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Please note that this blog has been created before the introduction of GMAT Focus and has not been checked and/or corrected.


gmat preparation Dec 21, 2022

The goal of your GMAT preparation is to get better and faster. These are conflicting goals. How can you make sure you achieve both by self-study? The key point is finding a balance. You can train this by doing timed sets, blind reviews and analysing your data. Let’s dive deeper into all three.

Timed sets

First, timed sets. A timed set is a set of mixed questions which you have to complete within a certain amount of time. In the Bootcamp we work with sets of 15 questions, which you have to complete within 30 minutes. You should track your time spent per question, by using the lap time function on your phone.

Practicing questions in timed sets is the best way to train your time management. A timed set is a number of questions that you try to solve within a maximum total time. Remember that the average time spent on a Quantitative question should be 2 minutes. However, for some questions you will want to take just a bit longer to find the correct answer. With other questions that you might identify as being too difficult, you will want guess as soon as possible and move on to the next. Since you will only use perhaps 30 seconds on such a question, you can use a bit more time on other problems. You need to start practicing questions in a way that take these test dynamics into account.

Also remember that there is a severe penalty for not completing the test. So you need to learn to pace yourself, move on to the next question in time and finish a fixed number of questions within a maximum total number of time. Practicing with time sets questions is the ideal way to train this.

So how should you work with a timed set?

You can design your set in anyway you want, choosing problems from one particular topic only, or a single question type only. But in the end you will want to mimic the test as much as possible by mixing questions types from different topics.

Start with choosing for example 10 questions. When you have chosen the questions, make sure you have your notebook or scrap paper in front of you and a device to time your answers. Since the average time spent on a question is no more than 2 minutes, the maximum total time that you have for this set is 10 times 2 minutes, in other words 20 minutes in total.

To track time, you can use for example the laptime function in the stopwatch app of your mobile device. Start the time, try to solve the question. Force yourself to answer each question, even if it’s a guess. On the real GMAT you can only move on to a next question after choosing an answer. Press on ‘laptime’ on your mobile device each time you answer a question. Finish the set at precisely the maximum total time for your set.

When you’re done, you should have completed all questions in the set. If not, it means you ran out of available time and that is something that you definitely want to do better next time.

Blind review

After completing your timed set you want to know if your answers are correct. However understandable this may be, it is essential to not check the answers. Checking the correct answers will lead to false confidence and superficial understanding. Instead, you do a blind review.

Without looking at your previous solutions, you do the same set again, this time without time constraint. Ask yourself: do I still agree with my approach? Is there more than one way to solve the problem? What is the fastest way? Finding your own answers and turning questions inside out will lead to a deeper understanding. You will learn to see the logical structures behind the questions.

How does it work?

Without looking at your previous solutions, you review the same set of questions, but the big difference is that there is no time pressure. This allows you to practice the actual mathematics without being stressed about the time you’re spending on it. Turning questions inside out, practicing your problems solving skills and finding your own answers will lead to a deeper understanding. Ask yourself questions like:

  • do I still agree with my initial approach?
  • Is there more than one way to solve the problem?
  • What is the fastest way?
  • which answer options can I eliminate without too much effort?

Why use this method?

You will learn to see the logical structures behind the questions. And by doing so you will start to recognize similar structures in other questions.

Another good argument for doing blind reviews is that you will use the maximum study potential of every question. After all, once you’ve seen the correct answer to a question, you can’t really use the question to test your skills anymore. And since the amount high quality questions is limited, you should use your questions wisely.

Tracking and analysing your data

The last step is tracking and analysing your data. Write down your timed answer, review answer and the correct answer in an excel sheet. Also note the time spent on the timed answer. Analyse your performance and take notes: did you rush on a problem that you should have been able to solve? Were you able to let go of problems that are too difficult to you? What kind of mistakes are you still making?

Analysing your data will help you to get to know your strengths and weaknesses. Your strengths are questions that you know you can solve quickly and correctly. You have to make sure you score points on your strengths. Your weaknesses are questions that take a long time or that you often answer incorrectly. You should avoid spending too much time on your weaknesses. Instead, switch to a plan B strategy or use a freebie.

The data will also provide you with a study strategy. It will establish the points of focus that you still need to work on and the theory you should repeat. Click here if you would like to know more about how to analyze your data using the performance chart.

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