How To Study More Effectively

You should follow me on Twitter. While you're at it, take a moment to subscribe to GMAT Hacks via RSS or Email.


Two of the biggest challenges of studying for the GMAT--especially if you're flying solo--is knowing how much time to spend, and maximizing the efficiency of that time. Those two things, particularly study-time efficiency, will be recurring themes of my Tips. Today I'd like to focus on just a few key concepts to get you started on the right foot.

How Much Time is Enough?

Obviously, the amount of time you need to spend preparing for the GMAT will vary depending on a number of factors. The two most important factors are:

  1. How much you'd like to improve your score
  2. How efficiently you spend your study time

Setting a reasonable score goal is a topic for a different Tip. Let's say for now that you have a clear idea of what you'd like to score on the GMAT, and you are committed to reaching that goal. Assuming that you've taken some form of diagnostic, determine the improvement that is necessary. Here's a handy approximation of the amount of time you'll need to spend:

Number of Hours = Number of Points Improvement X 2

As I say, this is an approximation. If your math skills are very rusty and you want to improve your score from a 400 to a 450, you might not need that much time. If you're scoring 700 and shooting for 750, you may need more time than that. Most important is how you spend that time.

Maximizing Your Study Time

Some of these suggestions may strike you as nothing more than common sense, if not trite. Regardless, they work, and I've seen countless students disregard each one of them.

  1. Find the time of day that your brain works best, and study then. That may mean working for half an hour during lunch, getting up an hour early and studying before work, or staying at the office for an extra hour and preparing then.
  2. Study at the same time every day--including weekends.
  3. Study every day. If you can't study at your usual time on a certain day, fine. But make sure you do something--even if it's only fifteen or twenty minutes--every single day.
  4. Study in a quiet, uncluttered place. This may not be possible if you're sneaking in twenty minutes of work on your lunch break, but at home, this is a must. The test center won't be cluttered; neither should your study space. Going to Starbucks on Saturday morning may be a motivator, but don't stay there.
  5. Don't let yourself be interrupted. If you have a spouse or roommates, let them know that you're going to study and for how long, and let them know that silence and solitude is important during that time. If possible, turn off your cellphone and your internet connection as well: every interruption will cost you at 5-10 minutes to get back in a groove.
  6. When working through practice problems, be organized. For more details on this, read my Tip, How to Do Practice Problems.

Two themes you may have noticed running through several of those suggestions: consistency, and similarity to the test-day experience. Train your mind to be in GMAT mode at a certain time each day, and the amount of time it takes to transition into productive studying will decrease. Your time is at a premium: the more time you convert into improvement, the better your score will be.



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.