This article, written by Abby Pelcyger and Stacey Koprince, was adapted from our upcoming book, The GMAT Roadmap: Expert Advice Through Test Day. The full book will be available mid-November. Find more study tips on our blog.
Okay, you have your study timeline mapped out. Now, how do you use your time most effectively?
Climbing the Mountain
Look over your study timeline (for many of you, that may be the syllabus for your Manhattan GMAT class). Look at the assignment you have earmarked for the following week. Get a calendar and block off the time periods during which you will study during the upcoming week. Next to each scheduled appointment, list tasks you intend to accomplish during that time slot. Prioritize the areas that address your weaknesses (as indicated by your CAT analysis results) by placing them earliest in the week. Assign only “make-up work” to your last study session of the week—trust us: there’ll be plenty of it to do.
If you are planning to study for more than an hour at a time, be sure to mix it up. Either work on a different content area during each hour (e.g. first hour Critical Reasoning, second hour Geometry) or do different types of assignments during each hour (e.g. first hour reading and taking notes on a Strategy Guide chapter, second hour working through and reviewing practice problems). When you do practice GMAT problems, plan to spend two-thirds of your time reviewing the solutions to those problems.
At the end of each study session, jot down what you did that day, what you think went well, and what you think needs more work. If something didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, then feel free to adjust your calendar. At the end of the week, review your journal and set up your plan for the next week. Repeat.
Preparing to Summit
By the time you finish working through the Strategy Guides, you will have learned an enormous amount of material; it’s only natural that you will need some time to review.
First, make sure to gain an in-depth understanding of your own particular strengths and weaknesses. The easiest way to do this is to use Manhattan GMAT’s CAT analysis tools to analyze your practice exams and the online Official Guide problem tracker (OG Archer) to analyze your work on Official Guide practice problems, although a “gut feel” analysis can also be very helpful. Manhattan GMAT students in the 9-week class can request a post course assessment (PCA) with their instructor if they have completed 3 practice tests by the last week of class, including the initial one taken by the second week of class, for help with structuring this review and final exam prep.
Next, set up a schedule. Spread your review evenly over the time you have until your GMAT, leaving the last 5–7 days open, just in case you fall behind schedule. During your review, you will need to make decisions about how you are going to handle each type of question on the test based on your strengths and weaknesses, and you will need to plan your time management strategy accordingly.
People often see improvement on a second exam simply because they know what to expect the second time around, but this improvement, by itself, usually isn’t enough to justify retaking the test.
Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Climb!
Mountain climbers enjoy the climb as well as the summit. Marathoners enjoy the run as well as the finish line. Make sure you find ways to enjoy your GMAT journey. Doing so will help keep you motivated along the trek and keep your mind focused on the learning instead of distracted by thoughts of the other fun things you could be doing. Some ideas of how to increase your study enjoyment include treating problems as puzzles, celebrating mini-victories along the way, and creating a study group. If you have a study partner (or two), you can keep each other on track and answer each other’s questions. A study buddy also serves as a reminder that you really aren’t the only one making sacrifices to achieve your goal.
Missed part 1 of this series? You can find it here.