How Difficult is the GMAT, Really?

So we all know the GMAT is a “hard” exam, but just how hard is it supposed to be? Less hard than climbing Mt. Everest? Well, it depends what type of climber you are.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed about the GMAT and are hesitant about whether to even get started, let’s face a few home truths that will hopefully leave you feeling encouraged!

You are already a standardized test athlete.

You’ve been tested and tested and tested throughout your entire academic career, from reciting your ABC’s in kindergarten to memorizing the multiplication tables in 2nd grade, on to prepping for the SAT and ACT, and taking college finals. If you have earned an undergraduate degree, you’ve got 16+ years of test-taking under your belt. Even if they were never “your thing,” the experience is there. It’s just a question of getting back into fighting shape.

You’ve seen most of this content before.

It’s pretty much impossible to get to college without taking algebra and geometry, which are the primary Quant areas the GMAT tests. Yes you’ll have to do a lot of content review, but it is guaranteed that you’ll be looking at things you’ve seen before, even if it’s been years since you set foot in a Math class. Do you speak and read English natively? Congrats – you’ll probably get most of the easy Sentence Correction questions correct right off the bat!

The GMAT only tests how well you know the GMAT.

Suck at standardized tests? Scored poorly on the SAT and ACT? Here’s how you can turn it around: know every nook and cranny of the GMAT. The GMAT is not an “IQ” test – anyone can succeed who can (1) memorize, (2) practice with consistency and discipline, and (3) focus for extended periods of time. If you are human, your brain can do all 3 of those things (amazing!).

Okay…but what about those REALLY hard questions…

The GMAT is “hard” for EVERYONE because it adapts. Knowing this, your goal in your prep will be to take on easier concepts first, then medium-level concepts, then finally harder concepts. There’s really no “over-preparing” – you just have to do the best you can with the time you’ve been given (a lesson for life, too!) and continue to push yourself to the next level. Even a test-taker aiming at a 760 score may spend days studying a concept like advanced Sequences, only to see no questions on that topic come Test Day.

A great score on the GMAT is achievable for anyone given enough time. If time permits, try to allow a minimum of 3 months for your study plan, and consider scheduling a GMAT date 6 months out to really give yourself the best chance for success. The people who have the easiest time making it up Mt. Everest are those who have spent years doing high-altitude climbs, so strap on your metaphorical crampons and begin with a single step.

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Vivian Kerr is a regular contributor to the Veritas Prep blog, providing advice to help students better prepare for the GMAT and the SAT.