I sat down to think about a topic and suddenly realized that I’m writing my 201st GMAT article! How do I have anything left to write about?!?
The GMAT is actually a pretty fascinating topic (in my opinion, at least!). I have to give a big shout-out to all of my students (class, tutoring, and forums!) because you guys have inspired most of my articles. I just think about what my students have been struggling with lately and, boom, I’ve got a topic.
A fellow teacher, though, is the inspiration for this particular article. We were teaching a 9-session course together recently and he asked me how I always had an article to recommend when a student had a question on any particular topic. I keep a list of every article I’ve written, so I sent it to my colleague not really thinking about how very long that list is, or how unhelpful it is to be handed something that contains a couple of hundred titles. : )
Sure enough, he replied, Um, yeah this is great. So, which ones do you think are the most important?
Point taken. There are too many”nobody’s going to read all 200”so which ones should you read? Where should you start?
What would I do if I were about to start my studies?
We’ll start today with the highest-level stuff: what we’re really trying to do here and how to approach studying in general. Next time, we’ll take a look at more nitty-gritty details. Also, I’m going to limit the list to just my own articles”but you shouldn’t limit yourself in this way! Obviously there are a lot of great study resources out there.
The one article Everyone Should Read
There are a small number of articles that everyone should read, regardless of goal score, stage of study, or weaknesses.
The one I think is most important”ideally, students should read this first, before they even start studying”is also one of the most recent: What the GMAT Really Tests. A lot of people are under the mistaken impression that the GMAT is a math, grammar, and reading test. It’s not. Intrigued? Go read that article right now!
Mindset Is The Key
The GMAT rewards flexible thinking, pattern recognition, and time efficiency. All of these are aspects of effective decision-making (what the GMAT really tests!). If I were just starting out today, I’d make sure I knew how that will impact my study process and my test-taking strategies.
In order to get yourself into the right mindset for both studying for the GMAT and taking the test, you’ve got to know what game you’re playing, and you’ve got to know how your own stubbornness could negatively impact your performance.
Timing Can Make or Break You
Given everything above, time management is a crucial component of success on test day. Too many people leave timing until too late in the game or never pay enough attention to it at all. Ideally, incorporate timing into your study from day 1. If today is already long past day 1 for you, you can still start right now”but don’t put it off one more day!
Think your timing is fine? I beg to differ. I talk to maybe one person a year who truly doesn’t have any timing problems. I talk to a whole lot of people who think they’re fine until I look at their test data or start asking them some questions.
Analyze, Analyze, Analyze
How do I know that someone’s timing is bad, even when they think it’s fine? I know how to read the data. Whenever you take a test, spend hours analyzing the results. It should take you at least twice as long to analyze the test (and questions) as it took you to take the test in the first place!
Start by digging through the test data. This will give you an idea about global strengths and weaknesses”timing, careless mistakes, the 5 major question types, all of the sub-types, content areas, and test-taking techniques. Use that to figure out, in general, how you should be spending your time over the next couple of weeks.
Then, start picking apart the individual questions. If you skip this step, then you just wasted all the time it took you to do the questions in the first place. You learn next to nothing if you don’t do this analysis!
Want more examples of analyzing a problem? Take a look at the How to Study section of this article for individual examples of the five main question types. Want more? Go to our blog and click on the tags for any area of interest. For example, click on the Reading Comprehension tag and start browsing for articles that address whatever question types are giving you trouble.
Final Thought: The Main Goal is Not To Get Things Right
That sounds crazy”this is a test! Aren’t all tests about getting stuff right?
Certainly, it’s important to get some questions right. But the main GMAT goal is to make good (great!) decisions. Sometimes, the best decision is to get something wrong fast and spend that valuable time elsewhere. It’s not always worth it to try to get some particular question right. The time or mental effort that takes might be better spent elsewhere.
We’re back to mindset again. When it comes right down to it, our success depends upon our ability to give the test-makers what they really care about: a read on our business skills, not our academic skills. Business is all about setting priorities, making trade-offs, and working efficiently with limited time and resources.
Okay, that’s all for today. Next time, we’ll dive down: specific topics and techniques to get the most bang for our study-time buck. See you then!