It’s become almost mandatory for candidates to have a 700 plus GMAT score these days to confidently apply to top B-schools across the globe. Thanks to the increased number of applicants each year and higher ‘average GMAT scores’ of candidates who get selected.
So how does one prepare for a 700 plus GMAT score? Let’s start by understanding why it is so hard for most to get a 700 plus GMAT score.
Why achieving a 700 plus GMAT score is hard.
The GMAT is NOT a concept-heavy test and that’s not good news!
The GMAT doesn’t test more than 10th grade Math and English concepts. It’s a test of strategy and decision making. Something that you haven’t really been taught in school or college. So the 15+ years of “education” that rewarded you for information retention can seem quite pointless on the GMAT.
The GMAT is a Psychometric Test.
Yes, this does make it as scary as it sounds! It’s a test of cognitive reasoning and decision making. It is, therefore NOT a test you can get better at by ‘cramming’ or taking a barrage of mock tests/practice questions. The latter is not bad by itself, but without appropriate analysis and followup learning, you’ll seldom see your GMAT scores improving. What makes a difference is a test taker’s ability to use appropriate strategies and think critically through every part of the GMAT test. This can only be done through habituation: behaviour building. How? we’ll discuss this in a bit…
The GMAT is a Computer Adaptive Test and it’s gruelling!
Though the new changes to the GMAT (2018) have made it shorter than it was before by cutting out some experimental questions from the Verbal and Quant sections, it is still a very rigorous testing experience – thanks to the fact that it is a question-wise adaptive test!
Read our article about the changes to the test pattern to know more about how this affects test takers.
The entire test can last anywhere from 3.5 hours to 4 hours. Verbal and Quant sections are a little over an hour each. And because the GMAT isn’t a test of ‘recall’, as are most other tests you’ve experienced, you’ll realize that your ability to stay tuned-in and make quick, accurate decisions dwindles. Why is this important? Because, being a Computer Adaptive Test, the GMAT is designed in way that rewards consistency more than spurts of accuracy! The fact that non-completion of a section entails up to 10% ile point penalty per question left unanswered, is a testament to how much the GMAT values consistency!
An action plan to work towards a 700 plus GMAT Score
TLDR: Acing the GMAT is about being consistent in your prep and focusing on identifying, learning and mastering question-wise and test-taking strategies on the GMAT.
I. Start with a Diagnostic Test
This is a full-length mock GMAT practice test that you take when you begin your preparation. You can download this from the official website, or drop by the Plusprep Learning Centre to have a GMAT-like testing experience followed by a feedback discussion with an expert. Taking this before you start your preparation is essential because.
It lets you get a first-hand experience of what the GMAT is like.
This will help you understand what you are up against and the aspects you need to focus on during your preparation. For instance, you may realise that you need to focus on completing the sections on time rather than getting obsessed with specific questions.
It gives you a good baseline to start from.
This will help you plan targets for your future mock tests and also plan your test date objectively.
II. Become a Master of Concepts and Strategy
Though the GMAT is a test of strategy, you will need knowledge of specific concepts to be able to do well on it. Good news is that these concepts are quite straight forward (such as basics of geometry and grammar).
The key to effective preparation is to make it super focused on only the things GMAT deals with. For instance, GMAT doesn’t deal with calculus; no point brushing up on those concepts for the GMAT!
So where and how does one learn these concepts?
You could start solving Official Questions and learn the concepts as you come across them, but this doesn’t always work since you’ll probably refer to resources such as GMATclub for explanations and these don’t always have precise or clear explanations.
A better approach is to enrol into a good prep program. Ensure that the program is instructor led, batch-sizes are small and there is scope for a lot of 1-1 additional interaction hours with the GMAT expert to clarify your doubts and have feedback sessions with.
III. Make all your practice ‘Test-Day’ like
Remember that being efficient at solving individual questions (or small sets of them) will not translate to better GMAT test-day performance. Though you might be a master of concepts, you will not see great GMAT score improvements if you are not able to pace yourself well through each section or manage stress (it’s a 4 hour long test).
Therefore, it becomes essential to prepare for these aspects of time management and handling stress. This can be done by making sure that your practice sessions are as GMAT-like as possible.
Here is what you can do
- When solving specific set of questions to master concepts (perhaps assumption question in CR), solve a bunch of them – about 10 to 15 – in one sitting. Make sure you time yourself appropriately and stick to the timing while taking these tests.
- As your command over concepts for various question types improves, try creating sectional tests that emulate a complete Verbal or Quant section : a set of 31-36 questions, timed appropriately.
- Plan and take full-length mock tests periodically. The frequency depends on the time frame you’re working with. Plan to take a total of at least 5 to 8 full-length tests though your entire preparation. Make sure that these tests are taken in their entirety and ensure that you take them in one sitting, allowing yourself only the breaks (8 minutes each) that the test permits. If possible, take these tests at around the same time that you plan to take your actual GMAT test.
Also, it is important to take full-length tests that are of high quality: they need to be similar in question construction and testing mechanism as is the actual GMAT. The official tests are the best source for this.
IV. Review Extensively
As a rule of thumb: for every hour you spend on practice you need to be spending at least half an hour on review. Why? Because the GMAT is in many ways a predictable test, and if you are able to analyse the questions you solved to understand the underlying patterns, you’ll soon realise that you are able to accurately and swiftly eliminate traps and pick the correct answer.
This quality of being aware of patterns and knowing how to deal with them, is a quality that almost all 700+ GMAT scorers share!
What should I review and how should I be doing it?
When practicing (and on the actual test), you need to be using the note-board or a scratch pad to put down important details and to scratch off answers you eliminate. Also makes sure leave hints about your timing and whether you guessed on a question while practicing question sets.
Review the following
- The questions you guessed on (g)- irrespective of whether you got them correct or not
- The questions you spent too much time on (t)
- The questions you got the answer wrong for
Your review should involve understanding why the correct answer was correct, this includes understanding the concepts tested, the strategies involved; but more importantly why the wrong options were wrong. This will help you recognise the key patterns that test makers use when designing questions (these patterns repeat themselves quite often). Understanding this is necessary for substantial score improvements.
That’s pretty much it!
1. GMAT Test readiness section test – Quant
2. GMAT Test readiness section test – Verbal
3. AWA Essay Builder Tool
4. Article on latest changes to GMAT Structure and how this affects test takers
Mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your biggest GMAT concerns; we’ll be more than happy to schedule a strategy session to address them.