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GMAT – How to study for the GMAT

Please notice this was first posted in the period 2012-2014 and can be outdated

Just over 2 weeks ago I did my GMAT as you could read here. I received the unofficial score of 680 right away and last week I also got a score of 5.5 for my AWA. Today I would like to give some tips for people who still need to start studying for the GMAT. In total I spend 110 hours studying for the GMAT, spread over  4 months.

GMAT results after 110 hours of studying

Set goals:

First thing to think about before starting to study is what score you are aiming for. In Thailand most universities require a score of 550 or higher, while the average score of the top-5 US universities is around 700-710. Of course it would be nice to score really high, but do you really need it? If you already have an interesting resume and are not an over-represented group in local MBAs, you might not need to put in the effort to score well above 550.

Secondly you should think about the time you have available to study. I would recommend to study intensively for a short period. It took me 4 months before I took my test, and looking back I could have better spend about 2 months doing 10-15 hours a week. To monitor if you reach this goal it might be helpful to write down the time you put in exactly. I did this by always record my starting and stopping time which resulted in a detailed study progress overview.

Keeping an eye on the exact amount of minutes I studied for the GMAT

Don’t be cheap when buying study books:

To study for the GMAT I used the Princeton Review, the Kaplan GMAT Premier, and the Official Guide for GMAT review books. This resulted in a total investment of less than EUR 100 but I think each book helped me in a different way. Besides, an MBA is costing a lot more so spending 100 euros on preparation material is peanuts.

Peace to the pile of GMAT books

The Princeton review is the perfect book to start with. It is easy to read, gives some smart answering strategies, and some easy problems to get warmed up with.

After the Princeton review I would recommend picking up the Kaplan GMAT Premier. This book goes more into detail and discusses harder problems. If you made notes while reading the Princeton review, you can complete your notes with this book.

My study notes, nicely written by hand

Finally you should go through the three Official guide for GMAT review books. These books mainly consist of test questions (just over 1400 in total) and will give the perfect opportunity to really understand how to tackle the questions on the real test. Also, don’t forget to study the answers given in the book, even if you had the question answered correctly.

If you are aiming for a really high score you should consider specific books with test questions you might get in the highest range (700+).

Do as many practice tests as possible:

Most books also have online content where you can do a practice test and get a score. I would advice to make as many practice tests as possible as this will teach you how to pace yourself and keep your focus. I was unable to access the practice tests from the Kaplan book (they forgot to give clear instructions how to access them), but I did make the 4 tests which are accessible when you buy the Princeton review.

My practice GMAT results from the Princeton Review (570-620-620-640)

No stress on test day:

One thing I always focus on when test day is coming up is that I prepare everything well. So I find out where I need to go, how to go, and leave enough time for possible delays. I double check that all necessary items are ready (caffeine drinks, travel schedule, identification, etc) and go to bed on time. Experiencing stress while going to the test center is something that can have a huge negative influence on your performance.

And finally: HAVE FUN 

It might seem difficult, but when you like what you are doing it goes a lot easier. So instead of seeing the studying as some sort of homework, see it more as a test to see if you can outsmart the test makers; they think of hard questions to corner you, but you solve them and laugh in their faces.