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  • Writer's pictureMichael Gallant

Do good on the GMAT

Getting a good score in the GMAT exam (or GRE in some schools) indicates to the school that you would be able to keep up during the school year or years, despite the fact that you didn’t attend university or college, and that it might be your first time in an academic classroom.

As Virginie Fougea, Global Director of Admissions & Financial Aid in INSEAD, told us in our podcast episode:

“(especially for candidates without a bachelor’s degree), we need to get a sense of the academic capacity. This is because some of the classes and exams are in heavily quant-related topics. We need to make sure people can be academically successful in the program, and benefit from it. For this reason, we require the GMAT or the GRE”.

When I did my GMAT, I prepared for over two months, basically full time. I wasn’t used to spending so much time sitting in front of a screen and focusing on only one thing, plus I am a diagnosed ADD. So I had to come up with tricks to make this work.

One of them was the combination of eating granola, drinking diluted Gatorade, and taking Ritalin, while timing when the Ritalin kicks-in and adjusting the schedule of eating and drinking to optimize the pill’s effect. [see chart in Hebrew below]

A table tracking my concentration level throughout the different tasks, in the minutes and hours after taking Retalin.

On the morning of the test, I did the same ritual I did many times before – I woke up early, drove to the test location, located the nearest 7-11 and bought bread, tomato and cheese, and made my own sandwich. I then entered a nearby café, bought a large Americano, and found a quiet place to sit in, eating my sandwich and drinking my coffee. I had my hoodie covering my head, my sunglasses covering my eyes, and my iPod (that played Air’s Moon Safari) covering my ears. This routine allowed me to clear my head, and ‘get in the zone’, in mental preparation for the test.

Looking back, these steps were far from scientific. They’re probably not something any book (including this one) would recommend. But they worked, and they make a good story (more on that in the coming chapters).

Before we dive in, if I could give you just one tip for the GMAT, it is to develop rituals that will help you pass through the preparation period and test taking.


If you already know all about the GMAT, or have already taken it, I recommend you skip the next part, unless you are interested in a short history lesson.

If you are new to the MBA world, I am guessing you have a lot more questions, starting with “what is the GMAT?”. If this is the case, I recommend you read on.


Through MBA without BS, I had the opportunity of meeting some really awesome people. I got this chance by publicizing the fact that I am offering admission assistance for free, because I wanted to help more people. My close friend and group mate from INSEAD, Nakul Shinghal, originally from Delhi but currently residing in Singapore, saw an article on FT about an Israeli MBA graduate living in London. I reached out to this MBA graduate, and it turned out that other from a mutual interest in getting an MBA without a bachelor’s degree, we also had mutual friends.

Enters Omri Farber.

Omri is a former army officer and a Cordon Bleu trained chef, who worked in some of the world’s top Michelin Star restaurants. Despite not having a bachelor’s degree, Omri holds an MBA from Cass business school in London. Omri and I became close friends, and he is a major part of the MBAwobs project.

In the coming pages you’ll read/hear Omri’s explanation about the GMAT. If you want to hear more about Omri’s story, check out our podcast interview.

What is the GMAT?

The GMAT is an adaptive computer test. It is aimed at predicting an applicant’s ability to succeed in the MBA studies, by testing her or his capabilities in analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning.

Why and when was the GMAT created?

Unlike many other generalized psychometric tests and GPA factors, the GMAT was developed for a purpose. In 1953, representatives of 9 leading US-based B-schools convened to institute a standardized method of assessing the growing number of applicants, and setting coherent bars across the different institutes. The result was an early version of the GMAT, then taken by a mere 2,553 applicants across 50 schools. This number pales in comparison to today’s some 250,000 tests taken each year.

How is the GMAT built?

The GMAT is built of 4 parts:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment - argument analysis in the form of an essay

  • Integrated Reasoning - graphic interpretation, table analysis, multi-source reasoning and two-part analysis

  • Quantitative - data sufficiency and problem-solving

  • Verbal - reading comprehension, critical reasoning and sentence correction

If you have never taken a psychometric test, took courses in similar fields, or attended university, this might seem scary. To be honest, it is quite challenging. But the good news is that it has been done before, by many people who did not hold a bachelor’s degree.

How do I ace the GMAT?

The shorter answer is that in any case, there are no shortcuts, and you need to work your ass off. This is going to take a few months of your life, but it is a must in order to get into an MBA.

If you are having second thoughts at this point, maybe because of the GMAT, you might want to re-consider the MBA altogether, because it will only get more intellectually rigorous from here.

The longer answer can be found in an introductory guide written by Omri, and published on our website.

Wait, what about the TOEFL?

My own experience showed me that after investing two months preparing for the GMAT, the TOEFL was a walk in the park. My only preparation was going over the structure of the exam a couple of times (which I recommend you do) and taking a couple of prep tests (which I also recommend you do). The GMAT required two months of full-time preparation to get a decent score. The TOEFL required 7 hours (including about three hours of the actual test).

In short, don’t go near the TOEFL before you are done with your GMAT. Just trust me on this.

To conclude this part

The GMAT is the main, and sometimes the only, way for a school to evaluate your academic ability. Work hard, and invest the time, effort and money to ace the test. This will show the school you are committed, and that you can keep up with the rest of the pack, even though you don’t have a bachelor’s degree. It is the first step on your way to the MBA.

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