When I coach students who are prepping for the GMAT, I find myself stressing two seemingly unrelated aspects of scheduling: finding study time and taking breaks. Both are necessary for landing your best score.
How to find GMAT study time
“I can’t find the time to fit in all of the studying I need to do” is a common sentiment among many of my students. So one of my tasks as a GMAT prep coach is to help them find the study time they need. The first mistake many test-takers make is trying to find too much time. Just like with other tasks, such as exercise and household chores, waiting until you have a long block of free time means not getting enough prep into your week.
Use the time you have. Have 20 minutes on the train during your morning commute? Use flashcards to drill yourself on math formulas. Have a lunch break you can spend quietly at your desk? Review approaches to tackling Critical Reasoning questions. Kaplan students have the GMAT Pocket Reference, which is a fantastic tool to use while commuting or during office free time. I recommend that you use offline materials during the day, when you are fitting prep into your workday. Old-fashioned book prep is still very important for mastering the skills necessary for the GMAT.
On weekday evenings, practice with test-like online questions in whatever study time you have available. Kaplan students can turn to the Qbank to create quizzes for whatever content, question types, and difficulty levels they need practice with. Anyone prepping for the GMAT can download the GMAC’s online practice materials. Answering test-like questions on a computer is essential, even if you only have 30 minutes at a time.
Remember to take breaks
When setting up these evening study sessions, build in break time. Even if you only have 30 minutes, take a quiz, then take a one- to two-minute break before reviewing your answers and the explanations. Taking an eight-question quiz will take about 16 minutes, your break will take about three minutes, and reviewing will take about ten. If you have a full hour of study time, take a one-minute stretch break and repeat the cycle.
This is a constructive bit of practice that keeps you using the GMAT parts of your brain, and if you put off practicing until you have time for a full practice test, you lose that regular GMAT brain exercise.
Schedule frequent practice tests
You do need to set aside time to take regular GMAT practice tests; you cannot complete a practice test in 30-minute segments! I advise my students to plan to take a practice test each Saturday morning. But just as taking a scheduled break is important during weekday prep, taking the same mid-test breaks as you will on Test Day is critical as well. And you must take a break between taking the test and reviewing it. My students review their practice tests several hours after taking them, or, ideally, they wait until the following day.
Taking a practice test at the end of the week allows you to put into action what you’ve learned during the week, and reviewing it the following day lets you identify what areas you should practice during the upcoming week. This rough guideline allows you to use whatever study time you have available, which will let you plan a constructive week of prep, increase your GMAT knowledge and experience, and reduce your stress about not having enough time.
Ready to get started? Challenge yourself to a free online GMAT practice test.