How to Maximize Your GMAT Scores

Studying strategies that will help boost your score.

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You already know that during tough economic times, more people go back to school for a graduate degree. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reported 286,529 people took the GMAT in the 12 months ending June 30. Most of those test-takers are after their MBA.

What kind of scores do these would-be Business Masters need? According to U.S. News, the average GMAT score is 624 for students who are accepted into the best business schools. And students who got into the top 10 schools scored 719 on average. The question, of course, is how do you get the highest possible GMAT score?

Obviously, you have to study. But you have to be strategic about how you study. And that starts by understanding how the test works.

There is a myth that the first eight questions in each section are most important. Not only is this incorrect, but it’s also dangerous. People who believe this often spend far too much time on these eight questions at the expense of other getting to the other answers. Since any question you leave blank is counted as wrong, this error can significantly hurt your score.

Also keep in mind the test responds to you. As you get one answer correct, it serves up a more difficult question. This process continues and your exam will become progressively more difficult as you answer correctly. Then, when you answer incorrectly, the test will adjust to make itself a little easier. Don’t be flustered if you find yourself less and less confident as the test progresses, as it’s designed to intimidate you a little.

And don’t focus all your time on math either. Believe it or not the verbal section carries more weight in determining your final score, so make sure your studies are well rounded. And when it comes to test day, you should focus as much or more on the verbal questions as you do the math questions.

The next way to boost your scores is to take a prep course. Looking at the Kaplan and the Manhattan programs, both appear to be comparable in quality and price. The courses range from $1200 to $1600.

Interestingly, Corporate America turns to Manhattan GMAT to prepare their newly minted executives for the GMAT. In fact, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Google, and Bank of America all use Manhattan GMAT.

Having explained how to get the maximum possible score, I suggest you proceed with caution. I hate to rain on your parade, but before you spend all that energy on preparing for the GMAT (and all that tuition money once you get into your MBA program) make sure it makes sense. Do you need the MBA to help advance in your career? Will your professional success be somehow accelerated as a result of this effort?

Even if the MBA is going to be useful, are you sure you know what you ultimately want to do career-wise? Figuring this out in grad school can be expensive and take a great deal of energy and commitment. If you are looking for clarity, you may be better off working for a few years and trying a few different jobs on for size. That will give you a much better idea of what you really want to do as opposed to sitting in a classroom.

Are you pursuing an MBA? Why or why not?

This post was written by Neal Frankle, CFP and owner of Wealth Pilgrim.com. He recently published an extensive review of CIT–one of the largest and competitive online banking institutions.