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Make the Most of Your GMAT Study Time

“I will take it as a given that, for most people, somewhere between six and seven billion of them, the perfect job is the one that takes the least time.” — Timothy Ferriss, The 4 Hour Workweek

How to study for the GMAT - GMAT efficiency

The Pareto Principle applies to GMAT Preparation

Let me start by asking you a question:

Would you rather get your target GMAT score by studying 100 hours or 60 hours?

That may sound like a ridiculous question, almost rhetorical in fact. I mean, who would voluntarily study more hours to get the same score? Yet, I regularly encounter students who wear it as a badge of honor to talk about how many hours they’ve studied or how many practice tests they’ve taken. Some of my competitor GMAT prep companies brag on their websites about how many practice questions they offer or how many hours you get when you sign up for one of their courses.

But here’s what I know: You’re busy. You have a life. You want to do well on the GMAT, certainly, but you don’t want to waste too much of your most precious asset — time — doing it. Well that’s good news for you because the Pareto Principle of business says that 80% of your production comes from 20% of your efforts. The same is true, for the most part, when studying for the GMAT.

What’s most important on the GMAT is getting right answers. When it comes to studying for the GMAT, not all topic areas are created equal. Some concepts are tested more than others, for example. Some strategies will help you boost your score more than others. There are simply some aspects of the GMAT worth studying that will yield more results than others.

So, what are they?

As you dive in to your GMAT preparation and as you prepare your GMAT study plan, here are the areas that will be worth your time focusing on (below). If your study time is limited, focus on these. Even if you have all the time in the world, prioritize these. As Timothy Ferriss says in The 4 Hour Workweek, “Focus on being productive instead of busy.” With all your extra time, you can head over to my Facebook page and thank me!


  1. Focus more of your time on the Quant and Verbal sections that comprise your 200-800 point GMAT score. B-School admissions offices care much more about this score than they do about your Integrated Reasoning or Analytical Writing scores.
  2. Spend some time understanding how the GMAT is scored. Once you learn the GMAT’s scoring algorithm, you’ll recognize two important strategies that will help you boost your score 20 points or more before you even sit down to answer the first question. Here’s a video that will explain what I mean:¬†https://youtu.be/9DA_p7ESidA.
  3. Take your GMAT practice tests under real-to-life testing conditions. Don’t just go through the motions. As the great Vince Lombardi said, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” The more seriously you take your practice tests, the fewer you’ll need to take.

GMAT Problem Solving StrategyGMAT STRATEGIES

  1. Master the “Working Backwards” non-standard math technique. I teach it in detail in my Free Session that you can get here. It’s useful on a large number of GMAT problem solving questions and renders difficult questions much more solvable, without having to do complex algebra.
  2. Master the “Make Up Numbers” non-standard math technique. It will make your life so much easier on questions involving variables, both on Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions. You can learn this strategy in detail by clicking here.
  3. Learn to use the figures to your advantage. For example, knowing that problem solving figures are drawn to scale may enable you to “eyeball” a right answer without having to do any math. But Data Sufficiency figures are generally not drawn to scale, so be careful and learn how to use that to your advantage to get right answers as well.


  1. Master and apply the non-standard GMAT math techniques referenced above. Watch and learn this GMAT lesson forwards and backwards.
  2. When it comes to algebra, know the three most common quadratic equations so that you can quickly identify them on the test.
  3. Word problems come in all shapes and sizes on the GMAT, but these are the most common ones: Age; Investments; Mixtures; Distance-Rate-Time; Work; Sets; and Defined Operations.
  4. Make sure you know how to immediately eliminate wrong answer choices once you make a determination about the sufficiency of one of the statements in GMAT data sufficiency questions.
  5. Focus on the most common types of GMAT data sufficiency questions: Integers; Ratios; Variables; Yes/No.
  6. Triangles are the most commonly-tested geometry question type. Within the world of triangles, right triangles are most commonly tested. Focus on the four most common right triangles: 3-4-5; 5-12-13; 30-60-90; and 45-45-90.
  7. Of the four major math topic areas tested on the GMAT (Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Data Analysis), algebra is tested the most and geometry is tested the least. Be sure to divide your study time accordingly amongst these topics.

study for the gmatTHE VERBAL SECTION

  1. You’ll be able to improve your GMAT score the most with Sentence Corrections. Critical Reasoning is next. Reading Comprehension is the hardest to improve in for most students.
  2. Focus most of your time on Sentence Corrections. Within the world of sentence corrections, don’t get lost with obscure grammar rules. Instead, focus on the six most commonly-tested points of English grammar on the GMAT: Subject-Verb agreement; Pronouns; Idioms; Modifiers; Parallelism; and Verb Tenses.
  3. For Critical Reasoning, focus on learning to identify patterns of arguments including Generalizations, Analogies, and Causal arguments. Doing so will help you quickly and accurately identify an argument’s assumption, which is key to answering most CR questions.
  4. For Reading Comprehension, you’ll get the most mileage out of learning to reading the passages more effectively. Once you learn to read for big picture, you’ll be in a better position to answer most of the questions you’ll be asked about a passage.


  1. The best GMAT book is the Official Guide for GMAT Review¬†because it’s the only book on the market with real former GMAT questions from the makers of the GMAT.
  2. I also like Brandon Royal’s Ace the GMAT¬†because it focuses on many of the most common questions types in each category detailed above. No fluff, just the question types that will help you get the most right answers on test day.
  3. Start with the two free GMAT practice tests available at mba.com. I would suggest doing at least two more (for a total of four) practice tests before the real thing. You can purchase them here.

Now that you know where to focus your time and effort to get the biggest bang for your proverbial GMAT buck, get after it! And if you’d like to dive deep into each of these areas and really master each of these highest-yield topics discussed above, consider enrolling in our comprehensive online GMAT preparation course. I’m looking forward to working with you!