It is well known that there is a lot to study for the GMAT.
However, what exactly is necessary to do is more of a mystery. During my nearly 9 years as a GMAT tutor and consultant, one thing appears to be more of a problem than most.
A very common circumstance is to find the person who studies 4-5 hours a day, but makes less progress than she feels is reflective of the time spent.
This is very true. However, the time spent can be maximized if focus remains on one thing: technique.
Again, it is very true that certain data elements must be known—if not memorized—during GMAT prep.
It is hard to succeed without knowing all of the Special Triangles, for example, or understanding the concept of Parallelism in Sentence Correction.
Nevertheless, no matter how much time is spent worrying about these details, they pale in comparison to focusing on the execution of the ideas.
Thus we can split GMAT prep into two fields:
1) Data – the concepts you can memorize
2) Execution – the algorithms or techniques used to solve individual problems
3) Efficiency – the speed at which 1) and 2) can be combined
What can improve this?
Well, the first step is of course to know the data parts backward and forward.
This does take a certain amount of study, and I suggest that all students begin not worrying about how long they’re taking.
That takes a while, but when you’re finished, Step 1 is completed.
Then: learn the reasoning. That is, learn to think how the testwriters think. This is possibly the most ignored part of GMAT preparation.
For my part as a GMAT tutor and consultant, I insist that students use a limited range of material and learn that material perfectly before moving on to zillions of practice questions.
Repeat the same question? What?
Yes: just like a football player practices the same kick over and over again, a basketball player spends hours perfecting her free throws, or a musician practices scales until her fingers bleed, you must practice hard questions until the reasoning required is simply IN YOUR DNA.
The limited time that you have to answer questions on the GMAT makes it necessary that the correct answer becomes the intuitive answer. Intuition is built through experience.
Forget the standard, woo-woo meaning of the word “intuition.” The concept is hardly voodoo: you “intuitively” do what is habit.
Build the right habits, and success will follow.
There is no other solution. You need to find a reasonably broad group of questions—such as The Official Guide for GMAT Review—and nail these questions until none of them give you trouble.
Then, and only then, move to Step 3.
Start timing yourself, giving yourself 3 minutes per question for 10-question sets. Then crank it down slowly—over a couple of weeks–to 1.5 minutes per question.
Do as many practice exams as possible, studying your incorrect answers carefully and noting the reasoning used to solve the most difficult. Find the tricks. Take notes on the hard part of each question.
At this point, it is fine to pursue other questions–on a limited scale–such as Advanced GMAT Quant (Gmat Strategy Guides) or other such guides.
Your GMAT preparation now becomes more like an athletic event—you are trying to break your new time rather than assuming that because you have seen a concept once that you can execute it again properly every time!
Remember, it is a race, but only the people who train properly become the champions!
If you have any questions about training, contact a GMAT Coach today!
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p.s. What is the Number One thing you can do today to improve your GMAT score?
p.p.s. What action can you take in the next five minutes to streamline your studying?