Few acronyms strike fear into the heats of business leaders quite like “GMAT,” which is why it’s important to start early in order to best prepare for the GMAT test that can determine the fate of graduate-level business school applications at the world’s leading institutions. Though the GMAT itself is a tough test, with various kinds of quantitative, verbal, reasoning, and logical problems, it’s certainly not an impossible hurdle to overcome. With preparation in advance and a full understanding of what the test will ask, require, and measure, students aiming for a graduate education in management will find that it’s easy to get a high score, improve a previous score, or simply take the test with a bit less anxiety than they might have originally thought possible, according to Business Week.

The Most Important Thing: Start Preparing Early for the GMAT

Don’t wait until the last two weeks before the scheduled test date to start taking the GMAT seriously. The test isn’t easy, and it demands a lot of prospective managers if they wish to score a result high enough to join an elite business school. Those who get the best score on this test often start preparing during their undergraduate business coursework, sometimes as early as the freshman or sophomore year of study. That’s because the GMAT itself can almost serve as the curriculum for a few college courses.

The test’s unique approach to quantitative problems, which focus on both comprehension of word problems and an understanding of data sufficiency, require a new way of thinking. Verbal problems require good reading comprehension, writing skills, and vocabulary. Its integrated reasoning section brings together all three of these pursuits into an array of multi-choice problems, which might be hard to understand without a significant amount of studying. Start early, with the help of professional study tools, and this “separate curriculum” will start to feel natural by test day.

Enroll in a Class, Use a Study Aid, or Utilize Online GMAT Prep Tools

Starting early won’t matter if prospective GMAT takers don’t use the right study methods to understand how the test works. The most popular way to prepare for the GMAT is to enroll in a highly specific GMAT prep course. Though many of these classes are offered off-campus and offline by companies like Kaplan, students will also find that many business schools offer non-credit classes for GMAT preparation as well. In some cases, universities will even give students a one-time tuition discount for having taken the GMAT class, as long as they’re admitted tot he school’s MBA program afterward.

Other options for excellent GMAT preparation include study books and printed practice tests, which will help drive home the fundamental concepts of the test’s four sections. Online options are also increasingly popular, and competition among a variety of test prep websites has helped to drive down prices and increase the number of sample questions, practice tests, video lectures, and theory lessons available.

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Start Early, Take a Class, and Use Print or Online Resources for GMAT Prep

Good GMAT preparation is multifaceted. Students should begin by enrolling in a class led by a campus department or a private test prep company, and supplement this class with print and online materials that allow them to work at their own pace whenever they have a free moment. This comprehensive approach is the way that successful students best prepare for the GMAT and earn a high-percentile score that yields excellent results when applying to MBA programs.