You don’t have to pore over a Strategy Guide in order to prepare for the GMAT. Here are some things you can do in “normal” life to improve your overall test-taking skills.
- Work out your brain. Learn to do Sudoku, simple crossword puzzles, or other brain-teasers (iPod applications, even). Do some brain exercise every day, especially in the morning. Choose word puzzles and logic games over action.
- Work out–period. Study after study has shown that regular exercise, especially aerobic, has a profound effect on your cognitive performance. See Brain Rules by John Medina for more about this.
- Beef up your analytical and logical skills. Read a good book about logical thinking (Being Logical by D.Q. McIreny).
- Buy a book. Read it!
More about this: Other than intensive study and practice of test-specific strategies, the best way to improve your overall score on standardized tests is to read more for fun. If you don’t read every day, start with something light and entertaining—Harry Potter, romance novels, science fiction, Tom Clancy, or anything interesting to you. Keep the book with you and read whenever you have a spare 5 minutes. Eventually, move on to good contemporary non-fiction, which is closer to what you’ll see on the test itself.
- Good Magazines (many of which are actually used on the test): Scientific American, Economist, New Yorker, Journal of American History, Discover, New York Times, Harpers, Atlantic Monthly, Harvard Law Review, Psychology Today
- John Medina. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (A good, light book about the best ways to learn.)
- Jared Diamond. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (A tough but excellent argument about human history. Diamond uses a lot of the same logic tested on the LSAT to make his points.)
- Lewis Thomas. The Lives of a Cell or The Medusa and the Snail (Available individually or as a set, these short essays about the wonders of biology appear regularly in reading comprehension sections. Good reading if you don’t like science passages.)
Other recommended books and authors:
- Best American Science and Nature Writing, Best American Science Writing, Best American Essays, or Best American Non-Required Reading
- Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything
- Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces
- Cannavo, S. Think to Win: The Power of Logic in Everyday Life
- Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker
- Didion, Joan. Slouching Towards Bethlehem
- Durant, Will. The Story of Philosophy or The Story of Civilization
- Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink or Outliers
- Gilbert, Daniel. Stumbling on Happiness
- Gould, Stephen J. Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History or The Panda’s thumb: More Reflections in Natural History
- Haraway, Donna. Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science
- Hawking, Stephen W. A Briefer History of Time or The Universe in a Nutshell
- Levitt, Steven and Stephen Dubner. Freakonomics or Superfreakonomics
- Lippmann, Walter. A Preface to Morals
- D.Q. McIreny. Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking
- McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
- Sacks, Oliver. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat or anything by him
- Sobel, Dava. Longitude
- Wellek, Rene and Austin Warren. Theory of Literature
- Wilson, Edward O. Sociobiology or The Diversity of Life