Taking a standardized test has a lot in common with being a professional athlete. You're goal is to maximize your performance in a short amount of time, usually a 2-3 hour time frame. Like any great performer, knowing what to do is very different from consistent execution, and the key to consistency is never overlooking the basics!
When it comes to the GMAT exam, knowing the content can only get you so far. Based off my 20 years of GMAT prep coaching experience, solely focusing on mastering the content well max you out at a 600 to 650 . Scoring 700+ will require mastering the content, being strategic about how you take the exam, and performing consistently on test day.
For this blog post, let's cover the basic fundamental GMAT strategies and tips that have worked for my 700+ scoring students time
and time again. Please note that these tips may seem obvious to you. But knowing is very different from implementing. My goal for this post is to also stress the need for consistency with these strategies.
1. Process of elimination, never forget it
If you've taken any standardized test before, then this concept is probably very familiar to you. But you'd be surprised how even the most veteran working professionals overlook this simple, yet critical strategy. After all, when's the last time you took a 3-hour standardized test? Probably years!
So here's how process of elimination works in a nutshell: if prompted with a set of options, eliminate what you believe to be the wrong answers until you're left with only one option. Presumably this last option is the correct answer. The power of this technique is that it's much faster to find wrong answers than to pick the right one. And efficient time management is one of the most important aspects of scoring high on the GMAT--and for any standardized test!
Remember - the GMAT encodes information in the answer choices that enable this strategy. Grouping the answer choices by common properties - odd versus even, positive versus negative, integer versus non-integer - can speed this process.
Now this tip may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many of my students get caught up in the moment during the GMAT and forget to consistently apply 'process of elimination'--especially on the hard questions! No matter which section or question you're on, stay focused and remember that you have this technique in your back-pocket.
2. Time management, time management, time management
From my 20 years of teaching GMAT prep, time management is by far the most fundamental strategy to scoring 700+ on the GMAT. And the most overlooked strategy during preparation and on test-day. I've had many students who can figure out the answers, but not within an efficient amount of time. Furthermore, when it comes to test day, I've seen hundreds of students lose focus on their time management mid-way through the test-period. This loss of focus often occurs on difficult test questions. To do well on the GMAT, you need content expertise AND time efficiency.
To be specific, the algorithm that figures out your GMAT score assigns a huge penalty - 20 to 30 points - for every unanswered question. Four unanswered questions make a 700+ score nearly impossible.
3. Breaks during the GMAT are your best friend
The GMAT is 3 hours of sitting in one spot, staring at a computer screen! Even if you're 'in the zone' and feel at the height of your concentration, it's often a mistake to believe that you can sustain top performance without any breaks. Even if you're not conscious of it, taking breaks will improve your performance. Many studies show that taking breaks in approximately every hour can refresh your concentration and productivity, and we all know that feeling of losing focus when sitting at our desks for too long!
Maximize your break time! I can't stress it enough, because you have everything to gain and nothing to lose with this strategy. Get-up, stretch, use the bathroom, hydrate, etc. Do as much as you can to reduce anxiety and to rejuvenate your mental capacity. 3 hours is a long time to sit in one spot.
4. Arrive early to reduce anxiety
As anxiety and test-taking inevitably go together, I always advise my students to take as many preemptive steps possible to reduce potential anxiety. One of the easiest steps is arriving early! By arriving early, you'll give yourself ample time to get situated, relax, and embrace the moment. Alternatively, arriving right on time may still make you feel rushed or that you 'just made it'.
No matter how much of a master test-taker you may be, anxiety is an inevitable side-effect of this moment. Often times you're not even aware of your anxiety! To preemptively combat any potential anxiety, why not show-up a few minutes early. It will only help you so take full advantage of it.
5. Pack ahead of time to reduce distractions
Similar to arriving early, packing ahead of time for your GMAT exam will minimize the potential anxiety that may rise before the exam. On test day, you'll want to come in focused without any distractions, and scrambling to get your things together the day-of can be a major distraction. To combat this, simply take 10-20 minutes to pack your things the night before. This will only help you on test day.
In conclusion, these tips and strategies may seem obvious to you. But knowing these strategies is VERY different than consistently implementing them over a 3 hour exam period. Take a professional athlete for example. All great athletes know what it takes to be the best, but it's the all-time-great athletes that are 100% consistent and disciplined in their execution. You'll need to take a similar approach with the GMAT if you want to score 700+. Good luck!