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MBA Applicants Offer 5 Tips for Taking Revised GMAT

Five business school candidates who took the new GMAT share tips for future test takers.

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Media reports prior to the June 5 launch of the revised GMAT exam described the "scary" new test. But MBA applicants who have since taken the revised GMAT, which has a new integrated reasoning (IR) section, say that it shouldn't terrify most professionals. 

With the revised version of the test still in its infancy, the number of graduate business school applicants who have seen the integrated reasoning section is very small. But some of those applicants shared tips and advice with U.S. News for those studying for the GMAT. 

[Learn which seven deadly MBA application sins to avoid.] 

1. Practice pacing: "I would recommend that anyone preparing for the GMAT should take a few computer-based practice exams to focus on pacing through the test," says Erik Hill, a commercial real estate broker in Waco, Texas. "Pacing was the most challenging part of the test for me." 

The integrated reasoning section in the GMAT that he took had a lot of charts and graphs, so applicants studying for the test should be prepared to interpret those types of data, says Hill, who holds an undergraduate degree from Baylor University and is beginning his MBA studies at Tarleton State University in Texas this summer. 

"The new section was not scary or hard; it was just time consuming," he says. "But I thought the questions were easier than some of the questions in the quantitative section. As long as you can read charts and graphs, you'll be fine." 

2. Allow sufficient study time: The online Kaplan course that Rachael Waddell, a University of Kentucky alumna, used to prepare for the GMAT proved very helpful. "They did a nice job of covering the various types of questions that I would see on the IR," says Waddell, a marketing specialist at a Midwest bank. "It was slightly easier than the questions I had been practicing."

[Read about how more b-schools accept the GRE.] 

Waddell suggests test takers allow sufficient time to adequately cover all the necessary materials. "Feeling prepared is half of the battle," she says. "During the test, the ability to regroup after a few rough questions is crucial. This comes from confidence in knowing that you are familiar with the material and question types." 

3. Eliminate pre-test jitters: Mitchell Cain studied for the GMAT using the Kaplan guide, which includes a section on the new integrated reasoning section. Cain, a social media specialist and junior consultant at Cain & Associates in Las Vegas, recommends that guide to others who are studying for the test. 

"I was informed by previous test takers that you can't really study for the GMAT, but I wanted to at least familiarize myself with the test style," he says. 

And, Cain says, "Study like your life depended on it for the math section." 

4. Learn to navigate among content types: "Compared to various simulations in recent mock exams, I found the actual IR section to be significantly easier than expected," says Emina Reissinger, an Oakland, Calif.-based consultant at China Media Group. 

The most difficult aspect for Reissinger, who holds an undergraduate degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, was digesting large amount of data and navigating back and forth among different text, tables, and graphs. 

"I found that quickly scanning the data first, then reading the questions carefully, and then going back to the data and carefully analyzing the relevant section ... to be more effective," she says. 

[See the b-schools with the highest average GMAT score for full-time students.] 

5. Practice at your ability level: Laurence Lau, an analyst at a financial services company in New York, recently took the GMAT for the second time, so he has experienced both the old and new versions of the exam. 

Applicants studying for the test should practice GMAT problems "at their ability level," advises Lau, an alumnus of Carnegie Mellon University

"If you are scoring 550 on practice exams, doing 700+ level questions isn't going to help you, because you'll never see those questions on test day," he says. "You need to master the 500- and 600-level questions first." 

Corrected on 6/13/2012: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Rachael Waddell.