Want to achieve your dream GMAT score? Here are 5 ways to make that goal a reality.
1. Target your weaknesses but reinforce your strengths.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” -Aristotle
If you’ve taken the GMAT before, make sure you’re not just going through the motions with your studying. Target your weaknesses for the most efficient score increase. If you are performing well in Reading Comprehension but having trouble with Data Sufficiency, for instance, focus primarily on Data Sufficiency (while periodically reviewing reading comprehension). If you are having trouble with Reading Comprehension, study strategies that help you determine the main idea, purpose, attitude, and structure of whatever article you are given.
The harder you concentrate on your weaknesses, the faster you will see tangible improvement. At the same time, remember to keep the big picture in mind: harness your strengths and maintain your mastery of areas in which you excel. Confidence is another important factor: if you are able to answer several questions correctly in a row, it will decrease your stress level during the exam.
2. Get at the root of the problem.
If you are getting almost every question wrong for a specific question type, try going back to the basics. Review underlying question patterns and trap answer choices, then clear your head and take a break. This way, you’ll return to the question type with new knowledge and renewed energy. Be sure to take the time to read each question carefully; you may be surprised at the extent to which mistakes can be avoided by truly understanding what each question is asking.
You can learn quick tricks to help increase your score, but these strategies will be most effective when combined with long-term study. To improve your verbal score, for instance, it may be helpful to start reading high-caliber magazines. To improve your quantitative ability, begin by re-familiarizing yourself with the fundamentals: number properties, basic geometry, arithmetic, and algebra. You may not see results immediately, but short-cuts (which are crucial if you want to have enough time to complete the exam) often involve a familiarity with numbers that can be cultivated over a long period.
3. Improve your endurance.
A week or two before the exam, consider taking three or four practice CATs to gain familiarity with the feel of the exam. This will help acclimate you to the level of mental and physical endurance required. Also don’t blow off the AWA section during your practice CATs; even if you find writing easy, the section adds an extra hour to the exam, which might erode your concentration if you don’t account for it during practice.
4. Improve your pacing.
Try to get a sense of your pacing and timing across different sections–Critical Reasoning, Sentence Correction, Reading Comprehension, Data Sufficiency, Problem Solving. If you’re spending 2 minutes per question in Data Sufficiency, for instance, study short-cuts and move more quickly through these questions. If you’re getting early, easy questions wrong due to carelessness, read these questions more carefully and stay attuned to details.
5. Don’t expect the “perfect” test.
However much you prepare, there may still be something unexpected about the questions you encounter. To avoid getting stumped, make sure you understand concepts when tested at the most basic level and recognize these same concepts in more sophisticated situations that require multiple steps and complex reasoning. This way, you will not be fazed if you encounter a variation on the familiar. Also know that you do not have to answer every single question correctly even to score an 800; the test will increase in difficulty the better you perform, so expect it to feel like an “uphill” climb.