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Spring Cleaning for Your GMAT Prep

Posted in Test Prep on April 13, 2011 by

Feeling overwhelmed or disorganized in regards to your GMAT prep routine? Here are a few ways to “dust off” your habits just in time for the warmer weather. Remember, the more targeted and efficient your study plan, the more time you’ll have to spend outside in the sunshine!

1. Refresh your GMAT score.

Reassess yourself by taking another practice CAT if you haven’t already. Be sure to take the CAT under test-like conditions in order to ensure your score is an accurate reflection of your skills. Take only official breaks, and don’t cheat yourself by consulting outside study materials. Having an updated benchmark will help you evaluate how successful your prep has been thus far, and figure out what changes (if any) you should make to your study plan.

2. “Deep scrub” in areas of weakness.

If you are getting almost every question wrong for a specific question type, go 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 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 certainly 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 publications. 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. Sweep away bad habits.

Identify and make an effort to break any unhelpful habits you’ve developed during your GMAT prep. The following is a list of common tics/anxieties/behaviors you can certainly do without:

  • Consulting outside sources during practice CATs (the best way to figure out what you don’t know is to find out by getting the question wrong the old-fashioned way: so don’t cheat)
  • Skipping the AWA section during practice (the extra hour will erode your concentration if you’re not used to it)
  • Double-checking when you’re 95% sure (don’t waste your time)
  • Not knowing that the fraction, ⅛ is 0.125 (you should have the equivalencies for ⅙, 1/7, and 1/9 memorized)
  • Being too lazy to “test out” answers or draw a diagram (sometimes the best way is to simply write)
  • Skimming reading comprehension passages when you shouldn’t (don’t cut corners; instead, figure out what to look for)

4. Organize your “chores” and check them off your list.

Now is as good a time as any to tie up loose ends in your study regime! This may include the following tasks:

  • Form a study group (if studying with other people is helpful for you)
  • Complete those extra practice problems you’ve been meaning to do
  • Register for a GMAT class
  • Review questions you got wrong on previous CATs or exercises
  • Learn quant short-cuts; they’re necessary to solve some math problems (no, the test-makers don’t expect you to actually multiple a number by itself 430 times)
  • Memorize formula, rules, and vocabulary (it’s “forbidden to,” not “forbidden from”)
  • Learn useful equivalencies (for instance, that ⅛ is 0.125)
  • Get your number properties straight (for example, know that a number is divisible by 6 if it’s divisible by 2 and by 3)

5. Polish and shine.

A few weeks before test day, consider taking three or four practice CATs to help yourself get used to the level of mental and physical endurance required. This exercise will also help you “polish” your pacing strategies across different sections. For example, if you’re spending 2 minutes per question in Data Sufficiency, study short-cuts so that you can move more quickly through these questions. If you’re getting early, easy questions wrong due to carelessness, be sure to read these questions more carefully and stay attuned to details.