What you need to do: 10 steps to GMAT awesomeness

by Chuck on Monday, 15 September, 2014

1. Introduction

in which you become familiar with the format of the test

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First, read the beginning of the Official Guide and the introductory pages to each of the five main sections.

Second, read the PowerPoint here: An Introduction to the GMAT.

Third, download the official practice software.

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2. Have a go

in which you try a few questions to see what you’re up against

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You might like to look at more of my webinars (with sound this time!), specifically the ones on Quant and Verbal. You can find them here.

You might also attempt some of the questions on the official practice software.

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3. Groundwork

in which you tackle any major weaknesses in Maths and English

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If you’re weak at Maths, you should get a textbook or hire a tutor. I’ve recommended a textbook in the Resources section, but any GCSE textbook that you like is fine. By now you’ll know what topics you need to be familiar with, and you should have started to think about what theory you don’t fully understand.

If you struggle with the Verbal section, you may want to get a grammar book. Again, there are some ideas in the Resources section. Alternatively, if you have more specific Verbal weaknesses that aren’t covered by the webinars, feel free to ask me.

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4. Diagnostic

in which you do a non-official test to get some idea of your level

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I’d recommend that you try the test at Platinum GMAT. It’s reasonably good but you don’t want to use one of the official practice tests yet. Try to make sure you finish; don’t worry about skipping harder questions. You want to give yourself the best chance of answering the questions you’re capable of answering.

Think about how well prepared – or otherwise – you were. Bear these conclusions in mind as you tackle…

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5. The OG

in which you take on the Official Guide a.k.a. The Bible

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Problem Solving: Use UGQG1. Think in terms of doing each question three times: if you don’t know what I’m referring to, ask (or refer to the webinars).

Data Sufficiency: Try any of the first 50 questions that you think you can answer. Leave the ones you can’t do for later. Don’t worry about time.

Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension: Do the first few (20-30) questions in each section one page (or one double page) at a time. Do each question three times, as above.

Review what you’ve done carefully. Outline your strengths and weaknesses. Think about how many questions, and what level of question, you can realistically answer given the time constraints of the test.

Come up with some sort of timing strategy. Consider how you will guess if and when you don’t have enough time on a question. Look back at the previous sections on this page and try to fill in any gaps that will stop you from doing yourself justice on…

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6. Your first practice test

in which, surprisingly, you do a practice test

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This test is your first dress rehearsal. You should do one of the practice tests from the official practice software and take it seriously. You may not get a great score, but this is your chance to show that you know the basics and can answer easier questions under test conditions. An official practice test should also give you an accurate understanding of your current level as well as highlighting areas for improvement, and if you’ve prepared conscientiously so far, it should also provide a confidence boost. At this point, you should be able to come up with a realistic estimate of how long it will take you to reach your target score.

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7. Analysis

in which you go over your practice test thoroughly and plan your next steps

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Start with the easiest questions, the ones you feel you should have been able to get right. What went wrong? What kinds of mistakes did you make, and what were the causes? Find ways to avoid those mistakes. If you’re stuck, ask. I spend a lot of my time talking to students on exactly this point.

Next, think about timing. Is there anything that you think you could do faster with enough practice (and without compromising your accuracy)?

Would you benefit from a deeper understanding of any concepts? Do something about it (see the next section).

Make sure that you’ve done sufficient work that your next test can be expected to show a significant improvement – in individual areas if not in the overall score.

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8. Step up

in which you take on some harder questions

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Review the Easy Problem Solving questions that you did; do the Medium Problem Solving questions; do more Data Sufficiency questions and write notes on your strategy here – you need to be very organised and methodical with Data Sufficiency as one small slip can undo all your good work.

Do more Verbal questions. Review them. Look for patterns among your weaknesses. Address them.

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9. The cycle

in which you consistently identify areas for improvement and then focus on them

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Review the medium questions that you’ve done, both Quant and Verbal. Try to identify anything that might stop you getting 50th percentile or higher in each section or 600+ overall. Consider any discrete skills that might help you, such as speed reading or mind mapping in Reading Comprehension. Do number drills regularly. Think through all of the different strategies you’ve amassed up till now.

DO another practice test (Manhattan would be good at this point)

REVIEW your test (and possibly any recent OG questions)

IMPROVE by identifying areas for improvement or practice and tackling them

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10. Do-Review-Improve

in which you consistently make small gains until you reach your desired level

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Do another practice test (probably the second official one). Review it. Improve. Simple.

Remember that you can reset the official practice tests. You can also buy more; and if you like the Manhattan test you did, you can buy more of them too.

You may also want to finish the OG if you haven’t already, or consider buying extra online questions (and possibly extra books). But always bear in mind that, as in life, quality is better than quantity.

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