2013 GMAT New Year's Resolutions

Vivian Kerr is a regular contributor to several GMAT and SAT websites, allowing her to flex her intellectual muscle while she is in between film and stage project as an actress.

Studying for the GMAT in the next few months would be a lot easier if we let go of some bad study habits, misconceptions about the exam, and kicked our study plan into high gear. It’s a New Year, so start 2013 off right with some GMAT resolutions to take your 500-600 score to a 700+.

Review the minutiae. Most students don’t spend enough time reviewing their incorrect answers. It’s not enough to simply understand why you got a particular question wrong, because your GMAT studying is not about this particular question. It’s about digging deeper: what can my getting this question wrong teach me about the skills I’m lacking? A great exercise for a really tough problem, one of those questions you’d classify as “the bane of your existence,” is to write your own version of the question. Make it similar, but different. Get inside the minds of the test-makers!

Know where you’re going, and be realistic about how to get there. Remember that success always leaves footprints. How did students who reached your target score prepare? How many times did they take the exam? What were their materials, methods, and study plans? You can find lots of first-hand accounts on GMAT forums online. Students often publish lengthy (and truly inspiring!) debriefs on the GMAT experience. Forums like Beat the GMAT and GMATClub are great places to go when you’re feeling down after your latest disappointing practice test. We’ve all been there. J

Over-prepare; don’t narrowly miss your target. If you know you’ve got 60 days left and you need to comfortably score a 700+, you should aim to score around a 720 on a GMATPrep  practice test, that way there are no “surprises” on test day. If you’ve gotten a 720+ on a GMATPrep, you can walk into the exam confident that a 700+ if within reach. Unfortunately, most test-takers aim high, score low, and then take the exam with fingers-crossed. If you’re scoring 620-630 on practice exams, it’s highly unlikely a 710 will emerge like magic on Test Day. Over-prepare; don’t be disappointed.

The number of questions you answer doesn’t matter. Of course this isn’t entirely accurate: you’ll need to do practice questions. You’ll need to experience the format of the GMAT first-hand, work under timed conditions to perfect your pacing, learn how certain content is presented, and take the time to apply strategy to every question-type. But after a certain amount of practice, you’ll probably find your score tapering off. Don’t climb on the GMAT-question treadmill. Answering question after question with little purpose won’t take you the extra mile. It’s time to sit back, re-evaluate strategy, and start targeting your weaknesses with laser-like precision.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, they say, and the GMAT can’t be prepared for in a month (unless of course, you’re the Stephen Hawking of standardized tests). Have patience with yourself, and make the best New Years’ resolution of all: work smarter, not harder!

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