Study the GMAT in Small Batches
October 1, 2012
A few months ago I had a student in one of my GMAT classes tell me her study plan. She was very diligent and committed to the study process, and the plan was a very well thought out and detailed. Furthermore, she was executing the plan brilliantly. The problem was that her score was going nowhere. She wasn’t gaining any ground from her masterful execution. What was the problem?
After digging a bit deeper, one thing stood out. She was using all the tools: practice tests, online quizzes, workshops, workbooks etc. None of this seemed odd. In fact, it was all commendable. However, there was a fatal flaw in the way she was using these resources. She wanted to makes sure that she had the endurance to answer these questions on test day. Therefore, when she sat down to do quantitative problems, she would create a set of 37, do them all, and then review the answers. She would do 41 questions for the GMAT verbal section. This seems like a great idea, right? It’s very realistic. Wrong!!!
This is the same challenge that Toyota solved with lean processes and the Lean Startup movement is busy solving in the entrepreneurial world. Working in large batches seems reasonable and efficient. However, when our goal is learning and validation, it is counterproductive in a big way. Now, we could spend a lot of time diving deep into either lean manufacturing or lean startup methods, and that would be a lot of fun. However, let’s stay on point and look at how it works with GMAT studying.
To complete 37 questions will take you about 75 minutes. During this time you are busy answering the questions. This practice is good, but you aren’t adding new knowledge to the mix. You are just moving along the experience curve and getting faster at what you know. But what if what you know is wrong? In that case, you will continue to make the same mistakes all the way through, without the benefit of learning from early mistakes.
Now imagine that you take them in batches of 5 questions and then review the answers. In this case, if you are lacking some crucial piece of knowledge, you will learn that in the first batch. Even if you got a question right, you may learn a better way to approach it. You will then be able to apply that knowledge in subsequent sets and move on to higher level challenges. By working in small batches you will do this over and over again. In this way you can compound your rate of learning and move to higher and higher scores.
As a final note on this, I thought I’d share a recent success story. I had a student who was scoring around 650 on his practice tests right up to the week before his test. His goal was mid 700’s. He was using a large batch approach as well. After making the switch to small batch study, he spent a week compounding his learning. On test day he scored a 750! Try studying in small batches….