How Long Should I Study for the GMAT? – Part 2

Continued from How Long Should I Study for the GMAT? – Part 1

  • Remember studying for the GMAT is a daily practice. If you have to miss a day, fine; but don’t miss two consecutive days. Also keep in mind that it’s not just the sitting-down-and-studying part that should be daily: you shouldn’t ignore a question type for too long either (don’t, for instance, work on math questions for a week and then verbal questions for a week: the exam won’t be like that, so why would your study time?) Try to fit in both in every sitting if you can (both problem solving and data sufficiency for the math, and all three (critical reasoning, reading comprehension, and sentence correction) for the verbal).
  • Remember, too, that it is both physically and mentally impossible to study for too many consecutive hours. After awhile, you simply stop assimilating information. I would recommend studying in two-hour increments (two hours a day during the week, and two two-hour sessions on the weekends).
  • Make sure you begin each study session with a review of the content in your prior session/s. Perpetually moving on without looking back isn’t going to allow concepts to “stick” the way you’ll need them to on exam day.
  • Don’t give yourself any options for interruption. If you live with roommates, give them a heads-up whenever you’re about to dip into GMAT-land so they know not to interrupt you. Turn your phone and your internet connection off; every time you pick up the phone to talk to your mother you’ve lost not just the time of that conversation, but also the time it takes to get back into the “headspace” of the test. An hour of solid, consecutive study is a thousand times more productive than two hours of study with interruptions.
  • Don’t set yourself a study schedule that is going to make unreasonable demands of you (for example, deprive you of sleep or time with your family). Studying while exhausted is about the least efficient study mode I can think of – and studying while stressed is almost as bad. I cannot emphasize this enough: be aware of your mental and physical limits. You need both your body and your brain to be working at their most efficient not only on test day, but also during every session leading up to it.
  • In the days before the exam, it’s better to focus on mastery of the things you already know than to try to learn new content (since ideally that’s what you’ve been doing all along). It takes time to assimilate new techniques, so deciding to learn about permutations 36 hours before the GMAT is essentially equivalent to throwing those hours out the window. You simply won’t master that skill in the hours before the test. Instead, focus on honing those things you know – and congratulate yourself for having mastered them.

The Time Factor

Inevitably some of you reading this have just signed up for an exam date that is a few weeks away and/or have planned far enough in advance but have so many commitments between now and then that you’re not sure how you’re going to fit it all in. Life, as they say, continues to go on, despite this decision you’ve just made.

Here are some thoughts for the time-sensitive: Firstly, do not skip the diagnostic. No matter how little time you have, this is a really crucial step for a number of reasons. In the first place, it gives you first-hand experience of taking the real test (especially, again, if you simulate the testing situations). In the second place, the diagnostic is going to be particularly helpful for those of you short on time as it will tell you exactly what you most need to focus on in the short period you have. Still, take the above into consideration: you simply can’t sit for 8 hours at a time, cramming.

Breathe, take walks between study intervals, call your mother back (she left a message when your phone was off earlier). Eat dinner. A lot can actually be accomplished in three weeks, though these are not the most ideal study conditions for any of us. Still, it’s important to recognize that progress can be made, as can score increases (again, of the realistic kind). Trust your capabilities. And, if possible, try to enjoy the process – at least a little. There are little victories, as it were, all over the place.