GMAT Tips & Strategy
There is only one sure way to master the GMAT: master the content tested on the GMAT. However, there are certain tips and strategies that can help boost your score and maximize the effectiveness of your study time. Before delving into these tips and strategies, we strongly recommend that you have a grasp of the GMAT question types and your specific weaknesses. This will improve your GMAT prep and score.
Section Specific Tips
- Master the Fundamentals (Especially for the Quantitative and Sentence Correction Questions)
There is no substitute for simply knowing the content. No number of tips or gimmicks can produce a 700 score if you do not understand prime numbers and complicated subject-verb agreement. There is only one way to guarantee a good score on the GMAT: learn the content.
- Mastered Questions Are Better Than More Questions
There is a common belief that simply by working more questions, your GMAT score will improve. However, it is not working more questions that translates into a better score, it is mastering questions that translates into a higher score. It is essential that you re-do missed questions a few times over a period of a few weeks to ensure you do not repeat the mistake on test day.
- Practice Under Timed Constraints
Although it is permissible to practice without time constraints in order to learn the content, you must spend most of your practice time working problems under timed circumstances. This is essential because the GMAT is timed and you cannot expect your performance on an un-timed GMAT practice test to mirror your performance on a timed GMAT test.
- Practice With A CAT Format Test
The GMAT test-writers sell old paper copies of the GMAT (i.e., copies of old GMAT exams before the test became a CAT format exam). Although these provide some value, it is important to practice under conditions as close to the conditions under which you will actually take the GMAT. Consequently, you should spend the overwhelming majority of your study time taking CAT-format practice tests.
- Take Numerous Practice Exams
Although working drill problems is important, it is crucial that you develop the stamina necessary to take the GMAT. Moreover, taking numerous practice exams is the best means to practice your pacing and time management on the GMAT.
- Finish Every Section at All Costs
It is absolutely essential to answer every question. The GMAT test-writers explicitly state that "there is a severe penalty for not completing the GMAT test."1 Unanswered questions are more costly than a wrong answer. Consequently, if you are not on pace to finish and one minute is left, drop everything and finish the test by guessing at random.
- Take Optional Breaks
There are two optional breaks (one between the AWA and quantitative sections and another between the quantitative and verbal sections) and you should certainly take these. Since the GMAT is a grueling exam, it is important to take the break time to clear your mind and regain your mental stamina.
- Take 15 Second "Mini-Breaks"
Most humans cannot focus intently for 75 consecutive minutes. Consequently, it is important to take mini-breaks between some questions in order to ensure you do not make careless mistakes.
- Maximize Break Time
In order to maximize your break time, if you finish any section early, instead of clicking in your final answer with time left, rest in your chair while the time ticks down and click in your answer with 30 seconds left.
- Read Directions Carefully (Looking for Traps)
There is little doubt that this is one of the most important tips for scoring high on the GMAT. Many students know the content, but become nervous and make numerous careless errors. Consequently, you must read directions carefully looking for traps the GMAT test-writers set for you (e.g., trying to trick you into believing a number can only be an integer when it could also be a decimal number).
- Pace Wisely-Do Not Be Stubborn With Difficult Questions
Although it is mentally difficult to admit defeat, click in an answer you are unsure about, and move onto the next question. This is one of the most important mental disciplines to develop. Individuals who spend too much time on a question will hurt their score by putting enormous time pressure on later questions (e.g., spending more than 3 minutes on three questions will likely be enough to put you in a time crunch later on). The pain of stubborn refusal to move on to the next question is doubled by the fact that spending exorbitant time on a question often fails to pay off with a correct answer. GMAT questions are designed such that you should be able to solve them in two minutes without tedious calculations. The worst part of draining your time on a question you likely will miss anyway is the fact that you are stealing time from future questions you know how to do and could answer correctly (presuming you have time left). In order to move on from difficult questions you are spending too much time on, it is helpful to think "if I keep working on this question, I will have to guess on later problems that I can easily and correctly solve with two minutes of time." In addition, decide before going in that you will take an educated guess on 2 math and 3 verbal questions (or some similar combination). Doing this helps free you from the mental agony of giving up, which is especially difficult for students desiring a high score.
- Eliminate Wrong Answers and Guess
If you are unsure about what answer is correct, do not guess at random. Look for answers that you know are wrong, eliminate them, and take an educated guess.