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A Complete Guide to the GMAT Exams

By Joseph, published on 24/07/2017 Blog > Languages > ESOL (English) > English Help to Pass the GMAT Exam
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The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a really useful tool in American universities (as well as in another 110 countries) to choose students for further study in business management programmes (at business schools, those doing business management masters, going to a Graduate business school, or enrolling on MBA programs, etc.).

Are you a business school student wanting to make the most of university exchanges so you can live in the United States? You’ll probably need to sit the GMAT to prove your level in English and get past the MBA admissions process!

What is GMAT?

The GMAT is a standardised test in English set up by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

The GMAT score range is between 200 (the lowest score) and 800 (top marks).

The test is designed so that half the candidates get over 500 and the other half get below 500 so that means there isn’t an objective good mark. Universities can decide what score they require and you’re graded on a curve. It’s definitely not the typical exam you’d take in an English class.

What is a good GMAT score?

A score of 550 is usually enough to go to a “smaller” university while you’ll generally need somewhere between 650 and 700 if you’re hoping to get into Harvard!

The GMAT Test

The English test is a computer adaptive test (CAT). This means that the first questions are of an average difficulty. If you get them correct, the difficulty of the following questions will increase, if you’re wrong, the level of the following questions will decrease. The objective is to push you to your limits and see if you’re good enough. Put simply, the better you do, the harder the questions.

The GMAT test takers will face two sections.

The test itself consists of two large sections: a verbal section and a quantitative section.

GMAT Verbal

The verbal part of the test is to test your abilities when it comes to understanding a text. In this part you will be tested on reading comprehension, sentence correction, and your critical reasoning.

GMAT Maths

The quantitative section evaluated the candidates’ quantitative reasoning and problem solving. This section includes a “Data Sufficiency” section in which you are given questions and you have to decide whether you have enough information in order to answer the question. This section also includes a problem solving section with questions such as:

Example GMAT Maths Question: If 3 workers take 3 days to construct 3 metres of wall, how much time would it take 6 workers to build 6 metres of wall?

As we said, this isn’t your usual test. It blends everything you’ll need to know before starting a course like an MBA.

How Long does it take to Prepare for GMAT?

The time you’ll need for your GMAT preparation will depend on the score you’re aiming for, your level of English (in order to answer the questions in the verbal section), and your level in maths (in order to answer the questions in the quantitative section).

What books do I need for the GMAT? If you’re serious, you’ll need a whole stack of books! (Source: GMAT Club)

The GMAT’s difficultly doesn’t come from the difficulty of the questions (since the questions in the quantitative questions are of a secondary school or sixth form level) but rather from the speed at which you have to answer the questions (less than two minutes per question) and how well you answer them (given that the test is adaptive). In order to get a good score in the GMAT, you’ll need to study the GMAT itself in order to:

  • Learn the methodology: can you quickly identify incorrect answers? How do you choose between two answers if you’re not sure?

  • Acquire the necessary linguistic and mathematical skills required.

  • Have the time revise past papers (or “cram” as the bad kids would say) in order to improve your speed when it comes to answering the questions correctly.

To improve your chances of success, start preparing for the GMAT around a year before you’re going to take your test. In fact, revising for the GMAT at the last minute is highly discouraged. If you aren’t familiar with the exam’s format, you’re basically wasting your time and your money.

Why not look into testing your English proficiency with Cambridge English exams?

How to Revise for the GMAT?

Like previously stated, preparing for your GMAT exam involves three things: learning the exam technique, acquiring skills, and quickly revising to succeed. Here’s some advice for when you decide to study for your GMAT.

  • Plan one or several hourly slots each week dedicated to studying for the GMAT in order to avoid procrastination and get ahead with your studies, even if your schedule is full. This is not an exam you can take lightly.

  • Subscribe to English-language magazines (like Time) a year before sitting the GMAT in order to expand your cultural awareness, enrich your English vocabulary, and familiarise yourself with English idiomatic expressions. Make a habit of reading documents in English whenever you can, wherever you can.

  • If your English is weak, buy a small grammar book, study basic conjugations, like the present simple, past simple, and present perfect, etc., online, and prepositions. 10 to 15 minutes a day (every day) is enough to progress quickly. Make sure your understanding of these concepts is flawless by the time you sit the exam.

  • Look for specialised GMAT preparation books or GMAT study guides to help with your test preparation. These are often full of useful study tips that will help you with your test-taking techniques. Again, the GMAT isn’t like any other exam you’ve ever taken, make sure you know what to expect!

  • Get GMAT practice tests to work on. Since the GMAT questions follow certain patterns, any GMAT test taker will get used to the exams and the questions with enough practice. Soon you’ll be able to work out what kind of problem solving is required when it comes to any question in a given exam.

  • Consider getting private tutorials as part of your GMAT prep. They’ll be able to offer you a specialised GMAT prep course.

When it comes to maths, practice makes perfect. When it comes to test prep for the quantitative test, buy a GMAT practice test or past paper and go through the practice questions. Check your answers, see what GMAT scores you’d get and read the examiners’ notes if you’re wrong. If you’re unclear on some mathematical concepts, it’s a good idea to dust off your textbooks from secondary school and sixth form. If you’ve unwisely binned your old textbooks, don’t worry! Local book shops and online retailers will probably stock second-hand versions of the books you need so you needn’t break the bank!

Revising past papers allows you to discover your strengths and weaknesses, to work more effectively, gain linguistic and mathematical skills, and quickly, thanks to seeing the same types of questions and answers again and again, get better.

The more you prepare for your GMAT, the more chance you’ll have of getting a high score (see below).

How long does it take to prepare for the GMAT? If you’re going to pass the GMAT, you better prepare! (Source: DH Leonard Consulting)

Quick tip: time yourself when you revise since you need to quickly answer every question in order to finish the exam within the time limit.

Learn which certificates are needed to give private tuition.

Hire a GMAT Tutor

Preparing for the GMAT is a long process; it can be difficult to stay motivated when it comes to studying for it.

In fact, learning to solve mathematical problems on your own is far from an easy task. Why not get in touch with a GMAT tutor or a special English tutor?

A private GLAT teacher can help you with English by:

  • Helping you create a revision programme that works with your strengths and weaknesses.

  • Motivating you when it comes to advancing with your revision.

  • Explaining the maths concepts that you don’t understand.

  • Teaching you the techniques needed to quickly answer questions while limiting the chance of you being wrong.

Expert advice for avoiding the GMAT’s trick questions.

While there isn’t a miracle solution when it comes to getting a good score in the GMAT, here’s some advice to help improve your chances on the day:

  • Read the statements carefully in order to avoid silly mistakes.

  • Work on a scrap piece of paper before answering the questions.

  • Keep an eye on the clock: it would be a real shame to not finish the GMAT because you took too long on a tricky question.

  • If a maths problem is too tricky, rather than trying to work through an equation, get rid of the obviously-wrong answers and “trial” the remaining answers.

  • In the sentence correction section, if you’re stuck between two options, choose the shortest.

  • In the reading comprehension section, read the questions before reading the text. This will allow you to actively and effectively read the text since you know what information you’re looking for.

If you have any questions or need any help preparing for the GMAT or English exams and tutorials, don’t hesitate to check out the tutors on Superprof.

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