Approaching the GMAT

As the saying goes: ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.’

One of the biggest mistakes people make in preparing for the GMAT is misunderstanding  how to prepare. The GMAT is unlike other tests. There are different sections and question types, with their own nuances and strategies. You will need (ideally, everyone is different) 100 to 120 hours to get your best score on the GMAT.

The GMAT is designed to develop and test your analytical and reasoning skills. A large part of the GMAT skill-set is gained through practice. Lots and lots of practice. The rote learning approach most of us were exposed to at school just won’t cut it.

The GMAT is about cognitive building, not just cognitive testing. Practising develops your analytical and reasoning skills.

Learning takes mental toughness and perseverance. But performing well on the test opens doors. Last year there were only 1800 test-takers on the continent, and many of them performed dismally.¬†Africa has some of the lowest average GMAT scores in the world. 458 out of 800 on average. That’s about a hundred points lower than the global average. If you are prepared to work smart, and work hard, you have a real advantage in the application process.

The GMAT is only one piece of your application. But it’s an important piece. There are some schools that will accept their own admissions test or the GRE. But you’ll still need good scores on these before they’ll even consider your application.

Here are some general tips for approaching the GMAT:

  • You will need 3-6 months to study for the GMAT. Everyone is different and has different circumstances. You might have much less time than that. Get in as much practice as you can.
  • Get as much information as you can about the test, and different strategies to approach it. This may be through a course, or through your own research.
  • Building GMAT knowledge is a bit like building muscles at the gym. You need to keep it up and do a bit every day (or at least every week). Try not to lose momentum and stop and start your studies. It’s worth remembering your GMAT score is valid for 5 years.
  • Make sure you practice with official GMAT questions to get used to the tone of the test.
  • Make sure you understand why you are getting answers wrong so you do not make the same mistakes.
  • Give yourself time to learn and practice the concepts, then introduce the timing element.
  • Make sure you are practicing under time constraints and have a timing strategy well before your real test.
  • Build stamina by taking full, timed practice tests in advance of your real test. Practice test scores will give you a realistic idea of where you are.
  • Always finish the test. You are heavily penalised for not finishing.
  • Don’t worry about the algorythym. Its useful to understand how the scoring works, but you shouldn’t be thinking about this in the test.
  • Make sure you don’t neglect the Verbal section. The scoring is skewed slightly in favour of Verbal, so its a good way to boost your score.
  • It does take perseverance. Everyone struggles with some aspect of the GMAT. There may be days when it seems impossible, that’s normal. But after some time, you might find yourself appreciating the cleverness of the test.

Here is something you should know – I took standard grade maths in highschool. The GMAT quantitative section was seriously intimidating for me. When I started studying for the GMAT, I wasn’t sure I would able to do it. It took a lot of work and a good understanding of the test to get there in the end.