Natasha Malpani is a Stanford MBA student who scored over 720 on the GMAT using Manhattan Prep’s online course and materials. The views expressed in this piece are her own and do not necessarily reflect our official advice on the test.
I took the GMAT after studying for 10 weeks with Manhattan Prep. At the time, I had two deals closing at work and was pulling together the other critical parts of my b-school application in London, while simultaneously preparing for an upcoming wedding in India. Application deadlines were looming: I knew I wouldn’t get a second shot. I was struggling to stay calm and focus.
Studying for the test under severe time pressure helped me learn how to learn, but also how to let go. The turning point for me was realizing that studying for the GMAT is only half the battle. Your mindset is every bit as important.
In the hopes of making the journey easier for other test-takers, here are my five key takeaways on cracking the GMAT.
1) Know the Basics Backwards
You think you understand percentage change, exponents, and standard deviation? That’s not enough. You need to understand them the way the GMAT tests them.
This is not a memorization test: it’s a test of your reasoning and analytical skills. Do you understand why the formula of the volume of a cylinder is what it is? You can’t analyze and accurately solve a question in under two minutes if you can’t clearly explain the basic concepts the test assesses to someone else.
Make sure you do the practice problems in the Official Guide—and don’t skip the questions that have a medium level of difficulty. You won’t get to the hard questions if you can’t solve the easy ones.
2) Understand the Test
The content the GMAT tests is very simple. It’s the way the GMAT phrases questions and gives you the information you need to solve the problem that’s confusing.
Understand what the test is testing: executive reasoning skills, logic, decision-making ability, concentration, and stamina. Understand the common ways that questions are phrased/made confusing, the common traps, and the rules they expect you to know.
This is a standardized test: the rules don’t change over time.
3) Develop Your Guessing and Pacing Strategy
Self-awareness is the key to doing well on the GMAT. Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Find your own pace. Decide which questions you will skip. Make sure you get the questions you know how to answer right. Carelessness is not an option.
You have to learn to let go to get a top score—meditate beforehand if you need to. Get the easy and medium questions exactly right, but let go of the harder ones on Quant. Your time is your most important resource.
Do 3-5 practice tests beforehand, and don’t forget to do the free exams made available by GMAC. Beyond all the resources you can find through classes, this is the exam that mimics the actual test most accurately.
4) Nail the Verbal Section
The Verbal section makes or breaks your score. You can get over 90+ without studying if English is your first language—but don’t neglect it.
You will be tired during the last hour of the test while doing this section—use your break snacks wisely to keep yourself going.
5) Relax During the Test
Breathe. Take your time. Spend time “seeing” and understanding the questions. The solving will take you no time if you understand what the test is asking you to do. Make sure you use the shortcuts outlined in the Manhattan Prep guides.
Don’t take yourself or the test too seriously: the test will punish you for over-analyzing questions. Plan to take the GMAT twice if you need to—the first time is always the hardest.
Good luck! 📝
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Natasha Malpani is currently an MBA student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She was previously an investment director at Big Society Capital, a $1 billion impact investing firm in London. As one of the firm’s first employees, she helped build the company’s investment strategy and team. Natasha has also co-founded two social ventures. She is currently exploring the future of the media industry and is spending the summer at Matter, an early-stage media investment firm in San Francisco, and Out There Media, an adtech firm in Athens.