Strategy: How to make your preparation time effective

by Chuck on Thursday, 30 August, 2012

If there’s one mistake that many GMAT students make when preparing, it is to imagine that spending more time working, or doing more questions, will inevitably lead to improvement. GMAT preparation is all about quality, not quantity.

As a secondary school teacher, I often wrote a Learning Objective on the board at the beginning of a lesson. I recommend that you have your own Learning Objective in mind each time you begin a GMAT session. Don’t just tell yourself to work harder, concentrate more furiously or stop making mistakes. With such an attitude, you’re likely to reach a plateau, and become frustrated because you’re not improving.

A good Learning Objective focuses on one skill that needs to be improved, for example:

*experiment with different Reading Comprehension strategies
*learn to identify prime numbers quickly
*compare answer choices in Sentence Correction to get an idea of the issues involved in the question
*derive algebraic equations from text

You can now put together an exercise that helps you to improve the skill in question. Here again are some examples ~ three possible exercises for each of the objectives above:

Objective: experiment with different Reading Comprehension strategies
*read a passage multiple times; attempt to answer questions from memory
*read and note a passage; attempt to answer questions using only notes
*investigate drawing a mind map to summarise the information in a passage

Objective: learn to identify prime numbers quickly
*factorise the number of every bus you see
*identify all of the primes between 0 and 10; 10 and 20; 20 and 30 etc.
*consider numbers that are a product of two primes e.g. 91 = 7 x 13: these numbers are the most likely to be mistaken for primes

Objective: compare answer choices in Sentence Correction to get an idea of the issues involved in the question
*note the types of difference you see, and whereabouts in the answer choice they occur
*note how important the differences are: which ones allow you to eliminate an answer choice with certainty?
*play Spot the Difference

Objective: derive algebraic equations from text
*get an algebra book that starts from the basics; note any words that have a mathematical meaning
*do it backwards: derive a sentence from an algebraic equation
*put numbers in to check that your equation is correct

Two points arise from the above. One: you can use everyday life (buses in the example above) to help you. Two: GMAT preparation can be fun and needn’t just involve GMAT questions. If you want to spot differences in answer choices in Sentence Correction, Spot the Difference cartoons will help. The skill is the same. You want to train your eyes to notice often very small differences as quickly as possible. I often call this reading around the GMAT, by which I mean doing activities that, although not directly related to GMAT questions, involve transferable skills and are therefore complementary.

None of the above exercises need involve actual GMAT questions. So don’t ever sit down and say ‘I’ll do two hours’ or ‘I’ll do 50 questions’. Work out how and where you want to improve. You’ll then be able to see the progress you’ve made, and that’s bound to make you feel better.

Previous post:

Next post: