Making GMAT prep fun

by Chuck on Thursday, 9 May, 2019

Preparing for the GMAT probably won’t be the most fun you’ve ever had. If you take your preparation seriously, you’ll need to dedicate a fair amount of time to your preparation ~ there go your evenings and weekends. And you won’t see nearly as much of your family and friends: even when you’re not working or studying, you’ll be exhausted. But enough with the negativity. GMAT prep needn’t be six months of torture.

Once you’ve worked out what skills you need to develop or improve, there’s no reason why you should just bash through question after question, with the odd practice test to keep things interesting. Much more interesting ~ and effective in the long term ~ is to think of non-GMAT ways to make those improvements.

Learning objectives

So what do you need to do? Here are some attributes you may want to work on:

  • Sight
  • Memory
  • Stamina
  • Organisation
  • Logic
  • Focus
  • Positivity
  • Change management
  • Reflection
  • Flexibility of thought
  • Attention to detail
  • Reasoning
  • Analysis

How do you improve your understanding or application of logic? Well, you could try Sudoku. What about attention to detail? Why not do a Spot the Difference cartoon?

There are plenty of word puzzles and number games out there. Many include logic, or organisation; many more require focus or flexibility of thought. And guess what: some can even be fun.

Here’s a short list of resources I recently compiled ~ feel free to add your own as you go:


Lumosity is a brain training website with five main areas: Speed, Memory, Attention, Flexibility and Problem Solving. There are a load of different games, so find the ones you enjoy, or that you find most useful, and go for it. Warning: some of them are mildly addictive.

Brilliant has some useful questions on Maths (including probability and some really tough geometry questions) and may also help you with your use of logic. The questions are also multiple choice, so similar to the GMAT in that respect.

The Riddler on FiveThirtyEight has some really tough problems. If, like me, you can’t do most of them, it’s still worthwhile to read and think about them. Use your common sense and your mathematical knowledge; try to come up with an approximate answer even if you can’t find an exact answer. is a wonderful resource that offers free university courses. The Saylor Introduction to Mathematical Reasoning course has some useful strategies, but you probably want to pick and choose which bits you read in depth, otherwise you’ll know more about solving the most fiendish Sudokus than you ever wanted to.


Alex Bellos writes about numbers and number puzzles. His book Can you solve my problems? is definitely worth a look, but I’ve heard his other work recommended too. Check him out.

GCHQ have now put out two puzzle books, just called I and II, which you can find here if you know where to look. I’ve got the first one. It’s infuriating at times but immensely satisfying when ~ often at a more relaxed, sleepy time of the afternoon or evening, my creative brain finds its flow.


I don’t often buy newspapers any more. When I do, I get the Saturday Times ~ not because it reflects my politics, or even for its reporting or features (although it does have some good writers), but because the Review section has a treasure trove of word and number puzzles.

If you can’t wait till Saturday, you can get the weekday edition: the daily Times 2 section also has a large selection of puzzles. I can’t remember which ones are in which edition, but you’ll find:

  • Sudoku (logic, maths)
  • Killer Sudoku (logic, maths)
  • Brain Trainer (maths)
  • Cell Blocks (logic, maths)
  • Futoshiki (logic)
  • Kakuro (logic, maths)
  • Lexica (logic, English)
  • Polygon (English)
  • Set Square (logic)
  • Suko (maths, logic)
  • Square Routes (logic)
  • Codeword (English, logic)

along with various crosswords.

Please bear in mind that other newspapers are available. All the broadsheets have some good puzzles, and there are plenty more online if you want to google the names above.

Last but not least, if you want to get used to paying attention to detail ~ so that you’ll notice when one verb has an ‘s’ on the end and another doesn’t ~ try playing Spot the Difference.

Five-year-olds often learn best through play, so why shouldn’t adults?

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