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When building your GMAT study plan, there are 5 big tips to keep in mind for studying success. These include determining your target score, taking a GMAT prep course, taking practice tests, and creating successful test day strategies. This article breaks down these five simple steps to strategically build your ideal GMAT study plan.

1. Determine Your Target Score

The first thing to keep in mind is your target score. Your target score is the minimum score you hope to achieve and what you will use when studying for the GMAT and taking practice tests. Knowing this ahead of time is essential because it will help determine what you need to learn. 

Your GMAT target score can be determined through a variety of methods. The first is to look at the current average scores of the business schools you are interested in. A good target is 20 points higher than the current average. Another method is to look at the scores for your preferred school over the past few years. This gives you an idea of what to predict the following year’s score might be. For some top schools, you’re looking at a score of over 720. Other schools might accept students with a score of 600. With such a vast difference from school to school, it’s essential to make sure you know what your target score is. 

Finally, another vital thing to consider when setting your target score is scholarships. Some scholarships have a minimum GMAT score requirement, and if you need a specific amount of financial aid, setting your target score to meet those requirements might mean the difference between you being able to afford to go to school or having to come up with the finances another way. 

2. Take a GMAT Test Prep Course

The GMAT is a competitive test that is incredibly challenging when taken without any preparation. Especially if you are reaching for a higher target score, a GMAT test prep course is one of the best investments you can make. There are a wide variety of test prep courses available, ranging in price as well as the amount of time needed, and whether or not you want something virtual or in-person. It is important that you look at all the options before choosing a test prep course so that you are picking the course that’s best for you. Some courses also offer guarantees on score increases, so this is something to consider as well.

3. Customize Your Study Plan

While you could study each and every concept covered on the test, this is not the most efficient way to study for a high-stakes test such as the GMAT. You might actually be surprised how many of the key concepts you might already know from jobs you’ve worked, your previous college experience, or even your high school learning. It doesn’t make sense to review those concepts in great detail if you can answer those questions already. What you need to focus on are the concepts you might have missed or that are hard for you. If you’re an English major, it might not make a ton of sense to focus on studying these sections; you might be better off focusing on the math question types. Likewise, if you are a math major, you might need extra time to focus on the verbal section. Finally, make sure that you know exactly when you want to take your test, and you plan out by the day how much time you are spending on prep.

4. Take GMAT Practice Tests

There’s no better way to practice for the GMAT than by taking an actual GMAT practice test. All you have to do is obtain a practice test to work on and set time aside for yourself to take the test. You might choose to do it exactly as you would in a proctored session or focus instead on just the questions. You can take a whole test from start to finish or just focus on specific sections. 

Whether you obtain these for free through an online website or purchase a study guide and do the tests within them, this is one of the best ways to make sure you are prepared on test day. 

Practice tests can be used as benchmarks to track your progress towards your target score. Simply schedule a test with yourself every couple of weeks to see how you are doing, and then tailor your study plan according to the areas you still need improvement in. You can also use these tests to practice your pacing and make sure that you are spending enough time on each question, but also not running out of time.

5. Get the Best Performance on GMAT Test Day

Finally, the best way to make sure you are successful on test day is to plan for test day! This means getting enough sleep, eating a healthy breakfast, and making sure you are prepared enough not to be too stressed when taking the test. For sleep, ensure that you’re getting a good night’s rest for a couple of nights before the test is key to being awake and alert during the test itself. Your breakfast should have enough fuel to keep your mind going – so think of lots of vitamin and mineral-rich foods like fruits and veggies as well as some solid proteins to keep the burn going. This is not the morning to load up on caffeine and sugar. Making sure you’re calm and not stressed during the test is another key success component. Practicing mindful breathing exercises and centering activities are good tools to have in your back pocket in case anxiety or stress sneaks up on you. Positive affirmations and remembering your reason why you started studying for the GMAT are other good things to remember on test day. Also, don’t forget to take short brain breaks. Close your eyes for a few moments and breathe in deeply to get recentered anytime you’re feeling overwhelmed. Taking a few moments every section to stand up and stretch is helpful too. Finally, keeping a mental note of the time you have each section is key to making sure you complete the test with plenty of time left over to go over any answers.

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