Welcome to Part 2 of our series on test prep mastery. In this episode we build on the general framework discussed last week and dive deeper into how to design a study plan that is more customized for you.
We're joined this week by Vinay Narang, Founder and Chief Genius at GMAT Genius, who shares valuable insight on this topic based on his experiencing helping to create customized study plans for his own tutoring clients. While his specialty is the GMAT, the tips and practical how-to's he shares are relevant for prepping well for any standardized test.
Specifically, in this episode Vinay and I explore:
Also be sure to listen all the way to the end for our "From the Mailbag" segment (~44:15). This week I answer the question, "How can I overcome the drudgery of the verbal section and avoid silly mistakes?" You won't want to miss it!
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE
WHERE TO FIND FREE PRACTICE TESTS
One of the action items for this episode is to take a full-length practice test from an official source. Here are some options for you:
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Questions? Comments? Email us at email@example.com.
give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the 1st 4 sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln. Hello, everyone. And welcome to the Dominate Test Prep podcast. I'm bred Ethridge. I'm gonna be your host today. And I'm joined by Special Guest, a friend and colleague, Vanina Ron, who is gonna help me shed some light onto the question of how do you create a customized study plan for whichever standardized test you are talking about her You're getting ready to take now. Obviously, these air concepts that I certainly work with my students on, I teach my students. But I've invited Vin A for today's show for two reasons. One, I think it's helpful to hear a different perspective sometimes. And I know you'll benefit from Vinnie's perspective. But the other reason is, as a lot of you know, I focus on comprehensive online courses. Now, I certainly do some private tutoring, but Grenade does almost exclusively private tutoring. This is what he does all day long. He talked with students. He interviews them, he helps them assess their strengths and weaknesses, figure out exactly what they need to do to get to the next level in terms of their score to help them created customized study plan. And because this is what he excels in, I thought he could definitely help shed light on this important topic. Now, Vinnie is on expert on the G. Matt, but everything we're gonna talk about today we'll apply whether you're taking the g r e the S a T v a c t the l sat. How do you prepare for that? And specifically, how do you customize your preparation? If you're listening to this, you might fall into one of a couple of categories, right? You might just be getting started. And that's great. And I remember when I was first getting started taking the g r E. Originally, I actually started taking the l sat and the G Matt, that's that's a story for another day. But when I really started getting serious about the g r e, I remember kind of thinking to myself, What do I do? Where do I begin? Okay, I'm gonna go to Barnes and Noble. That was a thing back then, like before Amazon and buy a book and try toe, read it and take practice tests and all of this stuff, and and so I had totally understand what it's like toe Wonder how to move forward. And we're gonna help you with that now. Others of you might already be knee deep in preparing. You might have already started to study and and read and watch videos and take tests. Maybe you're working with a tutor, but you feel stuck. And I definitely remember being there as well. My practice test scores weren't moving. And what do you do if you're feeling stuck? How do you figure out where to go next? You've probably heard Einstein's definition of insanity, that doing the same thing over and over and over again, but expecting different results. That's insane. And so if you don't change, if you don't do something different, how are you gonna have any sort of breakthrough? And so that's what we're gonna try to help you with today. Breakthrough. How do you get unstuck? How do you figure out what to do next? How do you diagnose your strengths and weaknesses? How do you create a customized study? Plants? So I'm excited. Vinny, Welcome. I have a little bit more to say to introduce you, but I'll let you say a quick Hello?
Thank you, Brett. Thank you. Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.
Yeah, I'm excited. And Vinny and I met a few years ago. When was it maybe four or five years ago. Now?
Probably four years. Yeah,
at Agimat Conference. That's right. So G. Mack M. A. C is the organization that makes the G Matt. And every year they hold a conference at their headquarters. And so we go when we kind of rub elbows and see what's new, and they teach us and train us. And and I think we really hit it off because we were among the few people there who weren't from a big corporate test prep company and and as I got to know, even a little bit better, I just know he's such an expert of professional at what he does. And now, whenever I have some clients who I just can't take on for whatever reason, from a private tutoring standpoint for the G Matt, I send them Vinnie's way because I know he he takes really good care of them a little bit more about Renee. He has a very interesting background. He's obviously the founder and chief genius at a company called G. Matt. Ingenious. So, like I said, now he does full time G. Matt Tutoring Andi is is just an expert G Matt instructor, but I think your background is really interesting. Vinnie, it looks I mean, you've you've worked at Ernst and Young. You worked as an investment banker at Salomon Brothers. You did business development for Universal Studios and Hanna Barbera. Before we dive into all of this test prep stuff, What was your favorite first job like before? You got into all of the G men?
Oh, absolutely. And you're right. I've had a variety of different experiences, which would have been wonderful. Is it really fun? I think, actually working at Universal Studios, doing international theme park development, working with them to try to open up and be either acquire or build new theme parks. International countries remember working closely on a project in Singapore, so going to sing it for being able to scared out land. Think about what a project would look like. How we had parted with the governor made some really the government really, really fun, interesting things, and of course. One of the perks of working for Universal Studios getting to sneak onto the back lot driver and a little golf cart almost once ran into some amazing people. Ron Howard almost ran into him in my golf card once. And of course, people close to sneak into the ride and ride Jurassic Park the ride whenever I wanted to. So very fine.
Well, that was pre kids.
That was break ins.
And so you don't have any of those perks anymore. I guess
I wish I did. I did
so tell us a little bit. How did you transition then? Out of those various jobs, I know you still have a consulting company alongside. What you do is well, uh, take me through your journey to Guilmette genius
when I first took the dream and many, many years ago, who is really in preparation for applying for an MBA program myself. So ultimately did go to Stanford and, of course, had a wonderful experience. Never thought about the G. Matt for quite a while after that and, as you said, went to a whole bunch of different jobs. Universal Studios Ernst and Young came down, become chief financial officer, an Internet start up company. And once we decided to close that company down decided You know what I really like working for small companies are really like doing my own things started As you said, set up a an organizational development consulting company, which you, although I do still have, is not very active right now. Honestly, because I just think I'm so much more excited about the G Met. But when I was setting up that organizational development consulting company thought I should have some men come coming in trying to get this on the ball. So I found a really opportunity to work for one of the national Test Prep. Cos. Is a Guilmette instructor found that I really enjoyed it, but well, you should be a little bit more purposeful about this. So looked around. Find another national test prep company to join up and really help manage their whole G Matt division. And after doing that for a few years, decided, You know what? I really think that as I have seen, what different national test prep the big companies are doing, I don't really think they're doing it as effectively as it could do it. So I found that really would be a great opportunity to go and start up. Gee, Maginness myself and really try to offer G Matt preparation what I think is the right way to do it.
And so let's talk a little bit about that because, let's say a student is just getting started preparing for a test. Are there certain commonalities? Is there kind of a general framework that everybody should follow when they're beginning to study for a standardized test?
I think first and foremost, you have to understand the test structure, what it's like, what are the questions? Understand and study each question time. How does it work? What does it look like? Just from a structural standpoint? What are you allowed to do? What you're not allowed to do on the test? It's crazy. Sometimes when I speak with someone and they may be, tell me they've been sitting for the G Matt for 23 months and they're using a calculator. Well, you can't use a calculator on the G, man. That's something you want to discover on Day one. Not on day 60. So you really do understand what is the test structure. Like where? The question that's like, What are the things I should be preparing? What should I not be wasting my time on just to make sure that you are going about it efficiently and really can proceed and based on what you're allowed to dio and the content you need to know.
So obviously, a student should figure out what the question types are, what they are and aren't allowed to do what the directions are for their question formats themselves. But going beyond that, Is there a certain amount of time a student should spend kind of covering the general topic areas tested on there exam? Or should they dive right into trying to assess strengths and weaknesses right out of the gate?
You know, that's a great question. I think that it is important assess strengths and weaknesses, and I know that sometimes it's a little bit scary to do this. But I always recommend that after someone gets a basic understanding of the test structure, the question types, but the dive in and taken official practice test and I think that there's a lot of benefits of that. First of all, it does establish good familiarity with what the test is like. What are all the questions like you might have read about them, but he haven't really experienced them. You haven't experienced the time pressure that's involved, and it could be exhausting. Sometimes the G Matt is a three and 1/2 hour exam, for example. It could be exhausting, and people don't really recognize how tiring it is that the time management's important for the mental endurance is important. I think it's always good to know what you're up against. Obviously, there's a lot of other benefits as well. You won't establish a baseline score. So if you have a certain scoring objective in mind, let's not presume that you're gonna be a certain amount away. Let's actually measure how close or how far away you are from your scoring objective. And of course, let's also analyze and understand what type of questions you're doing well on what questions you're not doing as well on what a relative strengths and weaknesses because, and I know we'll get more into this, but you want to really develop a study plan based on how you can improve, and sometimes people make certain assumptions. They say Well, you know, I have my engineering background, for example. So I should be great and mad. That won't be a concern for me. Well, maybe they go take a practice test in realize that this is not the math that they were taught to d'oh or least not trained in the way to do it. And so their results were surprising to him. Let's not make assumptions. Let's actually measure and understand where you're at, understand what the test is like and understand what it is you need to do to improve.
That brings to mind one of my former students, and she sent me this frantic email saying, I don't understand. I am an engineering major from Duke University. Why can't I figure out G. Matt math and wait. We had a conversation around that, and sometimes it does. Take that that shift, and sometimes you just need a reality check. Like you're saying to say, Hey, you know what I really am gonna have to get serious about this exam is not rocket science. It's all stuff that maybe I can learn. I could certainly be taught, but I need I need to have that reality check to know exactly what I'm in store for.
Yeah, I agree. And especially because I think a lot of the approaches we have to take on standardized tests in general and maybe a little bit different than we were taught back in high school middle school, where the mechanism has always been. Here is a paper show, all your work step by step by step and really be very method illogical about it, maybe on a standardized test. Also we care about is also getting the right answer, not showing all our work, not chewing step by step. And sometimes there's multiple ways to get to the right answer. So we do sometimes need to think differently. And that's part of the challenge, I think for a lot of people with standardized tests.
So I take it you're a big believer in taking a diagnostic test. And by the way, you know Vinnie had mentioned taking one of the free practice tests official practice tests provided by the organization that provides whatever standardized test you're taking. What I'll do is in the show notes. I'll try to provide a link to the different websites and where you can find a free practice test for the various standardized test. So go ahead and check the show notes. If you need to figure out where to do that. So
and bread and I'm just interjecting the reason. I mean one emphasized why it's so important. Taken official test because I often speak with people who say, Well, I've taken a Kaplan test and I got certain score, So I'm in great shape. Well, I said, Okay, go taken official test because you know, the Kaplan least on the G. Matt, I find the scoring algorithm is overstated. Surprisingly so. Maybe about 50 80 points. Overstated sometimes. Well, the reason we want taken official test because we can trust the scores to come out of it. The scoring algorithms on third party tests are not always completely accurate.
Yeah, I echo that completely. That makes a lot of sense. So a student has taken then, um, official practice test. What next? Let me kind of phrase the question this way. What's one of the first things you do with the potential client who comes to you saying, Hey, I need help with the G. Matt, what do I do next? What do you do with them.
Of course, we first advised they could practice test. That's so important. Then what I would want to do is review the practice tests. And I think, you know, student should review the practice test themselves. It's important that you don't just go through the effort of taking a practice test and say, Well, great, this is my score. Let's actually learn from it everything you do throughout here. Preparation should be a learning process. It's not just going through the motions, it's not just doing the quantity of problems. It's actually the quality of your practice. So let's go. And from my perspective, of course, I'll just go in. Review that test. I'll see what questions they missed, what they gotta ride, what they got wrong. What trends. But what I really want the student to do is, well, is go through the questions themselves and generally think there's three fundamental reasons why people miss questions. So category NBER one. It's a concept gap. I just don't know, maybe have a calculator of a triangle. I don't remember that formula or there's a certain grammar rule about over pins. I just don't remember how that works well. That's obviously important to recognize that this is a concept yet because you know you'll need to go fill that in, so make a note of it. Don't just mentally try to keep track of it a little bit right down these air. The concepts I need to go study and learn the second category of people miss questions are careless mistakes. Well, I should have done it right, but maybe I just did a math there. Maybe I mis read something. Maybe something a silly is. I literally clicked the wrong bubble of men to click the bubble for a click The bubble for B. So we want to make a note of that, and the hope is that there's not too many of those. It's always a shame to miss a question that you should have gotten right, but you'd appear carelessness. He missed it. But let's monitor that, because if there are a lot of careless mistakes, we need to introduce mechanisms by which to mitigate those careless mistakes. And the third reason why people miss questions or finally approach issues. So I know the math rules, grammar rules, whatever it is. I didn't make a careless mistake. But I wasn't really approaching the question very efficiently. And this goes back to what we just talked about standardized tests maybe want you to approach a question a bit differently than you might have back in the high school class. So we need to then think about how can we be more efficient in approaching this question is what are different approaches we could take. And so I think that kind of analysis is good as well. As of course, every time you come across a question, a student should dive deep. Understand that question? And the hope is that you're learning enough from that question about the concepts and approaches that if you see a question like that again anytime in the future, you should not be missing it. You should do a deep enough dive to say that if I see this again anything slimmer to this again, I'm not missing it because now I know it inside and out.
And I think that third category you're talking about is really where a kn outside perspective can come in handy because sometimes we don't know what we don't know. So we might recognise I got this question wrong? Because I didn't know the area for meal for a triangle you may not recognize, However. Hey, I got this one wrong. I have the totally wrong approach. Like, what should that approach be? What is that approach? And so, yeah, that's an interesting three prom kind of attack to analyzing your diagnostic test results. Okay, so a student has taken this diagnostic test. We now have a baseline. We know where we're starting from. We know where we're trying to get to. And we have a general sense, at least on this test off strengths and weaknesses Should a student's start with the weaknesses or and completely ignore the strengths, should they strengthen strengths? How should they balance kind of their prep at that point between their strengths and their weaknesses?
Well, I think both are important. And I think the key there is balance. As you said, if someone goes the extreme and I've seen people do this, it's a well, I'm a lot weaker and kwon so I'm just going to devote weeks to Kwan, and you know what happens is maybe when they go back and take a diagnostic test after those weeks on Kwan. Sure, corn and bruise, but verbal falls. So we don't want that. It has to be balanced. I do think that if you're a weaker in a certain area, obviously there's gonna be more room for improvement. There's probably gonna be more content that you need to study. So I do think that's a good place to start. But I do recommend that every single week you're doing at least a little bit of practice on every question type on the test that you're studying for because you need that continuous reinforcement. The reminder of okay, How do these questions work? How should I be approaching them? Let me keep up and retain my skills in each question type while building up my weaker areas. And so I think for many people, of course, it will vary from person to person. But for many people, I'm finding that Kwan is a little bit of a weaker area than verbal, especially for students here in the United States. Maybe not always for clients abroad, and because there is so much more potential content that we could be tested don on the quantitative side, that is often a good place to start, but it is important to keep doing some practice in the verbal in each question type each week. Now. Ultimately, if you start with a nearly that drew week Iran, you want to start with it to give yourself more time to practice more time to improve. But at some point do have to later on studies for the areas that you feel stronger and as well. Because unless they're perfect, there's always room for improvement. And so maybe after about depending on with some of the time frame, of course, which we can talk about but generally after about 3 to 4 weeks, maybe, of focusing primarily on the weaker area while continuing to do some practice on the stronger areas, you do need to start layering in other content as well, even some of the strings, so that you can see improvements in both areas
I talk about it is being like a razor edge. Your goal was to get razor sharp in all areas by test day, and that means working on a little bit of everything all the time. You know, the analogy I like to give is when I was learning to play golf where actually, when I had been playing golf for a while, I was an excellent putter so I could make any putt anywhere on the green. I hardly ever more than two putted, which, if you know anything about golf, is a good thing. But I couldn't get off the tee. I would slice the ball off the tee and so it was killing my game. So I spent months getting lessons, going to the driving range, hitting balls off the tee, and then I would go out and I would play practice rounds and I get off the tee better. And then I'd start missing putts like crazy because I completely neglected a strength of my game. And if you don't keep it sharp, even your strengths can back slide a little bit. And so I think that's great advice. Certainly, too, to stay sharp in all areas as best as you can in the in the limited time you have preparing for your test. And one of the thing I would say about that is Vinnie's obviously talking about the G Matt. Part of it might depend on which exam you're taking and here's what I mean by that, the G Matt gives you one aggregate score where it combines your verbal and quant scores, and so they're all kind of melted together, whereas the G R E gives you a separate quant and verbal score. And you may be listening to this and you're applying to a graduate program where they have flat out told you they really only care about your verbal score. And I've had students like that where maybe they're applying to a master's of English or social worker or something along those lines where the schools have said, I just don't care about your quants scores much. It's okay to put extra emphasis on verbal in that point, or vice versa. There are certain programs that are much more quant heavy. They really don't care that much about your verbal score. But those air exceptions, not the rule in most cases. In my experience, schools want you to have strong, strong scores in both categories, so definitely don't neglect any one category.
But I think that also doesn't ring a great point, Brett, that you don't want to be studying for an exam without knowing really what your objectives are. So we kind of mentioned before. Okay, let's see what the divergence is between your baseline score and your objective. But how do we even determine our objective score? Well, I do think you want to look at the programs you're applying to you, of course, on the website can get a wealth of information such as scores for prior classes are often published. What arranges you might be able to have an opportunity to go to an event for a webinar and ask these type of questions, but you really should have a good idea of what the score is and have a realistic objective. A perfect example. So sometimes when I speak with somebody, I ask what type of programming you find. Two. And one of the important things we'd want to know. Maybe if they're playing to, say, USC marching School of business here in Southern California, where I'm based. Are you playing for the full time MBA program for the part time MBA program? Because the average man scores for the super programs are significantly different, and so sometimes people have maybe a false sense of what score they really need, and you don't want to put yourself through the pain of trying to get a score significantly higher than you need as well that there's nothing wrong with shooting. Hi. Everybody should aim high, and they're obviously are multiple benefits from getting a high score. But there's also a trade off on how much you want. Invest in your preparation. And so to do that, you won't have a realistic a good idea of what objective score you really do need to attain.
That's helpful. So let's go back to a study plan. And let's talk about hypothetically a day in the life of John Doe student who was studying for the gym at the G R E, the else at whatever it is. Let's assume maybe one of your clients. What is a a standard week look like for him or her? What should a student be doing on an average study week?
Great question. So partly we want to make sure that a study plan is going to mess up well with what somebody's scheduling availability is. So, as an example, many people setting for the G men are working full time, since MBA programs often require full time work experience. But other times, people are maybe not working. They're preparing full time for an exam or they don't have as many other commitments. So we don't want a layer on so much prep. It becomes overwhelming for a person at the same point. We want to make sure that the other idea of it is you're not having too easy of a schedule, either, that you're pushing yourself, you're challenging yourself. So I think the first thing in making that determination is how much availability do you realistically have? So for someone sitting for the G man who perhaps this is working full time, maybe they can put in 1 to 2 hours a day, week, day before worker after work. And that's a personal decision. Which do you want to dio? I often find that people who are sitting before work, maybe they're a little bit more fresh. They're a little bit more focused after a long day of work. Or maybe if you're in school right now and you're going full day of classes and group study project, maybe it's a little bit hard towards the end of the day to put in the time that you want to try to find a time within a day that you're very focused and can put in the effort. So I'd say 1 to 2 hours on week days, assuming you have significant other commitments on week days. Maur. If you don't and on weekends generally, I'd say 4 to 6 hours per weekend today. And what that's gonna look like its combination of a few things. The first thing is especially earlier on in your preparation. You need to have that opportunity to learn the content. It's completely understandable that you might not remember all these geometry rules, algebra mechanisms, grammar rules. You need to have an opportunity. Go and refresh on that to relearn some of this information that maybe you for gotten. And I think it's important to front load that because it's hard to get into doing a lot of practice questions if you don't have the fundamental core knowledge and which has successfully attacked those questions. That said, you want to maybe front load some of the reading, but he don't want to do only reading. You want to mix in practice questions so that you can apply what you're reading. And again, there's multiple sources for that. For the G man. Specifically, there are official guide, same with the G R E and a lot of other tests. And I think those are great questions because they have been selected by the test maker is retired. Questions that a representative of the test and so what I generally recommend that people do when they do practice sets is due time sets. It could be a little overwhelming, but one thing we need. Thio, make sure we're focused on that. We just don't ignore is the time management issue. If you have on a test a certain time limit on the G men, for example, 62 minutes stands for 31 questions an average of two minutes. The question. Well, if you're practicing on your own and you're taking 34 minutes a question, you're developing bad habits that won't serve you well when you get to the actual test. So what? I often recommend our ah, 30 minute block of questions and in that 30 minutes, if you say have an average of two minutes a question, you're doing 15 questions in that time frame. You want to learn to cut your losses. You want to say You know what this question, I think is gonna take me too long. Let me cut my losses on this. Let me finish the entire 15 questions in 30 minutes. There's nothing wrong with saying Before I check my answers, I will go back and maybe try the couple questions I felt a little uncertain about or had a guess on in an untimed manner, Of course. Then check your answers and do a thorough, thorough reviews we talked about before, but I would generally say on a week day if somebody spending 1 to 2 hours a day, maybe they're doing one quantitative, said one verbal set today on the weekend. Because if you're devoting more time of the weekend, maybe that's when you're doing a lot of the reading. And so if you're spending maybe 4 to 6 hours on a weekend day, maybe 2 to 3 hours is reading, studying, learning the content and then you're also doing a couple of practice that's on that day. And, of course, it appropriate intervals, probably on a weekend when you have a nice six hour, 46 hour block of uninterrupted time. Taking a practice test is appropriate to measure your progress, but that's I think, what a typical week would look like. So maybe one quantum, one verbal set per weekday, 2 to 3 hours of studying per weekend day, plus another couple sets and maybe a practice test on a weekend
Should've student take a practice test a week? And if not, how should they gauge their progress as they're going?
Well, I think Initially we talked, of course, about that baseline initial practice test. I generally would say, unless somebody has a very short time frame that initially they don't take a practice test until they've had an opportunity to fill in those concept gaps. Because if we haven't had that opportunity, taking another practice test won't provide as much benefit. In other words, if we're missing a lot of the questions because of the concept gaps as opposed to careless mistakes, reproach issues, we need to fill in a lot of those concepts Now. We shouldn't wait till we fill in every single concept that obviously is waiting too long. But I'd probably say after that first test, maybe spend 34 weeks getting really, really solid on the content at that point. Definitely another practice test, and then, as we of course, get closer to the actual exam, I would recommend one practice test a week, and sometimes people even want to do, too. Now we do need to balance the practice tests in the sense that I I've you practice s is a scarce resource. Here's another mistake that I've seen people make. They think that by doing practice tests after practice, test after practices just by awesome mostest, they're gonna become a master at the test. It doesn't work that way. So we do need to learn from our practice tests and from all practices. We talked about thoroughly reviewing the questions, the information We also need to make sure we're filling in the concept gaps. If we miss questions because the concept gaps, let's fill that in approach issues. If we are missing things because we're not doing things very efficiently, let's learn how to do them more efficiently. Let's learn better approaches and implement them. The hope is that as we do practice test in a subsequent practice test, there's improvement. We're building our skills. We're not just going through the motions, but we've done things that are going to substantially improve our abilities by implementing better approaches and learning concepts and doing things to mitigate careless mistakes so that we'll see better results on practice test. But absolutely, we do need thio. As we get more skilled, take practice. That's more frequently. And depending on how many practice s you want to dio, because there are so many official practice is available, although you can reset them. The risk is that by seeing repeat questions through reset that might artificially inflate your results, you may need a mix in some third party practice test. So often, What I might recommend someone do is alternate between an official practice test and 1/3 party practice tests. And obviously we want to make some good recommendations on what our third party practiced has to take, because definitely quality is very from company to company.
Back to my golf analogy, You can't just go out and play 18 holes of golf every time you go. That's like taking a practice test. You're not getting any better if you're actually just playing the course every single time. At some point, you need to go back to the driving range and fix what's wrong and improve your weaknesses and so forth. On the flip side of that, you can't just sit there and watch YouTube videos about how perfect gulfs where you can just watch Tiger Woods swing a golf club all day every day and expect that you're getting better because back to the G Matt, you're reading a textbook or watching a how to video about content. Some point, you actually have to go out yourself and apply it on the course or to practice problems. And so it's a nice it's a nice balance. And so I'm assuming you use the practice tests as engaged to determine when a student is ready to take the real G men. Or what if a student has on actual set date in mind? And maybe their practice tests aren't where they would ideally like them based on their target score?
First of all, you're absolutely right. We do want, in an ideal world, someone to be at the level they hope to attain on the real test that, at least on to practice tests, they've attained that level because, as he implied correctly, that there's variability within a given practice test. In fact, even on a real test. There's variability based on simple luck of questions. Election. I happen to get questions that are more within my comfort zone. Or maybe they're a little bit less in my comfort zone. So, ideally, were seeing on at least two practice tests that here, at the level you want to be now, As you said, maybe someone has a date scheduled and they're not at that level. Well, of course, that's a personal decision. You do have the opportunity, perhaps, to postpone your test. Take it another time if you have the luxury of more time. Sometimes people don't have that luxury because they are right against an application deadline, and they need to get that score before their application deadline. Well, again, it's a personal preference. Maybe if you have to take the test, you go see what happens. Maybe luck will be on your side. We hope that your star too far away from what you're part of the score is. But maybe luck is on your side and you get the score. I've seen that happen. The other thing is, maybe you get a score that isn't what you want to be, and Maybe that impacts what you decide to do in terms of ultimate applications. But you really do need to be at the score you hope to attain on a real test on practice test. Oh, have that high confidence going in that you're capable of achieving Bethel when I think confidence is an important part of it when people go and feeling confident. And I think you don't necessarily have to be at that level in a practice test developed confidence. But confidence is really important. You have to have a positive mind. Said. You need to go in knowing that I'm gonna do this. I'm going to get a great score. I'm gonna have complete focus and each question I'm going to get great results. If you go in with a bit of a negative mindset, a doubtful mind set that will inevitably impact your results.
A couple final questions for you. Let's play out a couple of hypotheticals again. We're talking about creating a customized study plan. The first question is, what advice do you have for somebody who may have only a very short amount of time before having to take their exam? I get emails all the time from somebody saying, Hey, I just found out I have to take X Y or Z exam. I only have three weeks, for example, to prepare. Can I do it? Is there any hope for me? What advice would you have for somebody who doesn't live in the perfect world? Who can't? Ah, lot that time frame that you have already talked about to preparing. Can you cram for an exam like this? And if so, how should a student Taylor a study plan for a shorter time domain?
Well, of course, you're right. People don't always have the luxury of endless amount of time. And I think one of the challenges is you have to make it a priority. So I know that everybody out there is busy. I know that all your listeners bread are very busy with other commitments work, school, family, friends, social commitments. But you have to make your studies of priorities, especially if you're in a compressed time frame. So you need to tell yourself everything else that's non essential besides sleep and sure work or school out the window just for a few weeks. I have to tell people I'm not to be disturbed. I'm sorry I can't make your party this weekend, but we have to make it a priority. And in doing that, I think you have, of course, within a camp past time frame, you still have to go through the same kind of steps. You have to take that first practice test if you haven't already to understand. Well, where are you at? How far away are you from the score you need? What are the relative strengths and weaknesses? Then you do need to in a more compressed timeframe, dive into the content and fill in those concept gaps. You do need to practice. If you don't do enough timed practice on questions, you're not going to be well prepared. I think the more questions you can d'oh the greater variety of questions that you're exposed to. It will just prepare you better for the real thing. Now I understand that with a compressed time frame, you might not be able to work through perhaps the entire set of official guides for your practice test. But as much as you can D'oh! And again it's not just going through the motions, but really learning from it. so we never want to sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity. It's okay to do fewer questions as long as you're thoroughly learning from those questions, because concepts do tend to repeat on questions. And so if you just see a question but haven't thoroughly learned from it, there's not as much point maybe you'll do five more questions like that. But if you're not learning from it, you won't be able to apply the lesson to an actual test question. Where's maybe if you only see one of those questions, but you really dive deep and you really learn the concept. Maybe you're set, so I'd always emphasize for someone who's in a compressed time for him to focus on the quality of the practice. Focus on the quality of the review. It's not necessarily the quantity if you're really learning everything you can from everything you're doing.
A second scenario, then is is there a different prescription, a different study plan for somebody just starting to prepare versus somebody who needs to retake the exam.
So for someone who's starting, absolutely, we hope that would someone just starting. They've got a little bit longer of a time frame, but as you said, they don't always. But the presumption there is that from practice tests that they're gonna take us a baseline. We'll understand what are the type of content that they need to study, what are the concept gaps that they need to dive into? And it probably will be a larger set of concepts that they need to study. And I think that's going to be something that they need to accomplish before they get into doing an excessive amount of practice problems before they get into taking a lot of practice tests. And so, as we said before, an ideal world somebody spending maybe 3 to 4 weeks, just filling in concept knowledge if they're starting out from scratch. Now, someone who's retaking the G Matt presumably has already had the benefit of going and doing all that studies. Now, sometimes people do go. They take their test the first time, just completely cold. So maybe that really is just like starting from scratch. But presuming that somebody has done an extensive a good amount of studies before their first attempt at the test, the presumption is we should have a good idea what are weak areas are. What were the reasons that on the first attempt we didn't get the score that we were hoping for. And so the hope is at that point, the study's congee a bit more focused. You know what? I really looking at my performance Feel that I did really badly in geometry. Well, then the obvious thing is less again, while studying all areas put a greater emphasis on geometry on whatever specific areas we believe led to the weakness in our first attempt. Now, another reason why maybe someone is re taking the exam is a test anxiety issue. So if someone perhaps feel very, very confident with their content knowledge, that concept, knowledge. But the reason that they didn't do so well in their first attempt was due to anxiety issue. Well, then we need to, of course, think about howto mitigate that on the second attempt. The hope is that by having gone through the motions once, maybe they're feeling a little bit more confident. They're more familiar with the test environment, the surroundings. Maybe that'll help. Maybe they felt that there were certain areas that they were a little bit weak and brushing up on that can give them that additional conference they need. Maybe there are some mental exercises, just things like deep breathing, being able to mentally relax and some other type of exercises that that person can focus on before their second attempt. But with a retake, I think we definitely want to hone in on what was the reason that he fell short the first time. And how can we rectify those issues?
So that's certainly something that somebody like you could help somebody with. Let me kind of ask you this final question. We've covered a lot of ground. I mean excellent content, lot of food for thought, different types of things to focus on content, strategy. All of this, let's say somebody realizes that they do want some help preparing for the exam. How does somebody decide whether a comprehensive prep course is better for them or private tutoring would be better for them?
Well, that's a that's a good question. And actually on the G mad genius website, we do have a page under our free preparation advice section called Preparation Options that outlines a lot of the pros and cons of many different type of study options Because you're right. Private tutoring is not right for everybody. A group class is not right for everybody. I think one thing we need to recognize about the group classes is obviously they're more cost effective on a per hour basis because you're sharing with multiple people, the instructor and the content. What that does for you is provide through it excellent overview of all the fundamental content knowledge you need for the exam. But it's obviously you have to recognize gonna be customized for the general student is not gonna be customized to your specific needs. So I think for someone who needs a thorough overview of all the content and a general level, it's a grave mechanism to take a group class the advantage. Of course, the private tutoring is gonna be much more customized your needs. So maybe you're already in a more advanced level. Well, then, going through a general curriculum aiming for the average student probably won't be asked suitable to you. Or maybe you're relatively strong in certain areas and only need focused help in specific areas. Then again, sitting through classes that are gonna cover continuity. No, Maybe not the best use of your time. Private tutoring might be a better option for you. In that point, of course, your availability is important. If you have a fairly flexible schedule, can make the class settings the class timing's great if maybe because of work demands, other commitments availability. You only have certain availability than maybe a private tutor that can work towards your schedule would be a better option. So those were definitely a few things to think about.
Great. Thank you for that. And if you're listening, I'll go ahead and post a link in the show notes to the resource that Vinnie was just talking about. So you can do that assessment and figure out what option would be best for you. Obviously, if you're studying for the G. Matt and decided that tutoring makes sense, obviously reach out to Vinny. You can mention that you heard about him through this podcast. Dominate test Prep on. If you're studying for any other exam or realize that a comprehensive course for the gene that makes sense for you, obviously you can head over to dominate test prep dot com. Any final thoughts today is your thinking about students who may be wondering how to prepare for the exam.
One thing that you and I both know is this is not easy. We understand that it's very challenging for you listening right now and sitting for exam. We know it's maybe not the most exciting thing for you to dio. There's a lot of time commitment involved. I think that's the key thing. How could you make most efficient use of your time? There are so many ways you can get sucked into wasting your time reading endless blawg posts and forums, and you have to understand your time is limited, so you want to make the most effective use of the time you have. You want to get as much value out of the time that you have. And although there are, of course, people who can go in there and spend countless hours. I've seen some crazy statistics where some people will spend 2030 hours a week for a year preparing for the exam. The reality is, most people don't have that luxury, so to make most efficient use of your time, I think that's really where some form of expert assistance is really beneficial so that you're not wasting time on learning things you don't need to know so that you're not wasting your time doing the same thing over and over. As you started off with your initial quote, You really having someone who can point out to, you know, here's the type of mistakes you're making. Here are the things you need to change because sometimes without someone coming in and pointing out to you the type of mistakes you're making, you'll never see it. And then you end up spending a lot more time than you need Thio. And so I think that's the big takeaway here. Let's just recognize the time is valuable that you have a limited amount of time. What can you do to make the most effective use of your time so that you get the results you want as efficiently as possible?
You heard it here. First work smarter, not harder. So thank you very much of in a really appreciate your time. I know you're busy. I'm sure you have clients to get back to have a great rest of your day. And thank you so much for sharing your wisdom on how to create a customized study plan. with the listeners of the Dominate Test Prep podcast.
Oh, thank you, bro. Thank you for having me and wishing all of you the listeners the best of luck with the preparation. I know it's a challenging time, but you will get through it and just wishing you all tremendous success
great. And I'll see you next month at the next G Mack Conference of Unrest in Virginia. So until then, we will talk again soon. Take care theme from the mailbag question comes from Maria, who wrote me to say quote My challenge with verbal is that it is sheer drudgery. I start feeling brain fatigue fairly quickly while I am doing verbal and end up making silly mistakes. Maria, I feel your pain. I hear that a lot, especially on the verbal side, more so usually on the verbal side than the quant side. And I have three thoughts for you. The first is to remember why you are taking the G Matt, in your case in the first place. I don't like doing laundry. Laundry is drudgery, right? But it has to be done. I need to get it done so that I have clean clothes to wear tomorrow, even if you don't like verbal, even if you feel like it is drudgery. At the end of the day, it is a means to an end. You just kind of have to buckle down and live with it and do it and get the score you need so that you never really have to think about it again. So that's kind of the first point. The second point, though. Vin A. Actually alluded to earlier on in this podcast episode when he talked about setting aside chunks of time blocks of questions you need actually train your brain to concentrate on verbal for long periods of time. We can extend the amount of time it takes before you start to experience brain fatigue, just like you can train your body to run long distances. I don't know Marie if you're a long distance runner, but let's assume you're not. And you decided you wanted to run a five K or a 10 K or maybe someday a marathon. You could do that. You could train your body to do that, even if right now you get tired when you run one mile, or even if you run a 400 meter, you know, one lap around the track. If you're getting tired, then you can train. You can work. You can go run two laps and then three laps and then four laps. And then you can keep pushing out how long you're able to run before you get tired. Same thing with your brain. If you schedule longer study sessions, you can train your brain to concentrate on verbal for longer periods of time before your brain gets tired. So schedule longer periods of time and then, in terms of making silly mistakes, use your scratch paper. You'll make fewer mistakes when your brain is fresher. So obviously, as you work on the second point that I just told you, you won't make many mistakes because your brain will be trained to think and concentrate for longer periods of time. But if you also use your scratch paper in the case of the G. Matt, for example, diagramming arguments making note of keywords on sentence corrections. You know, outlining the reading comprehension passages as you're going, it will help make sure you key, and on the important points you don't forget them. You don't accidentally make silly mistakes, so make sure you are using your scratch paper as well. So I think those three tips will help you. Maria, drop me a line When you take the real thing and let me know how it goes. I'm confident your verbal score will improve. I actually have to action items this week One for each of two different types of people Listening to this. If you have never taken a full length practice test for years Standardized test that is your action item for this week. You heard When they talk about the importance of it, you need to take one. Why, so that you get a benchmark so that you can start to assess your strengths and weaknesses so that you can create that study plan that we have talked about here. So go ahead and check the show notes. Go ahead and find a full length free practice test an official one. Take it, even if you're a little bit scared to do so. That is your homework for this week. It will serve you well. Just get out there and just do it. As Nike says Now, if you have already taken a practice test. If you're already studying for the exam, what I want you to do is actually go back to your last fulling study. Your last full length practice, tests and diagnosis. Go back through it with a fine tooth comb, assessor strengths and weaknesses. Take a look at the questions you got wrong and filter it through those three reasons that Van I talked about earlier Did you get it wrong because there's a content gap? Did you get it wrong because of a silly mistake? Did you get it wrong because your approach wasn't ideal and kind of categorized them separately and then work in each of those areas? Do you need to go back and brush up on content? Do you need to figure out ways to avoid a silly mistake? Do you need to learn a new strategy of new approach for that? But start to figure that out now, based on your last practice test. And of course, if you need help with that analysis, you can reach out to me. You know where to find me. Check the show notes. You can reach out to Vinny if you're studying for the G Matt, but either way you need to figure out your strengths and weaknesses and go back and start to do that by looking at your last practice test. So there you go. Go take action, Take to heart everything we talked about here create your customized study plan so that you can go out and dominate your standardized test.