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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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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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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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GMAT Prep: 3 Study Habits You Should Start “Unlearning” Right Now

GMAT prep


Read time: 3 minutes

What are your go-to study tactics? What rituals do you perform when prepping for tests?

These are probably habits you began forming very early on—as far back as elementary school—when you took your first quizzes and standardized exams.

It makes sense to fall back on these approaches when faced with yet another high-stakes test, like the GMAT. You should go with what’s worked in the past, right?

Not exactly. The GMAT is a very different beast. To do well on this exam, you’ll need to re-think some of those comfortable old study habits, and adopt a more sophisticated, strategic approach.

These are 3 habits to “unlearn” right from day one!

1. Last-minute Cramming

Hoping to earn a competitive 700+ score on the GMAT? How many study hours do you think it will take to hit that goal?

The folks at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) got to the bottom of this question by surveying over 4,000 test-takers on how long they studied for the GMAT, and their final results.

GMAC found a distinct correlation between longer study and higher scores. Students who devoted 120+ hours to GMAT prep were more likely to achieve scores of 700 and above.

These findings line up with what we’ve seen at Quantum over the last 15 years of coaching students. Slow and steady prep, spread out over 3-6 months, consistently yields the best results.

If you want a top score, we recommend making time for:

  • 150-200 hours of GMAT prep
  • 1500-2000 practice questions
  • 8-10 practice GMAT exams

Obviously, these are not goals you can hit over a few weekend marathon study sessions. Last-minute cramming may have worked well for you on other kinds of tests—but the unique challenges and escalating difficulty of GMAT questions demand a far more measured approach.

Bottom line? Plan to study several times a week for at least 3 months.

See this post for tips on how to structure your GMAT study sessions for maximum efficiency

2. Going After the “Easiest” Marks

Remember back in high school, or during your undergrad, when you would sometimes hedge your bets, and study only part of the material tested on an exam?

You’d go after the easiest grades—focus your efforts on the topics you knew best, and calculate which questions you could safely “bomb” without lowering your grade too much.

This approach might have worked on some tests, but if you’re aiming to do really well on the GMAT, you’ll have to forget about taking shortcuts.

Each of the GMAT sections—Quant, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, and AWA —are scored separately, and every B-school admissions team has their own method of weighing your performance in each area.

It’s about more than your overall score. You’ll want to do your best in every section, which means targeting your weak areas and continuing to improve on your strengths.

Bottom line? Prioritizing certain topics over others, and not spreading GMAT prep equally over all question-types, is one of the top reasons students underperform on exam day.

See this post for other common reasons students score low on the GMAT

3. Rote Learning & Memorization

Rote learning is one of the oldest study tricks out there. It’s a teaching technique found in classrooms all over the world, and students have relied on it for centuries to learn new things quickly.

Rote learning goes hand-in-hand with last-minute cramming. We’re talking about memorizing vast amounts of information, and drilling yourself on it, right before a big test.

On exam day, you “spit out” everything you memorized—and then promptly forget 90% of it forever.

Why won’t this study tactic work for the GMAT?

For starters, the GMAT tests more than factual knowledge and formulae. It tests your ability to analyze and think critically, and to apply what you know to increasingly difficult problems.

Simply “drilling” practice questions won’t do the trick. You’ll need to carefully analyze your performance at every stage of GMAT prep, pick out weak spots, and adapt your study plan to strengthen those weaknesses.

A certain amount of memorization is helpful, particularly with standard problem-solving steps and procedures—but mindless repetition won’t be enough to hone your ability to apply those steps  in the most effective and efficient ways.

Bottom line? You’ll need to approach GMAT prep purposefully, re-working your approach as you go, and staying alert to traps and pitfalls.

See this post on 5 ways to analyze your GMAT practice tests & improve performance

Looking for more help to avoid typical prep mistakes and map out a smart GMAT study plan?

Need support in a certain topic area? We’ve got you covered:

Click here to explore our FREE monthly workshops, mock exams, and personal assessments.

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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.

Click Here for a Schedule of Totally Free GMAT Events


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The 4 Elements of a Smart GMAT Study Plan

GMAT study


Read time: 5 minutes

What goes into a really effective GMAT study plan? How does an extremely busy person, or someone who’s been out of school for years, increase their chances of a high score on exam day?

For the most part, success starts well before you’ve even cracked open your first set of practice questions. It begins with forming a carefully thought-out strategy you can count on, and stick to, right up to the exam.

What should that study plan include? After working with more than 10,000 successful MBA students, we can confidently say that these 4 elements matter most.

1. Reliable GMAT study resources

Authentic, comprehensive study materials are crucial for GMAT success. This includes everything from a general overview of exam structure, content, and test-taking procedure— to very specific problem-solving techniques, and high quality practice questions.

Some students try to “cobble together” study materials from various sources, some of which may be outdated, poor in quality, or simply incomplete.

It’s really important to do your research, and collect the most reliable tools and informational resources, right from day one.

Pro tip

If possible, take a quality  GMAT course to access authentic practice tests, study guides, and proven problem-solving techniques for every single topic and question-type.

Reliable courses provide students with everything they’ll need to prep for the exam. You won’t have to spend time hunting down additional resources, or testing out new approaches to tough questions (which may or may not be effective).

2. A personalized, evolving GMAT study strategy

There is no “one size fits all” GMAT study plan. Every individual has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, confidence level, study habits, score goal, etc.

Your strategy should reflect your specific needs, and most importantly, should evolve as you do.

These are the initial steps of a personalized, evolving GMAT strategy:

  1. Take a mock exam to identify your baseline score
  2. Thoroughly analyze your mock exam results to identify strengths and weaknesses
  3. Map out a score goal based on your performance
  4. Build in time for plenty of practice tests: to track progress, catch weaknesses, and continuously re-target your approach

Rather not do this on your own?

Quantum offers one free hour of assessment and study planning to anyone who has taken a mock GMAT exam. An expert GMAT instructor analyzes your mock, and helps you map out a personalized plan.

There’s no charge or commitment whatsoever. It’s well worth one hour of your time!

Click here to learn more about getting a free GMAT assessment

3. A realistic timeline & study schedule

Planning out a feasible GMAT study schedule really is worth the time and effort. Far too many students set aside inadequate time for prep, are forced to skip over key material, end up scoring low on exam day—and have to start all over again!

What do we recommend?

Take a look at your mock exam performance, and sketch out a preliminary timeline that reflects your score goal , current skill level, and life circumstances. Don’t just randomly select a “done by” date without considering your individual needs.

Some good rules of thumb to follow include:

  1. Set aside a minimum of 3 months for prep (aim for 6 if you work full time, have children, or both)
  2. Avoid weekend cramming: you’ll need to study 4-5 times a week to build up the test-taking skills needed to really nail the exam
  3. Take advantage of GMAT study apps: squeeze extra moments of prep into your commute, lunch break, etc. (20 minutes a day works out to 10 extra hours a month!)

Check out this post on top-rated GMAT apps to compare features and narrow down your options.

4. A solid GMAT support system

If you talk with successful test-takers, you’ll discover that in most cases, there was a team of people behind their high score.

That team may include family, partners, close friends, GMAT veterans, test prep instructors—or some combination of the above.

Most people need both academic and emotional support, to help them stay on track, build new skills, and get through the long months of studying.

These are two key ways to cultivate a strong GMAT support system:

  1. Attend free events to connect with experts and fellow test-takers. There are many, totally free GMAT workshops, info sessions, and refreshers out there.

Sign up, get expert advice, and start connecting with your local GMAT community.

See a schedule of free GMAT events in Montreal & the GTA

  1. Tell your family, friends, and boss that you’re planning to challenge the GMAT. You will be less available in the coming months, may need some extra help, and possibly some days off work.

Keep your “important people” in the loop, so they’ll know what you’re up against and can offer support.

Think you’re ready to move forward with GMAT prep?

Start by booking that mock exam. See upcoming mock exam dates right here.

Have questions? Leave a comment below, or just give us a call. We’re here to help!

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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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Tackling the GMAT Over Age 30: Challenges, Advantages, Study Tips

GMAT study

Recently, a member of the popular GMAT forum,, wrote in to share his fears about prepping for the exam as a “mature” student (at the time, the author was 43 years old).

His doubts will sound familiar to many older B-school hopefuls:

I am 43 years old, and returning to B school after getting laid off in the finance world. I honestly have not taken a standardized test since the paper based SATs and GREs 20 years ago. Do 40 year-olds take the GMAT? How do they approach studying?

Fellow GMAT Club members were quick to respond with messages of support and encouragement. They conceded that yes, GMAT prep can be difficult as one gets older—but being a mature student also comes with important advantages.

Here are a few points to consider about the ups and downs of GMAT study over 30, plus a few ways to make life easier leading up to the exam.

Typical Challenges for Older GMAT Contenders

Let’s get some of the potential obstacles out of the way first. There is indeed some data that suggests GMAT performance decreases with age; that our ability to learn new information dwindles as we get older.

Test-takers over 30 often say it’s harder to memorize vast swaths of information now than it was in their twenties. Or that retaining new concepts has become more difficult.

Other typical challenges for GMAT challengers in their thirties and forties include:

  • balancing GMAT study with the obligations of an advanced career, and a growing family
  • battling fatigue, particularly when it comes to long stretches of GMAT prep
  • feeling under confident (compared to freshly graduated, younger competitors)

The Advantages of Being an Older GMAT Contender

Whether the challenges are real or imagined, many older GMAT contenders approach the exam with trepidation.  But as forum contributors are quick to point out, age can offer test-takers some considerable advantages as well.

For example, if you’re over age 30 and planning to take the GMAT, you are probably aiming for a career upgrade, or heading in a new professional direction. You have already invested considerable time and energy carving out your career path. You may have a family depending on your success.

In other words, you have “skin in the game.” You are particularly motivated to earn a top score, the first time around. This motivation will help balance out any deficits in concentration or energy.

In fact, many older GMAT test-takers emphasize how much their self-discipline has increased with age—along with better time-management skills and overall follow-through.

Several forum contributors say their real-world experience helps them absorb information and grasp complex ideas more thoroughly. Others report they’re more patient learners now than they were at 20.

Sheer determination seems to tip the balance for older test-takers. You might need a bit more prep time than a comparatively care-free, younger challenger, but perseverance is the deciding factor at any age.

GMAT Study Tips for Older, Busier Test-takers

If you’re feeling under confident or really pressed for time, there are several practical ways you can boost your morale and optimize your GMAT prep. These include:

  • attending a free GMAT information session, to get an overview of what the exam entails and how best to approach studying
  • enrolling in a GMAT course, to sharpen your test-taking skills, dust off the cobwebs, and learn targeted problem-solving strategies
  • joining an online community of fellow test-takers (like to share concerns, get support, and stay motivated
  • creating a daily study schedule, to avoid lengthy weekend cram sessions (which will tax your stamina and capacity for retention)
  • taking a mock GMAT exam BEFORE you start studying, to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and devise an streamlined, highly targeted study plan

For more advice, take a look at this post on GMAT study tips for exceptionally busy people.

Or, browse this post on how to select the right GMAT course for your needs and score goals.

Want to learn more about GMAT study strategies, or how to begin prepping for the exam as a mature student? Drop us a line or give us a call. We’re here to help!



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GMAT Prep for Very Busy People: Save Time, Study Smart

GMAT prep

Read time: 5 minutes

Planning to take the GMAT but have no idea how you’ll schedule prep around your full-time work schedule? Worried about juggling study time with family responsibilities?

This is a very common struggle, particularly for professionals with demanding jobs who have been out of school for a number of years. Getting back into “study mode” is difficult enough, without factoring serious time constraints into the equation.

While there’s no magical “short cut” to an amazing GMAT score, there are definitely a few strategies busy people can use to squeeze more study time into their packed schedules.

Start with these four key ways to save time—and study smarter.

Start GMAT prep early!

People who are really pressed for time usually end up postponing GMAT prep until the last possible moment. Unfortunately, the longer you wait, the harder it will be to master the material in time for the exam.

Skimping on prep, or attempting to cram right before the exam, almost always results in a disappointing score. And then students have to begin all over again, overhaul their study strategy, and challenge the exam a second (or third!) time.

If you want a competitive GMAT score, you’ll need to work through 1500 to 2000 practice questions, study for 150 to 200hrs, and complete approximately 8 to 10 practice exams.

Depending on your personal learning style and speed, this could mean you begin prepping six months (or more) before the exam. Spread out over a longer period, slow and steady GMAT study is easier to accommodate, and far more effective.

Take a GMAT mock exam to focus your study strategy

What’s the most efficient way to kickoff studying for the GMAT? Taking a mock exam.

Many busy people are tempted to skip the mock exam, or figure they’ll take it later, once they’ve studied a little. But in the end, this approach will only set you back.

The mock exam is key for saving time and studying smarter. It reveals your baseline starting score, and specific strengths or areas of improvement. You need this information to map out a study plan, know precisely where to focus your efforts, and set a realistic score goal.

Plus, once you’ve taken the mock, you are automatically eligible for a free assessment and strategy coaching session with a GMAT instructor.

Quantum gives away one-hour personalized GMAT assessment sessions to anyone who has completed a mock exam. An instructor analyzes your performance, helps map out a study plan that fits your learning needs, and connects you with reliable GMAT resources. This is a major time-saver—and it’s free!

You can learn more about Quantum’s Free Personal Assessment right here.

Use a GMAT app to squeeze in extra study time

Commute to work on the bus or train each day? Find yourself with some down time between meetings or over lunch?

Get yourself a GMAT app to capitalize on those free moments throughout the day.  You’d be amazed by how much extra study time you can squeeze in. A mere 20 minutes a day totals 10 extra hours of prep per month!

Plus, good quality apps actually make learning fun with daily quizzes, analytics to track your progress, ways to compete with your peers, and other motivating features.

If you’d like a quick round-up of some popular options, this list of top-rated GMAT apps is a great place to start.

Consider a GMAT course to accelerate learning

While a professional GMAT course does require a considerable financial investment, the training can be truly invaluable for people who are too busy to prep on their own.

Self-study requires many hours of gathering the right resources, teaching yourself the best techniques for a wide variety of topics and question-types, and analyzing your practice tests to understand where more work is needed.

And still, after all the time invested, you may not learn the most efficient test-taking skills, or manage to cover all topic areas thoroughly. A high quality, comprehensive GMAT course (100 hours or more) does all of that for you—and highly efficiently, over the course of a few weekends.

When comparing options, look for a test prep company that offers a “free course repeat” option. You’ll be allowed to re-take your GMAT course as many times as needed, within a certain time frame after enrollment (Quantum allows students to repeat courses unlimitedly within 6 months of their initial course registration date).

This way, you get the most out of your investment, gain expert help where you need it most, and waste zero time on inefficient self-study methods.

And there you have it! Four ways to maximize your study time, and achieve your highest possible GMAT score—even with a very busy schedule.

Need more support?

Click here to browse free GMAT resources that will help you with every stage of exam prep


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GMAT Study Strategy for Non-native English Speakers: 4 Key Steps

GMAT study

Read time: 5 minutes

Not sure your English is advanced enough to tackle the GMAT? Concerned about performing well on the verbal sections of the exam?

On the one hand, you might have stronger skills than you realize. Where native speakers learn English “by ear”, non-native speakers often study the building blocks of English first—like the parts of speech and grammar rules. Your knowledge of structure could help you do well on the GMAT’s Sentence Correction questions.

On the other hand, reading comprehension and critical reasoning may be weak spots for you, due to a limited vocabulary, and lack of experience reading complex English texts.

In the months leading up to the exam, there are several ways you can strengthen your performance across all of these areas.

With the right strategies and consistent practice, non-native English speakers can achieve a competitive verbal score. Here are four steps to get started.

1. Attend a Free Verbal Refresher at a B-School Near You

Before you create a GMAT study plan, ensure you know exactly what kinds of questions will appear on the verbal sections of the exam.

Look for a free GMAT verbal refresher class, most likely held at a business school near you. Quantum partners with B-schools to run free verbal workshops on a regular basis. They are designed to help students understand the verbal skills they must learn to successfully challenge the exam.

The verbal refresher will provide an overview of GMAT verbal topics and question types. An experienced GMAT instructor will explain the rules of usage and principles of composition most often violated on the exam.

This is an excellent way to understand what you’re up against, and start identifying your own verbal strengths and weaknesses.

See a list of upcoming GMAT Verbal Refreshers

2. Read, Talk & Think in English Every Day

Immersing yourself in the English language is an important key to improving your verbal skills. Immersion means talking, reading, and even thinking in English as often as possible.

An excellent first step is to set daily goals for reading in English. Challenge yourself to read one short story, essay, or news article each day.

Talk about what you’ve read, in English, with a friend or colleague. Discuss the subject or argument, offer your own point of view, and ask your friends what they think.

This is the ideal way to study idioms, structure, argumentation, and new vocabulary in context—rather than simply memorizing concepts from a study guide or grammar book.

Plus, daily reading practice will dramatically improve your reading comprehension in English, which is crucial for performing well on both the verbal and quant sections of the GMAT.

Not sure where to look for quality material? Try publications like The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Economist for articles and essays on a wide range of topics, including politics, business, technology, culture, and international news.

3. Keep Your Dictionary Close: Never Ignore an Unknown Word

On the popular GMAT forum,, one non-native English speaker shared the study techniques she used to boost her exam score from 460 to 760. In particular, she emphasized the importance of using a dictionary:

it is important to have a dictionary with you when studying, especially for the verbal part. Do not ignore any unknown word; check the meaning from a dictionary for any such word. Do that even when you don’t remember the meaning of the word the second time you see it. This helped me a lot, especially for Critical Reasoning questions when knowing the meaning of a single word can make a significant difference…

It’s a good idea to make a list of the new words you have learned, and use flashcards to test yourself. But don’t stop there. Whenever possible, challenge yourself to use those new words while speaking, writing, and thinking in English.

4. Consider a Verbal GMAT Course for Extra Support

Self-study can be especially challenging for non-native English speakers. Finding the best study materials and collecting authentic practice questions is time consuming. Figuring out which strategies work best for different verbal questions is tricky, and analyzing your performance after practice tests can be particularly difficult.

One of the top advantages of a professional Verbal GMAT course is getting personalized help from an expert instructor. Courses generally take place over two or three days, and review every aspect of each verbal section: Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension.

All of the study materials and practice questions are provided. And most importantly, students learn proven strategies for approaching and solving each verbal question type.

Of course, it is possible to prepare for the GMAT without taking a course—but the extra support and guidance can offer a real strategic advantage (and confidence boost) to non-native English speakers.

Looking for more information on GMAT prep? Want to take a free verbal or math refresher, trial class, or enroll in a GMAT Workshop?

Click here for a list of free GMAT events and resources

Check out Quantum’s Comprehensive Verbal GMAT Course