in february of this year, i was talking to a coworker about going back to graduate school. my coworker is older than i am, and married with a kid. while talking about mba programs, my coworker said something like “i wish i had gotten my mba when i was your age.” that night, i signed up to take the GMAT.
the GMAT is the graduate management admission test. it has four sections: analytical writing assessment (essay), integrated reasoning, quantitative and verbal.
if you’re thinking about taking the GMAT, here are 10 things you should know.
1. the test is computer based. this means no number 2 pencils or scantron sheets. every question appears on the computer screen, with how many questions are left and the time remaining at the top. once you answer a question, you cannot go back. you cannot skip questions. and you’re penalized for any questions you do not answer in the time limit.
2. the best way to study is to take practice tests. after i signed up for the test, i bought the official gmat prep books and took the diagnostic test at the start of the first book. after this diagnostic test, there are just lots (and lots) of practice questions. my friend (fink) recommended the kaplan gmat prep book. this was the best $30-ish dollars i spent to prepare. why? because this book comes with 6 online practice tests in the format of the actual test. it also comes with lessons on the “kaplan method”, their recommended approach for the different types of questions. this helped me most on the verbal section of the test.
3. start taking practice tests early. these tests are loooong. i started taking the tests about two months before my exam, and took one every other week. the week before my test, i tried to take two. after that, i was so burnt out i didn’t even want to think about the GMAT, let alone take the actual test.
4. after you take a test, review your answers. this sounds like common sense, but i learned a lot about how the test was graded by reviewing the correct answers and why they are correct. there are a lot of questions about which is the “most” right answer, so seeing what is considered “correct” (and why) is very helpful.
5. practice multiplication and long division. you can only use a calculator on the integrated reasoning part (so not on the quantitative part). there are lots of questions that require multiplication of 2-3 digit numbers (which i still use the square method to do…)
6. read the question. after my diagnostic test, my dad told me a story about one of his teachers who preached this. it really helped, especially in the integrated reasoning portion. a lot of times, i felt like the GMAT was trying to trick me. it was important to read the question to find out exactly what the question was asking for.
7. eat well the night before. during one of my practice tests, i was so hungry that i ate a bag of instant oatmeal. dry. it was disgusting. i tackled what i ate/drank before the test as i do for long marathon training runs. eat what you know, and eat a lot of it. it worked great, i wasn’t hungry during the test at all. (for me, it was a chipotle kids meal with chicken, brown rice and corn salsa.)
8. sleep a lot before. after all of the preparation, the GMAT is really testing how well you can think/reason. if you’re sleep deprived (especially from studying), your mind won’t be thinking clearly for the test. i followed marathon logic with this one too. i made sure to get a lot of sleep two nights before the test, that way if i was nervous and not sleeping well the night before, i would be ok.
9. dress comfortably. i wore my usual “test taking attire” to this test. sweats, t-shirt, sweatshirt (easy to remove), tennis shoes (flip flops can fall off and distract me). i also braided my hair in two french braids. i call this my “test hair”. the reasoning for it is if i have my hair just in a ponytail/bun, i will take it out and then put it back up. you can’t do that with braids (or easily at least). this way i have one less thing to play with during the test.
10. don’t fret, you can always take it again. yes it’s another $250, but knowing that i could (and most likely would) retake the test helped me relax on the morning of the GMAT.