After tutoring the GMAT for quite some time, I have helped many students overcome their weaknesses. Some of those weaknesses are actually their study habits, so I have written this post to help ensure that others don’t waste precious time making the same mistakes.
Mistake #1: Not taking notes
There is a ton of GMAT content to learn and remember, especially for the Quant and SC sections. Unless you have some sort of superhuman memory, you are not going to remember it all just by reading a book or sitting in class. That is why it is crucial to take notes, preferably by hand. A new study published in Psychological Science demonstrates that students who took notes by hand, performed better than students who took notes on a laptop. So even though it may be tedious and take longer, write everything down. There is no point in saving time by not taking notes if you are just going to forget everything anyway.
Mistake #2: Not reviewing answers
I have worked with several students who have gone over thousands of practice problems and don’t improve. When I ask them if they have been reviewing their answers and they say no. The best way to improve is to learn from your mistakes and in order to do this you must analyze those mistakes and find a better way to solve the problem in the future. There really isn’t much point in going over practice problems if you aren’t going to review the answers, so even if it means going over less problems, make sure to go over those answers.
Mistake #3: Not taking full length CATs
I know it seems pointless to practice the AWA and IR too much, because they aren’t as important. But unfortunately they’re first, so you will need to practice them quite a bit. Some of the students I have talked to have been extremely disappointed with their score, because they were scoring so much higher on their practice tests. However, they were only doing the Quant and Verbal sections, so their practice tests were inflated. Furthermore, they never built up their mental endurance. I think of it like training for a marathon, but for your brain. Most people cannot run for four hours straight with no training. Your brain is the same way. Most people can’t fully concentrate on complicated problems for 4 hours straight without practice. So, it is essential to take at least 5 full length practice tests before your test.
Mistake #4: Not starting with a practice test
A lot of people start creating their study plan without understanding their studying needs. This is a big mistake and could cause you to waste a lot of time studying things that you don’t need to. This is why the most important first step is to assess your needs by taking a practice test. That way, you can know how close you are to your goal score and what your weaknesses are and then plan your study accordingly.
Mistake #5: Studying on the last day
I know it is tempting to try to get in some last minute studying on your final day. However, anything you learn in that last day will probably not outweigh the negative effects of tiring yourself you before the big day. The GMAT is mentally exhausting, so you want to come into the test rested and refreshed. Give yourself that last day to do something you enjoy, relax and trust that your previous studying will get you through.