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GMAT Prep: Smart Time Management Strategies Every Test-Taker Should Know

GMAT prep

Read time: 4 minutes

You will have exactly 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete the GMAT exam. There are 4 sections to work through, each with a fixed number of questions and a predetermined time limit.

This handy chart from breaks it all down:

GMAT prep

If you decide to take the two 8-minute breaks you’re allowed during the exam, your total time gets closer to 4 hours. That’s a serious test-taking marathon!

In order to stay on track and finish on time, students need to manage their minutes very carefully. Without good pacing and time management strategies in place, it’s all too easy to rush unnecessarily (and make careless mistakes), or linger too long on tough questions (and be unable to complete the exam).

What kinds of time management techniques should you be developing during GMAT prep and implementing on exam day? Here are some straightforward approaches we recommend.

1. Budget a specific number of minutes for each question

When it comes to pacing, some students try to “wing it”, and never really nail down a time-budget for each question-type.

They figure they’ll simply move as quickly as they can through each section—perhaps spending a bit longer on some problems than others—but it will all even out in the end.

The problem is, under pressure, it’s very likely that your sense of time will feel distorted. If your go-to time management strategy is just glancing at the clock now and then, you’re in for a nasty shock on exam day!

If you want to get smart about pacing, you’ll need to be aware of your “time position” at every stage of the test.

In other words, whether you’re behind, ahead, or right on schedule, in relation to where you are in the exam.

To do that, you’ll need to set a maximum time limit for every single question, and get used to how those limits feel during GMAT prep.

This chart from provides some helpful guidelines:

GMAT Time Management Per Question-type

GMAT prep

2. Have a plan for when you get stuck

If all goes perfectly, your diligent GMAT prep will pay off, and you’ll know exactly how to tackle every single question that comes your way on exam day.

But since things rarely work out as planned, it’s safe to assume you’ll get stalled by a few really tough problems. Having a smart plan for these moments is key for managing time.

Getting “frozen”  by panic, or stubbornly going around in circles without settling on an answer, are common—and very dangerous—time-wasters.

If you spend more than 3 minutes on a question, you’re in the danger zone!

In short, a tough GMAT question can be a real rabbit hole. Your GMAT test prep should include guessing techniques, answer analysis strategies, how to strategically skip questions to make-up for lost time, etc.

Remember: you can miss a few questions and still get a 700+ score. The biggest penalty of all comes from not finishing the exam.

3. Be on guard for pacing problems during GMAT prep

Good pacing is not something you’ll be able to master at the last minute. In fact, learning how to pace yourself effectively should be an integral part of your GMAT study plan—just as important as learning good problem-solving procedures.

How can you systematically improve your time-management skills during prep?

An obvious approach is to time yourself while doing practice tests and question sets. Use a stop watch app to track how long it’s taking you to complete problems, and compare results over time.

You’ll begin to get a sense of what one minute feels like (your halfway point for most questions), and when you’re getting close to your maximum time allowance.

Drilling with a timer is key for recalibrating your internal clock to “GMAT settings” so the process feels very familiar on exam day.

It’s also crucial to analyze every practice test (or mock exam) for warning signs of pacing problems and bad habits.

Look at the questions you got wrong. Were some of those mistakes caused by rushing? Could you have solved the problem if you took a bit more time?

On the other hand, did you get some problems wrong despite taking additional time? Did you fall down the tricky problem “rabbit hole”?

Did a particular section or question-type seem to drain your time more than others?

Being aware of your time position during practice tests, and analyzing your pacing after the fact, are key to understanding your individual time management strengths and weaknesses.

As always with the GMAT, your prep must be tailored to your unique needs.

Figure out where your time is going on each section of the exam, and you’ll be in a far better position to improve efficiency (and avoid stressful surprises!) on test day.

Looking for a little more help with GMAT test prep?

Check out Quantum’s free GMAT workshops and info sessions, coming up in January and February:

Click here for a schedule of free events

Considering enrolling in a GMAT course?

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Best GMAT Study Break Ideas: Re-boot Your Brain & Shake Off Fatigue!

GMAT study

Read time: 5 minutes

What does “working hard” look like to you?

Long hours of activity without a break? Powering through despite feeling tired, hungry, or frustrated?

Capitalist culture tends to glorify burning the candle at both ends. Many of us are taught the virtue of self-sacrifice in service of long-term goals. No pain, no gain! Sound familiar?

But when it comes to learning new things or actually being productive, pushing yourself too hard can do more harm than good.

A couple of years ago, The Atlantic ran a fascinating article on the benefits of taking strategic breaks during long periods of work.

The author cites several research studies that show how well-timed periods of relaxation, and certain kinds of rest activities, can truly re-boot the brain, improve cognition and memory, and help you return to work refreshed.

What’s the takeaway for your GMAT study plan?

Powering through endless hours of prep, without revitalizing breaks, is a waste of your precious time.

But what kinds of breaks should you take and how often?

Which activities will power-up your brain, fend off fatigue, and help you re-focus on those Quant and Verbal problems?

Use these 4 data-backed break ideas to study smarter, not harder (and preserve your sanity) during GMAT prep.

1. Follow the “52-Minute Rule” to Plan GMAT Study Breaks

Not sure how often you should be breaking away from the books? Data collected by DeskTime (a productivity app) shows that the best formula is precisely 52 minutes of work, followed by a 17-minute break.

Sound bizarre? Perhaps—but DeskTime has the data to back it up. They analyzed work logs from 5.5 million users to identify the break habits of the 10% most productive people.

DeskTime learned that the most productive workers (people who accomplished the most tasks in the shortest amount of time), took on average, 17 minute breaks every 52 minutes.

Several publications picked up on this story—Business Insider, Mashable, Lifehacker, Muse—spreading the idea of timed breaks as key to maintaining focus during long hours of work or study.

The Atlantic article points out that the theory isn’t exactly new. Back in 1999, Cornell University published a study proving the benefits of timed breaks.

They studied Wall Street workers, and found that those who took regular breaks were 13% more accurate in their work than colleagues who just “powered through”.

But, in all cases, people needed reminders to take those breaks. So, we suggest downloading an app that will do this for you, and trying out the 52-minute rule for yourself!

2. Walk Away From Your GMAT Study Area

So we’ve established that regular GMAT study breaks are key. But what you do with those 17 minutes of freedom is also important.

For maximum refreshment, step away from your desk, couch, or wherever you study, and completely clear your mind of anything exam-related.

Your best bet is to stretch and move your body—to get your blood circulating and your heart pumping after sitting still for awhile.

You have a whole 17 minutes, right? Go for a short walk, try a quick YouTube yoga routine, do a few sets of bicep curls.

Feel like you really need to watch cat videos on your phone for at least part of your break? Go for it.

Looking at cute animal pictures has actually been shown to boost mood and productivity. Just stand up and move around while you watch.

3. Plan Healthy Snacks for Each GMAT Study Session

Ok, we know it’s very tempting to fuel those long hours of GMAT prep with chocolate bars, candy, soda, energy drinks, and coffee.

Sugar and caffeine are go-to study aides many of us learned to depend on back in high school and university.

But at this point, we all know the devastating, roller-coaster effects of caffeine and sugar on our nervous system, mood, energy level, and overall wellbeing.

Do yourself a huge favour and stock some healthy snacks to eat during your GMAT study breaks.  Try these energy-boosting alternatives when you’re running out of steam:

  • mint gum (chewing a piece of gum for 15 minutes has been proven to increase heart rate, blood flow to the brain, and alertness)
  • protein bar or shake (just watch out for imposters that pack in the sugar)
  • apples and bananas (the anti-oxidants, vitamin C, and fibre will help you feel full and re-energized)
  • microwave popcorn (the fibre fills you up and it’s a whole grain—just go easy on the butter and salt)
  • trail mix (grab a generous handful and choose the unsalted kind)

4. When it’s Time to Re-Focus, Give it 100%

Find yourself distracted by your phone, Facebook, or wandering thoughts while in the middle of a GMAT study session? Of course you do—because you’re human.

But consider this: when DeskTime performed the study we mentioned earlier, the 10% most productive people were particularly good at focussing 100% on work after returning from those 17-minute breaks.

They channeled their renewed energy 100% toward the work in front of them, making a conscious effort to screen out distractions. They made the most of every 52-minute round.

This notion of total focus for short bursts of time is known by several names: The 100% Method; The Pomodoro Technique, and Purposeful Working.

To make the most of each GMAT study session, and really leverage the energy you get from breaks, you’ll need to shut out distractions as much as possible.

Don’t take “just a moment” to check Facebook or Twitter. Turn off your phone. Shut the curtains if you have to! Tell family and friends you’re off limits till break time.

Total focus for short bursts has been well-proven to help learning and retention. Make this (and the other strategies we listed here) the foundation of your smarter, healthier GMAT study routine—and you’ll hit your target score in no time.

Looking for more GMAT help? Check out our other blog posts, or attend one our free GMAT workshops for study tips, problem-solving techniques, and peer support.

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GMAT Help: 5 Tips to Conquer Sentence Correction

GMAT help

Read time: 5 minutes

Which GMAT topic do you consider the most difficult? Which type of question always sends you running in circles, makes you second-guess your instincts, or just leaves you completely stumped?

For many people, it’s sentence correction. Those long and winding statements, designed to confuse—and those answer options! A  frustrating selection of variants that befuddle your brain and drain your time.

If you dread those tricky SC questions, you’re definitely not alone. In a recent Business Insider story on the toughest GMAT questions, sentence correction ranked #2 in the top 5.

Even if you consider yourself a “Verbal” person, or did a Humanities degree, these trap-laden problems can throw you for a loop.

So what are some techniques students can use to break down and simplify SC problems? Here are 5 tips to keep in mind.

1. Strip away “decorative” elements

The sample sentences you’ll see on the GMAT will be convoluted, long, and wordy. Your first mission is to strip away all of the non-essential elements—the decorative details (adjectives, modifying phrases) that are there to distract and confuse you.

Practice identifying and removing those distractions so you can see the core structure of the sentence, and more easily identify errors.

2. Quickly scan & eliminate answers

The quickest way to waste time on SC questions is to thoroughly read all of the answer options. Instead, quickly scan and sort them into yes, no, and maybe categories.

Identify the “throw-away” response, and begin looking for clues and patterns among the remaining distractors.

As your GMAT prep progresses, you’ll notice that distractors try to trick you in predictable ways. These tactics often include:

  • subject-verb agreement errors
  • comparison errors
  • incorrect modifiers
  • wrong pronoun usage
  • missing verb

With practice, you’ll get faster at spotting these traps within the sample sentence and answer options, thus speeding up your overall SC response time.

3. What if you can’t decide on an answer?

Getting stuck can happen at any point during sentence correction problems. You might feel confused right off the bat, and have trouble following the logic of the sentence.

Or, you may narrow down your answer options to two, and feel unable to make a final decision.

If you’re struggling to understand the original sentence, try swapping in one of the sample responses, and see if that clarifies things.

If you can’t decide between answer options, give yourself a time limit to compare them and settle on a choice. Still stuck? Pick one and move on.

Don’t get trapped in the SC maze by reading the answers over and over again. Part of a smart GMAT strategy is knowing when to say when.

4. Don’t forget to evaluate “style”

Some students get so absorbed in identifying grammatical errors in SC questions, that they forget all about style.

When narrowing down the best answer (or deciding between two final options) be on guard for stylistic blunders, such as redundancy and idiomatic errors.

5. Never rely on instinct alone

Feel you already have a strong grasp of English because you read often, consider yourself articulate, or always did well on essays? Believe your finely tuned ear will help you spot SC errors without much practice?

Careful! GMAT sentence correction questions follow the strict rules of Standard Written English. Trust us, many of these rules will not feel familiar when you meet them on the exam.

You won’t be able to rely on instinct alone when decoding these clunky and complex sentences. Even the correct answer won’t always “sound” right to your ear.

This is because most people don’t actually use perfect grammar—and our popular media certainly doesn’t follow standard rules!

To be successful, you must learn a standardized approach to SC problems. Not sure which approach to adopt? Consider taking an intensive sentence correction GMAT course.

Learn the best techniques, and then continue practicing them on your own.

Looking for more GMAT help to conquer tough Verbal challenges? Consider attending a free Verbal Refresher for tips, tricks, and study advice.

Click here to see a schedule of upcoming free Verbal Refreshers

Need more advanced, comprehensive GMAT help with both Math and Verbal topics?

Click here to explore Quantum’s top-rated GMAT courses here


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Are you Using GMAT Practice Tests Correctly?

GMAT practice


Read time: 5 minutes

Why are GMAT practice tests such an important part of your study strategy?

The answer is fairly obvious: practice tests reveal your strengths and weaknesses, and help build the endurance you’ll need to make it through GMAT exam day.

Less obvious is how best to leverage each practice test experience, so you can actually improve your technique and performance, and ultimately, boost your overall score.

Students can take numerous practice tests and still feel “stuck” with a plateaued score, or persistent difficulties in certain topic areas.

To see real improvements, you’ll need to approach each test strategically, analyze results effectively, and tweak your GMAT prep accordingly. As with all things GMAT-related, you need a smart plan to be successful.

Remember: every simulated exam you do takes up numerous hours of precious study time. Follow these steps to ensure you’re investing this time wisely—and getting the most out of each trial run.

How Many GMAT Practice Tests Should You Take?

This is a question we hear often from students. And it really depends on your score goal. Want a competitive score of 700+? You should aim to take 8-10 practice tests.

This means examining your overall study schedule, and building in time for tests at regular intervals. It’s a good idea to spread the simulations out evenly (say, about twice a month, if you’ve set aside 5-6 months for prep), so you can catch and correct performance problems at every stage.

Simulating the GMAT Exam Day Experience

Do you really need to mimic exam-day conditions when taking GMAT practice tests? Yes—if you want to truly fortify your test-taking skills, and get an accurate assessment of your progress (which is what it’s all about, right?)

Replicating an authentic exam experience means following the official rules, including:

  • sticking to the time allotted for each section (no extra minutes to complete one last problem)


  • removing all study aides from the room, including notes, books, manuals, calculators, and your cell phone


  • taking breaks only as allowed during the exam (you’ll get two breaks, of about 8 minutes each)


  • not using technology during your breaks (no social media, no phone calls, and no television)


  • eating only the kinds of snacks you’ll have available on exam day (note that smoking is not allowed during breaks at the exam centre)


  • wearing the kinds of clothes you’ll have on at the exam (so, probably not pajamas!)


  • taking practice tests during the time of day you’ll be challenging the real exam

Practising with real exam-day constraints is key for building up your mental, physical, and psychological stamina—and reducing unsettling surprises on test day.

Analyzing Your GMAT Practice Tests

How closely are you examining each GMAT practice test you take? Are you focusing mostly on your overall score, or how many questions you got wrong in each topic area?

You’ll need to go far deeper than surface results to get the most out of each simulation. In order to be truly beneficial, your practice test analysis should involve:

  • a close examination of incorrect AND correct answers (always look for ways to improve your process and efficiency, even if you got the answer right)


  • learning why you got an answer wrong (did you rush, read the question wrong, make a calculation error, have to guess?)


  • looking closely at pacing (did you run out of time, finish too early, rush through certain questions, or linger too long on some problems?)

Deeper analysis will help you spot patterns, identity recurring mistakes, and disrupt bad test-taking habits. An extra hour spent reviewing your results can save you significant frustration and wasted time down the road.

Continually Refining Your GMAT Prep

After every GMAT practice test you complete, take a moment to ask yourself two key questions:

  1. How will you put your analysis into practice, and use those insights to improve your GMAT prep strategy?
  2. What goals will you aim to achieve on the next simulation?

You might be working toward improved pacing, or looking to implement a new problem-solving technique. Perhaps you’ll focus on a certain question-type, or aim to improve your score on a particular section of the exam.

Note down your objectives, and make sure you’re adjusting your study plan to meet those goals. Your GMAT strategy should continually evolve to reflect the strengths and weaknesses revealed through each simulation.

If you’re not tweaking your strategy, you’re not using practice tests to your full advantage.

Looking for more free GMAT help, study tips, or practice materials?  We’ve got you covered.

Click here to access free, authentic GMAT practice tests


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3 GMAT Topics Students Struggle With Most (& How to Tackle Them)

GMAT prep

Read time: 5 minutes

Dreading a particular GMAT topic or question-type? Feel you’re destined to perform poorly in a certain subject area?

All test-takers have their strengths and weaknesses. But it’s surprising just how easy it is to fill the gaps, and achieve tremendous improvement, with the right techniques and study strategy.

We’ve seen students who claimed they were irredeemably “bad at math” make incredible strides with the most challenging Quant topics. And the same goes for students with insecurities around reading comprehension and grammar.

Once you have a reliable “attack plan,” you can decode and solve any problem the GMAT throws at you.

This week, we’re looking at three GMAT topics students tend to struggle with most, with some fairly straightforward solutions for how to improve your approach. (This post covers mainly Quant topics, so stay tuned for a follow-up piece on challenging Verbal questions.)

Integrated Reasoning: managing multiple streams of data

Integrated Reasoning (IR) is the newest addition to the GMAT. It was added back in 2012 to make the exam more reflective of real business school, and business world, challenges.

IR problems seem tough because they demand the integration and application of several key competencies: reading comprehension, logical reasoning, math skills, and the ability to interpret multiple streams of data presented in various formats (columns, tables, diagrams, graphs, etc).

One of the biggest challenges students face with IR questions is sorting through all of the available information to identify what the question is really asking, and what steps to take next.

The second obstacle is usually time management. You only have 30 minutes to complete 12 questions, which breaks down to 2.5 minutes per problem. Some IR questions come with several tabs of information plus charts or graphs to analyze, making staying within the 2.5 minute limit quite difficult.

What should students remember when prepping for IR?

  • reading comprehension skills are crucial (you’ll need to practice scanning information so you can quickly pick out the facts that matter most, and avoid getting mired in irrelevant details)


  • the math is no different from what you’ve seen in the Quant section (you won’t need “new” math skills to solve IR problems)


  • there are very specific ways to attack each of the four IR question-types (learn a reliable set of steps for each type to improve your speed and accuracy)


For an overview of IR question-types, and how this section is structured and scored, take a look at GMAT Help: 5 Things to Know About the Integrated Reasoning Section.

Advanced Geometry:  don’t deviate from the “process”

Overall, the primary goal of your GMAT prep should be learning reliable procedures for decoding and solving every kind of problem, across each topic area. In most cases, this means “unlearning” some of the inefficient approaches you’ve used in the past, say back in high school or university.

But old habits are hard to shake. Students often revert to previously learned (or improvised) methods when tackling certain problems. And in our experience, this happens most often with advanced geometry questions.

Students seem to forget process on geometry more than any other topic. Each shape has maximum three pieces of theory that go along with it. This means that for any given shape, the question has to be solvable based on one of those three principles.

Yet, rather than figuring out how the limited theory can apply to the question, students often try to come up with some other random solution methodology—an approach that invariably results in errors and wastes precious time.

Remember: once you’ve learned a set of reliable problem-solving techniques, stick with them. Don’t deviate from those processes during GMAT practice, so by the time exam day comes, they’ll be second nature.

Probability: it’s much simpler than you think

Many students say that out of all the GMAT topics, they dread probability questions the most. Having to predict the likelihood of events seems hopelessly complex to many test-takers—but the truth is, determining probability is far simpler than you think.

Once again, it all comes down to the strategy you use to tackle these problems. Students are always surprised to learn that, despite their differences, every probability question on the GMAT can be mapped out the exact same way and has the same solution methodology.

It’s an advanced, higher level topic that, if you follow a good process, is incredibly easy.

What’s the final takeaway for tackling challenging GMAT problems?

There is a proven methodology for deconstructing and solving every single type of GMAT question. At no point should you be left to your own devices, and forced to find “creative” solutions.

Take the time to learn and practice the right techniques, and you’ll immediately feel more confident across all GMAT topic areas—and far closer to achieving your target score.

Need some extra help learning attack strategies for certain Quant or Verbal topics? Looking for general GMAT help across all subject areas?

Quantum provides a wide variety of courses and workshops, designed to support students at every stage of GMAT test prep. To date, we’ve prepared over 10,000 successful MBA students in the GTA, and achieved the highest score improvements in Canada!

Click below to learn more about our unique approach, discounts offers, and free course repeat policy.

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GMAT Help: Top Reasons Students Under-perform on Exam Day

GMAT help

Read time: 5 minutes

How is it possible that some students work incredibly hard at GMAT prep for months, read all the study guides, and do hundreds of practice questions—and then end up with a terribly disappointing score on exam day?

This is a worst case scenario for many reasons: wasted time, loss of confidence, a significantly weakened B-school application…and of course, having to take the test all over again!

So why do hard working, intelligent test-takers under-perform on the GMAT? And how can you protect yourself from the same downfall?

Start with an honest appraisal of your study plan. If you’ve already scored low, these are the five most likely reasons why.

Still in the midst of prep, but feeling “stuck?” This list may show you where you’re veering off course.

1. Your GMAT prep didn’t cover every topic

It’s hard to believe, but a great many students simply underestimate the full scope of the GMAT. They either skim over certain topics because they feel strong in those areas—or they rely on a prep course that sacrifices thoroughness for brevity.

Far too many GMAT classes promise comprehensive prep in just 20 -50 hours, when it’s impossible to cover all topic areas adequately within such a small time frame.

Did you encounter topics on exam day that you simply didn’t prep for? Or only vaguely remember?

Thorough GMAT prep demands nothing short of 100 hours of study, best served up as one or two hours of daily practice. Think back to your approach. How consistently did you study? Which Quant or Verbal topics did you neglect?

2. You missed out on essential problem-solving strategies

Did you rely on previously learned problem-solving methods while prepping for the GMAT? Perhaps you used techniques that worked well for you on university or high school exams?

On the surface, this sounds like a great shortcut. Unfortunately, the GMAT is not like other tests you’ve taken, so using conventional methods tends to backfire.

This exam has its own unique question-types and challenges, and you need very specific strategies for tackling each one—and avoiding cleverly laid traps.

The right set of “attack plans” will help you break down and solve tough questions efficiently and accurately. Without specialized techniques, you’re far more likely to second-guess yourself, get stuck, panic, and make avoidable errors.

3. Your weak points were never identified or addressed

One of the biggest keys to successful GMAT prep is identifying weaknesses early on, and finding ways to close those gaps prior to the exam.

The only way to achieve this is by carefully analyzing your performance on practice tests and question sets. It all begins with taking a mock GMAT exam, before you even start studying.

The mock reveals your baseline score, natural strengths and weaknesses, and will help you set a realistic target score.

From there, you can seek out GMAT help where you need it most, and track your progress toward your goal. Ongoing analysis will help you target and address problem areas, and continue to hone your strengths.

If a low score has caught you by surprise, it’s very likely that your weaknesses were never identified or addressed—and you primarily studied topics that aligned with your natural strengths.

Need help analyzing your GMAT practice results? Check out this post, 5 Tips for Better GMAT Practice Test Analysis.

4. You struggled with pacing problems

Did you have trouble finishing the Quant and/or Verbal section of the GMAT? Or, did you complete the exam before most of the other candidates?

A number of factors can contribute to pacing problems on the GMAT, but perhaps the biggest culprit is lack of self-awareness. You can only know how you’ll react on test day by taking as many simulated exams as possible—and analyzing your response times.

Using a timer during practice tests is helpful, as is taking several formal mock exams (which are totally free).

Students need to know if they tend to rush through certain questions, or linger where they shouldn’t—and how to address those issues—well in advance of exam day.

5. You experienced exam day anxiety

In many cases, exam day anxiety is a product of under-preparedness. While lack of preparation is usually not intentional, it will nonetheless manifest itself in a number of score-crunching ways—like rushing, forgetting important strategies, lack of concentration, or simply “freezing up” and being unable to proceed.

But even if you’ve struggled with test anxiety in the past, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a low GMAT score. There are practical techniques for diffusing stress well before it derails your performance on exam day.

Take a look at this post for proven techniques: GMAT Prep & Math Anxiety: Helpful Tips for Defeating the Beast.

Need some more GMAT help? Looking for ways to sharpen your study strategy, or just can’t understand why you scored low on the exam?

Drop us a line, or give us a call.

Quantum has prepared over 10,000 successful MBA students in the GTA, and we’re proud to have achieved the highest GMAT score improvements in Canada. Find out how we can help you.

Click here to learn more about Quantum’s GMAT Courses

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

GMAT prep

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.

See upcoming GMAT info sessions in Toronto and Montreal

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.

see upcoming free GMAT mock exams in Toronto & Montreal

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.

learn more about getting a free personal assessment and GMAT strategy session

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.

see a list of free math or verbal GMAT workshops near you

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!

Need more information? Check out our blog, drop us a line, or leave us a comment. We’re here to help!


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GMAT Help: 5 Things to Know About the Integrated Reasoning (IR) Section

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Read time: 5 minutes

What should you expect from the GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning (IR) section? What kinds of questions will you face, and what competencies are being measured?

Like the rest of the exam, IR questions are designed to test skills you’ll need during your MBA and throughout your business career.

IR problems are a natural extension of the concepts you will study for the Quant and Verbal sections. In other words, you will need to integrate and apply those critical reasoning, reading comprehension, and quantitative skills to analyze data and solve complex problems.

In this post, we focus on 5 things test-takers should know about the IR section, and how these questions relate to practical workplace skills.

1. Structure, length, and score value of the IR section

Students have 30 minutes to complete the Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT. The section consists of 12 questions, and is non-adaptive—meaning the difficulty level of the questions will not change according to your performance.

The top score for IR is an eight, and is tallied separately from the rest of the exam. So, you will have an overall GMAT score for the Quant and Verbal sections (out of a possible 800), and separate scores for Analytical Writing and Integrated Reasoning.

We’ll talk more about how your IR score could impact your B-school application a bit later in the post.

2. There are 4 kinds of IR questions on the GMAT

The 12 IR questions on the GMAT break down into four main question-types. Each one asks you to sift through and interpret data in different ways, using different kinds of sources:

Graphic Interpretation

You’ll need to analyze information presented in a graph or chart, and answer two questions using a drop-down menu. There are usually three possible answer choices for each dropdown menu.

The types of graphics you may encounter include venn diagrams, pie charts, scatterplots, line graphs, and bar charts.

Table Analysis

You’ll be presented with a spreadsheet-type table, and will need to sort and analyze its contents in order to answer a series of questions. Each question will have two possible answers (for example, yes/no, true/false, inferable/not inferable).

Multi-Source Reasoning

You’ll navigate between three tabs, each containing different information on a subject. You must sort through the information and determine which data is needed to answer the questions. Multi-source reasoning may draw on both critical reasoning and quantitative skills.

Two-Part Analysis

You’ll be presented with two columns, and will need to select an answer from each column to solve a problem with a two part solution. Two-part analysis questions may be quant or verbal-oriented, and often account for four of the 12 IR questions you’ll encounter on the GMAT.

3.  IR answer formats and rules

The way answers are displayed in the IR section is a little different from the Quant and Verbal format. Answers may appear in drop-down menus, and most questions require several responses.

It’s important to note that no partial credit is awarded for IR problems. If a single question requires several answers, you must get all of them correct to receive full marks.

Also, you’ll need to submit answers to all parts of each question before you can move on to the next screen. And once you’ve entered your answers and moved on, you won’t be allowed to go back and make changes.

4. IR questions focus on skills considered crucial in business

While some of the Quant and Verbal problems you’ll drill during GMAT prep may seem a bit abstract, the IR section is often considered the most “realistic” part of the exam.

Integrated reasoning is something you’ll do every day at business school and on-the-job, as you sort through information, make sense of multiple streams of data, and extrapolate outcomes.

Now that we’ve moved into the era of “big data”, where virtually everything is tracked and measured, the ability to work with and make sense of all that data has become paramount in business. This is what’s being tested on the IR section of the GMAT.

5. Your IR score is increasingly important for B-school admissions

When the Integrated Reasoning section was added to the GMAT back in June, 2012, B-schools weren’t quite sure how the scores would impact admissions decisions.

But now that several years have passed, and more data has been accumulated on how IR performance correlates with business success, schools have begun placing more emphasis on your IR score.

2015 survey of 200 admission officers in the US and UK revealed that 59% consider the separate IR score “an important part of their evaluation of a prospective student’s overall GMAT score.” That’s up from 41% just one year before.

Of course, the degree of emphasis varies by school—but it’s safe to say that your IR result matters much more now than it did five years ago. The score may not “make or break” your application, but it can be a key factor in positioning yourself as a competitive, well-rounded candidate.

Looking for more information about the GMAT exam structure, question-types, or general GMAT help?

Click here for a list of upcoming, free GMAT information sessions.

Interested in attending a free GMAT workshop on Integrated Reasoning?

Click here for upcoming, free “Integrated Reasoning Demystified” workshops in Toronto and Montreal.



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What to Expect from a 100 Hour GMAT Prep Course: Score Gains & Study Strategy

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Read time: 5 minutes

“How long do I need to study to achieve the highest possible GMAT score?”

This is quite possibly the most common question we hear from prospective business school students.

Of course, the temptation is to choose a 25-48 hour GMAT bootcamp; a course you can squeeze in between work, family, and other responsibilities. But if you need a truly comprehensive review, and solid exam strategies, will a weekend or two really be enough?

A quick online search will confirm what some test-takers already know: it takes at least 100 prep hours to achieve a GMAT score of 600 or more.  So what does 100 hours of GMAT training look like, and is there any real proof that studying longer produces higher scores?

In this post, we get to the bottom of both questions by breaking down the structure and curriculum of a 100 hour GMAT prep course (using Quantum’s program as an example). Then, we’ll take a look at some compelling evidence that proves longer prep truly does enhance GMAT performance.

100 Hour GMAT Prep Dives Deep into the 4 Main Content Areas

What is the most significant difference between a shorter GMAT prep course (under 50 hours) and a 100 hour course? Short courses can cover only general strategies and commonly tested topics. By contrast, 100 hours of training allows for a complete review of virtually every question type and topic, plus a wide range of test-taking strategies. Nothing is left to chance. Here’s a  look at what to expect from each 25 hour module of a 100 hour course:

Module 1 – Foundational Math (25hr)

This section focuses on math fundamentals you probably haven’t seen since high school. Students can expect a refresher on key concepts like exponent and root theory, order of operations, lines and angles, and divisibility rules. Then you’ll move on to more challenging concepts and problems in arithmetic, algebra, and geometry—and learn specific strategies for recognizing and approaching a wide selection of foundational math question types.

Module 2 – Intermediate Math (25hr)

This module covers the GMAT’s two main intermediate math topics: data sufficiency and word problems. Many students struggle with data sufficiency because it’s a question format unique to the GMAT. And since 40-50% of all math questions on the exam are related to data sufficiency, much of this module is spent coaching students on the most effective strategies for breaking down and resolving these problems.

Module 3 – Advanced Math (25hr)

The advanced math module delves into statistics, exponents and roots, and integrated reasoning. Statistics is currently the least weighted section of the GMAT, but it’s also the fastest growing. In this section, students learn specialized techniques and tools for tackling permutations and combinations, probability, standard deviation, factorials, and more. Next they cover multiple exponent and root rules, and master some of the most complex and challenging math questions on the entire GMAT. Finally, students are led through the four main integrative reasoning (IR) question types on the exam: table analysis, graphics interpretation, multi-source reasoning, and two-part analysis.

By the end of these 75 hours, you’ve seen, studied, and practiced virtually every math problem the GMAT will throw at you.

Module 4 – Comprehensive Verbal (25hr)

These final 25 hours of prep are spent reviewing and practicing the three main verbal question types on the GMAT: sentence correlation, critical reasoning, and reading comprehension. You’ll learn a standardized technique, process, or approach to each question type, at every level of difficulty. Topics include grammar rules, sentence correction, idioms, and argument theory.

Does Longer GMAT Training = Higher Test Scores?

So it’s clear that a 100 hour GMAT prep course covers a great deal of ground, and in very fine detail. But is there any real proof that studying for longer actually yields a higher GMAT score?  Is there an “ideal” study time for this exam? A few years ago, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) set out to answer this question, and turned up some very compelling data.

In 2014, GMAC surveyed 4,271 GMAT test takers about their study habits and score outcomes.  They found a distinct correlation between longer GMAT training and higher scores. One hundred or more hours of training consistently yielded scores between 600-700+.

GMAT prep course

While GMAC emphasizes that each student is unique, and will approach exam prep somewhat differently, it’s hard to ignore the clear link between 100+ study hours and higher scores. To push students over the 100 hour study mark, we often recommend an additional 10 hours of individual tutoring. One-to-one coaching is tremendously helpful for filling any lingering learning gaps and boosting confidence before the exam.

Are you interested in learning more about 100 hour GMAT prep in your area— or need general information about the preparation and test-taking process?

Click here to see a list of free GMAT workshops, mock exams, and information sessions in your area.

Looking for personalized GMAT help so you can create a study plan that meets your specific needs? Start with a free assessment. Learn your baseline score and how to increase it.

Click here to learn how you can get an insightful GMAT assessment with no cost or obligation.