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Studying for the GMAT: Clean as you go

December 29, 2011 by

Recently, a colleague of mine emailed me about a previous post.  It is always nice to learn that someone out there is reading my blogroll and even nicer when it strikes a chord deep enough to warrant an unsolicited email!  The post is about the importance of keeping up with your study schedule for maximum GMAT performance.  Basically, I want all you test prep warriors to “clean as you go.”

I always ask my GMAT students who are nearing the end of their Kaplan course if they have any recommendations for incoming students.  While not all of you are or will be Kaplan students, the Top 5 pieces of advice that come from this survey are absolutely generalizable to everyone on the road to Test Day.  Read them and take them to heart, especially because this counsel was borne from the trials and tribulations of people who have been there.

  1. Don’t underestimate how long it takes to go through a completed practice test.  Set aside at least as much time as it took you to take it to go back over it.
  2. Start making flashcards from day 1.  There’s a lot to memorize.
  3. Make it to every class.  Things happen, sure, but don’t let avoidable situations keep you from going to class.  The Lessons On Demand are good, but it’s much better to learn in class with other students and the teacher. (Note: if you aren’t in a test prep class, treat your scheduled study time the exact same way—don’t skip it.)
  4. Ask questions.  Never be afraid or hesitate to ask about anything.  If no one is around you at the time a question arises or you don’t want to interrupt your “groove” with a Google search, then jot it down and find the answer later.
  5. Keep up with your homework.  There is more than you think and when you get behind, it is really difficult to catch up.  (Note: to those not in a class, you will be assigning yourself homework.  You’ll make lists that include items like “Take a practice test” or “Learn about combinations and permutations” or “Memorize all triangle properties.”  Same thing applies—don’t fall behind.)

Quite simply, I couldn’t agree more.  GMAT prep is a long, arduous road.  Doing well on the test is not going to happen without a lot of hard work.  As folks walk into my classroom, I like to find out how their studies are coming along.  It pains me when one or two folks are consistently replying with, “Too busy this week,” or, “I went to a Brewers game,” or, “Yeah, I really need to get on it, but…”  It pains me because I know exactly what’s going to happen.  At some point, as their test day draws nearer, it will dawn on them that they are not ready and have a lot of ground to cover.  They’ll hear my voice echoing in their head, “I understand that the GMAT isn’t the only thing you have going on, but you really need to set aside the time to study…you really need to set aside the time…you really need to set aside the time…”

You really need to set aside the time.  Schedule it, be hard-nosed about it.  Just walking into a classroom or picking up a book now and then isn’t good enough.  You have to do the work, and there’s a lot of work to do.


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