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By GMAT just takes planning and regular mock tests, Avijit Chatterjee learns from global toppers at IIM, Ahmedabad
  • Published 24.09.09
To the top: Members of the current PGPX batch at IIMA. They have the distiction of having the highest average GMAT score

A senior manager at an engineering firm in the US, Amlan Manna always had his hands full. What with pressing deadlines, meetings and frequent travel, he hardly had time for studies. But that did not stop him from scoring 780 out of 800, or 99 percentile, in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). “I had set myself a deadline of three months to prepare for the exam. On weekdays, I studied for three to four hours and five to six hours on weekends,” says the student of the one-year postgraduate programme in management for executives (PGPX) at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA), and the GMAT topper in his batch.

“Practice is the key to cracking the exam. One should try to take one simulation test (mock exam) every day for at least a month before the exam and find out how he or she has scored,” says Manna, who has a masters degree in civil engineering from the University of Nebraska in the US.

The GMAT, which is administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the US, is a standardised assessment that helps business schools across the world assess the qualifications of applicants for advanced study in business and management. It measures the verbal, mathematical and analytical writing skills of candidates. According to Bob Ludwig, director, media and public affairs, GMAC, around 30,000 Indian students took the test in 2008-2009.

“What makes the exam difficult is the computer adaptive format of the test. It means that the questions are not set in advance. The exam begins with a question of average difficulty. If you answer it correctly, you receive a slightly harder question. If you answer it wrong, you receive a slightly easier question,” says Vaishali Madhavan, product manager, Max Consulting, IMS Learning Pvt. Ltd, Mumbai, an institute which prepares students for GMAT.

Harsh Goyal, who scored 760 in GMAT, feels though the test requires intense preparation, overkill is not required. “What is needed is systematic planning to tackle the exam with precision. Prepare a routine and stick to it. Follow the official guidebook and practise solving questions from it. If you do that, GMAT will be a cakewalk,” says Goyal of IIMA’s PGPX (2009-10) batch. Interestingly, the batch has an average score of 721, comparable to the world’s highest GMAT score.

Adds Nishant Singh, another student of the same batch with a score of 740, “GMAT is an exam where there is no negative marking. Therefore, one should try to answer as many questions as possible. But in doing so one should exercise caution as there is no way one can go back and erase the wrong answer. Not completing a question and randomly guessing answers can lower your scores significantly.”

As the exam takes place round the year, one can start preparing for it in line with the application timeline one is targeting. A lot of schools abroad have the first round of their application cycles in October and the second in January. “If you intend to apply for the first round, January is a good time to begin preparation. Even if you are looking at programmes offered by the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, the IIMA PGPX or that of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, January would be a good time to prepare,” adds Madhavan.

Bidyut Dutta, academic head, Career Launcher International Education, New Delhi, says a score of 700+ out of 800 in the verbal and quantitative sections, and 5 out of 6 in the analytical writing assessment section will increase the chances of admission to a top international B-school.

However, GMAT is just one of the criteria for admission to a top management school. “Most institutes give weightage to the work experience of a candidate, the contribution he or she has made in his sphere of work and the skills he or she has acquired. A good GMAT score, however, can certainly improve one’s chances of admission,” says Manna.

Toppers’ tips

Become familiar with the question pattern. Follow the official guidebook and practise solving questions from it

Practise solving a lot of mock questions. Some are available on,, and

Pay attention to the verbal section as it is tough. In the quantitative section, some higher maths such as probability and permutation and combination require more effort

Pace yourself well so that you have enough time to tackle all the questions

Be sure of an answer before you mark it as there is no way you can go back and erase the wrong answer

Do not guess answers randomly and avoid incomplete answers

Quick look

A three-and-a-half-hour exam which measures analytical writing, maths and verbal skills

$250 (about Rs 12,000) globally, to be paid by credit card

GMAT is administered six days each week, 52 weeks a year. While the exam can be taken at virtually any time, it can be taken only once in 31 days and a maximum of five times a year

Registration for the test can be done online, by phone, by mail, or by fax. Online registration through is the easiest


Institutes in India that accept GMAT scores

Indian Institutes of Management
Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi
Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur
Indian School of Business, Hyderabad
Institute of Management Development and Research, Pune
Punjab University, Chandigarh
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Amity Business School, Noida
Apex Institute of Management, Pune
Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai
Icfaian Business School, Hyderabad