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2. GMAT Prep Strategies
Contributors
Ajeet Khurana
Ajeet was About.com's GMAT expert and has published books through McGraw Hill on preparing for the GMAT. Ajeet is an expert on the MBA admissions process and is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin School of Business.
Ten Tips for the GMAT

1. Pacing tips

Time management is critical to getting your highest possible GMAT score. On test day, your nerves will distort your perception of time, making this even more difficult.

The GMAT is a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT), meaning that it adapts to your performance and you can't return to prior questions. This makes timing very challenging. If you go too slowly, time could run out halfway through the test. Or, if you go to quickly, you could be stuck at the end of the exam and not able to go backwards. Plus, by going too quickly you could make careless mistakes like mis-reading a question or accidentally choosing the wrong answer.

Don't get stuck in a time trap! Try not to waste more than four minutes on any given question (the typical time spent will be between two and four minutes). Part of the problem is that GMAT writers make trick questions that are designed to waste your time.

Example
What is 999,999 x 999,999?

Hmmm... can you get that done in four minutes? While working on a dry erase board? I don't think so! You could solve this question by doing the math (after a few minutes) or you could use a shortcut with FOIL by converting 999,999 into 1,000,000 minus 1. You can then change 999,999 x 999,999 into (1,000,000 - 1)(1,000,000 -1) = 1,000,000(squared) - 2,000,000 + 1.

More than likely you just find the answer with "1" as the final digit and you have found the correct answer in less than 15 seconds. As a rule of thumb, if you have spent more than four minutes on a question, there was likely a shortcut that you missed.

A useful resource for time management is 800score. They offer a GMAT test pacer system that trains you to learn proper pacing for the GMAT. This available on their free GMAT download.

2. Don't panic or fret over the last question
The problem with telling people "don't panic" in a terrifying situation is that they tend to panic more. So advising someone "don't panic" when taking the GMAT may not be effective! The most effective approach is to practice, practice, practice to get used to taking the test under timed high-pressure conditions, and remember, if all else fails you can always cancel the exam at the end.

3. Fill in the blanks
If you have a minute left and many questions to go, just fill in all the blanks. There is a greater penalty for unanswered questions than guessing (where you have a 1 in 5 chance of getting the right answer).

4. Spend a great deal of time and take many tests
You should begin preparing for the GMAT one to three months before test day. You may need more time (two to five months) if you have been out of school for some time and need to brush up on material. In general, you should spend at least 50 hours preparing.

5. Study courses
Consider taking a classroom or online ecourse if you need additional help. Your score may increase by 100 to 200 points. If you are looking to beat the GMAT, evaluate your GMAT course options.

6. Focus on sections most amenable to improvement
The essay section and the sentence correction sections questions will tend to show the largest improvements with preparation. For the essay section, have 2 or 3 basic templates - this saves a lot of time and thinking during the exam. Also, brainstorm ideas in the first five minutes before you start writing. The work you put in then can make the rest of the essay much easier. I have not scored anything less than a 6.0 essay yet, so this method of attack must have some merit.  

For reading comprehension, find the method of reading passages that works for you (jotting down notes or remembering content as you go along). Some guides recommend jotting down notes as you read, but I found this distracting as I was able to keep key points in my head reasonably well. In any case, make sure you have a clear idea of the main point of each paragraph after you've read it.

8. Learn to use the scrap board
You can use scrap paper effectively by copying from the screen and doing work or taking notes on the scrap paper. You can also use the scrap paper to make an answer grid, which is helpful for eliminating answer choices.  

9. "The perfect is the enemy of the good" Voltaire
Do you know that on the GMAT you can get 55% of questions right and still get a great score? Don't try to get perfection. Even if you are aiming for an 800 score, you still don't need to get every question right. Thinking about the test this way is liberating. Don't worry if you are stuck, just move on.

If you are stuck, then try to eliminate obvious wrong answers and guess at the remaining choices. If you are spending six minutes on a question, it is likely because you do not know how to do it, and you will almost certainly get it wrong. Get it wrong (or right if you are lucky) quickly by guessing and save the time for questions you do know how to answer.


10. Take care to avoid needless errors
As a multiple choice test, you know that you made an answer if your answer isn't one of the five choices! After you have finished your practice GMAT exams, you'll find that many errors are simple carelessness. Oftentimes you mis-copy the text of a question onto scrap paper, make a simple mathematical error or mis-read a question. Eliminating needless errors is largely a matter of discipline, focusing and practice. After you catch enough of your own errors, you will start to see patterns and can act to prevent them.




More GMAT Strategy Tips

Continue 2a. 5 Tips for GMAT Test Day Nerves by ManhattanGMAT

Continue 2b. 5 Tips for Studying for the GMAT by ManhattanGMAT

Continue to: 3. GMAT Essay Tutorials


 
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