I’ve been coaching the GMAT and GRE for 10 years – both as a test prep instructor at UCLA and as the Founder of First Choice Admissions. I’m also a test prep coach on Leland. I’ve helped literally hundreds of students ace these tests and most of them are busy professionals who need to make the most out of every hour they can squeeze into studying.
These are the two most effective techniques I’ve used to significantly boost my students’ efficiency and productivity when they study.
1. Redo Any Quant Question You Miss (For Any Reason) 3 Times from the Beginning
This is THE quickest way I know to climb the learning curve and I’ve seen it work time and again. It makes perfect sense when you think about it.
When you do a question one time, the data you get is: Can I do this question? While that’s great data to get, if the answer is ‘no,’ then you haven’t done anything to get yourself better at the test.
The second time through the question, you can move more confidently through the steps that you were maybe a little shaky on during the first pass and then focus squarely on the part of the question that tripped you up. It allows you to dig in and really understand how that tricky bit works and see if you can spot a pattern that you can carry through to other questions (and there will definitely be other questions that use that same trick).
The third time through, you can confidently devour the question until you hit that tricky bit ― and now you’re totally ready for it. You’re no longer just answering one question; you’ll be able to step back and look for the patterns or the markers that indicate this same type of question or trick is being used on any question you encounter. So not only will you nail the trick on this question, but you’ll nail that trick on other questions as well. When you start paying attention to the patterns, you’ll notice that the GMAT and GRE use the same tricks over and over again on lots of different questions. It’s like a force multiplier.
So redo every single question you miss three times: once to find the mistake, once to fix the mistake and once to learn the pattern.
2. Study Consecutive Days in a Row
Don’t let the neural path grow over!
You have a ‘gardener’ inside your brain. It’s okay, we all do. The Gardener’s job is to figure out which neural connections are important, the connections that you need to keep and strengthen, and which are less important and can grow weaker over time. While you sleep, the Gardener comes out and essentially ‘clears out the weeds’ from certain neural connections so they can bind together and get stronger and faster.
The Gardener can’t keep every single neural connection clear, though. So how does the gardener figure out which ones to maintain? Generally, the more recently you’ve used a connection, the higher priority that connection gets on the gardener’s list. If you do a little math or a little reading comp each day, those neural connections will get maintained at night and get stronger and faster when you wake up in the morning. Or as neurologists say (apparently neurologists have sayings), “the neurons that fire together wire together.” So, fire those neurons as much as you can!
This also explains why if you’ve ever tried to learn how to do anything (from playing piano, swinging a golf club or learning Spanish), practicing four hours all at once on the weekend is much less effective than practicing a little bit every day. The same is true for the GMAT and GRE. Practicing every day (or 5 – 6 days a week) is much more effective than doing marathon sessions once or twice a week. If you do something only once a week the neural connection get ‘weedy’ and slower between practice session. But if you practice each day those neural connections are growing stronger and faster and each time you practice you get more and more efficient.
Also, it’s important to note that the GMAT/GRE works just like anything else in life ... the more you practice, the better you get. Keep practicing ― a little bit every day and you’ll keep getting better.
Bruce H. is a Wharton MBA and professional test prep coach. He is a former Curriculum Development and Test Prep Instructor at UCLA and has more than ten years of experience helping hundreds of students reach their target scores. Book a FREE intro call with Bruce today!
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