5 Essential GMAT Study Tips

If you’re headed for an MBA, the first thing you’ll need to do is beat the GMAT. This is a challenging hoop to jump through. But the GMAT can be beat. And studying well for the GMAT will not only help you get a top score—it’ll also help you build valuable skills for your future business studies. In this post, we’ll look at five essential GMAT study tips and tricks that can help you on test day and beyond.


Study Tip 1: Use Official Prep Materials

Test prep materials from the makers of the exam—the Graduate Management Admissions Council—are absolutely essential to successful GMAT Prep. These official materials are must-haves for your GMAT prep because the exam has a highly specific, often updated format. No other third-party source of GMAT prep is guaranteed to capture the feel of the real exam as completely as materials form the actual makers of the test

GMAC offers official materials through its test prep website, MBA.com. Official prep resources include GMAT’s free question sets for Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and its official AWA practice web page. You’ll also want to purchase the latest edition of the GMAT official guides, and other official prep materials offered by GMAC.


Study Tip 2: Choose unofficial prep materials by comparing them to the real thing

The more study resources you have for your GMAT preparation, the better. So you’ll definitely want to use some third-party GMAT content. But be a smart consumer. There are many GMAT prep materials out there, offered through numerous publishers and websites. Use only non-GMAC materials that measure up well to the real thing. If you’re having trouble determining whether an outside resource is true to the exam itself, check out reviews of pep books and websites (like the ones we have here on Magoosh), and consult forums for GMAT preppers, such as GMAT Club and the Beat the GMAT Forums.


Study Tip 3: Watch the clock

Pacing is very important on the GMAT. When you sit for the test, you’ll be given many rigorous, demanding multistep academic tasks and a limited amount of time to do them. Learning the content of the exam is very important, but it’s only half the battle. If you develop the math, verbal, writing, and reasoning skills you need on the test but don’t learn how to use these skills quickly, you’ll still find yourself missing a lot of questions for lack of time. So include plenty of pacing practice as part of your overall test prep.


Study Tip 4: Train yourself to do things in your head

As Magoosh GMAT expert Mike McGarry will tell you, mental math is very important to pacing and accuracy on the Quantitative and Integrated Reasoning portions of the exam. And really, this kind of “mindwork” is really important as you practice for every section of the exam. For Verbal, learn to read with minimal note-taking— note-taking is important, but overly heavy note-taking can slow you down and end even distract you. And for AWA, focus on ways to simplify your pre-writing. The more you can hold your essay in your mind, the quicker you’ll be able to start typing your AWA essay into the exam computer. Do not rely on heavy notes and elaborate outlines as you practice for the AWA.


Study Tip 5: Practice visual literacy

The ability to read symbols, graphs, tables and charts is called “visual literacy.” And this kind of reading ability is very important to the GMAT. In GMAT Quants, you’ll be expected to read geometric figures, coordinate plane plots and other math graphics with ease. And you’ll need to be comfortable using both established notational symbols for advanced math and strange symbols created just for the exam.

Also remember that GMAT Integrated Reasoning requires an even higher level of visual literacy than Math. In the IR section, you’ll need to simultaneously look through multiple complex charts and tables to gather data.

So be sure to really practice visual literacy skills during your GMAT prep. Time yourself to see how quickly you can read, interpret and extract answers from visuals in GMAT Quants and Integrated Reasoning. And try to have fun with visuals too—peruse infographic websites like Information is Beautiful.

Take some time to really play with visual literacy too—the GMAT makes up its own imaginary math symbols, and you should too. Think of a particular math function that doesn’t have a symbol and invent one for it, applying the new symbol to practice equations that you come up with on our own. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can even make your own coordinate plane graphs and geometric figures.

For even more GMAT test tips and tricks, check out our video on how to study effectively:


  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS and MA from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Early in his career, he worked for Disney Consumer Relations, later moving on to become a business banker at Wells Fargo. Once David discovered his passion for education, he started teaching K-12 ESL in South Korea. He soon branched out into adult learning, teaching undergraduate and MBA-level communication and writing classes at American universities. During this time, David also taught business communication to employees at Hyundai, Cargill, and Nestle, and trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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