One Week Before the GMAT

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One of the questions I get most frequently from students and readers is this: how should you prepare yourself in the final few days before the test?

The short answer is simple: Don't change much. If you've been studying GMAT material for weeks or months, there's not a lot you can do in the last week to amplify the effect of the work you've already done.

There are a few things you should keep in mind.

Focus on Mastery

Much of the time you spend up to the last week involves learning (or re-learning) new content. Especially when you're developing unfamiliar math techniques, it takes some time for them to sink in. If you start working on combinations and permutations three days before the test, you're probably throwing that study time away. You aren't going to master the skill before the test.

Instead, focus on what you already know. Under the pressure of the GMAT exam, if you see a question that covers content you are mostly confident about, you may still get it wrong. Spend your final days getting from "mostly" to "completely" on as many topics as possible.

Watch the Clock

I hope that you're already timing yourself, but either way, now is the time to emphasize timing even more. It's the same thing as with mastery: If you can't answer a question in approximately two minutes, you probably don't understand it well enough to be sure you'll nail it on the test.

Further, the final week is a good time to start thinking seriously about guessing. You will have to guess (or at least give up) on several questions during the test. It's tough to get in the mindset that guessing is ok, but take my word for it--it's fine. As you look at new practice questions, keep asking yourself: If this were test day, should I attack this question, or guess and save the time?

Stay Calm

It's tempting to try to ramp up your study plan for the last few days, but doing so probably adds more stress, especially if you are fitting GMAT preparation into an already busy schedule.

If you've already studied for several weeks, what you do for the last few days isn't going to make a huge difference. It's more valuable to spend a limited amount of time making sure everything you've learned so far has sunk in than to stress yourself out trying to get through one more book or one more set of practice questions.

Whether in the first week or last, I always emphasize that quality is more important than quantity in GMAT prep, and that's more true than ever during the last week.



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.