Oxbridge Entry Basics — 2. The GMAT

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What is the GMAT?

The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is a three and a half hour standardised exam designed to predict how test takers will perform academically in MBA (Masters in Business Administration) programmes. It is developed by the Graduate Management Admission Council, a non profit organisation and assesses the following:

  • Analytical Writing

  • Quantitative Reasoning

  • Verbal Reasoning

  • Integrated Reasoning

About the GMAT

The above criteria are assessed via the four components of the GMAT exam.

  1. A 30 minute Analytical Writing Assessment (one writing task)

  2. A 30 minute Integrated Reasoning section (12 multiple choice questions)

  3. A 75 minute Quantitative section (37 multiple choice questions)

  4. A 75 minute Verbal section (41 multiple choice questions

The GMAT is not a pass or fail test as such. For each of the above sections and seperate scaled score and percentile rank are given. To give a sense of expectation: Jesus College Cambridge asks for MBA Candidates to have scored above 80% and Stamfords’ successful applicants of 2017 scored an average of 93%.

What can I do to prepare for the GMAT?

There is no doubt that the GMAT takes some mastering in order to achieve the kind of percentile that will might allow perspective students a look at many a top business school so earlier this week at BYT HQ we caught up with Chuck Dreyer one of the U.K’s most in demand GMAT tutors and asked him precisely how to really prepare for the GMAT itself.

What you need to do: 10 steps to GMAT awesomeness

By Chuck Dreyer

(The below is a skeleton study plan which you can tailor to your needs.)

1. Introduction

First, read the beginning of the Official Guide ~ especially the Myth vs Fact sections, and the bit about the structure of the test ~ and the introductory pages to each of the five main sections.

Second, read the PowerPoint here: An Introduction to the GMAT.

Third, download the official practice software.

2. Have a go

In which you try a few questions to see what you’re up against

You might like to look at some of my webinars, specifically the ones on Quant and Verbal. You can find them here.

You might also attempt some of the questions on the official practice software, or some of the easier questions in the Official Guide (the ones at the beginning of each main section ~ ignore the Diagnostic Test for now).

3. Groundwork

in which you tackle any major weaknesses in Maths and English

If you’re weak at Maths, you should get a textbook or hire a tutor. Any GCSE textbook that you like is fine. By now you’ll know what topics you need to be familiar with, and you should have started to think about what theory you don’t fully understand.

If you struggle with the Verbal section, you may want to get a grammar book, or do a course, or hire a tutor.

4. Diagnostic

in which you do a practice test to get some idea of your level

You could try the test at Platinum GMAT, or one of the official practice tests if you want a more accurate idea of your level (although you may want to keep the official ones for later). Try to make sure you finish; don’t worry about skipping harder questions. You want to give yourself the best chance of answering the questions you’re capable of answering.

Think about how well prepared — or otherwise — you were.

The score you get will allow you to work out how much longer you need. As a very rough (conservative) guide, 5 hours per week should allow you to improve by 50 points per month. Bear these conclusions in mind as you tackle…

5. The OG

in which you take on the Official Guide a.k.a. The Bible

Do the first few (20–30) questions in each section one page (or one double page) at a time. Do each question three times, as follows:

  1. Test conditions

  2. Redo, using resources and with unlimited time (and without having checked the answer)

  3. Review (see below)

Review what you’ve done carefully. Outline your strengths and weaknesses. Think about how many questions, and what level of question, you can realistically answer given the time constraints of the test.

If you need help with the Quant portion of the test, youcould use my ebooks

You might even want to work through them instead of going through the Problem Solving section chronologically.

6. Your first (or second) official practice test

in which, surprisingly, you do an official practice test

This test is your first dress rehearsal. Do one of the practice tests from the official practice software and take it seriously. You may not get a great score, but this is your chance to show that you know the basics and can answer easier questions under test conditions.

As noted above, an official practice test should give you an accurate understanding of your current level as well as highlighting areas for improvement, and if you’ve prepared conscientiously so far, it should also provide a confidence boost.

At this point, you should be able to come up with a realistic estimate of how long it will take you to reach your target score (again, see above, but use your initiative too;

you might also look here.

7. Analysis

in which you go over your practice test thoroughly and plan your next steps

Start with the easiest questions, the ones you feel you should have been able to get right. What went wrong?

What kinds of mistakes did you make, and what were the causes?

Find ways to avoid those mistakes. If you’re stuck, ask. I spend a lot of my time talking to students on exactly this point.

Next, think about timing. Is there anything that you think you could do faster with enough practice (and without compromising your accuracy)?

Would you benefit from a deeper understanding of any concepts? Do something about it (see the next section).

Make sure that you’ve done sufficient work that your next test can be expected to show a significant improvement — in individual areas if not in the overall score.

8. Step up

in which you take on some harder questions

Review the Official Guide questions that you did; do some more questions; make notes on your strategies for different types of question. Look for patterns among your weaknesses. Address them.

9. The cycle (Do — Review — Improve)

in which you consistently identify areas for improvement and then focus on them

Review the questions that you’ve done. Try to identify anything that might stop you getting 50th percentile or higher in each section or 600+ overall. Consider any discrete skills that might help you, such as speed reading or mind mapping in Reading Comprehension.

Do number drills regularly and think through all of the different strategies you’ve amassed up till now.

Do another practice test (a Manhattan test might be good at this point)

Review your test (and possibly any recent OG questions)

Improve by identifying areas for improvement or practice and tackling them

10. Do-Review- Improve

in which you consistently make small gains until you reach your desired level

Do another practice test (probably the second official one).

Review it.



You’re basically repeating step 9 here. As long as you’re identifying specific areas for improvement, and finding ways to improve, you’re in business.

Remember that you can reset the official practice tests.

You can also buy more; and if you like the Manhattan test you did, you can buy more of them too. And you can always ask for help.

You may want to finish the OG if you haven’t already, or consider buying extra online questions. But bear in mind that, as in life, quality is better than quantity.

You can find out more about tuition with Chuck on his website here

As always we’d love to hear from you at BYT so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

And just for a sense of comparison here’s what happened when a journalist from Bloomberg took the GMAT with absolutely no preparation..