GMAT Study Plan: The Best Way to Study for the GMAT
Studying for the GMAT is a long and winding journey with many ups and downs, so it is absolutely essential to have a solid GMAT study plan in place to keep you from getting lost along the way. The fact is, the more comprehensive, well-thought-out, and realistic your GMAT study plan is, the more likely you are to reach your score goal — and stay on deadline.
In this article, I’ll give you a crash course in how to make a GMAT study plan, going step by step through all of the components that make up each of the two major phases of GMAT preparation in any thorough and effective GMAT study plan: the learning phase and the practice-test phase.
First, let’s discuss exactly what those two phases are and why it’s important that you complete them in order.
Your GMAT Study Plan: A Tale of Two Phases
Any truly comprehensive GMAT study plan should include two distinct phases. The first of those phases is the learning phase, in which you master GMAT content and develop your GMAT knowledge and skills. The second phase is the practice-test phase, in which you perfect all of your new knowledge and skills under realistic testing conditions.
One of the most common errors I see when test-takers are trying to prepare for the GMAT is that they mix these two phases together, or jump into the second phase before the first, or skip the first phase altogether. Unfortunately, 99.9 times out of 100, those test-takers end up having to go back to the drawing board after earning disappointing GMAT scores on test day.
Unless you are already within a few points of your Quant section and Verbal section score goals when you take an initial practice test to get a baseline score, it’s really important that you don’t rely on quizzes and practice tests to guide your GMAT studies. If you do, you’re likely to be left with numerous gaps in your knowledge, so you’ll essentially be rolling the dice on what your score will be on test day.
Remember, on any given GMAT exam, you’re going to see only 31 Quant questions, 36 Verbal questions, and 12 Integrated Reasoning questions. However, there are hundreds of different concepts that could be tested in those GMAT sections. So, if you think you’ll be able to “catch” them all by just doing practice questions — even a large number of questions — chances are, you need to cast a wider net.
Think of GMAT practice as a way to refine your skills, not develop them from scratch. Practice questions don’t teach you the GMAT! They simply allow you to learn to apply the GMAT knowledge you’ve gained through dedicated study.
If you want to make sure that you are thoroughly prepared to knock the GMAT out of the park on test day, you’ll need a GMAT study plan in which you learn GMAT content first, and then refine your skills with ample practice. So, let’s talk about how to structure your learning in the first phase of your GMAT prep.
Using a Topic-by-Topic Framework
You’ve researched your target schools and figured out your score goal. You’ve taken your first full-length, official GMAT practice test under realistic testing conditions in order to determine how far you are from your goal. (If you haven’t completed these steps, check out this article on how to start studying for the GMAT.) You’re ready to start your GMAT prep!
For some test-takers, this is where the headache really begins. As I already mentioned, the range of Quant and Verbal concepts that GMAT questions cover is massive, and there is no way to know exactly which concepts will be tested on any one GMAT exam. So, simply diving into learning random GMAT concepts, with no order or logical progression to what you’re studying, is not a productive or efficient study method.
Take Sentence Correction in GMAT Verbal, for example. There are dozens of concepts to learn for Sentence Correction. The thing is, if you start trying to learn this or that SC topic in whatever random order, you’re going to end up wasting time and feeling frustrated because you haven’t built up the proper knowledge base to move successfully from one topic to the next. It doesn’t make sense, for example, to try to learn about modifiers before you’ve mastered sentence structure.
For the deep dive on the GMAT Study Plan, view the complete article on Target Test Prep’s blog.