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How Hard Is The GMAT?

How Hard Is The GMAT?

The Graduate Management Admission Test or the GMAT is a 3 hours 7 minutes long standardized management admission test, conducted globally. The relevance and the importance of the GMAT test scores as one of the determinants of the application process to the B-schools may be realized by the number of GMAT tests that are taken each year. On an average, over the preceding decade, 230722 GMAT tests have been taken around the world, with 242714 GMAT tests taken in the year 2018 itself. Interestingly, the average GMAT scores from 2009 to 2018 have gradually progressed from 539 to 565.

Mode Computer-based
Duration 3 hours 7 minutes
Sections Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning
Score-Range 200 – 800
Average Score 565
Tests Taken in 2018 ~ 243000

So, if the GMAT is such a popular test among all grad school applicants, is the GMAT really difficult? Let us find out below:

Why is the GMAT Difficult?

The GMAT is an exhaustive exam that meticulously tests your expertise in problem-solving, that is your approach to solve the problem and your ability to solve the problem, your skill in communicating in the English language, while keeping to the standard norms of the language, your skills in analyzing situations, in reading and interpreting data, and in making quantitative deductions. The GMAT is the first step to identifying your basic skills to become the future leaders of the business realm; undoubtedly, the GMAT is a well-structured and precisely formatted test. However, some of the challenges of taking GMAT may be:

1. The Concepts on GMAT

The GMAT attempts to test your acquaintance with certain pertinent concepts. The GMAT syllabus needs you to be well versed in the basic concepts of algebra, geometry, arithmetic, and English grammar and vocabulary. While one can always resort to study materials to prepare for GMAT, some of the problems, herein, include:

  • The non-native English speakers find it difficult to score in the maximum percentile range. If one is not well-acquainted with the English vocabulary and the syntax, one may not be able to competently comprehend the written information and communicate his/her own perception. Ideally, a score of 51 in the GMAT Verbal section will place you in the 99th percentile while a score of 51 in the GMAT Quant section will place you in the 96th percentile. Similarly, a score of 46 in the GMAT Verbal section will place you in the 99th percentile while a score of 46 in the GMAT Quant section will place you in the 58h percentile. This anomaly exists because of the fact that the non-native English speakers find it difficult to score on the GMAT Verbal section.
  • GMAT requires knowledge of high-school level mathematics. Hence, if you are not acquainted with high-school mathematics, you may have to put in extra effort to familiarise with the concepts.

The best way to understand your competency to take the GMAT is beginning the GMAT preparation process with a free GMAT mock tes. Thus, you will learn your key competencies and will be able to form a GMAT study plan that best suits your learning needs.

2. Scores

The total GMAT score range is 200 – 800 and the average GMAT score requirement for the top B-schools is 730 and only about 6% of the test takers can score a 730 in their GMAT. While the GMAT score is not the sole determinant of your chances of application to B-schools, it surely enables your chances of application to B-schools. Hence, you should always target getting the good GMAT score or a 700 and above on GMAT. Thus, the competition makes it imperative for you to get a GMAT score and a percentile rank that helps you stand apart from the crowd of applicants.

What apparently makes GMAT further difficult is its computer-adaptive nature. The questions in the Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections of GMAT are particularly computer-adaptive and the scoring depends on the same. Thus, your GMAT score is computed on the number of questions you answer, the number of questions you correctly answer, and the difficulty level of the questions answered. Further, the questions on GMAT also include a set of experimental questions. Although you are not graded for your response to the experimental questions, you are also unable to distinguish the experimental questions from the lot.

Moreover, the set of first few questions are important to set the pace for the GMAT exam. Hence, it is recommended to answer the first few questions with utmost care and attention and at the same time to ensure that none of the questions are left unanswered. GMAT does not impose negative marking but unanswered questions can hurt you more than wrong answers. To avoid the same, it is recommended that you take an educated guess and mark your response if you are unable to manage time on GMAT. The only risk involved with guess-marking a question is that if you have a series of wrongly marked answers, the difficulty level of the questions keep on readjusting to easy levels, thereby affecting your GMAT score.

Thus, the entire complex scoring algorithm on GMAT makes it difficult to get the perfect desired good GMAT score.

3. Time Management on the GMAT

The GMAT is a 3 hours 7 minutes long test divided into 4 distinct sections that are separately timed. The structure of the GMAT exam is, therefore, as follows:
 

Test Section Number of Questions Type of Questions Time
Quantitative Reasoning 31 Data Sufficiency, Problem Solving 62 minutes
Verbal Reasoning 36 Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, Sentence Correction 65 minutes
Analytical Reasoning Assessment (AWA) 1 Analysis of an Argument 30 minutes
Integrated Reasoning (IR) 12 Graphic Interpretation, Table Analysis, Multi-source Reasoning, Two-part Analysis 30 minutes

 
Thus, on an average every test taker gets 2 minutes to solve each question. As the grasp on concepts will not be similar for every GMAT test taker, one test taker with relatively a weaker stronghold on the concepts tested in the Quantitative Reasoning section might find it difficult to maintain the ideal time limit and comfortably complete the section.

Further, GMAT does not let the test taker use a calculator for the Quantitative Reasoning section; although a test taker may use the on screen calculator to answer the Integrated Reasoning section on GMAT. Thus, the GMAT test taker must be good with conducting calculations in head to be able to correctly answer all the Quant section questions in time.

4. Stress Management on the GMAT

To be able to concentrate for a period of 3 hours 7 minutes on a competitive test can be difficult. To further add to the difficulty, the test taker can hardly invest more than 2 minutes on each of the question. Moreover, the test taker must be able to calculate the figures in head to be able to solve the GMAT Quant section. Additionally, the test taker must also be able to read a passage, comprehend the intended information from the passage, and prepare an essay that provides an accurate analysis of the passage, replete with proper examples and arguments in only a time span of 30 minutes. Thus, faring well on the GMAT mandates a calm mind and full concentration. If a test taker suffers from test taking anxiety, it becomes challenging for him/her to duly complete the GMAT exam. In such scenarios, the test taker must practice extensively with full-length GMAT practice tests that help familiarize the test taker with the GMAT test taking environment.

5. Getting Back to Academics after a Break

All global B-schools demand professional experience of at least to 2 years as one of the eligibility criteria for applying to their grad school programs. Hence, for many test takers, getting back to academics and preparing for a competitive exam may seem difficult; all the more so for candidates with considerable years of professional experience. Thus, balancing professional and personal responsibilities and studying for GMAT may become a difficult task in itself if the respective individual does not follow a proper preparation plan. Such test takers may resort to exhaustive and competent online GMAT study material to make the best use of time and resources.

Is the GMAT really Difficult?

1. GMAT is a Standardized Test

One of the interesting things about GMAT is that it is a standardized test. Thus, unless GMAC declares a change in test taking pattern or syllabus, the type and number of questions in each section remain similar. However, GMAT does not repeat its questions; GMAT rather has a strict test taking policy against any individual attempting to duplicate the GMAT questions. Nonetheless, maintaining a standard format for the exam helps the test takers to expect the type of questions and accordingly prepare for the same. Thus, if you are aware of the GMAT syllabus, the GMAT exam should not be difficult for you.

2. GMAT allows Multiple-choice Answers

Only the Analytical Writing Assessment section on GMAT requires you to write an essay and all the three sections of GMAT provides multiple-choices to answer the question. Thus, the GMAT exam structure ensures that the responses to each question are fair and objective; you only need to carefully consider each option and select the correct response.

3. Complex Mathematical Calculations are not Needed

Even if you are apprehensive because your weak area is your stronghold of mathematical concepts, you need not worry as GMAT does not require you to carry out complex mathematical calculations. You only need to be familiar with the mathematical concepts taught in high school to be able to ace the GMAT exam.

4. Select your Preferred GMAT Exam Format

Since July 11th, 2017, GMAT has started allowing its test takers the option of choosing a GMAT test taking format from 3 available choices:

  1. AWA, Integrated Reasoning, (an optional break of 8 minutes), Quantitative Reasoning, (an optional break of 8 minutes), Verbal Reasoning. – The original format.
  2. Verbal Reasoning, (an optional break of 8 minutes), Quantitative Reasoning, (an optional break of 8 minutes), Integrated Reasoning, AWA.
  3. Quantitative Reasoning, (an optional break of 8 minutes), Verbal Reasoning, (an optional break of 8 minutes), Integrated Reasoning, AWA.

Thus, select the format that best suits you; that is to say, start with the section you are weak in so that you can concentrate on the same with fresh mind and attention.

What is the Best Preparation Strategy for GMAT?

When you are bent upon winning the competition, strategies are a must. Thus, to begin with your GMAT prep plan, you must set your target. For the same, refer to the average GMAT score requirement of your desired schools; your target GMAT score should be at least 30 points more than the stipulated average GMAT score for the particular school. The average GMAT score requirement of the top-25 global B-schools are: 

School Average GMAT Score
Stanford 708
Harvard 730
INSEAD 700
Wharton 732
CEIBS 685
LBS 707
Chicago Booth 738
MIT: Sloan 730
Columbia Business School 732
Berkeley: Haas 726
Yale 724
IESE 690
Oxford: Said 690
Northwestern University 732
Dartmouth 722
Cambridge: Judge 696
NUS 662
HKUST 680
HEC Paris 690
Duke: Fuqua 704
Esade 660
IMD 670
Darden 718
ISB 709
NYU: Stern 716

 
Next, lay out your prep strategy. Ideally, your GMAT prep schedule will need you to invest time and refer to resources as suggested below:
 

# Step Time Needed Resource Some Reliable Resources Tip
1 Take a full length test 3 hours 30 minutes Any reliable full length test Experts’ Global, Manhattan Prep, Veritas Avoid official mocks; save those for later
2 Develop concepts 4-6 weeks Any reliable GMAT course Experts’ Global, Veritas, e-GMAT, Magoosh Take free trials before finalizing a course
3 Practice regularly 4 weeks Any reliable GMAT course Experts’ Global, Veritas, e-GMAT, Magoosh Save official guides for final month of prep
4 One full length test every ~10 days 3 hours 30 minutes/ test Any reliable GMAT test series Experts’ Global, Manhattan Prep, Veritas Avoid too many private test series
5 Periodically revise the concepts 1 day / 15 days The GMAT course you opted for The GMAT course you opted for GMAT concepts take time; revision matters
6 Analyze the mistakes 1 day / 15 days The GMAT course you opted for The GMAT course you opted for Mistakes are your good friends
7 Solve all 3 official guides 2-3 weeks Latest Official Guide, Math Review, Verbal Review If you need extra official questions, buy “Question Pack”
8 Revise and consolidate your prep 1 week The GMAT course you opted for + Official guides The GMAT course you opted for + Official guides Re-attempt questions you got wrong earlier
9 Take the official mock tests 3 hours 30 minutes/test GMAT Prep from MBA.com If you need extra official mocks, buy “Exam Pack- 1 and 2″
Give the GMAT with a calm mind!

 

1. Take a GMAT Mock Test

Once you have decided to take the GMAT, you must always begin your GMAT preparation program by taking a mock test. Taking a GMAT mock test will help you in a number of ways:

  • A GMAT mock test will help familiarize you with the GMAT test pattern. You must be acquainted with the feel of the test before you start preparing for the same.
  • The mock test score will provide you with a preliminary understanding of your strength and weak areas. This is important information to garner as it will help you prepare your perfect GMAT study plan.

2. Master the GMAT Concepts

Your preliminary focus should be mastering the concepts on GMAT. Thus, start with the concepts that you are weak in so that you have ample time to learn, practice, and master the same. However, keep your preparation plan balanced and avoid neglecting the concepts that you are strong in. Always ensure that you are spending a balanced amount of time on practicing all GMAT concepts.

  • If you are struggling with building your vocabulary, you can take up reading good material such as academic writings, non-fictions, journals, and newspapers.
  • If you are struggling with calculating responses for the Quantitative section, focus on learning the tricks and tips for carrying out mental calculations.

3. Time

A crucial aspect of preparing for GMAT is honing time management skills. However, you must only focus on keeping time on GMAT once you have mastered the concepts. Ideally, the time allotted to each section on GMAT and, thereby, each type of questions is as follows: 

Test Section Number of Questions Time per Question
Quantitative Reasoning 31 2 minutes per question
Verbal Reasoning 36 4 minutes for Reading Comprehension; 90 seconds for Sentence Correction, 1 minute for Critical Reasoning
Analytical Reasoning Assessment (AWA) 1 30
Integrated Reasoning (IR) 12 2 minutes 30 seconds per question

 

4. Practice Tests

You must start with GMAT practice tests once you have gained some control on the concepts and the time. Always look for authentic and full-length GMAT practice tests that allow you to experience the GMAT test environment.

5. GMAT Official Guide

You must start practicing with the GMAT Official Guide only in the last leg of your GMAT preparation schedule.

6. A Day Before GMAT

You must be in the best of your mental and physical health for the GMAT exam. The GMAT test anxiety and sitting through a 3 hours long test may start taking its toll on your ability to concentrate on the exam if you are not well rested. So, it is imperative that you take off on the last few days before your GMAT exam as well as take absolute care of your physical well-being.

So, is the GMAT Hard?

It should be appreciated that the GMAT test is an effort to objectively screen the candidates’ analytical and quantitative skills so as to ensure fair and just assessment as well as select the right applicants with the potential to shoulder the responsibilities of the respective industries in the realm of business. Acing the GMAT is not difficult if you have prepared well for the exam:

  • Prepare your individual study plans and stick to the same. Following are few sample GMAT study plans:

GMAT 30 –Days Study Plan:  

Week Action
1 Take a mock test, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, practice.
2 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, attain accuracy.
3 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, attain accuracy, time yourself.
4 Take 3 practice tests, refer to the Official Guides, work on accuracy and time.

 
GMAT 60-Days Study Plan: 

Week Action
1 Take a mock test, analyze mistakes, develop concepts.
2 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, attain accuracy.
3 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, attain accuracy.
4 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, develop your speed.
5 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, focus on accuracy, attain speed.
6 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, attain speed and accuracy.
7 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, refer to the Official Guides, maintain speed and accuracy.
8 Take a practice test, refer to Official Guides, analyze mistakes, and relax!

 
GMAT 90-Days Study Plan: 

Week Action
1 Take a mock test, analyze mistakes, develop concepts.
2 to 4 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, attain accuracy.
5 to 7 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, develop speed, attain accuracy.
8 to 10 Take 4 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, attain speed and accuracy.
11 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, maintain speed and accuracy.
12 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, refer to the Official Guides, maintain speed and accuracy, and relax!

 

All the best!

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