The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), designed to test one's readiness for graduate studies, are regarded as an important part of the process of gaining entry into top universities. Both tests are widely accepted by most institutions and the scores of one can easily be converted to the other. This article portrays how to prepare for each section of the GMAT.
GMAT comprises the following four sections as shown in the table. The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are Computer Adaptive which means that the accuracy of the questions' answers determines the difficulty level of the upcoming questions. The higher the accuracy of the initial answers, the more difficult the following question will be -- which, if answered correctly, will lead to a higher score. The difficulty level of questions is not the only component that varies in the GMAT; the order of sections varies from test to test.
Quantitative Reasoning: The questions in this section test an examinee's ability to arrive at the correct answer based on an analysis of given information. Data Sufficiency questions do so by presenting pieces of information and having candidates determine if those data, individually or when combined, are enough to determine the answer. On the other hand, Problem Solving is as simple as solving maths and choosing the right answer. Knowledge of high-school-level algebra, geometry, and arithmetic is enough to address this section.
"Developing an intuitive sense for certain categories of maths instead of relying on traditional methods using many steps is key to acing Quantitative Reasoning. Knowing when to skip a question if you are stuck also helps minimise risks of leaving out simpler questions since time crunch is a factor to consider," says Rayeed Riza who took his GMAT earlier this year and was selected by Warwick Business School.
Verbal Reasoning: This section apprises the examinee's ability to understand the information presented having detected the purpose and tone of the passage (in Reading Comprehension), evaluate arguments using logic (in Critical Reasoning), and correct sentences as per standard grammar and diction to express ideas effectively (in Sentence Correction).
"As for Reading Comprehension, speed reading helps one complete the section timely. However, skimming is not recommended as grasping the underlying meaning of the passages is a necessity," says a GMAT high-scorer who is currently working for a reputed stock brokerage, wishing to remain anonymous. "While practising Critical Reasoning, spending adequate time analysing the given answer choices, checking whether your rationale in eliminating/considering an answer choice matches the rationale in the official answer explanation is essential," he adds. "After familiarising yourself with the grammatical rules, developing pattern recognition skills and actively recognising [grammatical] rules at play while solving sample questions helps you master Sentence Correction," he posits.
Integrated Reasoning: All four question types in Integrated Reasoning test whether an examinee can sort through given data and use the most relevant information to develop the solution. Getting habituated to interpreting visual, graphical, and tabular forms of data can enable a candidate to score high in this section. Keeping a keen eye out for the units of measurement, given relationships between metrics, and textual information supporting the visuals helps tackle these questions.
Analytical Writing Assessment: This section is a timed essay-writing task where the examinee is provided with a passage, to be inspected from a critical lens to evaluate the author's argument. The ability to write a critique of the presented issue having understood the reasoning employed is tested in this section. "To grasp the quality I need to aim for, I looked at sample essays and the band scores they received," says Rayeed Riza.
Salient resources: 'The GMAT Official Guide' popularly known as the 'OG Guide', consists of numerous practice questions from past exams along with answer explanations. Additionally, collecting 'The GMAT Official Guide Verbal Review' and 'GMAT Official Guide Quantitative Review' would help one get extensive practice across each section. "I personally tried to solve all 700+ difficult level questions from different editions of the "OG guide and OG Quant Review on GMAT Club Forum (online site containing GMAT resources)" says the anonymous GMAT high scorer. "Aside from the official resources, Manhattan GMAT Guide, Veritas, and Kaplan are helpful and contain free (unofficial) mock tests," he adds. He also recommends the YouTube channels 'Veritas Prep' and 'GMAT Ninja Tutoring' for additional practice.
Additionally, 'Target Test Prep' (TTP) is popular among GMAT takers as it breaks down each topic for all sections, contains lessons and tests of all difficulty levels, and lets candidates customise the difficulty level for practice.
Aiming for a high score: Some candidates find it beneficial to start their preparation with a diagnostic test to assess how much effort they need to invest in order to obtain their desired score. After that, tracking and analysing one's own performance is indispensable to understanding one's strengths/shortcomings and thereby developing one's strategy to secure a high score. Using online resources that record the time taken per question lets candidates observe particular questions they might have overshot their time target, and thereby review them.
Rayeed Riza highlights two important tips for achieving a high score: "Firstly, since GMAT is a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT), there is no option of going back to questions you previously could not answer. Once you have decided to leave a question, you must stick by it as dwelling on it would affect your performance for the remaining questions. Secondly, remember that the test is designed to give you progressively harder questions each time you get an answer right. As many online materials give you an optimal mix of easy, medium, and hard questions in their practice mock, getting most answers right there might not be the best reflection of your actual performance (because you might be more exposed to a certain category i.e. hard tier in the main exam)," he says. Therefore, getting practice from sites that show us which category of questions we are answering correctly can give us a more accurate appraisal of our performance.
One's GMAT journey would mark a pleasant end if the examinee can manage their time and stamina throughout the test - for which, one needs to consistently practice strategies that work for them throughout the tenure of their preparation.
The writer is a fourth-year BBA student at IBA-DU, majoring in Finance.