Preparing to ace your GMAT exam

If you are thinking about doing an MBA, you’ll first need to meet the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) requirement for it. It’s important to understand the purpose of the GMAT and what you’ll need to do to prepare for it.

The GMAT is developed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). It's a three and a half hour standardized test used to assess the following criteria in an applicant:
  • Analytical skills 
  • Integrated reasoning skills 
  • Quantitative skills 
  • Verbal skills 
The measurement of these skills is necessary in order to identify if the applicant will meet the intense academic requirements of an MBA.

The GMAT is not a regular test, but a computer adaptive test (CAT). This means that the test is done on a computer, and that part of the test adapts to how well or badly you perform as you complete it.

Now that you know what the GMAT is, what are some of the steps you can take to ensure you do well for it?

Prepare using the practice material

While it is important to study to ensure you are prepared to answer the different skills-based questions, it is just as important to be familiar with the structure and timing of the GMAT.

The GMAT exam is broken into four sections, which can be tackled in any order:
  • Analytical Writing Assessment - The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) presents you with an argument that you need to breakdown and critique. This component of the exam is used to test your critical thinking and communication skills. 
  • Integrated Reasoning - The Integrated Reasoning section presents you with multiple sources and formats and asks you to assess the information contained. This component of the exam is used to test your ability to thrive in a world where information is key. 
  • Quantitative - The Quantitative section presents you with mathematics questions that are roughly of a secondary school level. This component of the exam is used to test how good you are at analyzing data and drawing conclusions based on that data.
  • Verbal - The Verbal section presents you with content that tests your English skills. This component of the exam is used to test your ability to read and understand written content, assess arguments, and correct written material. 
This format will not change at all prior to the test.

The timing is another particularly important aspect because the test is structured to ensure that you spend a limited amount of time on each question. If you fail to answer different sections of the exam you will be penalized. An on-screen clock is there to help you keep track of the time spent on each question, so be sure to make the best of it.

You can accomplish all this using free online tests that use questions from past GMAT exams. The website, offers 2 free practice exams, plus a series of independent questions. Many of the test prep websites also offer free practice exams as well.

Scheduling is important

If you are juggling work or other responsibilities, do not underestimate the attention required to prepare for the GMAT. Be sure to set aside enough time beforehand so that you are properly prepared. You may need up to 12 weeks of additional studying time. Also, make sure it doesn’t overlap with any other parts of your life that may require your full attention.

Don’t ignore your weak areas

In other tests, you might be able to write off your weaker areas and focus on scoring well on your strengths. However, due to the nature of the marking system for the GMAT, you need to ensure that you attempt all questions or risk getting penalized. For questions that you don’t know the answer to, you’re better off guessing and moving on to the next one.

Before you get to writing the test, here are some common questions that applicants may ask:
  • How do I schedule a GMAT exam? You first need to create an account on the GMAT website. This allows you to register, reschedule or cancel an upcoming GMAT exam, as well as download free test preparation software. 
  • How much does it cost to take the GMAT exam? The cost to take the GMAT is US$250 globally.
  • How can I prepare to take the GMAT exam? Using the test preparation software, you can ensure you are familiar with the format and timing of the test questions. 
  • Is taking the GMAT a prerequisite to doing your MBA? The GMAT is still the most popular prerequisite test when applying for an MBA. Business schools may also accept results from the GRE, which is very similar to the GMAT but is more vocabulary intensive. 
For a more comprehensive breakdown, be sure to take a look at the official GMAT FAQ.

ESSEC is one of the world's leading business schools and offers an MBA that's highly in demand. Find out more about the ESSEC Global MBA and admission requirements here.

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