The Graduate Management Admission Test, or the GMAT for short, is an important entrance exam taken by MBA aspirants the world over. The GMAT exam tests your aptitude and ability to reason as a way to determine your suitability for a postgraduate management program. The exam is so ubiquitous that thousands of resources and classes that teach candidates how to prepare for the GMAT have emerged to meet the rising demand of GMAT aspirants. Completing an MBA degree is a surefire way of ensuring professional success and a higher salary package. It also helps build a network of connections of similarly qualified professionals that may be able to help you on your career path at some point in your professional journey.

So, you must be wondering, how do I start preparing for the GMAT exam, and what is the best way to prepare for the GMAT? What are the best practices that you can follow in your GMAT exam preparation? Read on to find out.

When is the right time to start preparing for the GMAT exam?

The whole process of applying to a business school is overwhelming and time-consuming, and the GMAT itself requires a lot of preparation before the test day. So, when is the right time to start preparing for the GMAT, and more importantly, to start the application process for your MBA program? There are several variables you should be mindful of.

  • Start by creating a timeline that ends with the final application date for your chosen university. If you are applying to multiple universities, it would be best to choose the one with the soonest application deadline so that you are able to have everything ready before that.
  • It is important to pick a GMAT date that works for you with respect to all the activities you need to complete before your final application deadline for the graduate schools you are applying to. 
  • Think backwards from the final application date and account for the time it would take to prepare your resume, write your essay, and compile a portfolio if your school of choice requires it or you want to pad your application. 
  • You might want to also budget time for an additional attempt at the GMAT in case you are not satisfied with the score you achieve on your first attempt. 
  • Most people give themselves six months to a year to prepare for the exam and cover the whole GMAT syllabus. Other activities like preparing a resume and portfolio building can happen simultaneously side-by-side with this process.
  • Time management may well be the most important aspect of the GMAT exam, both before and during.

Study Tips 

Reference material

  • Official literature from offers a free GMAT Official Starter Kit that comes with two practice exams, to all registered candidates. In addition to this, you can purchase a set of two more Official Practice Exams. There is also an Official Guide Bundle that comes with practice material and a question bank.

  • Other useful resources
  • Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guide (Set)

Time management during the test

  • As mentioned earlier, there is a penalty for each question you do not complete in the GMAT exam. Yes, it is important to acquire and practice the skills the GMAT will test. However, it is equally important to do so in a time-bound fashion, and to know when to move on in the interest of your greater goal, which is to achieve a good overall score.
  • The GMAT is a multiple-choice test, and in order to get at the correct answer, you will have to eliminate the ones most likely to be wrong. You can check for common errors in the other answers and determine which one is the right answer to the question. The most important thing in the GMAT is to not get stuck on a single question at the expense of the rest.
  • If you are constantly worrying about whether you answered the previous question correctly, you will not be able to focus on the current question. If you fail to complete any part of any section, it can result in a build-up of negative marking which will lead to an unsatisfactory overall score.
  • Create a strategy to make an educated guess of the correct answer in advance for an exceptional question that stumps you during the exam. Consider working out a system to know which questions to let go of and after how much time – say, if you are unable to solve a question within three minutes, you might want to consider moving on to the rest of the questions to ensure that you reach the end of the section and solve as many questions as possible.

Visual literacy

  • Visual literacy is a phrase used a lot in GMAT tips and tricks guides. The GMAT features a lot of tables, symbols (some imaginary), tables, and other visual devices in its questions. Using official materials for GMAT preparation is a good idea, because it is likely they will also feature the same kind of visual devices as the actual exam.
  • Visual data is an important part of the GMAT, and if you are able to master the skill of reading symbols, tables, and charts, you will be much better placed for your exam. The GMAT (especially the Quant section) also often features imaginary or made-up symbols to test this ability, and it is important that you practice for and anticipate these in order to remain composed during the test.

Mock tests

  • For the same reason that we have preliminary exams before we take our board exams, it is important to take a mock test before your actual GMAT exam.
  • Mock tests, or practice exams, help show you your strengths and weaknesses and where you stand in terms of your goal of taking the GMAT exam to the very best of your ability.
  • You will be able to estimate how prepared you are for the actual exam and what areas you need to focus on in which section.
  • If there is a specific question type that is causing a problem for you, you will be able to assess the issues you might face with it in an actual exam setting.
  • You will be able to test your concentration and focus – because in the actual GMAT exam you will not be able to move out of your seat except for the optional break, which is 8 minutes long. 
  • Most importantly, you will be able to test your time management skills, and know whether you are able to finish all the sections. It is important to assess your ability so you know what aspects need improvement.
  • Over time, you should be able to finish the GMAT exam within the prescribed time limit comfortably.

Exam Day Checklist

Things to remember before the test:

  • Make sure you know the way to the test centre.
  • Account for traffic and other interruptions on your route.
  • Reach at least 30 minutes before your appointment time.
  • Take a rest day in your preparation on the day before your exam – compose yourself and be well-rested before you set out for the exam.

Things to bring to the test centre:

  • DO bring photo identity proof
  • DO bring confirmation letter for your test
  • DON’T bring food items
  • DON’T bring stationery items – the GMAT is a computer-based test
  • DON’T bring any other additional items unless they have been pre-approved

In case you choose the GMAT Online Exam:

  • Make sure your test-taking area is clean and neat. You may be asked to remove items during the 360-degree area check.
  • If you need to use a power cord for a laptop, make sure it is plugged in before you begin.
  • Put away all books, stationery items, papers, etc. 
  • If you will have a whiteboard and marker for rough work, have it ready beforehand.
  • Set up your workstation at least 15 minutes before your allotted appointment time.
  • You will not be allowed to move out of your seat once the exam begins, so make sure you eat, drink, use the restroom, before your appointment.
  • If you choose to take the break offered, make sure you are back in your seat before it ends, or marks will be deducted. 


The pointers on the best GMAT preparation practices mentioned in this article are just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more to be done, and a lot of hard work involved, before you are at the end – or even middle – of this journey. The good thing is, CareerLabs is here for you – whether you need resources or reassurance, you can always count on us.

From picking the right date that works with your schedule and your chosen school’s application deadline, to actually studying for this mammoth exam, there are so many things to remember and it is likely new points to note will keep cropping up everywhere you look. The important thing is to have faith in your abilities, and truly believe that you are going to be learning things that will eventually lead to achievements that you pride yourself on.

The road ahead is long and hard, but it is well-trodden – nearly any challenge you face is surmountable, and we are here to take the journey with you.

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