Breaking Through the Plateau: Reach the Next Level in Your GMAT Prep

by on May 30th, 2010

dietMany people are familiar with the idea of dieting for weight loss.  It’s a slow process, requiring discipline, mindfulness, and hard work… a lot like studying for the GMAT, right?  During the first few weeks of their weight loss plan, the pounds (or kilos) fall off easily, and they get into a routine of diet and exercise.  After a month or so, though, the progress stops and weight loss slows to a crawl.  Some people even regain some of the weight they’ve lost, despite continuing with the same good habits that took those pounds off in the first place.  Unfortunately for them, those people have hit a plateau.

Plateaus can happen in test preparation, too.  The routines that yield such great results when you start out studying—drilling questions from the OG, reviewing grammar and math concepts, reading explanations and discussing them with fellow GMAT aspirants—don’t lead to the same gains on your practice tests a month later.  Sometimes, your score will actually drop from one test to the next.  And just like those dieters, you can bust through your plateau by mixing up your routine.  Some of the tips and tricks that are used for weight loss will work just as well for you, if they’re adapted to your purposes.

What Dieters Do: Mix up their eating plan

How You Can Adapt This Approach: Think of your “food” as the information you’ve been learning to support your studies.  If you’ve been concentrating on books from one source, and getting all your knowledge from the same place, try reaching out to a different source for the same information.  Learning all your grammar from a text written by Jane Doe?  Maybe John Smith’s text will explain the concepts in a way that gives you a new understanding of them.  Have you been loyal to Company A’s math lessons?  Perhaps trying out the methods espoused by Company B will help.  The basic idea here is that feeding your brain a new kind of information can help you see things in a new way, and that can help you reach new levels in your prep.

What Dieters Do: Change their exercise routine

How You Can Adapt This Approach: Your “exercise” is the time you spend doing timed practice, either on individual question sets or full-length tests.  If you’ve been focusing on one of those—let’s say you’ve been taking a full-length test every week, but not doing much timed practice on individual questions—switch your focus.  Don’t take a test for two weeks, and instead spend that time really paying attention to the specific question types.  Or if you’re a slave to the clock, and all you ever do is timed practice, try turning the timer off.  Give yourself permission to spend 10 minutes on a single question, if that’s what it takes for you to really understand it.

What Dieters Do: Seek extra help

How You Can Adapt This Approach: If you usually study alone, try to find a study group to work with regularly.  It’s great if you can do this in person, but if that’s not an option for you, there are online study groups you can join as well.  Getting feedback from other students can help you improve your approaches, and if you understand something that your fellow group members don’t, explaining it can help to cement your knowledge.  If that doesn’t work, consider hiring a “trainer.”  In weight loss, one great way to break through a plateau is to work with a trainer.  The test prep equivalent is a tutor.  Even an hour a week can give you new motivation and show you methods you might not be familiar with on your own.

The common denominator here is CHANGE.  If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting the same results.  Introduce new knowledge, routines, or resources into your study plan, and you can get your numbers moving back up where you want them.

Have you found a great way to break through a plateau?  Share it in the comments!


  • hi,

    I have a query...Heading in a wrong direction by adopting wrong methodology will come into picture only at a later stage when we will be testing us against some realtime tests.As of now i m into an early phase of the preparation where i m targeting each section as a standalone object , then how can i access my performance at this juncture so that i ,can modify my study pattern , if its faulty???

    • @Nipun,
      Your doubt is very much logical & expected when one starts his prep.
      I would suggest that one should take as many sectional test so that one can monitor his performance periodically.

      Say for example Inequalities & Modulus is one topic in Quants.
      Study the fundae behind it. then start practicing problems & then start taking real time sectional test. By this you r building each muscle and then u can move for another sections.

      Constant revision of error log & fundae is essential !

  • where can I find resources here or elsewhere to target each type of math question? I've identified the types that I'm not good at, but I need to find practice questions of these specific types. help!

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