### Archives For Stacey Koprince

You’ve heard a million times that you’re supposed to create Official Guide (OG) problem sets in order to practice for the test. But how do you actually do so in a way that will help you get the most out of your study?

Initially, when you’re studying a new topic or problem type, you won’t do sets of problems; instead, you’ll just try one problem at a time. As you gain experience, though, you’re going to want to do 3 problems in a row, or 5, or 10.

## Why?

Because the real test will never give you just one problem!

The GMAT will give you many questions in a row and they’ll be all jumbled up—an SC, then a couple of CRs, then back to another SC (that tests different grammar rules than the first one), and so on.

You want to practice two things:

(1) Jumping around among question types and topics

(2) Managing your timing and mental energy among a group of questions

## When do I start doing problem sets?

You’re going to use problem sets to test your skills, so you’ve got to develop some of those skills first. If you’re using our Strategy Guides to study, then at the end of one chapter, you’ll do only two or three OG problems to make sure that you understood the material in the chapter.

Later, though, when you finish the Guide, do a set of problems that mix topics (and question types) from that entire book. Make sure you can distinguish between the similar-but-not-quite-the-same topics in that book, and also practice your skills on both problem solving and data sufficiency. As you finish subsequent Guides, your sets can include problems from everything you’ve done so far. Keep mixing it up!

## How do I make the sets?

You’ll need to balance three things when you create a problem set:

(1) Number of problems. Initially, start out with about 3 to 5 problems. As you gain experience and add topics, you’ll increase the size of the sets—we’ll talk more about this a little later.

(2) Type of problem and content.
(a) For quant, always do a mix of Problem Solving (PS) and Data Sufficiency (DS). For verbal, mix at least two of the three types; you can include all three types in larger sets.
(b) Do not do a set of 3 or more questions all from the same chapter or content area—for example, don’t do 3 exponents questions in a row. You know exactly what you’re about to get and the real test will never be this nice to you.

(3) Difficulty level.
(a) For all types except Reading Comprehension, the OG places problems in roughly increasing order of difficulty. Problem 3 is easier than problem 50, which is easier than problem 102. Include a mix of easier, medium, and harder questions in your set.
(b) Note: your personal strengths and weaknesses will affect how you perceive the problems—you might think a lower-numbered problem is hard or a higher-numbered problem is easy. They are… for you! Expect that kind of outcome sometimes.

## Timing!

Next, calculate how much time to give yourself to do the problem set.

Stop! Before you dive in and start calculating on a math problem, reflect for a moment. How can you set up the work to minimize the number of annoying calculations?

Try the below Percent problem from the free question set that comes with your GMATPrep® software. The problem itself isn’t super hard but the calculations can become time-consuming. If you find the problem easy, don’t dismiss it. Instead, ask yourself: how can you get to the answer with an absolute minimum of annoying calculations?

 District Number of Votes Percent of Votes for Candidate P Percent of Votes for Candidate Q 1 800 60 40 2 1,000 50 50 3 1,500 50 50 4 1,800 40 60 5 1,200 30 70

* ” The table above shows the results of a recent school board election in which the candidate with the higher total number of votes from the five districts was declared the winner. Which district had the greatest number of votes for the winner?

“(A) 1

“(B) 2

“(C) 3

“(D) 4

“(E) 5”

Ugh. We have to figure out what they’re talking about in the first place!

The first sentence of the problem describes the table. It shows 5 different districts with a number of votes, a percentage of votes for one candidate and a percentage of votes for a different candidate.

Hmm. So there were two candidates, P and Q, and the one who won the election received the most votes overall. The problem doesn’t say who that was. I could calculate that from the given data, but I’m not going to do so now! I’m only going to do that if I have to.

Let’s see. The problem then asks which district had the greatest number of votes for the winner. Ugh. I am going to have to figure out whether P or Q won. Let your annoyance guide you: is there a way to tell who won without actually calculating all the votes?

Right now, you might be thinking, “Wait, what? I don’t actively want to get stuff wrong!”

In fact, yes, you do. Let me take you on what might seem like a tangent for a moment.

Would you agree that one of the marks of a strong business person is the ability to tell the difference between good opportunities and bad ones? And the ability to capitalize on those good opportunities while letting the bad ones go?

Yes, of course—that’s a basic definition of business. What does that have to do with the GMAT?

The GMAT is a test of your business skills. They don’t really care how great you are with geometry or whether you know every obscure grammar rule in the book. They care whether you can distinguish between good and bad opportunities and whether you can drop the bad ones without a backward glance.

If you want to maximize your score on the GMAT, then you will have a short-list of topics that you want to get wrong fast on the test. My top three in math are combinatorics, 3-D geometry, and anything with roman numerals.

How do you decide what your categories should be? Let’s talk.

## But I don’t really want to get stuff wrong… that’s just a metaphor, right?

No, it’s not a metaphor. I really want you to plan how and what you’re going to get wrong! If you haven’t already, read my post about what the GMAT really tests. (You can go ahead and read it right now; I’ll wait.)

In a nutshell, the GMAT is set up to force us to get some of the questions wrong. No matter what you can do, they’ll just give you something harder.

Ultimately, they want to see whether you have the makings of a good business person. One way to test that is to force you into a situation where your choice is between spending extra time and mental energy on something that’s too hard—likely causing yourself to run out of time and energy before the test is over—and cutting yourself off when appropriate.

## How do I cut myself off?

First of all, put yourself in this mindset:

You’re at the office, working on a group project.

A colleague of yours is the project manager.

The manager annoys you because he (or she) keeps assigning too many tasks, some of which are not all that important.

Sometimes, you’re rolling your eyes when your colleague tosses a certain piece of work at you; you’re thinking, “Seriously, the client meeting is in 3 days. This is NOT the best use of our remaining time.”

Got that? Okay, now during the test, put yourself in that mindset. The test itself is your annoying colleague. When he drops a roman numeral question in your lap, or a 4-line sentence correction with every last word underlined, you’re already rolling your eyes and thinking, “Are you serious? Come on.”

Here’s the key step: let yourself get just a little annoyed—but with the test, not yourself. You’re not feeling badly that you don’t like the problem; you don’t feel as though you’re falling short. No way! Instead, your colleague is trying to get you to do something that is clearly a waste of time. Roll your eyes. To appease your colleague, figure out whether there’s enough here for you to make an educated guess. Then pick something and move on to more important tasks.

## How do I know when to cut myself off?

Quick: name your top three annoyances in quant. Now do the same in verbal. Here’s another one of mine: an RC detail EXCEPT question on a really technical topic with very long answer choices. (In other words, I have to find the four wrong answers in order to find the one right answer… and the topic area is very long and annoying.)

That’s your starting point: you already know you dread these areas. Back this up with data: make sure that these really are the worst ones for you. “Worst” is defined as “I rarely get these right and even when I do, I still use too much time and brain energy.”

Next, check to see how commonly tested the particular topic or question type is. You can’t afford to blow off algebra—that’s too broad a topic. You can, though, blow off sequences.

For some topics, you do want to try to be able to answer lower-level questions. For instance, if one of my students just hates polygons (triangles, squares, rectangles), he has my blessing to blow off harder questions—the ones that combine shapes, for example, or that move into the 3-D arena. He does need to learn the more basic formulas, though, so that he isn’t missing too many lower-level questions.

Your particular mix of pet peeves will almost certainly change over time. Initially, I had some other things at the top of my list, such as weighted averages. Then, I discovered a much better way to do those problems, so 3-D geometry took its place.

Some topics, though, will always be weaknesses. I’ve never liked combinatorics and doubt I ever will. That’s perfectly fine, particularly when the topic is not that commonly tested anyway!

Sound off in the comments below: what areas do you hate the most? Your new strategy is to get those wrong fast and redirect that time and mental energy elsewhere!

Last week, we talked about the first two elements of getting the most out of your CATs

#1: How NOT to use your practice CATs

#2: How to analyze your Strengths and Weaknesses with respect to timing

This week, we’re going to dive even further into Strengths and Weaknesses using the Assessment Reports.

## #3: Run The Reports

Note: this article series is based on the metrics that are given in ManhattanGMAT tests, but you can extrapolate to other tests that give you similar performance data.

In the ManhattanGMAT system, click on the link “Generate Assessment Reports.” The first time, run the report based solely on the most recent test that you just did; later, we’ll aggregate data from your last two or three tests.

The first report produced is the Assessment Summary; this report provides the percentages correct for the five main Q and V question types, as well as average timing and difficulty levels. Here’s an example; see whether you can spot any problem areas.

Most people will immediately say “Oh, this student is better at PS than DS.” Why? “Because the percentage correct is higher for PS.”

Actually, that’s the wrong takeaway for this particular set of results. It’s crucial to compare three data points at once: the percentage correct, the time spent, and the difficulty levels.

It’s true that the PS percentage correct is significantly higher. But look at that timing: the student is spending a lot longer on PS. DS is averaging well below the normal time of 2 minutes. Further, check out those difficulty levels; the correct answers are at the same level of difficulty!

How many practice tests have you taken so far? Are you satisfied—or frustrated—with your progress?

One of the biggest mistakes I see students make is also relatively easy to fix: they don’t learn what they should be learning from their practice tests. This is exactly what we’re going to talk about today.

## #1 You don’t get better while taking a CAT

Wait, how is this a step to get the most out of your CATs?? Read on.

Have you ever done this? You take a test, but aren’t happy with your score, so within a week or so, you take another test.

Bad move! First, you already have all of the info that you need in that first test; your skills aren’t going to change radically in a week. You just wasted 4 hours of valuable study time (not to mention, one of your limited practice tests!) in order to get the same data that you already know.

Alternatively, have you read online that someone out there took 14 practice tests in a 6-week period and swears by this method of studying because he then got a 760? If you do just what he did, you’ll get a 760 too!

Sadly, there’s a very good chance you won’t. Do you remember that one kid from your school, the one who was always excited when the standardized test days came around? She was super annoying because she just did well on these tests “naturally” and she actually liked taking them. (Yes, that was me.)

Here’s the thing: if these tests already just “make sense” to you, then sure, the brute force approach is likely to work. The thing is: those of us who can do this ARE actually analyzing this stuff just as much as you need to, but we do so more quickly than most, and almost without being aware that we’re doing it. The brute force method works for perhaps 1% of the population and if it were going to work for you, you’d already know it.

The first step, then, is to make this mindset switch: you’re going to use your CATs to practice what you’ve already learned and to provide data to help you continue to learn after the CAT is over. You should be able to find a bare minimum of 2 weeks’ worth of things to do based on your assessment of one CAT. That takes us to step #2…

Sometime early on in your study, you’re going to take a practice test. Don’t put this off! You need to know your strengths and weaknesses so that you can set up your study plan and prioritize the right things.

A couple of months ago, we talked about what to do when a geometry problem pops up on the screen. Do you remember the basic steps? Try to implement them on the below GMATPrep® problem from the free tests.

* ”In the xy-plane, what is the y-intercept of line L?

“(1) The slope of line L is 3 times its y-intercept
“(2) The x-intercept of line L is – 1/3”

My title (3 Steps to Better Geometry) is doing double-duty. First, here’s the general 3-step process for any quant problem, geometry included:

All geometry problems also have three standard strategies that fit into that process.

First, pick up your pen and start drawing! If they give you a diagram, redraw it on your scrap paper. If they don’t (as in the above problem), draw yourself a diagram anyway. This is part of your Glance-Read-Jot step.

Second, identify the “wanted” element and mark this element on your diagram. You’ll do this as part of the Glance-Read-Jot step, but do it last so that it leads you into the Reflect-Organize stage. Where am I trying to go? How can I get there?

Third, start Working! Infer from the given information. Geometry on the GMAT can be a bit like the proofs that we learned to do in high school. You’re given a couple of pieces of info to start and you have to figure out the 4 or 5 steps that will get you over to the answer, or what you’re trying to “prove.”

Let’s dive into this problem. They’re talking about a coordinate plane, so you know the first step: draw a coordinate plane on your scrap paper. The question indicates that there’s a line L, but you don’t know anything else about it, so you can’t actually draw it. You do know, though, that they want to know the y-intercept. What does that mean?

They want to know where line L crosses the y-axis. What are the possibilities?

Infinite, really. The line could slant up or down or it could be horizontal. In any of those cases, it could cross anywhere. In fact, the line could even be vertical, in which case it would either be right on the y-axis or it wouldn’t cross the y-axis at all. Hmm.

Sequence problems aren’t incredibly common on the test, but if you’re doing well on the quant section, be prepared to see one. Now, you’ve got a choice: do you want to guess quickly and save time for other, easier topics? Do you want to learn some “test savvy” techniques that will help you with some sequence questions but possibly not all of them? Or do you want to learn how to do these every single time, no matter what?

That isn’t a trick question. Every good business person knows that there’s a point of diminishing returns: if you don’t actually need a 51, then you may study for a lower (but still good!) score and re-allocate your valuable time elsewhere.

Try this GMATPrep® problem from the free test. After, we’ll talk about how to do it in the “textbook” way and in the “back of the envelope” way.

* ”For every integer k from 1 to 10, inclusive, the kth term of a certain sequence is given by . If T is the sum of the first 10 terms in the sequence, then T is

“(A) greater than 2

“(B) between 1 and 2

“(C) between 1/2 and 1

“(D) between 1/4 and 1/2

“(E) less than 1/4”

First, let’s talk about how to do this thing in the “textbook math” way. If you don’t want to do this the textbook math way, feel free to skip to the second method below.

Textbook Method

If you’ve really studied sequences, then you may recognize the sequence as a particular kind called a Geometric Progression. If not, you would start to find the terms and see whether you can spot a pattern.

Plug in k = 1, 2, 3. What’s going on?

What’s going on here? Each time, the term gets multiplied by -1/2 in order to get to the next one. When you keep multiplying by the same number in order to get to the next term, then you have a geometric progression.

This next part gets into some serious math. Unless you really just love math, I wouldn’t bother learning this part for the GMAT, because there’s a very good chance you’ll never need to use it. But, if you want to, go for it!

When you have a geometric progression, you can calculate the sum in the following way:

Next, you’re going to multiply every term in the sum by the common ratio. What’s the common ratio? It’s the constant number that you keep multiplying each term by to get the next one. In this case, you’ve already figured this out: it’s – 1/2.

If you multiply this through all of the terms on both sides of the equation, you’ll get this:

Does anything look familiar? It’s basically the same list of numbers as in the first sum equation, except it’s missing the first number, 1/2. All of the others are identical!

Subtract this second equation from the first:

The right-hand side of the equation is always going to be just the first term of the original sum. The rest of the terms on the right-hand side of the two equations are identical, so when you subtract, they become zero and disappear.

Solve for s:

This value falls between 1/4 and 1/2, so the answer is (D).

Back of the Envelope Method

There is another way to tackle this one. At the same time, this problem is really tricky—so this solution is still not an “easy” solution. Your best choice might be just to guess and move on.

Before you start reading the text, take a First Glance at the whole thing. It’s a problem-solving problem. The answers are… weird. They’re not exact. What does that mean?

Read the problem, but keep that answer weirdness in mind. The first sentence has a crazy sequence. The question asks you to sum up the first 10 terms of this sequence. And the answers aren’t exact… so apparently you don’t need to find the exact sum.

Take a closer look at the form of the answers. Notice anything about them?

They don’t overlap! They cover adjacent ranges. If you can figure out that, for example, the sum is about 3/4, then you know the answer must be (C). In other words, you can actually estimate here—you don’t have to do an exact calculation.

That completely changes the way you can approach this problem! Here’s the sequence:

According to the problem, the 10 terms are from k = 1 to k = 10. Calculating all 10 of those and then adding them up is way too much work (another clue that there’s got to be a better way to do this one). So what is that better way?

Since you know you can estimate, try to find a pattern. Calculate the first two terms (we had to do this in the first solution, too).

What’s going on? The first answer is positive and the second one is negative. Why? Ah, because the first part of the calculation is -1 raised to a power. That will just keep switching back and forth between 1 and -1, depending on whether the power is odd or even. It won’t change the size of the final answer, but it will change the sign.

Okay, and what about that second part? it went from 1/2 to 1/4. What will happen next time? Try just that part of the calculation. If k = 3, then just that part will become .

Interesting! So the denominator will keep increasing by a factor of 2: 2, 4, 8, 16 and so on.

Great, now you can write out the 10 numbers!

… ugh. The denominator’s getting pretty big. That means the fraction itself is getting pretty small. Do I need to keep writing these out?

What was the problem asking again?

Right, find the sum of these 10 numbers. Let’s see. The first number in the sequence is 1/2 and the second is -1/4, so the pair adds up to 1/4.

Right now, the answer would be right between D and E. Does the sum go up or down from here?

The third number will add 1/8, so it goes up:

But the fourth will subtract 1/16 (don’t forget that every other term is negative!), pulling it back down again:

Hmm. In the third step, it went up but not enough to get all the way to 1/2. Then, it went down again, but by an even smaller amount, so it didn’t get all the way back down to 1/4.

The fifth step would go up by an even smaller amount (1/32), and then it would go back down again by yet a smaller number (1/64). What can you conclude?

First, the sum is always growing a little bit, because each positive number is a bit bigger than the following negative number. The sum is never going to drop below 1/4, so cross off answer (E).

You keep adding smaller and smaller amounts, though, so if the first jump of 1/8 wasn’t enough to get you up to 1/2, then none of the later, smaller jumps will get you there either, especially because you also keep subtracting small amounts. You’re never going to cross over to 1/2, so the sum has to be between 1/4 and 1/2.

As I mentioned above, you may decide that you don’t want to do this problem at all. These aren’t that common—many people won’t see one like this on the test. Also, you don’t have to get everything right to get a top score. Just last week, I spoke with a student who outright guessed on 4 quant problems, and she still scored a 51 (the top score).

Key Takeaways for Advanced Sequence Problems

(1) Do you even want to learn how to do these? Don’t listen to your pride. Listen to your practical side. This might not be the best use of your time.

(2) All of these math problems do have a textbook solution method—but you’d have to learn a lot of math that you might never use if you try to learn all of the textbook methods. That’s not a problem if you’re great at math and have a great memory for this stuff. If not…

(3) … then think about alternate methods that can work just as well. Certain clues will indicate when you can estimate on a problem, rather than solving for the “real” number. You may already be familiar with some of these, for instance when you see the word “approximately” in the problem or answer choices that are spread pretty far apart. Now, you’ve got a new clue to add to your list: answers that offer a range of numbers and the different answer ranges don’t overlap.

* GMATPrep® questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Usage of this question does not imply endorsement by GMAC.

How do you study? More importantly, how do you know that the way in which you’re studying is effective—that is, that you’re learning what you need to learn to improve your GMAT score? Read on!

In the first part of this series, we discussed how to get started: setting up your timeframe, picking out your materials, and so on. (If you haven’t read it yet, please do so before you continue here!) In today’s installment, we’ll talk about how to study and make progress over the actual length of your study timeframe.

### HOW Do I Learn?

This section addresses probably the single biggest mistake that people make when preparing for the GMAT.

At first, you’re going to concentrate more on what you need to learn / re-learn, but as you progress, you’re going to concentrate more on learning how to think. Yes, you need to know the formula for the area of a circle and how modifiers work and so on. You also need to know how to handle the different question types given on the GMAT.

But that’s only the start. Once you learn or re-learn a lot of that content, you will then need to move to the next level, which is what this test is really testing: how to think your way through any given problem, making the best possible decisions for each given situation. (Read that article I just linked.)

“Light bulb” Moments

You learn how to do this by analyzing the way these problems are put together by the test writers. You’ll actually learn to recognize what the test writers are trying to obscure, because you’ll have seen something like it before and you’ll have taken the time to think through it when the clock isn’t ticking.

Think about that the last time you were reading a new question and a “light bulb” went off in your head because you knew what to do. That was recognition! The more parts of new problems you can recognize, the better you’ll do on this test. Those of us who score in the 99th percentile don’t do so because we have some magic ability to figure everything out in three seconds. Rather, we’ve taught ourselves to recognize various bits of GMAT language, so that we have a huge advantage on most new questions.

Your goal is to learn to recognize as much as you can, so that you have as many “light bulb” moments as possible on test day.

Analyzing Problems

When doing GMAT-format problems, be aware that roughly 80% of your learning comes after you have finished doing the problem. Your goal here is not to do a million questions—your goal is to do a much more modest number of questions and really analyze them to death. Here’s how to review GMAT practice problems. You can find additional articles illustrating this process here, in the How To Study section.

I’ll repeat: you do not need to do every last OG problem out there. You do, however, need to learn something from each and every problem that you do—ideally multiple things. Otherwise, you are literally wasting your time!

### The Plan

Okay, so you know your goal score, you know your strengths and weaknesses, and you’ve gathered your materials. You also know how to study: content / memorization, yes, but also a focus on how to think through problems. It’s time to develop your specific plan.

If you are taking a course, follow the syllabus. If you’re working with a tutor, figure out the plan with your tutor.

Otherwise, pick a time frame (generally two to three weeks) and decide what weaknesses you want to improve in that timeframe. In general, start with your biggest weaknesses in areas that are frequently tested on the GMAT. If you’re not sure which areas are most frequently tested, ask the experts on the forums. (I’m not listing them here because they can change over time.)

Get a calendar and block off one to two hours each day (okay, you can have one day off each week :-)). You don’t have to do your study all at once; you might do half an hour at lunch and another hour after work. Also, you’ll probably have some days on which you can study only 30 minutes or even 15. That’s fine—start off planning for 1-2 hours each day, but it’s okay if a few days “slip.” You may then have other days on which you study 3 or 4 hours; that’s fine as well, as long as you don’t study for more than about 2 hours in one sitting. (Why? Read this.)

In your journal, write down what your focus will be for each of the first six study days (one week). The first 5 sessions might, for example, consist of reading various chapters in various books and doing practice problems associated with those chapters. Estimate how much time you think it will take but be flexible; some study will go faster and some will take you longer than you expect.

Day 6 is a review day; you might do some sets of random problems, review what you did during the first 5 days, do a few problems from older areas that you haven’t studied recently, et cetera.

Individual Study Sessions

When you start a study session, pick an area of focus. Perhaps you’ll be working on linear and quadratic equations, or Find the Assumption questions, or Smart Numbers techniques for math. If you’re learning this material for the first time, start by working through whatever material you have that teaches you about that topic.

For example, if you’re using our materials to study Find the Assumption, you would read through the first Assumption Family chapter in your CR book. Do some exercises to test your understanding of the material you’re learning (in our book, these exercises are already built into the chapter).

When you feel you’ve got a grasp on the material, try a medium-level OG problem; then, move to a harder or easier one, depending on how you did. Review the official explanations as well as any alternate explanations that you find valuable—for example, you might look up the problem in our OG Archer program, or search for a discussion of the problem on the forums. Go over your work using the analysis techniques discussed in the next section. You may even want to return to the Find the Assumption questions you saw on your most recent practice tests and try them again.

At the end of each study session, jot down in your journal what you did that day, what you think went well, and what you think needs more work. (This knowledge will all come from your analysis of what you did that day.) If something didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, then feel free to adjust your calendar. At the end of the week, review your journal and set up your plan for the following week.

Study Strategy

During a particular study session, if you are reading lessons and then doing “skill drill” type practice problems (not GMAT format) in that same area, you should spend about 50% to 60% of your time learning and the rest drilling. If you are doing and then reviewing sets of GMAT-format practice problems, then you should spend at most 40% of your time doing a set of questions and at least 60% of your time reviewing those questions. (The 60%+ includes whatever you need to do in order to get better—re-read part of a chapter, figure out a more efficient way to do something, post a question on the forum, make up a couple of flashcards, etc.)

You’ll spend roughly the first 4 to 10 weeks focused more on the content (how does parallelism work, what’s an inference question, how do I solve simultaneous equations?). Perhaps 80% of your focus will be on content for the first few weeks, but you’ll gradually begin to add in the “how to think” aspect—in fact, the How To Analyze series of articles linked earlier is all about training ourselves how to think.

As you start finishing your test prep books / lessons (the ones that teach you the actual content), you’ll need to start focusing more heavily towards how to think about problems that test those content areas. You may start your session by doing a set of 10 mixed questions (not all the same type), after which you’ll analyze them all thoroughly and record your major takeaways, all of which can easily take 2 hours. While you’re doing that analysis, you’ll review any books or lessons necessary to get the most out of whatever problem you’re studying right now.

### Quizzing and Testing Yourself

Periodically, quiz yourself. Mini-quizzes can be done a few times a week: a 5 or 10-minute flashcard quiz, for example, while you’re on the subway or waiting for that conference call to start. Regular quizzes should be done roughly once a week—a 5- to 10-question set of GMAT-format practice questions done under timed conditions, for example. (Don’t forget to analyze these thoroughly when you’re done!) As you progress through the test prep lessons (especially after you have been through all of the content material once), you may begin to do regular quizzes two or three times a week.

Repeat until you feel you’ve made good progress across multiple areas and are ready to test yourself on a CAT again. (This will typically take at least two to three weeks . Don’t take a CAT every week—that’s a waste of valuable study time!)

### Do it all over again

Your overall process is going to be: take a CAT, analyze it, set up at least 2-3 weeks’ worth of work, then (when you feel ready) take another CAT and repeat the whole cycle.

When you take your second CAT, don’t worry about the overall score. Specifically check the areas on which you’d been concentrating for the previous several weeks. Most students’ scores stay the same or even go down on CAT 2 because there’s a pretty good chance you’ll mess up the timing in some way. (Plus, if you skipped essay and IR on the first test but did them on the second test, then don’t expect much improvement on the Q and V scores.)

For the areas that you did study, though—did they get better (though you may still be struggling on time or certain concepts)? Can you move on to other topics or question types, or are you still stuck in some areas? If you need advice about how to improve, log onto the forums again!

Then, review the overall test again (the same thing you did on the first test, way back in the first half of this article) and add the highlights of your analysis to your journal.

Next, if you haven’t yet done a first pass through your main study materials, continue on with the next thing on your list / syllabus. If you have been through all of your main study materials at least once (the stuff that teaches you what to do, from test prep companies), then your test results will tell you which areas to prioritize for review. If that’s the case, figure out what your new priorities are, set up your first 6-day plan, and repeat the whole process for several weeks until you feel ready for another test.

### Take the test

Keep doing this until either your practice test scores are in your desired range or you hit a hard deadline and are forced to take the test even if your score isn’t quite where you want it yet. (And, in that case, accept that you may have to lower your goal.) If at all possible, study for the GMAT so far in advance of any deadlines that you don’t have to cut yourself off.

Good luck and happy studying!