Balancing GMAT Quant and Verbal Study Time

February 8, 2010

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To succeed on the GMAT, you'll need to prepare well for two very different sections: the GMAT Quantitative section and the GMAT Verbal section. If you're like most students, you know that one will require more effort than the other. Still, you'll spend some time on both.

How do you balance the two?

Too many students do exactly the wrong thing. They work very hard getting ready for one half of the test, then switch gears completely to the other half. You can probably guess what happens: By the time they sit for their GMAT exam, they are rusty at whatever section they studied first.

In fact, many test-prep companies and publishers make this same mistake. (You would think they knew better!) In some classroom courses, you'll sit through four weeks of Quant, then four weeks of Verbal. Sure, you can review the Quant later on, but is this the best way to have your math skills at their peak when you need them?

Strategic Balance

Deciding how to allot your time happens at both the macro and micro level.

At the macro level, you need to make a solid estimate as to how much time you'll need over the course of your entire GMAT preparation. If you're a lawyer who hasn't taken a math class since 10th grade, you'll need a lot more Quant time than Verbal time. If you're an engineer with poor English skills, the opposite is true.

Based on this initial assessment, you may recognize that you need to make a larger investment in one section. If you give yourself eight total weeks to study, perhaps you should spent the first two to four weeks entirely on that more important section. Let yourself focus entirely on the basics that you need to brush up on.

Ultimately, you will study both halves of the test as you approach your exam date. But there's no reason to spend half of your entire study program on a section that tests your strengths.

Micro Balance

Once you've gotten to the point when you are ready to study both halves of the test, strive for as much of an even balance as possible. Aim to alternate days between Quant and Verbal. On weekends, if you have more time to study, try doing one in the morning and the other in the afternooon.

Even if you still find that one section needs much more work than the other, make sure you never leave one question type alone for very long. For instance, if you struggle with Quant, here's a way you might schedule nine 60-90 minute study sessions throughout a week:

  1. Monday evening: Problem Solving
  2. Tuesday evening: Data Sufficiency
  3. Wednesday evening: Critical Reasoning
  4. Thursday evening: Problem Solving
  5. Friday evening: Data Sufficiency
  6. Saturday morning: Sentence Correction
  7. Saturday afternoon: Problem Solving
  8. Sunday morning: Reading Comprehension
  9. Sunday afternoon: Data Sufficiency

Note that in this example, you never spend more than two consecutive days away from Verbal, even though two-thirds of the sessions are Quant-based. In addition, this schedule has you practicing Quant problems almost every day.

The details aren't the most important thing. Rather than altering your schedule to accommodate Critical Reasoning on Wednesdays, as in my example, think about how you can keep your skills fresh on every part of the test.

With just a little bit of additional planning, you can put yourself in a much better position to excel on every part of the GMAT, not just the section you've studied recently.



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.