GMAT Preparation

Home - About » The Serious Side - Business School - The Application
Computer Science
Research, Industry Work,
Community Service
Hillside Group, CHOOSE,
Stanford GSA
The Serious Side
Business School,
Learning Chinese
Humorous Takes
Switzerland, United States,
Software, Fun Photos
Travel Stories
Europe, United States, Asia
Living Places
Berlin (+ Gallery), Zürich
Boston, S.F. + Bay Area

From all what I had seen, I concluded that the main criterion for my GMAT preparation should be:

  • The GMAT score must be good enough, but not more.

The main purpose of the GMAT is to show that you are a quick thinker, can work well under time pressure, and will be capable of handling the academic workload you are going to face at business school. This put a cap on my GMAT efforts: the time I would spend on improving my score from 730 to 760 would probably be better spent on revising my essays. I believe the time ROI diminished rapidly once I got beyond 700 points. This is also a general sentiment I've heard a number of times: we seem to over-emphasize the GMAT, maybe because it gives us such a "hard fact."

  • Prepare for the GMAT by taking ETS example tests.

All I needed to know in terms of actual contents I had already learned in high-school. If you are an international applicant, you may want to look up how the U.S. defines certain mathematical terms, which may be non-standard to you. I bought the Kaplan and Princeton Review books, and that helped me. However, the only good example tests were those provided by ETS. The Kaplan and Princeton Review tests weren't anywhere near the quality of the original ETS tests.

  • Start early, preferably a few months before the actual application season.

This way, you can concentrate on preparing for the GMAT without being distracted by essay writing and application logistics. I made the mistake to take the GMAT when I was already working on my application, which certainly added to an increased stress level. (But then, maybe I needed this...)

  • Take the TOEFL first, if you don't have much experience with ETS-type of tests.

This way, I got accustomed to this U.S.-specific type of testing, while not risking as much as I would by taking the GMAT right away.

  • Take trial tests to better pace yourself.

When I was finished with my verbal and quantitative sections in the real test, I had about 10-15min left on each one. What a waste of a scarce resource! The GMAT is not about intelligence in general or specific knowledge in particular. Every GMAT question alone would be easy to answer if I had had enough time. However, the GMAT is set up to test you under time pressure, so you have to learn how to best deal with this pressure.

In general, the aforementioned books gave me good advice on how to deal with the GMAT and the pecularities of the Computer Adaptive Test, such as why earlier questions are more important, and how to guess intelligently.

Copyright (©) 2007 Dirk Riehle. Some rights reserved. (Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA.) Original Web Location: