Every few days, I get different versions of this question from students:
“I have completed all the questions from the OG and the Verbal & Quant Reviews. But I am still getting about 40% of them wrong. Can you suggest more material to practice from?”
This is a question that usually leaves me flabbergasted. Here’s why:
In most such cases, I find that the student has also gone through a huge list of GMATPrep questions (from one of the many compilations available on the internet) as well as questions unique to older versions of the Official Guide.
In all probability, he/she has also gone though material from various test prep companies (despite our strong recommendations to stick to official material!) In all, about 3000-3500 questions!
This is where I tell them:
“You have solved over 3000 questions – yet, your performance has not significantly improved. Clearly, your problem is not lack of practice! Have you identified where you are going wrong?”
It is now the student’s turn to be stumped!
The issue is very elementary – many GMAT test-takers simply do not know how to prepare ! Practice wins you only half the game – the other half can be achieved only through Analysis.
Put simply, if you get an answer wrong, it means that:
You missed the errors in an answer choice and picked it.
You thought there was something wrong with the correct answer choice and eliminated it.
To see an improvement in your scores you will have to analyze your mistakes with the keenness of jeweler looking through his loupe.
Here are some tips that will help you make your practice sessions more effective:
1. Do not solve questions mindlessly.
Make sure that you review your performance using an error log so that you can pinpoint 2 things:
Which Quant/Verbal areas do you need to work on?
What type of mistakes are you making?
Once you know the answer to these questions, you can address your issues specifically.
2. Review not just questions you got wrong, but also the ones you got right
Yes – you heard me. Many test-takers unfortunately do not do this. “I got it right, so I know it” is the typical attitude. But there is much to be gained from reviewing questions that you got correct:
What if yours was just a lucky guess? (Yes, it is hard to admit that you simply guessed the right answer, but hey, no one else is going to know!) A look at the explanation will tell you WHY a particular choice is right and others are not.
You may have eliminated certain answer choices for certain reasons – but on the GMAT, almost all wrong answer options are wrong for more than one reason. It is a good idea to see what else is wrong with the choices that you eliminated – this will definitely help you while attempting other questions.
3. Check the answer key first, before you look at the explanations.
Don’t jump straight to the explanation and start reading it – give yourself a second chance. Look at the answer key and see if you got the question right or wrong. If you got it wrong, go back to the question and revisit the two choices – the correct answer and the one you picked.
Have another shot at the question – try to see what you missed the first time around. If you had made just a silly mistake, this is a good time to correct it! Make the best out of this chance – after all, you can’t do this on test day!
4. Solve “blocks” of questions, not just one at a time.
You solve one question, quickly turn to the answer key, find out that you got it wrong, read the explanation, and move to the next question.
Is this how you practice? If yes, it’s time to change! This sort of practice is not going to give you any returns. Your practice sessions are the time to build you stamina for the demanding 4-hour long GMAT – so utilize them well.
Pick up a “block” of say, 20 SC questions. You will need approximately 1.5 minutes to solve one question – this means that you will be done in 30 minutes. Now, go over the key, and revisit the ones that you got wrong. If you got 6 questions wrong, this would take you another 9 minutes.
In the last round, check the explanations to all the questions – right and wrong. The total time you spend on these questions would now be about 1 hour – time well-spent!
As you practice, increase the rigor of your prep sessions – solve larger “blocks” of questions.
5. Keep your practice sessions focused.
Solved a few questions and checked the explanation. Qn 6 is wrong. According to the OG, option C in Qn 6 is “wordy and awkward”.
What does that even mean?
Let me Google and check if someone has given a better explanation online.
Ah, yes, here it is…
C has an ambiguous pronoun.
Hmm… I need to brush up my basics in Pronouns – Googling “gmat sc pronouns”.
Wow, someone’s got a 2 MB PDF on pronouns – awesome!
Let me download this…
hey, there’s a nice video tutorial on pronoun ambiguity – let me watch that now….
At the end of 2 hours, you will suddenly realize that you have solved just 5 questions and analyzed just 1!
This is not a good way to utilize your time – make sure that your prep sessions are focused – this means No internet, No mobile and No chatting with anyone!
By taking these simple steps, you can utilize your prep time more productively and see better results.
Hope these techniques make a positive difference to your GMAT prep! If you’d like to share what works for you and what doesn’t, please leave a comment in the comment section below.
If you are looking for more customized and focused prep, why don’t you check out our GMAT courses!
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