Top tips on cracking the GMAT

Strategies to ace the crucial test without losing your cool

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Libby Kokemoor
GN Focus

The GMAT is undoubtedly one of the most daunting requirements of an MBA or Executive MBA application. However, it’s also one of the most important — and the part of an application you have most control over. Knowing the importance of the GMAT, here are some tips on how to achieve your best score.

Set your goal

- Look at the student profile data of business schools you want to apply to. What is the average GMAT score of admitted candidates? You should aim to be within 10-30 points of this average, if not above it. 

- If you are an international applicant to programmes in the US and Europe, GMAT score expectations will often be even higher for foreign students, depending on your professional background. 

Start early 

- Many people underestimate how time-consuming an MBA application can be. If you are working full-time, applying to multiple programmes and trying to prepare for the GMAT all at the same time, you may not achieve the best result that you are capable of. 

- GMAT scores are valid for five years, so the best approach is to take the test when you have time to devote to preparation — well before you plan to apply.

Find your baseline

- Take a full-length diagnostic test to see where you are starting from. The length of the test itself — four hours including breaks — is a challenge you must acclimatise to, in addition to the content.

- Don’t focus only on your strong side as you start to prepare. The more you improve in a weaker section, the more your overall score will rise. 

Structure the study

- If you rarely struggled with exams in school and are highly self-motivated, you may be most successful preparing on your own with the help of high-quality study materials. 

- If your job is very demanding and you need to structure your study time, consider private tutoring or group classes, where peers can motivate you. 

Retake if required

- There is no shame in retaking the GMAT. More than a quarter of test-takers will sit the exam more than once.

- Many schools will consider your best quantitative and verbal scores, even if they come from separate test dates.

- If you have truly given your best efforts over several attempts at the GMAT, consider whether your energy could be better spent elsewhere — such as on your application essays. 


- Any MBA student will be expected to take courses in finance and other topics that require strong mathematical understanding. Poor performance in the quantitative reasoning section can raise doubts about how you will cope with the programme. 

- If your undergraduate grades are weak, the GMAT is your chance to prove your academic ability and make up for any shortcomings.

- The GMAT is one thing that no applicant can fake or have someone else complete, so business schools weigh your results accordingly as direct evidence of your capabilities.

- Average GMAT scores are typically factored into business school rankings, so educational institutions have a strong interest in rejecting students with low scores.

— The writer is senior counsellor at Hale Education Group in Abu Dhabi