The Challenge of the GMAT

While Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores of African examinees are typically lower than students in other world regions, they are not always so.  African students are no less capable of performing well on the exam than those at comparable education levels elsewhere in the world. Yet, GMAT examinees from virtually all African countries often score poorly on the GMAT exam. And it is not because they are generally less equipped or less capable. It is simply because they most often are less prepared.

GMAT books in a Library

GMAT Prep Books

Why? Because: a) they typically do not understand how to prepare and/or b) they do not spend adequate time doing so.

The Solution to the GMAT:

I’m often asked some variation of the question: “how does one do well on the GMAT? … what’s the trick?” Here it is: practice (as opposed to study) and time. Think of study as the thing a person does to understand and memorize new information and practice as the thing one does to improve skills.

To illustrate, studying works well for traditional tests—those designed to assess a person’s learning or retention of information presented and memorized relatively recently. The GMAT exam, on the other hand, assesses one’s ability to reason with existing or foundational knowledge usually obtained earlier.

The GMAT exam uses basic material, i.e., secondary (high-school) level mathematics and English language that typical examinees already know, and then tests their ability to reason with that knowledge. And there’s an important bonus. Since reasoning is a skill, it can be practiced and improved. So the process of practicing for the GMAT exam not only improves GMAT scores, which opens doors to  quality programmes and scholarships; it also sharpens higher order reasoning skills, which are critical for both academic and career success.

The second half of the winning formula is time. In contrast to traditional study, practice is a time commitment—more than you might invest, for example, in studying for a traditional test.


The chart above shows the range of possible GMAT scores that are possible against the average number of preparation hours required to achieve them. An important part of the strategy for getting into a good programme then is early registration for the exam and planning adequate time for practice (at least 6 weeks recommended)—and all well in advance of application deadlines.

What to use/where to go:

While much depends on personal discipline, the quality of the materials the student uses for preparation matters as well. Free preparation software is made available to all GMAT exam registrants by The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the organization the owns and oversees worldwide administration of the GMAT exam, provides free preparation software for all GMAT exam registrants as well as additional high-quality preparation materials—all at

For more information about preparation and other important issues for African students, visit


Dr. Ronald I. Sibert, Graduate Management Admissions Council

Dr. Sibert currently serves as the Africa Business Development Director at the Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC® ). Prior to assuming this role he served as Director of Strategic Alliances in which he provided strategic direction to the Council in its relationships with organizations and various stakeholder groups in the U.S. and abroad.

As a former MBA Program director, he led Full-time, Part-time and Executive MBA programmes as well as MBA career services at the University of Delaware. His earlier public policy-related accomplishments at the University culminated in his appointment as chairperson of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens with advisory and oversight responsibility for the State Department of Education. He served for 3 years on the board of directors of the Ph.D. Project, an organization dedicated to increasing diversity among professors in business schools.

His academic achievements include an MBA specializing in Finance and a Ph.D. in Public Policy—both from the University of Delaware.