We need every edge we can get.
Every prospective student is looking for some advantage for their application to business school whether it’s a unique personal story, unique work experience, or a slightly stronger GMAT score. To gain that edge, we have to dedicate our time and energy. There’s no way to fake it.
The GMAT is no exception. We have to allocate our time wisely and focus our energies efficiently to gain that edge. To ramp up your GMAT prep and gain that edge, I have four pieces of advice. You’ll find that these tips will supercharge your prep and better prepare you for test day.
Quality Test Prep Material
Nothing can boost test prep like using quality materials. The market is suffuse with materials that are mediocre to terrible. Bad materials mean insufficient prep and lead to poor test scores. It’s not just that the materials don’t mimic the GMAT; if they aren’t created with rigor and constantly improved, these materials can be downright misleading.
Step back a moment and assess your materials. Are you using one of the best GMAT books? Or do you rely on questions posted to forums, such as Beat the GMAT and GMAT Club. Don’t expect to hit your stride in the weeks before the test if you haven’t prepped with the best of the best. Find the best materials now so you aren’t one of the 20% of students who retake the GMAT.
Wind Sprints—Not Marathons
Bad study habits dampen success—not ramp it up. The trouble, though, is that many students don’t know that they’ve adopted bad study habits. They believed a myth and haven’t thought to question its validity since. Let’s dispel it: long study sessions don’t work!
Students tell me they study eight hours a day and are still not improving. My first recommendation is to stop studying eight hours a day. Long sessions of studying don’t help students learn more; it’s a fallacy to think that more time equals more learning.
They need to stop running long distances and practice their wind sprints. Plenty of research shows that short bursts of focus and learning outweigh long periods of study.
Let’s say you want to study 12 hours a week. Plan on four sessions, three hours each, and after each hour take a 10 minute break. Better yet, budget six sessions, two hours each. Studying in this way encourages spaced repetition, which is shown to improve the long-term retention of information. Instead of doing everything in a six hour period, you give your mind time to rest and incorporate the information into long-term memory.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, short bursts are better than marathons.
Set a Timer
One of the biggest misconceptions is that students think their abilities untimed are the same timed. Many students do not make time a part of their prep and pay the price on test day. Or students wait too long to start practicing under time pressure and realize that they are in trouble. So as soon as possible, set a timer when solving practice problems.
Choose a set of five questions and try to finish them in ten minutes. If this is too difficult at first, that is, you can’t even get close, set the timer for thirteen minutes. Even though this is more time than you should take to solve a problem, at least you have a timer on and you are practicing your pacing. As you progress, dial down the time until you are at a good pace—about nine minutes for five Verbal questions and about ten minutes for five Quant questions.
Spend Time Studying—Not Planning
Time management doesn’t refer only to pacing on the test. It also refers to how we spend our study time. As little time should be spent planning your studies. Front-load all your planning so that you don’t have to do it every session. Decide what to do each day based on your materials and how much time you have. Use a study schedule created by experts, or base your study schedule on their recommendations.
As you will see in the study schedules, each day is broken into parts. Work on multiple skills in a single study session. This is the best way to study and the best way to learn. Ramp up your studies with more focused study.
Every applicant to business school is looking for that unique advantage. With the GMAT, it’s no different. Take these suggestions and ramp up your study sessions. Grab quality materials, aim for focused, short bursts of study, start practicing your timing, and get all your planning out of the way so you can spend more time actually studying. Start implementing them now to improve your chances for success on test day.