Recently, a new student asked me what he could do to get the most out of our class and his study time over the next several months. He’s not the first person to ask me this, but when I was responding to him, I realized that I really needed to write this down and share it with all of you. Many of you have heard me say these things in various forms in articles, blog posts, or forum responses over the years – but here they are in one place.
So, without further ado, the 2 biggest mistakes that people make when studying for the GMAT:
#1 “Doing” instead of “Analyzing”
Most people try to study for the GMAT in the same way they studied for school – and, for most people, that isn’t going to lead to a 700+. The GMAT is not a math test or a grammar test – really, it isn’t! It’s a reasoning test – and I’m not just referring to critical reasoning. The GMAT is really a test of how we think. If that’s not your primary focus when studying, you won’t get the best score you could get.
Two things here. First, do NOT make the mistake of equating “doing” hundreds of problems with learning. You learn when you analyze problems – the actual problem text, your thought processes and solution, alternate solutions, and so on. All of this analysis takes place after you have answered the question. I’m going to repeat that: you’re not learning much while the clock is ticking – rather, you’re testing yourself to see whether you learned what you wanted to learn before the problem even started.
Read the “How to Learn” section of this article on Developing a Study Plan. (You can find the how to learn section in the second half of the article.) That section contains links to additional articles; read those as well. Then go start doing what they say!
#2 Prioritizing “Correct” over “Efficient”
Clearly, we do want to answer questions correctly; if we get everything wrong, we’re not going to get a very good score. The issue here, though, is one of priorities. Timing is just as important as accuracy, yet everyone starts off prioritizing accuracy over time (and many, if not most, people never change that mindset).
That’s a school mentality again – there, accuracy really was more important than timing. The GMAT is a different beast, though, and you’re going to have to retrain your brain accordingly.
Further, do NOT tell yourself that you’re going to master all of the content first and then you’ll figure out that timing stuff “later.” Unless you have unlimited time to spend studying, you need to deal with timing right from the start.
Start with In It To Win It, a short article that will help you start to make this major shift in your overall mindset. Remember, the GMAT is actually testing you on your ability to set priorities, make tough decisions (such as cutting off a problem), and spending your limited time wisely, all things that good business people do every day.
Next, read the Time Management mega-article. Bookmark this one; maybe even print it out. You’re going to keep coming back to this over and over again. Start doing what it says, today.
1) Do we need take-aways for this article? Short and sweet: don’t make the above two mistakes! : )
2) Okay, I thought of one more. If you find yourself making these mistakes, and you’re not sure how to fix things, find an expert and ask! If you’re taking a class, talk to your teacher. Ask for help on the forums. Make sure to describe the struggles you’re having as clearly as possible and provide enough detail that the teacher advising you can give you advice tailored to your specific situation.