The GMAT is just a test
- Rather than getting overwhelmed by the massive size of it and the endless noise around it
- I will show you a better way to learn, to simplify things, to focus on practicality not theory, and to go from A to Z efficiently without wasting months
- I will share the method and the tips to get an elite GMAT score
Believe me, I know how it feels
- The material is scattered, guidebooks and courses teach you endless textbook theory but not enough strong, practical techniques to actually get a 750+.
- On top of that, the material is stupidly DENSE and in the wrong areas. So you spend 100s of hours almost meandering around without productively fixing your lag areas. Expensive time lost and no clarity.
- Worse still, you can tell that the material was made to make “Average” Joe feel good rather actually than have faith in Joe and help him move swiftly from a 600+ to a 750+.
- And so by the time the exam comes, you feel this pit in your stomach just knowing that you will need to retake it, frustrated because you know you put in effort and can’t understand what in the hell is actually going wrong.
- Yes, I have actually been EXACTLY there and I just hated it. I had to pause for 2 years and then self learn that honestly, the problem really was not with my capability, it was just my method. You can read the full story of my failure with the SAT and the IELTS here.
I know better now, after a decade of refinement.
There is a smarter way to prepare for the GMAT.
The same way I scored a 770 in the GMAT, top 400 worldwide, with just 4-6 weeks of prep, in my first attempt. The same way that several other readers of Learn Ivy got similar/higher scores.
In this guide, I will begin to simplify GMAT prep down to a simple, repeatable science for you. You’ll feel the difference.
By the way, this post is from the full online video course, Ultimate Guide to Mastering GMAT Verbal, in which I deconstruct the GMAT to a simple science that you can repeat and win. This is exclusively for Learn Ivy subscribers.
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Let’s dive into hacks that you can use to quickly take your score to an elite level:
4 Hacks for Sentence Correction: Tips To Get an Elite Score
Hack #1: Cut the noise
- If you are like most people, you find the GMAT sentences (let’s face it) painful! They are tedious, obscure, and dense
- The way to simplify these terrible, long-winded obscure sentences is to simply cut 90% of it!
- Simply cut out everything that comes after prepositions or commas, until the verb or the next comma
- This simplifies EVERY SC question dramatically, allowing you to focus on only what actually matters
- I show a ton of examples in the full course, but even if you try this yourself on any official GMAT question, you should feel the difference instantly
Hack #2: Zoom into key bits
- You’ll begin doing these things one at a time as you learn, just like with learning to drive a car. But soon, you’ll be able to do both things in parallel: cut the noise and zoom in to key bits
- Start mentally circling the following key bits in an SC question after cutting the noise. (Don’t worry about the jargon right now, it’s actually really simple once you understand what the below means, through the full course).
- pronouns: substitute for a noun (e.g., him, her, his, etc)
- modifiers: give info about something (e.g. the xx in my pocket, the xx that is grey)
- list stems (e.g., At the store I bought x,y, and z)
- indicators of parallelism (e.g., I’d rather x than y; x along with y; not only x but y)
- conjunctions (e.g., and, or, but etc.)
- Learn to focus on these bits. Cut past all that noise and pay attention to only the above.
Hack #3: Think graphically
- This is by far the single most important skill in the SC section and absolutely overlooked by typical material. I find that simply mind-boggling, because once you master this technique, you will never be able to look at SC questions the same way again
- After cutting the noise and circling key bits, next draw the flows:
- What subject does the verb connect to
- What subject does the pronoun connect to
- What does the modifier connect to
- What is inside the list stem vs out
- What is the structure tree of the conjunction
- What’s right beside the comma and what does it connect to
- 95% of your answers will come from just being able to do the above very well
- I repeat: 95% of your answers will come from just being able to do the above very well
- It might at first sound like a lot of jargon, but it’s actually just a single, simple logic once you understand what it actually says
- We cover this thoroughly and simply with dozens of live demos in the full course
- Regardless, it is a simple, repeatable formula, which will get you 95%+ in SC if you use it
Hack #4: De-prioritise what is tedious: idioms, vocabulary and verb forms
- If you’re like me, your time is expensive. And you’d like to not waste it unless you need to
- Idioms, vocabulary and verb forms count for little, take far too long, demoralise endlessly and are extremely painful to begin with, unlike other SC modules
- I’d come to this at the end if after studying the rest and practising, this turns out to be the biggest reason I’m not at 750+. Otherwise I’d de-prioritise further.
- We cover these topics in depth with several modules in the course, but I’d still recommend only coming back to it when you actually need to.
We will go into detail not just with above SC learning principles, but each of the SC fundamental concepts that determine right vs. wrong in thorough detail, and with dozens of practical, detailed live SC demos in the video course to show you exactly how a 770 GMAT scorer uses simple, sharp techniques to ensure 100% clarity and drive towards an elite GMAT score. There really is no more comprehensive an SC package than this on the planet internet, and in as practical a manner.
5 Hacks for Critical Reasoning: Tips to get an Elite Score
Hack 1: Don’t read the Economist, and screw anyone that tells you that you should have started reading at age 6
- It’s true: CR and later RC text, is tough, dense, tricky and extremely painful to the untrained eye.
- But I get super irked everytime I read a course that says “read the Economist” to improve your CR & RC or “you should have started reading at age 6”.
- And TOP programmes say exactly this, believe me – I went through literally everything before deciding I’d had enough.
- That is exactly the kind of useless strategy that
- Wastes an endless amount of your time in a haphazard, meandering manner
- Demoralises! What the hell kind of strategy is one that focuses on uncontrollables!
- it is the job of truly great material to deconstruct, simplify and solve difficult problems rather than cop out by saying: sorry, you’re beyond help. You’re not and you should stay away from anyone who would have you believe otherwise.
- The simple fact is that the GMAT is a test and our minds are computers. Very literally, what this means is that we need to read certain content and principles, and apply them in a time slot.
- This is the exact same as a calculator that calculates 2457+1456 or a computer that copies a file from folder X to Y
- The only reason for failure is either a lack of clarity on a concept/principle or a lack of reps to hone in stamina, speed and nerves
- I will explain the solution to each in the overall strategy section further below
- But for now, please stop reading the Economist. Instead, get any old official GMAT book and start reading the CR passages there. Nothing else.
Hack 2: Improve 1 variable at a time to improve your reading
- When reading, focus on only one variable at a time. The 3 key variables are
- Improve each separately.
- E.g., First 20 CR passages, just focus on going from start to finish on the text.
- Forget about the speed or whether you understand anything. Just finish it and clap.
- Next 20 CR passages, just focus on retention, nothing else.
- Read each sentence 3 times if you need to (you will to begin with, because our minds have been weakened by social media, and that is fine, it is solvable).
- Just ensure that you understand what you are reading, even if you spend 10-min per passage. Pace is a separate variable.
- Only lastly, will you think about pace
- I get into multiple techniques to increase pace in the full course, but the simplest is: put your finger physically on the screen/book and use that to guide you.
- You’ll automatically feel the increase in focus on speed
- Want to go faster still? Just increase the pace of your finger by 20%, think about nothing else.
- You won’t understand the text the first few passages you do this
- But by passage 20, your mind will get used to the new pace and all the above techniques together will supercharge your CR ability to play with the passage
- E.g., First 20 CR passages, just focus on going from start to finish on the text.
- That’s how you build comfort with CR text, by improving a variable at a time, systematically. Not by reading the damn Economist or being made to feel upset about your childhood
Hack 3: Always start with the conclusion
- Regardless of the question type and even if (especially if!) it is a double boldface, you MUST start by being clear on which sentence is the conclusion
- Focus on keywords like Thus, therefore etc. but do not get trapped by key words like “Clearly” which could be supporting the conclusion rather than the conclusion itself
- If you are clear about the conclusion, drawing the flow for the rest becomes 5x simpler
- You should ideally start with simple 2 sentence drills and work your way up to increasing difficulty. But even if not, just use an official book and build comfort through focused reps on identifying the conclusion
Hack 4: Learn to draw a map
- Similar to the SC section but now with a 3-6 sentence passage, you must learn to simplify the noise, understand the key words and think graphically of the flows in CR
- Pay attention to key conclusion, premise and supporting words such as Therefore, because, although, however etc.
- Learn and then practise to draw shorthand maps in 10 seconds so you never refer to the heavy original text and waste time after reading the question stem
- I can’t give a full example in the article here but you’ll find several demos in my course; it’s okay if it isn’t intuitive to begin with
Hack 5: You can read math
- I’ll go into mental-model shift in detail in the overall strategy section, but let’s first focus on the CR application of it
- Do 80% of the legwork beforehand by studying the main argument types and the common assumption formats that they have
- This is exactly the equivalent of actually studying math concepts before practising them vs. expecting to know it yourself. It’s a real issue that this isn’t covered properly in typical material
- Even if no course access, you can try addressing this with official material:
- In the official book, when readings CR questions, proactively look for comparison arguments, statistical arguments, sampling arguments, and causal arguments and read the answer to think about: what kind of assumption format was this and how can I re-apply this.
- Yes this is a slightly more tedious way of doing it vs a course, but at least there’s a way for you to self-learn it if you want to!
We will go into detail with each of the CR question types, argument types with
corresponding strategies and more, and with dozens of practical, detailed live-condition demos to show you exactly how a 770 GMAT scorer uses sharp, unique answer techniques to drive towards an elite GMAT score. The idea is to show you 90% of the leg-work BEFORE the exam because CR CAN be well prepped for, unlike what less effective educators say.
2 Hacks for Reading Comprehension: Tips to get an Elite GMAT score
Hack 1: Forget about pace. In fact, go extra slow.
- Prepping for RC is simply an extension of CR prep. Same principles apply
- Forget about pace. Worry about that last. Get everything else right first. Then use the pace techniques above/in my course to accelerate 3x
Hack 2: You needn’t read super thoroughly.
- This is an important one. Unlike the CR where I advise really understanding every sentence before beginning to answer, for the RC you can let go a bit, if you learn how to catch actors, key terms, tone and flow
- That’s typically enough to have a good map, whether drawn to begin with or mental as you advance
- Then basis the Q, if needed, you can double back to the focus part of the passage since you know what’s where and understand the tone and flow
- Capturing the tone in the map by the way is a critical way to quickly understand who feels how about what – an important topic for RC
We will go into detail with each of the RC question types with
corresponding strategies and with true, live RC-map drills, with dozens of practical, detailed live-condition demos in the video course to show you exactly how a 770 GMAT scorer uses sharp, unique answer techniques to drive towards an elite GMAT score.
5 Hacks for Learning Strategy: Tips to get an Elite GMAT Score
Everything above went into specific sections, and each set of principles will 100% help raise your score well.
But what will make the biggest difference is learning overall study strategy.
Hack 1: Why experience pain when you can Netflix
- It’s 2019 guys, it’s time we learnt how to make studying a near pain free process. My strong belief is that downloading test principles to our minds should be as pain-free as Netflix, wherein we download a TV show’s content into our minds. Logically, there’s no difference. The material and medium just needs to be good enough for it.
- Quick tip: if studying is really really painful/it takes more than a few days to learn the entire content, there’s likely something wrong in the material/medium you’re using. Ideally, you want to finish learning content in a week or so tops. Every time I’ve used material that takes weeks or worse months to complete the content, I have done miserably and also hated the painful process.
- E.g., for me personally, I can’t STAND weekly live lectures. They’re too restrictive, I hate the environment, the travel, the inability to control the pace of content download. I best like video content that is broken into short modules, which are to the point and allow me to accelerate/reduce speed. Changing from live to video changes my experience entirely and allows me to sustain much longer without simply quitting
- For others, perhaps books or audio works best. It’s helpful to know your style and double down on it.
- I personally like ebooks on mobile for practise. I like lying down in bed and flipping through Qs and As and it’s easiest with Kindle books than with PDFs/Physical books. So I tend to first do videos for content at 2-3x speed and then do official GMAT Kindle books to “read math” (see below).
Hack 2: Don’t tolerate crap content, trust your instincts
- Whatever book, course etc you use, the most important instinct you can hone is assessing content quality. E.g. I HATE Baron’s content for SAT prep even though it’s super popular. I believe it absolutely skews the finest details which are critical when deciding between those final tricky two options. Moving from Baron’s to official material again everyone’s advice was one of the bigger reasons I moved from 2200 to 2390 in the SAT.
- I’m a big fan of official material for the SAT and GMAT because it captures nuance better than absolutely anywhere else, when it comes to practising 1000 reps. I’d however use another source to learn the content, principles, and strategies along with several demo run-throughs since this is less thorough in the official material and because I prefer targeted videos to reading
- Sometimes, you’ll find courses that are particularly deficient in certain areas. E.g., I was shocked by how CR is covered by most, left to chance rather than repeatable strategy (see the above CR section for an example) or how there’s simply no mention, forget deepdive, of hacks per section and overall learning strategy – only textbook content. To me, that is plain bizarre. It’s not how you help students get 750+
Hack 3: Screw anyone that says, “You shouldn’t read math”
- Growing up, I was always told: you can’t read math, you must practise more.
- Thing is, I just refused to listen because I hated practising math, I was simply lazy. And thing is, I consistently scored high and it is because I didn’t listen.
- Here’s the thing: practising anything yourself takes 5x longer than reading it. And especially if you’re not 100% clear on the concept.
- Not only does it take 5x longer eating up expensive prep time, your confidence takes a serious beating – which is TERRIBLE for your test taking ability.
- Also guys, tell me – how many of you have done a practice question only to realise it used a principle not directly covered in the theory portion? And you’re thinking, well how the heck was I supposed to know THAT?
- Fact is, if you treat reading more solved questions as an extension of the chapter theory itself, your concepts will solidify dramatically more strongly.
- Why would you do everything from scratch yourself when you can outsource all the heavy lifting and simply learn 5x faster because of someone else’s effort?
- You will do far more reps than you ever have previously, but you will spend 80-90% less time per rep than before
- Just think about what I’ve said above. You can either practise 100Qs once in 5 days for example, or read them 5 times in the same 5 days, because reading takes only 20% the time. Which do you think I’d recommend.
- So, am I telling you that you should never practise? I’m not.
- But I am saying first read about 20x more than you typically feel comfortable with. Instead of reading 2-3 examples and starting practice, read 50-100 example questions minimum. I suggest doing this with official material only on their Kindle version – for the reason mentioned further above.
- After you’ve done that and highlighted the questions you thought were worth revising, read them again.
- After that, read them all again.
- Notice that by the third read, A. You’re going much much faster still and reading only the highlighted ones. B. Your brain instinctively starts to see the patterns. It’s like being able to visualise the “matrix”. ESPECIALLY if you’ve used terrific material, you’ll begin to see the test in new light without having consciously realised it.
- THAT is the moment of magic.
- And THAT is when you start practising.
Hack 4: 1000 reps @ high frequency
- Reps are your best friend” – Remember this for life. The answer to almost ANYTHING is reps.
- Even when practising, go for multiple reps at high frequency
- This means, it’s perfectly OKAY to be terrible to begin with. I suck at everything the first few reps of anything. It’s just a learning rep. Just understand what needs fixing and carry on swiftly. Simply doing more reps and understanding what went wrong each time, don’t fuss about it, carry on.
- Do the same Qs you’ve read to begin with. Why: Build comfort, confidence and momentum.
- If you spread the mental load across several practice reps rather than one or two reps only, and focus on speed, you’ll have a gentler, less painful, almost fun experience because you’ll constantly be moving forward.
- And rapid forward momentum is easily your greatest ally during prep.
Hack 5: 80/20 your biggest weaknesses
- You’ve seen from the above principles that finishing the textbook content/course should be just the first 20% of your prep not 50-80%, and that several reps of reading the official Qs + then practising should then become the focus. Worry about full length tests, 3.5h stamina and section-wise and overall speed only at the end.
- The initial set of practice reps, after your read reps, are JUST to build comfort, not to diagnose weak spots. Goal is to build comfort, nothing more.
- This is unbelievably important. Momentum, comfort, confidence is what matters in these early reps – not problem solving and fixing. Do none of that until the panic you feel when seeing a question disappears. And it will, with enough read reps. The discomfort of putting pen to paper will disappear with enough practice comfort reps.
- Only after done with the initial set of reps to build comfort, direct the reps thereafter with intent
- To do this, you should mentally be able to separate stamina, content knowledge, and speed and test only one at a time.
- Build mini tests after reading and then practising to check yourself against each of these.
- I myself used and highly recommend using the Official GMAT material for this, as explained above.
- For eg simply take 10-20 SC, CR or RC questions and see how you do. Important note: the goal is NOT to get it all right immediately, it’s simply to understand what needs fixing
- Think of it as a Sherlock Holmes puzzle. It’s less a test at this point and more a discovery: “Okay, my top opportunity areas are SC modifier content, CR drawing maps, and RC stamina”
- Make a task list with the top opportunity areas as you uncover them. Your goal should be to rapidly attack them till they become strength areas
- For e.g., I simply couldn’t maintain focus long enough to read an RC para. So, one morning, I simply made that the focus. Didn’t look at a single question, but just read RC passage after passage, taking breaks in between, till I built comfort.
- Similarly, I simply did not have the stamina to complete a full length practice GMAT. So, I forced myself to do it 2-3 times over 1 week so that I simply built comfort with what I hated most.
- It’s important however to not get lost in an endless string of such improvements. Your key friends will be
- 80/20 the BIGGEST opportunity areas to scale up your score. Eg don’t focus on idioms just because it’s a weak area, unless it adds as much delta impact on overall score as does improving your stamina or your ability to draw maps.
- Pace and number of reps. Refer above for details – you need momentum. The worst thing you can do is indulge in one variable endlessly rather than swiftly completing your list so that you’re back in centre and scaling your score upwards.
- Needless to say, building such comfort through such targeted effort was a game-changer for me and has worked remarkably for Learn Ivy students.
We will go into detail with each of the learning strategies with practical examples of each, along with dozens of practical, detailed live-condition demos in the video course to show you exactly how a 770 GMAT scorer uses sharp, unique answer techniques to drive towards an elite GMAT score. There simply isn’t a more comprehensive, robust GMAT Verbal programme on the planet internet.
In the complete online video course, with 200+ quick, fun, sharp video lectures, I get into detail with Learn Ivy students for each of the above sections, with not just more hacks, tips, live-demos, and exercises but a real ton of methodical content and principles to get you the elite score I want for you in the GMAT.
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