GMAT Study Tips: Getting Started

Whether it’s hitting the gym, responding to work emails, or studying for the GMAT, just getting started is often the hardest part of anything you don’t want to do. In this article, I’ll give you tips you can use to jumpstart your study session.

1 . Recognize the emotional side to motivation

While it may seem obvious to some of you, the first time I read about this concept it totally blew me away. The thing is, when rational thoughts fight emotions, emotions almost always win. This is why it’s just so hard to do something you don’t want to do, even when your brain is telling you to do it.

Procrastination gets even worse when you’re feeling negative- stressed, insecure, etc. You may be avoiding studying for the GMAT because you don’t feel confident about your abilities, or because you feel bad about a recent misstep at work. If you’re not studying because you don’t feel confident, try the next tip below. If your procrastination comes from an outside factor, then just recognizing that might help you get started. The GMAT could be a welcome distraction!

It’s easier to do something when you feel positive or excited about it. And while it’s definitely not easy to just “get positive,” trying to focus on your future goals, the parts of the GMAT you actually (sort of) enjoy, and how much you’ve learned so far can help you fine tune your study mindset.

2. Start out with a passive task

You should strategize your study sessions like a long distance race. If you start out too hard, you’re going to get tired halfway through and give up. So, when you’re studying, don’t dive immediately into difficult homework problems. Without any warm up, your brain will go into shock. It’ll be hard to focus and even harder to answer correctly. If you’re already feeling insecure about about the GMAT, getting a few questions wrong could put you off studying altogether.

One of the best ways to get started studying is to start with a passive task, like watching a video lesson, and then transition to a more active one. This way you’re reminded of the material, you gain confidence, and you feel better about starting the hard stuff.

3. Make a list of each task and plan to take a break after finishing each one

Productivity 101, I know. But it really does help to divide big tasks into smaller ones. You’re not telling yourself “study for the GMAT.” You’re telling yourself, “first, rewatch video lessons, then, complete assumption problems, next strengthening problems, and finally weakening problems.” If these tasks still seem insurmountable, divide them even smaller, into groups of five homework problems, for example. Each time you finish one, cross it off with satisfaction and take a short break. Reflect back on your progress, not on how much you have left to go.

4. Get rid of distractions

Another obvious one, but how many people actually follow this? I’ve read studies that say even having your phone in your line of sight distracts you from the task at hand. Real GMAT masters study with their phone on silent in another room. Don’t worry, the world won’t end during your 2-hour study session. You can catch up on your group chats during your study breaks.

And if you’re really, really struggling to motivate yourself...

5. Set a timer for 15 minutes

Tell yourself that you only have to focus for 15 minutes. You can do that, right? Once those 15 minutes are up you can decide to stop, but you’ll probably feel better having started and want to continue.