How to start studying for the GMAT
Congrats on deciding to take the GMAT! It’s a difficult exam, but it’s a necessary one for most business schools and many graduate programs. If you’re asking yourself, “How do I start studying for the GMAT?”, then this guide is for you. I’ve divided it up into what you should do before starting studying, necessary materials, helpful supplements, and things to avoid.
What you should do before starting studying for the GMAT
- Check your desired program to see what their median scores are for the GMAT. Normally, this will be either a total score (400-800) or broken down by Quant (Q) and Verbal (V) subscores. Schools generally will not care about Integrated (IR) or Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) scores, which is why they are not reported.
- Have plans for the rest of your application. You will not get into business school or graduate by GMAT scores alone. You need to have an excellent application otherwise.
- Estimate how far your current score is from your goal score. Your goal score depends on the median scores for your desired program. Your current score can be estimated in the following ways, in order from most to least accurate: take a practice GMAT from mba.com, take the diagnostic test from the Official Guides (email me for this), extrapolate based on previous standardized tests .
Necessary materials for the GMAT
Paid necessary materials for the GMAT
- A copy of the Official Guide (OG) for the GMAT 2016 or the Official Guide (OG) for the GMAT 2017. The makers of the GMAT, the GMAC, have written these books. GMAC books are the only ones with official GMAT questions. If you get GMAT questions from non-GMAC sources, you are wasting your time.
Free necessary materials for the GMAT
- An internet connection to look up answer explanations for OG questions. The OG questions are great. The answer explanations given in the book are bad. Luckily, every single question in every official book has been explained 12 different ways on 5 different sites. Googling question text will get you a long way.
- Two free practice tests from MBA.com. These are the only exams available from the GMAC, makers of the GMAT. They are by far the most accurate way to determine your current score level and get actual GMAT experience without taking the text. There are also four paid tests (total cost: $100) which you can buy, if two isn’t enough.
Helpful supplements for studying for the GMAT
Free helpful supplements for the GMAT
- My own Clear, Simple Guide to Studying for the GMAT . It’s what it sounds like. It’s a guide to studying for the GMAT on your own, and it’s about 15 pages. Some of the stuff repeats what I said here, some of it’s new. Includes how to effectively review your answers and improve your score, which is something many people have trouble with. Hint: the key is repetition, repetition, repetition.
- Signing up for GMATClub, BeatTheGMAT, and r/gmat. These are all super helpful forums to ask questions about the GMAT, help others, and be bombarded with advertisements for a million other free and paid resources for the GMAT.
Paid helpful supplements for the GMAT
OG Verbal and Quant supplements for more official questions.
Manhattan Prep GMAT books for helpful strategies (expensive, though. Try to find a used copy!)
My own Clear, Simple Guides for the GMAT. These are cheap, effective, and entertainingly written.
Video courses on demand
Magoosh. Highly recommended by a number of people. $150 for a year, which is a little steep, but people are constantly selling partially-used logins on r/gmat.
GMATPrepNow. Combination of free and paid videos for the GMAT. Haven’t used it myself, but people seem to like it.
My own Clear, Simple Study Plans. 30 day and 60 day versions. $1 each!
Magoosh study plans. Comes with signing up for their on demand videos.
Beat the GMAT 60 day study plan. Free! But I haven’t used it myself.
Me. For both guided self-studying and tutoring.
Sixty million other tutors in the world. Seriously, there are a bunch. Just make to sure to vet them before paying them, because we cost a lot.
What to avoid when studying for the GMAT
- Courses. Whether they are in-person or online, courses never teach you enough to get an excellent score, and they cost a lot of money. I understand some people like the camaraderie, but just find a study buddy through an online forum. Don’t waste your time and your money.
- Wasting time. There is never a good time to start studying for the GMAT. It is a difficult exam, and almost everyone taking it works full time. In the words of Shia LaBoeuf, just do it!
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