Five Top GMAT Study Mistakes
The first question we want to ask: How long has it been since you’ve taken a standardized test? Now that you’ve decided to take the GMAT, you’ll need to get back to the books again. At Manhattan Review, we realize that everyone learns differently and may even have his or her own tried and true study skills so we believe there is no universal method to prescribe. However, we do know from years of experience some of the common study mistakes students make while preparing for the GMAT.
Here are the five top GMAT study mistakes:
- “More” is not necessarily more
To see every problem in existence is the only way to master the GMAT. If you believe this misperception, you’re sure to strike out in your prep. Of course, you’ll want to see the scope and variety of problems to know which concepts are tested. But simply being exposed to all sorts of problems is really not enough. You have to ‘study’ the problems and this could mean working on fewer problems. Know this: you’re by no means finished with a problem when you get it right!
The best way to study is to spend twice as much time reviewing the problem as you spend on doing it. Here are some examples: a) ask yourself, did I answer the question in the best way possible? b) Did I identify the subject matter being tested? c) Did I find the lesson in every question? Keep in mind — these are your goals.
- Use practice tests sparingly
If you think that taking a practice test every day for 4 weeks, you’ll be prepared for the actual test, then you’re heading for disaster. This technique will definitely not be a help in learning the necessary material to ace the GMAT. Practice tests should not be your most essential tool. The best way to use them is to work on your timing. Your primary focus should be on your weakest areas. Further, do not focus on your score. Remember, these are practice exams, not the real thing.
- When studying, pace yourself
At some point in our lives, we’ve pulled cramming sessions where we’ve stayed up most of the night studying and consuming large amounts of coffee. Research has shown us that studying for long periods of time in not effective. Rather, you’ll want to pace yourself. Allow at least three months to prepare, studying anywhere from 2-3 hours per day.
In addition, mix up each study session with a little bit of verbal and a bit of quantitative material. Do a group of problems, spend the about 30 minutes reviewing the work. Get up, take a short break, then come back and do that same thing again.
- Get the answer right in the right amount of time
What’s critical to your overall success here is time. You have only 75 minutes to answer either 41 verbal questions or 37 quantitative questions. So time really makes up your strategy and whether you succeed or not. At Manhattan Review we tell our applicants not to give a great deal of emphasis on getting the problem correct in a certain amount of time. The best way to handle this is to always time your practice tests. You’ll want to allow yourself a specific number of minutes to finish a set of problems. This is a great way to see how well you balance those problems that take too long with those than you’re able to complete faster than average.
- Studying just what you’re good at
Working only on the stuff you’re good at, while it makes you feel great to get the problems correct and in the right time frame, will hurt your score in the long run. What you want to concentrate on are the areas where you’re weak so that improvements can be made.
In the scheme of things, the adaptive nature of this type of test creates a stopping point for your strengths. Here’s a case in point: if your reading comprehension level is in the 500s, you will never see a 700-level sentence correction question. Get the idea? That said, hit the books and work hard, especially on your weak areas. You’ll see improvements over time and come to realize your score will be stellar as well.
The GMAT can seem like a daunting task. But if you avoid these five mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to victory. Lastly, we have a few positive tips.
First, understand the question, make sure to keep the pace, and above all, finish the exam. If you get stuck on a question, take a good guess, and move on. The GMAT exam’s computer algorithm will adjust. The most important tip we can give is: create a study strategy that focuses on your ability to answer questions on an increasingly challenging scale. And remember, you don’t need advanced math or Trig to get a high score. Just review basic math and focus on logic and reasoning when answering practice questions.
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