How to Survive the GMAT

For MBA and business school hopefuls, no part of the application process is more nerve-racking than taking the GMAT, aka the Graduate Management Admission Test. Not knowing what to expect on the exam is the major cause of most test anxiety. Your grades are set, you already know what your recommenders are going to write, and you have a final draft of your statement of purpose. But what you can't predict is your GMAT score.

Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to get over your fear of the GMAT, and earn a high score on exam day.

First, read all about the GMAT on the GMAT's official website, Learn how the test is formatted, what types of questions are asked, and how long each section lasts. You should also familiarize yourself with "computer adaptive testing" and how it works. On the GMAT, the computer will give you a question whose difficulty level depends on how you answered previous questions. This means you have to complete the test questions in order, and you can't go back to change answers.

Try to take the GMAT about 6 weeks before your business school applications are due, but register for the test several months in advance. Space is limited in the testing centers, and seats fill up quickly.

Call the local GMAT testing center and ask about the test day protocol. Find out how long it takes to check in, how long the breaks are, what you can and cannot bring, and ask for driving directions and parking advice. Visit the testing center at least once before you take the exam so you will know how to get there.

Next, develop a plan of attack for studying. The best preparation for the GMAT is to take timed practice tests and do plenty of practice problems. You can download computer adaptive GMAT sample tests from the GMAT website, or you can get a study guide book with thousands of math and verbal questions.

Study with a friend who is at your level. A little friendly competition can push you to get higher scores on sample tests and the real GMAT. Every two weeks make a date to take a practice GMAT exam. Whoever gets the lower score has to buy lunch. The more practice tests you take, the more confidence you will have when you take the real thing.

Alternatively, you can sign up for a prep course at a local test prep or adult education center.

Track your progress as GMAT day approaches. If you still struggle in some areas of weakness, buckle down and focus on those topics in the weeks before you take the GMAT.

Keep in mind that the GMAT score is only one part of your application. Admissions committees look at your scores in conjunction with your grades, letters, resume, and essays.

© Had2Know 2010