Standardized Test Preparation: Fine-Tune your Process

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As an active student and tutor, in this post I'll share my perspective on standardized test preparation and provide tips on improving your study habits.

In addition to my full-time work, I work part time as an academic tutor and have also been working with a GMAT tutor. Given my busy schedule, I’ve had to figure out how to get the most out of my test preparation and make sure that every minute with my books is spent as efficiently as possible.

If you are working with a tutor, one of the biggest benefits – whether a GMAT tutor, chemistry tutor, or french tutor – is the structure and targeted attention that he or she can offer.  The thing is that you, as a student, can and should also be structuring your time and process. Don’t just sit back and let the tutor do all the work! 

As you progress towards your deadline, make sure that you:

1) Establish a consistent, study schedule.

  • Identify the time of day at which you are most lucid and focused. In my case, I work best in the morning. Some students are night owls. Do an experiment and try both.

  • Figure out which works best for you and set a routine. Planning your study schedule in advance both reduces stress and ensures that you actually get the work done! 

2) Keep organized notes.

  • Label your notes: what book are the problems from, what kind of problem, what problem #, what did you select for the answer?

  • This is important because in addition to actually doing the practice problems, going back to review your approach is a great way to identify gaps in understanding. 

3) Review what you've covered.

  • As I mentioned above, reviewing is a key way to improve.

  • Review past problems to consolidate your comprehension of content or a problem solving technique.

  • Re-do past problems a couple weeks out to test whether you have fully absorbed the information or strategy.

  • When you go back to a past problem or chapter, make sure to read the book’s explanation to learn about an approach that works, even if you attacked the problem differently. 

  • Ask your tutor if you still unclear after reviewing.

4) Become aware of your patterns.

5) Maintain balance.

  • Sleep and exercise shouldn’t be put aside to make additional time to study.

  • If your body isn’t rested and exercised, it’s likely that your brain won’t be in shape, either.

  • Make sure you are sleeping, exercising and studying in proportionate parts.

As you can see, there’s a lot you can do on your end to hone your process and progress towards your goal. Think about the test prep process as a collaboration with your tutor: your tutor can help you get 50% off the way there, but you’ll have to put some elbow grease in yourself to get the rest of the way! 

Download  6 Essential Test-Taking Tips

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