Studying for the GMAT Is Your First Business School Class

Photography by Getty Images

This tip for improving your GMAT score was provided by David Newland at Veritas Prep.

The GMAT is a standardized test, but studying for the GMAT itself actually serves as a curriculum. In fact, you might even consider studying for the GMAT to be your first Business School class.

If the schools that use the GMAT for admissions wanted an intelligence test, the test makers at GMAC could have developed that examination in a variety of ways. Specifically, they could have made an exam that cannot be studied for, because ideally an IQ test would be something you could not study for. According to experts in the field of intelligence, a great example of an IQ test is stating a series of numbers to an examinee and having that examinee repeat those numbers in reverse order. This test is not cultural or linguistically biased, and it cannot really be studied for, so it does a better job of testing at least one facet of IQ.

Clearly, an intelligence test is not what business schools wanted. They wanted a guarantee that the students they admitted to business school were capable of doing the required work. So GMAC created the opposite of a pure IQ test; they created a test that can be, should be, and in most cases must be studied for.

This is not a flaw in the design of the exam. It is the intention of the exam. Business schools do not want to exclude people simply because they have not had any recent exposure to math, and they do not want to deny admission to those who do not yet read or think critically. But they DO want these weaknesses to be corrected BEFORE those students are admitted to MBA programs.

Studying for the GMAT is your first business school class and the GMAT itself is your first final examination. Everything that the GMAT tests is also something that studying for the GMAT teaches.

What Studying for the GMAT Teaches You

• How to study. For many people, the GMAT is the most challenging exam they will ever face. The GMAT is a test you must study for, not only based on the content, which is extensive, but also on the skills necessary to answer challenging questions correctly in a limited amount of time. These study skills can help a business school applicant get geared up for studying in graduate school.

• Logical reasoning. If there is one theme that each section of the GMAT teaches, it is logical reasoning. Obviously the critical reasoning section and the AWA argument help you to spot the flaws in logic, but logical reasoning also runs through each of the other sections of the test (and becomes extremely important in B-school and beyond, too).

• Quantitative skills. While you may not do too much geometry at business school, MBAs need to be familiar with and comfortable using numbers and leveraging relationships.

• Critical reading. Studying for the GMAT teaches you how to read for an understanding of a passage as a whole and learn how to return to the passage when details are needed. This is precisely the skill set required for success in business school—call it an “executive summary.”

• English grammar and meaning. Sentence Correction is important not only because English is regarded as the universal language of business, but also because flaws in grammar can drastically change the meaning of a sentence. By forcing you to study Sentence Correction, the GMAT is helping you read sentences for exactly what they mean—an important skill in contracts and negotiations to come in your future.

• How to focus. The GMAT is a long test—more than four hours in total—that requires focus throughout. Taking practice exams and building up to this level of focus and endurance helps prepare students for the rigors of graduate education and executive-level decision-making.

Each of these skills is something that business schools need their students to have, but the time is not available in the MBA curriculum to offer these courses as part of the degree program. By using the GMAT as the standard for admissions, business schools are able to ensure that the candidates they accept into their programs are actually prepared for graduate business education. You may not be actually enrolled in b-school yet, but enjoy studying for the GMAT—it is your first business school class.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? Try our own new, 100 percent computer-adaptive, free GMAT practice test and see how you do.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.