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# Starting GMAT Prep Right: 4 Steps Before You Hit the Books

Read time: 5 minutes

Convinced GMAT prep is all about drilling as many practice questions as possible, in every single topic area? Ready to dive in and start working through problems? Hold on!

The secret to GMAT success is in the planning. Tackling practice questions before you’ve done the ground work will only waste time, and set you up for disappointment on exam day.

Exactly what kind of “ground work” are we talking about? We mean putting together a study strategy that truly reflects your individual needs, goals, and test-taking skills.

Follow these four steps to devise a plan that will maximize your study time, lower your exam stress, and yield your best possible GMAT score.

## 1. Get a Complete Overview of GMAT Structure & Content

Before you can begin studying for the GMAT, you’ll need to know exactly what you’re up against. Students often underestimate the variety and scope of content on the exam, or lack clarity on how the test is administered.

It’s crucial to get a complete picture of the whole process. You should understand exactly which topics are included in both the Quant and Verbal sections, how the exam is scored, how adaptive testing works, how to avoid common prep mistakes, and a host of other important details.

Getting thorough and accurate information on the GMAT is step number one of a smart study strategy. Don’t know where to begin? There are plenty of free GMAT info sessions at local business schools. Click below to find one near you.

## 2. Identify Your Baseline GMAT Score

Imagine trying to build a house with no blueprints. Or navigate a new city without GPS. Would you run  a marathon without knowing the route, distance, or even where the finish line is?

These frustrating (and totally avoidable) situations are akin to starting your GMAT prep without first identifying your baseline score.

The baseline GMAT score is determined by a mock exam, which should be taken well before you begin studying.  Your results will help you set a realistic score goal, understand exactly where to focus your study to reach that goal, and how many hours you should set aside for prep.

Essentially, this is your road map to GMAT success. Never skip the mock exam (it’s free!). Click below to see where mock GMATs are taking place near you.

## 3. Map Out a Personalized GMAT Prep Strategy

Once you’ve taken a mock exam, you can create a truly personalized GMAT prep strategy. This plan will be based on your own unique strengths and weaknesses, as revealed by the practice test.

The strategy will include a timeline, your goal score, the topic areas you’ll be focusing on most, and the study materials you’ll be using to prepare for the exam.

If creating your own GMAT study plan feels daunting, there are ways to get some expert help for free. Quite a few test prep companies provide totally free assessments of your mock exam performance, which include help mapping out a prep strategy.

Quantum offers a one-hour strategy session to anyone who has taken the mock exam. Click below to learn more about it.

## 4. Seek out Free GMAT Help for Your Weak Areas

Once you’ve created a study strategy, you will be well aware of which weak areas you need to address.  Next, you’ll need to gather reliable resources and practice materials to fill in those gaps.

Finding credible study guides takes time, and it can be difficult to know which problem-solving procedures work best for each question-type. There is a lot of information, advice, and techniques to sort through and test out.

Don’t know where to begin? Start with a math or verbal “refresher” class. Again, many test prep companies run these classes for free, and they’re incredibly helpful for targeting weak areas in the Quant or Verbal sections of the exam.

Refreshers usually run for 3-4 hours, provide an overview of the topic area, question-solving techniques, study tips, reliable practice materials, and a chance to get GMAT help from an expert instructor.

These workshops can be very helpful in guiding your study plan, and steering you toward the most reliable prep materials and approaches.

And there you have it. Four ways to ensure you’re set up for GMAT success from the very start. And a reminder that there are plenty of free supports out there for test-takers who need help with the planning process.

Remember: study smarter, not harder. Don’t hits the books until you have a plan that works!

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