You are smart, dedicated, and ready to start on your road to GMAT glory but like many other GMAT test takers have been out of school for some time and have lost a pretty basic skill: How to study. Here are a few practical tips to help you get the most out of your GMAT studying. The basic idea is: practice in an organized way so that you can learn from your mistakes. If you are right at beginning of the preparation I'd start with How to Prepare for the GMAT and then come back here for the study tips.
Make a GMAT Schedule
This is a critical first step. Plan out exactly when you will study. Treat your study sessions as important meetings. You should plan out your study sessions at least a week in advance. Here is a more detailed look at making a GMAT Schedule.
For the first few weeks work open book. If you forget a formula or a method look it up! Always apply the proper formulas and strategies to GMAT questions. This is a much better way to learn new formulas than out of context memorization. Also, write down every formula that you are trying to remember on a GMAT cheat sheet.
GMAT Cheat Sheet
As you work, build your formula/strategy notebook. If you find a method that works for you for a specific question type, write down the method. If you discover a great formula for something, write it down. If you find a way of analyzing lists or realize that you keep forgetting about special quadratics, make a note to remind yourself about them before every study session. Successful studying is about learning from your mistakes.
Any question that you get wrong or find difficult should be re-solved in your review and again at some point in the future to make sure that you understand the concept. You can keep track of these questions in your GMAT study schedule. Another good way to keep track of errors is to take a screenshot of them. This works well for questions from the GMATprep tests. Remember to review questions that you get right as well to confirm that you didn’t just get lucky. Here are some GMAT error log suggestions
Practice vs. Analysis
Practice and analysis should be separate. Treat the practice questions as test questions by limiting your time per question and doing a process of elimination when necessary. Avoid staring at the same question for 10 minutes – not only is that really tiring but timing and guessing strategy are two things that you should be practicing throughout your preparation. You may want to have a look at this article on GMAT Timing or read it before you take your first timed section. So how are you actually going to learn this stuff? Leave that for the review. After you are done with a question set check the answers and spend as much time as you need to analyze and understand the solutions. You should generally be spending more time analyzing questions than solving them. The review is critical.
GMAT Practice Tests
Have a plan for using your GMAT practice tests. Don’t leave them for the end of GMAT preparation. Start taking full sections 4 weeks or so before your GMAT exam. This will give you time to learn from all of your mistakes. Treat your practice tests as real exams: take them in one sitting. I know It’s tempting but keep your finger away from that pause button! It is important to develop endurance. And remember the most important part of taking a practice exam. Yep, you guessed it: the review!