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5 myths about the GMAT test

by Dr Trevor Wegner and Dr Ailsa Stewart Smith
The Graduate Management Admission Test – or GMAT – is one of the most feared exams worldwide. For some, the very idea of taking the test is so stressful that they give up before they even start! Well don’t! The GMAT can really help you get closer to your professional goals. We examine – and debunk – five popular myths about the test to put your mind at rest.

According to one well-known GMAT tutoring company, anxiety strikes almost all GMAT students as they approach their test date. While battling some nerves is natural, you want to avoid being overcome by fear as this can affect your ability to think clearly and calmly – which is what you will need most to do well on the GMAT. In fact, most tutors agree that GMAT preparation is much simpler and less complicated than many students realise. Here are FIVE things we’ve heard students say about the test which may interfere with their ability to do well.

Myth 1 – I have to be very clever to score well

While academic ability will definitely help you, it is not true that only very bright individuals do well in the GMAT exam. It seems that – like with almost everything in life – the more you put in, the more you get out. Studies show that there is a correlation between students who studied more hours and achieved high scores. The GMAT examines your ability to think critically, and the test is “tricky” rather than difficult. The initial challenge is that the test format is unfamiliar and students who do get high scores on the GMAT are generally those who have done more practice tests, are thus familiar with the format and the wording of the test questions and understand what is being asked of them. This means that good preparation, in addition to understanding the content that is being quizzed, is key to mastering the GMAT test.

Myth 2 – I have to be a maths whizz

While mathematical ability is certainly useful, the level of your mathematical knowledge does not need to be nearly as high as some people think. GMAT tutors agree that high school maths is really enough; remember basic arithmetic (numbers, sets, percentages, ratios and proportions), algebra (equations, indices and graphs), geometry (triangles and rectangles) and introductory statistics? The GMAT doesn’t test your mathematical knowledge inasmuch as it requires you to use these maths skills to reason out answers to questions. Even students who didn’t have maths in high school can brush up on their maths with extra classes and will be able to do well in this section.

Myth 3 – I have to get the best score possible

Many students believe that GMAT success is all about taking, and retaking, the test as often as possible to get the highest score possible. They forget that most MBA applications not only consist of the GMAT test score but also require a comprehensive picture of you as an individual. People with interesting life stories and entrepreneurial experience are often chosen over students with higher GMAT scores. Different schools have different thresholds too so check what this is at your desired school. In South Africa, the UCT Graduate School of Business requires a minimum score of 550.

Myth 4 – I will have to give up my job to study for the GMAT

You don’t have to do that! Most students preparing to take their GMAT exams are working full-time and allocate time each day to study. Whether you are able to put in an hour or two or three, depends on you. Being able to manage your time and schedule part of your day for studying is what will be required of you on the MBA programme as well. As one tutor puts it on Quora: “If you take a break from work just to prepare for GMAT you are very likely to fail in convincing a business school about your employability”. It all about ‘commitment’ and personal time management!

Myth 5 – The cost of preparing for the GMAT is prohibitive

There are many resources available for students looking for help with their GMAT preparation. These range from online tutors to tutoring companies with group forums and discussion teams. One way to go about it is via the UCT GSB GMAT prep course, an intense five-day workshop that gives students all the information they need to polish their preparation/maximise performance. There are also books and free material available on the Internet which are more than adequate to help you prepare. In the end it’s all about you and how much time you are willing to put in. No tutor or course can help you sit down and open the books – that is all up to you!

Dr Trevor Wegner and Dr Ailsa Stewart Smith are the course convenors of the UCT GSB GMAT Prep Course.

Useful resources:
University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business
UCT GSB is internationally renowned as one of a few business schools in Africa with the prestigious triple-crown accreditation with endorsements from EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA.
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