Making the Most of your GMAT Course

It’s summertime in Los Angeles, evidently. The days are longer, the weather is…standard, and the Veritas Prep office is bracing for the beginning of the busy season in MBA admissions and GMAT preparation. If you’re reading this, you’re probably in a similar position, crafting your strategy so that things run smoothly in the fall (and we applaud you for that – you’d be amazed both at how often people decide over the Labor Day holiday to take the exam and apply by the November 1 deadlines, and how easy it is for admissions committees to recognize a hastily-prepared application).

If you’ve decided to take a GMAT preparation course as part of that strategy – a wise decision for most, given the increasingly competitive nature of the exam – the summer season is an optimal time to do so. If you’re prepared to take the test in mid-September, you’ll reap the benefits of having an option to retake the exam once before the first round deadlines in mid-to-late October (GMAC will only allow examinees to retake the exam after a 30-day ‘waiting period’). That knowledge, alone, will allow you to relax and proceed through the test more calmly and comfortably, providing you with a strong competitive advantage over test-takers who feel that now-or-never pressure on test day.

Given that most GMAT students will begin classes over the next few months, I’d like to offer a handful of strategies to ensure that you make the most of your class. Having worked with hundreds of students in my instructional career, I’ve seen a number of students take particular advantage of their classroom experience and accelerate their careers as a result. How did they do it?

1) Set up a study schedule and stick to it. Procrastination has derailed many a grand plan, and students who allow themselves to slack will miss out on valuable opportunities to ask pertinent questions in class and analyze their progress with each step. There is a significant level of autonomy to each class, and the allocation of that time is generally set by those students who have finished the homework and ask related questions; if you manage to stick to a study schedule, you’ll better be able to direct the emphasis of the question-and-answer portion of each lesson to your needs.

2) Understand the wrong answers and not just the right ones. There are generally three levels of comprehension of each practice question:

-Why is the right answer correct? Almost all students will seek out this answer, and internalize it for each question.
-Why is the wrong answer incorrect? Most students will consider this whenever they miss a question.
-What about the wrong answer did you like, or why did the wrong answer look right? Fewer students will consider this, but you should. Knowing which devices the test will employ to lower your score is an important way to avoid making mistakes. Seek out these answers, and ask your instructor for assistance in doing so. Instructors have quite a bit of experience with analyzing student mistakes, and can help you find patterns in the errors you make, allowing you to focus on them directly.

3) Get to know your instructor. GMAT instructors are a unique breed – they’re intelligent enough to thoroughly understand these questions, ‘geeky’ enough to enjoy talking about them, and personable enough to want to work with you to better understand them. We can’t help it – we love to be helpful, and are thrilled when people take an interest in the subject. The more you get to know your instructor personally and solicit targeted advice, the more likely you are to gain a teammate in the process and receive personalized strategies. Again, instructors tend to have a unique perspective on student errors, and can recommend targeted drills, strategies, etc. to get you over the hump. Take advantage of that resource.

4) Set a test date. It’s not a bad idea to give yourself a week or two to settle in to your study regimen before committing to the exam, but from that point you should set a goal and work toward it. Few things are more disappointing than reaching the end of your course, intending to study for the next few weeks, and realizing weeks later that you’ve not only procrastinated, but you’ve lost your edge on some of the subjects you had studied. Before your class ends, you should have a target date in mind so that you can continue with your forward momentum.

5) Embrace the challenge. Your GMAT class is exactly what you want – you’re in school again! Take the proper perspective – you’re surrounded by your peers, working toward a common goal, and challenging your mind in a different way. Look forward to class, get to know your classmates, and enjoy the mental puzzles that the practice questions provide. I’ve never seen a student smile regularly in class and then underperform on the test – those who let themselves have fun with the process will succeed as a result. Enjoy!