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GMAT Study Plan: What Are The Recommended Study Resources?

GMAT Study Plan: What Are The Recommended Study Resources?

Many resources online will come in handy in your preparation for the GMAT exam. However, we will focus on the top online practice questions available on mba.com. They’re the ones who make the exam, and, therefore, you’ll get access to real GMAT questions. At http://www.mba.com/exam-prep, you will find questions directly from the Graduate Management Admissions Council(GMAC) test makers, which is the body that develops the tests. 

While it’s advisable to begin with, the most recent version of the official guide to GMAT, there is no significant difference between the versions, say 2019 vs. 2020 or 2021 vs. 2022. So you’re good to go with whichever you lay your hands on.

What to expect from mba.com

This single resource, “The Official Guide to GMAT” will provide you with at least 1200 questions for all the sections in your GMAT exam – over 450 Quantitative problems and more than 120 of each verbal question, notwithstanding the integrated reasoning and plenty of resources for the assays. So there are a lot of practice problems that you can get directly from mba.com.

If you exhaust this first resource, additional practice questions are available online. The first place to look would be the Official Quantitative and Verbal Review Questions Banks. These are also available on the exam prep URL highlighted above. If you exhaust the additional roughly 300 questions per book, you can still go to the Official Online-only Practice Questions. Here, you’ll have access to more than 2000 practice questions in case you need all that to prepare adequately.

If your target score is above 700, you may consider purchasing their advanced questions. Here, there are over 300 hard-only questions that boil down to about 150 quantitative questions and 150 verbal questions, suitable for those aiming for the top line.

Practice Questions from AnalystPrep

In addition to what’s provided by mba.com, you can also get supplement practice questions for your GMAT exams from AnalystPrep. We have produced practice questions, staying loyal to what is in the official practice banks. We’ve got hundreds of quantitative and verbal questions, so you don’t even have to get out of this course to get practice questions, but we still recommend that you get some study resources from mba.com.

Focus on the areas of your need based on your score goals and the diagnostic that you take at the start of the course. Use math-aids.com for manual calculation warmups to build that skill set for manual calculation, especially if the idea that this exam doesn’t have a calculator is daunting to you.

Recommended Homework Rigor

Daily Morning Drills

The rule of thumb is to do your practice in the morning before switching to other responsibilities for the day. While a day job would affect your desire to do GMAT practice, GMAT practice will not affect your day job. Therefore, try to do new drills every morning to get your best performance.

Begin with 10 or 20 question drills in less than 30 or 60 minutes daily. It is not the exam’s recommended pace, but it’s a good place to start from. Choose the difficulty level for the practice questions depending on your proficiency and the diagnostic you took when you started your GMAT journey. If you are getting less than 50% correct, it’s advisable to only start with easy and medium difficulty levels. If you get 50%-75% correct, then you can do all levels of difficulties, and if you are getting more than 75% correct on any question types, then it would be best to stick to medium and hard question types. You can set the difficulty levels on online practice materials either from our GMAT course or the official online GMAT practice materials.

Rotating Drills Target

As far as rotating Drills go, your target, based on the individual question types, should be:

Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions– you may start with 10 or 20 questions just to work through problems individually. Ultimately your target should be 30 questions in approximately 60 minutes, which is pretty close to what is in the exam – 31 questions in 62 minutes.

Critical reasoning– Typically, these types of questions should take you the most time on average within the verbal section. So it would be best if you aimed at taking at least approximately 40 minutes to go through 20 questions. Even then, you can give yourself a little extra time in the beginning as you work on improving your pace.

Reading comprehension: You should allow yourself slightly less than 40 minutes to answer 20 questions. This could vary depending on the length of the passage, but you can set this as your broad target.

Sentence corrections– Here, you want to do 20 questions in less than 30 minutes. For sentence correction, even if you get them wrong you need to focus on minimizing the time taken on each question. This is because the additional time taken evaluating a sentence is not likely to improve your accuracy as it would be if you spent more time on critical reasoning and reading comprehension.

Integrated reasoning– Here, you have to pick about 10, 20, or 30 questions from the online mba.com question banks and do 10 questions in approximately 25 minutes. Again, due to the different question types, pacing will come into play. 10 questions in 25 minutes are roughly like the 12 questions in 30 minutes in the integrated section of the GMAT exam. However, suppose you are given all the two-part analysis or multi-source reasoning. In that case, you can adjust the timing slightly because you may need a little more time for these questions as opposed to graphic interpretation and table analysis.

Recommended Homework Review

It’s advisable to self-review all completed practices as you go. Complete the drill and then review the drill. However, you have to wait at least two hours after completing a drill or practice test before engaging in self-review. Think of this as if it were a skills-based activity. For example, if you were a professional athlete, your coach would often ask you to watch back your performance after a match, but not immediately after leaving the pitch. That would be cruel and unusual. The same applies here. You don’t want to look at the explanation immediately after finishing a drill or practice test. Instead, go ahead and review it without an explanation. Self-diagnose why you got a question wrong, as well as guarantee that you know how you got the questions right before you look at any explanation. This review process is very important to maximize how you utilize your prep potential.

For an effective review, note the answer to two questions of every completed problem, whether it is right or wrong, in an Error log (The online question banks for the mba.com practice from the official GMAC test maker have some little notes that you can keep after every question. So you do not necessarily need to keep an error log, but you can still keep an Excel or Google worksheet if you prefer).

In that light, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I understand the problem and the process to reach the solution?
  2. Did I do it fast enough?

First, you should guarantee a maximum of four minutes to complete any problem. The online mba.com official practice and the practice from our GMAT course will keep track of your pacing, so you will always know how much time you took without self-timing everything. We want to get to a three-minute maximum and two-minute average, but you should not exceed four minutes when starting.

If your answer to either of these questions is “No,” you need to seek additional practice with similar questions or review the lesson below on how to work through that particular problem. 

Pacing targets

Quantitative: Average 2 minutes/ Maximum 3 minutes. Time is dependent on the question format. Some data Sufficient questions and problem-solving questions will take longer. Even then, be diligent in ensuring that you don’t go over three minutes.

Critical Reasoning: Average 2 minutes / Maximum 3 minutes for any question. Details matter more in critical reasoning than in any other verbal section. So you have to read carefully and notate carefully.

Reading Comprehension: Average 2 minutes / Maximum 4 minutes. The four minutes allow you to take an upfront read before you answer the first question if you decide that you need to take account of all the details and map out some notes at the onset. In the subsequent questions, you can move much faster.

Sentence Correction: Average 1 minute 30 seconds / Maximum 2 minutes. It should take you less time because if you are reading a sentence and are unable to identify the issues at hand and articulate which is correct, you will probably not gain anything by reading and rereading.

Integrated Reasoning: Average 2 minutes 30 seconds / Maximum 4 minutes.

Quantitative Review Focus

Problem Solving: Seek alternative tactics to improve your accuracy and efficiency. Don’t just accept the explanation provided by the textbook or your approach. You’ve got to think – “Could I do it differently?” Technical math, Modelling, Plugging in your values, Backsolving(plugging in the choices), or Logical reasoning would help in this case.

Data Sufficiency: You have to confirm that you have proper mathematical accounting of the problem. Make it a more technical evaluation. You have to think about what is known from the original statement, what is being sought by the problem, and what is needed to solve the problem upfront. Consider what information each statement is providing, thinking as mathematically as possible.

Verbal Review Focus

Sentence correction: Articulate common issues in wrong answers. Get to know subtle issues such as subject-verb agreement or pronoun agreement. These are tactical pieces of grammar that are simple enough to apply without getting into technical English articulation.

Reading Comprehension: You have to find out why the wrong choices don’t address the task and give an explicit and objective reason that it is discretely wrong.

Critical Reasoning: Focus on common reasons for each incorrect opinion. It is usually broken down into argument and Inference tasks as follows:

  • Argument task: This typically refers to something vague. It provides a quantifier or qualifier that you can’t define. It may be a reversal or some new variables that you don’t necessarily know how they will affect the argument, or maybe it has no impact.  This means it’s either true or false; you have no idea how it will definitively impact the argument.
  • Inference task: In inference tasks, the common reasons for options to be wrong in reading comprehension are extreme, reversals, or things that are possible but not certain based on the information provided.

Verbal Process Elimination

There is a little bit of ambiguity for most people when dealing with the verbal section than the quantitative section. So we can have a checkmark when dealing with the answer choices, and we’ll do this through all of our examples.

✓- Correct. It matches your prediction of the task or the information from the passage. You believe that it is correct, and you can say this without the answer choices. 

x – Incorrect. You can say definitively why the answer is objectively wrong, and you can provide a reason 

~ – Maybe. You can neither say that it is 100% correct nor incorrect. Sometimes answers can be a bit ambiguous. You can’t say with certainty that they are correct or incorrect

? – Can’t define. You either cannot define the vocabulary or look at the answer choice and are unsure what it means. That, especially in critical reasoning, could indicate that you might be looking at the correct answer.

Strategic Implications of the markings

The checkmark indicates best, while the x mark stands for worst. Never select an x. Instead, always prefer to check. Even then, it all comes down to when we are down to choosing between the question mark and the squiggle(~).

The question mark is preferable. It is because a question mark could be 100% correct, whereas a squiggle by our metrics cannot be correct. Pick the question mark over the squiggle as a default when you are down to two.

Allow a two-pass elimination by using ? or ~ on the first pass through the choices if there is any doubt as to whether or not it’s  or x. This will help you not waste time on something confusing if there is a better answer. It also ensures that you don’t eliminate things unless you are 100% certain. When you are down to two, focus on actions and definitions for definitive reasons to eliminate.

Recommended Practice Exams

Official GMAT prep Exams from mba.com

There are two free exams and four more available for purchase on mba.com. You can visit the mba.com website http://www.mba.com/exam-prep to find your exam. Usually, you have unlimited retakes for the free exam. It is recommended that you use these as a diagnostic at the beginning to start your prep. There are only two available attempts for the paid exams. The tests are adaptive, and you will be charged if you do more than one retake. It’s worth noting that you won’t meet the same exam when you do a retake because of their adaptivity. It has the same interface as the actual exam, whether you take it online or in person.

Consider taking a diagnostic exam before proceeding with your preparation. It will help you set an accurate baseline for your performance and prioritize your preparation based on the result from that first diagnostic. We recommend at least three to four practice exams before your actual test date. They can be done or redone, or consider retaking that diagnostic if possible.

It’s of essence to always review your practice exams following the review process discussed here. You can take a break, maybe a day or two, and then go back and review.  It’s also advisable to visit the GMAT club for explanations for problems you don’t understand on these GMAT exams.

Recommended Exam Pacing

Quantitative section / 31 questions / 62 minutes

The Quantitative section has 31 questions that need to be done in 62 minutes. Owing to the scaling, the initial questions in the GMAT exams matter more than the later questions. For this reason, it’s advisable to spend more time on the initial questions in this section. As you start the section, you should be a little more comfortable and calm to make as few mistakes as possible.

The First 10 questions: Approximately 24 minutes in total which boils down to an average of 2:25 minutes per question. After the 10-question checkpoint, there are usually +/- 38 minutes remaining.

Second 10 questions: Approximately 20 minutes in total which breaks down to an average of 2:00 minutes per question. After the 20-question checkpoint, there are usually +/- 18 minutes remaining.

Final 11 questions: Approximately 18 minutes in total which boils down to about 1:40 minutes per question, on average. You’ve got to gain speed as you go along, but you don’t do that by cutting corners. Instead, look for ways to save time, like through the logical estimation, or you could even sacrifice entire questions at this stage in the interest of time.

Verbal Section / 36 questions / 65 minutes

Here you have 65 minutes to complete 36 questions, which means your overall pace will be under one minute and fifty seconds. Here, it would be best to allocate a little more time for the first questions.

First 12 questions: There are approximately 21-25 minutes in total. 

       After the 12-question checkpoint +/- 44-40 minutes remaining. 

Second 12 questions: There are approximately 20-24 minutes in total 

      After the 24-question checkpoint +/- 20-24 minutes remaining.

Here are a few tips that could be of help at this point.

  • Attempt to hold approximately 5 minutes for the final fourth reading comprehension passage until it can’t appear. 
  • If you are behind pace, seek longer critical reasoning questions to sacrifice because they will not impact anything other than the question itself. 
  • Avoid sacrificing reading comprehension questions unless you have less than 60 seconds left. If you cut corners here, it quickly devolves to you missing three or four questions which are way more detrimental than missing one long critical reasoning question.

Standard 3 Month GMAT Study Guide

A three or four-month preparation period is necessary for most people before taking the GMAT exam. The schedule below is recommended for anyone planning to sit for this exam. You can take it and adapt it to your individual needs.

Month 1

  • Take the diagnostic exam. You can pick one of the free ones from mba.com to see where you are based.
  • Complete lessons for each of the question types and processes. You may be focused on quantitative reasoning problems, but there are integrated reasoning problems and Analytical writing lessons even though most people will look at those after going through quantitative and verbal reasoning basics. 
  • Begin to do and self-review rotating daily practice sets.
  • Note areas of difficulty to focus on with additional practice. This means that you do the practice sets within this course and then proceed to the areas of need to do more practice. You can find questions categorized according to specific subsections on mba.com. However, we recommend that you do practice questions in bulk since part of the challenge in GMAT exams is recognizing what you need to do on any of the questions they may introduce during the exam. You can also get additional practice guidance from the GMAT Club.

Month 2

  • Do and self-review rotating daily practice sets targeting exam pace at all difficulties. 
  • Complete lessons on math concepts and advanced topics.
  • Complete analytical writing and integrated reasoning lessons. 
  • Redo and review diagnostic exam or do and self-review second prep exam from mba.com

Month 3 and beyond

  • Do and self-review rotating daily practice sets targeting questions at medium/ hard or advanced difficulty. 
  • Review all past lessons and drills for content and process reminders. 
  • Do and self-review two to three more of the practice exams from mba.com. You can do more of these depending on your time and resource allocation. 
  • Schedule a date for the official exam.

Now, Here Comes The big question:

When will I be ready to take the GMAT exam?

The answer  is: “When your practice exams are within range of your target score.”

Schedule Considerations

  1. Focus on your score floor rather than the ceiling. Even if you have not reached your target score exactly, it may be time to schedule your exams. +/- 30 points from your practice exams is a reasonable variance.
  2. Aim to set an exam deadline by the third month of regular preparation. Regardless of how ready you are, the experience of taking the exam is invaluable. Preparing for an exam without an end in sight may not be a pleasant experience. 

With that, are you ready to take your GMAT exams? You can check the AnalystPrep GMAT resources available on our website and combine that with what mba.com has to offer.



sindhushree reddy
sindhushree reddy
2021-01-07
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Hui Ni
Hui Ni
2020-12-18
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Geoff Graae
2020-12-18
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Nithin Nallusamy
2020-12-09
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Isha Shahid
2020-11-21
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Artur Stypułkowski
2020-11-06
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Ahmad S. Hilal
2020-11-03
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