Take the GMAT Successfully

by Kevin on August 29, 2009

take the gmat

(Photo by activefree)

I finished my MBA program earlier this month. It was the culmination of two years of night classes and homework practically every weekend. Finishing my MBA was tough, but I am really happy I did it.

For those of you interested in getting your Masters in Business Administration you likely face the task of taking the GMAT.

Take the GMAT

GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test. The GMAT is the standardized test that many schools require as an entrance exam. I say many schools because there are some schools that don’t require an entrance exam and instead have stricter job experience requirements.

Taking the GMAT is an interesting experience. GMAC, the Graduate Management Admission Council, is in charge of creating and scoring the tests. They outsource the physical testing to various locations around the country. These testing locations provide secure, computerized testing for all kinds of programs (MCAT, GMAT, etc.).

Prepare for the GMAT

There is no sense in taking an expensive standardized test if you have not prepared well for it. To successfully complete the GMAT with a high score you need to set up a training schedule. Preparing for this test is like running a marathon. You are not in a sprint and beginning to study a week before the test will likely result in disaster.

To be best prepared to take the GMAT I recommend you first purchase a recent GMAT Review book. When I was preparing to take the GMAT in 2007 I used The Official Guide for GMAT Review, 11th Edition. I bought the book, studied, then sold the book on Amazon. (Thankfully there is always a fresh supply of folks wanting to enhance their careers with an MBA degree!) It was the most recent edition at the time and appears to still be the most recent edition.

I would recommend you get the most recent edition of the review book because the GMAC changes the test every so often. I’m thinking the changes are not that significant from year to year. If you are willing to risk being unprepared to take the GMAT then you can consider buying an older edition to save a few dollars. As it stands the 11th Edition I mentioned above is only $26 at Amazon and comes with free shipping. If you’re going to spend a few hundred dollars on taking the test should probably consider spending $26 to get the real review book.

Create a GMAT Study Schedule

Once you’ve got your review book you will be able to tell what topics the GMAT test will cover. Remember this is a standardized test. The topics aren’t from an undergraduate business degree. The test doesn’t ask in-depth accounting, economics, or finance questions. The reason for this is there are many people that do not have a business background that want to get their MBA to diversify their skills. One of the “best” combination of skills would be an undergraduate engineering degree and an MBA. Since the engineer doesn’t have a business background it would be unfair (and unprofitable for GMAC) to test on more advanced business topics.

Instead the topics and the GMAT are more focused on basic skills like reading comprehension, analytical writing, problem solving, and critical thinking. The quantitative section is the math section and has topics as basic as geometry. What does geometry have to do with the true business world? Absolutely nothing. But they ask you about it so you had better be prepared! (Note: I am not good at geometry.)

I highly recommend that you set up a study schedule to best prepare you to take the GMAT. Give yourself a lot of time to study — we are talking months here. Plan out topics on a nightly or weekly schedule. This will take a lot of discipline and you can easily get discouraged studying for the GMAT. (I am speaking from experience here.) Get an accountability partner that will force you to stick to your schedule. I would even recommend putting something on the line. For example you might promise your wife you will do the dishes all week if you fall off the studying wagon.

Trust me this is something you will need because you will start out all excited and then about two weeks in to studying remember that you hate geometry and want to quit. Don’t stop your studying!

Obviously to set out a schedule you will need to schedule a day to take the GMAT. Once you have your confirmed test date in hand you can set up your study schedule to lead up to test day.

Prepare to Take the GMAT on Test Day

Remember when you were in high school and had to schedule a date and time to take your SAT or ACT? The same system applies here with the added bonus of being in the future with online scheduling. You can pick a day well in advance that works best for you. (Remember to ask off work!)

To be best prepared to take the GMAT I would do the following things:

  • Study. There is no point in taking the GMAT or any major test if you haven’t studied well.
  • Get a great week of sleep. I don’t think you can study to the wee hours of the night every night except the one leading up to the test. I can’t switch my sleep patterns that quickly.
  • Eat well. I might even go as far as to create a food schedule for the day of the test. You don’t want to be hungry or overly full while taking the test. Remember you don’t want any distractions and this includes your own body.


When I was in high school the cost of taking the ACT test was something around $70 per attempt. My parents encouraged me to take it several times, and I did.

You cannot do that here. The cost to take the GMAT is $250 across the globe. I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to take a $250 test multiple times.

The cost is one reason you need to really focus your studying efforts before taking the GMAT. Poor studying will inevitably lead to poor test results… which will lead to you retaking the test for an additional $250.

School GMAT Score Requirements

The second reason you really want to focus on successfully taking the GMAT is obvious: schools have certain score requirements to be admitted to their program. At the top tier expensive schools the score requirement is ridiculously high. At middle and low tier schools the requirements ease up.

I personally think top tier schools are overrated simply because of the expensive cost and likelihood of needing to take on student loans. I went to a good local program, took night classes, didn’t take on significant debt (my work reimbursed me for much of the cost), and was able to keep my income to boot. Because I knew I wasn’t going to Harvard I was able to not stress taking the test as much.

I hope these tips help you successfully take the GMAT!

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