1. So you have 4 weeks to prepare for the GMAT. For whatever reason, you need to do in 1 month what most people do in several. 30 days, no time to fool around. Say goodbye to your friends and family and promise to call them in a month or so, when you have time to restore your relationships…

    The cons of this situation are obvious: the pressure, first of all. Secondly, the difficulty to find a work-study balance: it’s a good bet you won’t be too much fun over the next few weeks.

    There are, however, a few pros to your situation: studying over such a short time means you literally don’t have enough time to forget much. People studying over a longer period have to start reviewing material at a certain point before they start forgetting, but you’re not going to have to do that. Plus, examPAL automatically feeds you questions that incorporate material you’ve already done: for example, Coordinate Geometry questions repeat the principles of Triangles, Quadrilateral, Circles, and Polygons. This means you’re constantly revising even as you’re learning new material.

    In each new topic, examPAL incorporates ideas and tools from previous topics, so that each progression has an element of revision in it.

     

    Reality Check

      • Did you not know the material well enough? No choice but to go back to the basics and relearn it. Having a firm grasp of fundamentals is essential.
      • Did you run out of time? Build a detailed plan for the test.
      • Did you make ‘silly’ mistakes? Think of techniques that can stop you from repeating them, such as what to write on your scratchpad, remembering to look at each DS statement separately, and crossing out answers one by one.

    You may want to get an Enhanced Score Report for more information on your performance.

     

    The first rule for first-timers: Mastering the GMAT is not about knowledge – it’s about developing a skill. Devote enough time to develop your mind flexibility.

    The first rule for retakers: if you wish to improve, you must do everything you did last time – but more and better! Don’t assume you remember anything or can skip any topic before putting it to the test.

    Be a Man (or Woman) with a Plan

    Before doing anything else, make a detailed study plan! Know what you are doing for each of the next 30 days. Your plan should include:

    • Daily study. With 30 days to go, you don’t have the luxury of too many days off. Be realistic, though – try to and think ahead of time of all the non-GMAT things you’ll have to do over the next month, and build a schedule around them. It is, however, advisable to take one day off every week and do something really fun!
    • Budget about 100-120 study hours overall, the recommended amount of time. This makes for an intense month, but is realistic if you devote yourself to it.

     

    The plan should look something like this:

    First 20 days

    • Make an ordered list of the subjects on examPAL.com, from what you feel is your weakest to your strongest:
      • Integers
      • Geometry Basics
      • Algebra Basics
      • Vocabulary and Memorization
      • Critical Reasoning
      • Analytical Writing
      • Fractions and Percent
      • Ration and Proportions
      • Interest
      • Reading Comprehension
      • Sentence Correction
      • Triangles
      • Powers and Roots
      • Quadrilaterals
      • Expressions and Equations
      • Rate and Work
      • Circles
      • Polygons
      • Counting Methods and Probability
      • Coordinate Geometry
      • Descriptive Statistics
      • Solids
      • Integrated Reasoning
    • Starting with the weakest, plan a day-long mini schedule for each subject, which looks like this:
      • Review fundamental material (on examPAL this means going over the Intro and Lesson). While doing so, keep two different lists going:
        • A summary of the material, if it helps you absorb the subject matter.
        • A list of practical tips for question solving.
      • Solve subject-related questions (on examPAL this means completing the Practice phase, starting with the Diagnostic, moving on to Improvement and finally Optimization).
        • Review your mistakes after each section.
        • Continuously update practical tips list.
    • Hit a subject a day this way, moving from one section to another in this manner, finishing with what you feel is your strongest section. (If you have exactly 30 days, you will have to fit a couple of ‘lighter’ topics into more than one a day).
    • As far as your schedule allows, create a daily routine of reading articles and going over your vocabulary lists. If you’re a non-native speaker, this part is essential in coping with the Verbal section, and should take at least 1-1.5 hours daily.

    Days 20-27

    • Practice tests: start taking the GMAC CAT’s, start to finish, every other day beginning 8 days before the test. Do a test at the exact same hour your real test is going to be, and then spend the afternoon reviewing it. The next day will be used for solving questions similar to those you got wrong (either on examPAL or in the Official Guide for GMAT) and figuring out how not to repeat similar mistakes again.

    Days 28-30

    • Leave the last 3 days of your study plan open: you’ll use them for reviewing and rehearsing subjects you found hard during your month of preparation.

    Day 31

    • Take it off: Give yourself the day before the test to relax and breathe. Plan ahead that delicious (but also light and early) dinner you’re going to have (no alcohol!), the movie you’ve been wanting to watch, that massage… You’ve earned it!

    Implement

    • No distractions – put your phone on silent in a different room under a pillow, leave your computer unconnected when possible, and find a study space without many other people.
    • Not grasping something entirely?
      • Is it something small, to do with technique for instance? Don’t let it throw you off – postpone it till the review days.
      • Feel you haven’t fundamentally understood something fully? Lengthen the time devoted to it, shortening the time given to some other subject. However, by no means erase any subject from your schedule entirely – even one you feel confident about. If you’re good at it, why not become great?
    • Mistakes are opportunities: research every mistake – why did I make it? What should I have done differently? Keep a running list of different mistake types, examples and tips on how to approach them correctly. It’s better to do 500 questions and really understand them than it is to do 10,000 robotically.
    • Get 8 hours of sleep. No excuses. Exercise is also recommended.

     

    One last word

    A month of preparation should not, by any means, be stressful. It should be intense. Stress is a result of feeling that “I have so much to do, no way am I going to make it on time.” In other words, stress is a result of not following a plan. Your plan gives you guidelines as to what to expect from each day, so that instead of worrying about what you haven’t done, you become focused and know what has to be done day by day, one day at a time. Cross out every assignment you’ve completed, and keep a flexible attitude: if you completed your daily tasks ahead of time, bring forward a future task; and if you were unable to complete your daily tasks, don’t just postpone them to another day – correct your schedule if needed, or (and this is ok) put them aside for now. Hey, you’ve only got a month!

    mm
    Dave Green
    Senior tutor and professional test-prep writer. Interdisciplinary wizard, with Master’s degrees in economics, philosophy, and political science at HUJI.

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