Video Game Planning

April 19, 2010

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For most people, preparing for the GMAT is a serious endeavor. Whether you allot three weeks or three months, you're going to spend a lot of time working toward the goal, and it's probably time you're trying to work into an already busy schedule.

One of the most common planning mistakes I see students make is what I call "video game planning." They imagine themselves as a character in a video game who can take on an infinite amount of work, never missing a study session, limited only by the number of waking hours in the day.

Does this sound like you? Have you been guilty of setting impossible goals for yourself, thinking of yourself as an automaton who will have perfectly consistent, precisely executed study sessions right on schedule every day?

It's an easy mistake to make, and it's not always an easy one to remedy. The first step is recognizing the problem.

I've written a lot about the importance of setting realistic goals. This applies to your goal score, but it also applies to you day-to-day and week-to-week study goals. If you recognize that you'll miss a session now and then or you'll have a problem with some material and need to repeat it the next day, you'll be much more flexible in setting your schedule.

In other words, what you think of as a three-week study schedule may really be a four-week study schedule. Think of the ramifications. If you set a test date for three weeks from today and you come up with a carefully devised schedule to maximize your preparation in 21 days, what happens if you fall ill or get unexpectedly busy with work?

In most cases, the surprise interruption leads to missing your exam date or sitting for the test and failing to meet your score goal.

But are these "surprise" interruptions really surprises? How long do you usually go before you have two or three days in a row where studying just doesn't fit in the schedule?

For many of my students, these "surprises" are nearly constant. No study schedule is appropriate unless they build in extra time to cover those contingencies. They will happen.

If any of this sounds familiar, revisit your plans. Maybe your score goal is too optimistic. If you haven't set a test date, maybe you can push it back a couple of weeks. You're not a character in a video game, and the sooner you realize that, the better your chance of reaching your goals.



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!
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