How to study and score high on the GMAT for an MBA program

Stephanie Kinkaid Assistant Director of the Wackerle Career and Leadership Center Monmouth College

So you have decided that an MBA is for you. Following advice from friends and professors, you have researched schools and found a few that are a fit for your plans. Then you find out that the GMAT is required for entry to your dream graduate program.

The GMAT—Graduate Management Admission Test—is a standardized test that nearly all MBA programs require of applicants. The test doesn’t measure the applicant’s knowledge of business administration, but instead their overall academic abilities. The test is taken online at a designated location, timed, and the scores are immediately available after the time is up.

How do you prepare? Will you be able to score high enough for acceptance? Just what do you need to do to make your graduate school dreams a reality? Follow this advice to make studying for your GMAT effective, your test-taking successful, and—hopefully—your application accepted. 


Do research schools

Narrow your graduate school choices down to between five and ten schools. Find out deadlines for the application and required scores for acceptance. Make a chart that demonstrates your requirements for application. Your chart should include deadlines, GMAT score requirements, personal statement guidelines and any other requirements for application.

Do determine the score you will need

Many schools require 600 or above on the GMAT, while some prestigious schools require 700 or higher. Determining the scores needed is the first step in the actual preparation for the exam.

Do work with a GMAT tutor or instructor

Study guides and GMAT preparatory programs are readily available online, so be sure to choose one from a trusted source, such as, which is where you will have to register for the test. However, an instructor or tutor who scored high on the GMAT can greatly benefit your study. They can help you gain a familiarity with the test, knowledge and skills to score high, and a confidence going into it on test day.

Do take a practice test

Take the GMATPrep simulated test right away. This gives you a baseline score. Your initial score will also allow you to see in what areas you will need to concentrate. Maybe your math skills are high, but your reading comprehension needs practice. Based on these scores, start studying. Research has shown that the more hours a student studies for the GMAT, the higher the potential final score. It is recommended that students study daily for one to three months to prepare. Frequent and short bursts of studying (daily for an hour) seem to be most beneficial to students.

Do prepare a study schedule

Make studying for the GMAT a priority in your life. If study is built in your daily schedule, you are much more likely to make studying a habit. If you feel your skills are a bit rusty, allow yourself at least three months to prepare.


Do not forget to retest

After studying for a few weeks, take another practice test. This will allow you to compare with your baseline score. Are you improving? In which areas do you still need additional help? Maybe solo studying is not working for you. If you see that your score is not improving, consider other options like hiring a GMAT instructor or tutor.

Do not ignore courses that help build your skills

Many companies offer GMAT preparation courses in-person and online. If you haven’t scored well on your practice tests, maybe you should consider a course. If you are considering taking a course, do so early in your preparation schedule so that you do not miss application deadlines.

Do not fail to time yourself

When taking practice tests, always time yourself. It’s good to get in the habit of timing yourself now, so that you have an idea how long you can spend on test questions when the test day finally arrives. By understanding the test format and the topics, you will be able to spend time on the questions themselves.

Do not pass up free preparation courses at your undergraduate school

Some undergraduate colleges offer free preparation courses. Take advantage of these opportunities! You might find some helpful tricks and tips for successful studying.

Do not underestimate the time it takes to prepare for the GMAT

Studying for any test is time consuming. Some students may be able to study successfully in just a month or two, while others might need to prepare for up to six months. Only you know how well you study. Graduate school exams are difficult for a reason, just as graduate school can be difficult as well. But with proper preparation, you can be successful.

Jumping cartoon

Preparing for the GMAT takes times and effort. Research and studying are the keys to a successful test experience. Use your resources and materials to confidently register for and ace this exam. If you are serious about obtaining an MBA, successfully mastering the GMAT is your first step. Good luck!

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Stephanie KinkaidAssistant Director of the Wackerle Career and Leadership Center

Stephanie graduated from Illinois State University and has been employed with Monmouth College since 2007. She has a background as a mental health professional and has worked with thousands of college students as they prepare for the future. Her...

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