Five Ways to Beat the GMAT

Tips for Training Smarter, Not Just Harder

For some, taking the GMAT is not a big deal. You do what you need to. You just bite the bullet and get it done. For others—as we’ve seen particularly with candidates for part-time programs—it can be a barrier to your MBA path. Knowing that the exam can be immensely anxiety-provoking.

Don’t let this test get in the way of you getting into a high-caliber program.

To calm those fears and prepare yourself for this voyage, our admissions team has collected a few tried and true tips to share with you:

Take Practice Tests

Go to and create a profile. This gives you access to two free practice tests. Take one in its entirety to give you a baseline score. Data from this helps inform the rest of your decisions on how to prepare.

You may find your scores are already where you need them to be and it’s time to just jump into the GMAT. Some will need to study for one to three months ahead of time, while others may find they need to invest in a math tutor or a GMAT prep company.

Looking at the entire picture, your application and your undergraduate record may be strong enough that the GMAT scores are less critical.

Research shows on average those who take a practice test do better on the exam than those who don’t. You gain a familiarity with the exam, resulting in a better understanding of what’s being asked of you. And those who take two practice tests, statistically score slightly better than those who took just one.

Reach Out to a Rep

When checking out a school like UC Davis, grab an information packet and see if you can schedule a personal consultation with a school representative.

They’ll want to know your overall GMAT scores, as well as the raw scores. They combine that with your undergraduate record—where you went, your classes, your grades—and your career goals. With those factors in mind, they should give you an idea of how to move forward.

At UC Davis we have arranged discounted rates with prep companies, for those who choose to go that route. And if you become a student here, you’re eligible for a grant to cover your test prep course.

There are multiple GMAT prep companies, and we have a list of those providing discounts. Free resources are also available, including Khan Academy.

Train Like an Athlete

Think of the GMAT like a marathon for your brain. Start your prep with short training sessions during the week and increasingly longer ones on the weekend to build up endurance. The test is in part about knowing the content, but also about having what it takes to sustain your focus over the course of the two to three and a half hours it takes to do the test.

Try to simulate the actual environment. Olympic athletes train in the same way they’re going to be competing. And that’s what you’ll be doing on the weekends. Practice at the same time of day that you plan to take the real GMAT, to get your body into the pattern. Get used to behaving in that manner so you’re ready for it on the actual test day.

Quant First

You get to choose whether to tackle your quantitative or your verbal section first. I would highly recommend quants first. That’s the portion that many admissions committees (including ours) will look at first. This is a key indicator of how you’ll do in your first year of core classes. So do that while you’re fresh. But remember that you will want to perform well across the entirety of the exam.

Record, Record, Record

Whatever you do, record your scores when you finish your test. Let the admissions committee decide how good of a candidate you are. Don’t let what you think may not be your best score keep you from applying. You may not be aware of all of the factors they are taking into account. If you cancel the scores, it’s like you never did anything. Also, here at UC Davis, we will look at your highest score and also consider your motivation in putting forward the strongest application.

Reach out to us to continue the conversation about our programs and what they can do for you. And meet our admissions team at our upcoming events, held around the world.

This blog was originally published on 9/26/2017 and updated on 9/29/2021.