GMAT Gurus Speak Out: How to Strengthen Your Test Endurance

Today, we introduce a new guest contributor. Seckin Kara has been a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep since 2006. He began teaching in Providence, RI when he was a student at Brown and upon graduating, he went on to teach for us in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt. After years of finance and banking, he left that career to pursue his passion of education forged largely from his interactions with Veritas Prep students, and can soon be found teaching GMAT classes in his homeland of Turkey.

Think fast! Most test takers think that the GMAT exam is more of a 100m sprint (focusing on speed and power), when actually, it is more like a 3000 m hurdle race. Yes, you have to be very quick to finish various sections on time, but you also need a lot of test endurance and continuous focus. You have to stay focused for a very long time to see the finish line in top form.

Why? Let’s face it. The GMAT is a behemoth of a test. It takes almost 4 hours to complete if you count the short breaks between the sections.

Most of the people who take the GMAT are smart professional people who accomplish hard mental tasks in their jobs, but when was the last time you concentrated on a 2 hour plus exam continuously? Maybe back in college. I wonder how many of you even took a 4 hour test in college. Probably only a handful of you did. So we can say job experience, and to a large extent college education, don’t give you natural practice to endure this lengthy test.

Let’s visualize a typical exam situation. After 2 hours in the GMAT, most test takers start getting tired and bored. You are in a test room, sitting in front of a computer continuously solving tough questions. You take a deep breath when you finish the quant section.  And there comes the sudden realization that there is still a full verbal section to go through. Man, that is not motivating, is it? You just start speeding up, giving it a last go, hoping to finish soon. Even if you try your best staying focused, as fatigue kicks in, you are far from your top form that you had 2.5 hours ago.

However, the reality of the test is different. The questions don’t get easier, especially if you are shooting for the holy grail of 700+. There are almost no simple questions that you could crack in 30 seconds, and each question requires a lot of sweat. So things start going south.  You start making simple mistakes, the “unforced errors”. It is OK if you miss a few hard questions, but when you start missing average questions, then the GMAT really starts to penalize you. After all, it is a computer adaptive test.

Well, this is a general story that happens to an average test taker. Your fate should be different. So what could you do not to be a victim, but write your own unique destiny and reach 700+?

The answer is simple: improve your studying style. Make sure you build lots of test endurance while mastering different test topics. And get used to the original test environment.

Over the years, I experienced that most of my students unfortunately miss this important fact in the beginning. Even the smartest ones generally just study different subjects, and then solve some questions in a random fashion. A few questions here, a few there, some solve questions on the train until their stop, some tackle exercises while having breakfast, more than some skip digesting the answers by not reading the solutions thoroughly when they have a mistake. Many students finish a subject; solve 50 questions about it when they are absolutely fresh on concepts, then never check the topic again. I warn everyone in my first class and continuously remind them that they should have a much more structured approach while practicing for their GMAT.

My main advice is to simulate the real test experience as often as you can.  Get used to solving practice tests for long periods. Also, instead of solving many questions from one topic you should mix them up; instead of casually solving a few questions, you should be solving practice tests which resemble the real experience.

Now, I’m not advising you take 4 hour full scale practice tests from day one, that is not practical from time management perspective (most of you have a day job), and mentally impossible to stay focused during a full test in the beginning.

I would instead suggest building the endurance steadily over time by adding a new dimension to your preparation starting from day one.

Craving more? Stay tuned for Part II of our article next week!

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