In my last blog entry, I addressed broad issues on how to schedule GMAT study time. Today, I want to talk more about individual sessions.
During each individual study session, it’s important to take periodic breaks. There is quite a bit of research to support spaced learning, which, in essence, means to set up to chunks of study time with short breaks built in. Give your brain periodic breaks to process the information that you are taking in. The frequency and length of your breaks can vary a bit; however, a 5-10 minute break every 25-30 minutes of studying is a good rule of thumb. Time of day can matter as well. Know your good times of day and try to study during those times in which you are most alert. There is research that suggests students learn best in the evening; however, know yourself and when you work best.
In a typical studying chunk of time over one particular subject, here is my favorite way to arrange your early studying when you are building content mastery. Each chunk takes about 1 hour and 20+ minutes with 1+ hour devoted to study. Ideally, you will get 2 chunks in a normal day and 3-4 chunks in on a completely free day.
Each Studying Chunk – For the entire chunk, stay within one area (i.e. Number properties, geometry, etc…)
1) Set a timer for 20-25 minutes
2) Review Notes on that particular topic (5 minutes)
3) Practice Questions with immediate review or online workshop/tutorial (15-20 min)
TAKE A 5-10 MINUTE BREAK – NO GMAT – DO SOMETHING DISTRACTING
4) Set the timer for 20-25 minutes – stick with the same subject area
5) Review Notes (2 minutes)
6) Practice Questions with immediate review or online workshop/tutorial (18-23 min)
TAKE A 5-10 MINUTE BREAK– NO GMAT – DO SOMETHING DISTRACTING
7) Set the timer for 20-25 minutes – stick with the same subject area
8) Review Notes (2 minutes)
9) Practice Questions with immediate review or online workshop/tutorial (18-23 min)
END OF CHUNK ONE — CHANGE SUBJECTS FOR THE NEXT CHUNK
Even if your studying chunks vary a bit, it’s important to review your notes on the topic at the beginning of each session to reinforce the proper technique and approach. You also want to review every question, even those that you get right. The more you compare your reasoning with expert reasoning, the more you adopt the expert reasoning. Also, as you walk through the questions, practice asking yourself those critical questions that your instructor or tutor asks you as you navigate questions in your sessions. So, now that you know the “when,” what about the “where”?
Most people have preferences about study location. However, it’s good to vary your study location periodically. Information that you learn can become context dependent if you study in the same location over and over. If you vary the location and even the noise level a bit, the content and skill that you learn will be more flexible and the unfamiliar context of the testing room won’t hinder your ability to access that information.
Finally, keep a positive attitude about your progress. Progress on the GMAT can be an up and down road with periodic spikes and dips. Through it all, keep your eye focused on improving your skill and critical thinking approach. Always give yourself action steps and make mistakes with a growth mindset. Use your mistakes as learning opportunities instead of letting them diminish your confidence. Attitude matters! Give yourself the grace and time to stumble and grow. Now, it’s time to strap on your tennis shoes and start training for this marathon of a test!