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Study Abroad: How to prepare for GMAT

By, New Delhi
Nov 16, 2023 02:34 PM IST

In an exclusive interview, Sandeep Gupta, Founder of Top One Percent, breaks down the best methods to achieve a strong GMAT score.

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardised examination designed to assess critical thinking, quantitative, verbal, and analytical writing skills. It serves as a key admissions criterion for many top-tier business schools around the world.

Beyond admissions, a strong GMAT score can also open doors to scholarships and even better job opportunities post-graduation. (HT file)
Beyond admissions, a strong GMAT score can also open doors to scholarships and even better job opportunities post-graduation. (HT file)

Beyond admissions, a strong GMAT score can also open doors to scholarships and even better job opportunities post-graduation. Given its importance, the GMAT is often considered a mandatory requirement for anyone aspiring to make a mark in the field of business management.

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In an exclusive interview, Sandeep Gupta, Founder of Top One Percent, a global EdTech company that provides effective learning solutions to GMAT & GRE aspirants, talks about the basics of GMAT preparation and how to achieve a 99th percentile score.

How to start the GMAT journey? Is downloading GMATPrep practice tests released by makers of the GMAT the first step?

The ideal way to start your GMAT journey is by starting as soon as possible. Even if you're still in college, taking the GMAT can open a plethora of opportunities for you, from job placements to deferred MBA programs. Many test-takers often begin by downloading the GMATPrep practice tests released by the GMAC, the makers of the GMAT.

While these materials provide a basic understanding of the test format, they may not be sufficient for those aiming for scores above 750. In fact, relying solely on these resources can give students a false sense of security. Instead, consider investing in a professional test preparation service.

Are practice tests the best indicator of how far/near one is from the target?

Practice tests are undoubtedly a valuable tool in your GMAT preparation arsenal, but they shouldn't be viewed as the “best” indicator of your likely score on the actual examination.

It is important to note that test-takers frequently report that the scores from official mock tests are somewhat inflated compared to what one might achieve on the actual GMAT. While this can be encouraging, it can also lull test-takers into a false sense of confidence.

One should use practice tests as a means to evaluate and improve their skill set but remember that continuous refinement and focused preparation are key to achieving the target GMAT score.

Should one first find out what GMAT score one actually needs for the university/course of choice? One needs at least 700 for Top 10 schools, 680 for Top 20, and 650 for Top 50 to pass. Is that a good route for a novice to start?

As a rule of thumb, strive to score 30 to 40 points above the median score of your target school. Doing so not only strengthens your chances of gaining admission but can also significantly improve your eligibility for scholarships. Considering the high tuition fees associated with MBA programs, securing a scholarship can provide substantial financial relief.

Also Read: All you need to know about Germany’s WISE, an exclusive programme for Indian students

How should one design the study plan - build a toolkit?

I believe those who attempt to create their own study plans without expert guidance often find themselves lost and directionless. That's why my first piece of advice is to consult with a professional test preparation agency.

However, expert guidance alone won't suffice; self-awareness is equally crucial. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses to target your study efforts effectively. One invaluable tool in this regard is maintaining an error log.

Document every question you get wrong, along with the reason for the mistake. Revisit this error log at least once a week to review your weak areas and revise your strategies.

Online versus offline study plan? Which one is better?

Choosing between online and offline GMAT study plans depends on individual needs. Online plans offer flexibility and a wealth of resources, often adapting to your performance. Offline plans provide structured learning and immediate feedback from instructors. Many find a hybrid approach most effective, leveraging online resources for flexibility and offline methods for structured learning.

How early should one start? On average, it is said, 3 months (10-15 hours a week) is good enough. Is it?

Although a study period of three months, averaging around three hours per day, is commonly recommended for achieving a competitive score, in my opinion, the earlier you start your GMAT journey, the better. Initiating the process while still in college can open myriad opportunities.

What are the typical GMAT prep mistakes and pitfalls?

One of the most frequent issues is inconsistency in preparation. Irregular study patterns can seriously hinder progress. Another pitfall is relying on easier prep materials, which can provide a false sense of confidence.

Not timing oneself during practice and neglecting certain sections, such as Reading Comprehension, can also be detrimental. Some test-takers overestimate their Quantitative skills and neglect focused practice, which can result in a disappointing performance and lower the overall score.

Also Read: Vocabulary Made Easy series: Guide to glide through strengthening your word power

How does one achieve the 99th percentile? Is it as elusive as numbers convey?

About 0.02% of GMAT test-takers, or about 30 people a year, will score a perfect 800 on the test. Achieving a 99th percentile score on the GMAT is challenging but not insurmountable.

In my 27 years of teaching, many of my students have successfully reached this milestone. The recipe for a top score includes studying high-quality material, benefiting from expert guidance, maintaining consistency, keeping an error log, and practicing under timed conditions.

Is there a time-tested mantra to get a good GMAT score?

If there's a time-tested mantra for achieving a strong GMAT score, it's not to neglect the Quantitative and Reading Comprehension sections. Often, people with engineering backgrounds assume they'll naturally excel in Quantitative, only to find themselves falling short.

Also Read: Logical Reasoning series: Tips to crack and ace exams

Similarly, Reading Comprehension is frequently overlooked, despite being a cornerstone for a great GMAT score. A poor performance in this section can easily lower your overall score by 80-90 points.

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