The GMAT is for admissions into business schools, and the GRE is for grad schools – that’s a major distinction. The GMAT is designed to determine if you can take the next academic step toward business school, and ultimately if you can handle it.
If you’re looking for GRE help, see more from Varsity Tutors on how to improve your GRE score.
Learning the ins and outs of the GMAT is a monster task. That is why we recommend working with a private tutor to have him/her guide you through the strategies of acing it.
GMAT background: The GMAT is a computer-adaptive exam, scored between 200-800 with the average score around 400-600. Overall, it has four sections. The Quantitative/Verbal sections range between 0-60 and determine your 200-800 score. The Analytical Writing has one essay scored 0-6, and most students score around a 4.4. The Integrated Reasoning section is scored 1-8. The writing/reasoning sections do not impact your 200-800 score.
Understanding the computer-adaptive test: You’re not scored on the number of questions you answer correctly, but rather the scoring bracket you’re placed in. If you keep answering questions correctly, you will be placed in a higher scoring bracket with more difficult questions and vice versa.
For example, you will start with an average difficulty question (around 550). If you answer it correctly, you’ll bounce up to a higher scoring bracket (maybe 600-650). Now, if you get that right, you’ll bounce even higher, but not quite as much (maybe 650-670). Then, with another correct answer, you’ll move up to 680-720. Now, if you get your 720 question wrong, you’ll drop your level a bit (maybe to a 700). Then, if you get that right, back up. This pattern will continue throughout the section. Typically, most students plateau out and get one question right, one wrong. The test can then pinpoint your exact score.
This is generally how the test works, but no one knows the exact GMAT algorithm. The swings in difficulty level and scoring brackets are much more drastic during the first 10 questions. But, doing well on the first 10 questions will not necessarily lock you into a high scoring bracket, and you can still earn a high score if you do poorly.
GMAT prep book: Welcome to your new best friend. This should be your first step in preparing to take on the GMAT, as a good book will introduce you to test strategies, test questions and provide full-length practice tests. It’s best to read through or skim through the book before jumping into practice tests. Read the background and general tips sections; then once you feel comfortable with those, move on to practice tests.
Practice tests: Taking practice tests can be the most effective way to raise your GMAT score, if you take them right. With your first few practice tests, try not to worry about your scores – they will improve eventually. It’s important to identify your pace and weaknesses, and then the next step is to improve in your weak areas.
One-on-one GMAT tutor: Improving in your problematic areas is the most difficult step in the GMAT process, and it is key to improving your score. A private GMAT tutor can go beyond the explanation in any class or book you use to give you the in-depth learning and explanation you need to master your weaker areas. Then, you can fine tune your other skills and improve your pace. Once you complete this area, the rest of your GMAT prep is so much easier.
Mimic test settings: Your brain works best with consistency. So study for the test in the exact same scenario you will take it in. Study in 4-hour increments in a public place on a computer, like a library or coffee shop because your brain needs to get used to thinking with other people around. Take only two, 8-minute breaks exactly as the test offers. The administrators used to let students prepare in the actual test center; however, they no longer do that.
Pay attention to time: As you take your practice tests. Highlight or star any question that take a bit longer than the others. Add these types of questions to your problematic areas to review with your tutor. The best way to improve your time is taking practice tests over and over and over again. You don’t always need to time yourself. Sometimes it’s best to just work through problems. This will help pound answers and strategies into your brain, allowing you improve your time, which can be the difference between a 600 and a 650.
Always finish the section: It’s much better to finish the test than it is to make sure you correctly answer every question. There is even a penalty for not finishing a section, which some estimate to be as high as 30-50 points, and you can be penalized for rapidly answering the last few questions. You have about 2 minutes for each Quantitative question and under 2 minutes for each Verbal question. So, if you find yourself spending more than 3 minutes on a question (and you have not been getting through others under 2 minutes), guess and move on.
Show your work: Not to be your 4th grade math teacher, but you will be amazed at how many fewer careless mistakes you make when you show your work. It may be tedious, but it can improve your score.
Break down the GMAT: Don’t try to tackle the whole test at once. Instead, work on each section one-by-one; then do an entire review.