Jessica Nepom is the Curriculum Coordinator at Knewton, as well as one of our expert GMAT prep teachers.
We all remember the types of students from high school – the Jock, the Slacker, the Teacher’s Pet. But now that you’re out of high school and studying for the GMAT, what’s your GMAT Prep Personality? Take our short quiz (no Data Sufficiency, we promise!) to find out what type of GMAT student you are, then read on for a personalized study plan and expert tips to improve your score.
Let’s get started!
1. It’s a Saturday afternoon – what are your plans?
A) Open my GMAT book for the millionth time and re-read a few chapters before doing my usual 50 practice problems, then cap it off by browsing some online GMAT forums.
B) Well, I was planning to maybe read up on some Sentence Correction, but it’s a nice day so maybe I’ll take the book with me to the park… or maybe just a frisbee instead.
C) Oh no, it’s Saturday afternoon already?! But I had planned to be finished with a problem set by now! Now I’ll never have time to review it all! Sometimes I wonder if there’s even any reason to study – I never improve.
2. You just took the Official GMAC GMATPrep test and got a decent score. What do you do now?
A) Well of course I got a decent score – I’ve taken those tests so many times I’ve seen at least some of the questions already. Now I’m trying to get as many hard questions on them as I can. Next I’ll review my mistakes and do some practice problems.
B) Wooo! I finished a whole practice test! Man, that takes concentration. No more GMAT prep today – I’ll review my answers tomorrow. Probably.
C) I can’t believe I didn’t get my goal score! This is horrible. I’ll never reach my goal! I was so stressed I could barely concentrate.
3. Quick! What’s 17^2?
A) Psshh – that’s easy. I had all the perfect squares memorized on Day 1 of GMAT studying. Give me a real challenge already.
B) Oh, right, I heard somewhere that I should probably review those common powers. I’ll do it tomorrow.
C) 256! Oh wait, no, that’s 16^2…darn, I forget! What is 17^2?! Why can’t I remember it! I’m definitely going to fail.
Much like the frizzy-haired star of the Harry Potter franchise, you tend to overdo it when you study. You’ve made flashcards of every idiom in the English language. You own every edition of the official guide and have solved every problem… twice. You are a top contributor on at least a couple of online GMAT forums. What’s next?
One, don’t burn yourself out. Hermione took so many classes at Hogwarts that she needed a magical time-traveling device to keep up. So, unless you have access to an enchanted hourglass, slow down! Don’t do a practice test every single day. Spread them out, and spend the time reviewing your mistakes. Massive amounts of stressful practice might cause your scores to plateau or even decline from the brain overload… which will make you more stressed and only prolong the vicious cycle. Break out of it now!
Two, chill. You know the material by now, so give your brain a chance to retain it. Distract yourself for a while (a good book, a movie, dinner with friends), and come back to material refreshed.
Study Plan: When you get practice problems wrong, slow down before attacking the next set. Review the explanations fully to make sure you understand WHY you missed each question. Was it an unfamiliar concept? A careless mistake? Mark the question and put it aside for a week. After a week, give yourself a new quiz made up of problems that you previously missed. Did you remember the correct solution or make the same mistakes? Repeat this weekly personalized quiz to hammer home the topics that you need to work on!
You’re smart, sure! So smart, in fact, that you often prioritize the finer things in life – friends, socializing, sleep. That’s great, but what to do when GMAT day rolls around? Whether you’ve been spending your time at a 9-5 job (or 9-6, or 9-9…), or just been too busy wining and dining, maybe you now realize that you have a lot to learn and not much time in which to learn it. No need to panic (not that Ferris ever panics) – instead, let’s get down to the matter at hand: how to prep for the GMAT when there’s not much time.
One, focus on your strengths. It might sound counter-intuitive, but if you’re down to the wire, you’re not going to suddenly become great at a topic you don’t understand at all. It’s much easier to hammer down the last few lingering issues with a topic you’re pretty good at. Almost a Sentence Correction wizard? So close to becoming a Probability ace? Start there, and by test day you’ll go in with some (well-deserved) confidence.
Two, know what isn’t tested. There is no use studying vocab words if test day is around the corner. They’re not directly tested! Neither is the difference between “that” and “which”. Instead, focus on something that you know you’ll see for sure (try prime factorization or how to identify an assumption).
Study Plan: If you haven’t already, take a practice CAT. Then, carefully review each problem you missed . Identify the key concepts and your mistakes. Make a list! Notice any patterns? For example, if you missed several weakener questions in CR, read up on weakener question strategy and try a few practice problems. If you’re really short on time, identify one or two of your biggest trouble areas, and two or three areas you did okay in but know you can improve. Focus on improving those three to five concepts. Other good quick score boosters include easily memorized facts, like perfect squares up to 20^2 = 400 and commonly-tested parallel structures like “not only… but also”.
Much like that ill-fated ship, you feel like you’re sinking in the cold, unforgiving ocean of GMAT Prep. Â The GMAT is an enormous iceberg, patiently lying in wait to bring you down. You don’t believe people who insist, “It’ll all work out! You’ll be fine!” What should you??
One, change your attitude. It may sound easier said than done, but test anxiety and pessimism can chip away points from even the highest final score. Your score should reflect your ability to solve the problems presented – not your sweaty hands. Keep things in perspective: So what if you don’t get your dream score? No one – including b-school officers – will judge you for taking the test more than once.
Two, listen to your friends who tell you it’ll all be OK – they’re right! Breathe.
Three, don’t overthink the CAT. The algorithm on the Computer Adaptive Test is extremely complicated; it does no good to stress about the problems you’re given. Think it’s an easy question? It might be tempting to think “Oh no! I got the last one wrong!” But that might not be true: there are experimental questions interspersed throughout the test that have varying difficulties and don’t affect your score. Or maybe you think a problem is really easy, but it’s actually medium-level. Even if you did get the previous question wrong, there’s nothing you can do about it now. Forget about the past and focus on the present!
Study Plan: Keep track of your strengths (“Things I Know”) as well as your weaknesses (“Things to Learn”). Look at mistakes as a chance to improve. When you’ve mastered a concept, no matter how small, add it to your Things I Know list. As more and more items move from Things to Learn to Things I Know, allow your confidence to improve. And don’t forget to review! There’s nothing worse than making the same mistakes again and again. Whenever you get a problem wrong, figure out how to fix your mistake, then hammer it home with practice. This will make your studying more efficient.
Oh, and remember to smile! It really will all be okay.