How to Prepare for your GMAT Exam

The first round deadline for the application for IESE MBA Class of 2020 is fast approaching on October 17. 2017. I’m sure there are many of you out there who are currently working very hard on your GMAT test preparation. Having gone through this process myself just three years back, I still remember vividly the stress and mild panic I went through, especially since I had not taken a mathematics class since high school! I am glad to report that I survived the GMAT exam and made it to my dream MBA program, IESE. Based on my personal experience and from many others that I’ve spoken to, the general rule of thumb is the better prepared you are, the better you can manage your stress level and the better you will perform. There isn’t any hard and fast rule on how to prepare for your GMAT, since each of you will have their own preferred method of study. The amount of time required can vary broadly depending how consistently you study. Below, some of our students from IESE MBA Class of 2019 share their strategy on how they managed their GMAT preparation.

Rika Uekusa from Japan adopted a structured approach. She says, “I split my GMAT preparation into 2 parts. For the Quantitative section, I started off with the official guide and worked through it once. I then proceeded to the GMAT preparation app and worked on it to perfect my score. Finally, I took 2-3 exams on the Manhattan GMAT website and practiced until I could receive my target score. For Verbal, I firstly went to prep school and worked on textbooks provided to me by the prep school. At the same time, I also worked on the official guide. Then I proceeded to the GMAT app and the Manhattan GMAT exams. I did not use any vocabulary book but I attempted to memorise any difficult vocabulary from the questions that I had practised.”

Rika spent 2-3 months in her preparation. It was similar for Julian Zalduendo from Argentina. “The entire process took three months from my first day at the course till the day of the exam. Luckily, I only sat for it once but I was considering an extra month in case I did not perform well. I think a good approach is to start preparing with a deadline in your head. You will always think that you can prepare more, but in the end you will have to sit for it eventually. Set a timeframe and an objective and stick to it!”

On hindsight, Marc Puigvert from Spain would have approached his studies slightly differently. “I would definitely started the GMAT preparation process earlier. My IESE application submission relied too much on my exam date. Now I feel that it is better to prepare for the GMAT as soon as you realise the next step in your career will be doing an MBA.”

Brian Colivet from Ireland agrees on the importance of starting early, and also recommends using outside resources. “I would have started studying for the GMAT earlier and engaged a one to one tutor either in person or online. Although I invested many hours in preparing for the GMAT I did not use the time wisely and I failed to learn from my practice tests as well as I could have. Thankfully it all worked out in the end but I could have performed far better with improved preparation.”

Julian suggests using a GMAT Test app, like the IESE GMAT App powered by The Economist ( This is a free online practice GMAT test you can take. Julian explains the advantages. “First, because it is cheaper! Second, because you can track your progress in each section and, by doing so, you can structure a preparation tailor-made for you. Last, because the topics covered in the exam are not difficult per se. You are not doing advanced maths! With the app you will get to know if you have an improvement area and then maybe hire an expert for that particular area.”

Finally, Carla Tagliaferri from Italy advises, “Be consistent. Study everyday.” I would add one more piece of advice: book your GMAT test date as soon as possible! Not only will this serve as good motivation but test dates do get booked up. Julian had to travel from Buenos Aires to Montevideo to take the test as there were no spots available. He adds, “you do not want to put that extra pressure on your shoulders!”

Hopefully the experiences of these students will help some of you in your own GMAT preparation. Best of luck to all and remember, keep calm and start early!

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Camille Chow View more

Associate Director, Admissions (MBA '16)

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