GMAT Gurus Speak Out: What’s Your Secret for GMAT Success?

We’re back with the next installment in an occasional series on the Veritas Prep Blog, called “GMAT Gurus Speak Out.” Veritas Prep has dozens of experienced GMAT instructors around the world (all of whom have scored in the 99th percentile on the GMAT), and it’s amazing how much collective experience they have in preparing students for the exam.

What does it take to be successful on the GMAT? What habits do successful test takers employ? Well, we asked Veritas Prep instructors worldwide to see what they had to say.

Jill Witty – San Francisco, CA
“Sometimes I’ll encounter a question that makes me angry or that riles me up in some way. For instance, I’ll read a Sentence Correction problem in which I believe all of the choices are poorly worded. In those situations, I have to remind myself to take a deep breath. The GMAT is a completely rational exercise, and allowing your emotions to interfere will only inhibit your ability to find the right answer. Even if I don’t like any of the answer choices, one of them has to be the most right (or least wrong) among them, and it’s my job to find that one answer. My getting angry at the writers of the test is not going to change that!”

Heather Speller – New Haven, CT
“I find that one of the most important things I can do when studying for a standardized test is to stay organized–which for me means keeping lots of lists! For example, I keep a list of topics that I’m weak on and would like to review again. On the list, I also make a note of any good practice problems that I come across for each topic. For example, I might write down: “Rate Problems – Book X: p. 62, 63.” That way, when I sit down to review the topic, I have a go-to list of problems to work through for practice.

For each book I keep a list of problems to re-do. Three types of problems end up on the re-do list: 1) Problems I got wrong, 2) Problems I got right but for the wrong reasons (guessed, got lucky, etc), and 3) Problems that I got right but that took me too long to complete. Don’t underestimate the value of re-doing a problem that you had trouble with the first time around (usually I wait at least a week before trying it again). You’ll be amazed how often you make the same mistake twice if you don’t fully understand something!

Because time management is so critical on the GMAT, it’s important to get comfortable with timing before test day. Once I felt comfortable with the basic content and methodology, I’d start doing my practice problems in timed sets of 10 to 30 questions (allowing an average of 2 minutes per question). It simulated the real test environment in that when I was confronted with a tough problem, I was forced to make the difficult decision of when to make an educated guess and move on. If I got sucked into a problem and spent 5 or 6 minutes on it, I’d have to deal with the consequences of running out of time for the other problems. Better to learn this lesson on practice sets then on the real test!”

Mark Glenn – Los Angeles, CA

“The day before your test is one that you should take to relax and not stress about studying. Your mind needs to rest and recharge for the big day, so give it that opportunity. Go for a hike, or watch a movie. Don’t let stress consume you, and make sure that you go into the test center refreshed and focused.”

David Newland – Boston, MA
“When the computer asks you if you want to take a break, you must click “yes”. Students have just walked away from their desks and been surprised that the system defaulted to “no” after a minute, so that by the time they got back they were already behind. Don’t leave anything to chance – make sure you confirm the break before you take it!”

Lara Khouri – New York, NY
“Adopt the adage: “Realize the power of the answer choices.” Once of the most important dynamics in a multiple choice test is that the correct answer is right in front of you. Whether I am working through a quant problem and I need to decide whether to use fractions or decimals or find myself stuck on sentence correction not knowing where to begin or considering that the sentence is just fine as is, the answer choices offer a wealth of information. The answer choices are also helpful when applying some key Veritas strategies such as lucky twins and plug-and-play. However I end up using the answer choices, it is reassuring that the universe of possibilities is listed right in front of me.”

Bobby Umar – Toronto, Canada
“Okay this may sound crazy because it’s common sense , but I really do study much better when I create the ideal environment. This includes a proper desk, chair, lighting, noise level, an accessible snack and drink, and writing instruments (pencil, coloured pens, ruler, etc). I also like to make sure its not too hot or cold, and then I can either wear socks or comfortable shoes. Small things like that really add up.”

We hope you found these instructor tips helpful. Stay tuned for our next installment of “GMAT Gurus Speak Out.”

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