# Enter the GMAT Matrix

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” – The Matrix

I guess that, since you are still reading this post, you are considering taking your prep to the next level and entering the GMAT matrix. Truly mastering the GMAT requires that you peel back the veneer of the test and understand the patterns behind the test or, as we commonly say here at Kaplan, learn the inner-calculus of the test. One of my favorite sayings about standardized tests like the GMAT is that “the GMAT never repeats, but it rhymes.” This is one of the great things about preparing for a standardized test. The test-maker must use a framework of question types, answer types, passages, etc. in order to truly standardize the test. There is a specific set of skills that the test-maker includes in the test each and every time. With that in mind, let’s peek inside the matrix of GMAT test prep.

In order to learn the patterns of the test and master the GMAT, there are a few key things to do and keep in mind as you prep.

1)    The Problem Fades and the Concept Remains

As you prep, do so with an eye toward the bigger concept behind a particular question. Ask yourself what the test-makers are really testing with the question in front of you – what vital skill or skills are they including.  Don’t fight with individual questions or let one miss throw you on that particular topic. The specifics of the questions (names, numbers, etc..) will be different on test day, but the concept being tested will absolutely be there. Identifying the concept being tested and/or the type of question focuses your approach and narrows your options. Get into the habit of identifying the question type and primary concept each time you approach a question in practice. The tougher questions are usually just a combination of more basic skills stacked on top of each other. By thinking strategically and identifying the concept(s) and question type, you take the mask off the question.

2)    Mastery First, Timing Later

When you first start to prep, it should not be about timing. Your GMAT timing will not improve in the right way until you are better able to read the patterns in the test, so don’t fret about timing until you have built the content mastery to back it up. When you get to the point that you can spot the concept being tested and the strategy you should use to tackle the question when you glance at the question, then you are ready to turn your attention to timing practice.

3)    Review every explanation

In order to build the mastery noted above, it’s important to review every explanation, even when you get a question correct. Too many people neglect this step, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to truly being able to see the matrix of the test! Often, people prep by just doing question after question without fully reviewing their approach. While it’s important to check the answer, it is equally important to review why you chose the answer that you did. Your goal on the GMAT is to be correct AND efficient. The hardest thing to do is to read all of the explanations for the questions you got right. You want to make sure that you 1) got the right answer for the right reason and 2) are approaching the question in the most efficient way.

4)    Make mistakes with a growth mindset

In order to really master the GMAT, your response to mistakes needs to be appropriate. Too many test-takers let mistakes define their performance and dampen their eventual improvement.  Mistakes are good if viewed in the right light. We learn more from our mistakes than our successes. They are the ideal opportunities for improvement. Mistakes represent the glitches in your ability to read the matrix that must be identified in order to be fixed. It’s much better to make these mistakes before test day so that you have the ability to fix, reinforce, and strengthen your approach. Therefore, don’t be afraid to make mistakes in your practice. Make them boldly so that you can sharpen your mastery as you fix them!

5)    Use full-length practice tests to target areas of study