder question; if you get it wrong you'll get an easier question. That's the theory, anyway. The problem with that theory is that many of the questions that ETS considers difficult are actually pretty simple if you get some good coaching. That's why I focus on those concepts in my classes.
When Should I Guess on the GMAT?
Whenever you don't know the answer.
Unfortunately, you have to mark an answer on the computer adaptive version of the test or you'll never see the next question. There's no skipping questions and coming back later.
As I mentioned on the previous page, the questions adjust to your level of proficiency. That means the question you'll see next will depend on how you answer the current question. Get it right, you'll see a tougher question. Get it wrong, and you'll see something that's easier.
So you have to guess aggressively on the GMAT. Just be sure not to let your ego get in the way. When a question is clearly too tough, pick an answer and move on. Take the time you would have wasted on that problem and use it on a question you can solve.
How Many Questions Can I Miss and Still Get a 700?
You're missing the point. It's not the number of questions you miss that determines your final score. It's the level of difficulty at which you miss those questions.
You will miss a greater percentage of questions on the computer adaptive test than you do on tests found in prep books. That's because the computer test takes you to your "50 percent failure level" and then tries to keep you there for the rest of the exam, while the book-based tests usually arrange questions in increasing order of difficulty without regard for your skill level.
So try not to worry if you start seeing exceptionally hard questions on the real test. All that means is that you're doing well.Next: GMAT Structure >
75 minutes of math; 75 minutes of verbal; 2 essays
That's all that stands between you and 21 months in Palo Alto.
- GMAT Homepage
- 20 Questions About the GMAT
- GMAT Strategy
- GMAT Structure
- Sentence Correction
- Critical Reasoning
- Reading Comprehension
- Problem Solving
- Data Sufficiency
- GMAT Non-Standard Test Accommodations
Links to the official GMAT Web site.
First download the GMAT Information Bulletin, then schedule your exam.
Some Advice: OK, I'm clearly biased because I teach the GMAT exam, but take a GMAT prep class. If nothing else, sitting in a classroom with other test takers will motivate you to study harder.