Duration of preparation

3-4 months is actually sufficient time to be prepared for GMAT, provided that you do justice to your time in these 3 months.

Know the exam

Isn’t that stating the obvious? Make yourself very comfortable with the structure of the exam: Through and thorough; in and out. For starters, you can get the information on GMAT Exam Format and Timing

Note that GMAT is a standardized test. What this means is that the structure of the exam would never be a surprise. This standardization would include the duration of the exam, the duration of individual sections on the exam, the sections one is tested on, the sequence of those sections and even the number of questions that one will be asked on each section.

So, familiarizing yourself with the structure of the exam is among the first things one should do, while kick-starting the preparation.

Mock test for GMAT preparation?

Take a mock test before starting the preparation, only if at least one of the following is true:

  1. There has not been much gap between when you completed your formal education (say maximum 2 years since graduation)
  2. If you have been in touch with academics by way of some intensive part time courses
  3. If you have been preparing for other similar entrance examinations such as MAT (Management aptitude test), CAT (Common Aptitude test) etc.

In you don’t fall into any of the above categories, then your score in GMAT mock test at this stage might actually demotivate you, even before you start preparing.

Study material

The study material that you refer to during your preparation, will be the single most important decision during your GMAT journey. Accuracy, relevance, and conciseness, all matter. The study material should be pertinent, so that in the least possible time, it builds concepts that would help address GMAT questions.

If you enroll for either classroom coaching or for online coaching, then you obviously place your faith in the institute, and would be following the material provided to you. In such case, you hope that the institute/test-prep company would have done sufficient due-diligence to prepare the best material for its students.

If you opt for self-study, let’s go bit deeper. The study-material conundrum actually has two key components:

  1. Text material, to build concepts
  2. Practice questions, to practice implementing those concepts

Text material

There is plenty of choice available, making the task of choosing the best material, tricky. The choice is bewildering, with most large test prep companies such as Kaplan and Manhattan offering text books on various subjects covered on GMAT.

Quant: Standard high school books, covering concepts such as Number Systems, Geometry, ratio and proportion, statistics, and algebra, suffice for concepts. For few concepts such as Probability, Permutations & Combinations, and Coordinate Geometry, you might want to refer to class 11 books.

In Quant, the concepts tested on GMAT are quite basic. So, no complex numbers, trigonometry or calculus. The beauty of GMAT Quant is how tricky the questions can get, using those basic concepts. For example, you might believe that you can never go wrong with simple concepts such as positives & negatives, or odds & evens. However, GMAT can actually come up with questions using these concepts that can really trick you the wrong way, unless you’ve done sufficient practice.

Lastly, even if you are very confident of your quant skills, and for valid reasons, make sure you practice Data Sufficiency questions, since Data Sufficiency question type is notorious for being deceptively simple.

Verbal: While Manhattan books seem to be popular for the most part, Powerscore Critical Reasoning bible is a particular GMAT favorite for Critical Reasoning preparation.

EducationAisle’s publication Sentence Correction Nirvana, available on Flipkart and Amazon, is fast gaining reputation among non-native English speakers, as the most comprehensive source for fundamentals of sentence correction.

Practice questions for GMAT preparation

As opposed to most other exams, GMAT practice questions suffers from a problem of plenty. Even a casual search on GMAT study material on Google would throw up GBs and GBs of data at you. The problem however, is that most of that material is not authentic. Once you start preparing, you will soon realize that authenticity of study material is really a big deal on GMAT.

The term official questions will soon be a part of your lingo. Official questions are basically old GMAT questions that are available in various publications from GMAC, the official creators of GMAT. The three most prominent official publications are:

  • The Official Guide for GMAT Review (comprising questions in both quant and verbal)
  • The Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review (comprising questions in quant)
  • The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review (comprising questions in verbal)

In addition to these, a veritable source of GMAT questions is GMAT Official Starter Kit + Practice Exams 1 & 2 (Free), developed by GMAC. If you visit GMATClub, a popular online forum of GMAT aspirants, you can actually search on the “tag” GMATPrep and access hundreds of GMATPrep questions.

However, an issue that test takers face is that official questions are not arranged topic-wise, and so, there is no easy way to practice questions topic-wise (say all questions related to number systems or set theory). However, I believe this issue is in the process of being resolved in the more current versions of Official guides.

Prepare a schedule

Prepare a realistic schedule, one that you can adhere to; but once you do prepare a schedule, make sure you do adhere to it.

Consider a study schedule of six days a week, with 2-3 hours of focused study time every day. To start with, you can evenly split your time between Quant and Verbal (3 days quant and 3 days verbal, with one day off every week). As your preparation progresses, you can then alter this schedule as you discover your areas of strength and weaknesses.