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How to prepare for GMAT

To begin with a disclaimer : This post is based on my own experience of preparing for the GMAT. I understand that not everyone thinks the same way. So for you the methods could be quite different, but I hope you find something of interest in this post :).

The Beginning
I am the kind of person who does not work well without deadlines.  After thinking about preparing for GMAT for a month and doing nothing about it, the first thing I did was to take an exam date.
How much time do you require to prepare for the exam will vary from person to person. In my opinion all the material takes about a month and half to go over and then it is just about practice, practice and practice !!! All in all a solid two months should suffice. (my take on the prep time)
I didn’t even have enough patience to do that. So I started giving practice tests after two weeks of preparation. So for all those of you who have the tendency to procrastinate things indefinitely … Take a GMAT date and then start preparing.

The first thing that people do when they think of giving the GMAT is to start collecting study material. The course content for GMAT is very simple, it is the kind of questions that makes it a tough nut to crack. So more than the reference material, you need the practice material.
For me the Math Review section in the GMAT Prep Tests software was enough to review the basic concepts in maths and start cracking the questions. You can go through the Manhattan Math review books, if you really need help. Verbal is a different story altogether (especially for non-native speakers like me). You need to be aware of the rules to start attempting the SC problems, need to develop a GMAT way of thinking to crack CR problems, and will have to start reading to get through the RCs. I reckon the Manhattan Review SC book does come in real handy to learn the SC rules. The CR and RC can be improved by practice.
So my list of study material would include :
1. OG12 (or the latest version)
2. GMAT Prep software (the MATH review section)
3. Manhattan Review Sentence Correction
optional. OG 2 Verbal (for further practice in verbal)
optional. Manhattan Review guides for Maths

Study Plan
1. Start approximately 60 days in advance.
2. You can get access to a whole lot of Free Mock Tests on the web :

Plus you can get access to all 6 MGMAT tests if you buy the Manhattan SC book. Plan to give mock tests on all weekends leading up to the test.

3. Develop interest in the test – If you are good with verbal, start with verbal. If you are good in Maths start with Quant. But develop an interest in the test. If preparing for the GMAT becomes a grind from the first day. You are not going to last long :).
4. Start reviewing sections (no particular order, go by your interests). Once you have reviewed a section, solve corresponding problems in OG.
5. Download an OG Error log (These ones here are nice). Solve OG problems daily and keep track of your errors. Once you have finished the OG, use the error log to work on your weaker sections.
6. Plan to finish reviewing all sections within a time-frame of six weeks. If you let it stretch, the preparation can go on for ever. Therefore, make goals and deadlines and stick to them.
7.  Subscribe to GMAT Club question of the Day here. It is a fun way to be regular during your preparations. I used to solve the two problems that come daily via email just after lunch at my office.

Problem Solving
I had no real trouble in this section. So not many tips to share. Just remember that concepts behind the problems are very simple. These are not abstract equations you have to derive. The solutions are always simple.
Never make any question an ego-issue. If you haven’t been able to solve a question for 4 minutes, don’t just keep going hammer and tongs at it. Guess ! even if you get it wrong the next question will be simpler. If you waste your time you are risking getting a lot of questions wrong at the of the test.

Data Sufficiency
I tried to form an equation as I read the problem statement. This would give me an idea of how many variables are there, and what information I need to solve the question. Sometimes it worked, sometimes didn’t. Just another approach ;).

Sentence Correction
Most difficult section to master for me. Read a lot and a lot and a lot. Basically, if you are lucky there will be more than one rules separating the correct answer from the wrong ones. Normally, one rule (the easier one) would get you down to two choices, and both would seem equally possible. There are rules to separate them of course, but if you don’t know them just hope that this is your lucky day :).
(Check out this resource for reference)

Critical Reasoning
Practice, Practice, Practice !!! If you solve enough problems, you would start realizing the GMAT way of thinking and CR would become a piece of cake. There is no substitute for practice here. No matter how plausible your answer seems to you, if GMAT says it is wrong, it is wrong.
(Check out this resource for reference)

Reading Comprehension
I love reading, and this was perhaps the easiest section for me. You have to get used to reading, and the mock tests will help you a lot in this regard. The reading stamina slowly build up. So do not panic if you eyes become bleary and brain freezes on those long RCs. Steadily your mind will adjust, just keep at it.

Mock Test Phase
When you feel you have covered enough subjects to be confident in your ability to hold your own in the GMAT, give the GMAT Prep 1 test. Try and replicate exam conditions, and sitting for the exam for the full 75 minutes of both sections. Whatever your score is, don’t get disheartened. This test was just a reality check. We now know, the things you are good at and not so good at. Try to improve your score by practicing questions from your weakest sections.
The next time you give a Mock test, write the two Analysis essays as well. The actual GMAT is 4 hour and not 3 hour. The first hour you spend writing the essays will drain you. In the majority of the cases, when people feel that they were performing well in the mocks but couldn’t replicate the scores in GMAT, the problem is that their mind was only trained to be sharp for 3 hours straight. That is when you are at the start of your Verbal section in your actual GMAT. And then the score just tapers off. Make it a habit to write the Analysis essays in all the mocks.
Plan to give the GMAT Prep 2 a couple of days before the GMAT (or as close as you feel comfortable). This should be your indicator for the performance in actual GMAT. If the score is still bad, do not panic. Analyze your GMAT Prep 2 performance. Identify the questions you got wrong, identify the patterns. Did you get consecutive questions wrong at the end of section ? Then make sure your concentration is higher in the actual GMAT. Did you perform weakly in CR ? Spend extra time in GMAT on questions from this section. Make such strategies for the exam day for yourself.

Read about my own D-day experience here. Just remember pace yourself in the GMAT. You would be charged up when you reach the exam center. Normally your brain would be in peak performance mode. Don’t waste this. Remember you have to write those two 30 minutes essays. Stay calm when you enter the center, and try to psyche yourself up for the test as you go along. You should hit the peak performance level at the start of Quant, not the essays.

Hope I am able to help at least a little. Happy GMATting :).

P.S. : I would appreciate your feedback on what could be added to improve the post. I want this to be one stop resource to start your GMAT prep. The one I wish I had but did not.



20 thoughts on “How to prepare for GMAT

  1. Great score pyarapopat and very interesting read 🙂

    Posted by Yours Truly | June 10, 2011, 1:54 pm
  2. Thank you for the post, it was really useful for a beginer….. 🙂

    Posted by Bharath Murali | June 14, 2011, 4:11 am
  3. Hi bro,

    Nice post. I trust you blindly after reading your debrief on BTG. 🙂

    can you mention what were the practice materials that you used for the Quant section?


    Posted by Vineesh | June 16, 2011, 4:19 am
    • Thanks Vineesh,

      I am pretty sure by the time you are done with your GMAT, you would have your own strategy in place :).

      For Quant I used the MATHS review section in GMAT Prep tests and I borrowed the Manhattan Review books on Quant from my friend and skimmed through them in like a week. More or less the Math Review section and the OG12 has enough material to take of Quant.
      Just remember the concepts tested in GMAT in Quant are pretty simple. It is the question language which makes them tricky.

      Posted by pyarapopat | June 16, 2011, 7:49 am
  4. Really helpful post..I am taking a lot of points from it to become more confident about the test.Thanks & Congrats!

    Posted by Anonymous | June 19, 2011, 2:00 pm
  5. Yaar Popat, is there any way to contact you by email? Your address is not shown anywhere on this site.

    Posted by Kallan | July 3, 2011, 2:16 am
    • Kallan, the moment I put up an email address my mailbox gets flooded with spam (plus my boss can find out I am apping ;))… but if you have a a general query I would prefer you post it in comments so that other readers can benefit 🙂

      Posted by pyarapopat | July 3, 2011, 6:57 am
  6. I doubt others will benefit from my personal query; thanks anyway.

    Posted by Kallan | July 3, 2011, 4:11 pm
  7. How much was your GMAT score?

    Posted by Anonymous | January 7, 2012, 12:05 am
  8. Thanks a loottt sir.. this gives good idea how to start preparing

    Posted by Anonymous | June 9, 2012, 7:14 pm
  9. Hey there! What a helpful blogpost. Lots of valuable info ripe for the picking 🙂

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    Posted by Yusuf | August 6, 2012, 8:05 pm
  10. Nice material they have, will use this after i have finished this online course that covers verbal section for the GMAT. This GMAT study material Is suffiecient to cover vebal section.
    definitely a deal not worth a miss

    Posted by aarti yadav | March 7, 2013, 1:41 pm
  11. hi, really great blog about how to prepare for GMAT. This blog provide me enough knowledge for GMAT preparation. These tips hopeful help me to get good marks in GMAT

    Posted by Alana Justine | March 19, 2014, 2:49 pm
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    Posted by rashmi | April 21, 2015, 3:15 pm
  13. Thank you for sharing your insight with us. The plan is really helpful. Would like to hear more about your Kellogg experience if possible. I really appreciate it!

    Posted by Fiona | March 11, 2016, 8:27 pm
  14. Nice blog. This is a very good blog on Test preparation institute. I would like to thank you for all the information you give. Its really important to choose the best Test preparation institute that can help you to earn good marks. So thenks for the information you give.

    Posted by Ronit Roy | November 29, 2016, 7:50 am

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