GMAT Tip of the Week: 5 Things You Can Do Now To Succeed on the GMAT Later

As of press time for this article, most of the United States will be heading out early from work to partake in the unofficial beginning of summer, Memorial Day Weekend.  As you read this on your smartphone in traffic on the LIE to the Hamptons or up I-75 to “Up North” Michigan, the entire summer is ahead of you.  But if you’re planning to apply to business school this fall, you should heed the warning that you learned in your earlier scholastic days – time flies when you’re having fun, and the fall, like those objects in your rearview mirror, is probably closer than it appears.

Rest assured that you can still enjoy most of your summer even if you don’t plan on taking the GMAT until later in the fall.  But even without dedicating much of the summer to studying, there are at least five habits you can add to your day-to-day lifestyle that will get you ready to hit the ground running when you do begin your GMAT preparation in earnest sometime soon:

1) Do Math
With computers and calculators all around us, we tend not to do very much math once we’ve completed our college quantitative requirements, but the GMAT will require you to be able to do math without a calculator so you will need to retrain your mind.  Fortunately, day-to-day life provides countless opportunities to perform simple math by hand or in your head, and the more you can do so the easier a time you’ll have when you do sit down to do GMAT math.  Practice calculating tips when you eat out; estimate how long it will take you to reach your driving destination at two different average speeds; notice prime numbers and multiples of 3 when you’re writing down phone numbers; do quick calculations on paper before you plug the numbers into Microsoft Excel.  Simply thinking mathematically can help you to retrain those atrophied portions of your brain, and that will allow you to eventually focus more of your study time and energy on GMAT-specific question types and strategies.

2) Read
The GMAT verbal section is a test of focus and concentration, assessing your ability to process written information on a variety of topics and to do so while tired and distracted.  There are certainly techniques to help you navigate the GMAT-specific passage formats and question types, and you’ll learn those when you’re ready to buckle down on GMAT study.  But in the meantime, you can improve your ability to process that information simply by reading more, and by reading articles and books on topics that aren’t as natural of choices for you.  Traveling this summer?  Bring The Economist on the airplane with you and practice some GMAT-style reading while you make other passengers think you’re smart and worldly.  Ordering some beach reading from Amazon?  Pick up an extra nonfiction (also non-Chelsea-Handler or you ruin the whole academic thing) book to qualify for Super Saver Shipping and give yourself a denser read.  Read some academic topics that don’t necessarily come easy to you and you’ll be much more ready to do the same on the GMAT.

3) Question Conclusions (Especially in Advertising)
One important GMAT skill, particularly on Critical Reasoning and Data Sufficiency questions, is that of exercising skepticism.  So as you’re bombarded with advertisements and news stories that ask you to buy into conclusions, look at them skeptically to train yourself to analyze the logic between fact and conclusion the way you’ll have to on the GMAT.  “Save up to 75% at our summer sale”?  Doesn’t “up to” include everything down to “save nothing”?  As you consume media this summer you’ll be faced with plenty of less-than-airtight arguments; start questioning those and you’ll be able to carry that mindset into your fall GMAT preparation.

4) Notice Grammar
As tihs snetnce suggsets, we are pertty good at readnig poolry wirtten writing.  You knew exactly what that said, right?  But on Sentence Correction problems you’ll need to recognize problems like Subject-Verb Agreement and Misplaced Modifiers.  So as you pore through emails and text messages this summer, make quick notes of grammatical flaws that you see.  Simply being aware of such mistakes will train your mental ear to reject poorly-written material so that you have a heightened awareness of it when you’re ready to dig into the GMAT this fall.

5) Read This Blog!
It’s summertime and you want to enjoy yourself. But network TV is all in reruns and there won’t be a World Cup or Summer Olympics in this odd-numbered year to provide that kind of media-generated distraction when you have an hour to kill.  You need entertainment but you also want to start gearing up for an MBA. What better place to do so than here, where we can tell you how lauded entertainers like Lil Wayne and Michael Bolton will help you succeed on the GMAT, and we can give you tips on how to better assess the business school programs that you may want to visit on your long-weekend road trips.  Network TV will have reruns all summer, but this blog will be brand new five days per week!

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