Proven Strategies to Ace GMAT in 2021
If you are an MBA or MiM aspirant targeting b-school application deadlines in 2021 or early 2022, then one of the first steps you’ll have to take is ace the GMAT exam by the end of this year.
Besides studying all the Quant and Verbal concepts and practising regularly, what else can one do to ace the exam?
One needs to also have a good GMAT preparation strategy in place, so that the key aspects of preparation do not get overlooked. Good use of these strategies can make a big difference to the GMAT score.
GMAT does pose a challenge to many aspirants for a variety of reasons. Statistically speaking, for every 100 candidates that attempt the exam, only about 11 manage to touch or cross a score of 700. For those aiming for higher scores such as 730 - 750, the odds are heavily stacked against you. Out of 100 aspirants, just 3 manage to cross 720 and finish in the 730 to 800 score range.
So the foremost question on one’s mind is: How does one go about preparing for the GMAT exam in order to score in the 700 and beyond score bracket, ideally in the 720 or beyond range. There are many things one can do - right from studying for long hours to covering as much ground as possible for Math and Grammar concepts. But does this approach really work? Will such an approach ensure that you’re one among the top percentile scorers?
Our experience with candidates suggests that merely putting in long hours in studying and practising doesn't lead to high scores.
In the last two decades that Sharp Minds has worked with candidates for competitive exams such as GMAT (and earlier CAT), we have seen some clear cut patterns in what separates the winners from the also-rans. In fact, by following precisely these principles in our teaching methodology, Sharp Minds has been featured among the world’s best GMAT preparation institutes in a recent exclusive international study. In this article, we share the same advice that we give to those candidates who prepare for the GMAT exam with us, including those who are reattempting the exam and aiming for higher scores. In fact, we believe that it is by doing simple - but often overlooked - things that one can easily ace the GMAT exam and score in the elite score bracket without having to break the bank.
So if you too are aiming to finish on top, we recommend that you sincerely follow the below 7 steps. These 7 valuable strategies and tips have worked wonders for our past students, who’ve then made it to top MBA and MiM programs worldwide.
1. Get logical, not mathematical, in GMAT's Quant section
Even though the Quantitative Ability section of the GMAT exam is based on math concepts, one has to remember that GMAT is not a math test.
Of course, you need to be clear in all core Math concepts, because these are the basis on which questions are created. But where many candidates falter is in attempting to solve these questions in the same way as they solved Math problems in school and college.
To crack the Quant section of GMAT, you need to think LOGICALLY.
While thinking MATHEMATICALLY might enable you to solve many of the questions you encounter, there are 2 major issues that you can potentially face:
- You will end up taking much longer than was necessary i.e. 2:10 minutes instead of 1:45 minutes. That’s 25 seconds more! Which is a lot of time if you add up across the 31 questions that the Quant section of GMAT contains.
- There is a possibility that you might get stuck in the paperwork and not have an easy way out, thereby upsetting your rhythm and affecting the rest of the exam.
Instead, think Logically and make greater use of Common Sense to answer questions. That’s how they have been designed. Remember, the last thing that top business schools such as Harvard or INSEAD want is a class full of mathematicians! Instead, what the top business schools of the world are looking for are problem-solvers (no coincidence then, that one of the question types in the QA section is called Problem Solving). B-schools are looking for candidates who can look at a situation and come up with solutions. GMAT Quant questions test this skill very effectively. Of course, they use Math as the base. But the Math skills that are tested are pretty ordinary. Mostly what you covered in school. It is your ability to apply thought on the spur of the moment that will differentiate you from the rest.
2. The GMAT Official Guide (GMAT OG) is more than just another book for GMAT
You’ll be surprised. Most GMAT aspirants do not take the GMAT Official Guides (OG) as seriously as they should. In our view, they utilize less than 50% of the value the OG has to offer.
What we mean is that they look at it as just a set of practice questions to be completed. So most candidates merely end up solving the OG, instead of using the official guide efficiently.
Remember, the OG is a lot more than just a collection of 1000+ questions. These questions are REAL RETIRED GMAT QUESTIONS.
Meaning, past candidates like you ACTUALLY FACED THESE QUESTIONS when they sat for the GMAT exam.
In other words, these questions contain many SECRETS to GMAT questioning. So you have to put in that extra effort to Study these questions well. Look at the underlying challenge that the question contained. Look for the traps in the options. Pay attention to question wording and framing of the questions. And most importantly, look up the Official explanations (especially for Verbal) to reinforce in your mind what was being tested.
Exactly the same questions will never reappear in the GMAT. But similar ones definitely will. They always do.
Therefore, you need to use the GMAT Official Guide tactfully. The source of the GMAT Official Guide is the exam creator. Pay attention to the clues the question makers are giving you in these books. You won’t find a better compilation of questions anywhere else.
3. GMAT Sentence Correction (SC) can become a mess if not done correctly
One mistake that we’ve seen many GMAT aspirants make is that they try to take in too much content while preparing for GMAT’s Sentence Correction section.
What can be wrong with that?
Well, the more Grammar rules you cover, the more the potential for unnecessary confusion.
We have come across many GMAT candidates who cover way too much Grammar than they really need to. As a consequence of this, when they look at a Sentence Correction question on GMAT, they tend to analyze it from too many angles. Which means that if the question was primarily testing Parallelism, they begin by focusing on the Idioms used, or on technical stuff such as Use of Clauses etc. They miss the bus. When the focus shifts to the irrelevant part of the sentence, the time taken increases and so does the possibility of missing the main error in the sentence completely. Many candidates go wrong on such questions or mark an answer half-heartedly.
Remember, just as the Quant section is not a test of your Math, Sentence Correction is not an English Grammar exam. Limit yourself only to those BIG RULES that GMAT tests you on. Grammar rules such as Verb Agreement, Tense usage, Logical Predication (Modifiers), Parallel Structure, Diction, Pronoun Usage are the ones that matter most of the time. So don’t overdo your Grammar. Else, instead of becoming a perfectionist, you just might become a Jack of all Grammar Rules and Master of None!
4. Don't try to over prepare for GMAT. Choose quality over quantity
3000 ordinary questions
1500 Good Questions?
Do you believe that successful GMAT candidates study too much and practice too much?
You might say ‘Yes, I feel so.’
And what’s wrong with that, you’ll ask? Aren’t we supposed to study a lot and practice a lot to crack GMAT?
If this were true, the candidate who put in 200 hours into GMAT prep would always be scoring higher than someone who put in 120 hours. And by the same logic, someone who decided to put in 300 hours of preparation would come close to scoring a perfect 800 score on GMAT!
It is a mistake to think that the longer the hours one puts into GMAT preparation, the higher will be the score.
Winning candidates always CHOOSE QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. They make sure that whatever they refer to is:
- Relevant to GMAT.
- Comes from a reliable source (do remember that GMAT forums do not always post reliable content).
- Fits well into their study plan (meaning they won’t do something just for the sake of doing it or just because others are doing it).
Keep the above points in mind and you can't go wrong with the way you prepare for GMAT.
5. In the last 6 to 8 weeks of your GMAT prep, focus on both sections equally
A healthy way to prepare for the last leg of GMAT is to revise all sections simultaneously.
When you start with your preparation, it is ok to focus on just one section at a time, or even one sub-section - such as Critical Reasoning - at a time. You might also want to give priority to your weak areas. So, if you are weak in Quant or have been completely out of touch for a long time, you are likely to start with Quant for the first few weeks. This is perfectly ok.
When you are just starting out, it is a good idea to cover one section at a time, so that you get to develop a STRONG FOUNDATION.
But once you move on to further prep, specifically in the last 6 to 8 weeks before your GMAT, make sure that you MIX IT UP WELL.
In the countdown to the test, it is very important that you keep covering a bit of everything. E.g. Solve 10 CR questions, then move on to 10 DS questions and so on. Don’t solve 100 CR and then 100 DS and then 100 SC in the last few weeks. The more you mix it up, the better the quality of your prep. By doing too much of just one section towards the end of your prep, you run the risk of
- Monotony setting in
- Just chasing targets of questions to compete instead of meaningful analysis
- If you need to make last minute changes to your approach to the questions, you will run out of questions as you’ve already used most of them up in that section.
6. Don't lose touch. Avoid a break in your GMAT preparation
How many times has it happened with you that you got excited about something, gave it considerable time at the start, but then got caught up with other priorities?
Well, it happens all the time.
It can happen to your GMAT prep as well. And once you take a longer than acceptable break from GMAT preparation (which we feel would be 21 days or more), you will find it that much more difficult to resume. What you’ll also realize is that the momentum that was building up has gone. And of course, there is the likelihood that some of the concepts and properties have been partly forgotten.
So, it is necessary that once you decide on starting with GMAT prep, keep it top priority. Even if work or studies prevent you from giving the desired time, just make sure that whenever you have even about ½ an hour or 45 minutes to spare, do some practice. Even if it means doing so once every 2 or 3 days. But stay in touch. Because once you lose touch, you will be put back by at least 20-30 hours in your prep.
7. Work out a GMAT study plan that begins with the end in mind
Many candidates who come to us tell us that they haven’t yet decided when exactly they want to appear for the exam. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, how can one even firm up on a date when the preparation has yet to begin?
But while it is ok to not book a GMAT date in advance, it is nevertheless important to set a tentative target date and then work backwards instead of working forward. How does one figure this out? By following the steps below:
Begin by considering the last step in your prep. That would be the Mock GMATs that you’ll be taking over the last 4 to 5 weeks, say.
Now what would you want to accomplish before you reach the Mock GMAT exams? Maybe complete at least two-thirds of the Official GMAT guides. Simultaneously, take some sectional tests as well. So, you have to estimate the time for this. If clueless, allow for about 4 to 5 weeks.
Then move on to the previous step, which would be getting familiar with all concepts. Break up the time into Verbal and Quant time. Allow for approximately 2 to 3 months for this, depending on how you currently perceive yourself in each of the two sections and their sub-sections. Check whether this kind of time allocation fits well with your initially planned schedule.
Then mark out the tentative dates in your calendar indicating by when you want to realize each step. This way you’ll not only stay on track but will also be able to take the decision to book your GMAT exam date at the right time.
We hope the above tips and strategies have given you good insight into how to plan your GMAT preparation in order to secure the high scores. As mentioned earlier, these guidelines have served our past students well and have enabled so many of them to ace the GMAT exam and make it to their dream b-schools such as Harvard, INSEAD, and ISB to name a few. We are confident that they’ll help you too!