Each person has unique abilities. So, the time for GMAT preparation varies from person to person. If you are well proficient in the basic concepts and just need to work on the GMAT type of questions, then you may be able to prepare for GMAT in a shorter period of time. On the other hand, if you struggle with basic concepts in Math or Verbal skills, then you would need more time and effort to reach your target score.
The GMAT exam costs USD 250 to take and the scores are valid for five years. So, it is best to plan and prepare well before you take the GMAT. If you have decided to take the GMAT, here are 5 common best practices that you can use to get the most out of your time and effort.
The GMAC does not have many GMAT eligibility criteria. One of the few criteria mentioned by GMAC is the one about age requirement. Although there is no upper age limit for candidates, any candidate between the age of 13 and 17 years should have a written permission from a parent or a legal guardian. Also, a currently valid (not expired) passport is the only accepted ID proof in India.
The GMAT has four main sections – The Analytical Writing Assessment section or AWA (essay), the Integrated Reasoning section (IR), the Verbal section, and the Quantitative section. Let’s look at the details of each section.
|GMAT Test Section||# of Questions||Question Types||Timing|
|Analytical Writing Assessment||1 Topic||Analysis of Argument||30 Minutes|
|Integrated Reasoning||12 Questions||Multi-Source Reasoning
|Quantitative||31 Questions||Data Sufficiency
|Verbal||36 Questions||Reading Comprehension
|Total Exam Time,
not including breaks or tutorials
|3 hours, 7 minutes|
When you take the GMAT, you have the option to choose the order in which you will attempt the sections. Some students feel their math abilities are strong, so they will start with the quantitative section to build their confidence. Other students may want to tackle the verbal section when they are fresh and start with that section. Still, others may want to ease into the exam and will decide to begin with the Analytical Writing Assessment section. The default option is Order #1, so if you plan to choose any other order, you would need to do so quickly before the time runs out.
|Order #1||Order #2||Order #3|
|Analytical Writing Assessment||Verbal||Quantitative|
|Optional 8-minute Break|
|Optional 8-minute Break|
|Verbal||Integrated Reasoning||Integrated Reasoning|
|Analytical Writing Assessment||Analytical Writing Assessment|
In the Analytical Writing Assessment section of the essay, you have to analyze an argument and identify the flaws in the argument. It is scored on a range of 0 to 6, with 0.5 point increments.
The Integrated Reasoning section tests both your math and verbal skills and can be thought of as a test of data interpretation and logical reasoning. The Integrated Reasoning section is scored on a scale of 1 to 8 in 1-point increments.
The quant and the verbal sections are computer adaptive. This means that test takers begin with a question of medium difficulty. The difficulty level of the questions then changes in real time, based on your performance. Let us understand how this works? When you answer a question correctly, the next question will be of the same difficulty level or a higher difficulty level. On the other hand, if you answer a question incorrectly, the next question will be of the same difficulty level or a lower difficulty level. You cannot skip a question or move to any other question during the exam. This is because the computer uses your performance on the current question to determine the difficulty level of the next question.
For the verbal and quant sections, your final score depends on the number of questions you answer, the number of questions you get correct, and the difficulty level of the questions you answer. You will not be told about the difficulty level of each question. Approximately 25% of the questions in each section will be unscored as the test creator is just testing out those questions. These are called experimental questions and these are also not identifiable during the exam and can be of any difficulty. If you run out of time and are unable to complete all the questions in a section, there is a penalty for that on the GMAT. The raw quant and the verbal scores are each scaled to score in the range of 6 to 51. The quant and verbal scores are then combined for a final scaled score ranging from 200 to 800.
GMAT scores have a percentile ranking associated with them and the percentile rankings keep changing over time. A score of 37 in verbal has a percentile ranking of 82% while a score of 44 in quant has a percentile ranking of only 48%. The percentile rank refers to the percentage of people who have scored less than you. For example, if your score is in the 95th percentile – this means that you have scored more than 95% of the people taking the exam.
The time that you have available to prepare depends on the application deadlines. Application deadlines vary depending on the country or program or intake (the academic year for which you are applying) you are looking at also. Do some research and be aware of the application deadlines. Many universities have more than one round of applications but it is always better to apply early. Also remember that GMAT score is only one part of the application- your application essays, academic background and scores, letters of recommendation, work experience, extracurricular interests, and interview performance are all important parts of your application. Work backward from your application deadlines to see how much time you have for GMAT preparation.
Take a GMAT mock test to understand the GMAT exam and assess your current level of preparation. You can utilize the free GMAT sample paper provided by Manya-The Princeton Review for this. Based on the score and your preference you can decide if you want to join a class (you have a wide range of choices for face to face GMAT courses, or you can choose GMAT online courses. You can even go the self-prep route using online resources and books.
Whichever method you choose make sure that it is reliable and standardized material, reflective of the actual GMAT. When you practice ensure that you always time it – this will help you get over the time panic during exams and also help you reach your target time for each question type. Make sure you review any practice that you do and use an error log. An error log can help you analyze your weak areas and thus your practice will be more effective. Have a section wise targeted strategy to ensure score improvement. If you are retaking your GMAT, you can choose to buy the Enhanced Score Report (ESR).
Analyzing the ESR can help you identify issues you may have had with pacing and content knowledge during your previous attempt. Remember to practice for both content and technique to ace the GMAT.
Taking properly timed, full length practice tests is an important part of GMAT preparation. You can even purchase GMAT test series for more practice. After taking the test, review it thoroughly to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Practice tests can help you develop strategies about when/how to guess and how to catch up when you are running short on time. Always time yourself while taking full length tests and attempt every section of the test. This can help you get a better understanding of your endurance and concentration levels. Start using your strategies in the practice tests and fine tune them as you go.
These tips will help you make the most effective and efficient use of the time that you have available for practice. Work smart and ace the GMAT!
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