Scott Woodbury-Stewart

How to Study for the GMAT While Working in a Demanding Job

So you’re preparing for the GMAT — no easy task by itself — and you’re also working a demanding job that has the uncanny ability to usurp your every waking moment? Do you worry about how to prepare for the GMAT efficiently without going bonkers? There are a few time-tested strategies that you can use to achieve a top score while balancing work demands.

Prepare with Material that is Accurate, Applicable, Efficient, and Effective

More than ever, students preparing for the GMAT have a number of test prep resources available. However, not all of these GMAT resources are created equally. The materials you use while you study can be either assets or liabilities. Content matters! Do your due diligence on the courses and prep material you’re considering. See what other students have had to say. Look at course reviews on sites such as Beat the GMAT. Most courses offer a free or low-cost trial — pick several resources and give them a test drive. Your goal is to find a course that presents clear, practical, and actionable content, in a way that makes sense to you, along with skills, strategies, and techniques for acing the exam.

If you need outstanding GMAT math help, sign up for a free trial of Target Test Prep’s GMAT Quant Course . The entire course is designed to help students break through longstanding barriers to success on the quant part of the GMAT. In addition to helping students master GMAT content tested on the GMAT, the Quant Course introduces novel approaches toward developing sophisticated critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and decision making skills — mastery in these areas will pay off on the GMAT. Whether you’re completely new to the exam or whether you’ve been studying with limited success for some time is immaterial — either way, Target Test Prep will provide you with the tools necessary to achieve an impressive GMAT score.

Once you’ve found outstanding test prep material to fit your needs, the next step is to make time in your busy schedule.

Be Proactive in Making Time for Yourself

How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t have time for X,” or “I don’t have time for Y?” We hear such statements constantly. Here’s the reality — there is only time for the things we make time for. With a demanding job, it’s important to make time for yourself and for your personal growth and development. Otherwise, you may find that your days become occupied with the demands of your job again and again, which leaves no time for growth and results in self-stagnation. Don’t let this stagnation happen! Your first step on the path toward career development is to create time for studying. Here are some effective methods for finding time, even when your days are tough.

Make Time Each Weekday Morning to Study

Go to bed early on weeknights and wake up early on weekday mornings. Get some coffee and spend two hours studying. One great benefit to studying before work is that your brain and body will be well-rested and ready to absorb new information. There’s also something satisfying about beginning the day by doing something for yourself, something that will help you grow and that will have a positive impact on your future. By the time you get to work, you’ll have put in a good amount of study time — that’s a great feeling to have in the morning.

Study on the Train or Bus

If you commute to work by train or bus (or plane), use this time to drill flash cards, review your notes, and solve problems. In addition to paper-based materials. you can review test material using apps or different websites. For example, you could go through some Target Test Prep GMAT Quant Course questions on your phone, or watch videos on topics you’re still trying to master. You may even find that you start looking forward to the commute — that half-hour or hour could become your prime time for self-development.

Study During Lunch

Your lunch hour is another optimal time to study. Learning is best accomplished in strategic and well-spaced chunks. If you studied in the morning before work, by lunchtime your brain has had a few hours to assimilate and store what you studied. During your break, take some time and go to a quiet place. Maybe you could bring a healthy meal replacement shake so you don’t spend time procuring or preparing lunch; instead, use this time to prepare for the GMAT. Continue studying the topics you worked on in the morning. Your lunch break is the perfect time to tackle practice problems and reinforce the morning’s topics.

Get Some Exercise After Work

Exercise has proven health benefits — in addition to being essential for the body, exercise is just as necessary for the brain. Exercise balances and recalibrates neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Without this recalibration, it’s easy to feel stressed and anxious. These emotions are never optimal for learning and growth. In addition, exercise substantially improves your ability to learn and process new information. Since you know all this, get some exercise after work! Go for a run, take a long walk, hit the weights, or do some yoga. If you’re a multi-tasker, hit the elliptical or the treadmill at the gym and review your notes or flashcards during your workout — just be careful! Evening exercise is a great way to destress, leave the day behind, and prepare for a productive evening of studying.

Home Study in the Evening

Once you get home, take another hour or two to study. Depending on your stamina, you may be a bit tired, so, instead of starting a new topic, this study session might be better spent reinforcing what you’ve already learned. For example, if you studied ratio questions in the morning and reviewed them during lunch, the evening may be a good time to work through several high value ratio practice problems. Once you get tired, stop studying and relax. It makes no sense to study when you’re too tired to retain information.

Cut Out Unnecessary Stuff in Your Life

We can’t change the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day, nor can we change the fact that proper sleep is critical to health and well being. If we assume 8 hours of sleep a night, we have roughly 16 hours of awake time. To fit in study sessions, you’ll likely need to place a number of activities and tasks on hold, or at least until you’re done preparing. For example, dinners and happy hours and ski trips and movies and Netflix are all enjoyable activities, but they’re time-consuming. Let your close friends know that you’re preparing for the GMAT and that you’ll be missing in action for a few months. Keep in mind that the sacrifices you’re making are temporary, but a top GMAT score and a degree from a strong business school are assets that pay dividends for a lifetime. A little sacrifice now will go a long way in the future.

Hit the Books Hard on Weekends

Get up early on Saturday morning (5am, anyone?) and head to your local coffee shop. Grab some light breakfast and whatever else you need — then spend the morning studying. You can cover new topics, review old material you’ve worked on this week, and run through a bunch of practice problems. Try your best to study until lunch time. As your test date comes near, you’ll want to spend this weekend time taking full practice GMAT exams. Do your best to focus for the entire test, and simulate the test environment as much as you can (no cell phone, no calculator, no interruptions). Later, if you’ve studied hard on Saturday morning, reward yourself by doing something enjoyable in the evening. Sunday follows the same schedule.

If you’ve followed this study plan, by Sunday night you’ll likely have logged as many as 30 to 40 hours of GMAT study, a number that, given a few months of time to prepare, can make a substantial increase in your score. Always keep your eyes on the prize! These few months of commitment are an investment that will pay dividends throughout your career! Good luck.

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