Exam Prep

GMAT Preparation Strategies

The basis of all preparation is planning ― the GMAT is no different. Choose a target exam date that allows for one or more retakes without missing business school application deadlines. Work backwards from your exam date and consider that most students study from one to six months for the GMAT, depending on experience.

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It’s a good idea to take a free practice GMAT as a first step; your performance on this practice exam can illustrate your strengths and weaknesses before you begin to study. MBA.com, the official site for the GMAT, also offers free software for this purpose.

When you’ve familiarized yourself with the test format and have identified the areas you intend to focus on, design a study plan that fits your lifestyle and your business school deadlines. Be realistic about the amount of time you need to study, as well as the amount you have available.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of test preparation materials available for the GMAT:

  • Self-study with online help tools or an official study guide may work for motivated candidates who have a clear understanding of their weak spots.
  • Tutors are available in person, online or by phone, and can help you through the trickier areas of the test for a cost.
  • Courses taught by skilled instructors are much more costly, but they may be a better option for some students; these are usually available over a span of several weeks, or over an intense weekend.
  • Online courses can also be particularly convenient for candidates with difficult schedules.

As you work through your study materials, take advantage of opportunities to do sample questions, practice sections and, at least once, take another entire exam. Time yourself as you do so you become comfortable with actual exam requirements. Adjust your study schedule as necessary so that you can adequately prepare for all four sections. Consider purchasing study modules or other online tools that may strengthen an area of trouble for you. Finally, arrive at the testing center on time and well-rested.

Choosing a Prep Book: Matrix of Standard GMAT Book Options

(original table)

The Official Guide for GMAT Review 2015

  • Price: $50.88
  • Amazon Rating: 3 Stars
  • Available: New and Used
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Supplemental Materials: Sold separately
  • Practice Tests: 100-question diagnostic exam; 900 retired GMAT questions
  • Notes: Written by the test creators
  • Pros: Online Question Bank and Exclusive Video; Practice questions follow actual GMAT test patterns; integrated reasoning section overview
  • Cons: Does not include test-taking strategy; questions tend to be easier; no new questions since last edition

Manhattan GMAT Complete Strategy Guide Set

  • Price: $151.29
  • Amazon Rating: 4.5 Stars
  • Available: New, Used and to Rent
  • Publisher: Manhattan Prep Publishing
  • Supplemental Materials: None
  • Practice Tests: Six online full-length, computer-adaptive practice exams as well as more than 200 practice questions; each book comes with 25 supplementary, GMAT style, questions
  • Notes: Includes 10 well written books including: GMAT Roadmap; Fractions, Decimals, and Percents; Algebra; Word Problems; Geometry; Number Properties; Critical Reasoning; Reading Comprehension; Sentence Correction; and Integrated Reasoning and Essay
  • Pros: Each of the books offers easy to understand yet thorough explanations; brilliantly lays out strategies and concepts; solid strategy for each question
  • Cons: Quantitative section problems are more difficult than on the test itself

Kaplan GMAT Premier 2015 with 6 Practice Tests

  • Price: $28.45
  • Amazon Rating: 4.5 Stars
  • Available: New and Used
  • Publisher: Kaplan Publishing
  • Supplemental Materials: Digital version of the book available for computers, iPads and smartphones; DVD video lessons
  • Practice Tests: 6 full practice GMAT tests (5 online and one on paper); an online quiz bank
  • Notes: Helps you become familiar with the mechanisms and the structure of the test, provides an overview of basic principles and offers numerous strategies, tips and techniques for handling different types of problems.
  • Pros: Academic support from Kaplan faculty via Facebook and Twitter; Kaplan guarantee on improved score; Fast Fact videos good integrated learning tool
  • Cons: Less depth than available in bigger, more expensive guides; online tools expire in 6 months; no CD for test questions

The PowerScore GMAT Critical Reasoning Bible

  • Price: $20.21
  • Amazon Rating: 4.5 Stars
  • Available: New, Used and to Rent
  • Publisher: PowerScore Publishing
  • Supplemental Materials: Supplemented by an exclusive website that provides study plans and answers to frequently asked student questions; CD available for purchase in bundle at additional cost
  • Practice Tests: None
  • Notes: Breaks down GMAT argumentation, how to recognize GMAT question types, and how to separate correct answers from incorrect answers
  • Pros: Extremely strong on critical reasoning skills; useful quick reference; teaching thinking necessary to approach a certain type of question
  • Cons: Fewer practice questions than other guides; lacking in supporting content

Complete GMAT Course Set (12 Books)

  • Price: $148.00
  • Amazon Rating: 5 Stars
  • Available: New, Used and to Rent
  • Publisher: Veritas Prep
  • Supplemental Materials: None
  • Practice Tests: 1,000 practice questions with answers; one adaptive practice test
  • Notes: Purchase of this set offers test-takers the prep course minus the instructor; 12 books comprising the set include: Foundations of GMAT Logic; Arithmetic; Critical Reasoning; Algebra; Sentence Correction; Geometry; Reading Comprehension; Data Sufficiency; Advanced Verbal Strategy; Statistics and Combinatorics; Advanced Word Problems; and Analytical Writing Assessment & Integrated Reasoning
  • Pros: Comprehensive solutions to the practice questions; free access to the Veritas Prep Question Bank; 14 in-depth guides to the world’s top business schools
  • Cons: No practice sets available online or on CD

The GMAT Roadmap: Expert Advice Through Test Day

  • Price: $19.17
  • Amazon Rating: 5 Stars
  • Available: New and Used
  • Publisher: Manhattan Prep Publishing
  • Supplemental Materials: None
  • Practice Tests: 6 full-length, computer-adaptive practice exams
  • Notes: Provides the definitive blueprint for students to follow, focuses solely on testing strategy
  • Pros: Solid overview of the test itself; collective wisdom of publisher’s authors; test-taking tips from authors and users
  • Cons: Online access to testing materials expires in one year; somewhat incompatible with Kindle; most useful for beginners

Cracking the GMAT Premium Edition

  • Price: $24.04
  • Amazon Rating: 5 Stars
  • Available: New and Used
  • Publisher: Princeton Review
  • Supplemental Materials: Exclusive access to online Premium Portal
  • Practice Tests: 6 CAT practice exams
  • Notes: Tactics to avoid traps, pace yourself and guess strategically are supplemented by an overview of all topics and a review of the math and reading skills required to succeed.
  • Pros: Score reports and answer explanations for the online tests; the test portal mimics actual test
  • Cons: No CDs/DVDs