1) Go in confident and excited.
A little anxiety is good. But you have to believe in yourself and not second guess your instincts. This test is not designed to trick you or make you feel stupid. It’s an opportunity to show off your skills. The difference between the right attitude (confident) and the wrong attitude (pessimistic) can be as much as 50-100 points on your final score.
2) Get familiar with computerized adaptive testing (CAT).
When you sign up for the test, the GMAT will give you two full online practice tests to complete. Do them both! Ideally, do one practice exam two weeks before the real test and the other practice test the week before the big day. Remember that you can’t skip a question and come back to it on a CAT-style test. To see the next question, you MUST answer the current question. Getting good at making educated guesses in a short period of time is critical to success on the GMAT.
3) Three tips for Data Sufficiency problems.
1) You don’t have to actually solve the problem. You only need to get far enough to conclude that you could work out the answer with the information given. 2) If you determine that each statement is sufficient – answer choice (D) – but your solution to the problem differs when using statement (1) vs. statement (2), you’ve made a mistake somewhere. There should only be one solution to every problem on the GMAT. Go back, re-test your assumptions, and try again. 3) When reading the second statement, pretend that statement (1) doesn’t exist. Cover it on the screen with your hand if you have to. A common mistake is to read the 2nd statement and conclude, “Yeah, I can answer the question now!” and mark answer choice (B), when the correct answer is (C) because you need both statements together.
4) Practice reading more quickly.
The GMAT is a timed test that requires solid critical thinking to master. The more time you spend reading, the less time you have to do the real work: analyzing the answer choices and drawing conclusions. It should take you no longer than 60 seconds to read (and comprehend!) 30 lines of a GMAT reading passage. Get out a stopwatch and time yourself to be sure. Practice reading at a pace just slightly faster than your normal, casual reading speed. For best results, train your eyes by reading actual GMAT passages on a computer screen with black text on a white background.
5) Think like the test maker.
This is especially important on the Critical Reasoning section, which incidentally is one of the hardest sections on the GMAT. It’s difficult because you can’t hone your skills by memorizing formulas or studying common errors in grammar. You only have your intuition to guide you. But here’s a tip to help you to pinpoint answer choices that are likely incorrect. Take a look at your hand with all five fingers spread out. Your five fingers are like the answer choices (A through E) on a Critical Reasoning question. One answer is out of left field and just doesn’t fit in with the others. That’s the thumb, and it’s definitely a wrong answer. One answer choice doesn’t go far enough and is too limited in its scope. That’s the pinky, and it’s wrong, too. Another answer goes too far outside the scope of the question. That’s like your middle finger – another answer choice to avoid. The final two choices are fairly close to one another in scope (like your index and ring fingers) and each is a possible correct answer. Don’t make any unnecessary assumptions, don’t use any extra information not provided in the question, and trust your instincts to pick the right one!
Jason Modzelewski holds an MBA from Boston College and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. He works as a product specialist for Charles River Development in Burlington, MA and has been tutoring part-time in the Boston MetroWest area since 2008. He has over 10 years of work experience in the finance industry and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.
Did you find these GMAT tips helpful? Which of the five tips resonated with you the most?
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