Why, oh why do we do it? Why do we get stuck in the same, old patterns of behaviour and never change them, even though they don’t get us the desired result? Most students, whether in high school, post-secondary, or graduate level studies believe they have perfected their tactics and mastered their studying technique when it comes to hitting the books. They repeat those same, time-honoured techniques they learned from their parents and teachers, over and over again, and yet, don’t seem to achieve the results they hope or expect to. On the other hand, how is it that some students, who seemingly invest half the time and effort, significantly outperform their peers?
Firstly, as a disclaimer — there is no substitute for investing the proper amount of time into your studies, especially if you are studying for tests that require very specific skills, such as the GMAT! Natural intelligence certainly plays a factor, but in most cases it simply boils down to better – and more efficient – study habits! In fact, developing these highly efficient study strategies can determine your success in further studies. It is not just about the time you put in, but it is also about the way you study. Read on to find out what key skills you need to build to study smarter, save time on the GMAT, and achieve your goals faster!
Your SMART GMAT Study Plan
1. Choose your GMAT resources wisely
When you first embark on your GMAT journey, you may be tempted to buy as many books as you can while you have the momentum, but diving head first and grabbing every textbook in sight isn’t necessarily going to help you! If you subscribe to the “less is more” philosophy, you’re already ahead of the curve in terms of the GMAT. While it is important to have good resources to help you to study; having an overwhelming amount of material won’t help you to study smarter—in fact, it’s more than likely that you won’t have the time to crack even half of the spines of those mountains of resources you have obtained. Resources should be comprehensive, but ideally should be kept to no more than what is needed to help you learn and review basic concepts and practise those concepts.
2. Research your target programs
Research the schools you are interested in applying to and the scores they are looking for. It is important to understand what their GMAT score criteria is, so that you are able to use this information to help you plan your studies. Once you have done your research and understand your score goal, it is imperative that you understand where you stand in terms of your present GMAT score. A key to studying smarter is knowing where you’re starting from — no matter how daunting it may seem to take a diagnostic test. You need a score to start from, so that you can better understand how much you need to do to reach that target, and have a more accurate picture of how long it might take you to get there. If you don’t start with a diagnostic test, you’ll feel like you’re trying to use the GPS to drive to a new destination without having any idea where you are at the moment! Understanding where you are missing the mark is important, so that you are able to build up your skill level in this area. Key takeaways: Never skip the groundwork, and don’t cheat the process! Accurately assess where you stand today, so that you can improve tomorrow.
3. Consistency and Persistence
Having continuity in your studies is important. Create a well thought-out study plan, and stick to it! Treat your study sessions like an important meeting you can’t afford to miss, and hold yourself accountable for the progress you achieve. Make sure you keep a record of your successes and failures. They are not meant to demoralize you, but to keep you honest and on track with your own progress. Select certain days you can dedicate to studying, and create a timetable on what topics you will cover in that time frame. Whether you can study for an hour every evening 6 days a week, or can spend a few hours twice a week—it’s imperative to establish a rhythm. You also don’t want to “overdo” it and overwhelm yourself. Don’t set timetables that you can’t realistically meet, especially if you have a lot of other things going on in your life. Pro Tip: Switch up the topics when studying for the GMAT, and break up your study time into realistic portions. You may have “crammed” a few all-nighters when you were in college, but on a skills-based test such as the GMAT, cramming all your studies in a few days is not going to work well!
4. Teach someone else, to teach yourself
One of the most effective ways to see if you have really absorbed the information, is to teach the concept(s) to someone else. This will check your understanding, as well as help you relay the concepts back to yourself. Key takeaways: If you are going to attempt to teach someone else a concept, it’s essential your own understanding is solid. Remember that if you don’t have a firm grasp on the concept yourself, the person you are trying to teach it to will not, most likely, understand it either. This is why it’s important to be able to summarize and understand the information you are studying, not simply memorize it!
5. Writing > Reading
An effective way to study smarter, is to write down your notes to help organize yourself. Scientific studies say that writing something down once is more effective than reading it seven times. This is understandable because writing something down increases the focus given to a specific piece of information. Though the process of written notes does take longer, increasing your effort by taking the time to write something down will actually help you encode that information much more efficiently. In other words, when you write something down, you will remember it better and it will stay with you longer.
6. Consider GMAT Study Groups / Professional Help
You might want to consider studying with someone or in a group to help motivate you, especially if you lack momentum and want a better sense of accountability. Studying with others is also helpful if you tend to procrastinate or put off your work, and need that extra push you get from others in a study group! If you want the motivation of learning in group settings, but are also specifically looking to learn important skills and get a highly competitive score, professional preparation may be invaluable for you. Why? You’ll learn the material from experienced, top-scoring instructors and learn the best ways to leverage your time and build your skills. You will have someone else to be accountable to and will have the responsibility of completing homework and practising constantly. Professional training of concepts and learning how to master difficult GMAT questions will certainly help fill the gaps in learning that you might experience when studying alone. Not to mention the confidence you will gain when you start seeing marked improvements!
As mentioned above, there is no substitute for investing the proper amount of time in your preparation, nor is there any “silver bullet” that will help you achieve the result you want without having to put in the work! When it comes to studying for important exams such as the GMAT, which can significantly impact your future career; it is essential not to cheat the process, however it is important to understand the process of training for a skills-based exam. The quality of the time spent dedicated to studying as well as learning how to maximize your efficiency will give you an envious score, without leaving you feeling overwhelmed!
7. Go ahead and create your personal GMAT study plan!
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