Today’s post comes from Seckin Kara, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor from Turkey. Before reading, be sure to check out Part I from last week!
We talked about the importance of test endurance and practice on the GMAT. Here are some practical, easy to apply tips for improving your test endurance and your final performance.
10 Tips for GMAT Endurance
- Start with baby steps, but do start early. When you are solving questions on your own, group them in groups of 35-40. (Approximate length of one verbal/quant section in GMAT). Then try to solve the 40 questions in one go. You are practicing so it is OK to give yourself 3-4 minutes per question in the beginning. If 40 questions is too many, start with 30. But make sure that you sit down and not take a break before you get through all of the questions. Then take a break and come back to check the answers and also understand your mistakes (very important). Over time, try solving each question in a shorter time frame (2-3 minutes). Work up to solving questions in groups of 70 (35 quant/35 verbal).
- Solve a mixed question set. Even if you have finished only 3 math topics, make sure your 40 question long set is a mix from all of these topics. Do not fall to the trap of finishing one topic and solving questions just about that one topic. On the GMAT you will get questions in random fashion from different topics, your practice should simulate the same.
- Don’t torture yourself if you can’t concentrate enough to solve 40 or 75 questions every day, but always try to keep disciplined.
- Solve questions and the AWA. Once in a while it is also good solve a set of questions plus the AWA or the integrated reasoning sections (preferably when you have more time). Give 5-10 minute breaks between the different sections of the test, you know why at this point, simulating the real test experience is the tactic of the day.
- Take full size practice tests. As weeks go by, continue solving packs of 40 or 75 trying to mix questions from as many subjects as you can. And when you have 1-2 months left before the exam, switch to taking full size practice tests regularly. There are many quality full practice tests out there, you can find them in prep books, websites, or prep courses. If you are short on time, you could solve just the quant and verbal sections.
- Focus on solving the questions. Very important: When you solve the full size practice tests, do not focus on your score. It is not that important how high you score until the last week before the test, most peoples’ scores increase only at the very end of their preparation period, but make sure you are as focused as you can be while solving the practice test. Don’t give up and push, push, push….
- Understand your mistakes. Also, remember mistakes do teach you the most. After you solve a practice test, make sure you check and understand your errors. Every mistake reveals an important takeaway. Write them down and learn them thoroughly. Experience shows that if you make a mistake especially in a full size practice test, you will most likely remember that topic on the real test day and will not fall to the same trap again. So make sure you digest the solutions!
- Take more practice tests. My humble advice is to finish at least 10-12 full size practice tests before the exam day. In some occasions, just solving quant and verbal parts is also OK. The full tests might look daunting in the beginning, but with time you will realize that you are becoming the nightmare of practice tests, you can’t leave a single question behind once you sit down and start solving.
- Observe yourself and take notes. Try to analyze yourself while going through all these exam simulations. For example note down which parts of the test you are losing concentration, or find out during which parts you have the most difficulty. The better you know yourself, the more strategies you can create to improve your test endurance and solving skills.
- Time of the test matters. Take the full size practice tests close to the part of the day you scheduled the real exam whenever you can. If your GMAT exam is at 10am, try taking most of the practice tests in the morning. You know, it is all about simulation.
You can also come up with your own techniques to improve your focus and test taking skills along the way. The main goal is to make test taking become second nature in some way, and it will count. Each GMAT question is not that difficult on its own; the challenge is the tour de force they create when all of them come together in a bundle. Having a lot of test endurance and focus will decrease your simple mistakes drastically on exam day. More importantly you will stay strong and hungry during the whole test as if you are solving the first question. And while the person taking the test next to you will look bored and start gazing at the wall, you will notice nothing but the test on the screen… And you will be getting closer to the top MBA School you strive for with every question you nail. Best of luck!