GMAT preparation is a meticulous process and involves time, discipline, and focus. It takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months for most candidates. If the process is well planned and executed, it can lead to a significant improvement in the final GMAT score. GMAT can be attempted anytime of the year, hence you have a lot of flexibility in terms of choosing when to begin your preparation. Therefore, it is best to start the preparing when you are likely to have minimum distractions in the ensuing period. The first step in starting with the preparation is drafting out a GMAT study plan. The study plan is likely to be revised later as you go along. In this article, we examine the important considerations that you need to take into account as you set out on your GMAT preparation journey.
- The first step in planning the GMAT preparation is to identify the timeline for the entire process. Work out both the lower and upper limits for the time you can allow. This is most often dictated by how close you are to the next application deadline. For instance, a candidate starting GMAT preparation in the month of May will likely set a lower time limit of about 3 months but can allow upto 5 months until September (which is when most b-schools have their Round 1 deadlines) as the upper limit. Remember that you need to be slightly flexible when you start because it is difficult to work out the exact time you'll need for preparation in advance. You can always adjust once you begin with the preparation.
- The second step in the GMAT preparation is to identify your perceived weak and strong topics right at the start. Remember, there is no need to give equal time to each and every topic or sub-topic that's tested on the exam. In fact, the 80-20 rule is likely to apply to your GMAT preparation as well, and you will find that it is a few topics that will take up a bulk of the time. Typically, in the Quantitative Ability section of the exam, it is topics such as Geometry, Counting methods, and Inequalities that trouble candidates more. In the Verbal Ability section of the exam, it is topics such as Logical Predication in Grammar, and unfamiliar passages in Reading Comprehension that take up much longer than other topics to improve on. So keep in mind that you might have to allot more time than originally budgeted for a few areas in your preparation. Do also remember that many topics are not tested in the manner you might have imagined. For instance, in Geometry, GMAT does not ever test candidates in the area of Trigonometry. The concepts here are limited to circles, triangles, and quadrilaterals. You do not need to even know what sin, cos, and tan means for GMAT. Therefore, you might have estimated longer thinking you'll need to cover all these topics, but might realize that the concepts get covered relatively faster.
- Once you have a timeline in place and have a sense of your strong and weak areas, the next step is to identify your primary source of GMAT preparation. Your primary source of preparation could be a coaching class that you join, the GMAT Official Guide (latest edition is the 2020 edition. Compare editions here), an online forum such as gmatclub, a private GMAT tutor, a set of reference books such as the Manhattan Prep guides, or an online GMAT course that you've subscribed to. For most students preparing for GMAT, it is a combination of the above. Very few candidates prepare using just one source. Keep in mind that each of the above options are likely to have their strengths and weaknesses. For instance, your learning experience at a coaching class might turn out to be unsatisfactory if the instructor is not competent enough, or doesn't understand GMAT well enough (maybe because he is primarily a GRE instructor). Similarly, the solutions in the GMAT Official Guide might seem intimidating, especially for the Quantitative section, if you do not have personal guidance, and, likewise, information that you obtain from the online GMAT forums might be incorrect, only partially correct, or completely misleading. Therefore, it is imperative to keep your own counsel whenever you choose one form of preparation over the other. Do not get carried away by the opinions of others. Just because a dozen people have a perspective on something does not imply that they are all necessarily right. Be careful with reviews, as we are increasingly witnessing fake reviews even with verification mechanisms in place on many online portals. We have come across many candidates who have reported to us that they used a certain online resource because they had read great reviews about it, but it turned out to be a disappointment. In our view, the GMAT Official Guide is among your safest sources for GMAT preparation. As far as possible, refer to official GMAT study material only.
- Once you have worked out the above 3 steps, you are ready to prepare a good study plan. It is now time to look at some of the finer details. GMAT preparation is different from your school or college exam preparation. In case of the latter, you had to memorize a lot of things, as well as remember many formulae. Fortunately, on GMAT, there is not much you need to memorize, other than the very basic concepts such as what is an odd number and what is an even number, correct use of pronouns in a sentence, etc. GMAT is not a test of how knowledgeable you are in Math and English. It is about your ability to think under newer situations with a time restriction. To get some important tips and pointers about what GMAT is and what it is not, you will do well to go through our GMAT Preparation Strategies that we've posted on our blog.