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There are numerous smart students who fail to score their best and come in short--and they don't why. One of the biggest mistakes students make is misunderstanding how to prepare for the GMAT. The GMAT is a unique test. It is not testing your knowledge; rather, it tests your abilities. In a very short amount of time you have to find clever strategies to answer questions.
Your first step is designing an effective study plan, so you avoid wasting your time and effort on the wrong strategies.
1. Don’t Underestimate the GMAT
Many students underestimate the GMAT and what it takes to prepare for it. They think it is like any other test and give themselves only a few days to prepare--or prepare the wrong things. They leave a week or a month for preparation. Unfortunately, that does not work with GMAT. According to GMAC, the average prospective MBA student spends a year on the process. If you don’t, you may find yourself trying to cram for the GMAT. And that will not work.
2. Don't Underestimate the Competition
GMAT students typically are ambitious and have degrees. They believe in doing their best and usually do. Unfortunately, the GMAT is cut-throat!! It is very competitive and pits you against other test-takers from all around the world. Your score is determined by how you perform in relation to your peers. And it is getting more and more competitive as strategies (like the ones here) and test material are now available to more people around the world. You better believe that you are in a very competitive ring, with invisible and smart opponents. You have to put your A game on--always!
3. Don't Study; Practice
GMAT tests your skills and not your knowledge. You already have enough knowledge, so spending time rote learning the concepts is a waste of time. Most of your learning will be problem solving the GMAT style questions. It is almost like learning a new language. You build your cognitive abilities through practice and you build your skills little by little and over time.
4. Don't Rely on Substitutes
The GMAT is very specific, and you can get trapped if you use material made by others. Be careful! Use the official test questions, and use them wisely. This is not to suggest that you should only prepare with official test questions. Look at other publishers to gain an understanding of the GMAT, and then use the official test questions to understand where you are having problems. Use your official tests strategically. Don't use them early on, and don't use them to get comfortable. Use them when you think you know enough of what is asked on the GMAT. Then test yourself with the real questions and learn what problems you are having. And then practice.
4. Don't Forget to Know Thyself!
Know thyself sounds like a cliche, but it is true. You have to know what kinds of questions you get wrong and why. You have to know what is easy for you. Each person's decision making is unique. You have to understand how you make decisions and how you think. Is inference hard or easy for you? That is particularly important as GMAT is very inferential. Improve your inferential thinking by studying great fiction! Yes, reading is a big deal.
5. Don't Forget to read, read, read
University of Virginia professor Mark Edmundson argues eloquently that reading should not be an academic exercise, but should be for the purpose, in words he borrows from Keats, of “soul-forming.” The value of reading is “the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of people who—let us admit it—are more sensitive, more articulate, shrewder, sharper, more alive than [we ourselves] are. The experience of merging minds and hearts with Proust or James or Austen makes you see that there is more to the world than you had ever imagined. You see that life is bigger, sweeter, more tragic and intense—more alive with meaning than you had thought.”
So go read some great fiction and improve your expertise in grasping inferences!
6. Don't Neglect the Verbal Section
Many test takers are intimidated by the GMAT’s quantitative section, especially if they don't have a strong analytical background. But don’t neglect the verbal section. Your final score out of 800 is weighted slightly more in favor of the verbal section.
The verbal reasoning section tests your reasoning ability. It is not about business English. It is not about vocabulary. Many native English-speakers have found out the hard way that being native speakers is not sufficient to get a good score. You will be challenged on your verbal reasoning ability. There are GMAT-specific rules that are not always intuitive, so be careful.
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