Guest blog post by: Dave Green, examPAL GMAT prep

Did you take the GMAT? Do you feel that you failed the GMAT? Have you started asking yourself why certain people fail the GMAT?

Inevitably you will be asking yourself what you can do differently next time to prepare better for the GMAT.

The first thing to remember is that no one fails the GMAT: it’s not a pass/fail exam. While you can’t fail the GMAT, it is very common to not reach the score that you are hoping to reach.

So the real question is why certain people don’t reach the score they are hoping to reach on the GMAT.

There are two major reasons that people don’t reach the score they are hoping for on the GMAT. The first is that they set an unrealistic target for their score.

The second is that they don’t perform well on the exam.

Both of these issues can be improved with the same solution: preparation.

With proper preparation you will be able to assess your own skills to really find out what a realistic score for you on the GMAT is,  and you will be able to gain and practice strategies to make you more comfortable with the GMAT, increasing your potential score.

This leads us to the question: is all preparation equal? Clearly the answer is no.

Just because you are practicing doesn’t mean you are preparing properly.

You can do GMAT practice questions all day and all night, and you can get the GMAT study guide and do the questions over and over, but that doesn’t mean you are preparing for the GMAT properly.

In this case, practice definitely doesn’t make perfect. In studying for the GMAT, it’s not the quantity of the practice that is important; it’s the quality of the practice that is important.

How Did I Mess Up Preparing for the GMAT?

People make a couple of big mistakes in preparing for the GMAT. The first big mistake people make is starting their study at too-high a level. Building any knowledge is like building a house: it is important to start with the foundation and work your way up.

If you don’t have an accurate understanding of your level, you won’t start preparing in the right place, and the wall of your house will come crashing down. Know what you know and know what you don’t know.

The second mistake people make is preparing for the GMAT as though it were any other test. GMAT prep is different than preparation for other tests.

How is the GMAT different?

The GMAT tests mental flexibility more than anything else. There may be many different ways to answer a question on the GMAT, so getting the answer is not the most important thing: how you arrive at the answer has much more bearing on your chances of getting the score you are looking for. So yes, you can use that formula to answer the question, but without a calculator it will be a hard, long, drawn-out process, taking time that is needed for answering other questions.

But there might be a better, quicker and more effective way to answer: you just might have to abandon your normal patterns to realize that examPAL can help you understand the various possible ways of answering a question, and which one is most effective for you to use when answering.

How Can I Prepare Properly for the GMAT?

So, all of this answers the question of why certain people don’t do as well as they hope on the GMAT, but the bigger, more important question is “How can I prepare properly for the GMAT?” Good question.

The first part of proper preparation for anything, not just the GMAT, is time.

It is important to put aside enough time both overall and on a daily basis.

So how much time should you put aside to prepare for the GMAT?

It depends quite a bit on the individual, but broadly speaking, you should give yourself 6-8 weeks before the test to prepare.

For non-native English speakers, this might need to be longer to improve your vocabulary and reading skills, as they are important on the GMAT. On a daily basis, you should generally set aside 2-3 hours each day.

Making a daily schedule is very important. Your brain likes routine and remembers things better when using a schedule, and this is critical to building your vocabulary, memorizing formulas, and remembering logical ideas.

examPAL makes this process easier with our focused practice, making sure you are giving proper weight to your preparation of all the skills necessary for success on the GMAT.

Another very important part of preparing for the test has nothing at all to do with the actual content of the GMAT. People perform better when they are comfortable in a situation. The more stressful the situation, the more trivial the stressor. The GMAT is a very high-stress situation.  Start with everything that rests on the results, add to that the security procedures and the computer interface, and this becomes a real barn burner in terms of stress.

Even the coolest person will come into the test center and feel stressed. The only way to reduce this stress, stay focused on the test, and be more comfortable is to become familiar with what is going to happen on the day of the GMAT. Do a dry run to the center, make sure you know where it is, where you will park and where you enter. Review the security procedures, makes sure you know what ID to bring, how you will be checked and what the timing of the sections and breaks will be.

Also make sure that you are familiar with the layout of the computer, and where to find the question numbers and the clock.  Make sure you practice with the allowed items you will be using in the test. All of this will reduce your stress going into the test and improve your chances of success.

Am I Prepared for the GMAT?

In the end, for your preparation to be effective, you need to remember a few things. Make sure you understand your starting level: don’t start too high.  Don’t study like you do for any other test; the GMAT is different and you need to understand how it works. Make sure you set aside time on a daily and weekly basis and create a routine. Get comfortable with what is going to happen on the day of the GMAT. If you remember these things in your GMAT prep, you will be much closer to getting the score you are looking for.

Guest post by Dave Green, Senior tutor and professional test-prep writer. Interdisciplinary wizard, with Master’s degrees in economics, philosophy, and political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.