Studying for the GMAT: When, Why, and How

(Editor’s Note: Today we welcome a guest post from Veritas Prep where they give you great advice on best practices for preparing to take the GMAT).

I have been teaching GMAT test preparation for more than nine years, and I offer you some advice, some warnings and even some hope as you take this important step toward applying to business school.

When to Study

Many students attempt to create as long a study period as possible, thinking the more time, the better.  Others underestimate the amount of time that it takes to fully prepare for the GMAT. The answer lies somewhere in between. The Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC) recently published a study that correlated the number of hours studied to overall test scores. Scores peaked around 100 hours of study over 10 to 12 weeks, and regressed thereafter, which shows that longer hours do not necessarily translate to higher scores. Thus, budget your study schedule at 100 hours for 10 to 12 weeks of study. Every two to three weeks, evaluate your progress. If you look at your progress and realize you need to take a week and just shore up algebra, for instance, then shifting your calendar by a week to focus on algebra is wise. But if you are not delaying for a specific purpose, stay on track.

Pitfall to avoid: Procrastination

Don’t delay on studying. Follow your schedule and study during the time that you designated – otherwise, you will find yourself without any time to actually study and prepare.   

What to Study

There are many authorized resources for GMAT study. Primary sources of your practice material should include the Official Guide for GMAT Review series, the GMAT Prep official practice tests, the GMAT Focus diagnostic too, and the GMAT Prep question pack add-on. These materials provide excellent for practice and they are all available on the official GMAT website, You might also want to consider a GMAT preparation course or studying from books provided by a reputable GMAT prep company. Look for study resources created by experienced experts. Beware the too-good-to-be-true practice questions and study aids that have just recently sprung up.

Pitfall to avoid: Quick fixes

Make sure you stick with tried-and-true study aids. If you have never heard of the publisher or if they make promises of vastly improved scores, avoid them. Use study materials sanctioned by GMAT or reputable test prep companies such as The Princeton Review.

How to Study

Perhaps more important than what to study, is how to study. Most students do not effectively utilize strategy and conceptual thinking in their studying practices. When you answer a practice question incorrectly, you should ask yourself: 1) Why is the right answer correct? 2) Why is the answer you selected wrong? 3) Why is the wrong answer so tempting? This last question is the one most students fail to ask, but it is arguably the most important of all. If you learn the traps you tend to fall for, you can watch out for  and avoid them.  GMAT content is substantially less difficult than people think, but most underestimate GMAT reasoning.

Pitfall to avoid: Quantity over quality

Try not to focus on hours spent and problems completed, but on learning how to take the test. The GMAT tests reasoning and critical thinking skills, processes that can evolve with reflective study. Note why you missed a problem and how the test tempted you with a wrong answer. The GMAT is not a test of what you know, but a test of how you think. As you study, pay attention to the way you think. Study not just the content of the test, but your own thought processes while taking it. Follow these tips and you will get much more out of each hour you spend studying.

About Veritas Prep: Veritas Prep is the world’s largest privately owned GMAT preparation and admissions consulting provider, offering industry-leading programs to help applicants improve their test scores and gain admission to the world’s best graduate schools. Veritas Prep offers live GMAT prep instruction in more than 80 cities worldwide, as well as interactive online courses available everywhere. Additionally, Veritas Prep offers industry-leading admissions consulting services for applicants seeking admission to the most competitive business schools in the world.