Prof. Rajeev Sreenivasan
The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is one of the big components of admissions to most business schools in the US, and some elsewhere, including in India. The best schools expect you to get a 99th percentile, which is roughly 700 out of 800. While difficult, this is not impossible: I know a young fellow from Trivandrum who got a score of 770 last year.
Incidentally, the GMAT is only one of the elements of admission: most schools will give considerable weightage to academic grades, prior work experience, the quality of the essay, and in particular, the references. In fact, some of the top schools don’t consider the GMAT at all; however, on average, it is important to do well in it.
The key to cracking the GMAT is consistent preparation. The average student has to devote at least three months of solid preparation to get a good score. A lot of the preparation is in getting familiar with the content of the test and its format, so that taking the actual test becomes a smooth and routine task, and you can concentrate on the actual questions. Thus, it is important to do as many practice tests as possible. I would suggest doing thirty tests, with a stopwatch, so that you get used to pacing yourself correctly.
The test is conducted online, and is ‘computer-adaptive’, that is, the system will give you questions based on your performance in prior questions; so the first thing you need to do would be to go to mba.com, the official site of the GMAT, and understand the main structure of the exam: Analytical Writing Assessments, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal. The latter two account for the majority of the questions, and have 75 minutes each, while the first two are shorter, at 30 minutes each.
On the same site, you can download the free GMATprep test preparation software that will give you a feel for how the actual exam works. Naturally, you can buy additional materials for a fee; but the free materials will give you a good start, and also an idea of what you might actually score in the test. Beyond this, you can purchase test preparation books from Flipkart or Amazon ranging from about Rs. 700 to Rs. 2000 for the Official Guide for GMAT Review.
A structured program for doing well in the GMAT would divide up the three months as follows. During the first month, it would be a good idea to get familiar with the GMAT structure, and to understand your strengths and weaknesses.
In the second month, you should keep close track of your progress, including noting the wrong answers that have tripped you. In addition to focusing on the areas of weakness, it is important to rotate among the various sections of the test.
In the third month, you should go into high gear, and take at least two practice tests every week, if not more. In particular, practice the reading comprehension and the Integrated Reasoning sections. But don’t burn yourself out.
At the end of this hard preparation, you should go into the computerized test with confidence, as you have done the best you can.
Prof. Rajeev Sreenivasan, Director, AsianSchool of Business