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Do’s & Don’ts for GMAT Exam Day: How to Maximize Your Last 48 Hours

GMAT prep

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Read time: 4 minutes

You’re almost there!  It’s your last 48 hours before the big day, and a much-anticipated end to many months of GMAT prep.

Those 100+ hours of toil and personal sacrifice are about to reap you an amazing GMAT score. That is, so long as you don’t overlook a few more key steps before the exam.

What should you be doing as the countdown begins? Follow these do’s and don’ts to get organized, pumped up, and mentally prepared for the GMAT marathon.

Plan your route to the test centre

Do you know exactly where your GMAT test centre is and how to get there? Whether you’re driving, walking, biking, or taking public transit, make sure you map out the route the night before.

It’s important to calculate how long it will take you to reach the centre, and include extra time to check-in. We recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before your exam time.

Consider factors like rush hour traffic, construction, subway stoppages, and other potential delays when creating your plan. Give yourself a buffer.

Organize your documents and test day snacks

The night before the exam, make sure you set aside the documentation you must bring to the test centre, including your identification. You definitely don’t need the stress of hunting down your misplaced passport at the last minute.

Also, it’s a good idea to plan what you’ll wear and prepare your test day snacks in advance. Have a lucky t-shirt/pair of boxers/socks/pants? Make sure they’re clean and good to go the night before.

Want a power bar, piece of fruit, or bag of trail mix to boost your energy on exam day? You get two 8-minute breaks during the GMAT. Think about what you want to eat or drink during those breaks, and prep those snacks the night before.

Resist the urge to do last-minute GMAT prep

Exam anxiety might prompt you to tackle additional practice questions, or feverishly review your notes, right up until the very last minute. Don’t be tricked into desperate, last-minute GMAT prep!

If you’ve studied effectively, you’ve already absorbed everything you can. During your last 24 hours before the exam, focus instead on getting into optimal physical and mental test-taking mode.

The GMAT is a marathon, so your final day or two should revolve around warm-up strategies—not yet another round of mind-bending Quant problems. See the next three tips for recommendations and ideas.

Eat clean the night before & day of the exam

Have long hours of GMAT test prep made it harder to eat healthy over the last few months? Found yourself relying on heavy doses of caffeine, sugar, and convenience snack foods? Now’s the time to break those habits!

In your last couple of days before the GMAT exam, focus on eating clean, healthy foods. Ditch greasy, heavy meals for whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Know that the food you eat has a direct impact on your mood and cognitive function. Foods rich in essential brain nutrients will help improve memory, concentration, motivation, and overall mental “sharpness.”

Check out this list of healthy options for pre-exam meal ideas.

And remember: avoid going overboard on caffeine just before the exam. An extra cup or two will only add to your nerves, making it harder to focus and work deliberately through questions.

Consider a pre-GMAT exam workout session

There’s a strong body of evidence that proves the correlation between physical exercise and improved mood and cognitive function. Working out helps reduce stress, and helps our brains work better, too.

Worried anxiety will rob you of sleep the night before the exam? Plan a vigorous workout in the evening to take the edge off, and tire yourself out.

Same goes for the morning of the test—schedule a little gym time to get those positive endorphins circulating and keep the jitters under control.

And don’t forget to run your brain through a little pre-exam workout routine as well. Try a crossword puzzle or Sudoku—or read a challenging article. Anything that limbers up your brain and gets you into “thinking” mode, an hour or two before the exam.

Roll out your stress-management techniques

Hitting the gym isn’t your thing? No problem. But give some thought to how you will burn off anxiety and settle your nerves the night before, and day of, the exam.

For some, this means creating a playlist of inspirational songs they can dance around to (Eye of the Tiger; We are the Champions; Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger—you get the idea).

For others, it might be yoga, meditation, or a long walk in the park. A round of laser tag, anyone?

It doesn’t really matter what you do, so long as it diffuses tension and makes you feel good. One caveat though: don’t rely on illicit substances or alcohol to relax pre-exam.

These will only make your brain foggy and slow you down. Don’t worry—there’ll be plenty of time for cocktails after the test!

Have other questions or concerns about your GMAT prep routine? Interested in learning more about intensive GMAT courses, or free GMAT info sessions and workshops?

Start here for helpful resources and support: See upcoming free GMAT events near you

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Should You Take a GMAT Course? The Pros & Cons of Professional Test Prep

GMAT course

Read time: 4 minutes

Do you need to take a GMAT course to score high on the exam? No. Plenty of students study on their own and do very well.

But do you have the self-discipline, confidence, and academic skills to structure your own GMAT prep? If you’ve been out of school for a while, or have significant math or verbal challenges, this is where self-study becomes more risky.

Add a fulltime work schedule to the mix, and you’ve got a strong case for professional GMAT help.

A GMAT course can’t guarantee your success on test day—but it can offer a competitive advantage to busy people with rusty study skills.

So is it worth it? Let’s look at the top pros and cons of professional GMAT prep, and you can decide for yourself.

Pro: A Good GMAT Course Takes the Guesswork out of Prep

This truly is the biggest benefit to taking a comprehensive GMAT course. A quality training program of 100 hours or more absolutely takes the guesswork out of prep.

This type of course will cover every inch of the exam, and prepare you tackle every type of question, across every topic.

You won’t have to spend hours researching and test-driving problem-solving strategies—your instructor has already identified proven techniques, and will teach them to you.

The certainty you get with a good course can really boost your confidence. Plus, it’s a guaranteed time-saver. Everything you need to know is condensed into a few classes, and then you just need to keep practicing those techniques up until the exam.

Con: What if Your GMAT Course Doesn’t Boost Your Score?

This is a question of return on investment—and it’s definitely worth asking. What if you pour time and money into a GMAT course, and your practice scores don’t budge?

First off, if you’re putting in maximum effort, and see little to no score improvement, you’re probably not taking a quality course.

Most test prep companies carefully track score improvement rates among their students—to ensure the courses they provide yield consistently positive results.

The company can’t guarantee you a bump in score, but they should provide hard evidence of a solid track record.

We also recommend looking at user experiences (such as Google Reviews) to see whether students are getting real results from training, before you enroll in any GMAT course.

Extra tip: Some companies offer trial classes so you can test-drive training before buying. Look for this option on the company website.

Pro: A Quality GMAT Course Comes With Tons of Study Resources

This is another time-saver for busy students. Prepping for the GMAT involves a lot of leg work. You need to find authentic practice questions and mock tests, research all the content areas on the exam , and identify the best step-by-step procedures for solving problems.

A good GMAT course does all of this for you. Your training should include all the study guides and practice tests you could possibly need. You won’t have to find these resources on your own, and figure out which materials can be trusted.

Con: A Quality GMAT Course Won’t Come Cheap

Affordability is perhaps the biggest “con” for prospective GMAT course students. These training programs are indeed pricey. The best way to protect yourself from over-spending, is to find a program that offers the best bang for your buck.

Look for things like an unlimited course repeat policy. Some companies will let you take your entire GMAT course again and again, free of charge, so you can keep practicing tough topics and continue to improve your score.

It’s also key to look at other benefits that add value to your training, such as:

  • instructor experience (look for at least 5+ years of fulltime test prep experience)
  • small class sizes
  • high average score improvements
  • high-quality training materials
  • availability of special discounts

Remember: not all GMAT courses are created equal. Your dollars will stretch further with some companies than with others. Do your research, and ensure you’re getting the best all-around value for your tuition.

Pro: You’ll Get Access to a GMAT Expert + Peer Support

Studying on your own for the GMAT can be isolating and stressful. While some students thrive on the solitary approach, others find it difficult to stay motivated, and suffer from anxiety.

Gaining access to an expert GMAT instructor, and working with likeminded peers, can help diffuse some of the stress of test prep. There’s strength in community, and something to be said for sharing the prep experience with fellow test-takers.

Con: You May Have to Travel to Take the GMAT Course

Don’t live near a major GMAT test centre? You may find you’ll have to travel to take a quality GMAT course. If you don’t have friends or family to stay with, this means incurring additional costs for a hotel or Airbnb.

Your best bet is to find a weekend intensive, rather than a program that spreads classes out over several weeks, so there’s less back-and-forth required. Online training is also a viable option, but tends to feel less personal and motivating.

Another solution is to find a friend who is also interested in taking the GMAT course, so you can split the costs of travel and accommodations.

Struggling with other pros and cons related to GMAT prep?

Can’t commit to a course right now, but need help with a topic?

Click here for a list of free GMAT workshops and prep resources

Taking the GMAT in Toronto and looking for a reliable course?

Click here to explore Quantum’s #1-rated GMAT course

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4 Things To Do Before You Start LSAT Test Prep

LSAT test prep

Read time: 4 minutes

So, you’ve decided this is the year you’ll tackle the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Good for you!

Have you given some thought to how you’ll approach test prep? Decided whether you’ll study independently or seek out the support of an LSAT course? What about prep materials?

Do you know where you’ll look for quality problem-solving techniques and authentic practice questions?

Ultimately, the strength of your final score depends on how you approach these fundamental elements of LSAT test prep.

Nail down the four steps outlined in this post, and you’ll be well on your way to a smarter, more competitive study strategy.

1. Learn the Structure & Content of the LSAT

Step number one of successfully preparing for the LSAT is finding out exactly what you’re up against. Take a look at this quick overview of exam structure, content, scoring, and time limits.

Note that there are two sections of Logical Reasoning, and two exam sections that are not scored.

Structure & Content of the LSAT

LSAT test prep

A quick note about those unscored sections:

The “experimental” section is full of questions the LSAT-makers are testing out and refining. It will take the form of another logical reasoning, reading comp, or analytical reasoning (logic games) section.

You won’t know which section is experimental, so plan to devote equal effort to every section.

As for the writing sample, it isn’t scored, but a copy is included in your law school admission package.  Schools will consider the strength of your writing along with your overall LSAT score.

Total test time

In total, you’re looking at about 3.5 hours of test time, plus a 15 minute break. But don’t forget to factor in the time it takes to check-in to the test centre, which could be anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.

Make no mistake: the LSAT is a marathon. But knowing what to expect puts you ahead of the curve—and helps you develop realistic study goals.

2. Create a Personalized LSAT Test Prep Strategy

Before you dive into prep, it’s really important to map out an LSAT study plan that accurately reflects your strengths, weaknesses, time constraints, and score goal.

Without this roadmap, your prep will lack structure, direction, and efficiency. You’ll end up wasting time on fruitless techniques or neglect to address serious skill gaps.

Avoid the struggle, and do a mock LSAT exam and analyze your performance. Determine your baseline score (to track future progress), set an achievable score goal, and figure out which sections you need to focus on most.

If you want, once you’ve taken a mock, you can get help with the analysis for free. Many test prep companies (including Quantum) offer a free LSAT Mock Exam Assessment.

You get one hour with an expert LSAT instructor who evaluates your mock, maps out your study plan, and points you toward helpful test prep tools.

Learn more about getting a Personalized LSAT Assessment here

3. Assemble Your Arsenal of Quality LSAT Test Prep Materials

Planning to study for the LSAT on your own, instead of taking an LSAT course? No problem. Just be sure to gather reliable, high quality materials before you dive in.

Learn more about each section of the exam, collect sample questions, download practice tests, and get the Official LSAT Handbook™.  Join an LSAT discussion forum for practical advice and peer support.

Many students swear by their LSAT apps for drilling vocabulary words, watching instructional videos, and practising logic games on-the-go. Find a list of best LSAT apps right here.

Remember, your performance on test day relies heavily on the quality of your prep materials, and the problem-solving techniques you’ve learned. Do your homework. Start strong with resources you can trust.

Click here to browse Quantum’s collection of LSAT prep materials

4. Considering an LSAT Course?

Think you might not have the time or self-discipline to do LSAT test prep on your own?  Wondering if an LSAT course is the way to go?

This is a tough question many students face at some point during their study journey.

Our best advice?

Look at the results of your mock exam and personal assessment. How far are you from your score goal?

How confident are you in your ability to address your weak areas, and steadily improve within the timeframe you have for prep?

For some students, the answer is simple: they’re ready to go it alone. For others, there are gaps in confidence and knowledge that make independent study more complicated.

Evaluate your own situation early on.

Struggling through months of self-study only to end up in an LSAT course can be really frustrating—not to mention, you’ve learned quite a few bad habits by then, which must be “unlearned” during the course.

Not sure which way to go?

Take a look at Should You Take a Professional LSAT Course? 3 Things to Consider

Wondering how a typical LSAT course works, and what you’d cover during training? We suggest reading What to Expect from a 50-Hr LSAT Course (& is it worth it?)

Have other questions about how to start LSAT prep right? Check out our blog, or just drop us a line. We’re here to help!

 

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Anxious About the GMAT? 4 Steps to Less Stress & Better Test Prep

GMAT test prep

Read time: 4 minutes

Preparing for a high stakes test like the GMAT is inherently stressful for many people.

So much is riding on your success—getting into a top business school, fulfilling your career ambitions, proving you can do it—it’s completely normal to experience anxiety.

In fact, some degree of stress is actually beneficial. It will push you to get serious about your GMAT test prep, work hard to strengthen your skills, and stay focussed on exam day.

However, there’s often a fine line between stress that motivates, and anxiety that feels paralyzing. Every year, countless would-be GMAT contenders back out of the exam because the pressure is too great.

Many give up before even starting test prep. Are you among them?

Is concern about your math or verbal skills “talking you out of” taking the test?

Think you’ll never get a high enough score, so why bother?

Hold on! Before you walk away from your dreams—and sell yourself short!—take a moment to consider these 4 stress-lowering GMAT tips.

Follow these steps and you’ll realize the GMAT is far more doable than you thought, and you definitely have the capacity to earn a competitive score. Let’s get started.

1. Clarify What the GMAT Actually Tests

Step number one. Push aside all the horror stories and dramatic anecdotes, and figure out what this exam actually tests.

You might be surprised to learn that the GMAT only evaluates math and verbal skills at the middle and high school levels. Some concepts are first introduced in elementary school!

There’s nothing on the test you haven’t seen before—although it’s probably been a while.

Do yourself an enormous favor, and attend a free GMAT information session. These events are offered free of charge, at many business schools in Ontario. Quantum runs several of them every month.

You’ll get a complete breakdown of how the exam works: every section, every question-type, every math and verbal topic.

These sessions are led by expert GMAT instructors, so it’s a great chance to de-bunk GMAT myths, and get all your preliminary questions answered.

There’s no doubt about it: getting a handle on the facts is a tremendous stress-reliever.

See a schedule of upcoming free GMAT info sessions here

2. Do a Mock Exam Before You Start GMAT Test Prep

Already tried a few GMAT practice questions and did worse than you imagined? So concerned about your grammar or math skills that you’d rather study a bit before attempting a formal practice test?

This strategy is a recipe for rising anxiety.

It makes far more sense to know what you’re up against, right from day one. That means doing a mock exam before you begin any kind of GMAT test prep.

Mock exams are totally free, and provide essential data on your individual strengths and weaknesses. You’ll determine your baseline score, and be in an excellent position to map out a truly targeted study plan.

If you don’t know where you’re at, in terms of quant and verbal skills, you won’t know what topics to focus on, which techniques to study, or how to measure your progress!

You’ll lose time running in circles, and see your stress levels sky-rocket. Take a smarter approach: sign up for a mock exam first thing.

Click here for a schedule of upcoming mock GMAT exams

3. Map out a Personalized GMAT Study Plan

Trying to model your test prep on someone else’s approach? Listening to a lot of advice from other test-takers on what worked for them? Cut through the noise, and focus instead on your needs and goals.

Once you’ve done the mock exam, you’ll be eligible for a free assessment and study planning session with a GMAT instructor. Many test prep companies (the same people who host the mock exam) offer this complimentary service.

Your mock exam results will tell you exactly which topic areas to focus on most. You’ll be able to set a realistic score goal, and figure out exactly how many hours of prep it will take to achieve it.

Your free assessment should also include access to trustworthy GMAT prep resources, tips, and study guides. Instant stress reliever.

Learn more about free GMAT assessments here

4. Book Yourself Into Free GMAT Workshops

Need a confidence booster in fundamental math or verbal concepts? Want expert advice to guide your prep in a particularly tricky topic—but can’t afford a comprehensive GMAT course?

No problem. Ease your mind by taking advantage of the many free GMAT workshops that happen every month, in cities across the country. Toronto and Montreal, for example, offer a range of GMAT Math, Verbal, and IR workshops, on an ongoing basis.

Get your questions answered, learn problem-solving techniques, and connect with like-minded peers. No charge; no stress.

See a schedule of upcoming GMAT workshops hosted by Quantum

Final takeaway: Follow these 4 steps and take the guesswork—and therefore, much of the anxiety—out of GMAT test prep.

These are all completely free tools and services that are available to students—so get out there, take full advantage, and crush GMAT stress like a boss!

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GMAT Prep: Smart Time Management Strategies Every Test-Taker Should Know

GMAT prep

Read time: 4 minutes

You will have exactly 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete the GMAT exam. There are 4 sections to work through, each with a fixed number of questions and a predetermined time limit.

This handy chart from mba.com breaks it all down:

GMAT prep

If you decide to take the two 8-minute breaks you’re allowed during the exam, your total time gets closer to 4 hours. That’s a serious test-taking marathon!

In order to stay on track and finish on time, students need to manage their minutes very carefully. Without good pacing and time management strategies in place, it’s all too easy to rush unnecessarily (and make careless mistakes), or linger too long on tough questions (and be unable to complete the exam).

What kinds of time management techniques should you be developing during GMAT prep and implementing on exam day? Here are some straightforward approaches we recommend.

1. Budget a specific number of minutes for each question

When it comes to pacing, some students try to “wing it”, and never really nail down a time-budget for each question-type.

They figure they’ll simply move as quickly as they can through each section—perhaps spending a bit longer on some problems than others—but it will all even out in the end.

The problem is, under pressure, it’s very likely that your sense of time will feel distorted. If your go-to time management strategy is just glancing at the clock now and then, you’re in for a nasty shock on exam day!

If you want to get smart about pacing, you’ll need to be aware of your “time position” at every stage of the test.

In other words, whether you’re behind, ahead, or right on schedule, in relation to where you are in the exam.

To do that, you’ll need to set a maximum time limit for every single question, and get used to how those limits feel during GMAT prep.

This chart from TopMBA.com provides some helpful guidelines:

GMAT Time Management Per Question-type

GMAT prep

2. Have a plan for when you get stuck

If all goes perfectly, your diligent GMAT prep will pay off, and you’ll know exactly how to tackle every single question that comes your way on exam day.

But since things rarely work out as planned, it’s safe to assume you’ll get stalled by a few really tough problems. Having a smart plan for these moments is key for managing time.

Getting “frozen”  by panic, or stubbornly going around in circles without settling on an answer, are common—and very dangerous—time-wasters.

If you spend more than 3 minutes on a question, you’re in the danger zone!

In short, a tough GMAT question can be a real rabbit hole. Your GMAT test prep should include guessing techniques, answer analysis strategies, how to strategically skip questions to make-up for lost time, etc.

Remember: you can miss a few questions and still get a 700+ score. The biggest penalty of all comes from not finishing the exam.

3. Be on guard for pacing problems during GMAT prep

Good pacing is not something you’ll be able to master at the last minute. In fact, learning how to pace yourself effectively should be an integral part of your GMAT study plan—just as important as learning good problem-solving procedures.

How can you systematically improve your time-management skills during prep?

An obvious approach is to time yourself while doing practice tests and question sets. Use a stop watch app to track how long it’s taking you to complete problems, and compare results over time.

You’ll begin to get a sense of what one minute feels like (your halfway point for most questions), and when you’re getting close to your maximum time allowance.

Drilling with a timer is key for recalibrating your internal clock to “GMAT settings” so the process feels very familiar on exam day.

It’s also crucial to analyze every practice test (or mock exam) for warning signs of pacing problems and bad habits.

Look at the questions you got wrong. Were some of those mistakes caused by rushing? Could you have solved the problem if you took a bit more time?

On the other hand, did you get some problems wrong despite taking additional time? Did you fall down the tricky problem “rabbit hole”?

Did a particular section or question-type seem to drain your time more than others?

Being aware of your time position during practice tests, and analyzing your pacing after the fact, are key to understanding your individual time management strengths and weaknesses.

As always with the GMAT, your prep must be tailored to your unique needs.

Figure out where your time is going on each section of the exam, and you’ll be in a far better position to improve efficiency (and avoid stressful surprises!) on test day.

Looking for a little more help with GMAT test prep?

Check out Quantum’s free GMAT workshops and info sessions, coming up in January and February:

Click here for a schedule of free events

Considering enrolling in a GMAT course?

Click here to explore courses, special discounts, and upcoming start dates

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Free GMAT Prep in Toronto: 4 Totally Free GMAT Workshops to Attend this January

GMAT prep

Read time: 4 minutes

Live in Toronto and plan to take the GMAT in 2018? Chances are, getting down to some serious GMAT prep is one of your top new year resolutions.

But once the holidays are over, the decorations come down (and the frost sets in), studying is probably the very last thing you feel like doing!

Don’t give up just yet. There are numerous GMAT events happening in the city—each one designed to help kick-start your prep (and resist the urge to hibernate).

The best part? They’re all totally FREE.

Free GMAT resources and workshops are truly excellent ways to get practical, proven support from experts—without the cost of a professional GMAT course.

It’s amazing how many test-takers either don’t know about these events, or simply don’t take advantage.

Get ahead of the curve! Take out your calendar, and reserve yourself a spot in at least one of these incredibly helpful upcoming GMAT events.

Free Event #1: Introduction to GMAT Workshop

The Introduction to GMAT Workshop should be your top priority and first stop. It offers a complete “GMAT orientation” to anyone who is new to the exam (hasn’t taken it before).

During the 4-hour event, students get a guided tour of the exam, including its overall structure, the contents of each section, and how scoring works.

Not sure how to approach studying? At the Intro to GMAT workshop, an experienced instructor walks students through a 5-point study plan, including how to find quality study materials.

You’ll also work through several practice questions as a group, and learn some helpful problem-solving techniques and tips.

Overall, this event is the best way to beat procrastination and really get the ball rolling on your GMAT prep.

The January Intro to GMAT Workshop fills up fast though, and the registration deadline is almost here—so grab a seat before it’s too late.

Register for the Next Intro to GMAT Workshop in Toronto

Free Event #2: GMAT Mock Exam

Were you planning to take a mock GMAT exam at some point during your prep?

Many students wait until they’ve studied a bit before taking a mock, to improve their chances at a promising score—but this approach defeats the true purpose of the practice test.

Mock exams should be taken before you’ve done even a single practice question, as a way to measure your baseline score, and identify key strengths and weaknesses.

You’ll need this information to map out a targeted GMAT prep plan. The baseline score is also crucial for tracking future progress.

So don’t wait to take the mock. Reserve your spot at the upcoming January exam happening at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management.

See when the next Mock GMAT Exam is scheduled

Free Event #3: GMAT Math Refresher

Many, many students feel anxious about tackling GMAT math questions. Even though the exam tests only middle school and high school math concepts, the Quant section can be very intimidating.

In fact, “math anxiety” scares away a sizeable number of test-takers every year—smart, capable people who would rather give up on attending a top B-school than face the exam.

Don’t be one of them! Attend a free GMAT Math Refresher and get a complete overview of every type of Quant problem you’ll face on the exam.

Work through basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry problems as a group, and learn some helpful techniques for tackling Quant questions.

This is a great event for building up your math confidence, debunking GMAT math “myths”, and learning how to prepare for this part of the exam.

See when the next GMAT Math Refresher is taking place

Free Event #4: GMAT Integrated Reasoning Workshop

Integrated Reasoning (IR) is one of the toughest sections on the GMAT. IR questions ask students to analyze multiple streams of data by applying several skills at once: logical reasoning, math, and reading comprehension.

Out of all the problems you’ll face on the exam, IR questions are considered the most reflective of real-world business challenges.

But this section is also the newest on the exam, having been implemented just a few years ago in 2012. Since then, it’s been a source of confusion for both test-takers and B-school admissions teams.

Why is it scored separately from the rest of the exam? How much weight does your IR score carry? What’s the best way to attack each type of IR question?

If you’re not sure how Integrated Reasoning works on the GMAT, or how to approach prep, do yourself a favour and attend a free workshop.

The Demystifying Integrated Reasoning Workshop is the ideal way to understand each of the four IR question-types, work through some problems, and find reliable study tools.

See upcoming dates for January IR Workshops

And there you have it. Four genuinely helpful, totally free events to jumpstart your GMAT prep. There’s no better way to shake off January fatigue and get moving toward your B-school goals.

Bonus Event:

So busy that you can’t attend a live GMAT workshop? No problem. There’s even something for the over-booked, over-worked student. Get yourself a spot at the Secrets of a Successful GMAT Study Plan Webinar.

Attend online and get all of the tips and practical advice available at the live, Intro to GMAT workshop.

Didn’t see what you needed here? Looking for a complete list of free Toronto GMAT events, or workshops taking place in other cities?

Click here for a comprehensive schedule of upcoming free GMAT events

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GRE Prep: How to Handle Questions You Don’t Know & Moments of Panic

GRE prep

Read time: 3 minutes

No matter how hard you study for the GRE, you can expect to encounter questions you just don’t know come exam day.

And that’s ok! It’s realistic to assume that at least a few Quant or Verbal questions will trip you up. If you’ve prepared thoroughly, one or two stumbles won’t jeopardize your overall score.

This sounds reasonable enough—but what about when the pressure is on and the clock is ticking? What will happen when you come face-to-face with a question you can’t answer and feel completely frozen with panic?

The anxiety brought on by a particularly challenging question can seriously upset the poise and careful reasoning you need to score high on the GRE.

This is why students need a well thought-out strategy for handling unknowns and coping with those inevitable moments of stress.

Watch how you handle tough questions during mock GRE exams and practice tests.

Try a few different coping techniques to find the approach that works best for your learning style—and you’ll be far better prepared  for bumps in the road on test day.

These are 3 reliable techniques to get started with.

1. Systematically Eliminate Least Likely Answers

You’ll spend months learning proven, step-by-step procedures for tackling each type of Quant and Verbal question on the GRE, right?

Best case scenario: You’ll use those techniques to de-code every question, immediately see which answer option is correct, select it with confidence, and move on.

Reality: Certain questions will contain confusing elements (such as a vocabulary word you didn’t study), making it difficult to apply the right technique, and go straight to the correct answer.

At this point, panic will likely set in because you feel stuck, and only have a moment or two to make a decision.

Your best bet is to carefully look at the problem again. Identify the question-type, and recall the features, traps, and patterns present in all problems of that kind.

Based on what you do know, analyze the available answers and try to eliminate the least likely options. The more options you can eliminate, the better your chances of selecting the correct response.

You will not feel certain about your answer, but you’ll have done your best to remain calm, and apply a strategic approach to handling the unknown.

2. Make an Educated Guess

Just plain don’t understand the problem, and can’t remember any theory that helps you eliminate unlikely answers?

Ok, but don’t leave the question blank. On the GRE, points are not deducted for wrong responses, so if all else fails, you should go with your gut and make an educated guess.

Important tip: Don’t let the minutes tick by while you agonize over which answer option to select. Give yourself one to two minutes, choose the response that stands up best to logic, and then quickly move on.

Staring at the screen will not illuminate any hidden wisdom—it will only rob you of the time you need to successfully answer the remaining questions.

When you’re practising this technique during GRE mock exams, be careful not to “cheat” and give yourself extra time—you’ll be setting yourself up for serious pacing problems on test day.

3. Flag it for later

If you encounter a problem you feel you might be able to solve if you had a bit more time, it makes good sense to flag it for later.

This is likely a question-type you recognize, and are able to somewhat decode using a standard technique—but you end up going in circles, or torn between two possible answers.

Don’t get stuck on this type of “unknown”. It’s better to flag the question, move on to easier problems, collect those points, and then go back for round two, if the clock allows.

Important tip: Don’t understand the problem at all? See no possible pathways for solving it?

Don’t bother flagging it for later. Save your time and energy for questions you have a better chance of getting right. Take an educated guess and move on.

Bottom line: Like every other aspect of GRE prep, dealing with unknowns demands a strategic approach.

Integrate some reliable “plan B” techniques into your study routine, and you won’t get sidelined by panic on exam day.

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GMAT Prep: 3 Study Habits You Should Start “Unlearning” Right Now

GMAT prep

 

Read time: 3 minutes

What are your go-to study tactics? What rituals do you perform when prepping for tests?

These are probably habits you began forming very early on—as far back as elementary school—when you took your first quizzes and standardized exams.

It makes sense to fall back on these approaches when faced with yet another high-stakes test, like the GMAT. You should go with what’s worked in the past, right?

Not exactly. The GMAT is a very different beast. To do well on this exam, you’ll need to re-think some of those comfortable old study habits, and adopt a more sophisticated, strategic approach.

These are 3 habits to “unlearn” right from day one!

1. Last-minute Cramming

Hoping to earn a competitive 700+ score on the GMAT? How many study hours do you think it will take to hit that goal?

The folks at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) got to the bottom of this question by surveying over 4,000 test-takers on how long they studied for the GMAT, and their final results.

GMAC found a distinct correlation between longer study and higher scores. Students who devoted 120+ hours to GMAT prep were more likely to achieve scores of 700 and above.

These findings line up with what we’ve seen at Quantum over the last 15 years of coaching students. Slow and steady prep, spread out over 3-6 months, consistently yields the best results.

If you want a top score, we recommend making time for:

  • 150-200 hours of GMAT prep
  • 1500-2000 practice questions
  • 8-10 practice GMAT exams

Obviously, these are not goals you can hit over a few weekend marathon study sessions. Last-minute cramming may have worked well for you on other kinds of tests—but the unique challenges and escalating difficulty of GMAT questions demand a far more measured approach.

Bottom line? Plan to study several times a week for at least 3 months.

See this post for tips on how to structure your GMAT study sessions for maximum efficiency

2. Going After the “Easiest” Marks

Remember back in high school, or during your undergrad, when you would sometimes hedge your bets, and study only part of the material tested on an exam?

You’d go after the easiest grades—focus your efforts on the topics you knew best, and calculate which questions you could safely “bomb” without lowering your grade too much.

This approach might have worked on some tests, but if you’re aiming to do really well on the GMAT, you’ll have to forget about taking shortcuts.

Each of the GMAT sections—Quant, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, and AWA —are scored separately, and every B-school admissions team has their own method of weighing your performance in each area.

It’s about more than your overall score. You’ll want to do your best in every section, which means targeting your weak areas and continuing to improve on your strengths.

Bottom line? Prioritizing certain topics over others, and not spreading GMAT prep equally over all question-types, is one of the top reasons students underperform on exam day.

See this post for other common reasons students score low on the GMAT

3. Rote Learning & Memorization

Rote learning is one of the oldest study tricks out there. It’s a teaching technique found in classrooms all over the world, and students have relied on it for centuries to learn new things quickly.

Rote learning goes hand-in-hand with last-minute cramming. We’re talking about memorizing vast amounts of information, and drilling yourself on it, right before a big test.

On exam day, you “spit out” everything you memorized—and then promptly forget 90% of it forever.

Why won’t this study tactic work for the GMAT?

For starters, the GMAT tests more than factual knowledge and formulae. It tests your ability to analyze and think critically, and to apply what you know to increasingly difficult problems.

Simply “drilling” practice questions won’t do the trick. You’ll need to carefully analyze your performance at every stage of GMAT prep, pick out weak spots, and adapt your study plan to strengthen those weaknesses.

A certain amount of memorization is helpful, particularly with standard problem-solving steps and procedures—but mindless repetition won’t be enough to hone your ability to apply those steps  in the most effective and efficient ways.

Bottom line? You’ll need to approach GMAT prep purposefully, re-working your approach as you go, and staying alert to traps and pitfalls.

See this post on 5 ways to analyze your GMAT practice tests & improve performance

Looking for more help to avoid typical prep mistakes and map out a smart GMAT study plan?

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Best GMAT Study Break Ideas: Re-boot Your Brain & Shake Off Fatigue!

GMAT study

Read time: 5 minutes

What does “working hard” look like to you?

Long hours of activity without a break? Powering through despite feeling tired, hungry, or frustrated?

Capitalist culture tends to glorify burning the candle at both ends. Many of us are taught the virtue of self-sacrifice in service of long-term goals. No pain, no gain! Sound familiar?

But when it comes to learning new things or actually being productive, pushing yourself too hard can do more harm than good.

A couple of years ago, The Atlantic ran a fascinating article on the benefits of taking strategic breaks during long periods of work.

The author cites several research studies that show how well-timed periods of relaxation, and certain kinds of rest activities, can truly re-boot the brain, improve cognition and memory, and help you return to work refreshed.

What’s the takeaway for your GMAT study plan?

Powering through endless hours of prep, without revitalizing breaks, is a waste of your precious time.

But what kinds of breaks should you take and how often?

Which activities will power-up your brain, fend off fatigue, and help you re-focus on those Quant and Verbal problems?

Use these 4 data-backed break ideas to study smarter, not harder (and preserve your sanity) during GMAT prep.

1. Follow the “52-Minute Rule” to Plan GMAT Study Breaks

Not sure how often you should be breaking away from the books? Data collected by DeskTime (a productivity app) shows that the best formula is precisely 52 minutes of work, followed by a 17-minute break.

Sound bizarre? Perhaps—but DeskTime has the data to back it up. They analyzed work logs from 5.5 million users to identify the break habits of the 10% most productive people.

DeskTime learned that the most productive workers (people who accomplished the most tasks in the shortest amount of time), took on average, 17 minute breaks every 52 minutes.

Several publications picked up on this story—Business Insider, Mashable, Lifehacker, Muse—spreading the idea of timed breaks as key to maintaining focus during long hours of work or study.

The Atlantic article points out that the theory isn’t exactly new. Back in 1999, Cornell University published a study proving the benefits of timed breaks.

They studied Wall Street workers, and found that those who took regular breaks were 13% more accurate in their work than colleagues who just “powered through”.

But, in all cases, people needed reminders to take those breaks. So, we suggest downloading an app that will do this for you, and trying out the 52-minute rule for yourself!

2. Walk Away From Your GMAT Study Area

So we’ve established that regular GMAT study breaks are key. But what you do with those 17 minutes of freedom is also important.

For maximum refreshment, step away from your desk, couch, or wherever you study, and completely clear your mind of anything exam-related.

Your best bet is to stretch and move your body—to get your blood circulating and your heart pumping after sitting still for awhile.

You have a whole 17 minutes, right? Go for a short walk, try a quick YouTube yoga routine, do a few sets of bicep curls.

Feel like you really need to watch cat videos on your phone for at least part of your break? Go for it.

Looking at cute animal pictures has actually been shown to boost mood and productivity. Just stand up and move around while you watch.

3. Plan Healthy Snacks for Each GMAT Study Session

Ok, we know it’s very tempting to fuel those long hours of GMAT prep with chocolate bars, candy, soda, energy drinks, and coffee.

Sugar and caffeine are go-to study aides many of us learned to depend on back in high school and university.

But at this point, we all know the devastating, roller-coaster effects of caffeine and sugar on our nervous system, mood, energy level, and overall wellbeing.

Do yourself a huge favour and stock some healthy snacks to eat during your GMAT study breaks.  Try these energy-boosting alternatives when you’re running out of steam:

  • mint gum (chewing a piece of gum for 15 minutes has been proven to increase heart rate, blood flow to the brain, and alertness)
  • protein bar or shake (just watch out for imposters that pack in the sugar)
  • apples and bananas (the anti-oxidants, vitamin C, and fibre will help you feel full and re-energized)
  • microwave popcorn (the fibre fills you up and it’s a whole grain—just go easy on the butter and salt)
  • trail mix (grab a generous handful and choose the unsalted kind)

4. When it’s Time to Re-Focus, Give it 100%

Find yourself distracted by your phone, Facebook, or wandering thoughts while in the middle of a GMAT study session? Of course you do—because you’re human.

But consider this: when DeskTime performed the study we mentioned earlier, the 10% most productive people were particularly good at focussing 100% on work after returning from those 17-minute breaks.

They channeled their renewed energy 100% toward the work in front of them, making a conscious effort to screen out distractions. They made the most of every 52-minute round.

This notion of total focus for short bursts of time is known by several names: The 100% Method; The Pomodoro Technique, and Purposeful Working.

To make the most of each GMAT study session, and really leverage the energy you get from breaks, you’ll need to shut out distractions as much as possible.

Don’t take “just a moment” to check Facebook or Twitter. Turn off your phone. Shut the curtains if you have to! Tell family and friends you’re off limits till break time.

Total focus for short bursts has been well-proven to help learning and retention. Make this (and the other strategies we listed here) the foundation of your smarter, healthier GMAT study routine—and you’ll hit your target score in no time.

Looking for more GMAT help? Check out our other blog posts, or attend one our free GMAT workshops for study tips, problem-solving techniques, and peer support.

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GMAT Help: 5 Tips to Conquer Sentence Correction

GMAT help

Read time: 5 minutes

Which GMAT topic do you consider the most difficult? Which type of question always sends you running in circles, makes you second-guess your instincts, or just leaves you completely stumped?

For many people, it’s sentence correction. Those long and winding statements, designed to confuse—and those answer options! A  frustrating selection of variants that befuddle your brain and drain your time.

If you dread those tricky SC questions, you’re definitely not alone. In a recent Business Insider story on the toughest GMAT questions, sentence correction ranked #2 in the top 5.

Even if you consider yourself a “Verbal” person, or did a Humanities degree, these trap-laden problems can throw you for a loop.

So what are some techniques students can use to break down and simplify SC problems? Here are 5 tips to keep in mind.

1. Strip away “decorative” elements

The sample sentences you’ll see on the GMAT will be convoluted, long, and wordy. Your first mission is to strip away all of the non-essential elements—the decorative details (adjectives, modifying phrases) that are there to distract and confuse you.

Practice identifying and removing those distractions so you can see the core structure of the sentence, and more easily identify errors.

2. Quickly scan & eliminate answers

The quickest way to waste time on SC questions is to thoroughly read all of the answer options. Instead, quickly scan and sort them into yes, no, and maybe categories.

Identify the “throw-away” response, and begin looking for clues and patterns among the remaining distractors.

As your GMAT prep progresses, you’ll notice that distractors try to trick you in predictable ways. These tactics often include:

  • subject-verb agreement errors
  • comparison errors
  • incorrect modifiers
  • wrong pronoun usage
  • missing verb

With practice, you’ll get faster at spotting these traps within the sample sentence and answer options, thus speeding up your overall SC response time.

3. What if you can’t decide on an answer?

Getting stuck can happen at any point during sentence correction problems. You might feel confused right off the bat, and have trouble following the logic of the sentence.

Or, you may narrow down your answer options to two, and feel unable to make a final decision.

If you’re struggling to understand the original sentence, try swapping in one of the sample responses, and see if that clarifies things.

If you can’t decide between answer options, give yourself a time limit to compare them and settle on a choice. Still stuck? Pick one and move on.

Don’t get trapped in the SC maze by reading the answers over and over again. Part of a smart GMAT strategy is knowing when to say when.

4. Don’t forget to evaluate “style”

Some students get so absorbed in identifying grammatical errors in SC questions, that they forget all about style.

When narrowing down the best answer (or deciding between two final options) be on guard for stylistic blunders, such as redundancy and idiomatic errors.

5. Never rely on instinct alone

Feel you already have a strong grasp of English because you read often, consider yourself articulate, or always did well on essays? Believe your finely tuned ear will help you spot SC errors without much practice?

Careful! GMAT sentence correction questions follow the strict rules of Standard Written English. Trust us, many of these rules will not feel familiar when you meet them on the exam.

You won’t be able to rely on instinct alone when decoding these clunky and complex sentences. Even the correct answer won’t always “sound” right to your ear.

This is because most people don’t actually use perfect grammar—and our popular media certainly doesn’t follow standard rules!

To be successful, you must learn a standardized approach to SC problems. Not sure which approach to adopt? Consider taking an intensive sentence correction GMAT course.

Learn the best techniques, and then continue practicing them on your own.

Looking for more GMAT help to conquer tough Verbal challenges? Consider attending a free Verbal Refresher for tips, tricks, and study advice.

Click here to see a schedule of upcoming free Verbal Refreshers

Need more advanced, comprehensive GMAT help with both Math and Verbal topics?

Click here to explore Quantum’s top-rated GMAT courses here