The GMAT exam is complex and requires many hours of preparation. Included in the test preparation might be reviewing quantitative formulas, completing practice tests, reading study guides, and more. These are all methods that come to mind; however, there are several that aren’t so obvious. The following is a list of the most underestimated methods for GMAT test-preparation that can transform an average grade into a great one and help shave vital minutes off the total test taking time.
- Practice being confident.
A little anxiety is good. It creates a fire and a desperation that leads to dedication and focus. What isn’t good is allowing for feelings of stress to take over and cloud your ability to efficiently and productively answer questions. It is important to enter the test center with a confidence that you are ready and you have mastered the GMAT structure. Why shouldn’t you be confident? You have been preparing for the exam, rigorously repeating techniques while answering practice questions, reviewing problems and becoming familiar with test-like conditions. The test-makers created this exam as an opportunity for you to show off your skills. They have no intention of tricking you or trying to make you feel stupid. Preparing for the exam is important because it means you will be just that, prepared for taking the exam. Repeat those words because it is important to remind yourself that you are not being tested on a foreign concept. Losing confidence results in second-guessing your instincts and losing vital time for answering questions. Sure you will get some questions wrong, focus instead on how many you will answer correctly. Confidence needs to be conditioned because it is a mindset that results in reaching maximum potential. If you reach a moment of panic it is important to stop and remind yourself that you are in control and know exactly what you are doing. Finish the question and move on to the next one without worrying about whether you marked the wrong answer or right. The difference between the right attitude (confident) and the wrong attitude (pessimistic) can be as much as 50-100 points on your final score.
- Become familiar with test-like conditions.
The GMAT exam is a Computer Adaptive Test. This means that the difficulty of test questions fluctuates based on the number of correct answers. Everyone begins the exam at a medium level of difficulty but depending on how well you answer questions you have the opportunity to show off your maximum abilities. This is a style of testing that most don’t usually experience. The people responsible for the GMAT exam are courteous enough to provide students with two full online practice tests when they sign up to take the exam. It is important to complete them both! Ideally, schedule to take the two exams in the final weeks before the actual test. By taking a practice exam two weeks and a week before the actual test it gives you a final opportunity to identify and strengthen your weaknesses. It will also help prepare you for what you can expect come actual test day. Remember to also practice test questions under time constraints. Just as a boxer conditions himself for a big match, a test-taker should be ready for what will be presented on the GMAT exam. You can’t skip questions on the GMAT only to answer them later. Every question must be answered in order so getting good at making educated guesses in a short period of time is critical attaining a high score.
- Speed reading exercises.
The GMAT exam is timed and requires a lot of reading. Unfortunately, limited time and excessive reading are not two descriptions you want to see side by side, however, just like every challenge there is a solution that leads to all around stronger test-taking skills. The focus of the exam is to assess analytical and critical thinking abilities, any time lost such as time reading results in less time left to do the required work. It should take you no longer than 60 seconds to read (and comprehend!) 30 lines of a GMAT reading passage. Just like a swimmer preparing for the Olympics shaves seconds of their time, you will train to read at an ever faster pace. While preparing for the GMAT exam time should be dedicated to practice speed-reading. Using a stopwatch keep track of how long it takes you to read passages, preferably actual GMAT passages of black letters on a white computer screen (to recreate test-like conditions). Force yourself to read at a pace just slightly faster than your normal, casual reading speed. Continue this exercise always making sure to comprehend what you were reading. This physical conditioning will result in a more relaxed mindset during the actual exam. Less time will be spent reading the question and more time will be left for analyzing answer choices and drawing conclusions.
- Work backwards.
In order to best maneuver the exam it is important to first deconstruct each question before attempting to find the solution. This method holds especially true for the Critical Reasoning section. The exam can’t be mastered by memorizing formulas or studying specific tips and tricks. The test aims to assess your analytical and critical thinking abilities leaving your intuition and instinct as the best tools available for achieving a high score. When looking at a question attempt to first work backwards, looking at the multiple-choice options available. To best think like a test-maker instead of a test-taker you will have to analyze how the answer options were written. One answer is always ridiculous and should be spotted immediately. This answer should be tossed aside and now there are four options left. To narrow down the list further assess which of the answers is too vague, too insufficient in detail to possibly be the answer. Once that option is tossed you must identify which answer option provides so much data that it becomes irrelevant to the question. From five original multiple-choice options only two remain. From these two only one will sufficiently satisfy the needs of the question. Remember that you did not randomly decide to take the GMAT exam, there was preparation, conditioning. You must trust the instincts you’ve developed in the weeks leading up to the exam and not fall into the traps of over thinking. Knowing the available answers before reading the question allows you to discard the improbable choices as you learn what is being asked. This method saves vital time and aims to guard against self-doubt. You’re not looking for an answer, you already have an answer, it’s just a matter of making the selection.
Studying for the exam is important, however, maintaining focus during the actual exam is what will allow for all the studying to be effective. These tips for preparing for the GMAT will help maintain focus during the exam and can mean the difference between an average score and reaching full potential. It is important to always remember that with the GMAT it is just as important to master the exam as it is to master the individual questions.