Practicing sample questions should be a staple of your GMAT prep. That being said, simply practicing as many questions as you can get your hands on will not directly lead to the high score you desire. To really prepare for the exam, you need to approach practice questions in an organized and thorough manner. Follow these tips to transform sample questions into a powerful tool to optimize your study sessions.
While it may be tempting to begin studying for the GMAT by jumping right into practice questions, it’s much more effective to study the concepts first. Ensuring you have a firm grasp of the material before answering questions saves you from having to constantly go back and learn the concepts. Even if you find it necessary to return to the study material, you’ll have a more nuanced understanding of what exactly you need to review if you have previously studied the concepts.
It’s not enough to simply answer a sample question, see if you got it right or wrong, and then move on to the next one. If you really want to build confidence with the GMAT, you need to understand how the questions fit into a larger pattern by keeping the concepts you studied in mind. In the Quantitative section there are Problem Solving questions and Data Sufficiency questions, and in the Verbal section there are Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension questions, and within each of these sub-sections are specific concepts. The better you are at recognizing the specific concept being tested in a question, the better equipped you will be to select the right answer and avoid common pitfalls.
Try to be organized and methodical in practicing sample questions. Don’t just pick and choose sample questions at random; instead, have a study plan to follow. Some people find it most useful to focus on only one section of the GMAT at a time, studying the concepts of that section and only practicing questions from that section. Once they feel confident with the material, they move on to the next section. Others may prefer to alternate the sections they study over different days. Either way, being consistent with your practice questions will make it easier to learn the material and assess your progress.
After getting a practice question wrong, you may be tempted to quickly move on to a similar question and try again. While it’s a bad strategy to dwell over questions when taking the actual exam, when studying, spending more time on questions you answer incorrectly or find challenging is essential for improvement. It’s important to remember that true understanding takes effort — simply checking to see what the correct answer is will teach you nothing if you don’t understand why it is correct.
Sometimes you may not understand exactly why your answer was wrong and another was correct, or the reason may seem extremely subtle. Don’t take this as discouragement but rather see this as the path to improvement. By exposing what you find difficult or don’t quite understand, sample questions show you want you need to focus on, which leads to the next tip.
If you take note of the questions you struggle with and the questions you answer with ease, you’ll begin to build a picture of your GMAT strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to better allocate study time, focusing more time and energy on weak areas and not wasting time on areas you already know well. Your study efforts can be further optimized if you pay attention to the specific concepts you do poorly on. Knowing the concepts you find problematic rather than just the type of questions you struggle with simplifies studying. For example, realizing you struggle on questions that test parallelisms and subject-verb agreement tells you a lot more than only knowing that you struggle with Sentence Correction questions.