How to Start Preparing for the GMAT From Scratch

One of the most crucial decisions to make before beginning to prepare for the GMAT is to decide when is the ideal time to start preparing for the exam. You do not want to begin your prep too early and risk forgetting all that you have learned by the time your test date rolls around, yet on the other hand, you also do not want to leave your prep to the last minute and avoid giving yourself the appropriate amount of time to grasp the concepts needed to excel on the exam. Answering this question is not as straightforward and easy as it might sound. Taking the following factors into consideration will help you arrive at a better decision: your current English and Math skill set, your target GMAT score, the amount of time you can prep per week, and other similar questions. Nevertheless, with a sensible preparation strategy, one should be able to score well on the GMAT after about 3 months of dedicated preparation. 

University Requirements

Most business schools consider the GMAT as a crucial data point in the admissions process. But your GMAT score goal depends on what universities you want to gain acceptance into since every university has its own GMAT score requirement. So, it is best to begin your GMAT journey by researching the schools or programs that you wish to apply to and check out their average GMAT score for recently admitted candidates. From there, you can begin to gather some information regarding their application deadlines as this will provide you with a better idea of when to schedule your exam and how to adjust your study plan accordingly. 

GMAT Study Plan Strategies

We are great believers in one size doesn’t fit it all approach when it comes to prep, so instead of suggesting a fixed timeline you can follow while preparing for your GMAT, we thought of something else. You decide to start your prep with whichever section you like, for each section we have provided some recommendations, strategies, and tips you can incorporate in your GMAT study plan.

Time and Stress Management 

Before we get to the suggestions there are some significant factors to consider before and during your GMAT test preparation and these include time and stress management. A good start is reading a handful of blogs and articles that suggest many tips and strategies that can help you improve your time and stress management skills. If you want to learn more about how to master stress, how a private GMAT Tutoring can assist you with that, and more click Here.

GMAT Basics

Become Familiar With the GMAT Format and Content

Prepare yourself for what you are about to encounter during the next 3 months and on the day of your GMAT exam. All you need to know about the GMAT, its structure, sections, timing, scoring, and more can be found Here

Solve Some Problems

After you familiarize yourself with the GMAT structure you can move on to solving a few problems from each section. This will give you a general idea of how questions are formulated, what concepts you need to brush up on or start learning, how long it takes for you to solve them etc.

Take a Diagnostics Test

Whether you have begun your GMAT prep or are still at the starting line, you should take a diagnostic test towards the start of your prep so that you can track your progress. As the name itself suggests, the point of this test is to diagnose, based on your Quantitative, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning scores, your strengths and weaknesses. Something to keep in mind; you should take the exam under the same exact conditions as the actual GMAT exam. This is an excellent representation of how the GMAT exam is conducted. To take the GMAT practice exam click Here

Tip

Take the diagnostics test only after you have worked on some problems and you have become familiar with the GMAT format. Taking the diagnostics test without having solved any types of questions before isn’t going to be of much help. Since you probably haven’t been exposed to a format like that before, your diagnostics test score isn’t going to be very high and this might lead to you feeling more stressed (and you SHOULDN’T).

Analyze Your Results

Constantly analyzing your results during your GMAT prep is essential. While you are in the process of reviewing the results of your diagnostics test, it would be helpful to ask yourself some questions to better understand the difficulties you encountered. Take note of any patterns when analyzing the solutions of some questions you got wrong or maybe you weren’t totally confident about. What section/s did you find most challenging? Which types of questions within each section were you struggling most with? Also, don’t forget to ask yourself questions about the “bigger picture” like: Were you able to finish every section? Did you feel anxious? How did you feel at the end of the test?

This will help you decide which section and/or types of questions you should concentrate your efforts into improving, and whether you need to work on your time or stress management. 

Tip

When looking at all the questions (even the ones you got right), don’t only analyze the answer, think about what you could have done differently. In this way, you train your brain to think more critically and solve problems more efficiently, making your GMAT prep much more effective. This is applicable to all the sections. 

Quant Section

Familiarize Yourself With the GMAT Quant Section

Read up about the types of quantitative questions and content that you are most likely to come across during your 3 months of preparation, mock tests, and your GMAT test.

Review GMAT Math

Before diving deeper into preparing for this section, take some time to brush up on some of the formulas, definitions, and topics of the Math section. Make sure to not only memorize or write down the formulas but to understand why those work. So, next time you encounter a problem that requires a formula to be solved, you will be surprised how much easier it will be for you to recall the formula.

Learn the Underlying Concepts Related to Each Topic

In this section, you will come across some specific wording that can be fundamental to finding the solution to the problems. In order to avoid getting stuck during the exam and wasting your precious time, learning about the most frequently used concepts will be helpful. 

Tip

Don’t focus on only one type of question. This might sound unreasonable since we often are used to hearing that it’s more effective to concentrate on one area at a time. However, our instructors say that blocked practice is not the way you should prepare for the GMAT test. Instead, they suggest that you should aim for an interleaved practice and/or work. Alternating between the types of questions while preparing has shown to lead to enhanced long-term retention and improved capacity to transfer learned knowledge. 

Verbal Section 

Make yourself acquainted with the GMAT verbal section

A great way to start working with the verbal section is to become familiar with the overall structure of this section. To learn more about this section, how it is scored, and some insights about its subsections click Here.

Learn how to Tackle Each Type of Question

There are three types of questions in the verbal section and their purpose is to test certain skills. This means that for each of them you have to use a particular approach. Reading articles about strategies you can use to solve these types of questions can be of great help. Another practical thing to do is read about articles related to common mistakes made in the section and how to avoid them.

Read Reading Comprehension-like Articles

Besides reading articles related to tips and common mistakes, reading Reading Comprehension-like writing is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with the style and content of Reading Comprehension passages. Articles from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, Financial Times, Scientific American, and Businessweek are the best way to begin to interact with the text. You will notice that during your GMAT test, you will navigate the different sections of passages more easily. 

Integrated Reasoning Section

Become Familiar With the GMAT Integrated Reasoning Section

Get informed about how long this section lasts, what is its total number of questions, and what types of questions you will encounter. Then you can move on to learn more about its purpose and what makes this section different from the others. 

Brush up on Your Graph Reading Skills

For the most part, this section depends on the same math, verbal, and critical reasoning skills that you will need for the other sections of the GMAT. Keeping in mind that the inclusion of diverse graphs is what gives this section its uniqueness. Spend some time getting comfortable with interpreting data from various sources.

Enhance Your Knowledge of All Four Types of Questions

As you might have noticed a pattern already, reading about common mistakes, strategies, tactics, etc. for each type of question and putting them into practice is what you can do when reviewing every section of the GMAT exam.

AWA Section 

Get acquainted with the GMAT AWA section. This is the step that, as you have seen so far, applies to every section. You can’t anticipate doing well on a task without knowing what is expected from you. An introductory article regarding the AWA section can be read  here

Review sample AWA templates. This is something that might come in handy when you need to format your essays. With some modification, these templates can be used on test day. 

Don’t spend a lot of time on AWA. Since this section is not as important as the others as it doesn’t contribute to the all-important 800 score, try to not overwork yourself with this section. Writing an essay or two per week will help you get used to the structure you will use on your GMAT essay and will suffice. 

Review and Relax

During the last week don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself. Instead, try to take care of your mind and body as much as you can. One last brief review focused primarily on the sections or type of questions you struggled most with will be enough.  Finally, the most important tip, don’t forget to enjoy your GMAT preparation journey.

Bonus tip. Don’t take a lot of mock and practice tests; no one learns best under pressure. This might also sound like a counterintuitive tip to suggest but it’s the truth. Here is an article that explains why practice tests shouldn’t be overused during your GMAT prep.

 

Contributor: Uerda Muca

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