GMAT Study Guide
|1 – Understanding the GMAT|
|2 – Reasons for Failing the GMAT|
|3 – Verbal Section|
|4 – Analytical Writing Assessment|
|5 – Integrated Reasoning|
|6 – Exam Day Tips|
|7 – GMAT Prep Apps for Studying|
|8 – GMAT vs GRE Exam|
|9 – No GMAT MBA|
There’s always a smarter way of doing things, and that includes cracking the GMAT. Think about it: the GMAT isn’t testing your ability to memorize formulas; it tests your ability to identify the moment and situation when you have to use them to solve the problem. The questions aren’t hard, but they’re not straightforward, either. They’re just trying to trick or trap you. You can either spot and overcome them or dig yourself a hole!
What you need is a solid strategy to navigate the exam intelligently and achieve your desired score.
This guide will introduce you to tips, tricks, and techniques that can supplement your foundational knowledge and skills to improve your score in a short amount of time. They also serve as an antidote to the far too common pre-exam jitters that tend to afflict most GMAT test-takers.
Understanding The GMAT
Taking the GMAT is a natural step on your journey in getting an MBA Degree. The Graduate Management Admission Test is a standardized test accepted by business degree schools around the world.
Taking the GMAT basically involves applying the math and English skills acquired over your high school and college years. The test itself measures how well you can reason using these skills. Your GMAT score serves as a standard measurement tool business schools use to predict if you will be a successful student.
What You Will be Provided with
- 5 sheets and 10 numbered pages (you can request for as many as you want)
- Test instructions on the first page Pages 2-10 are work surfaces
- Black wet-erase pens
GMAT Score Breakdown
- The Verbal score on a scale from 0-60
- The Quantitative score on a scale from 0-60
- A total score from 200-800, which is a scaled combination of verbal and quantitative scores, indicating your overall performance in the multiple-choice sections
- Analytical Writing is scored independently on a scale from 0 to 6
- Integrated Reasoning is scored independently on a scale from 1 to 8
Note that Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning scores do not impact your total (200-800) score.
Here’s a table of percentile rankings for each section and the total GMAT score.
Verbal + Quantitative
Two-thirds of test-takers score between 400 and 600
The mean score for this section is 27.04. It is quite rare for test-takers to score less than nine and more than 44.
The mean score for this section is 38.03. It is rare for test-takers to score less than 7 and more than 50.
Analytical Writing Assignment
The mean score for this section is 4.34. It is an average of two scores, one from a human reader and other from a computerized assessment program.
The mean score for this section is 4.33.
3 Most Common Reasons for Failing the GMAT
Why do some GMAT test-takers fail to perform to their potential? Is it a lack of preparation or a lack of understanding of the fundamentals? Do they lose the race against time, or are their careless errors to blame? It is actually all these reasons, as discussed below.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail – Benjamin Franklin
As you know by now, GMAT tests you on your junior high and high school level curricula. Naturally, you need to know the material cold. More importantly, you need to train your mind to apply the knowledge to the mind-bending questioning style you’ll encounter on your GMAT exam. Don’t remember high school algebra? You won’t do well on the Quant Section. The same is true if you’re not as comfortable crunching decimals, fractions, and percents. Your language skills may otherwise be solid, but your knowledge of the grammatical rules and stylistic conventions learned years ago may have become a bit rusty. It increases the likelihood that you will spend more time on the tough questions in the Verbal Section. All of this ties into the basic mistake of not understanding the fundamentals well enough.
#1: Lacking Factual Knowledge
Some curriculum areas may come easily to you, and you may face no problem getting through with them correctly and swiftly. Other areas may confuse you a bit and take up time. Every GMAT test-taker has his/her own strengths and weaknesses. Naturally, you want to devote some more time to your weak areas with more practice and preparation. But how do you figure out where you’re lacking? The GMATPrep® software on the GMAT’s official website has mock tests designed to analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Take a stab at these tests and more if you wish; you’ll find hundreds of mock GMAT tests online.
Suppose you’re not getting a particular answer and want to save time trying to figure it out by searching your math book or the dictionary or an online educational resource, select practice tests that come with explanations to each question. When you go wrong, you can always refer to the solution, figure out why you made a mistake, and learn, relearn, or unlearn something to solve all other similar questions correctly. It also helps to maintain notes that you can revisit when in doubt or review right before the exam.
#2 Poor Time Management
Time is of the essence in the GMAT. Many test-takers score poorly because they answered slowly and ran out of time. Poor time management means not finishing every question on the test, which can pull down your score. You must have a time plan for each section and stay on track every step of the way. If it’s been a long time since you took an academic-oriented test, time management can become a lot more challenging. Preparation and practice become even more important in this scenario.
1 Minute Time Sense
You obviously cannot keep checking the clock after every problem. What you can do is develop a time sense, specifically a 1-minute time sense.
How It Works
For Reading Comprehension, Sentence Correction, and other one-minute questions, you must be almost done with the problem in one minute. For Quant and Critical Reasoning questions, you must be on track to solving the problem (knowing what to do) at the end of the first minute and get to the answer within the next minute.
What You Need
- A stopwatch with lap timing enabled
- A set of 5-10 Quant or Critical Reasoning questions
Start solving the problems.
When you think it’s been a minute, push the lap button.
Push again when you’re done with the problem. Continue until you finish all the questions.
Go back to see your time performance. Anywhere between 45 seconds and 1 minute 15 seconds is good. With any more or any less, you’ll need more practice. The 1-minute time sense can be developed in three to four weeks.
Two Readings Rule
This is a simple rule requiring you to read any question twice and not any more than that. After the second reading, you’ll only be wasting more time trying to understand it.
Some of the common strategies to improve reading speed.
- Eliminating sub-vocalization, that is, saying the words out loud in your head. It isn’t necessary to comprehend what you’re reading and only wastes time.
- Reading actively as opposed to passively. One way to do this is to ask yourself what you want to know by reading the information and preparing your mind to immediately notice important details.
- Knowing when to speed up and when to slow down a little. It’s as much about control as it is about acceleration. When the information appears confusing, go slow; if it’s familiar and you can relate it to things you already know, go full speed ahead.
Musk Melson Strategy
Visualize the full section as five wedges of 15 minutes each. Check the number of questions you can solve after every 15 minutes. For the Verbal Section, you should be able to solve an average of 8 questions in 15 minutes and 7 for Quant. If you’re unable to, you can adjust your speed accordingly.
#3 Too Many Careless Errors
When you know what to do and make a mistake anyway, that’s a careless error. Careless errors come in various forms. The only way to deal with them is to understand why you are making them and then find a solution to eliminate them.
Really, really silly math errors like 3 + 3 = 9 Such errors reflect a lack of focus. The GMAT is a 3.5-hour marathon where your focus must be completely and intently on the problem at hand. If you’re feeling nervous or restless, take a deep breath, relax, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by your surroundings. A silly error in sentence correction suggests that you may be rushing through the sentence.
These tips can help you avoid silly mistakes.
- Break down a long step into smaller steps
- Be careful while writing plus and minus signs
- Learn to reverse-check quickly (for math) and have a sanity check in place (for english) where you develop a habit of judging if an expression or conclusion sounds right
- Be thorough with the basics to avoid making errors answering simple questions
Solving for what is not asked.
Know what you’re solving for to avoid muddling up details and, worse, wasting time. You could be making this silly error from reading the question too quickly or misreading it. It is important to read the question carefully and equally important not to over-read it, i.e., look for a theoretical answer instead of a commonsensical one. Another tip is to explore different ways of solving a problem during your GMAT preparation. This will help you identify the best way to solve and look past what is unnecessary to solve. Finally, when analyzing a question or solving a problem, always refer back to what is specifically being asked.
Some test-takers tend to make certain types of errors. If you’re prone to making such mistakes, list them out, find appropriate solutions, and monitor for recurrence.
Finally, illegible or careless writing can punish you in the Quant Section. If you’ve mistaken 7 for 1 on multiple occasions during preparation or as a natural habit, it’s time for a permanent fix. The best way to fix this problem is first to examine your writing. Do your “Y’s’ look like “U’s’ and “Q’s’ look like “O’s’? Do the same with numbers and mathematical symbols. Once you’ve identified the handwriting habits that cause errors, practice writing them legibly, if only for five or ten minutes a day. It will go a long way in improving your handwriting.
Mental Math vs. Longhand On Scratch Paper.
Some test takers may find their comfort zone in mental math while others may prefer scratch paper. In the former case, you cannot but rely on some tools:
- Substituting numbers by replacing values with equal values that are easier to manipulate
- Changing the order of numbers to make it simpler to work with them
- Decomposing numbers by breaking them into useful units for easier calculations
25×120 Decompose 25 into 20+5 25×120 = 20×120 + 5×120 = 2400 + 600 = 3000
Break each number into its factors 25×120 = 25x12x10 = 25x6x2x10 = 25x2x6x10 = 50×60 = 3000
So, how do you learn and review the basics?
Here’s the most effective approach:
- Review one topic at a time, such as four-function math, parallelism, or subject-predicate
- Become adept in the topic
- Practice questions/problems around the topic to pick up speed
The GMAT Verbal Section comprises 41 questions covering grammar, reading, and analytical questions to be answered within 75 minutes. The objective of this section is to assess your prowess over written English, your ability to analyze arguments, and your reading ability. You should typically expect about 14 to 15 questions, each dealing with sentence correction and critical reasoning, and approximately 12 questions testing your reading comprehension.
The verbal section scores are given from 0 to 60, although it is virtually impossible to score above 44. It is equally rare to see a score below 9 in this section, too. For incomplete tests, the scoring is done based on the number of questions answered, provided all sections have some attempted answers. However, do note that unanswered questions will dramatically reduce your overall score. The GMAT scoring algorithm also factors in the difficulty levels of the questions answered.
Basics of Preparing for the Verbal Section
Developing a strong command over the language from various sources known for elevated English is a good strategy for scoring well in this section. Good choices would be newspapers like the New York Times, classics, or well-written modern fiction. Pick up reading material that has correct, idiomatic language.
Daily preparation is necessary to score well on the GMAT, which applies to the Verbal Section. Use the official materials to study for the test, and take up one section per day to have a complete and clear understanding of all the concepts before moving on to the next. However, it is important to revisit the previously studied sections periodically to entrench the information in your mind firmly. Give more attention to the areas where you score the least during your practice tests. Regular, consistent practice is critical, and you should set aside a specific time of the day every day to improve your ability to score in this section.
The Basic Principles of the Verbal Section
This section of the GMAT exam’s objective is to evaluate whether or not you can read and accurately comprehend English content, reason out arguments without losing sight of their inferences, identify incorrect English, and make appropriate corrections.
The sentence correction section assesses your command over the language and the language conventions. You will need to be proficient in grammar, sentence structure, and diction to score highly here. Each question comes with five options to choose from.
The critical reasoning section evaluates your ability to comprehend an argument that is presented in a paragraph critically. The reading comprehension section measures your ability to read quickly yet effectively without compromising your understanding of the paragraph. Expect to see excerpts from the social sciences, humanities, business, biology, and the physical sciences. The reading comprehension questions are further categorized into four sets.
Common Misconceptions About the Verbal Section
One of the most common mistakes made by native English speakers is giving the verbal section less attention. This assumption that they can score without specifically training for this part of the test is a fallacy that can prove very damaging to their overall scores. Even English majors will need to put in adequate study to ensure they can get a high score because the questions appearing in this section of the exam do not test the language skills you developed at the college level.
The GMAT verbal section does not directly assess your vocabulary. This is another area where most people make the mistake of expecting word analogies or multiple-choice questions. Your vocabulary is evaluated by the presentation of text throughout the three sections that appear within this segment.
In this section, it is important to switch your mental gears into thinking of the most valid answers rather than the exact ones. This is another area where many candidates waste a lot of unnecessary time trying to locate the perfect answer. The best approach is to undertake a process of elimination wherein you keep striking out the answers that seem least likely to be correct until you arrive at the most appropriate one.
A paragraph of anywhere between 150 to 350 words long is presented, followed by questions. These questions evaluate how well you have understood and interpreted the passage, whether you have drawn the correct conclusion and inferences from it, and whether you can spot the logical reasoning that flows through the passage.
Question Format and Structure
You have a total of 12 to 13 questions, which are further categorized into four sets. The questions follow the paragraph and ask you to determine the most likely answer from your’s choices.
The basic principles to scoring in reading comprehension Read the passage completely before starting the questions. At regular points midway through your reading, mentally summarize what you have read so far and what it indicates. GMAT paragraphs are usually very structured, which means the first sentence gives you a good idea of what the rest of the paragraph says. Keep a keen eye out for words like but, still, however, nevertheless, although, and regardless. These words subtly change the sentences’ meanings, and unless you are paying keen attention, you will miss the words and the slant they give to the paragraph.
Choosing the most apparent option; is usually not the right one. Trigger words are used to switch the paragraph’s meaning, and candidates often miss this when they skim through quickly. Getting too involved in reading the answers and trying to understand them instead of first weeding out the ones out of the paragraph’s scope. Getting bogged down by facts and figures rather than understanding the overall direction of the paragraph.
A preview of critical reasoning Arguments are presented in the form of a short passage. You have to read the passage, understand it, and choose the right answers.
Question Format and Structure
- 1) choose the answer that either supports or weakens the original premise
- 2) find the correct assumption based on the argument, or
- 3) make an accurate inference from the argument.
- There are 14 to 15 questions here and five answer choices per question.
A good strategy is to read the questions first and then move on to reading the actual passage. This helps you identify the section of the passage and the specific argument that pertains to the question. Break down the passage into its intro, evidence, and conclusion to avoid ambiguity. The paragraph is sure to be peppered with logical traps. Pay keen attention to the word used to get the flow of logic accurately.
Overlooking opposite answer questions. Falling for logical traps and confusing consequences with causes. Not being familiar with the terminology and, as a result, making the wrong answer choices.
A preview of critical reasoning Previewing sentence correction: This section is typically deemed the easiest of the three, but going into this section with overconfidence can heavily cost you. Here, you may have sentences with seven types of errors: verb time, comparison, modifiers, parallelism, subject-verb agreement, pronoun agreement, and idioms.
Question Format and Structure
14 to 15 questions are typical in the sentence correction section of your GMAT test. You will have five choices for each question, and you will have to identify the correct one in terms of style, structure, grammar, usage, clarity, and idiomatic expression. The first option is usually the same as what is given in the question. A portion of the sentence is underlined, and you have to choose the best answer in terms of whether the underlined portion is correct or whether any of the remaining four choices can replace it to make the sentence clearer. Look at a sample question here.
Commonly Tested Grammar on the GMAT
The consistency of pronoun use, subject-verb agreement, pronoun consistency, parallel construction, verb tense, dangling modifiers – these are the common grammatical aspects that you expect to be tested on in this section. Apart from this, you should keep an eye out for redundancy, word mismatches, and missing words.
Here Are a Few Ways that SC Questions Get Harder.
- Sentences get longer and more complex.
- The underlined portion gets longer (sometimes including the entire sentence).
- The correct answer is less appealing.
- All the answers are grammatically correct, but only one is the best, making it difficult to find the right one.
- The right answer may not be perfect, it may still be awkward. Don’t overlook an option just because it “doesn’t sound right”. The idea is to find the best among the given choices, not the best among all possible answers.
- Word order errors or the use of similar sounding words that have different meanings is a common trick used to complicate GMAT SC questions.
Top Seven Tips for Scoring in Sentence Correction.
- Invest time in understanding basic concepts (e.g., fluff vs. deep structure, clauses vs. phrases, verbs vs. verb forms) and get adequate practice.
- Look for subject-verb agreement issues which occur in almost half of your SC questions.
- Line up pronouns correctly with their antecedents. Understand the rules.
- There is typically one critical issue with each question. Your first step should be to eliminate all the answers that are evidently wrong in terms of this critical issue.
- Use splits to eliminate wrong answers quickly but beware of false splits. Reading and comprehending the answer options thoroughly is a good way to avoid this trap.
- Do not start by reading the paragraph and then the question and then going through each answer option one by one in detail. The key is to eliminate wrong answers as quickly as possible.
- Every SC question is designed to evaluate two concepts. Starting by identifying which two are being tested makes your answer choice elimination easier and the final choice more accurate.
Resources to Study the GMAT Verbal Section:
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