Learn the 4 Things You Must Know Before Taking the GMAT!   Download it Now!

So, you want to go to business school. To get in to the school of your choice, you need a good score on the GMAT. But just because you’re educated and got good grades in undergrad, that doesn’t ensure that you’ll ace the GMAT just by showing up on test day. Before taking the GMAT, here are four things you should know:

1. The way you did math in high school is not the way you want to do math on the GMAT (most of the time).

That’s good news and bad news. The good news is, the GMAT only requires basic quantitative and analytic skills. Of course, it may have been years since you’ve thought about the circumference of a circle or found roots of quadratic equations. Nevertheless, it’s not rocket science; that knowledge will come back to you with a bit of review and practice. Moreover, the best strategies for a large number of GMAT math questions is not to solve them the way your 9th grade algebra teacher taught you. Which brings me to the bad news. While it should be exciting to you that you may not have to set up a complex algebraic expression and solve for x on many GMAT word problems, it is nevertheless the case that you may need to un-train yourself in certain “math habits” and re-train yourself in others. That will first mean learning the more relevant strategies for the GMAT, of course, and then it’ll mean applying them to lots of practice problems to ingrain them as second nature in your mind. (By the way, this applies to reading comprehension and many other question types tested on the GMAT as well). But believe me, it’ll be worth it!

2. Understanding how the GMAT is scored can be worth points to you — even before you sit down to answer question #1.

The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, which means that the questions that appear on your computer screen on test day will adapt to your ability. In other words, if you get a question wrong, the next question will be slightly easier. Likewise, when you get a question right, the next question will be slightly harder. And so on. What does this mean for you? Well, the GMAT scoring algorithm uses the first 10 questions to obtain an initial estimate of your ability, and then goes from there. Think about your four-year college career. Let’s say your goal was to have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 at the end of your four years. Do you think it would have been easier to achieve a cumulative 3.5 if your freshman-year GPA was 2.5 or 3.6? 3.6, of course. Same thing on the GMAT. Is it possible to dig yourself out of a hole and still get a high score even if you bomb the first 10 questions? Yes. But think about how much higher you can score if you set yourself up on that upward trajectory right from the start. And don’t worry, there are great strategies for doing that. But be careful — there’s a severe penalty for not completing the GMAT, so make sure you don’t spend too much time on the earlier questions at the expense of later questions, because it might come back to bite you.

3. If you’re a perfectionist, prepare to be disappointed.

Did I just burst your bubble? Here’s what I mean. Remember what we just learned about the way the GMAT is scored. As you get more and more questions right, the computer will give you increasingly difficult questions. At some point, you’re bound to get a really hard question. Sure, if you sat there and worked on it for a while, you might be able to get it right. But you don’t have the luxury of unlimited time on the GMAT. So, you get one wrong. Boo-hoo. But guess what? You can still get a phenomenal GMAT score even if you get a few wrong. In fact, you can get as many as 8 or more questions wrong on each section and still score in the 99th percentile. So, what should you be shooting for? Well, a scaled score of 700 (out of 800) or better is an excellent score and will give you a great shot at getting into the top business schools. A scaled score between 600-700 is also a great score and will put you in the ballpark for a top business school as well. Scoring between 500-600 is marginal but still within the range accepted by many business schools. If you’re scoring below 500…well, let’s be honest, you need a bit of work. But fear not! Improving your GMAT score by 100 points or more is easily within the realm of possibilities if you’re willing to put in some effort. Point #4 below will explain why you should be encouraged.

4. The GMAT is a beatable test.


Think about the Nintendo video game “Super Mario Brothers.” I know, I know. Stick with me for a second. What if you sat down to play that game and had never seen it before. How do you think you’d do? You probably wouldn’t make it out of the first level without losing all your lives. Now, imagine that I gave you an answer key of sorts. What if I taught you some of the rules of the game: “When you see this, do X; When you see that, do Y; When you see this, don’t do Z; Oh, and if you press these buttons in this order at this time, you’ll get a free life.” Now how do you think you’d do? With time and practice, you’d probably be able to beat the entire game, right?

Well, the same idea applies to the GMAT. We know what’s on it. We know the rules of the game. We know the common types of questions, patterns of arguments, and strategies for navigating data sufficiency questions, for example. We even know the common wrong answers the GMAT makers like to throw at you. In fact, test-takers who score well on the GMAT really just understand how to solve a select number of the most important kinds of problems that appear over and over again on the GMAT. Pretty helpful, huh? So, because we know the rules of the game, so to speak, the GMAT is a “beatable” test. The question for you is, are you willing to put in the time to learn those rules and practice the skills you learn so that you’re ready on test day to get the highest possible score for you? Dominate the GMAT is here to help you do just that. Be encouraged! And let us know what we can do to help you dominate the GMAT!