If you’re looking to earn a Master of Accountancy, MBA, or Master of Finance, then get ready to cozy up with the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). This is one of the more challenging tests out there because it is an adaptive test. In other words, it adjusts to your level of proficiency so that very few “versions” of the test are similar. You get one right, the next question is harder. You get one wrong, the next is easier, but it places you in a situation where you have to play catch-up in order to get the best score. Yeah, yeah, we know. They’re evil. Nevertheless, you can beat this test if you learn how to use some very basic tips to your advantage.
1. Give yourself plenty of time to grow familiar with the test.
Remember the first time you took the ACT or SAT or a final from some sadistic college professor, and you saw a question that appeared to go on for days? You eventually got through it by taking an overview of what the question was really asking. Then, you probably tried playing process of elimination. At the end of the day, the question wasn’t quite as scary as it appeared at first glance. You’re going to have one of those, “take my breath away” moments when you first start to familiarize yourself with the GMAT.
That’s okay. Allow the dread to wash over you, and then piecemeal each section, from quantitative to verbal to integrated reasoning and analytical writing.
It takes about four weeks, give or take, to grow comfortable with each section and subsection. Give yourself the time needed to achieve a level of comfort and familiarity. It’s okay to still be nervous because the GMAT is tricky by nature. But it doesn’t have to be overtly intimidating. Roll up your sleeves. Read some sample test questions. Wrap your brain around what each of the sample questions are asking, and don’t be afraid to guess wrong. In the beginning stages, it’s about showing the GMAT who the boss is.
2. Know the answer you’re looking for before looking at the answers.
Critical reasoning questions can be particularly taxing if you make the mistake of jumping right into the answer selections. Each of the five choices may appear confusing and wordy, and that’s because they are. But you can greatly reduce the confusion by knowing the kind of answer the test expects before actually looking at the answers.
You accomplish this by closing the gap between the premise and the conclusion. The GMAT tries to make these little gaps in logic as small as it can. A real-world example of this would be the unemployment rate versus the actual amount of people who are unemployed. Many people understand that a drop in the unemployment rate doesn’t mean that more people are working or that less are unemployed. All the unemployment rate itself states is how many persons are without work and receiving benefits while looking for employment.
A GMAT question, however, may try to draw a conclusion that the rate reduction is indicative of a person reduction as well. Knowing this before ever reading the first response allows you to more easily spot the correct answer.
3. Learn the multiplier functions for working with percentages.
Working with percentages will come in handy on some of the more mathematically-driven questions, and as this goes, there are three things to remember which can help. If you want the percentage of a number--like say 25%--then first convert the percentage to a decimal (.25 in this case). Multiply the decimal by 100, and you get 25. (Your answer.) But let’s say you want to decrease 100 by 25%. In this case, it helps knowing that any number times one (its multiplier) results in that number as the answer. Now take your multiplier (1) and subtract your 25% (.25) from it. That leaves you with .75, which can then be multiplied by 100 for the answer (75). Finally, you want to calculate a 25% increase from 100. In this case, you add the decimal version (.25) to the multiplier (1) and get a new multiplier of 1.25. Now times that by the original number, and you get a final answer of 125. GMAT, of course, will throw some more complicated numbers your way, but knowing the concept will help you stay on the right track.
4. Don’t be stubborn.
We’ve already mentioned it, but it’s worth repeating. The GMAT is an adaptive test. Its algorithms are well aware of when you don’t know something, when you do know something, when you miss a question based on careless oversight, and when you get a question right based on a lucky guess. How does it know? To explain that, we would probably need a mathematician and a couple thousand pages. Not important. What is important is that you know the test is adaptive, and that it’s probably smarter than you are. As such, you should not get too caught up in trying to fool it. Maybe you “reason” your way to one or two right answers, but your score will be better served with proper time management, which brings us to:
5. Punt the ball.
Even the smartest GMAT taker misses questions. The nature of the exam is to accurately test your “floor” of knowledge, whether that’s well above (or well below) 500. To get the best results, don’t spend too much time on any one question. GMAT throws you easier or more difficult questions based on your established level of proficiency on previous questions. Let it do its thing, and you worry about doing yours. If you’ve got to break a few eggs to get to the real you, then by all means, break them.
6. Test numerical relationships.
Understanding numerical relationships will help you more on the GMAT than actually becoming your own computer.
Example: Say you have 1050. Friggin’ huge number. You want to know the sum of the digits of integer k, if k equals 1050 – 63. Your options are: A) 423, B) 442, C) 453, D) 460, and E) 473.
Rather than try to multiply all that out by hand, keep the numbers simple. 102 is 100. 103 is 1,000. 104 is 10,000. (That should be enough.)
Subtract 63 from each one per the instructions, and get 37, 937, and 9,937, respectively.
Notice with each one you go up, you add another nine. Additionally, the last two digits stay 3 and 7. At the 50th power you’re looking at 48 9’s, a 3 and a 7. When you multiply 48*9 (answer: 432) and then add 3 and 7 (answer: 10), you get 442 (option B).
Even when GMAT is testing your math skills, it’s really testing your use of logic and critical thinking. Don’t forget that just because you’re looking at numbers instead of words.
GMAT is one of those tests that require much of the taker. Much more than we can possibly cover in this blog post. You’ll want to devote weeks of study time to it, and if you’ve done so, then you will have the brainpower to score well. But you can still derail your performance if you let nerves get in the way. It sounds elementary, but healthy breathing patterns have a calming effect. If question one hits you like a ton of bricks, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and move forward.
About Aric Mitchell
Aric Mitchell is renowned author of horror novels and a blogger for several websites. Aric uses his ability and knowledge to help teach others how to better study and prepare for upcoming exams and challenges in their life. Connect with Aric on
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