GMAT Scratchwork Preparation

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As you probably know, the GMAT is a computer-adaptive test. The key word today is "computer." That means that the questions are presented to you on screen, and any work you do will happen on the dry-erase pages the test center gives you.

In general, your practice should be as test-like as possible. Not only should you study in a quiet space with few distractions, you should also practice on paper. You may be using printed study material, such as The Official Guide or a printout of my Total GMAT Math. That doesn't mean you should use the margins of those pages to take notes.

Instead, use fresh sheets of paper--preferably unlined printer paper, or graph paper. (The dry-erase pages you'll get at the test center are like graph paper, with very small squares.)

What To Write Down

You can expect the GMAT to give you a handful of problems with diagrams--you'll have to copy those down. Equations? You'll have to write those down as well. The GMAT Verbal section presents a different set of scratchwork issues, which I've discussed in a separate article.

When you take your exam, you'll have the front and back of six dry-erase pages. Assuming that you use up most of that for the Quantitative section, you can use one-quarter of a side for each question and still have room to spare. Focus on that general rule when you practice, as well. It's not a huge amount of space, but it should be enough. Err on the side of copying down too much, not too little.

A fair amount of test anxiety derives from unfamiliarity. The more you practice the way you'll have to perform on test day, the less of that sort of text anxiety you'll have to deal with. And even if you have no stress to deal with, realistic practice is the key to executing when you sit for the exam.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

Total GMAT Math

The comprehensive guide to the GMAT Quant section. It's "far and away the best study material available," including over 300 realistic practice questions and more than 500 exercises!
Click to read more.