Alright, so you’ve decided to write the GMAT. You are just about to start preparing. If this is the case, then there are a few things which you should keep in mind. Apart from knowing about what the test is all about and having the necessary books, it is important to consider a few things while you prepare.
Here are five GMAT preparation tips to guide you.
1) Reach the Source
Every religion has a holy book, right? Well, the Official Guides from GMAC are your holy books for GMAT preparation. Every other book, as good as it may be, is just commentary. Only the Official Guides contain problems from the real GMAT. Thus, your efforts must be centered on the Official Guides.
The other “holy” source is GMAT Prep, the free practice-test software that you should download from mba.com. This software has its drawbacks, but it also has two unique benefits: it uses the real GMAT algorithm, and even more importantly, it contains retired GMAT problems, many of which aren’t in the Official Guides. There are two tests offered on this software; you should consider ‘saving’ at least one of them for later in your preparation to use as a measuring stick.
Although we mention the above two holy sources, that doesn’t mean you have to necessarily avoid all other resources. Do keep checking other resources but make sure you keep your preparation on the lines laid down by the Official Guide.
2) Go Bottom Up, not otherwise
The fact with GMAT preparation is that most of the students believe that solving tougher questions is the key to success. It is a common misconception that “If I can crack these, I can do any GMAT problem”.
My advice, don’t follow the herds.
How you perform on the GMAT is determined by the groundwork that you put in. You need to find out the level of problem that you can absolutely, positively get right every time, without hesitation or anxiety.
So you should spend more time truly mastering the easier problems. And by “mastering,” I mean ensuring that you can do the problem, not only correctly, but also quickly, easily and confidently under tough exam conditions.
By “mastering,” I mean knowing everything there is to know about the problem — the underlying principles, the subtle application of those principles, the embedded tricks and traps.
Once you have built this knowledge and skill, then progress upwards. It’s like building a skyscraper, the higher you want to build the stronger should be the foundation. Of course, for top scores, you’ll need to practice against some really tough problems. But make sure all the lower levels are solid first.
3) Enemies are your new friends
When I was preparing for the GMAT, I used to love preparing Quants. Why? Because I had an engineering background and I found quants really easy. So, I used to enjoy solving those questions. But is that the right approach? Well, honestly, no!
Let’s say you’re a genius on Critical Reasoning, but you’re terrible at Sentence Correction. Which should you work on? The Sentence Correction. Why? Because the test is adaptive. If SC is weighing your performance down, you’ll never get the really hard CR problems. You’ll never get a chance to prove just how brilliant you are with CR. Get it?
It will remind you of the old days when Mom asked to eat vegetables but you hated them. Now, if you hate geometry? Then do those problems first.
Then, as you master individual enemy problems, turn them into your friends. Become totally comfortable with them. Then, when you walk into the GMAT, none of the questions will throw you off your game plan.
4) Mix it up
Don’t limit yourself to topic-based work and practice tests. Topic-based drills will definitely help you master the topic but for a more comprehensive GMAT preparation you should ensure that you throw in random problems from different topics to ensure that you do not already know what kind of problem you’re solving. This will give you a more realistic feel of the actual test as questions there will come from random areas.
Ensure you do not take practice tests everyday. This will burn you out. After every practice exam, you need time to study the results, draw out lessons and fix the issues. That’s several days of work – before you take another practice exam.
So what should you do when you’re not taking practice exams?
Short drills of mixed-topic problems from the Official Guides.
You can do this kind of drill every day, especially as you get closer to the real exam — and your GMAT muscles will grow strong.
5) Know what you know
A couple of weeks before the exam, stop straining yourself in solving too many new problems. In fact, start reviewing and redoing problems.
At this point, it’s much less important to cram new stuff into your brain than it is to organize and strengthen what’s already in there.
Force yourself to revisit problems you “think” you know. You’ll be surprised at what you don’t really know. Know everything about these problems. For each one, have a crystal-clear approach plan — and also a Plan B, C, and even D — that you can execute correctly, quickly, easily and confidently while taking enemy fire.
You should definitely take one or two practice tests in the final couple of weeks, but like I said, don’t overdo it.
These are just a few principles that will help you stay strong and focused with your GMAT preparation. These will help you equip yourself for the test day. Remember, statistics from GMAC show that the amount of time spent studying, both in terms of hours and weeks, correlates positively to performance on the test (100+ hours and 8+ weeks for the best average results, if you’re curious).
So, one final tip – there aren’t any shortcuts to success on the GMAT!