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How to Ace the GMAT: Three Tips

Your graduate school might require the GMAT. Here are 3 tips to optimize your score.


According to the Graduate Management Admission Council®, more than 5,000 programs offered by over 1,500 universities in 82 countries use the GMAT as part of the selection criteria for their programs. All conscientious students try to excel on this test, and you can start getting ready now. The GMAT requires a lot of preparation and careful planning, so to help you make the most of your study time, consider these three tips to teach you how to ace the GMAT:

1. Be Prepared

Most students taking the GMAT allow three to six months to study for the exam.

This time should be spent learning about the test format and gaining content knowledge. You will want to learn about the computer-based test, and practice writing essays for the analytical writing section, which presents excerpts of business writing and asks you to evaluate how well reasoned they are.

Remember that tests fill up quickly. Once you pick a test date, register as soon as possible to ensure that you can take the test when it's most convenient for you.

2. Understand the Test Format

Going into your GMAT session with a solid knowledge of the test format will generally improve your test score.

The test consists of three sections, with an optional 8-minute break between each one:*

Section & Time AllotmentQuestions & Type
Analytical Writing – 30 minutesOne topic – Argument Analysis
Quantitative – 75 minutes37 questions – Data Sufficiency; Problem Solving
Integrated Reasoning – 30 minutes12 questions – Multi-source Reasoning; Graphics Interpretation; Two-Two Part Analysis; Table Analysis
Verbal -75 minutes41 questions – Reading Comprehension; Critical Reasoning; Sentence Correction

The quantitative and verbal sections of the test are delivered in computer-adaptive format; each answer you give indicates your ability level. When you answer a question correctly, the computer follows with a more difficult question; when you answer incorrectly, your next question will be easier.

Within the first 10 questions of each section, the computer places you in a general scoring range based on the difficulty of the questions you answer correctly.

Work carefully on the initial questions in each section to increase your chances of getting into a high-scoring category for that section.

3. Study for the Test Content

You will find that following these essential strategies can help you ace the GMAT:

  • Purchase—and use—a GMAT study guide that includes plenty of sample tests. The more you practice, the better you'll do. You can also obtain free test-taking software from mba.com. This software will teach you how the computer-adaptive test works.
  • Schedule enough time to study and take sample tests. The more you study, the better you'll do. Even if you plan to take the GMAT in six months, it's better to study a little each day than to cram all your test preparation into one week.
  • Learn to pace yourself so that you can complete each test section within the allotted time. Taking timed practice tests trains you to do this.
  • Put extra emphasis on the first few questions of each test section.Remember that the computer adapts to your ability—the greater the number of difficult questions you answer, the higher your score will be.
  • Guess ONLY after you have eliminated one or two wrong answers.The GMAT penalizes you a quarter of a point for each incorrect response, and the computer does not allow you to return to unanswered questions. Your odds of guessing correctly improve with each incorrect answer you can eliminate.

Sources: mba.com, gmac.com