Starting the GMAT prep right is one thing that most students worry about. However, only a few students manage to get their strategy right.
Specially if you’re a working professional, it is difficult to find the time to plan a study schedule that is efficient (Read 2-Month GMAT study plan for working professionals and How to improve your GMAT score by 100 points in 30 days).
Pair it up with lack of proper tools and often most people end up retaking the GMAT or settling for a lower ranked school.
So, having spoken to hundreds of students in distress and helping them shape their preparation strategy based on the time they had and their target score, I decided to share my learnings so anyone who is just embarking on their GMAT should not have to wander clueless.
In this article, I will be covering a detailed 6-step process to start your preparation to score a 700+ in your FIRST attempt.
(Read Another story of achieving a dream score of 740 in 5 attempts)
How to start preparing for GMAT
An overview of the study plan
To achieve a 700+ score on GMAT, it is important that you religiously follow these 6 steps.
- Take a Diagnostic test to identify your skill level
- Identify target Quant and Verbal scores
- Understand the right learning sequence for you
- Create action items for learning phase
- Fine tune your weaknesses
- Mastering test taking strategies through mock tests
We will discuss all the following steps in detail in this article
If you wish to create a free personalized study plan for yourself using our Innovative AI driven engine, you can do so using this link.
Step 1 – Take a Diagnostic test to identify skill level
It is important for you to understand that being an adaptive test, GMAT is a lot different from any other test you have probably prepared for in the past.
Taking a diagnostic test would help you identify your skill level in Quant and Verbal. Once you know your current skill level, you will be able to plan your preparation better.
Here’s a quick guide to understand what your performance in a diagnostic test signify.
Interpretive Table for GMAT sectional scores
|Excellent||Above Average||Average||Below Average|
|Quant score||Q46 or more||Q41-45||Q35-40||Q34 or less|
|Verbal score||V38 or more||V32-37||V25-31||V24 or less|
Please Note: Don’t take the scores too seriously or get demotivated from it as you haven’t prepared as of now. If you feel that you will be discouraged with your score you can opt out of taking it. Remember that students who have scored low 400s in their diagnostic have also scored 750+ on actual GMAT.
Taking a diagnostic helps you prepare better for your GMAT journey, so you should not get demotivated. If you wish to take it, the most trustworthy mock test can be taken from www.mba.com by creating an account on the website.
Step 2 – Identify target Quant and Verbal scores
To give your GMAT prep the right direction, it is extremely important to identify your target score and not just your overall GMAT score, but your sectional scores as well. Now, some people may be good in Quant, some may be good in Verbal, while others may be equally good in both the sections. Let’s discuss in detail –
Category 1 – Better in 1 section
If you are better in one section, you must try to maximise your score in this area.
Let’s take an example. Suppose your target score is 720 and you are good at Quant. Then your target in Quant should be Q50. Now to reach a 720 with a Q50, the bare minimum you need in Verbal is a V38.
On the other hand, if you are good in Verbal, your target should be to maximise your score in Verbal, say to a V43. To reach a 720 with V43, you should be able to score a Q46.
Category 2 – Equally good in both sections
If you do not have a strength but are rather good in both sections, you should try to balance your target score in both sections.
Now again, if your target score is 720 and you are good in both sections, your sectional target scores should be somewhere around Q48 and V40.
Here’s a short table to help you understand the right sectional targets for you for some key target scores.
|Target Score||Better in Quant||Better in Verbal||Equally good in both|
|760||Q51, V42||Q48, V46||Q50, V44|
|720||Q50, V38||Q46, V43||Q48, V40|
|700||Q50, V36||Q44, V42||Q47, V39|
|650||Q49, V30||Q42, V38||Q45, V34|
So, if you’re targeting a score of 700 and you’re equally good in both areas then you should target Q47 and V39 as sectional targets.
Step 3 – Understand the right learning sequence for you
1. Section Sequence – Quant/Verbal sequencing
Working professionals who are beginning with their GMAT prep may be apprehensive to go back to studying. Including a study schedule in your already hectic life may seem intimidating.
So, if you generally have a lot of inertia to overcome when you begin with a new habit, my suggestion would be to start with your strong section.
However, if you are a disciplined individual and feel more confident once you cover your weaknesses, the best thing to do is to start with your weaker section. On the other hand, if you’re devoting more than 20 hrs a week to studies then you can prepare Quant and Verbal simultaneously.
Now that we are clear about the sequence of Quant and Verbal, let us understand the right sequence within Quant and Verbal as that is also particularly important for effective learning.
Most people who are not aware of this sequence end up studying haphazardly and consume a lot more time than required to reach their target score.
2. Verbal module sequence
To understand the right sequence for Verbal, let’s understand the 3 most important skills tested on GMAT Verbal –
- Comprehension Skills
- Analytical Skills, and
- Ability to focus on main points.
Since all these skills are interdependent, it is important that you start with a skill that is least dependent on the other two i.e., Comprehension Skill. Since, Sentence Correction requires only Comprehension skill, starting with SC is the most logical choice.
Now, Critical reasoning requires mastering two skills i.e. comprehension and analytical skill. Since you have already worked on your comprehension skill for SC, you will only need to learn analytical skill to ace CR. So, right after completing SC, you should move to CR.
And, once done with CR, you can work on your ability to focus on main point to effectively prepare for RC which needs all the three skills mentioned above.
Therefore, the right order for beginners to prepare for GMAT Verbal is to start with SC, then move to CR, and finally work on RC.
3. Quant module sequence
Since all the modules in GMAT Quant are interlinked, taking up one module at a time will not work here. The more logical approach would be to begin with your basics first.
Once your basics are strong enough, you can move to the Intermediate topics and thereon to the Advanced ones.
Start from basics to intermediate to advanced topics. Here’s the right order of learning for GMAT Quant.
- Number Basics
- Fractions and Decimals
- Estimation Rounding
- Linear Equations
- Quadratic Equations
- Unitary Method
- Ratios and Proportions
- Even Odd
- LCM GCD
- Linear Inequalities
- Quadratic Inequalities
- Absolute Inequalities
- Profit Loss and Discount
- Simple and Compound Interest
- Time and Work
- Time and Distance
- Divisibility and Remainders
- Units Digit
- Lines and Angles
- Quadrilaterals and Polygons
- 3D Solids
- Sequence and Series
- Coordinate Geometry
- Permutation and Combination
For a more detailed and adaptive study plan, you can use this tool. It includes access to some free content also along with an AI created personalized study plan.
Step 4 – Create action items for learning phase
The most logical approach when taking up any module on GMAT is to tackle one topic at a time. However, to most people learning a topic is all about learning the rules and formulas and then solve questions on the same.
Very few people, in fact, focus on the 3rd thing, that is, learning the best method to solve a question on that topic.
Why is learning the best method important?
If you’re targeting a 700+ score, you need to do well on hard questions. The thing with hard GMAT questions is that they are not based on direct application of concepts.
They require a strategic and logical approach for one to be able to solve them correctly under 2 mins. Hence, learning the right approach is critical.
Hence, keep in mind the following 3 steps for learning each topic –
1. Learn concepts tested on GMAT
Focus on the logical aspects of a concept instead of simply memorizing them.
For example, Past perfect tense is required for related past events but not if there is no need to clarify the sequence. Sometimes the context is enough to clarify the sequence. Let’s take an example to understand
Sentence 1 - I had researched about a company that went bankrupt in 2010
Sentence 2 – I researched about a company that had been incorporated in 2001
The first sentence is correct as the past perfect tense “had researched” is required to clarify the sequence between the event of research and bankruptcy. Without the presence of Past Perfect Tense, we cannot be sure about which event happened earlier.
However, the Second sentence uses the Past Perfect tense incorrectly as from the context it is clear that I can only do research about a company after it is incorporated. So, there is no need to use the Past perfect “had been incorporated” there.
The right sentence would use “I researched about a company that was incorporated in 2001”.
This is how you’re supposed to learn the concepts. The idea is to focus on the logical aspect of it, so that you don’t have to memorize at all. Recalling and application of concepts becomes easy this way.
2. Learn the right method to solve questions
As I pointed out earlier that it is very crucial to learn the right method as one learns the concepts. Ensure that you do this as the second step. Let me explain how.
Take 5-6 questions on the topic covering various errors and solve 1 question at a time. Right after solving the question, make sure that you review the solution in-depth to check the method.
Do so for even the questions that you get right and while reviewing the solution, don’t just focus on the answer choices. Focus more on the approach that you followed.
The idea is to observe the variance between your approach and the right approach, so that you can improve.
Once you do this on 1 question, you can move to the next question and learn from there too. This way when you do 5-6 questions, you learn the method iteratively.
In our course at GMATWhiz, we have specially designed Concept Boosters lessons to cover the most effective strategies for all type of questions that one can come across from a particular topic.
3. Practice questions on this topic
Now that you have worked on learning both Concepts and Application, focus on practicing questions on the particular topic along with few that test your understanding of previous topics too because another mistake done by students is that they continue practising only single topic questions (5 most common GMAT mistakes and how to avoid them).
In most 700 level questions, you would be tested on multiple topics at a time. For example, a Prime nos. question can test your understanding of Prime nos. along with Exponents and Equations.
So, ensure that you practice questions testing multiple areas that you have covered till that point.
This approach is known as Progressive learning and is at core of the course design at GMATWhiz course too, where we give you Practice Quizzes focusing on multiple topics on basis of your progress in the course.
You can take a free trial using this link.
Step 5 – Fine tuning your weaknesses
Once you are done with each section, you should shift your focus to your weak areas. To fine tune your weaknesses, you must take individual sectional tests, identify areas where you got less than 50% score and re-do the lessons for them. Then finally, practice questions to build your confidence.
We recommend students to maintain a detailed error log if they don’t have access to AI driven tool like GMATWhiz PRIME engine that is equipped to not only maintain your detailed error log but also provide Real-time improvement modules to help you work on these areas.
How to use an Error Log?
We recommend to collect data around every question that you solve. Some of the datapoints that you should collect are as follows:
- Primary concept tested
- Secondary concept tested
- Time taken to solve
- Difficulty level
- Application based errors made
- Source of the question
If collected properly, this data comes in handy. At the end of each module (SC, CR, RC, etc.) identify areas where your score is low and work on them.
For areas where your time-taken to solve is high, identify the questions where you wasted the most time and work on the methodology to improve timing.
Step 6 – Mastering test taking strategies through mocks
After working on fine-tuning the weak areas, it is time to learn the best test taking strategies. GMAT is an adaptive test and thus understanding the adaptive algorithm holds the key to scoring high there.
Learning the right test taking strategies can increase your score by up to 50 points.
I remember speaking to a student who was stuck at a score of Q47 for 4-5 mock tests. We had a discussion around the test taking strategy and he was able to improve his Quant score to Q49 in the very next test.
You can check out this webinar recording to learn the right test taking strategies in-depth.
Most people end up consuming their mocks without proper planning and hence don’t get the maximum out of them.
Ideally, once you have learnt the best test taking strategies, take 4-5 mocks with a gap of ideally 5-7 days between any two tests.
As a rule of thumb, if your score in any mock is more than 50 points below your target score then don’t take another mock in 5-7 days.
Rather work on identifying the core issues that are holding you back, so that you can see an improvement in the next mock test.
When you have scored 10-20 points more than your target score in 2 consecutive mock tests under simulated environment, that’s when you can go ahead and book the date for GMAT.
Resources to be used
Now I’m sure you might be thinking which resources you should use for preparation. Most people start with OG questions but that may not be the best way to use OG questions.
In our next article, we will cover about the resources in-depth.
With right planning in place, getting a 700+ score is possible in the first attempt. I hope this article provides you a detailed overview of how to start your preparation and go through it.
Please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries which you would like to discuss with me.
About the author: Piyush Beriwala is the founder of GMATWhiz. He has spent over 8 years in the education field and trained over 5000 students. He has earlier worked with TIME, KPMG and e-GMAT.