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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:

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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?

Need support in a certain topic area? We’ve got you covered:

Click here to explore our FREE monthly workshops, mock exams, and personal assessments.

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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.

Click Here for a Schedule of Totally Free GMAT Events

 

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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

 

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Are you Using GMAT Practice Tests Correctly?

GMAT practice

 

Read time: 5 minutes

Why are GMAT practice tests such an important part of your study strategy?

The answer is fairly obvious: practice tests reveal your strengths and weaknesses, and help build the endurance you’ll need to make it through GMAT exam day.

Less obvious is how best to leverage each practice test experience, so you can actually improve your technique and performance, and ultimately, boost your overall score.

Students can take numerous practice tests and still feel “stuck” with a plateaued score, or persistent difficulties in certain topic areas.

To see real improvements, you’ll need to approach each test strategically, analyze results effectively, and tweak your GMAT prep accordingly. As with all things GMAT-related, you need a smart plan to be successful.

Remember: every simulated exam you do takes up numerous hours of precious study time. Follow these steps to ensure you’re investing this time wisely—and getting the most out of each trial run.

How Many GMAT Practice Tests Should You Take?

This is a question we hear often from students. And it really depends on your score goal. Want a competitive score of 700+? You should aim to take 8-10 practice tests.

This means examining your overall study schedule, and building in time for tests at regular intervals. It’s a good idea to spread the simulations out evenly (say, about twice a month, if you’ve set aside 5-6 months for prep), so you can catch and correct performance problems at every stage.

Simulating the GMAT Exam Day Experience

Do you really need to mimic exam-day conditions when taking GMAT practice tests? Yes—if you want to truly fortify your test-taking skills, and get an accurate assessment of your progress (which is what it’s all about, right?)

Replicating an authentic exam experience means following the official rules, including:

  • sticking to the time allotted for each section (no extra minutes to complete one last problem)

 

  • removing all study aides from the room, including notes, books, manuals, calculators, and your cell phone

 

  • taking breaks only as allowed during the exam (you’ll get two breaks, of about 8 minutes each)

 

  • not using technology during your breaks (no social media, no phone calls, and no television)

 

  • eating only the kinds of snacks you’ll have available on exam day (note that smoking is not allowed during breaks at the exam centre)

 

  • wearing the kinds of clothes you’ll have on at the exam (so, probably not pajamas!)

 

  • taking practice tests during the time of day you’ll be challenging the real exam

Practising with real exam-day constraints is key for building up your mental, physical, and psychological stamina—and reducing unsettling surprises on test day.

Analyzing Your GMAT Practice Tests

How closely are you examining each GMAT practice test you take? Are you focusing mostly on your overall score, or how many questions you got wrong in each topic area?

You’ll need to go far deeper than surface results to get the most out of each simulation. In order to be truly beneficial, your practice test analysis should involve:

  • a close examination of incorrect AND correct answers (always look for ways to improve your process and efficiency, even if you got the answer right)

 

  • learning why you got an answer wrong (did you rush, read the question wrong, make a calculation error, have to guess?)

 

  • looking closely at pacing (did you run out of time, finish too early, rush through certain questions, or linger too long on some problems?)

Deeper analysis will help you spot patterns, identity recurring mistakes, and disrupt bad test-taking habits. An extra hour spent reviewing your results can save you significant frustration and wasted time down the road.

Continually Refining Your GMAT Prep

After every GMAT practice test you complete, take a moment to ask yourself two key questions:

  1. How will you put your analysis into practice, and use those insights to improve your GMAT prep strategy?
  2. What goals will you aim to achieve on the next simulation?

You might be working toward improved pacing, or looking to implement a new problem-solving technique. Perhaps you’ll focus on a certain question-type, or aim to improve your score on a particular section of the exam.

Note down your objectives, and make sure you’re adjusting your study plan to meet those goals. Your GMAT strategy should continually evolve to reflect the strengths and weaknesses revealed through each simulation.

If you’re not tweaking your strategy, you’re not using practice tests to your full advantage.

Looking for more free GMAT help, study tips, or practice materials?  We’ve got you covered.

Click here to access free, authentic GMAT practice tests

OR

Click here to explore free GMAT workshops & info sessions

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GMAT Prep Tips: 3 Ways to Remember More of What You Study

GMAT prep

 

Read time: 5 minutes

Think about it: when was the last time you had to remember something complex? Or even something as simple as a phone number?

Our transformation into a digital society has drastically reduced the need for memorization. Everything we need to remember is just a click or two away.

But when it comes to the GMAT, your capacity to absorb and recall problem-solving techniques, and basic math/verbal concepts can make or break your score.

We’re not saying that rote memorization is the key to good GMAT prep—but certain memory-boosting techniques will be very helpful for increasing your speed and accuracy on test day.

Incorporate these 3 retention strategies into your GMAT prep routine to remember more of what you study, and recall information faster.

1. Use mnemonics to remember steps & rules

Remember the old BEDMAS rule for order of operations in basic algebra? This is a classic example of a mnemonic that helps students quickly recall a set of steps or procedures. In this case, BEDMAS refers to:

B – Brackets

E – Exponents

D – Division

M – Multiplication

A – Addition

S – Subtraction

Remember the word BEDMAS, and you’ll quickly recall which calculations to tackle first.

Mnemonics are also helpful for remembering fundamental verbal concepts, like the parts of speech. Many students use PAPA VINC to quickly list those eight components:

P – Pronouns

A – Adjectives

P – Prepositions

A – Adverbs

 

V – Verbs

I – Interjections

N – Nouns

C – Conjunctions

Can’t find an existing mnemonic for the GMAT concept you’re struggling to remember? Make up your own! As long as the term or phrase is something you can easily recall, it will work.

2. Stick to a regular GMAT prep schedule

Ever tried cramming for an exam just a day or two before test day? You probably absorbed a lot of information during those few, very long study sessions—and then promptly forgot almost all of it right after the exam.

The reason we forget information after cramming is because the material never makes it into our long term memory. We hold onto it just long enough to do a “brain dump” at the exam, and then it’s gone forever.

This is why cramming doesn’t work for GMAT prep. It takes months to study for this exam, and a high score depends on truly understanding and retaining what you’ve painstakingly practiced.

If you find yourself forgetting what you studied last week, it’s probably because you let too many days go by before hitting the books again.

Routine and repetition are definitely key to fully absorbing and remembering challenging material. So don’t relegate GMAT prep to marathon study sessions on the weekends! Spread out your practice throughout the week, divided into shorter periods of study and review.

This way, the new information you’re learning will have the chance to take root in your long term memory—and will be available for recall during mock exams, and on test day.

3. Can’t remember it? Try teaching it…

Having trouble remembering a difficult piece of theory, or set of problem-solving steps? Chances are, you don’t fully understand the concept or technique. One of the best ways to test your level of comprehension, and your memory, is to try teaching the concept to someone else.

Teaching requires detailed explanation, repetition, and demonstration. In order to help your friend or family member understand the material, you’ll need to break it down, work through an example or two, and thoroughly answer their questions.

If you can’t explain it, you don’t really know it. It’s very difficult for students to remember and apply what they don’t truly understand.

On the other hand, if you’re able to successfully teach your tough concept to someone else, the process of explaining and demonstrating will help it take root in your long term memory.

The strategy “teach it to remember it” is widely considered a smart retention tool for students. This is an ideal technique to incorporate into your GMAT study routine, particularly if you suspect your memory problem is really a comprehension issue.

Looking for more ways to strengthen your GMAT prep strategy? Taking the GMAT in Toronto and searching for study tips, free resources, or prep courses?

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GMAT Prep: 3 Ways to Improve Your Reading Comp Score

GMAT prep

 

Read time: 5 minutes

The GMAT’s reading comprehension questions can pose a serious challenge for some students. Not used to reading complex material? Learning English as a new language? Tend to read slowly, or get distracted by unfamiliar vocabulary?

There are many ways to get sidetracked (and frustrated!) while wading through those notoriously dry passages.

But like any GMAT challenge, there are several techniques you can leverage to cut through the noise, optimize your approach, and improve your score.

Start by adding these 3 reading comprehension tactics to your GMAT prep strategy.

Do a Quick First Read to Grasp the Main Idea

You’re under tremendous time pressure when writing the GMAT, so it’s normal to feel a bit panicked when presented with a lengthy and convoluted RC passage.

Worried about losing time, students often rush through a first reading—and move on to the questions, without even the most basic understanding of what the passage is about.

Then, they encounter a question that confuses them, and end up having to start all over again, meanwhile the minutes tick by.

So how long should you spend doing that first reading? And what should you be looking to learn?

First of all, you don’t need to understand every nuance of the passage—just the main ideas and overall structure. Since the RC passages range from 200 to 350 words, this won’t take very long.

Strategy Tip

Set aside about two minutes to read the shorter passages, and three minutes to read the longer ones.

Time yourself during GMAT prep. Most students discover that 2-3 minutes is ample time to grasp the theme and main ideas, before tackling questions.

Streamline Your Note-taking (don’t go overboard!)

Many successful test-takers swear by taking notes while reading the RC passage for the first time. Others dismiss this tactic as an outright waste of time. But, it really depends on how you approach it.

If you’re going overboard and jotting down every little detail (essentially re-writing the passage), then yes, you’re definitely wasting time.

On the other hand, if your note-taking is disciplined and strategic, it can be beneficial on several levels. What do we mean by strategic?

Your notes should briefly summarize what’s going on in the text, namely:

  1. The author’s primary argument, point of view, or main idea
  2. The evidence presented to support the main idea

Strategy tip

While you read, summarize the main points of each paragraph in 10 words or less. Use abbreviations and symbols to save time (just make sure you can understand your own notes afterward!)

Why is strategic note-taking worth your time? It can help you:

  • better understand and remember what you’ve just read
  • identify where key information is located in the passage, so you can find these details quickly when answering questions
  • immediately determine the structure of the passage (two opposing sides vs. one sided; author’s opinion vs. informational)

Practice the “Search & Extract” Technique

Once you’ve completed the first two steps outline above (an effective first reading and strategic not-taking), you shouldn’t ever have to go back, and read the entire passage again.

Instead, you’ll use the “search and extract” technique to zero-in on the details that pertain to each question. This means quickly scanning parts of the passage and pulling out just the information you need.

Your initial reading and notes will help you know exactly where to look.

For example

Let’s say you need to identify the author’s stance on an issue, and the possible answers are “negative”, “positive”, “neutral”, etc.

Instead of re-reading the entire passage, quickly scan the text and extract keywords that reflect tone, and reveal how the author feels about the matter.

The truth is, you don’t need to understand every vocabulary word, factoid, or piece of data to answer questions quickly and accurately. What you really need to know is:

  1. How to locate and extract the most relevant details
  2. What the GMAT is looking for when it builds a “best” answer to a question

Incorporate these tactics into your GMAT practice, and watch your accuracy and speed improve significantly.

Need more help with reading comp, or other verbal challenges?

Consider a quality  GMAT course to learn a wide range of problem-solving strategies—or start by attending a free Verbal Refresher for a general overview and helpful study tips.

See a schedule of upcoming Verbal Refreshers near you

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The 4 Elements of a Smart GMAT Study Plan

GMAT study

 

Read time: 5 minutes

What goes into a really effective GMAT study plan? How does an extremely busy person, or someone who’s been out of school for years, increase their chances of a high score on exam day?

For the most part, success starts well before you’ve even cracked open your first set of practice questions. It begins with forming a carefully thought-out strategy you can count on, and stick to, right up to the exam.

What should that study plan include? After working with more than 10,000 successful MBA students, we can confidently say that these 4 elements matter most.

1. Reliable GMAT study resources

Authentic, comprehensive study materials are crucial for GMAT success. This includes everything from a general overview of exam structure, content, and test-taking procedure— to very specific problem-solving techniques, and high quality practice questions.

Some students try to “cobble together” study materials from various sources, some of which may be outdated, poor in quality, or simply incomplete.

It’s really important to do your research, and collect the most reliable tools and informational resources, right from day one.

Pro tip

If possible, take a quality  GMAT course to access authentic practice tests, study guides, and proven problem-solving techniques for every single topic and question-type.

Reliable courses provide students with everything they’ll need to prep for the exam. You won’t have to spend time hunting down additional resources, or testing out new approaches to tough questions (which may or may not be effective).

2. A personalized, evolving GMAT study strategy

There is no “one size fits all” GMAT study plan. Every individual has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, confidence level, study habits, score goal, etc.

Your strategy should reflect your specific needs, and most importantly, should evolve as you do.

These are the initial steps of a personalized, evolving GMAT strategy:

  1. Take a mock exam to identify your baseline score
  2. Thoroughly analyze your mock exam results to identify strengths and weaknesses
  3. Map out a score goal based on your performance
  4. Build in time for plenty of practice tests: to track progress, catch weaknesses, and continuously re-target your approach

Rather not do this on your own?

Quantum offers one free hour of assessment and study planning to anyone who has taken a mock GMAT exam. An expert GMAT instructor analyzes your mock, and helps you map out a personalized plan.

There’s no charge or commitment whatsoever. It’s well worth one hour of your time!

Click here to learn more about getting a free GMAT assessment

3. A realistic timeline & study schedule

Planning out a feasible GMAT study schedule really is worth the time and effort. Far too many students set aside inadequate time for prep, are forced to skip over key material, end up scoring low on exam day—and have to start all over again!

What do we recommend?

Take a look at your mock exam performance, and sketch out a preliminary timeline that reflects your score goal , current skill level, and life circumstances. Don’t just randomly select a “done by” date without considering your individual needs.

Some good rules of thumb to follow include:

  1. Set aside a minimum of 3 months for prep (aim for 6 if you work full time, have children, or both)
  2. Avoid weekend cramming: you’ll need to study 4-5 times a week to build up the test-taking skills needed to really nail the exam
  3. Take advantage of GMAT study apps: squeeze extra moments of prep into your commute, lunch break, etc. (20 minutes a day works out to 10 extra hours a month!)

Check out this post on top-rated GMAT apps to compare features and narrow down your options.

4. A solid GMAT support system

If you talk with successful test-takers, you’ll discover that in most cases, there was a team of people behind their high score.

That team may include family, partners, close friends, GMAT veterans, test prep instructors—or some combination of the above.

Most people need both academic and emotional support, to help them stay on track, build new skills, and get through the long months of studying.

These are two key ways to cultivate a strong GMAT support system:

  1. Attend free events to connect with experts and fellow test-takers. There are many, totally free GMAT workshops, info sessions, and refreshers out there.

Sign up, get expert advice, and start connecting with your local GMAT community.

See a schedule of free GMAT events in Montreal & the GTA

  1. Tell your family, friends, and boss that you’re planning to challenge the GMAT. You will be less available in the coming months, may need some extra help, and possibly some days off work.

Keep your “important people” in the loop, so they’ll know what you’re up against and can offer support.

Think you’re ready to move forward with GMAT prep?

Start by booking that mock exam. See upcoming mock exam dates right here.

Have questions? Leave a comment below, or just give us a call. We’re here to help!

Posted on

Top 3 Reasons Students Bail on GMAT prep (& how to stay on track)

GMAT prep

Read time: 5 minutes

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 186, 000 people took the GMAT in 2016. Out of those, 38% were re-takers. Another 27% ending up cancelling their scores because of poor results.

Just imagine how many more GMAT contenders didn’t make it to exam day, having dropped out just before—or worse, given up on their MBA dream altogether, rather than face the exam.

Prepping for the GMAT is an undeniably daunting process. It takes a commitment of time, energy, and in many cases money, that for some people, proves too heavy to bear.

What are the top reasons students bail out on the GMAT?

These are the three core issues we see most often, along with some valuable tips for staying on track, and achieving your best possible score.

Postponing GMAT Prep Due to Lack of Time

Want to head back to school for an MBA, but work full-time, have young children— or both?

People who already feel pressed for time, and pulled in too many directions, are often the first to give up on the GMAT.

It’s completely understandable that given the time investment required (at least 100 hours of prep for a  competitive score), the exam seems totally out of reach.

But there is a way forward. Over the years, we’ve worked with thousands of  busy students who not only make it to the exam—they exceed their own score goals.

So, what’s the best way to beat the GMAT when lack of time is your greatest challenge?

 

This is what we recommend:

 

  • set aside at least 6 months to slowly prepare for the exam

 

  • take a mock exam right at the start, to quickly diagnose your strengths and weaknesses, and map out a targeted study plan (this will dramatically increase the efficiency of your GMAT prep)

 

  • seek expert help to kick-start your studying (take a quality GMAT course to access valuable study materials, learn proven problem-solving techniques, and avoid common pitfalls)

 

  • carve out a regular weekly study schedule (ideally, 4-5 hours spread throughout the week, and not crammed into the weekends)

 

  • every few weeks, take a practice exam to gauge your progress, tweak your study strategy, and steadily improve your score (aim to complete 8-10 practice exams)

For more tips and strategies, take a look at this post on GMAT tips for exceptionally busy people.

Perceived Weaknesses &  Academic Anxiety

Many students begin their GMAT prep with deep insecurities in certain academic areas, and a related apprehension around testing in general.

For some, there is great anxiety around math. For others, English grammar, reading comprehension, and essay writing skills are sore points, creating fear of the GMAT’s verbal and AWA sections.

But the truth is, with the right study materials and methods, almost anyone can learn the steps needed to crack even the toughest GMAT problems. It’s all about procedure.

But, anxieties around test-taking, failure, and perceived limitations often de-rail the study process, compelling students to give up on themselves, and their MBA goal.

 

Our best advice?

 

  • Go back to the simplest, most non-threatening math and verbal concepts and tackle those first (GMAT fundamentals)

 

  • Set aside all complex and intimidating problems until you’ve successfully mastered the fundamentals, and raised your confidence with promising results

 

  • Do not improvise solutions to unfamiliar GMAT problems: arm yourself with proven attack plans for every single question-type (this with help reduce feelings of panic by eliminating “unknowns”)

 

  • get support from your peers by joining online GMAT forums, and attending free local GMAT events designed to boost your confidence and test-taking skills

Check out this post on managing GMAT math anxiety for more tips and advice.

Browse this list of free GMAT events and support services available in Montreal and Toronto.

 Plateaued GMAT Practice Scores

Been working at GMAT prep for months already, but can’t get your practice scores to rise? On the brink of giving up? You’re certainly not alone.

Many GMAT contenders get disillusioned by plateaued scores and end up walking away from the exam. When you know you need a 700+ score to get a shot at a top business school, getting stuck at 600 can feel totally devastating.

How should students deal with disappointing GMAT practice results?

 

We strongly suggest the following:

 

  • Look much more closely at your practice test performance (the secret to boosting your score lies with your ability to deeply analyze practice results, and tweak your study plan accordingly)

 

  • Re-evaluate your study materials (are you using the best attack strategies for each topic and question-type?)

 

  • Take a mock exam and book a free assessment of your performance with an expert GMAT instructor (they’ll help you re-target your strategy, and start moving your score up again)

Click here to learn more about getting a free GMAT assessment.

We also recommend taking a look at this post on how to improve your GMAT practice test analysis.

The final takeaway?

There’s a solution to every GMAT roadblock. Don’t let anything stand between you and your best possible GMAT score. This exam is beatable—it’s simply a matter of strategy and strong resolve!

Posted on

3 GMAT Topics Students Struggle With Most (& How to Tackle Them)

GMAT prep

Read time: 5 minutes

Dreading a particular GMAT topic or question-type? Feel you’re destined to perform poorly in a certain subject area?

All test-takers have their strengths and weaknesses. But it’s surprising just how easy it is to fill the gaps, and achieve tremendous improvement, with the right techniques and study strategy.

We’ve seen students who claimed they were irredeemably “bad at math” make incredible strides with the most challenging Quant topics. And the same goes for students with insecurities around reading comprehension and grammar.

Once you have a reliable “attack plan,” you can decode and solve any problem the GMAT throws at you.

This week, we’re looking at three GMAT topics students tend to struggle with most, with some fairly straightforward solutions for how to improve your approach. (This post covers mainly Quant topics, so stay tuned for a follow-up piece on challenging Verbal questions.)

Integrated Reasoning: managing multiple streams of data

Integrated Reasoning (IR) is the newest addition to the GMAT. It was added back in 2012 to make the exam more reflective of real business school, and business world, challenges.

IR problems seem tough because they demand the integration and application of several key competencies: reading comprehension, logical reasoning, math skills, and the ability to interpret multiple streams of data presented in various formats (columns, tables, diagrams, graphs, etc).

One of the biggest challenges students face with IR questions is sorting through all of the available information to identify what the question is really asking, and what steps to take next.

The second obstacle is usually time management. You only have 30 minutes to complete 12 questions, which breaks down to 2.5 minutes per problem. Some IR questions come with several tabs of information plus charts or graphs to analyze, making staying within the 2.5 minute limit quite difficult.

What should students remember when prepping for IR?

  • reading comprehension skills are crucial (you’ll need to practice scanning information so you can quickly pick out the facts that matter most, and avoid getting mired in irrelevant details)

 

  • the math is no different from what you’ve seen in the Quant section (you won’t need “new” math skills to solve IR problems)

 

  • there are very specific ways to attack each of the four IR question-types (learn a reliable set of steps for each type to improve your speed and accuracy)

 

For an overview of IR question-types, and how this section is structured and scored, take a look at GMAT Help: 5 Things to Know About the Integrated Reasoning Section.

Advanced Geometry:  don’t deviate from the “process”

Overall, the primary goal of your GMAT prep should be learning reliable procedures for decoding and solving every kind of problem, across each topic area. In most cases, this means “unlearning” some of the inefficient approaches you’ve used in the past, say back in high school or university.

But old habits are hard to shake. Students often revert to previously learned (or improvised) methods when tackling certain problems. And in our experience, this happens most often with advanced geometry questions.

Students seem to forget process on geometry more than any other topic. Each shape has maximum three pieces of theory that go along with it. This means that for any given shape, the question has to be solvable based on one of those three principles.

Yet, rather than figuring out how the limited theory can apply to the question, students often try to come up with some other random solution methodology—an approach that invariably results in errors and wastes precious time.

Remember: once you’ve learned a set of reliable problem-solving techniques, stick with them. Don’t deviate from those processes during GMAT practice, so by the time exam day comes, they’ll be second nature.

Probability: it’s much simpler than you think

Many students say that out of all the GMAT topics, they dread probability questions the most. Having to predict the likelihood of events seems hopelessly complex to many test-takers—but the truth is, determining probability is far simpler than you think.

Once again, it all comes down to the strategy you use to tackle these problems. Students are always surprised to learn that, despite their differences, every probability question on the GMAT can be mapped out the exact same way and has the same solution methodology.

It’s an advanced, higher level topic that, if you follow a good process, is incredibly easy.

What’s the final takeaway for tackling challenging GMAT problems?

There is a proven methodology for deconstructing and solving every single type of GMAT question. At no point should you be left to your own devices, and forced to find “creative” solutions.

Take the time to learn and practice the right techniques, and you’ll immediately feel more confident across all GMAT topic areas—and far closer to achieving your target score.

Need some extra help learning attack strategies for certain Quant or Verbal topics? Looking for general GMAT help across all subject areas?

Quantum provides a wide variety of courses and workshops, designed to support students at every stage of GMAT test prep. To date, we’ve prepared over 10,000 successful MBA students in the GTA, and achieved the highest score improvements in Canada!

Click below to learn more about our unique approach, discounts offers, and free course repeat policy.

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