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What to do today and tomorrow before my retake?

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What to do today and tomorrow before my retake?

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I've been drilling practice problems for almost a month now in my weak areas of easy to medium difficulty questions. I received a 450 on my real test on May 13 last month. I took a GMATPrep practice test on May 21 and received a score of 440. Just two days ago, I was able to increase that practice test score to 520. I am proud of myself for being able to increase my practice test score by 80 points in a matter of two weeks, but I'm still short of my goal score of 600.

I'm realistically not expecting another 80 point increase in less than three days time before my retake this weekend. However, what's the best way to maximize my time until then? Should I just focus my energy on one or two topics that I'm struggling with in quant/verbal and completely nail them? I have my last private tutoring session scheduled for two hours tonight to review questions I got wrong on my most recent practice test two days ago.

Also should I bother spending tomorrow (the day before retake) to memorize some flash cards/formulas? Or just completely take the day off from studying?

Thank you so much in advance!

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pkaynj wrote:
I've been drilling practice problems for almost a month now in my weak areas of easy to medium difficulty questions. I received a 450 on my real test on May 13 last month. I took a GMATPrep practice test on May 21 and received a score of 440. Just two days ago, I was able to increase that practice test score to 520. I am proud of myself for being able to increase my practice test score by 80 points in a matter of two weeks, but I'm still short of my goal score of 600.

I'm realistically not expecting another 80 point increase in less than three days time before my retake this weekend. However, what's the best way to maximize my time until then? Should I just focus my energy on one or two topics that I'm struggling with in quant/verbal and completely nail them? I have my last private tutoring session scheduled for two hours tonight to review questions I got wrong on my most recent practice test two days ago.

Also should I bother spending tomorrow (the day before retake) to memorize some flash cards/formulas? Or just completely take the day off from studying?

Thank you so much in advance!
At this point less is more. Cramming doesn't work for the GMAT. I'd suggest quickly clicking through your old GMATPrep tests, and rather than resolving anything, quickly attempt to recognize structural clues that might indicate what a good approach might be. "Question 1, I can use my 'R*T = D' chart. *click;* Question 2, I could've back-solved, *click*" The idea is to hone your pattern recognition and briefly remind yourself which strategies might be helpful in which context. Otherwise, relax. Hang out with friends. Go for a run. Your mindset going into the exam is far more important than any equation you might cram into your head at the last minute.

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Hi pkaynj,

While it might be tempting to try to do a lot of studying in these last 2 days, you really should NOT try it. That type of 'cramming' rarely leads to positive results - and in the last couple of days before your Official Test Date, that type of work is more likely to hurt you than help you (since it increases the chances of 'burn out' - and that it something that you want to avoid). Some light review is fine, but don't waste time trying to work through anything too difficult. Remember that to hit a 600+, you don't have to correctly answer ANY questions that you think are too hard or too weird, but you do have to keep the little mistakes to a minimum (and properly handle the 'gettable' questions).

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich

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pkaynj wrote:
I've been drilling practice problems for almost a month now in my weak areas of easy to medium difficulty questions. I received a 450 on my real test on May 13 last month. I took a GMATPrep practice test on May 21 and received a score of 440. Just two days ago, I was able to increase that practice test score to 520. I am proud of myself for being able to increase my practice test score by 80 points in a matter of two weeks, but I'm still short of my goal score of 600.

I'm realistically not expecting another 80 point increase in less than three days time before my retake this weekend. However, what's the best way to maximize my time until then? Should I just focus my energy on one or two topics that I'm struggling with in quant/verbal and completely nail them? I have my last private tutoring session scheduled for two hours tonight to review questions I got wrong on my most recent practice test two days ago.

Also should I bother spending tomorrow (the day before retake) to memorize some flash cards/formulas? Or just completely take the day off from studying?

Thank you so much in advance!
Echoing what Rich & David said, less is more - never try to cram!

The best things to do in the last few days are:
1. light general review, confirming what you already know
2. looking over your review log / error log to find common patterns in your mistakes
3. create 2 lists: "topics/question types I'm allowed to skip" and "topics/question types I'm generally good at"
4. relax & get a good night's sleep!


Remind yourself that it's absolutely fine if you end up taking it again (schools don't really care how many times you take it), so take that pressure off. At this time of year, you also have the option to push things back and apply round 2, so again - no pressure!

Here's the general advice I give my students about what to do in each phase before test day:

4-10 Weeks from Test Day: Prioritize content knowledge
Content:
• do mostly Targeted Topic Review, starting with top priorities
• re-read strategy guides & build flashcards as needed
Practice: some mixed practice
• aim for 1 short random set (5-10 questions) every week or two in each of PS, DS, CR, RC, and SC
• take CATs every 2-3 weeks
Review: develop awareness of errors
• record errors in your Review Log
• start to build Review Sheets

2 Weeks from Test Day: prioritize more mixed practice
Content: less new content
• less Targeted Topic Review - hopefully you’ve covered the major areas of weakness already
Practice:
• do longer random set (15-20 questions)
• do at least 1 set per week each of PS, DS, CR, RC, and SC
• focus on pattern recognition and good decision-making
• take CATs every week for the last 2 weeks
Review & Game-Plan:
• still record all errors in your Review Log
• now, spend more time reviewing the log, looking for patterns in your errors
• think about which topics deserve more of your time, and which deserve less

Last Week before Test Day: NO NEW CONTENT, just review
Content: no new content
• you know what you know at this point!
Practice: some mixed practice
• take one last CAT (a GMATPrep one) in the last week - no closer than 4 days before your test.
• otherwise, don’t do too many new problems. Maybe a few short random sets, but that’s it.
Review & Game-Plan: prioritize preparing for battle!
• still record all errors in your Review Log
• spend time thinking: what are my most common errors, and how can I mitigate them?
• review all notes / flashcards / Review Log
• the focus is on reinforcing what you already know, not on learning any new content

The Day Before the Test: do… mostly nothing!
• don’t study new content - you know what you know!
• relax - you’re preparing for a marathon!
• at most, flip through notes and flashcards to reinforce knowledge

The Morning of Test Day
Prepare your mind
• get a good night’s sleep
• have a positive mindset - confidence is key!
• review your Game Plan - timing benchmarks, when to guess, which questions to skip, etc

Prepare your body
• eat a good breakfast your brain needs sugar during the test
• pack snacks / juice / Gatorade seriously, your brain needs sugar!
• do a little bit of light exercise get blood flowing
• basically, do whatever you normally do - don’t alter your normal routine

Prepare… everything else
• have a valid (non-expired) photo ID (driver’s license for US citizens, or passport for non-US citizens taking it in the US). Lots of people get disqualified for having the wrong ID!
• get there 30 min early - you can be disqualified for being late

At the Test Center

Anticipate bureaucracy
• you could be waiting in line for a while
• the security sign-in process takes a while

Put everything in your locker except your ID
• turn your phone off completely- they will disqualify you if you touch it! Even just to look at the time!
• keep snacks in there - eat or drink something right before the test, during the 1st break, and during the 2nd break

You can’t bring in anything with you
• drink water before you go in
• blow your nose if you need to before you go in!


During the Test

1. The Yellow Pad
• Jot down timing benchmarks. You’ll have 1 min to read directions for each section - use this time to set up your yellow pad
• Ask for a new laminated pad at each break (even if you don’t use the full thing)
• If you run out of space, raise your hand, they’ll bring you a new one

2. Be Aware of the Clock
• a count-down timer from 75:00 will be in the top-right corner of your screen
• (you have to option to hide it, but I don’t recommend it)

3. Have a Business Mindset
• don’t get hung up on any one problem - guess & move on if it’s not clicking
• remember that there are Experimental Questions that don’t count toward your score
• getting answers wrong is not only ok, it’s a necessary part of the game!
• don’t try to guess how you’re doing during the test - focusing on the outcome will mess up your concentration

4. Good Physical Behaviors = Good Mental State
• take a DEEP BREATH after every problem. Deep breathing = more oxygen = less stress = better thinking
• stretch during the test. Relaxing your muscles --> calming your mind
• remember that stress is a good thing! It's helping you focus & prepare for battle.

Good luck!

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Harvard Graduate School of Education


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