Your GMAT score is critical to helping you stand out above the crowd when it comes to your college admission application. More than 10 million students apply to college each year, and you’re judged largely on the success of your Graduate Management Admission Test. So how do you improve your GMAT score? You need to study and prepare of course. If only it were that easy though…
It’s not about the time you invest; it’s how you use that time effectively. Here are 16 guidelines, tips and tricks that you can follow to improve your GMAT score.
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There is a correlation between time spent preparing for the GMAT and the final score. Most participants spend about 50 hours studying for the GMAT. Others spend over 200 hours. While more time does generally show higher test scores, there are some underlying factors.
Endless resources are available online between practice tests and prep books that will help you study for the GMAT. Knowing this, you might be wondering “how many prep books do I need to complete for the GMAT?” Or, “how long does a GMAT prep book take to finish?
The answer would be that a GMAT prep book can take over 30 hours. Does this mean if you go through two prep books in 60+ hours you’ll be studying better than the majority who spend an average of around 50 hours? No. If you thought that, you couldn’t be more wrong.
While more studying generally leads to higher results, those who study more are typically better at studying. You can spend hundreds of hours pouring over prep books to prepare. However, that’s not the best way to study for the GMAT.
Sure, you can cover more topics in 200 hours than the average of 50 hours, but that’s not necessarily going to lead to higher test results. The top scorers on the GMAT spend on average over 120 hours, however, efficiency is key.
To improve your GMAT score you’ll want to take the official GMAT prep test to see where you stand today. From there, you can focus on the different strategies explained below to improve your GMAT score efficiently and effectively.
How to Improve Your GMAT Score?
We’ve assembled 16 tips below that will teach you how to get the best possible score on your GMAT test.
1. Set Goals
The first thing you need to do if you’re trying to get a better GMAT score is to set a target. Take a look at the schools you’re looking to get admitted to and find the average GMAT score for each school.
Once you have a target score to surpass, you can determine the necessary steps and habits required to create an adequate study plan that will help you achieve your goals.
Everyone has heard that setting goals helps achieve them, but how useful are they?
A study published to the American Psychological Association concluded an increase in the value of output at nearly 18%. Imagine improving your GMAT score almost 20% just from setting goals? Now we’re not saying that’s what will happen, but by creating goals and using these expert tips will make a significant positive difference in your test results.
2. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Using your results from the aforementioned GMAT prep test you can identify your strengths and weaknesses. This helps you to enhance your strengths, but more importantly your weaknesses.
The things you are best at will often be exceptional, but improving the areas in which you struggle offers the most opportunity for GMAT score improvement.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid practicing areas where you excel. In fact, you should dedicate time to studying them directly. It’s the way you study these areas that should change. We’ll cover some of these differences in relevant tips below.
3. Create a Study Plan
The most important thing when preparing for the GMAT is the same thing that’s key to achieving anything… consistency.
To score better on the GMAT, you need a plan. Dedicate time daily to both the strengths and weaknesses you’ve identified, however breaking them up is recommended. First, hone your top skills, then spend significant time focusing on the areas of struggle.
Break up each segment into individual days at the beginning of your studying. Spend a few days on some math concepts, another few on grammar and writing prompts, etc. This way you can get a grasp on everything before zooming through resources touching on each area briefly.
Having a balanced study habit is ideal but some areas require more practice for some individuals than others. Allocating your time towards narrow topics will help you understand better than going back and forth between different subjects.
4. Get Familiar With the Format
Following your study preparation plan for the GMAT, you’ll want to prioritize getting to know the format. Understanding how questions are laid out will help you study, and also perform better on the test.
A formula one race-car driver doesn’t head to the Monaco Grand Prix without practicing on the track to race at 200+ mph. They study every corner, every turn, for hours and hours. A PGA tour pro doesn’t show up for the Masters without practicing on the golf course. They know every hill, every green, studying for hours and hours.
The GMAT is no different.
Knowing what you’re dealing with helps reduce any shock or anxiety during test day. It also plays a pivotal role in studying. Practicing with the right equipment ensures you know how to use the equipment.
5. Allocate Significant Time to Improving Your Weaknesses
Improving the areas where you struggle will ultimately take the most time. Allocate a significant proportion of this time to improving your weaknesses.
You will naturally excel in some areas and struggle in others. Making your weaknesses just ‘average’ when combining them with your strengths helps ensure an above-average score.
As we’ve mentioned above, these weaknesses also offer the most opportunity for a GMAT score improvement.
6. Use High-Quality Prep Resources
You’ve set goals, identified strengths and weaknesses, and know the format that lies ahead. Next is studying.
Only use high-quality and official resources presented by the GMAC (General Management Admissions Council). This makes certain that what you’re studying will be as close to the real GMAT questions as possible.
The Princeton Review offers possibly the best prep course in a self-paced environment, but there are so many accredited resources to choose from. Find the one best suited to your learning environment but make sure it is official and high-quality.
Studying with second-tier resources results in second-tier test scores. High-quality resources lead to a better understanding of each subject and an overall higher GMAT score.
7. Review and Correct Every Wrong Answer
Reviewing every wrong answer is one of the most critical preparation tactics you can use. It goes beyond finding and understanding the correct answer though. This is a common mistake that most test takers make.
For a better GMAT score, take the time to go through each possible answer and identify why the others were wrong. Knowing the right answer is important, but knowing why the others were wrong will help you the most.
Always remember that the GMAT is not about finding the perfect answer, it’s about finding the best answer. Knowing why an answer is wrong helps you eliminate answers right from the start. Having to choose between fewer options immediately raises the odds of you choosing the correct answer.
People hate making mistakes, but mistakes are beneficial for learning and memory.
A study published in the Journal Memory found that making mistakes helps remember the correct answer. Science Daily quoted the lead researcher stating “our research found evidence that mistakes that are a ‘near miss’ can help a person learn the information better than if no errors were made at all.”
In essence, the study found that making a mistake on something you’ve studied for and prepared for (have an understanding of) will make it more likely you’ll remember the correct answer in the long run.
If you want to improve your score on the GMAT, reviewing and correcting every mistake goes a long, long way.
8. Simulate Test Conditions in a Realistic Environment
By practicing under realistic test conditions you give yourself the ability to be cool, calm, and collected when it comes to taking the GMAT. Being comfortable is key to your mental performance.
And while the GMAT can be incredibly stressful, there’s no need to take on any additional points of stress.
To simulate GMAT conditions, take the prep test at one time with your breaks set up like the real test would be. Don’t use google, prep books, or other resources that you won’t have access to on test day. Also, refrain from using a calculator.
Lastly, consider preparing in quiet environments without interruptions. If you struggle with focusing, try doing some prep tests in new and unfamiliar places to get comfortable with people shuffling around you. This could be a library or even just different areas of your home.
9. Prioritize Timing
You have approximately 2 minutes per question across the GMAT. Keep this in mind throughout your prep sessions. When you finish a prep test you will see your score report.
If you want to improve your GMAT score, write down the different times you spent on each section.
Your time spent on each section is critically important to your score, so practicing your pace of completion should be at the front of your mind. Simply checking the clock every few questions will help you recognize your current pace and keep you on track. Pick a number of questions you’re comfortable with and check the clock regularly after that amount of questions passes.
Another important note with your pacing is recognizing the areas you’re strong in, and struggle with. Correlate your score with the time you spent on each section. If you score extremely high on the integrated reasoning section, make sure you allocate the time you need to replicate that score on the real GMAT.
Scoring high but using up too much time that could go to an area of weakness can easily result in a lesser test score. This is why knowing about your strengths is vital.
On the other hand, if you struggle with something and it takes a considerable amount of time, you know that you’ll need to practice more to achieve a better score in less time.
10. Dedicate Days/Time Strictly to Math Concepts
Instead of taking prep test after prep test, you’ll want to drill certain things into your brain. This is why it’s always recommended that you focus on just a few concepts for consecutive days, aiding in memorization.
This doesn’t necessarily mean practicing calculus all day for an entire week, but spending considerable amounts of time studying calculus for several days. Taking breaks is needed for memorization and learning, so we recommend taking some time on each math concept every day for a few hours at the same time of day.
Spending 1-2 hours every morning on calculus will make it significantly easier on the brain than say 6 hours of calculus. Once again, consistency is the key.
You will be able to see on your prep test results which category each question falls into. Note your scores on all categories be it algebra, geometry, statistics, etc, to identify any areas of weakness that you should focus on more heavily.
This leads to the next point.
11. Know the Formulas
Don’t even think about stopping your studying until you know the formulas like the back of your hand. This tip is really important, but there’s not much to it. You’ve got to put in the time and know them.
Practice, practice, practice!
Beyond the formulas, recognize and remember tips and tricks to speed up your time.
Also, take advantage of estimating. If you can estimate a number or calculation quickly, you can eliminate wrong answers and quite possibly solve a question much faster than working through a solution.
As we mentioned previously, you can see your results on prep tests to determine areas of struggle. Drill those formulas into your brain.
12. Refrain from Using a Calculator While Practicing
You can’t use a calculator on your GMAT, so why would you practice with one? Getting the right answer on a prep test is meaningless if you can’t do it under real GMAT conditions.
Try and never use your calculator, even when you’re not studying. Get used to doing calculations in your head during your regular day and it’ll be second nature come test day.
13. Dedicate Days/Time Strictly to Writing Prompts
Just like with math concepts, getting familiar with writing prompts takes time. Luckily there are resources where you can practice your Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA). This section gauges your ability to think critically and efficiently communicate those thoughts.
Get familiar with the formatting and practice prompts to improve your written communication. There’s a fantastic resource provided by Ohio Wesleyan University for writing sample guidelines for the GMAT. This document breaks down how the AWA of the GMAT is scored, describes essay prompts, gives style guide/writing suggestions, and provides sample essays and practice prompts.
14. Study Past GMAT Writing Prompts
Studying writing prompts from previous years is another GMAT preparation tip that will help improve your test scores. You can find 32 pages of prompts here, an invaluable resource.
What better way to know what to expect on the GMAT than looking at past GMAT questions?
15. Analyze Complex Texts
The verbal section of the GMAT takes approximately 60 minutes to read. Practicing your reading with academic writings, novels, and business publications or news.
Writing down a list of words you’ve never seen before helps to improve your vocabulary. Although the GMAT doesn’t test your vocabulary directly, this habit will help you build a better vocabulary for yourself. The more academic words you know, the higher chance you will understand any written questions on the GMAT.
16. Learn How to Outline
You only have 30 minutes to complete a writing sample in the analytical writing assessment section. This leads to many test takers rushing to begin writing immediately.
Creating a system for outlining your essay is an essential step for all writers to complete their best work. By practicing outlining you will build a much better essay structure helping you communicate your thoughts effectively and professionally.
Just using 3 or 5 minutes to plan your key points will reduce the time of your overall writing. It also helps keep a clear mindset as you cover each point when you know exactly what to focus on now, and next.
When it comes to getting a higher score on your GMAT, you’ll need to put in the time. These tips will ensure that you use your time best, learning the things you need to know.
Set a goal, create a plan, and study right. What everyone can do in the time they spend studying is vastly different between person to person. What you can do to get ahead of the competition is to study better. Improve the areas you struggle with and lean into your strengths.
This article has given you the tools for you to succeed on your admission test and outshine your peers. By combining the hours of practice with an intelligent strategy and study plan, you’re certain to improve your GMAT score.