Research shows that the single biggest factor for achieving a high score on any test, including the GMAT, is spending productive time studying. The more hours you spend studying the higher your score will be. But some of the hours you spend studying and learning will be more productive than others. Many factors come into play that can affect your studying efficiency.
Your ability to absorb information and comprehend complex reasoning is greatly reduced when you are tired and easily distracted. Being tired or sleep deprived impairs attention and working memory, but it can also affect other functions, such as long-term memory and decision-making. Even mild sleep deprivation can influence attention and especially vigilance (Alhola & Polo-Kantola). These cognitive functions are crucial for learning and retaining information. The GMAT prep courses contain challenging sets of questions and writing tasks that require focussed attention and a well-rested mind. Getting a good nights rest will ensure your mind is focussed, capable of retaining information and dealing with complex information. You’ll need to be fully alert and rested to make the most of any GMAT prep course online, no matter which one you choose.
A good nights sleep must be part of the plan. Cramming extra hours of study by working late will greatly reduce your capacity to study effectively. You are likely to be tired when studying late at night, which may also affect your ability to have a restful nights sleep. If you don’t plan in advance for your GMAT test date, with several months of study, then you may be tempted to pack too many hours studying late at night and begin a cycle of late nights, poor sleep and inefficient learning. The key is to develop a sleep routine and start your study preparations months in advance.
A sleep routine is a relatively easy thing to do. The basics involve going to bed and waking up at set times, which need to be maintained over the longer term. Having a regular pattern that includes a set bedtime and a set waking time will provide the foundations of a stable and sustainable study routine. Your sleep routine needs to be enforced by setting your alarm clock and getting your day started at the same time every day. In order for your study routine to be at its best you will need to stick to your sleep routine 7 days a week during the months before your GMAT test. Obviously this task is a lot easier if you have the discipline to also make your bedtime a regular time, which may be difficult if you have an active – or over active – social life. An active social life is a healthy use of time but not when it affects your sleep routine and your ability to study and learn effectively.
After spending some thought into developing a stable and sustainable sleep routine you may also wish to consider including an exercise routine to help with your studies. The character of your activity routine will be greatly dependent on your preferences. Some students enjoy vigorous, frequent and extensive exercise sessions; others will prefer less strenuous activity. Even if you are not sports orientated and do not have a history of physical exercise it is worth considering adopting some regular, ideally daily, activity. Some regular physical activity can also assist with getting a good nights rest.
Less strenuous activities could include a brisk walk in the park, a short hike, and yoga or Pilates. Half an hour a day will give you a break from your study to collect your thoughts, mull over the study material and plan your next session. It may offer the chance of getting outside, take in some fresh air and reconnect with your community and friends. It will provide a positive experience, which will reinforce your positive attitude towards your GMAT test preparations and can even help with avoiding procrastination.
Your overall health and alertness is also dependent upon a healthy diet. Some students are tempted to cut corners with their diet during periods of intense studying. This can be a mistake. Maintaining a healthy diet is another important aspect of GMAT preparations. Fresh fruit and vegetables and not too many processed foods makes for good choices. Brainwork requires energy but sitting for most of the day is a relatively low-energy use activity. Eating and comfort food with high calories can stress your system and even contribute to poor quality sleep. Smaller quantities of home cooked meals using fresh and low processed ingredients will help maintain and sustain you during your GMAT preparations. Choose nuts, fruit and low calorie drinks for snacks. Eat wisely and in moderation, limit high calorie drinks and frequent snacking. It maybe hard to see a connection with diet and study effectiveness and it certainly is not the most important factor especially over the short term. But getting into good eating habits will be good for your overall health and will reinforce your focus and discipline to achieve your best GMAT ranking.
Sustainable study hours per day
Your study routine is complete when you assign a sensible number of hours a day to go through the test preparation material and lessons. Even when you have optimised your sleep, diet and exercise routines there will still be a limit to how much you can learn and achieve through the course of a study session and through the course of a day. The length of useful study sessions varies quite a lot between students. You will need to be mindful when studying and observe your own limits per session and per day. If you feel yourself loosing focus or needing to repeatedly read the same sentence over again to get the message then you are reaching your session limits. If a break doesn’t restore your focus then you may have reached your daily limits. You can deliberately add variety into your studying routine using a change in study material or a change in studying approach that adds renewed interest and reinvigorates your efforts. Eventually you will run out of steam and the only way to recharge is with a good nights sleep.
Staying motivated and positive
Taking care of these controllable factors will form a solid foundation for achieving your goals. These routines will help you with the physical demands and will also assist with staying highly motivated. Maintaining your connectivity with friends and family are important. It may seem tempting to isolate yourself a little but keeping connected will help with positive motivation. Try to enjoy the process of studying and learning. Learning is central to your development and it should make you feel happy about building yourself and your future.
Acknowledge the improvements and new understandings you have achieved. Use those achievements to inspire yourself to conquer the next set of knowledge.
The discipline to make the necessary changes and to stick with them is the key for establishing the routines that will form the foundations of an effective and efficient studying program. Make the most of the resources at your disposal and make an informed decision regarding a GMAT prep course online. Gaining admission into one of the top business schools will provide an excellent starting point for your business and finance career.
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And good luck with your GMAT!
Alhola P, Polo-Kantola P. 2007. Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 3(5): 553–567.