I finally had the exam after talking about it a couple of times. And let me tell you that it’s definitely not a cakewalk.
What is GMAT?
The Graduate Management Admission Test, or the GMAT, is a computer adaptive standardized test, designed by the Graduate Management Admission Council, or the GMAC, to test the capabilities of the potential candidates looking for a graduate program of studies. Since I am looking forward to taking my Masters in Finance at a university outside Thailand, it is required that I take this test.
Sections in the Test
There are four big parts to the GMAT exam:
- Analysis Writing Assessment (AWA) – 30 Minutes
This part tests the test takers’ ability to analyze various issues and form an essay response in appropriate academic English.
A topic will be given at the start of the part, and the test taker will have 30 minutes to read, analyze, and form an essay response.
- Integrated Reasoning (IR) – 30 Minutes
This part has been added to GMAT only recently.
It tests the test takers’ ability to analyze information from various information source representations, be it from graphs, charts, or passages.
–Optional 8 Minute Break is given after this section–
- Quantitative (fancy term for ‘Mathematics’) – 90 minutes
This part tests the test takers’ quantitative abilities by asking a set of 37 mathematical multiple choice questions, including topics such as Algebra, Geometry, Basic Statistics, and many more.
This section also contains the infamous question type called ‘Data Sufficiency’, where two statements are presented, then the test takers are asked if these two statements are ‘sufficient’ enough to answer the question.
–Last optional 8 Minute Break–
- Verbal (fancy term for ‘English Test’) – 90 Minutes
The final part tests the test takers’ English verbal abilities by asking a set of 41 multiple choice questions.
This section contains three main question types: Sentence Correction, Reading Comprehension, and Critical Reasoning.
Taking the Test
The whole test is done on a standard desktop PC. It’s a simple process of picking the answer to the question then pressing the ‘NEXT’ button to go to the next question.
WARNING – You cannot go back to the previous questions you’ve answered. So make sure you are really sure of your answer before moving on.
Along with the computer, you are also given a scratch booklet with two markers to do your scratch calculation for the quantitative section, write down notes for the reading comprehension, or draft and brainstorm your ideas for the essay section.
Oh yes, all calculators are NOT allowed (the test program will provide you a calculator for the IR section though).
During the exam day, bring some snacks or sweets with you to the provided locker. You’re going to need them during your section breaks.
Your unofficial score will be printed for you at the front desk right after the exam is done.
Reading your high school English and Math texts is a good way to prepare for this test. Although the test was for graduate schools, the test does not go deeply into special fields of studies like finance or accounting. So don’t worry about having to calculate NPV or memorizing the rules of Debits and Credits.
However, I suggest that you at least find a book that directly helps you review for the test, so you can have a good understanding of what the exam questions will look like. You can purchase the Official Guide for GMAT from the GMAT Official Website.
As a preparation for the exam, I’ve been reviewing my stuffs using Princeton Review’s ‘Cracking the GMAT’ and ‘1,012 GMAT Practice Questions’ textbooks. These two books not only give you an overview of what the test looks like, but it also teaches you the proven ‘score raising techniques’. Basically, they didn’t simply teach you the materials tested in GMAT; they are teaching you how to get high scores on the GMAT.
I took my first GMAT on May 3, 2013.
After taking this test, I would like to share my experience with everyone who would be taking this test in the future. Even if you are not interested, you can share it to your friends and relatives who will be taking the test, so they have an idea about what to expect.
The tips I presented down below is a general guideline on how you should prepare yourself. As a result, it should be applicable to the GMAT at any point in time, regardless if the GMAC adds or removes any sections.
- First of all, get yourself prepared. This does not only mean reading your stuffs ahead of time. I’m talking about getting lots of sleep and going to the exam center more than half an hour before the appointed time. A well-rested sleep helps make your mind fresh for the test and being at the test center on time helps reduce the tension in your mind. If you have your practice books with you, feel free to do a few problems in the morning for warm-ups. Just get enough sleep on the night before the test.
- Next, ask for a new scratch booklet every time you are given a break. The scratch booklet is your best friend in the exam room. You will be writing lots of scratch work, calculations, and notes during the exam. The GMAT answer choices are extremely deceptive, so always do your scratch work, especially for questions that seem too easy.
- This might seem like a small deal, but you should finish all of your exams without skipping any questions. I cannot get into the details on why, but your score will be heavily penalized if you leave a question blank or could not finish all the questions in time.
- Finally, I kid you not when I say you have to practice enduring long sessions of exam. You’ll be sitting in the exam room for four hours. Although the seat should be comfortable for your body, your brain will be exhausted very fast. By the time I got to the mid-point of Verbal section, my brain already stops comprehending whatever I read from the screen. I had to slap myself a couple of times to wake my brain up (and it didn’t help that much anyway).
The optional 8 minutes break is godsend.
Use it. Leave the seat to the toilet to wash your face and eat the snacks you’ve prepared to replenish yourself for the next section.
With this, I hope everyone finds my tips useful and good luck on your exam.