Nobody familiar with the GMAT will argue that you shouldn’t practice for the test with GMAT sample questions and at least one GMAT practice test. But sub-par resources for free GMAT prep abound; and this is where, as Robert Burns would say, the best-laid plans “gang aft agly” (or “go super wrong,” if you’re not in 18th-century Scotland).
Yes, it’s really important to work through GMAT sample questions and take GMAT practice tests before test day. But using the wrong kind of resources? That’s like training for the offiTour de France on a tricycle: it’s just not going to get you there.
So let’s get you off that tricycle, take those training wheels off while we’re at it, and ditch this metaphor. You need the best free GMAT review resources out there. We know where to find that fantastic practice. What are we waiting for? Allons-y, mes amis!
GMAT Practice: Where to Start?
You could fill a library with GMAT practice materials. So how do you know where to start?
Before you can answer that question, you’ll need to know where you are. First things first: take a look at what’s going on right now in terms of your GMAT preparation.
Choose Your Own Adventure: Mini GMAT Quiz
The best way to do this? Take a GMAT diagnostic test.
In fact, here’s one you can take right now: Magoosh’s Ultimate GMAT Diagnostic Test.
When you’re done, check out our expert recommendations based on your results here.
Why You Should Take a GMAT Sample Test: More Than Just a Fun Way to Spend a Friday Night
In the diagnostic test results’ recommendations, you’ll see that there’s a heavy emphasis on taking GMAT practice tests, just as I mentioned above. So why is it so important to take full-length GMAT practice tests?
First of all, let’s take a look at some official data, from the test-makers themselves: the GMAC. Their research shows that students who spend longer preparing for the GMAT do better on it.
Uh, of course. But what’s interesting is how much better they do. Take a look at the data from the GMAC itself:
So putting in the time is definitely important. But the GMAC is quick to point out that spending x amount of time spent studying does not guarantee you any particular score: “There is no cause and effect at work here,” as their website states. On some level, this makes sense: surely, given all the motivated type-A B-school applicants out there, the average GMAT scores would be higher if it were simply a question of putting time in.
But there is some cause and effect, GMAC! (This would actually make for a fair critical reasoning problem, though let’s leave that beast for a different day.) The key is that, if you want to score above 700, you need to spend (on average) more than 121 hours working well, with good materials.
Materials for Mastering the GMAT: From GMAT Practice Tests to GMAT Sample Questions
There are three basic questions you need to address before you can start studying for the GMAT: What do you need to study? Why? And where can you find these materials?
In short, you need to study both the form AND the content of the GMAT to truly master it. Lessons alone aren’t enough. GMAT sample questions alone aren’t enough. And GMAT practice tests (while a huge part of your GMAT prep kit) still, on their own, aren’t enough.
Yep, you’re going to need all three:
What About Me? GMAT Practice for All Levels
Think this may not apply to you?
The fact is, you’ll need all three types of practice materials no matter where you are in your GMAT practice. If you’re a beginner, spending time with official and expert-written GMAT questions and practice tests is a great way to get those study hours under your belt. If you’re an “intermediate” test-taker (25-75 hours), take heart: by racking up more quality practice, you can get where you want to be. And even, or especially, for those advanced test-takers, who have studied 75+ hours for the GMAT, realize that more time can and will make a difference if you’ve hit a plateau—especially if you’re smart about it and seek out the best possible materials.
A. GMAT Lessons: Not Just Background Noise
So you might have checked out a YouTube video here or a blog post there (or, you know, here on this blog). The fact is, until you get systematic about the way you approach this extremely systematic test, you won’t see a ton of improvement. Beyond that, you’re going to need to work on actively engaging with the lessons: if you don’t learn a concept in the first place, it’s pretty difficult to put it into practice on the official exam.
The good news is that there are a lot of GMAT lessons out there. The bad news is…there are a lot of GMAT lessons out there. Roughly speaking, we have in-person classes, tutors, books, and online prep.
There are pros and cons to each one; when you’re evaluating them, keep two things in mind: the materials have to be top-notch, and they have to be engaging.
Otherwise? Yeah…studying for the GMAT is not going to go very well.
In-person classes, especially when given by a reputable organization, often have pretty solid materials. Engagement, though, can vary widely. That’s not necessarily a comment on the teachers; it’s just that, given the nature of the test, many students prepping for it work full-time, and so classes are on evenings or weekends. It can be tough to stay engaged for eight hours at a time on a Saturday when you’ve been working all week. On the other hand, the cash you shell out for the courses (they don’t come cheap) may be an incentive to keep your eyes open, and if you’re a good classroom learner (you know who you are), this can be a good option for you.
Tutors work around your schedule. It can be harder to evaluate their knowledge (get recommendations first!), and they can be pricy (often running over $100 an hour), but to be fair, it’s pretty hard not to be engaged when you’re working one-on-one with someone. If you find yourself falling asleep even in that environment, run.
GMAT books are another common resource, and one that both tutors and classes use extensively. They’re (relatively) inexpensive, and you can use them whenever you like! Here’s the issue: most students don’t like studying with books alone. It’s hard to keep up your motivation on your own (although I do know of a very exciting and engaging GMAT eBook, if you’re interested!)
Finally, online lessons have the benefit of working within your timeframe, being relatively inexpensive, and being a lot more engaging than books on their own. Again, you’ll need some solid internal motivation to keep going, but the mixed-media platform tends to be a whole lot more engaging than some of the above options.
Lessons are the first, but definitely not the only, GMAT materials you’ll need to get the score you want. Moving on to the second tool in your GMAT prep toolbox, let’s separate the wheat from the chaff by taking a look at some good GMAT sample questions before going into where you can find more of them—as well as places where you can find a good GMAT practice test—online.
B. GMAT Sample Questions: Not Just the World’s Worst Game of Trivial Pursuit
So you’ve picked how you’re going to learn the GMAT (classes, tutors, books, or online prep). Awesome! Now it’s just like driver’s ed, right? A few videos from the late ’80s and you can hop behind the wheel?
Not quite. In fact, what you’re going to need to do to prep well for the GMAT is a lot like what you need to do to actually drive well: constantly survey your surroundings and get feedback.
In other words, you need to practice.
One of the best ways to do this is by working through sets of GMAT sample questions. These are most useful before you take a lesson, to see where you stand; during a lesson, to see how well you’re learning the concepts; after a lesson, to see if you’ve mastered the question types; and between practice tests, to brush up on previously learned concepts.
So if it’s sounding like they’re always useful? You’re totally right. They are.
When you’re looking for quality GMAT materials, you want them to be both test-like and include great (and thorough) answers and explanations. Where can you find good sample questions? Here are some places to start:
- You could spend days going through all the sample GMAT questions on the Magoosh blog! Navigate by section to find problems in the area you’re working on.
- The GMAC’s Mini Quiz will let you take eight questions from real (retired) GMATs, straight from the test-maker! No registration is required for the mini GMAT quiz.
- The GMATPrep software, a free GMAT CAT, not only has two practice tests (more on this in a minute), but it also has ninety practice questions from various sections for you to work through.
What if you’re trying to evaluate sample questions from another source? No problem. Just take a look at what makes a sample GMAT question good, first, in order to evaluate the practice in front of you.
Here’s a Magoosh GMAT problem we can use as an example:
First of all, is the question test-like? Data Sufficiency is most definitely a question type you’ll see in GMAT Quant, and this question and its answer choices follow the standard GMAT format for the question type.
Next: does it provide a good explanation? You can see that I’ve left this question blank, meaning that I either didn’t have time to get to it during my practice or that I had no clue whatsoever of how to approach it. In both cases (but particularly the latter!), it’s vital that the sample GMAT question provides me with a good explanation.
Here’s where a lot of GMAT practice questions fall short. I can see what the correct answer is, sure. But do I know how to get there? Not from this! I only know that I didn’t answer it, which I already knew, and that the correct answer is A. But why, GMAT practice question? WHY?
And then, I see this:
As well as a thorough video explanation that takes me through the problem step-by-step.
That’s the type of GMAT practice question you should be looking for; remember, not all GMAT practice resources will provide you with explanations for each question. Make sure you look for them when evaluating prep materials; it can be incredibly frustrating to not know why an answer is correct.
C. The Best GMAT Practice Tests: Free GMAT CATs and Other Resources
The third and final weapon in your arsenal is the GMAT practice test. Or rather, GMAT practice tests. Did you know you should be taking about one a week? I know that sounds like something only a teacher would actually think you’d do (sorry, it’s in my blood), but it is something you should actually, you know, do.
Where to Find Free GMAT CATs
Are you looking for 100% free GMAT CATs (computer adaptive tests) to supplement your prep? We’ve compiled this list of the best free GMAT CATs available right now.
|Is this a free GMAT CAT?||Price (if purchase required)||Number of free practice tests|
|GMAT Prep||Yes||Free; extra practice packs available for purchase||2|
|GMAT Club||Yes (with 25 Kudos points)||$79 for three-month access (without Kudos points)||Up to 20 exams: 14 quant and 6 verbal|
|Kaplan||Yes||6 additional tests available for $30 (CD) or with the purchase of a Kaplan book (online)||1|
|The Economist||Yes (with free trial)||Free with trial||1|
|Veritas Prep||Yes||7 additional tests available for $49 or with the purchase of a Veritas course||1|
|Manhattan Prep||Yes||6 additional tests for $49 if bought separately or free with purchase of MGMAT Guides||1|
|Princeton Review||Yes||4 additional online tests free with purchase of Cracking the GMAT||1|
|LBS Test||Yes||Free with registration||1 full, 1 mini, and 1 micro test|
|Manhattan Review||Yes||Free with registration||1|
- If you’re looking for 100% free GMAT CAT tests, Official GMATPrep software offers two free GMAT tests;
- Magoosh teamed up with GMAC to provide a 40% off discount on additional official GMAT practice exams.
- Manhattan Prep offers one free GMAT CAT, plus a series of solid GMAT practice tests
- Many GMAT books include practice tests of varying quality; be sure to check out our expert’s reviews before investing in them!
- And finally, Magoosh has a great set of practice tests, as well as 250 lessons, 800 questions, and carefully developed study schedules to help you make the most of your prep.
Of course, whether you’re using paid or free GMAT prep, the way in which you take a practice test (as well as the actual practice tests you take) will have a huge influence on how prepared you actually are to ace the exam—but we’ll get to that in just a minute.
And actually, the practice question we’ve just reviewed is a great standard against which to judge other practice—including a full GMAT practice test. Of course, before you take GMAT practice tests (including any free full length GMAT practice tests online), you also want to make sure that the question distribution, overall difficulty, and test format all mirror the official test’s, as well.This is already the case for any GMAT mock test mba.com offers, but not every test is as strong as the official MBA.com GMAT test!
With that in mind, here’s a quick guide to GMAT full test practice available online. In some cases, you can download free GMAT test practice; in others, the GMAT practice will be through an online interface. No matter what the format, here are the available GMAT CAT practice test offerings.
GMAT Practice Tests: Paper or Plastic?
A lot of students are more comfortable, particularly at first, with working on paper tests. After all, that’s what most of us grew up taking. So when you see a GMAT practice test online (or find an old test floating around the internet–the GMAC no longer sells them), you may be tempted to make it into a GMAT practice test PDF and print it out.
On occasion, particularly if you’re working through practice problems rather than the whole test, this is fine.
In general, though, it’s far better to take a GMAT practice test online. Or at the very least, on your computer.
In part, this is because you’ll never be able to find a paper test that adapts the difficulty level of your questions as you go along (unless you’re taking the GMAT at Hogwarts, in which case I guess I’d recommend continuing your Hogwarts education). The GMAT, after all, is a computer-adaptive test.
The Value of Computer Adaptive Tests (CATs)
While I don’t think much of cats, I do happen to value CATs, particularly when it comes to GMAT prep. Pro forma cat/CAT joke out of the way, adaptive practice tests do have great value for your GMAT preparation. They’re particularly good when you want to get a solid idea of where you stand score-wise in terms of your goal. However, remember that even the best practice test can’t predict your precise GMAT score, and your reaction to stress on test day will also affect your scores.
With that said, the more, solid GMAT practice tests you take under test-like conditions (which do involve computers), the more realistic your practice test scores will be.
The Value of Other GMAT Practice Tests Online
Non-adaptive GMAT practice tests are also helpful, particularly when you take them on the computer. While they may not score you in the exact same way as the official GMAT, they can still provide a realistic idea of your score range and the areas in which you need to improve. And after all, that’s what you should be focused on at the moment! As long as they meet the criteria above (test-like, provide good answers and explanations), you’ll still be good to go.
Full-Length Practice Test Best Practices
(Now there’s a good tongue-twister!)
So here you are! You’ve picked out your full-length GMAT practice test, free or paid, online or on paper, adaptive or non-adaptive, and you’re ready for the GMAT (practice) testing experience to begin.
…or are you?
Remember, how you practice is just as important as the materials you’re using. For maximum benefit, make sure you know how to take a GMAT practice test in the most effective way.
The GMAT Practice Testing Experience
First of all, make sure that you can set aside the full amount of time (about four hours) to take the practice test straight through, with two 8-minute breaks, just as you will on test day. It’s tempting to work on one section and take a long break or do sections untimed, but while that does provide you with GMAT sample questions, it won’t prepare you for test day.
Come to your practice test prepared with a timer (try out the Magoosh study timer app), your computer, and something to take notes on and with. On test day, you’ll get laminated paper with markers, and this is a good, cheap investment to make early on in your practice, because it does take some getting used to.
You’ll need a quiet environment. A library is great for this, but your regular study space can also work if you’re sure that you won’t be disturbed.
Finally, go into the practice test with a test-day mindset:
- Don’t let yourself go back to previous questions; you won’t be able to on the official exam.
- When the time for a section is up, it’s up: don’t let yourself linger.
- Do your best on every question; don’t skip questions that you’d approach on test day. If you skip them now, you may not even get to questions of that difficulty level on test day!
If you’re taking practice tests but struggling to finish the sections within the time limit, check out our Ultimate Guide to GMAT Pacing.
What’s Next?: After the GMAT Practice Test
Score your test and move on.
Nope, kidding! You’re going to need at least as much time as you spent taking it to study it.
Grade the test. Now, break out a fresh notebook. On one side of the paper, write down the full text of all the problems you missed. On the other side, write down the solutions and answers. This is your error log. Add to it with each practice test and problem set you do, and practice the questions in there regularly to make sure you’re mastering the concepts.
Once you’ve recorded your missed questions in the error log, identify the main content areas you’re missing, and determine why. Review lessons in those areas and incorporate practice sets into your study schedule.
Finally, if you don’t have a study schedule, get one, for free, no matter how much or how little time you have to review, with Magoosh’s free GMAT study schedules.
Additional GMAT Practice Resources
But hey, we know we’re not the only rodeo in town. So what should you use to supplement your Magoosh practice, in addition to the best lessons, sample questions, and practice tests you can find?
First of all, the GMAC provides more than just mind-boggling data about the GMAT. It also provides great resources. The Official Guide is still the gold standard against which you should measure other GMAT prep, in terms of question types and difficulty levels.
However, the Official Guide isn’t infallible—not by a long shot. And for most people, the OG simply won’t be enough practice, anyway. (And it’s all in book form, too!)
We’ve already taken a look at where you can find cost-effective and free GMAT prep, but our experts have also reviewed some of the most popular books for GMAT prep, so you know where to look (here’s a book our experts can mostly get behind, for example) and where not to look!
Finally, for perspective on the GMAT as part of a more global process, don’t forget to check out Magoosh’s GMAT forums, our thoughts on the best GMAT test and MBA admissions resources, and our guide packed with GMAT exam information.
Getting a top score on the GMAT takes two things: time and materials.
By making sure that you’re using the best possible paid and free GMAT prep, including GMAT practice tests and GMAT sample questions, and using your time to review them in the most efficient way, you’ll maximize your chances to get the score you want on the official exam and move that much closer to your goals.
That’s it for this post! Stick around to learn how Magoosh creates our GMAT content. Otherwise, click back up to the Table of Contents to revisit a section and get started with some GMAT practice questions.
Bonus Feature: Behind the Scenes at Magoosh GMAT Content Creation
Wondering how Magoosh gets its questions to so closely mimic what you see on test day? Wonder no more! Here’s our bonus DVD commentary.
Our experts study the test. They use Magoosh’s carefully collected data to craft questions that go through several stages of editing and early testing before our students ever see them.
Then, our students see them.
But we don’t stop there. We constantly evaluate how many students are answering the question correctly and how long it’s taking them:
This helps us determine not only if the question’s difficulty category is correct, but also if there’s anything “off” about the problem that makes it non-test-like.
We get feedback from our students, tutors, and teachers around the country. In addition to that evidence, our computer-friends also help us evaluate question quality:
There you have it! We do this for each and every question, making sure that the GMAT practice tests you take and the GMAT sample questions you answer with Magoosh are the exact kinds of questions that will get you where you want to be.
And that’s why our students tweet about us like this:
You’ve reached the end of the post! Leave us a comment with any remaining questions or thoughts you have, and we’ll be sure to get back to you! Happy Studying!
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