3 Easy Ways To Improve The Quality Of Your GMAT Preparation

PREPARING for a competitive exam like the GMAT can become quite a task.

Firstly, a lot of basic concepts need to be brushed up or learnt anew in both the Quant and the Verbal sections.

Then comes the challenge of having to apply these concepts onto different questions under time pressure.

So how does one ensure that the process of GMAT preparation doesn't get overwhelming. Is there a way to get the maximum out of your prep and improve the quality and efficiency of your GMAT preparation?

Thankfully, there are a few simple things you can do to ensure that you get the best out of the time, energy, and resources invested in the prep. Here are 3 simple alterations you can easily make to your current preparation and see a noticeable difference in the quality of your GMAT preparation, which will ultimately reflect in your GMAT score.

We all make mistakes while solving GMAT practice questions or while attempting tests or mock GMAT exams. Some of these mistakes can be traced back to a lack of conceptual clarity. But there are also quite a few mistakes that happen because of the following 2 reasons:

1) You were under time pressure, hence made a mistake

2) You made a completely avoidable mistake, mostly because of oversight.

As an example, here's what a student did recently while solving a Critical Reasoning question. On one of the options that read "Zoo workers seldom wear protective gear when they handle animals in their care", the student completely overlooked the word 'seldom' and misread the option as "Zoo workers wear protective gear when they handle animals in their care". This changes the meaning completely, and the student ended up marking this as the correct answer whereas it should have been eliminated quickly.

We tend to attach a label to mistakes of these 2 types. We call them 'silly mistakes'. And we immediately assume that they won't repeat again. But remember, silly mistakes don't disappear on their own.

Whenever you make a silly mistake, introspect into the circumstances that led to the mistake. Remember that tomorrow, if the circumstances repeat, then the silly mistake will also repeat itself. So you need to ask yourself what is it that you can do henceforth to avoid a repeat. In the example above, the solution is simple:

Before choosing an option, double check if you've read it correctly.

Many candidates are hesitant to do this because they feel they'll be spending more time on the question. But you have to be mature enough to recognize the fact that spending say 01:58 minutes on a question but getting it right is any day a better outcome than spending 01:48 minutes on a question but getting it wrong. The extra 10 seconds can pay rich dividends. So do not rush just to save some time. Realize that by getting the question wrong, not only have you wasted the 01:48 minutes, but have also allowed the GMAT algorithm to move to a lower difficulty level. Compensating for this will take at least a couple of more correct questions.

Do you know the reason why many candidates score below par in GMAT's Sentence Correction section?

You probably answered: "because they're underprepared"

Wrong!

The real reason: Because they're over-prepared. That too in every wrong sense of the term.

Aimlessly overpreparing for Sentence Correction can take a heavy toll on your GMAT Verbal score.

What does over-preparing for GMAT SC mean? Isn't all grammar prep useful?

Let me illustrate with an example of a real GMAT question that most candidates answer wrongly:

Q:  With only 5 percent of the world's population, United States citizens consume 28 percent of its nonrenewable resources, drive more than one-third of its automobiles, and use 21 times more water per capita than Europeans do.

(A) With

(B) As

(C) Being

(D) Despite having

(E) Although accounting for

Without getting into all the details of this question, here's how most candidates analyze options D and E.

Since a lot of prep these days takes place on online GMAT forums (clubs as they're called), where hundreds of fellow candidates and dozens of 'experts' post their analysis of various questions, most candidates learn some so-called rules of differentiating between 'despite' and 'although'. They then stretch their imagination to apply these so-called rules to the question. They wonder whether 'despite' is the correct word to use or whether 'although' is a better fit.

They then bring in another so-called tip they've learnt on these forums for GMAT SC questions: i.e. Choose the shorter (more concise) option over longer options.

With some such half-baked analysis, they mark option D as the correct answer.

The correct answer is option E.

Why? Is it because 'although' is the correct word to use here, and not 'despite'

No. There is no such reason. In fact, there is no difference between the two words that GMAT would expect you to know about and apply. The exam creators aren't interested in testing such narrow definitions of words on the exam. For all practical purposes, 'despite', 'in spite of', 'though', 'although', 'even though' are interchangeable on GMAT, as long as they fit well into the rest of the sentence.

So why choose E over D?

The reason is simple. In the original sentence, we are talking about United States citizens.

Citizens of a country cannot 'have' 5 percent of the world's population. Such a sentence is meaningless.

But they do 'account for' 5 percent of the world's population

Hence, we choose E over D. The decision isn't based on the use of the words 'despite' or 'although'

There can be no end to the nonsense that you can pick up on online GMAT forums. Be careful where you tread. You might think you’ve located a goldmine of information. What you've probably found is a heap of misinformation.

Here's a simple question: What is the objective of GMAT's Quant section?

Is the objective to test your math skills alone? Is it to see how good a mathematician you are?

No. That’s not the case. The objective of the quant section is to test you on how capable you are of solving problems thrown at you, which are of course mathematical in nature, but have a strong and predominating Logic element to them.

In the world of business, you have to be a good problem solver. Merely being a math expert won't do.

If b-schools and other programs that use the GMAT score focused only on you Math skills, and not on your ability to think smartly, make good use of common sense, and solve problems in a logical and systematic manner, they would end up with a batch of students that aren't equipped to handle various real-life situations and scenarios in the world of business.

Keeping this in mind, GMAT quant questions are designed in such a way that the Math concepts serve as the base for creating the question, but the solution isn’t purely mathematical.

To illustrate, take a look at the following GMAT quant question:

Q.  Last year Department Store X had a sales total for December that was 4 times the average (arithmetic mean) of the monthly sales totals for January through November. The sales total for December was what fraction of the sales total for the year?

(A)  1/4

(B)  4/15

(C)  1/3

(D)  4/11

(E)  4/5

While there has to be a purely mathematical solution to every Math problem that is asked on GMAT, questions such as the above allow you to solve quickly and confidently by combining Common Sense & Logic with your understanding of Averages.

Let us assume that the Average sales total for Jan thru Nov is \$100.

This immediately leads to 2 more values being worked out

(1) The Sales Total for Dec will be \$400

(2) The Sales Total for Jan thru Nov will be \$1100 (this is because if the average of 11 months is \$100, then the sum should be 11 × \$100 - \$1100)

We have almost worked out the answer! There is just one last step left, which is to fit this working into the main question being asked.

Sales total for the year will be \$1100 (Jan to Nov) + \$400 (dec) = \$1500

Hence the answer is \$400/\$1100 = 4/11 {option D}

So, make it a habit to start looking at every math question from a Logical / Common sensical angle. Look for the street-smart way to solve Math problems on GMAT. You'll notice that within a short while, you're able to tackle even the seemingly hardest of GMAT quant questions with ease!

Conclusion

The tips above focus on processes, rather than on studying harder. Simply studying more doesn't help. That's because learning your concepts again and again will have marginal benefits once you're already learnt them.

Moreover, as point (2) above shows us, learning more than you need has the risk of affecting your score adversely. Once you search for more GMAT content online, you run the risk of preparing from unreliable sources,

The only way to improve the quality of your preparation and ultimately your score on the GMAT exam is to work on your thought process and the methods you use while solving questions based on those concepts.

How you apply what you know is as important as what you know