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What’s the difference between a real GMAT and a practice one? On the real GMAT, you’re finished after three and a half hours, give or take. But while you are preparing for the GMAT, finishing a practice test is much different than being finished with it. As I’ve written about before, practice tests are great assessment tools but not necessarily great learning tools. Practice tests tell you what you would likely score on the real GMAT if you answered 37 quant and 41 verbal questions with the same level of aptitude that you had on the questions you just saw. But if you want to see your GMAT score improve, you’re going to have to spend some time reviewing what you did, how you did it, and how you could do it better. To help you on that quest to get better, here are four kinds of questions that you can use to help improve your score.

1)  Questions You Got Wrong

gmat mistakeThis one is the obvious one- if you want to get better at the GMAT, you need to find questions that you got wrong and learn how to get them right. But this isn’t as simple as finding an explanation online and memorizing it (although our forums are a great place to get many of your hardest questions answered). Studying for the GMAT is more than just trying to read and memorize a bunch of facts- it’s about changing the way that your brain thinks about how to manipulate an equation or dissect an argument. And what better way for your brain to learn how to tackle a challenge than to give your brain more time to do so. In the middle of a test, your brain is rushed. You might have had to give up on the question halfway through or guessed on it immediately to save yourself time. But when you give your brain more time to discover that A-HA! moment, your brain is much more likely to recognize what to do the next time you see a similar hurdle. After you spend some time trying to solve it on your own, feel free to search for an explanation or a better way of solving a problem. However, you have to make sure that the explanation you read is something that you can do in your own head or your own paper come test day.


gmat reviewAs we discussed in the first half of this series, Building Your Game Plan, during the last 7 to 14 days before you take the real test, your entire study focus changes. In this article, we’re going to discuss the second half of this process: how to review. (If you haven’t already read the first half, do so; then come back here and continue with the second part.)

What is a Game Plan?

The first half of the article, found at the link above, discusses how to build and implement your Game Plan. At the same time, you’re also going to be reviewing, so let’s talk about that!

What to Review

Part of the game planning process is determining your strengths and weaknesses (which is why I recommended that you read the Building Your Game Plan article first). You’ll then need to consider your list of strengths and weaknesses from the point of view of how frequently those topics or question types tend to be found on the real exam. Struggling with probabilities or evaluate the conclusion Critical Reasoning questions? Neither type is that common and you have just two weeks left; drop them from your list. Struggling with exponential or quadratic equations or inference Reading Comprehension questions? Those are much more common, so they need to be on the review list.

If you’re not sure how frequently a particular type of content or question appears on the exam, ask on the forums. (I’m not providing a list in this article because these frequencies can change over time; I don’t want people reading this in future to be misled when things do change.)

How to Review

How you review is going to vary somewhat depending upon whether you’re reviewing a strength or a weakness. You do NOT want to do the same kind of review for everything, but you DO want to review both strengths and weaknesses. Below, I will discuss easier-for-you and harder-for-you questions, since we don’t actually know any difficulty levels when taking the test. Easier-for-you means that you find the question fairly straightforward and you expect to answer it correctly without needing extra time, though you may sometimes make a careless mistake. Harder-for-you means that this question is more of a struggle, though you still will answer some of these correctly.


What’s the optimal way to spend your last 14 days before the real test? In this article, we’re going to discuss the second half of this process: how to review. If you haven’t already, read the first part here: Building Your Game Plan. Then come back and read this part!

What is a Game Plan?

In the last two weeks before your test, your focus needs to shift from trying to learn new things to acknowledging that your skills are what they are. They’re not going to change an enormous amount in the last two weeks; you can tweak some things, but now is not the time to change major strategies across an entire question type. Further, it would be a mistake to spend your last two weeks entirely focused on your weaknesses; if you do that, then you won’t be prepared to excel on your strengths. (more…)