Considering the sheer number of applicants to Harvard, Wharton, or any of the other top 10 business schools, you will need a stellar GMAT score to keep your application competitive.
You likely want to impress an admissions office by scoring better than 98% or 99% of all other people taking the test, which means you will need at least a 750 GMAT.
The chances are that after taking a practice GMAT or two (you have done that right?) your score isn’t quite there.
The good news is that it is simple, if not easy, to get your GMAT score in that 98th percentile or higher—you just need hard work, dedication, and a lot of practice!
Here are the four steps for scoring 750 or higher on the GMAT:
1. Commit 60-to-100 hours of your time
The most fool proof way to improve at the GMAT is to put a serious number of hours into prep work.
Need to review the concepts tested on the quantitative section? Devote hours every day for a few weeks so that you know these like the back of your hand.
Do you struggle with timing on the test? Plan on completing timed drills so often that you don’t even notice the clock running.
Plan on putting in 60-100 hours of total work for your GMAT prep. This breaks down into 15 hours of work per week for four to seven weeks.
Sure, that month or two may put a dampener on your social life, but this is a pretty modest time commitment considering that a stellar GMAT score can have a lifelong impact on your career.
2. Relearn all the relevant content
After you’ve taken your first practice GMAT, go through all the questions on the quantitative section that you missed and jot down the subject covered. When you’re done you should have a list that reads “ratios, triangles, prime numbers” and so on.
Now, spend a couple of weeks reviewing every single one of these math concepts. You will need to know these fundamentals inside out to confidently complete all the questions on time. An innate sense of a given math concept can make or break your accuracy on data sufficiency questions.
The official GMAT study guide contains all the relevant math you need, and it’s a great review resource. Grab the pack with the supplementary quantitative and verbal books as well.
The grammar tested by the GMAT is minimal, but make sure you know everything covered in those books for the sentence correction questions.
3. Practice and review
This is where the bulk of your prep hours are going to happen. Those official GMAT books are the mother lode when it comes to realistic GMAT questions, so these will be your best bet for practice drills.
During a practice drill, focus on a specific type of question and time yourself. If you’re going to answer 30 questions, give yourself 60 minutes. Keep an eye on the timer and try to note any questions you’re spending too long on—these will merit additional consideration.
This last part is especially important: your prep time includes the time you spend reviewing questions you missed. Don’t hesitate to spend a lot of time reviewing answers after drills. Reviewing is the best opportunity to develop an understanding of not just why you missed a question, but how the GMAT applies specific content.
If you are struggling with the more theoretical question types like data sufficiency or critical reasoning, reviewing the questions you got wrong is basically the only way to find out how your approach to these types of questions differs than what the GMAT is demanding of you. Spend plenty of time going over your wrong answers and you’ll gradually learn the test’s logic.
4. Consider tutoring
By no means a last resort, a great tutor can diagnose your specific strengths and weaknesses and customize a prep curriculum for you.
A tutor will help you relearn essential content, sure. But more importantly, they will point out flaws in your test-taking logic, or help you pinpoint the exact types of questions you tend to waste time on.
A tutor will also help keep you honest to your prep regimen, if you’re the type of person who has a hard time sticking to a rigorous routine outside of your day job.
By Michael Sugarman
Michael is a Senior Tutor for MyGuru, a provider of online GMAT tutoring which helps students build customized study plans and focuses on a mix of core concepts and skills development and GMAT-specific test-taking strategies. Mike holds a BA from Columbia and scored in the 99th percentile on the GMAT, GRE and SAT, and scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. He has been tutoring privately for over five years in test prep, math, English, and reading comprehension.