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GMAT: Tricks Lead to Treats – A Student Perspective


I love the season and spirit of Halloween! Who could not like a reason to get dressed up and eat candy? As I flashed back to Halloween pasts I began to remember the first time I took the GMAT was on Halloween a few years ago. This is quite fitting since knowing a few GMAT tricks will undoubtedly result in treats on test day and beyond.

Trick: Respect the GMAT; you must provide yourself with the necessary time and materials to study for the test.

Treat: From my experience most students don’t spend the time needed preparing for the GMAT. Like any standardized tests, there are tendencies on the GMAT. Test makers ask questions and list answers in a predictable manner so it’s possible to answer a few questions correctly simply by identifying patterns. There are also people who make their living cracking the GMAT and spreading knowledge on how to conquer the test. I know there can be a significant investment in test-prep materials but these are well worth it. Also make sure you give yourself plenty of time to study; simply trying to cram during a weekend will not be sufficient to achieve your best score.

Trick: Pacing and stamina is critical.

Treat: Simply put, the GMAT is a long and challenging test. You will start to get mentally tired probably halfway through test. If you haven’t put yourself through a few actual practice tests you won’t be mentally ready for the test and your score will suffer. The GMAT makes big deductions for consecutive missed questions so getting tired and missing a few questions at the end will tremendously hurt your performance.  This also means you absolutely have to finish the exam. Even two unanswered questions at the end of the test could cost you 20 points.

Trick: Repeat after me, “This is not a math test, but I must know basic math.”

Treat: You won’t spend precious time studying concepts you won’t need. This point ties in the first trick, because test makers try to make you think they are asking really complicated math questions. The key is picking apart the question to see what it is really asking. Once you have done that you realize how simple the math is – for example the GMAT finds really confusing ways to ask you to compute 2+2. The most difficult path you may need to brush up on is high school level geometry.

Trick: Spend some extra time on the first ten questions.

Treat: The first ten questions are scripted determine the next few questions on the test. The average time per question works out to about 2 minutes per question but it would not hurt to average up to 2.5 minutes per question.  It’s important to always be conscious of your time and to remember if you spend 2.5 minutes each on the first ten questions that you will need to make it up sometime during the test.  I recently saw a post saying the first ten questions don’t matter more than other questions. Since the first ten determine the difficulty of the next few questions (which in turns determines the points) this could not be further from the truth.

Trick: Be open to taking the test multiple times.

Treat: With increased practice, there is typically an increase in performance. Depending on your level of preparation, taking the GMAT multiple times can be very beneficial. On a personal note, I took the GMAT four times which was probably one time too many. However I saw very positive gains on my second and third attempts.  One online study said that students often see a 33 point gain (on the 200-800) scale the second time an applicant takes a test. To some people this may not seem like much but the difference between 700 and 670 is huge. If you can fully commit to the prep time, I strongly urge to consider taking the test again.

Trick: Relax. The GMAT is not the single criteria for admission.

Treat: If you are relaxed on test day, it will show in your score. Thankfully business schools realize that one test you took on one day is not the only determining factor for your admission to school. Most schools weigh your GPA, work experience, essays, recommendations, and GMAT score so even if your GMAT is not where you would like to be, you can still develop a solid application.

Good Luck!  Enjoy Halloween.

Second-Year MBA Student