Studying All Over the Place

October 28, 2010

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The science of learning has a lot to teach us. It evolves with every generation, so the study habits you learned as a child--even if they were considered cutting edge at that time--may not be the most effective now.

This National Public Radio report summarizes some recent findings.

Of the four tips shared in the article, "Test yourself" and "Mix it up" should already be part of every GMAT study plan. Simply by practicing with sample test questions, you are testing yourself--there's no need to spend hours per week doing practice exams.

The GMAT itself tests your ability to "Mix it up." At first, you may concentrate on a specific algebra or geometry topic. But once you start looking at practice questions, you'll be asked to look at each topic from many different angles. It may be frustrating, but it's great for learning.

The other two tips are extremely valuable, and often ignored.

First, "Space it out." If you've been reading this website for long, you've heard it from me. Don't try to cram your GMAT study time into the weekend. Spread out your work through as many study sessions as possible. If you must do several hours on a Saturday, give yourself many long breaks. Instead of a four-hour marathon, do four focused efforts of one hour each.

Finally, here's a tip that you may never have heard before. NPR summarizes it as "Move around." You may be comfortable at your desk or a familiar corner of Starbucks, but you're better off alternating locations.

The brain works by making connections, and the more connections you've created with any given piece of information, the more likely you are to remember it. So if you're trying to remember the Pythagorean triplet of 3:4:5, reviewing it with the same physical backdrop over and over again is not as valuable as studying it in several different locations.

For a more detailed look at the research, check out this September New York Times article. Learning more about how you learn is not only fascinating, it can pay off on the GMAT.



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.

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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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