By Mark Skoskiewicz
Many students are intimidated by the GMAT. It’s no surprise; the prospect of targeting and training for a 700+ score can be daunting.
Placing in the 90th percentile of GMAT test scores is a steep challenge, in part because many students have not been in school for many years before they take it. It’s not that the math or the reading comprehension or English rules are that difficult, it’s just been a long time since you studied them.
In fact, much of the math knowledge required does not go beyond the equivalent to the 10th grade in the US (though the application of that math knowledge on the test can be very tricky).
You are also unable to use a calculator, which means mental math is important—living in an age of Excel and iPhone calculators has diminished the skill’s importance.
The GMAT also places you in a stressful environment, where time pressure is intense and there is a lot riding on your performance. This can lead to mis-reading and computational errors on questions you understand well.
So, how do you move beyond these points and begin working towards a 700+ score?
Debunking the following three myths is a good place to start.
1. The GMAT is part math, and part English and vocabulary test
There is certainly a lot of math on the GMAT, and it is important to understand various English and grammar rules.
But, you’ll struggle if you conceptualize the GMAT as simply a math or English test. The GMAT is designed to test your critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and in that sense it’s more of a ‘strategy game’ than a test you’d take in school.
For example, in an algebra class, you get full credit if you get the right answer. You may get partial credit though if you show your work, such that the teacher can see you were working out the problem using the correct formula.
On the GMAT though, in most cases, working out the problem with a formula is probably not the best way to answer the problem. Instead, you should be strategically eliminating answers that can’t possibly be right. You need to choose an effective strategy, not remember the right math formula.
2. You either have it or you don’t
Perhaps the most detrimental myth is that the GMAT is essentially an IQ test, and so you can’t really study that much for it.
I won’t go into extensive detail explaining all the ways in which this is harmful and untrue, but suffice it to say, the GMAT can and should be prepared for.
Generally, there is a linear relationship between preparation and GMAT score. The more and better you prepare, the higher your score. Someone with a high IQ who does not prepare for the GMAT is unlikely to do very well.
3. Just studying more will lead to better results
So, this myth is obviously related to myth number two. Yes, you can and should prepare for the GMAT. But, it’s a tricky exam and you must prepare for it using techniques appropriate for an exam that doesn’t place much value on memorization. The right type of studying will include:
- Memorizing some core formulas and reading to learn about concepts, but recognizing that practicing problems is much more effective than reading and re-reading.
- Giving yourself lots of mini quizzes to measure your true understanding, and avoiding the ‘illusion of mastery’ that comes when you read about something but don’t try to do it yourself.
- Carefully reviewing your mistakes and identifying and learning from what you did wrong.
- A fair number of timed practice tests taken under real testing conditions to measure progress.
- Getting help from an expert, be that a class, online video, or tutor when necessary. Most students cannot simply read about and then understand every concept covered on the GMAT.
Buying in to the idea that the above three ideas are in fact myths will put you on a path toward a 700+ GMAT score. It will allow you to approach the exam with the right mindset, and create a study plan that builds the right types of skills.
Mark Skoskiewicz graduated from Indiana University with a B.S. in Business Management and holds an MBA from Kellogg. He founded MyGuru, a provider of 1-1 tutoring and test prep, in 2009.