How to Prepare for the GMAT...Effectively!
The GMAT has been the entrance exam for business schools since its introduction in the 1950s. Consisting of three parts, the GMAT measures verbal, mathematical, and analytical and writing skills. The exam is used by business schools to assess your qualifications for advanced study in business and management. As such, the GMAT places a greater stress on logical reasoning than the GRE, reflecting the career paths of business school graduates in fields like investment banking and management consulting.
How to Prepare for the GMAT
In terms of preparing for the GMAT, you have two options:
Self Study:If you prefer to study alone, I recommend reading through a short list of handpicked self-study guides. This will cost less than $100 and take 4-8 weeks. You'll need to be disciplined and capable of learning without outside help.
Classroom:If you prefer to learn in a classroom environment, consider Kaplan's course. This will cost you around $1,500 and span 4-5 weeks. You'll have access to a top-scoring instructor and proprietary study materials. This may be a good option if you're the type of person that requires external motivation and if you can afford to pay. Another potential drawback may occur if you're placed in a class where you're significantly better or worse than your classmates since instructors tend to teach with the average student in mind.
Read Barron's GMAT Book Cover to Cover
Each of the three major test prep companies – Barron's, Kaplan, and The Princeton Review – publishes a study guide. In our estimation, Barron's is the single best resource for math and verbal. It offers clear explanations and practice questions that are on the harder end of the spectrum. Ideally, you should set aside 3-4 weeks to go through this material.
Read Barron's GMAT Math Workbook
The Barron's GMAT book has some helpful information but it's math section is a little thin. To get the math practice you need, pick up Barron's GMAT Math Workbook and go through each of the math topics individually. For example, you'll have the opportunity to learn about ratios and do some practice questions before moving on to another topic. This enables you to master the math section in small chunks rather than trying to learn everything at once.
Do Practice Questions from The Official Guide for GMAT Review
After completing the Barron's book, we recommend doing practice exercises in the official guide published by the Graduate Management Admissions Council. This is the only book published by the creators of the GMAT and has hundreds of actual GMAT that have appeared in past exams. In total, you should set aside 1-2 weeks to go through its practice questions.
Take At Least Five Practice Tests
In order to avoid a panic attack on the test day, we recommend that you take five or more practice tests simulating real exam conditions. That means no distractions, no calculators, and strict timing. The Barron's book contains a CD-ROM with computer adaptive practice tests. In addition, the official test maker, GMAC, lets you download two full-length exams (for free!) through their GMATPrep software. Taking two or more tests is an indispensable step to building confidence prior to the exam.
(Optional) Manhattan GMAT Set of 10 Strategy Guides, Fifth Edition
A newcomer to the world of test prep is Manhattan. They've put together 10 guides for the GMAT, broken down into the different components of the verbal and math sections. This is a great resource if you're aiming for a high score, or simply want more practice. The authors review a broad range of concepts, which will reinforce what you've learned in the Barron's book, and go further in many cases. You can also pick and choose the books that will be most useful to you from the set. If we had to pick one book, we'd recommend the "Number Properties Guide", an excellent supplement to Barron's math review. Set aside 1 week for each book that you want to review from this set.
Kaplan's "GMAT Advantage On Site" Course
Kaplan is the leader in the test prep industry and offers a 4-5 week course called Kaplan GMAT Advantage On Site. It is their most popular service and offers a comprehensive review of the exam in a structured classroom setting. You will meet twice a week in two and a half hour sessions and supplement your learning with homework assignments. This is a great option if you: (a) learn better with an instructor; (b) require motivation; and (c) have the financial resources. Kaplan's instructors must score in the 90th percentile or higher to teach, so you'll know that you're being taught by the best and brightest. They also offer a higher score guarantee – if your score doesn't go up, you get your money back!