How To Prepare For Gmat: The Complete GMAT Preparation Guide

gmat, gmat preparation, gmat 2010, mba 2010I have been receiving a lot of questions lately from MBA 2010 aspirants about how to prepare for GMAT, when to take GMAT, how much time should one take for GMAT preparation, which books to refer for GMAT, what is the best GMAT preparation material, how to prepare GMAT quant/ verbal, how to select business schools, how to write MBA admission essays, etc. I decided to write a comprehensive guide on GMAT preparation and answer all questions related to GMAT preparation and application process (but for more information keep surfing through our GMAT Blog), especially because the time to reserve a date for writing GMAT this year has really arrived. As the first application deadline for most of the business schools falls in October, you should be ready by then. And since you need around two months to write, edit, and give shape to your admission essays (5 essays per bschool), you should ideally take GMAT by July end or first week of August. That means starting with your preparations right now. Although I took my GMAT without much preparation and scored a 770, I think I managed to pull it off because I went through the right material (Official Guide for GMAT and 1000 files) and because I was preparing for CAT so rest of the things were taken care of automatically. The first step in this direction would be to acquaint yourself with the GMAT-
test pattern and duration.


The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a Computer-Adaptive standardized test in mathematics and the English language for measuring aptitude to succeed academically in graduate business studies. The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section is the first section to be answered. Then the Quantitative section and the Verbal Ability section follow respectively. Test takers answer questions in each of the three tested areas, and there are also two optional breaks; in general,
the test takes about four hours to complete. The maximum score that can be achieved on the exam is 800. Scores are valid for five years (at most institutions) from the date the test taker sits for the exam until the date of matriculation (i.e. acceptance, not until the date of application).


The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section of the test consists of two essays. In the first, the student must analyze an argument and in the second the student must analyze an issue. Each essay
must be written within 30 minutes and is scored on a scale of 0-6. The essay is read by two readers who each mark the essay with a grade from 0-6, in 0.5 point increments with a mean score of 4.1. If the two scores are within one point of each other, they are averaged. If there is more than one point difference, the essays are read by a third reader.

Quantitative Section

The quantitative section consists of 37 multiple choice questions, which must be answered within 75 minutes. There are two types of questions: problem solving and data sufficiency. The quantitative section is scored from 0 to 60 points.

Verbal Section

The verbal section consists of 41 multiple choice questions, which must be answered within 75 minutes. There are three types of questions: sentence correction, critical reasoning, and reading comprehension. The verbal section is scored from 0 to 60 points.

Computer-Adaptive Test

The quantitative and verbal sections comprise a computer-adaptive test. The first question may be difficult. The next few questions in each section may be around the 500 level. If the examinee answers correctly, the next questions are harder. If the examinee answers incorrectly, the next questions are easier. The questions are pulled from a large pool of questions and delivered depending on the student’s running score. These questions are regularly updated to prevent them from being compromised by students recording questions. The final score is not based solely on the last question the examinee answers (i.e. – the level of difficulty of questions reached through the computer-adaptive presentation of questions). The algorithm used to build a score is more complicated than that. The examinee can make a silly mistake and answer incorrectly and the computer will recognize that item as an anomaly. If the examinee misses the first question his score will not necessarily fall in the bottom half of the range.

Also, questions left blank (that is, those not reached) hurt the examinee more than questions answered incorrectly. Each test section also includes several experimental questions, which do not count toward the examinee’s score, but are included to judge the appropriateness of the item for future administrations.

Before the GMAT exam begins, the computer will ask you which schools you would like your scores forwarded to. You get five schools included in the cost of the test, and any others will cost you $25 each. That means you should spend some time researching the schools even during the preparation for the written exam. You should have some basic sort of shortlist before writing the GMAT.

You can elect not to have your scores forwarded to any schools. After you have seen your scores (you get them immediately after finishing the test), you can then pay $25 each to have them sent to the schools you choose.

Your GMAT score is valid for five years, so you have the flexibility of “banking it”—choosing to start your graduate studies right after university or later on.Remember, if at first you don’t succeed, you can take the GMAT exam again. Remember, though, that all of your GMAT scores from the past 5 years will appear on your Official Score Report.

How Much Work Experience is Ideal for Taking the GMAT?

The ideal time to write the GMAT would be when you have 3- 4 years of work experience while writing the exam. That ways, you would add an additional one year of work experience from the time of writing the test to the time of joining your Bschool. Many freshers want to write GMAT during their final year itself. Their logic is that since GMAT is valid for 5 years, they can apply later in their life. I do not think it is advisable. I do not know how much relevance bschools place on a 4 year old GMAT score but I would not like to take a chance. The more recent your GMAT score, the better it is. Therefore, unless you want to apply to bschools taking freshers thorough GMAT scores, better not to take GMAT as a fresher.

Ok. I Know About the GMAT. How Do I Start?

The first thing you should do is to download and write a diagnostic computer-adaptive test from HERE. The test is exactly similar to the one you get during your real GMAT. This is a standard test so you can really match your scores. Not only that, it gives you full idea about the type of questions that you are going to see in your real GMAT.

Book Your GMAT Date

Once you have decided to take the GMAT, book your GMAT date as soon as possible over HERE. If you are planning to take it in July, you will have to book 2-3 months in advance as dates fill up soon during this month. For GMAT takers in Delhi, if you do not find a date at test center in Delhi, try the test center at Allahabad.

Should I join a Coaching Class for GMAT

Hardly necessary. As GMAT is an expensive exam, you would rarely find instructors who have taken it and scored well. Even if you can find, it is useless to go for coaching when you can prepare very well through books and online forums. They are a wealth of information. Fortunately, GMAT is a predictable exam. Once you are through with the basic syllabus (for which good books are again available), you only need practice, practice and practice to improve your score. You have enough material at your disposal to do that without joining any classroom program. Self-study is the key if you want to prepare well for GMAT.

Preparation Material

Once you know about the test, it’s time to start with your preparation. Buy the following essential preparation material (Read the reviews by clicking on the individual links). Although these books are expensive, remember that they will save you a lot of money that you will spend in joining useless classroom programs. And even then you will have to buy many of these. OG 11 or OG 12 (Must Have) Kaplan GMAT 2010-2011 Premier Kaplan Math Workbook Some Basic book on statistics Manhattan Sentence Correction Guide Manhattan Critical Reasoning GMAT Preparation Guide Kaplan GMAT Verbal Workbook Princeton GMAT Verbal Workout The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review Test CDs from GMAT, Kaplan, Princeton PowerPrep Tests (Download Here)   The following free material is to be used also: Dagny Taggart’s Ultimate Guide to GMAT (For Sentence correction fundas) Analysis of an issue and analysis of an argument files 1000 SC 1000 RC 1000 CR 1000 DS Some Permutation, Combination and Probability Material Our Verbal Lessons

Basic Study Strategy

Your GMAT preparation should ideally take 2.5- 3.5 months. Therefore, you should time yourself accordingly on finishing the above material in the specified time. Spend around 3 hours everyday during the weekdays and 6- 7 hours on weekends. You should also plan on taking one test each week. These are the following tests you are going to take (in that order): GMATPrep1 (Diagnostic) Kaplan Diagnostic Kaplan CAT 1- 5 PowerPrep1 PowerPrep2 GMATPrep2 GMAT Prep test (just before the actual GMAT) would be the best predictor of your actual GMAT score. Ignore all the scores of Kaplan tests. The tests are good for practice but do not read much into their scores. Somebody in an Amazon review had mentioned that using the Kaplan tests is like an athlete training at altitude – it makes the real thing feel easier. Just stay away from Kaplan tests in the last couple of weeks before your actual GMAT so that you don’t lose your confidence. You should start your studies with tackling Math workbooks, The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review and Official Guide to GMAT first. Try to study one topic each day, whether Quant or Verbal, and finish it off completely. However, when you move on, still do 10 questions a day for each previous section you’ve done. The Official Guide has questions asked in the previous tests so you get a good practice of what to expect. The questions are also of relatively easy level so they are good for a start. After that, finish the Manhattan and Kaplan books and move on to 1000 files as soon as you can. Once you have arrived at the 1000 files, try to do a set of 20 questions each from 1000 SC, CR, RC, PS and DS files. Keep marking the questions that you get wrong to come back to them later. IMPORTANT! Whether you are solving the Official Guide or the 1000 files, always solve a set of 20 questions in 40 minutes (Increase it to 40 questions in 80 minutes once you are comfortable). The most crucial part of your studies is to mark each questions under the following headings (wherever applicable)- Time (For a set of 20/40 questions) Answer Choice Marked Slow Unsure Correct Wrong Careless error Concept error After attempting each set have a look at the answers for the review. Each question that you get wrong try to solve it again without looking at the solution. Also, mark the question so that you can come back to it later. The time to solve a question correctly is the most important aspect of your preparation. You have to gradually reduce it to 1-1.5 minutes per question. Also, to increase your stamina you have to move on from a set of 20 questions to a set of 40 questions in each topic. Post your doubts in our GMAT Quant Forum and GMAT Verbal Forum to get them solved.

Preparation for Application Process

Although the real commotion for the application process will start after you have taken the GMAT, you will have to lay some groundwork for the admission process during your preparation for the written exam itself. In the beginning of your written test, You will have to give names of 5 bschools you want your scores sent for free. That means you should have done some research to shortlist 5 bschools based on your predicted GMAT score, your choice of mba specialization, profiles of admitted students to those bschools, average expenditure of studying at those bschools etc. Not only that, you should also start giving thoughts to some common admission essays questions such as Why MBA? Your long-term and short-term goals Your leadership experience Your team experience The answers to these question will take a lot of thought and the deeper and longer you think about them, the better.

The D-Day

Locate the center one or two days before the D-day. If you own a car, try locating the parking space. Reach early. Carry some chocolates to eat during the breaks. Carry ear plugs to avoid noise distractions during your test. Take extra pains to get your first 15 questions right. Do not waste too much time on a question. Make an educated guess and move on. The questions would be like the ones you have seen in OG. But do not let it make you commit stupid errors. If you feel tired during the test, relax, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths. Then continue again.

Score and Admission Process

You will receive your score immediately after the test is over. After your score comes out, another uphill process will start- that of shortlisting bschools, writing admission essays, collecting recommendations, transcripts etc. Without getting irritated or flustered take it in your stride. It’s a natural step in the direction of your dreams so take it confidently.

Should I Get Professional Help in Writing my Essays?

No. Most professional writers just recycle essays that they have written for someone else previously. Even if they don’t recycle, their essays are too predictable and professional; they would fail to represent your story truthfully. You are in danger of being spotted by a skilled admission committee member for having your essay written by someone else. Your best bet is to take the help of these following books for your admission consulting and then get your essays reviewed by a friend and a colleague. To be frank, I did the same. I think these books helped me a lot to project my story skillfully. How To Get Into the Top MBA Programs MBA Admissions Strategy: From Profile Building to Essay Writing Ivy League Admission: 180 Successful Business School (MBA) Essays

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About Dagny

Dagny Taggart It was a great chase, with Dagny chasing the bulls and bears of the stock market, and the TG team chasing her. The good news- the ass won! Dagny Taggart joined the education industry a couple of summers back, and this winter when the MBA prep world lost her to a top Indian bank, TG noticed. We noticed, because she was the finest repository of B-School info on this side of the equator. Her files on business schools ran into gigabytes, and we were more than keen to provide her with extra RAMs. Presenting Dagny Taggart, the TG B-School Maven.

2 thoughts on “How To Prepare For Gmat: The Complete GMAT Preparation Guide

  1. Thanks for such a nice article maa’ has surely helped allay my concerns..i will surely abide by the advice given 🙂

  2. Hi,

    I’m a GMAT aspirant. I do have almost 9.7 years of work experience. I planned for GMAT in yesteryear but somehow didn’t manage. My basic need is too narrow. I want to apply mostly in 1 year MBA programs offered by IIMs, ISB, The South Asian B-Schools. My basic query is how much I’m suited into the course as I feel I have older to be appeared.

    Also, can anyone help me out with the list of global B schools who offers only the 1 year program and also their FT rankings.

    Thanks & Regards
    Supratik De

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