How I increased my GMAT score 180 points in 8 days

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Eight days before I was scheduled to take the GMAT I scored a 590 on a Kaplan practice test. I had studied for a solid week, 40 – 50 hours, and off and on for a couple of months, five hours a week, before taking that Kaplan test and my scores were deteriorating not improving. Needless to say I was rather distraught.

After seeing the 590, I sat back and began to evaluate my preparation strategy. I realized that I had learned the principles tested on the GMAT. I had familiarized myself with the question types by working through more than 600 practice questions. However, I had developed no strategy for attacking the questions in the context of the actual GMAT test.

I resolved to study test taking strategies. The next day, I scored a 740 on a practice test using the software from Over the next five days, I continued taking practice tests and learning test taking strategy. The night before the test I scored a 760. When test day came, I felt well prepared, but still a little apprehensive. The strategy I describe below helped me end up with a 770.

My strategy includes four main parts: principles, questions, strategy and practice


Although most of the principles being tested on the GMAT parallel an 8th grade curriculum, I needed a refresher. For this part, I turned to a book called GMAT 800 by Kaplan. This book does a great job teaching the principles that will be tested. My suggestion is to obtain a book that reviews the principles that the GMAT tests.


Some of the GMAT question types are familiar, (e.g. reading comprehension), while other question types cannot be found on any other test, (e.g. data sufficiency). A great way to become familiar with these questions is to find a book that describes them. I used Kaplan’s GMAT 2004 edition. Additionally, I obtained The Official Guide, GMAT Review, 11th edition. This book contains over 800 actual, retired GMAT questions. My suggestion is to learn the type and form of the GMAT questions. Acutal retired GMAT questions are also available on's practice test.


The next step is to learn how to answer the questions in the context of the GMAT test. Most people, if given enough time, could correctly answer 90% of the questions. However, the challenge of the GMAT is to answer the questions correctly in a limited amount of time. If you don’t have a strategy to tackle the questions, you will likely run out of time or become bogged down on the difficult questions. I obtained my strategy from a book called Cracking the GMAT by Princeton Review. My suggestion is to obtain or develop a strategy for answering the questions in the time-pressured context of the GMAT.


Practice implementing your strategy by taking multiple practice tests. The best simulation that you can obtain is the free software offered at It simulates the actual test. The test questions used in this software are actual retired GMAT questions. There are only two practice tests available; however, you can retake the two tests and the program will deliver many new questions. My suggestion is to take as many practices test as you can stomach until you start seeing the score you desire.


  • Learn the principles
  • Learn the question types
  • Obtain or develop a strategy for answering questions in the test environment
  • Practice applying strategy in the test atmosphere many times

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