Imagine two students sit down to study GMAT questions together. The first takes out 100 addition questions and gets all of them right. The other takes out 100 of the most-difficult, 800-level GMAT questions one can find, and gets all of them wrong. Who benefits more from this type of studying? It’s an absurd thought experiment since it’s fairly obvious that neither of these students is benefitting much from their study method. But over my years of teaching the GMAT, I’ve seen far too many students who fit too closely into one of these two camps. Students who are great at quant but not at verbal, yet spend all of their time doing quant questions because they are “more fun”. Other students are determined to score 750 and spend all of their time and effort doing as many 700-800 level questions as they can find, not seeing an improvement, and thinking that the solution is to see more 700-800 level questions. This isn’t some profound discovery, but too many students miss this critical point:
You get better at the GMAT by identifying a weakness, learning a better/faster method to attack that weakness, and practicing that method until it becomes habit. Repeat.
Note that this doesn’t mean that you have to do 50 rate questions and by question 50, you’ll be a master at determining the train schedule between two different towns. Nor do you need to do every question in every GMAT-related book you can get your hands on. If you’ve been to a Manhattan class, you’ve seen first-hand that our instructors’ goal is not to do as many questions as we can cram into a class. There are some topics in class where we only look at 4-5 questions, but we spend an hour breaking down the methods, key words, traps, and wrong answer choices that will be similar to the methods, key words, traps, and wrong answer choices that students will one day see on the real test. The goal is never to see why Answer Choice E is a trap answer. It’s to see why Answer Choice E fits into a certain category of trap answers and learn how to avoid that category of trap answers come test day.
So how does this relate to your own studying? Let’s talk about what a productive 1-hour study session might look like by examining what many of my own study sessions looked like while I was studying for my GMAT.