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I took the GMAT many years ago (7+). Was very busy at work and didn't really prepare.. 20 hours or so. Managed to get 710, which didn't get me into the schools I wanted so I did a less-than-optimal MBA.
Am now planning on doing a MS.
(i) Assuming I want a very good score.. as close to 800 as possible, how much time is realistic? In terms of hours. I write a lot and use a lot of math at work (I'm a hedge fund analyst).
(ii) I saw the beginner's section here with it's book recommendations.. quite confusing. What texts or practice books are currently regarded as being the best out there?
(iii) Top B schools seem to put really low GMAT scores as their cut offs, which i think is misleading. What do you think the average would be in INSEAD or Harvard MBA programs?
Do you need the GMAT for an MS Degree? It may be particular for your program but usually a master's degree does not require the GMAT Exam. Only the MBA does - and it seems you already have your MBA?
GMAT score averages at Harvard/Insead are easily over 700 - the exact figure is usually between 710-720. But there are certainly applicants who have scores in the 600s that get in - they will usually have a pretty impressive business background.
Typically to boost your score to 800 - it's really about precision. You already got 710 - it's a tweak of finding the right types of problems that would bring you down and spending a few weeks to nail everything down. Then you have to execute on the actual exam day. I would recommend at least 2 wks - preferably 1 month of studying on wkends/evenings. _________________