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Building a GMAT Study Plan: a 5-Step Approach

student-computerAs the proverb goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The same is true of preparing for the GMAT. Of course, if you start walking in the wrong direction, that journey may end up being much longer than a thousand miles. And with well over a hundred individual math and verbal topics to prepare for, finding the right direction to take can be a real challenge.

So with that in mind, here is a 5 step road map to help you navigate your way to your GMAT score goal.

Take Your Bearings

Before you open up a study guide or start working through practice questions, you need to understand where you’re starting from, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what lies ahead for you on your GMAT journey. The best way to gauge all of this is to take a full-length simulated GMAT exam.

The official GMAT preparation software, GMATPrep, is available for download at It contains two free, full-length computer adaptive tests with the same format as the real exam. These tests will give you a sense of the fast-paced nature of the GMAT, the mental endurance required for a 3½ hour exam, and the variety and difficulty of questions you will have to master.

After completing an exam, you will receive a full score break down and be able to review your mistakes. Take note of your score and use it to track your progress in the future.

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

The questions on the GMAT can be difficult and tricky in a number of different ways. However, the challenge will be herculean if you lack the fundamentals, especially in math. If “8×12” has you reaching for a calculator, it’s time to review the 12-times table. Basic arithmetic and algebra should be as natural as the alphabet by the time you step into the test center.

In additional to these fundamentals, you will also need to review some grade 9 and 10 theory. For the Verbal section of the GMAT, this means grammar. You should familiarize yourself with the parts of speech and some of the commonly tested rules on the GMAT. For Math, there’s a long list of formulas and rules you will be expected to know.

Knowledge Without Wisdom

Knowing your theory will allow you to get a lot of GMAT questions correct. However, there are usually several ways to get to the right answer. And because you get very limited time on the GMAT, it’s important that you find the most efficient way to tackle the various questions you will encounter.

As you work through practice GMAT questions, you should focus on developing re-usable strategies that will help you save time, conserve energy, and preserve accuracy. Maybe you make a list of recurring trap answers in Critical Reasoning and focus on eliminating these first. Perhaps you develop a standardized way to map out and solve rate questions. The process is as integral to success as the theory.

Or to paraphrase a certain adage: Proper Process Prevents Poor Performance.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice makes perfect: drill yourself on fundamentals, work on untimed practice questions, time yourself on a set of questions, and write more full-length simulated exams. Keep in mind that you should, as much as possible, be working on real GMAT questions.

There are numerous sources of official questions available. The Official Guide for GMAT Review has 800 practice questions while the GMAT Quantitative and Verbal Review books each have 300 questions. The freely available GMATPrep software comes with 90 practice questions as well as two full-length exams; it can be supplemented with purchased question pack and exam pack add-ons.

There are thousands of questions of real practice questions out there – and that should be your goal!

Focus and Finish

No matter how well prepared you are, exam day will be stressful. Be sure to schedule the exam for the time of day you usually feel most productive. Book at least a couple of weeks in advance to make sure you get the time slot you want.

On exam day, get to the test centre extra early to avoid having to rush through the sign-in process. Above all, relax! If you followed a thorough study plan, there shouldn’t be any surprises.

Jason Hornosty is a travel enthusiast with an academic background in physics and philosophy. He is currently helping students to achieve their postgraduate aspirations as a GMAT, GRE and LSAT instructor for Quantum Test Prep.

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