When it comes to test preparation, it seems that a lot of folks have got it all wrong. Buying some book on Amazon, cracking it open and praying for osmosis isn’t going to do much for you. I’m a big fan of reminding students what the GMAT and GRE are trying to test. Anybody can memorize formulas or a list of vocabulary words. Big deal. If these exams tested you on your ability to regurgitate information they wouldn’t exactly be useful for admissions committees, would they? Getting into grad school is becoming more and more competitive, and it’s just a fact that schools have to reflect that in their selectivity. The GRE and the GMAT strive to be the indicators of a student’s potential for knowledge acquisition and, more importantly, information dissemination. So how do they indicate such an amorphous skill? Logic. Guess what? It’s pretty hard to learn logic flipping through the pages of even the best GMAT books. Now you’re scratching your head. How are you supposed to improve that?
Thinking about things logically and dissecting the information presented to you isn’t something that should be reserved for the halls of academia, you’ve got to turn it into a lifestyle. That’s right, you’ve got to live and breathe the tenants of the test. You’ll never get those MIT GRE scores or Stanford GRE scores unless you adamantly and curiously read the New Yorker or some other high level publication. Hate to read? Too bad. You do realize you’re applying to graduate school, right? You’ve got to care about learning, then you’ll be able to prove it on the test and in your application essays. Having Manhattan vocabulary flashcards in your pocket isn’t a replacement for reading all the literature you can get your hands on. You can spend hours on our blog reading about the ins and outs of GMAT grammar, but it’s only so helpful if the longest thing you write on a weekly basis is your grocery list. The GMAT AWA and those GRE essay topics are going to seem like quite a chore if you only know how to express yourself in 140 characters.
So what’s my recommendation? Adopt a learning mentality in your daily life. Here at Magoosh, we happily spend our free time together playing vocabulary games and challenging each other with difficult probability questions. We all are also avid readers of the news and books. At least a couple of us write fiction (and others have studied it). Mike McGarry, who is a superstar over at the forum side of GMAT Club cranks out regression analyses for “fun”. When I walk home, I like to calculate all the possible permutations of my trip home. Okay, so we might not be your typical group of geeks, but this kind of thinking makes answering those difficult Critical Reasoning questions and tricky Problem Solving questions ever so slightly easier. In fact, the most common GMAT questions are much, much simpler if you really absorb learning into your daily life.
So what’s the takeaway? Well if you’ve got only one week until your test, maybe don’t heed so much of this advice (though you might find grad school a challenge), but if you’ve got time before your test, you better start eating, sleeping, and breathing the tenants of these crucial tests. Don’t just keep your nose buried in a book, but embrace learning. If you don’t like learning, it’s going to be a tough couple of years for you in graduate school!
This post was written by Chris Swimmer an analyst at Magoosh who spends his time helping folks out with their math hang ups while studying for the GRE and the GMAT.