10 min

What is GMAT and how to pass it

GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is universally recognized to be one of the hardest international exams.

Its results are accepted by most business schools worldwide, in particular, in the US (Stanford, Yale, MIT), France (HEC Paris), Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and many other countries.

StudyFree Ambassador Anna Agurina is currently preparing for GMAT, and is willing to tell about the exam details and share her insights about preparation strategy.

How GMAT works

Candidates take the GMAT in specialized centers, in English language. At least Upper-Intermediate level is required: if your current level is lower, it would be better to improve your command of language before starting the active preparation stage. Also, you will need specific vocabulary (e.g. mathematical terms) in order to pass the exam. 

The GMAT exam consists of four main sections, and takes a total of 3.5 hours to complete:

Analytical Writing Assessment — 0-6 points (30 minutes). 

Integrated Reasoning — 1-8 points (30 minutes).

Quantitative — 0-60 points (75 minutes).

Verbal — 0-60 points (75 minutes).

The total result is made by adding up the results of the Verbal and Quantitative sections. These are the parts that most universities pay attention to - but this does not mean you can neglect preparing for the other two sections. The maximum score you can achieve is 800 points. The exam results are valid for 5 years.

What do you need it for 

You need to pass GMAT if you intend to enter any Master’s program related to finance, business administration, running start-ups or business ventures: the GMAT results are accepted by business schools worldwide.

What is the cost to take GMAT

In order to take GMAT, you have to register at the official MBA site, choose the testing center, and pay for the exam. The price is $250.

If you have registered to take the exam on a particular date, but find out you will not be able to appear, you may postpone the exam. Changing the exam date is possible on the web site or by phone: the price of the call is $10. If you postpone at least a week before the exam date, you will have to pay $50. If the exam is less than a week away, you won't be able to postpone it - you will have to pay for the next appointment in full.

How to prepare for GMAT

  1. Make a list of schools that you are interested in applying to. The cost of the GMAT exam includes sending the exam results to five schools of your choice on the day of passing the exam in the testing center. On any other day, you will be charged for sending the result. Sending the test results to an additional school costs $28 (even if you named, say, only 3 schools out of free five on the testing day).
  2. Indicate the GMAT score and additional requirements for each university.
  3. Visit MBA strategy web site and download a sample GMAT test. This interactive test, presented in electronic format, takes 3.5 hours to complete. 
  4. Analyze the test results. Don’t be taken aback if your score is yet far from the Stanford admission level. A student having Upper-intermediate level of English usually needs about 3-4 months to increase the score by 150 points. Thorough preparation means spending at least three hours three times a week. According to experts, you should start preparing at least half a year before the exam.

Useful resources

If you have limited financial resources, look for useful articles, tests, and tasks at MBA Strategy, GMAT Test, and MBA web sites.

I recommend you buy GMAT Official guide books for preparing to the exam. On the MBA web site a three-book set (official guide, quantitative review, verbal review) plus access to the online question bank costs $69.99. Official guide (as a separate book) costs $39.99. Premium package comprising 11 products for preparation goes for $329. A viable alternative is a Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy book series, elaborating in detail the features of each test part.

You can also make use of certain mobile apps, like Manhattan Prep GMAT, GMAT Prep and Practice, or GMAT TestBank by Allen Prep. The obvious advantage here is that you don’t need to haul guides and workbooks - everything you need is right here in your phone. Some apps include a small set of free test questions and grant access to a significantly larger question collection upon purchasing a monthly or yearly subscription.

If you somewhat lack self-discipline, you may sign up for paid courses or engage a private tutor online.

How to improve your results

Race against time. When taking the exam, every minute counts. Learn to allot exactly two minutes for each question: read the question on the screen, solve it on a sheet of paper, and type in your answer.

Learn to properly use your paper. GMAT is different from the written exam in that the solutions must be entered into a computer. You have no time for underlining, circling, or writing comments. It is a crucial skill to transfer necessary information from the screen to the paper sheet without losing precious moments.

Solve the full GMAT regularly. At least once a fortnight. A common first-timers’ mistake is to solve individual questions without going through the whole process. Imagine competing in a figure skating event. Without regular exercise, your strength and stamina would not stand up to the task. It’s the same with your brain: if you don’t put it to the test at least twice a month, it will simply go down under pressure.

Plan out your strategy beforehand. Schedule the time and find a dedicated area for studying. You have zero chances of successfully rushing the preparation, so don’t put it off!

What to do if you fail

Any result adds up to your experience. If your score is not enough, you may retake GMAT up to five times per year (but not more than once every month), up to 8 times in a lifetime.

Before signing up for retaking the exam, think how you can improve your results. I recommend to wait at least a month before your next attempt. This will give you time to eliminate some deficiencies in your preparation.

Author: Anna Agurina


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