Studying for a good GMAT score

750 is the goal GMAT score for some very high-achieving business school applicants. Most of the average GMAT scores at top MBA programs, such as HBS and Kellogg, are around 700, though that number has been pushed up to 720 or 730 in recent years. Obtaining a 750 on the GMAT guarantees that you will be competitive at top institutions, and may compensate for weaknesses in other areas of your application or improve your chance of earning a merit scholarship.

10 Steps to scoring a 750 on the GMAT

1. Solidify your timeline

If you are planning to send in your b-school applications within a few months, try to register for the GMAT immediately. Desirable slots fill up fast! If you have a bit more time, you can wait to register and embark on a comprehensive study program. GMAT scores last for 5 years from the test date, so it is never too early to begin your preparation.

2. Assess your skills

Review any GMAT material you can find online, and download the free CAT on the offical GMAC website. Assess your performance and decide whether or not it meets your standards. If you are already scoring a 750 or higher, you may be able to maintain your score simply by periodically reviewing material. However, even if you are answering all the questions correctly in a specific area, make sure you completely understand the underlying concept or principle. This way, added stress on test day won’t prevent you from performing to your full potential.

3. Map out a plan

Decide what study materials are best suited to your prep style. To maximize your chance of scoring well, consider enrolling Knewton GMAT prep, the industry leader for adaptive online learning. Knewton adapts to your specific strengths and weaknesses, and gives you targeted recommendations and practice problems to ensure big score gains Plus, Knewton understands the demanding schedules of most MBA applicants: classes are flexible and can always be watched on-demand. At $690, classes are cost-effective, too, so there’s no need to spend anywhere close to $1400 (industry standard) to obtain world-class, cutting-edge test-prep. Knewton’s technology also allows you to target your weaknesses on an atomic level, so you can obtain precise feedback on your performance.

4. Focus on your weaknesses

Whichever study method you choose, use your diagnostic CAT to identify your weaknesses. Begin targeting your weaker areas immediately. For example, if you are scoring well in Sentence Correction but having trouble with Data Sufficiency, focus the majority of your attention of Data Sufficiency (while also studying Sentence Correction questions periodically in order to maintain your skills).

5. Keep the big picture in mind

The more specifically you can target your weaknesses, the better. For instance, if you know that you can handle Data Sufficiency algebra problems but have difficulty with Data Sufficiency problems concerned with probability, practice those types of questions. The more intensely you concentrate on your specific weaknesses, the faster you will see tangible improvement. At the same time, remember to keep the big picture in mind: harness your strengths and maintain your mastery of areas in which you excel. Confidence is an important factor: if you are able to answer several questions correctly in a row, it will decrease your level of stress.

6. Follow through with a plan

Create a study schedule you can follow for at least a few weeks. If you are constantly adopting new strategies and not executing them, you will never know if your plans are effective or not. For every 10 points you lag behind with your GMAT score, you need to study an hour a week for a month (at least). For instance, if you are scoring a 690 and aiming for a 750, you need to study 6 hours a week for a month. These projections are a rough estimate; study requirements vary greatly from person to person. Depending on your personality, it may also help to make GMAT prep a social experience.

7. Re-assess yourself

Take another practice CAT if you haven’t already. In order to get an accurate assessment of your skills, it is important that you take breaks only when allowed and not consult outside sources during the CAT. It may also be helpful to get a sense of how you are pacing yourself and whether you can shave seconds off of your approach to various question types. If you are aiming for a 750, you probably need to answer every question. In this sense, it is important that you pace yourself appropriately and account for the increasing difficulty of questions.

8. Tweak your strategy and turn-up the heat if necessary

If you have scored a 750 on a practice CAT test, continue prepping the way you are. If you are improving slightly but not at the desired pace, intensify your program or register for a GMAT class (if you haven’t done so already). Already in a class? Make sure to complete all homework and extra practice and take the time necessary to learn from your mistakes. Recognize patterns in questions and start using shortcuts to save time. The timing on the math section can be especially challenging for some. To achieve a 750, it is almost necessary that you use shortcuts as often as possible.

9. Practice… A LOT!

A week before the exam, take a series of practice CATS to gain familiarity with the feeling of the exam. Get used to the level of mental and physical endurance required. Review test-day protocol, so you don’t inadvertently break test center rules. Don’t forget that the AWA essay section lasts for an hour and that the entire exam is approximately 4 hours. Treat the essay section seriously, since it will be used to evaluate your written communication skills and the authenticity of your personal essays (some business schools also review the essays submitted along with the score report).

10. Taking the GMAT

Refrain from cramming for the exam . Last-minute preparations are unlikely to affect your score. Instead, make sure that you eat and sleep properly. Remember that the exam is partially a stress and endurance test and that however much you prepare, there may still be something unexpected about the questions you encounter. To achieve a 750, you need to perform at an extremely high level of accuracy and remain calm when the most difficult questions appear at the end.

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