How Hard is the GMAT?

Like any exam, the GMAT is only hard for people who don't know what the GMAT tests or how to approach the questions in the given time.

Like any exam, the GMAT is only hard for people who don’t know what the GMAT tests or how to approach the questions in the given time. Because the GMAT is a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT), it will introduce increasingly difficult questions as each section progresses. In that sense, the GMAT is “hard” for everyone. Your goal is to be able to get the medium-to-harder level GMAT questions correct within one to two minutes—the faster you can answer tougher questions, the more likely you’ll get a great GMAT score on test day!

The GMAT is not a test you can successfully cram for; taking the test exhausted from an all-nighter is a surefire way to wind up with bad GMAT scores, so if you are planning on doing your studying in less than a month, you’re probably not going to be able to break 700. Make sure you are sleeping regularly and at least six hours a night in the weeks leading up to test day. Create an GMAT test prep schedule and stick to it. A lack of sleep deprives your brain of oxygen, and you’ll need every bit of brainpower on GMAT test day; people who are self-motivated, get regular exercise, and can manage their time efficiently tend to do better on the test.

Since the GMAT has a Verbal and a Quant section, which require very different skills, most people are naturally better at one or the other. Students with a legal background tend to have an easier time with Critical Reasoning. English majors typically whiz through Sentence Correction (and if you don’t, you can get a jumpstart on your review here). Those who work in finance usually have an easier time with Problem Solving. For example, you cannot bring in a calculator to use on the GMAT. If you’re used to having computers crunch numbers for you, or if it’s been years since you’ve done pen-and-paper math, you may need to log some hours practicing the necessary shorthand calculation the GMAT requires. Don’t use a calculator when you practice, and don’t even think about trying to smuggle one in on test day!  

So, is the GMAT “hard”? The GMAT is a standardized test. And like all standardized tests, it tests how well you take this particular standardized test. And you can take it better when you 1) know the tested content, 2) know the format, 3) use effective strategies for each question type, and 4) are comfortable with the pacing/timing guidelines.

A great score on the GMAT is achievable for anyone given enough time. Make sure to allow at least three months for your study plan, and consider scheduling a GMAT date six months out if you know you’ll only have limited study hours each week. It’s always better to over-prepare than to under-prepare!

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About Vivian Kerr

Vivian Kerr

Vivian Kerr has been teaching and tutoring in the Los Angeles area since 2005. She graduated from the University of Southern California, studied abroad in London, and has worked for several test-prep companies including Kaplan for whom she taught ACT, SAT, ISEE, GRE, GMAT, and did admissions counseling. She is a contributing blogger at Beat the GMAT, and currently blogs, tutors, and writes content for the online test prep company Grockit, which focuses on making standardized test preparation affordable and accessible for students around the world. She loves to see her former students succeed in grad school!

You can find Vivian's profile on Grockit or subscribe to her CollegeXpress blog


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