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Top 5 Misconceptions About the GMAT: Myths We Bust Every Day in Class

GMAT prep

Read time: 5 minutes

Have you ever been to a GMAT information session?

They’re usually held on B-school campuses, and geared toward newbies who are challenging the exam for the first time.

What’s interesting about these info sessions, is that most people show up with a host of rather strange misconceptions about the GMAT.

These misguided beliefs run the gamut from format and content, to study strategy, test day procedures, and score cut-offs for top business schools.

We don’t know exactly how these ideas get planted in our students’ brains—but our mission is to correct them as quickly as possible, and shine a clear light on how the GMAT works, and how to earn a top score.

What GMAT myths do we hear most often during our info sessions?

Here are 5 of our favourite repeat offenders.

GMAT Myth #1: You only need a 600 score for a top Canadian B-school

At the beginning of every GMAT info session, we usually ask students what the score cut-offs are for top Canadian business schools. Approximately what score will they need to compete for admission?

We often get “around 600” as an answer.

And this kind of makes sense, given that the mean GMAT score for all test-takers is 500—and 600 sounds well above that.

But it’s actually way off. The reality is, most top Canadian B-schools require a GMAT score of well over 600.

In fact, among the top 10 schools, not a single one accepts a score of 600 (although admittedly, some do come close). Take a look:

Minimum GMAT Scores for Top 10 B-Schools in Canada

GMAT prep

As you can see, the minimum requirements for top Canadian schools are mostly well above 600. And the higher you aim beyond these cut-offs, the stronger your application will be.

Want to attend business school in the US? You’re looking at a minimum GMAT score of 700-726 for schools in the top 10. Ouch!

GMAT Myth #2: I’ll need about 50 hours of GMAT prep to nail the exam

Oh, if only this were true! Life would be so much easier, especially for test-takers who work full time, have kids, etc.

This is a bubble we hate to burst, but in the interest of helping students do their best, we have to reveal a few facts about truly effective GMAT prep.

More hours of well-informed prep = a higher score. This has been well proven, by our own students’ results over the years, and by a survey conducted by GMAC (the makers of the GMAT exam).

So, how many study hours are you looking at? Let’s break it down.

Total hours of GMAT prep: 200

Total number of GMAT practice questions: 2,000 – 3,000

Total number of GMAT practice exams: 10 – 12

A bit more than you thought? We’re not surprised. This really is the most important takeaway of every info session we run.

Almost every test-taker underestimates how challenging the exam will be, and the number of study hours it takes to earn a competitive score.

The bottom line? It’s much harder than you realize to nail the GMAT.

GMAT prep
There’s no cutting corners with GMAT prep. If you want a high score, you’ll need to put in the time.

GMAT Myth #3: If I don’t know an answer, it’s better to leave it blank

This is a topic that comes up in almost every GMAT info session we run. And it’s not surprising, given the anxiety students feel about coming face-to-face with really tough questions.

What do you do when you draw a blank?

Fearing deductions, most students think they should leave unknown answers blank, and just move on. We’d like to de-bunk that myth for good, right here and now.

In truth, the best thing you can do when you don’t know an answer is guess.  There are two good reasons for this tactic:

  1. Let’s say there are 5 answer options per question. If you guess, you’ve got a 20 percent chance of getting it right. That’s a lot better than zero percent—which is what you’ll get if you skip the question altogether.


  1. The GMAT algorithm is designed to penalize blank answers. Yes. The penalty for a skipped question is greater than if you take a guess and get it wrong.

Takeaway: Use a logical approach to eliminate obviously wrong answer options, and then go with your gut to make an educated guess.

GMAT Myth #4: IR & AWA deserve as much study time as Quant and Verbal

Nope. They certainly do not. Now, we’re not saying that the Integrated Reasoning (IR) and Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) sections are totally unimportant.

However, since they don’t count toward your overall GMAT score, it simply makes sense to devote more of your GMAT study time to Quant and Verbal.

That’s right: AWA and IR count for zero of your total GMAT score. This is something most students we meet don’t realize. Here’s a look at how each section of the exam is weighed.

GMAT Scoring

GMAT prep

The AWA and IR sections of the exam are actually scored separately. These scores are submitted to B-schools along with your GMAT result, but they have far less impact on your application.

It’s not that they don’t matter at all—admission committees will indeed look at these sections—but you certainly don’t need to agonize over them during GMAT prep.

GMAT Myth #5:  The GMAT is easy for high academic achievers

We need to stamp out this misconception for good.

Here’s the truth: It doesn’t matter if you finished your undergrad degree with a perfect GPA. Or if you’ve always done really well on tests.

The GMAT is a completely different beast. Here are a few reasons why…

GMAT prep

GMAT prep

GMAT prep

Effective GMAT test prep means working through every single topic and question-type, and finding the absolute best process for each problem.

There are so many ways to lose time, fall into traps, and sabotage your score.

Using proven problem-solving procedures helps eliminate those issues—while ensuring you move through questions as efficiently as possible.

In short, you need to become a GMAT-taking machine. And that’s not something that comes naturally to anyone (hence the 200 hours of prep!)

The Obvious Next Step in Your GMAT Journey…

At this point, it should go without saying that getting your GMAT facts straight is a must, before you jump into prep.

The obvious next step is to attend a quality GMAT information session. They’re free, so you’ve really got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

GMAT prep
Quantum runs free GMAT info sessions, and math/verbal refreshers on a regular basis

Check out your local B-school for an upcoming session, or come out to one of our events. We’re happy to welcome you.

There’s no cost, and we run GMAT info sessions all the time. Click below to see a schedule, and reserve yourself a seat.

See a list of GMAT Information Sessions Near You

Remember: Nailing the GMAT is all about process, strategy—and working smarter, not harder. Anyone can do it with the right tools and guidance.

Need some support, or have questions about how to get started? Book a free phone call with a Quantum team member.

We’re always happy to talk GMAT, and help with MBA admissions, prep courses, tutoring, and much more. Click below to arrange a call now.

Set up your call with a Quantum GMAT expert


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Don’t Overspend on Your GMAT Course! 4 Ways to Save Big on Quality GMAT Prep

GMAT course

Here’s the harsh reality: really good GMAT prep doesn’t come cheap.

If you’ve done a bit of research on GMAT courses and bootcamps, you already know you’re looking at $1000+ for training.

But if you need a big score increase, and want to walk into the exam feeling totally confident and prepared, professional test prep really is your best bet.

The thing is, not all GMAT courses are made equal. Far from it! There are wild disparities in pricing, thoroughness, instructor expertise, learning experience—and crucially, actual results.

So, if you’re going to bite the bullet, and dig into your savings for test prep, we’re assuming you want the best possible quality, at the lowest possible price.

There are several key ways to avoid overspending on your GMAT course, without compromising on value. Here are 4 solid strategies to save big, and get more.

1. Don’t fall for a shorter GMAT course just because it’s cheaper

There are a whole slew of short GMAT bootcamps out here, promising complete exam prep in 20-30 hours, at a great price.

The problem is, there’s no such thing as “complete” exam prep in such a short span of time.

In fact, there’s a very high probability that you’ll need to buy another course to fill in what you missed at the bootcamp.

In the end, you’ll pay twice, and still might not get full exam prep coverage.

It’s like buying a cheaper, imitation brand that looks amazing on the surface, but breaks the second time you use it. Short-term gain; long-term loss.

GMAT course
Paying more for a longer, more thorough GMAT course will save you time and money over the long term.

A longer GMAT course offers far better value for your money

In terms of value, you’re better off purchasing a truly comprehensive, 50 -100 hour GMAT course.  This way, you’ll cover everything you need to know to nail the exam, the first time around.

It’s been well proven that more hours of prep equal a higher score. With a longer course, the bulk of your studying is done by the time you finish. And you’ve had an expert instructor holding your hand at every step.

Once you’re done, you’ll just need to keep practising the problem-solving techniques you learned in class, right up until the exam.

There are no question marks or uncertainties with a longer, more thorough course. That’s money well spent.

Browse the contents of a quality 100-hr GMAT course

2.  Choose a GMAT course with an extensive free repeat policy

This is really key to saving money on GMAT prep. Let’s say you agree with point number one, and you opt for a longer, 50 to 100 hour course.

You finish the course, but find you’re not 100% confident in certain verbal or quant topics (a very common scenario).

Will you be left to struggle on your own? Not if the course you chose has a robust free repeat policy.

We’re not talking about the option to repeat the GMAT course just once.

A solid policy should offer unlimited course repeats for a generous span of time (like 3-6 months after enrollment, for example).

This way, you can take the whole course, or just part of it, again and again until you feel totally and utterly confident in your skills.

Now think about the cost of that course, divided up among all those repeats. You’ll get tremendous dollar-per-hour value by the time you’re finished training.

Months of repeated, reinforced test prep will more than justify the upfront expense of a longer, more comprehensive GMAT course.

This is the ideal way to stretch your course dollars to the max, while increasing your chances of a really high score.

Bottom line? Never purchase a one-off GMAT course.  Save big by choosing a course with multiple free repeats.

GMAT course
Being able to repeat your GMAT course, and get all your questions resolved, is key to stretching your dollar and improving your score

3.  Capitalize on early-bird specials & other GMAT prep discounts

It pays to plan your GMAT prep in advance. Literally. It’s quite common to find discounts of up to 45% on GMAT course fees when you enrol well before the start date.

Often called “early-bird” specials, these deals offer immediate, very substantial savings.

Test prep companies want (and need) to fill up their courses well before they begin, in order to book the right size classroom, prepare materials,  and coordinate teaching staff.

Students can save big by simply scheduling their start date 1-2 months in advance.

And there’s another way to save on GMAT courses. Some companies offer a discount on fees when you bundle two or more courses together.

For example, you might put together an advanced math and comprehensive verbal course.

Or, maybe you’ll pair up an intermediate and advanced math combo (depending on your mock exam results, or if you’ve already self-studied for a bit, and only need help in a particular topic area).

Look for a test prep provider that offers discounts when you combine courses—these deals can literally save you hundreds of dollars on quality GMAT prep.

GMAT course
Early bird discounts and bundles will help you score serious savings on GMAT prep

4. Verify proven results before you buy

Professional test prep is a growing business. More and more prospective B-school students enrol in GMAT courses to give them a competitive edge on exam day, and boost their chances of admission to a top graduate program.

So, it’s not unusual to see a lot of wild claims from test prep companies trying to catch your eye online.

You’ll see companies claiming their 20-hour course is all you need to get a 700+ score. Or ads “guaranteeing” wildly optimistic score increases.

To avoid wasting your precious tuition dollars, it’s crucial to verify claims like these before you enrol.

Dig up those Google reviews. Go out to a free information session and grill the test prep company with questions about:


  • the documented, average GMAT score increase their graduates achieve


  • repeat policies


  • exactly how many authentic practice questions/tests/study guides are included in the course fees


  • terms and conditions of advertised discounts


  • what happens if you miss a class?


  • how long their instructors have been teaching GMAT prep


  • which top B-schools have course graduates gained admission to?


Browse upcoming, free GMAT info sessions in Toronto and Montreal

Do your research, so when you do invest in a GMAT course, you know you’re spending your money wisely and can expect a very substantial return on investment.

In the long run, that’s the very best way to save big on test prep—and hit your score goal.

Still have questions? Need help navigating GMAT prep, MBA admissions, or want to know more about Quantum GMAT courses?

You’re more than welcome to book a free phone call with one of our expert instructors.

Just click below to request a call, and we’ll be in touch to offer any help we can.

Click here to book your phone call with a Quantum expert

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GMAT Course vs Private Tutoring: What’s the Better Deal for You?

GMAT course

Read time: 4 minutes

Can’t decide between a GMAT course and private tutoring? Wondering which route would be the most cost-effective, or give you biggest advantage on test day?

It’s not quite so black-and-white. Whether you’d be better off in a course, or with private sessions, really depends on your individual needs, current skill-level, and score goal.

Read on to dig deeper into which GMAT prep strategy makes the most sense for you, based on where you’re at right now.

Who Benefits Most from Private GMAT Tutoring?

To be honest, we don’t normally recommend people opt for tutoring right out of the gate. Because it’s one-to-one, tutoring will always be more expensive than a group GMAT course.

For example, you’re looking at, on average, about $30/hour for a course, versus $200/hour for a 10-hour tutoring package.

However, there are some test-taskers for whom private sessions do make sense, and are well worth the added expense.

In our experience, these are the three groups of students who benefit most from private GMAT tutoring:

1. People who already took a GMAT course (and want more support)

There are a couple of common scenarios here. In some cases, we see people who have completed a less than stellar GMAT course, and found themselves without the right tools and techniques to hit their score goal.

These candidates don’t want to risk taking another sub-par bootcamp, and instead go straight for the precision and security of personalized tutoring.

In other cases, we’ve had students complete a quality prep program, but still struggle in certain topic areas.

They opt for tutoring in order to target those weak areas, with the undivided attention of a GMAT expert.

Our advice: Start with a reliable GMAT course, and then study on your own, to practice and strengthen the techniques you learned in class.

Follow the 1:1 ratio approach. If your course was 50 hours, be sure to put in 50 hours of your own study time before seeking out tutoring. Do a couple hundred practice questions and take another mock exam.

At this point, if you’re still not seeing improvement, you may want to consider one-to-one GMAT prep.

You can show your tutor your mock exam results, the questions you’re struggling with, and develop a highly targeted strategy to reach your score goal.

GMAT course
GMAT tutoring is about customizing prep to your specific strengths, weaknesses, and score goal

2. Students who need help with a specific question-type

Let’s say you’re performing reasonably well on mock exams, except for one or two question-types—say, data sufficiency, advanced exponents, or reading comprehension—which consistently trip you up.

You’ve tried researching and applying problem-solving techniques for these topics, but aren’t seeing much improvement. Your score has plateaued.

At this stage, you don’t really need a comprehensive, 100-hour GMAT course.

Private tutoring makes more sense because you can customize the process to your needs, and target only those problematic question-types.

3. When you need a really big score increase

Did you score much lower than expected on a mock GMAT exam?

We often see students sign up for private tutoring to address a very large gap between their baseline score, and the result they need to apply to business school.

We’re talking about a mock exam score of about 350.

On average, business schools require a GMAT score of at least 650, so in cases like this, the student can really benefit from intensive, highly personalized tutoring. This is the most reliable way to close a really large score gap.

Quantum offers a few different tutoring packages, ranging from 5 – 20 hours.

If you’d like to learn more, or want to discuss your GMAT needs and goals, we welcome you to reach out for a free consultation.

Click here to easily schedule a phone call with one of our GMAT instructors

Advantages of Opting for a GMAT Course

So, if private tutoring doesn’t sound like the way to go for you, should you be looking at a GMAT course?

While you don’t necessarily need a course to do well on the exam, professional test prep offers some very clear advantages. In our experience, these are the most valuable takeaways for students:

  1. Working with an expert GMAT instructor, who knows the exam inside and out—and can teach you exactly how to maximize your scoring potential.


  1. Getting access to hundreds of authentic practice questions, mock exams, and the very best study guides. (It can take students ages to hunt these down on their own)


  1. Learning the most reliable problem-solving techniques for every topic and question-type, along with strategies for avoiding GMAT traps, and managing your time well on the exam.


  1. Having the chance to repeat the course for free, as many times as needed, to target weak areas. All of Quantum’s comprehensive GMAT courses come with a free 6-month repeat policy.
GMAT course
A Quantum GMAT course in session

We’ve also heard from students that taking a course helps jump-start their prep, increase their confidence, and keep them focussed leading up to the exam.

The structure of attending class, meeting other test-takers, and connecting with the instructor helps motivate students to buckle down, and work harder than they would have on their own.

But we would be remiss if we didn’t also mention some potential drawbacks to taking a GMAT course—like the expense (good courses don’t come cheap), giving up some weekends or week nights, and possibly having to travel to attend class (if the course isn’t offered where you live).

Need more help making your decision? Check out: Should You Take a GMAT Course? The Pros & Cons of Professional Test Prep

Finding the Right GMAT Test Prep Company

The very best way to find a reliable GMAT test prep company is by talking to previous customers, checking out online reviews, and if possible, seeing the instructors in action.

Many companies run free workshops, webinars, and trial classes for prospective students. You get to meet the team, experience their teaching approach, and get a feel for whether the training is right for you.

GMAT prep is such an important investment. We strongly recommend taking the time to attend a “preview” event, before committing to a course, or any kind of tutoring arrangement.

Want to see Quantum in action? Check out our schedule of upcoming, free GMAT events in Toronto and Montreal.

In the meantime, we’re happy to chat with you about all things GMAT: study strategy, courses, free resources, MBA admissions…just leave us a comment or book a phone consultation. We’re here to help.

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Do You Have “Grit”? The Real Secret to Nailing the GMAT (& Every Other Life Challenge)

GMAT prep

Read time: 4 minutes

Have you ever wondered what makes successful people different? What special advantages propel them to perform better and achieve more than everyone else?

Most of us like to believe it’s natural talent, superior intelligence, the right connections, access to money—or sheer luck—that give some people an edge in life.

And while this may be true some of the time, there is a far greater force at work when it comes to beating the odds and achieving great things. And believe it or not, this force plays a key part in the quality of your GMAT prep, your performance on test day, and your success as a business leader.

Are you staring down the barrel of GMAT prep right now, wondering how you’ll find time to study, if you can score high enough, or whether you’re even up to the challenge of an MBA?

Do you feel certain that an MBA degree could completely transform your life—but at the same time, acutely aware of the many obstacles standing between you and that enhanced reality?

And the big question: Are you clever and talented enough to make it?

What if we told you that success on the GMAT, in business school, and in life in general, depends on something far more powerful than natural skill or intelligence.

We’re referring to the often-overlooked, yet immensely important quality, known as “grit.”

What is Grit & How Will it Impact Your GMAT Performance?

Angela Duckworth (CEO, professor of psychology, faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics, and 2013 MacArthur Fellow) pioneered the concept of grit with a groundbreaking study of 7th grade math students.

She looked at why some students succeeded at math, and why others failed. She documented success and failure patterns for so-called gifted students, those who really struggled with math, and every skill-level in between.

She collected overwhelming evidence that sheer persistence was the defining indicator of high grades—not intelligence or any special talent for math.

Students who simply stuck it out, and kept pushing to improve their skills, no matter how hard it was for them, consistently achieved the biggest bump in math grades—even higher than the kids who were naturally good at math!

She called this mindset of persistence “grit.” Here’s how Duckworth defines it:

” Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals. Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Instead, grit is about having…a goal you care about and holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow. “

Listen to Duckworth describe the nature and power of grit at a hugely popular TED talk she delivered on the key takeaways of her research.

Duckworth has gone on to study the success stories of business leaders, military personnel, students of all ages and backgrounds, and dozens of world-famous high achievers.

She has advised the White House, the World Bank, NBA and NFL teams, and Fortune 500 CEOs.

Duckworth’s work with Wharton People Analytics helps business leaders learn how to achieve their goals, develop their employees, and create organizations that perform at very high levels.

In short, this idea of grit has serious weight. It’s worth paying attention to.

Especially if you’re entering the field of business, want to become an effective leader…or at this stage, really need a high GMAT score, but aren’t naturally gifted in GMAT quant or verbal (who is?).

If natural ability isn’t the determining factor in your success, and neither is IQ, what’s really influencing your GMAT score?

GMAT prep
People with grit study harder, longer, and bounce back from setbacks more quickly

How Grit Predicts Your GMAT Score

It’s not a huge stretch to consider how perseverance will impact the quality of your GMAT prep, and ultimately, the score you achieve.

Anyone who has scored 700 or higher on the exam knows how much time and effort it took them to master all those quantitative and verbal topics, question-types, and GMAT traps.

Even people with high undergraduate GPAs—who’ve always done well on exams— have to work really hard to score high.

GMAC (the makers of the exam) actually did some research on this subject. Their survey of test-takers shows it takes a bare minimum of 120 hours of test prep to get a 700+ score.

How many people do you think actually put in that much time and effort?

Well, back in 2014, only 28% of test-takers even came close, clocking in at about 101 hours of GMAT prep.

GMAT prep

Take another look at that graph. An astounding 44% actually did less than 50 hours of studying. No wonder the mean GMAT score for all test-takers is an underwhelming 500 points.

Students simply aren’t putting in the required time and effort. They’re giving up early. They’re underestimating the difficulty of the exam. They’re overestimating their own skills, and assuming natural academic talent will be enough to earn a high score.

Many students are not doing the recommended 2000-3000 GMAT practice questions. They’re not completing 10-12 mock exams to build endurance, time-management skills, and pinpoint weak areas.

In decades of coaching students for the GMAT, we’ve seen this lack of follow-through sabotage even the smartest people, time and time again.

Harnessing Your Grit & Powering Through the GMAT

Nailing the GMAT really is a game of passion and perseverance—of sheer grit. How badly do you want that high score? How hard will you work to get it?

Over decades of coaching students, we’ve discovered it takes approximately  200 hours of prep to get a 700+ score. That’s a lot of study hours squeezed into evenings and weekends, between family obligations, and after long days at work. It takes serious commitment.

GMAT test prep is hard, there are setbacks, and the process can be exhausting. Such is life, right?

Your willingness to tackle the GMAT challenge head-on, and see it through to the very end, leaving no stone unturned, is what ultimately determines your success on this exam.

The grit you develop during GMAT prep will continue to bear fruit, as you face new, and probably even more difficult challenges at business school. Ultimately, grit is what will shape you as a leader.

The way you face the GMAT, and persevere to master those mind-bending quant and verbal problems, is a reflection of how you’ll tackle every other high-stakes challenge you’ll meet in life.

Remember: Duckworth has proven that grit is the great equalizer: it’s not about smarts, past academic performance, or even being the best at something—achieving your goals is all about pushing harder when the majority of other people simply give up.

That’s your edge. Use it to power through your GMAT prep, master the exam, and make your MBA dream a reality.

Have the motivation and commitment, but need practical help in a particular GMAT topic area? Browse the resources below for targeted support.

Resources to help you persevere through GMAT prep

1. Study with an expert GMAT coach at Quantum: Browse our top-rated courses and private tutoring options

2. Access free GMAT Quant & Verbal workshops in Toronto & Montreal: See a list of upcoming free GMAT workshops

3. Talk directly with a Quantum GMAT expert about structuring your study strategy, how Quantum courses work, or the MBA admission process: Request a free phone call here

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How to Study for the GMAT When You’re Still Learning English

GMAT prep for ESL students

Read time: 3 minutes

There’s no point in sugar-coating it. Preparing for the GMAT as a non-native English speaker presents a whole new level of difficulty.

Not only will you face tough math and verbal challenges, you’ll also have to deal with the tricky way GMAT questions are phrased.

That’s right: the GMAT actually uses language to mislead test-takers. Many of the questions are designed to confuse you, and require very careful reading to interpret correctly.

On the bright side, the GMAT’s traps are fairly predictable—and with the right techniques and plenty of practice, you can learn how to outsmart them.

What else should non-native English speakers know about successfully challenging the GMAT?

Here are 6 steps, tips, and resources that will help you beat this exam, even if you’re still learning English.

1. Test your English skills before you start GMAT prep

Before you invest time and money in GMAT prep, first make sure that your English skills are advanced enough to challenge the exam.

The best way to do this is by taking the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Chances are, you will have to submit a TOEFL score along with your graduate school application, so it makes sense to do this step first.

The TOEFL exam tests your reading, listening, writing, and grammar skills, with a total possible score of 120 points. If you score at least a 90, you should be ready to tackle the GMAT.

ETS (the makers of the TOEFL exam) offer some helpful prep resources on their website, including a free online course and practice quizzes. Take a look below.

Click here to learn more about the TOEFL, and access study materials

2. Review the content & structure of the GMAT exam

Before you jump into studying, make sure you know exactly what topics are tested on the GMAT—and what kinds of language challenges you’ll be up against.

Attend a free GMAT information session to get an overview of the Verbal, Quant, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing sections. You’ll learn how each section is scored, work through some sample GMAT questions, and get some valuable study advice.

GMAT prep
Quantum Test Prep runs regular GMAT info sessions at top business schools in Toronto and Montreal

Many test prep companies run free GMAT info sessions year round. They’re usually held on university campuses. Click below to see upcoming events in Toronto and Montreal.

See a schedule of free GMAT Information Sessions near you


3. Take a GMAT mock exam to discover your strengths & weaknesses

Once you have tested your English skills, and attended an information session, your next step should be a GMAT mock exam.

Don’t make assumptions about which parts of the test will be easiest for you, or where you should focus your study (a common mistake).

The mock exam will reveal the topics and question-types that are most difficult for you, and from there you can build a personal study plan.

Whatever you do, don’t start prepping for the exam until you’ve taken a mock, figured out your baseline score, and mapped out a prep strategy.

See a schedule of free GMAT mock exams near you


4. Improve your English skills through targeted daily practice

If you want to quickly improve your reading comprehension, vocabulary, and speed, you’ll need to do daily reading practice. Use tough, academic-style articles, like the ones you’ll see on the GMAT.

Get started with these:

Scientific American

The New Yorker

The Economist

Work on summarizing what you’ve read, identifying arguments, and formulating your own opinions.

Test yourself by discussing each article with a friend—briefly explain what it was about, where you stand on the issue, and see if you can answer any questions that come up.

Come across words you don’t know? Take the time to look them up, and learn their meanings.

Work on your writing skills at the same time by noting down your article summaries, vocabulary definitions, and follow-up questions.

The goal here is to practice analyzing and thinking critically about what you’re reading. It’s not enough to just understand the words—you need to grasp the context and deeper meaning of these articles, and be able to explain it to someone else.

Do this kind of targeted practice each day, and you’ll see big improvements in reading speed and comprehension.

GMAT prep for ESL students
Take notes while you read to practice your writing, test your understanding, and learn new vocabulary

5. Don’t ignore GMAT Quant!

Many ESL students make the mistake of focussing all of their GMAT test prep on verbal topics. The truth is, the quant section of the exam presents its own unique challenges to non-native English speakers.

First of all, the way questions are phrased can be difficult to understand. You will need to learn specific GMAT math “vocabulary” to avoid losing easy points.

Secondly, GMAT quant is full of traps, just waiting to lead you astray. You’ll only have a few seconds to decode the question, spot the trap, and figure out which steps to take next. It will take serious practice to master these skills in a new language.

Ignoring quant, and focussing mainly on verbal, will definitely threaten your chances of a high score.

6. Consider a GMAT course or private tutor

Not sure you’ll be able to prepare for the GMAT, and improve your English skills, all by yourself? Worried you won’t be ready in time for the exam—or end up with a disappointing score?

You might want to consider a GMAT course or private tutor.

Your GMAT instructor will provide you with the best study materials and preparation strategies—plus help you master language challenges to improve your speed, accuracy, confidence, and overall score.

GMAT prep for ESL students
Working with a private GMAT tutor will help you quickly improve the English skills needed to challenge the exam

If a GMAT course or private tutoring is simply too expensive, your next best bet is free GMAT study help.

There are plenty of free quant and verbal workshops out there. Click below to see events happening near you, and save yourself a seat.

See upcoming free GMAT classes in Toronto & Montreal

Looking for more advice? Need help combining English study with GMAT prep? Give us a call, or leave us a comment. We’ll help you make a plan that works.

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Are You Truly Ready for an MBA? 4 Things to Consider before Starting GMAT Prep

GMAT prep

Read time: 4 minutes

We speak to a lot of prospective MBA students who want to apply to business school, and are checking out their GMAT prep options.

For the most part, they’re looking for practical information, like what kinds of GMAT courses we offer, how much we can help boost their scores, scheduling options, special discounts, etc.

But every once in a while, we get calls from people who seem far less certain about their next move.

For example, when we ask which business schools they’re planning to apply to, they say they haven’t really investigated their options.

And when we ask about when they’re thinking of applying to MBA programs, it turns out they haven’t thought about a start date either.

The MBA is still a hazy, far-off dream—something they feel they should be aiming for, but haven’t fully committed to pursuing.

At this point, the conversation takes a different turn. We usually suggest putting off GMAT prep for now, until the business school plan becomes more focussed.

Studying for the GMAT, and successfully challenging the exam, is no small feat. It takes dedication, perseverance, time, and money. If you’re ambivalent about an MBA, is this something you should be investing in, right now?

In this post, we break down 4 clear signs that you’re truly serious about, and ready to pursue an MBA. Take a moment to consider whether you’re thinking along these same lines.

1.  You want more respect, responsibility & advancement options at work

Feeling “stuck” in your current professional position? Aren’t eligible for promotion without an advanced degree? Want to switch fields, but don’t have the training it takes to make a new start?

These are some of the most common reasons people reach for an MBA. They’re looking to bolster their resume and professional persona with cutting-edge skills, greater confidence, and globally recognized credentials.

A master in business administration is the first step toward more respect, authority, and opportunities at work.

If you want this badly enough, you’ll have the fuel it takes to power through GMAT prep, the admission process, and of course, the rigors of an MBA.

2. You’re passionate about starting a career in business

Always envisioned yourself becoming a business leader? Dream of starting your own company? Feel most at home when you’re connecting with like-minded, ambitious professionals?

Successful business people come from all walks of life, and every corner of the planet.

Some are creative visionaries; others are analytical problem-solvers. Some come from quant backgrounds; others were humanities majors.

But what all serious MBA applicants have in common is their passion for the unpredictable, dynamic, opportunity-rich world of business.

GMAT prep
Committed MBA applicants are determined to fulfill their potential as business leaders & change-makers

Even if you’re not certain what specific field you’re aiming for—marketing, finance, sales, accounting, entrepreneurship, not-for-profit—a strong affinity for business management makes you a good candidate for an MBA.

Business school is where you’ll finally find your “tribe”; individuals who are truly passionate about fulfilling their potential as leaders.

3.  You understand the commitment required to earn an MBA

Earning an MBA is a serious undertaking. Perhaps you’ll be studying while you work, and fitting courses in on evenings and weekends.

Or, maybe you’ll go full tilt with an accelerated MBA, and earn your degree in just one year.

Whether it takes you 12 months or 5 years, this journey requires total commitment, and very hard work.

On the plus side, you’ll get tremendous energy from the people you meet, the projects you tackle, the professors you admire, and the new confidence you feel.

Not to mention, the career opportunities and job offers that materialize for some MBA students before they’ve even graduated!

But rest assured, earning an MBA will involve making some sacrifices, which will impact your social life, partner, kids, family, etc.

Have you talked things over with those closest to you, and thought about how you’ll manage the increased workload?

GMAT prep
Many MBA students juggle school, work, and family. Consider how you’ll manage a busier workload.

4. You’re investigating prospective MBA programs & admissions requirements

Serious MBA applicants already have a target school in mind, or are busy narrowing down their options, by investigating prospective schools.

They’re attending information sessions, setting up advising appointments, and determining their eligibility for different MBA programs.

They have a timeline sketched out for completing the degree, and are looking into upcoming start dates for their top schools.

In short, there is a working plan in place, and the application checklist is taking shape.

GMAT prep
Meet with an admission advisor to discuss your eligibility for an MBA & application requirements

Is this about where you’re at? Let’s do a quick re-cap. You’re ready for the next step if you:

  • have identified a clear need for an MBA
  • feel passionate about pursuing the degree
  • understand the required commitment
  • are actively formulating an admissions action plan

OK! Now you’re ready for GMAT prep.

At this point, it definitely makes sense to look into a GMAT course, or start organizing your self-study plan.

A competitive GMAT score is a key component of your MBA application package—so it’s worth putting in the time, and aiming high.

Looking for your next step? We strongly recommend attending a free GMAT information session, or taking a mock exam to gauge your baseline quant and verbal score.

Click below to find links to these, and several other, free GMAT classes. Or, just give us a call, and we’ll find a GMAT prep program that fits your needs. We’re here to help!


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Is all the Prep Worth it? Do You Really Need to Take the GMAT?

GMAT prep

Read time: 4 minutes

We know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering if there’s some way you can possibly avoid taking the GMAT exam, and still get into a great business school.

You’re contemplating those long, dark hours of GMAT prep, hundreds of practice questions, and the insane marathon of the actual test, and thinking, surely there’s another way!

Exam-anxiety aside, this is a completely rational question to ponder. After all, you’re a busy person. You’ve got a job, possibly kids, and most certainly a personal life.

Getting an MBA will be hard enough—should you subject yourself to the GMAT as well?

Let’s unpack this question a little, shall we?

Here’s what to consider if you’re considering not taking the GMAT.

Do You Need a GMAT Score to Apply to Business School?

The quick answer is no, not every MBA program requires applicants to  include a GMAT score in their admissions package.

Some MBA programs offer GMAT waivers to students with exceptional academic credentials and/or professional experience.

Certain Executive MBAs require applicants to take a much shorter test, called the Executive Assessment, in lieu the GMAT. Columbia Business School, CEIBS (China), and INSEAD (France) all follow this model.

Another example is the Rotman School of Management (University of Toronto). They’ll waive the GMAT for applicants who have successfully passed the CFA level III examination.

GMAT prep
Have substantial mid-to-senior level management experience? You may not need a GMAT score.

But…despite these exceptions, there’s no denying that if you don’t take the GMAT, you’ll almost certainly be limiting yourself to a smaller pool of MBA choices.

Dream of attending one of the world’s top MBA programs? Simply want to diversify your B-school options? It’s time to embrace GMAT prep.

Yes, you’re looking at months of arduous study, and the resurrection of dreaded high school math and verbal concepts—but you’ll need to face these challenges at business school, anyway, right?

So, think of GMAT prep as a warm-up…pre-season training for your brain, so you can jump into your MBA at full mental power.

How do B-Schools Weigh Your GMAT Score During Admissions?

Let’s say you’re a “reluctant” GMAT-taker (who isn’t, right?), and you’re wondering just how important a high score is during the admission process.

Do you really need to go hard at GMAT prep for hundreds of hours, or can you slip by admissions with a less-than-stellar result? How do B-schools weigh your score against other admission criteria?

There’s no simple answer to this one. Every B-school is different.

Officially, most schools say that they evaluate the whole student.

In others words, they follow a “holistic” model of assessment that includes looking at your undergraduate GPA, personal and professional profile, and overall “fit” with the program.

Other B-schools place a heavier emphasis on GMAT scores.

In a recent survey, 65% of MBA admission consultants said they believe B-schools are weighing GMAT scores more heavily than ever—with personal essays, interviews, and undergrad marks coming in second during the decision-making process.

Generally speaking, it’s safe to assume that a competitive GMAT score is your “foot in the door”. It won’t guarantee you acceptance, but it provides a benchmark that many B-schools use during their initial screening process.

GMAT prep
Admissions teams take your GMAT score seriously. If you’re challenging the exam, it’s worth aiming high.

Our advice: Research the average GMAT scores at the B-schools you want to attend. Take a mock GMAT exam, and see how far you are from those scores.

This will help you map out a realistic GMAT study plan, and achieve the result you need to be a competitive applicant at your target schools.

Learn about getting a free GMAT personal assessment with a Quantum expert

Does a High GMAT Score Mean You’ll be Successful in Business?

Nope. But more than 6,000 business and management programs worldwide agree that a high GMAT score means you’ll be very successful as an MBA student.

This is why most top programs require a GMAT score for admissions. They want to ensure applicants have the critical reasoning, quant, and verbal skills needed to survive the rigours of an MBA.

The GMAT is not designed to predict your success as a business leader. It is designed to assess your readiness for advanced business training. The rest is up to you!

GMAT prep
The GMAT predicts your success at business school, not your future career prospects

I want to Avoid GMAT Prep! Can I Take the GRE Instead?

Does buckling down to months of GMAT prep fill you with fear and loathing? Think you’d fare better with the GRE?

More than 1,200 MBA programs now accept scores from the GMAT or GRE for admissions—and that number is growing daily. But don’t forget, that’s a far cry from the 6,000 institutions that accept the GMAT.

If you’re considering swapping the GMAT for the GRE, the first thing you must do is check with your target schools to ensure they accept the GRE.

It’s also important to note that even if your dream school accepts the GRE, it may still favour applicants with GMAT scores.

A recent US News report reveals that 26% of B-school admissions officers give priority to applicants who took the GMAT, versus the GRE.

Plus, while the content and structure of the GRE is in some ways different from the GMAT, both exams test your quant, verbal, and writing skills.

So, don’t just run blindly from GMAT test prep—you may seriously limit your MBA options down the road.

Still uncertain about whether you should take the GMAT? Need help assessing your options, or mapping out a GMAT prep plan?

Don’t stress. Come out to a free GMAT information session to get some expert support and guidance.

See a list of upcoming GMAT Info Sessions near you

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Do’s & Don’ts for GMAT Exam Day: How to Maximize Your Last 48 Hours

GMAT prep

Photo by on Unsplash

Read time: 4 minutes

You’re almost there!  It’s your last 48 hours before the big day, and a much-anticipated end to many months of GMAT prep.

Those 100+ hours of toil and personal sacrifice are about to reap you an amazing GMAT score. That is, so long as you don’t overlook a few more key steps before the exam.

What should you be doing as the countdown begins? Follow these do’s and don’ts to get organized, pumped up, and mentally prepared for the GMAT marathon.

Plan your route to the test centre

Do you know exactly where your GMAT test centre is and how to get there? Whether you’re driving, walking, biking, or taking public transit, make sure you map out the route the night before.

It’s important to calculate how long it will take you to reach the centre, and include extra time to check-in. We recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before your exam time.

Consider factors like rush hour traffic, construction, subway stoppages, and other potential delays when creating your plan. Give yourself a buffer.

Organize your documents and test day snacks

The night before the exam, make sure you set aside the documentation you must bring to the test centre, including your identification. You definitely don’t need the stress of hunting down your misplaced passport at the last minute.

Also, it’s a good idea to plan what you’ll wear and prepare your test day snacks in advance. Have a lucky t-shirt/pair of boxers/socks/pants? Make sure they’re clean and good to go the night before.

Want a power bar, piece of fruit, or bag of trail mix to boost your energy on exam day? You get two 8-minute breaks during the GMAT. Think about what you want to eat or drink during those breaks, and prep those snacks the night before.

Resist the urge to do last-minute GMAT prep

Exam anxiety might prompt you to tackle additional practice questions, or feverishly review your notes, right up until the very last minute. Don’t be tricked into desperate, last-minute GMAT prep!

If you’ve studied effectively, you’ve already absorbed everything you can. During your last 24 hours before the exam, focus instead on getting into optimal physical and mental test-taking mode.

The GMAT is a marathon, so your final day or two should revolve around warm-up strategies—not yet another round of mind-bending Quant problems. See the next three tips for recommendations and ideas.

Eat clean the night before & day of the exam

Have long hours of GMAT test prep made it harder to eat healthy over the last few months? Found yourself relying on heavy doses of caffeine, sugar, and convenience snack foods? Now’s the time to break those habits!

In your last couple of days before the GMAT exam, focus on eating clean, healthy foods. Ditch greasy, heavy meals for whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Know that the food you eat has a direct impact on your mood and cognitive function. Foods rich in essential brain nutrients will help improve memory, concentration, motivation, and overall mental “sharpness.”

Check out this list of healthy options for pre-exam meal ideas.

And remember: avoid going overboard on caffeine just before the exam. An extra cup or two will only add to your nerves, making it harder to focus and work deliberately through questions.

Consider a pre-GMAT exam workout session

There’s a strong body of evidence that proves the correlation between physical exercise and improved mood and cognitive function. Working out helps reduce stress, and helps our brains work better, too.

Worried anxiety will rob you of sleep the night before the exam? Plan a vigorous workout in the evening to take the edge off, and tire yourself out.

Same goes for the morning of the test—schedule a little gym time to get those positive endorphins circulating and keep the jitters under control.

And don’t forget to run your brain through a little pre-exam workout routine as well. Try a crossword puzzle or Sudoku—or read a challenging article. Anything that limbers up your brain and gets you into “thinking” mode, an hour or two before the exam.

Roll out your stress-management techniques

Hitting the gym isn’t your thing? No problem. But give some thought to how you will burn off anxiety and settle your nerves the night before, and day of, the exam.

For some, this means creating a playlist of inspirational songs they can dance around to (Eye of the Tiger; We are the Champions; Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger—you get the idea).

For others, it might be yoga, meditation, or a long walk in the park. A round of laser tag, anyone?

It doesn’t really matter what you do, so long as it diffuses tension and makes you feel good. One caveat though: don’t rely on illicit substances or alcohol to relax pre-exam.

These will only make your brain foggy and slow you down. Don’t worry—there’ll be plenty of time for cocktails after the test!

Have other questions or concerns about your GMAT prep routine? Interested in learning more about intensive GMAT courses, or free GMAT info sessions and workshops?

Start here for helpful resources and support: See upcoming free GMAT events near you

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Should You Take a GMAT Course? The Pros & Cons of Professional Test Prep

GMAT course

Read time: 4 minutes

Do you need to take a GMAT course to score high on the exam? No. Plenty of students study on their own and do very well.

But do you have the self-discipline, confidence, and academic skills to structure your own GMAT prep? If you’ve been out of school for a while, or have significant math or verbal challenges, this is where self-study becomes more risky.

Add a fulltime work schedule to the mix, and you’ve got a strong case for professional GMAT help.

A GMAT course can’t guarantee your success on test day—but it can offer a competitive advantage to busy people with rusty study skills.

So is it worth it? Let’s look at the top pros and cons of professional GMAT prep, and you can decide for yourself.

Pro: A Good GMAT Course Takes the Guesswork out of Prep

This truly is the biggest benefit to taking a comprehensive GMAT course. A quality training program of 100 hours or more absolutely takes the guesswork out of prep.

This type of course will cover every inch of the exam, and prepare you tackle every type of question, across every topic.

You won’t have to spend hours researching and test-driving problem-solving strategies—your instructor has already identified proven techniques, and will teach them to you.

The certainty you get with a good course can really boost your confidence. Plus, it’s a guaranteed time-saver. Everything you need to know is condensed into a few classes, and then you just need to keep practicing those techniques up until the exam.

Con: What if Your GMAT Course Doesn’t Boost Your Score?

This is a question of return on investment—and it’s definitely worth asking. What if you pour time and money into a GMAT course, and your practice scores don’t budge?

First off, if you’re putting in maximum effort, and see little to no score improvement, you’re probably not taking a quality course.

Most test prep companies carefully track score improvement rates among their students—to ensure the courses they provide yield consistently positive results.

The company can’t guarantee you a bump in score, but they should provide hard evidence of a solid track record.

We also recommend looking at user experiences (such as Google Reviews) to see whether students are getting real results from training, before you enroll in any GMAT course.

Extra tip: Some companies offer trial classes so you can test-drive training before buying. Look for this option on the company website.

Pro: A Quality GMAT Course Comes With Tons of Study Resources

This is another time-saver for busy students. Prepping for the GMAT involves a lot of leg work. You need to find authentic practice questions and mock tests, research all the content areas on the exam , and identify the best step-by-step procedures for solving problems.

A good GMAT course does all of this for you. Your training should include all the study guides and practice tests you could possibly need. You won’t have to find these resources on your own, and figure out which materials can be trusted.

Con: A Quality GMAT Course Won’t Come Cheap

Affordability is perhaps the biggest “con” for prospective GMAT course students. These training programs are indeed pricey. The best way to protect yourself from over-spending, is to find a program that offers the best bang for your buck.

Look for things like an unlimited course repeat policy. Some companies will let you take your entire GMAT course again and again, free of charge, so you can keep practicing tough topics and continue to improve your score.

It’s also key to look at other benefits that add value to your training, such as:

  • instructor experience (look for at least 5+ years of fulltime test prep experience)
  • small class sizes
  • high average score improvements
  • high-quality training materials
  • availability of special discounts

Remember: not all GMAT courses are created equal. Your dollars will stretch further with some companies than with others. Do your research, and ensure you’re getting the best all-around value for your tuition.

Pro: You’ll Get Access to a GMAT Expert + Peer Support

Studying on your own for the GMAT can be isolating and stressful. While some students thrive on the solitary approach, others find it difficult to stay motivated, and suffer from anxiety.

Gaining access to an expert GMAT instructor, and working with likeminded peers, can help diffuse some of the stress of test prep. There’s strength in community, and something to be said for sharing the prep experience with fellow test-takers.

Con: You May Have to Travel to Take the GMAT Course

Don’t live near a major GMAT test centre? You may find you’ll have to travel to take a quality GMAT course. If you don’t have friends or family to stay with, this means incurring additional costs for a hotel or Airbnb.

Your best bet is to find a weekend intensive, rather than a program that spreads classes out over several weeks, so there’s less back-and-forth required. Online training is also a viable option, but tends to feel less personal and motivating.

Another solution is to find a friend who is also interested in taking the GMAT course, so you can split the costs of travel and accommodations.

Struggling with other pros and cons related to GMAT prep?

Can’t commit to a course right now, but need help with a topic?

Click here for a list of free GMAT workshops and prep resources

Taking the GMAT in Toronto and looking for a reliable course?

Click here to explore Quantum’s #1-rated GMAT course

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Anxious About the GMAT? 4 Steps to Less Stress & Better Test Prep

GMAT test prep

Read time: 4 minutes

Preparing for a high stakes test like the GMAT is inherently stressful for many people.

So much is riding on your success—getting into a top business school, fulfilling your career ambitions, proving you can do it—it’s completely normal to experience anxiety.

In fact, some degree of stress is actually beneficial. It will push you to get serious about your GMAT test prep, work hard to strengthen your skills, and stay focussed on exam day.

However, there’s often a fine line between stress that motivates, and anxiety that feels paralyzing. Every year, countless would-be GMAT contenders back out of the exam because the pressure is too great.

Many give up before even starting test prep. Are you among them?

Is concern about your math or verbal skills “talking you out of” taking the test?

Think you’ll never get a high enough score, so why bother?

Hold on! Before you walk away from your dreams—and sell yourself short!—take a moment to consider these 4 stress-lowering GMAT tips.

Follow these steps and you’ll realize the GMAT is far more doable than you thought, and you definitely have the capacity to earn a competitive score. Let’s get started.

1. Clarify What the GMAT Actually Tests

Step number one. Push aside all the horror stories and dramatic anecdotes, and figure out what this exam actually tests.

You might be surprised to learn that the GMAT only evaluates math and verbal skills at the middle and high school levels. Some concepts are first introduced in elementary school!

There’s nothing on the test you haven’t seen before—although it’s probably been a while.

Do yourself an enormous favor, and attend a free GMAT information session. These events are offered free of charge, at many business schools in Ontario. Quantum runs several of them every month.

You’ll get a complete breakdown of how the exam works: every section, every question-type, every math and verbal topic.

These sessions are led by expert GMAT instructors, so it’s a great chance to de-bunk GMAT myths, and get all your preliminary questions answered.

There’s no doubt about it: getting a handle on the facts is a tremendous stress-reliever.

See a schedule of upcoming free GMAT info sessions here

2. Do a Mock Exam Before You Start GMAT Test Prep

Already tried a few GMAT practice questions and did worse than you imagined? So concerned about your grammar or math skills that you’d rather study a bit before attempting a formal practice test?

This strategy is a recipe for rising anxiety.

It makes far more sense to know what you’re up against, right from day one. That means doing a mock exam before you begin any kind of GMAT test prep.

Mock exams are totally free, and provide essential data on your individual strengths and weaknesses. You’ll determine your baseline score, and be in an excellent position to map out a truly targeted study plan.

If you don’t know where you’re at, in terms of quant and verbal skills, you won’t know what topics to focus on, which techniques to study, or how to measure your progress!

You’ll lose time running in circles, and see your stress levels sky-rocket. Take a smarter approach: sign up for a mock exam first thing.

Click here for a schedule of upcoming mock GMAT exams

3. Map out a Personalized GMAT Study Plan

Trying to model your test prep on someone else’s approach? Listening to a lot of advice from other test-takers on what worked for them? Cut through the noise, and focus instead on your needs and goals.

Once you’ve done the mock exam, you’ll be eligible for a free assessment and study planning session with a GMAT instructor. Many test prep companies (the same people who host the mock exam) offer this complimentary service.

Your mock exam results will tell you exactly which topic areas to focus on most. You’ll be able to set a realistic score goal, and figure out exactly how many hours of prep it will take to achieve it.

Your free assessment should also include access to trustworthy GMAT prep resources, tips, and study guides. Instant stress reliever.

Learn more about free GMAT assessments here

4. Book Yourself Into Free GMAT Workshops

Need a confidence booster in fundamental math or verbal concepts? Want expert advice to guide your prep in a particularly tricky topic—but can’t afford a comprehensive GMAT course?

No problem. Ease your mind by taking advantage of the many free GMAT workshops that happen every month, in cities across the country. Toronto and Montreal, for example, offer a range of GMAT Math, Verbal, and IR workshops, on an ongoing basis.

Get your questions answered, learn problem-solving techniques, and connect with like-minded peers. No charge; no stress.

See a schedule of upcoming GMAT workshops hosted by Quantum

Final takeaway: Follow these 4 steps and take the guesswork—and therefore, much of the anxiety—out of GMAT test prep.

These are all completely free tools and services that are available to students—so get out there, take full advantage, and crush GMAT stress like a boss!