Know the Game:
Back in February, I wrote an overview on how to maximize your study efficiency. Today, I’d like to discuss the five general tasks that every efficient GMAT student must do. Here they are, in order:
1. Know the Game
The GMAT is essentially a puzzle in which the players are given a very rigid set of rules. While your MBA application is read holistically, the GMAT is a purely objective assessment and doesn’t consider your resume in its calculation. For this reason, you must operate under its and only its parameters.
The Quantitative section has two question types, each with its own set of rules, and the questions rely on the proven rules of Geometry, Algebra, and Number Properties. First, become comfortable with the types and topics of Quantitative questions, and then you can master the art of solving them. Since the parameters of Data Sufficiency games differ from those of the Problem Solving, their solutions may not found in the same manner, even if they test the same content.
Likewise, the three Verbal sections are built around the well-defined rules of English grammar, the structure of a logical argument, and literary technique. The GMAT is very limited in the ways it tests these broad topics. Identify the types of questions and common solutions for each Verbal section. You may not be able to synthesize all the information for every given question, but build the foundation before you jump in.
To do this, go through a course book, make flashcards (BTG has great ones), and take detailed notes of the ins and outs of each question type or topic. You’ll internalize them better by going through these materials with a critical eye, and have your own personal book to reference moving forward.
As you answer practice questions, you’ll inevitably get things wrong. Take an active approach to learning by identifying which rule(s) you ignored, missed or were unaware of. Take a moment to look up the rule, study its qualities, and return to your practice. Use a tool like Grockit Analytics to track which rules are particularly troublesome and focus on those.
To master the GMAT, you must be able to digest every rule presented in a question and quickly draw a logical conclusion from that information. You may spend some time doing personal remediation on the rules of triangles, but still have trouble combining that knowledge with the specific Data Sufficiency parameters.
(For example, you may know that “the measure of an exterior angle equals the sum of the two opposite interior angles,” but overlook this fact when determining whether a given angle measurement is sufficient to find another in a complex diagram.)
While practicing, keep in mind that knowledge of each rule does not imply knowledge of every combined set of rules. The more questions you answer, the better you will be become as analyzing each one.
Next, get faster. When you first start studying, speed should not be a major concern. As you practice more, however, you’ll need to discover shortcuts, tips and better strategies to arriving at the correct answer. This is where personal tutoring or timed questions come into play.
Even if you answer a practice question correctly, there still may be a better or faster way to solve it. Do not be satisfied with a correct response. Be satisfied with the best path to the correct response.
You’ll hear this again and again. Take full length CATs (including the essay) to practice synthesizing all the rules, in all their combinations, under a time constraint. This in itself is a skill. Periodically do this and repeat steps 2 through 4 until test day.
p.s. I’m not usually one for silly acronyms, but it just so happens that this one spells “KRAMS.”