There are a number of ways you can make your study sessions more effective.
The first step is to make sure you are not studying in an environment that is easily distracting. Avoid study habits that might lead to casual distractions, like studying with the TV on, or with friends who don’t take academics as seriously as you. Even using your computer can lead to procrastination; it’s very easy to go from Quantitative Reasoning to “Real Housewives of Atlanta” (or whatever trashy show you tell your friends you don’t watch but secretly love) when you are using Google search. Essentially, you want to be comfortable, but not comfortable to the point of distraction. For example, if you’re studying at home you may find it more effective to study at the kitchen table than your bedroom.
Your choice of HOW to study can be just as important as your choice of where to study! After you have decided on an appropriate location to study, perhaps your school or local library, you should start focusing on what methods you will use to study. Everybody learns differently, some people are visual learners, others learn better verbally, and others find written repetition to be the most effective means of memorization. Some people learn best by incorporating various elements of all three styles. The important thing is to figure out what works best for you!
If you are a visual learner, then you should try making flashcards; they can be used for so much more than vocabulary! Make a set of flashcards for each distinct topic in a specific subject and separate your various sets with rubberbands. This is a great long-term strategy for several reasons: not only will you have effectively prepared for your upcoming test, but by the night before the exam you will have a complete set of carefully crafted cards, separated by section and topic!
If you are a verbal learner, then you might want to consider organizing a study group (just make sure not to invite anybody over who won’t take the topic as seriously as you). A study group made up of the right people can be a powerful learning tool; a collaborative group of peers gives you the opportunity to both learn and teach. A university instructor of mine incessantly advocated this approach, professing “You cannot truly understand a subject until you can explain it to another person!”
Repetition has long been held to be one of the most effective means of memorization. Can’t remember something? Write it down a thousand times in a row and you will! Though this method of learning is certainly effective, it is not necessarily efficient. This method is best used as a long-term approach rather than as a last minute effort to study before your exam. The danger of studying this way is that you can spend hours and hours recopying notes or example problems, redrawing important diagrams and charts, and still only cover a fraction of the material you need to in order to perform well on the exam.
These study strategies employ a variety of different tactics and features, but they share one common theme: TIME MANAGEMENT! In order to successfully execute these strategies, and any other study strategy, you must carefully manage your time. One colleague (Ivy League graduate & overachiever extraordinaire) suggests prioritizing: “(If you’re in school) some classes may not be as intensive as others; if you can you should try studying during your easier classes. You have to manage your time if you want to succeed. Study during lunch. Study on the bus. Study on a school night. The fact is, if you have any free time at all then you are not managing your time properly.” Though I would never encourage you to slouch in one class to succeed on a standardized exam, the sage advice my associate offers is very pertinent. You are going to have to commit; this means dedication and sacrifice. Carefully plan your days and weeks in advance; establish a routine that works for you, and you will get the results you’re looking for.
If you attempt all this and are still struggling to achieve the score you want on the GMAT, you should explore the possibility of professional exam preparation; Test Masters offers one of the most comprehensive and effective GMAT test preparation courses in the country.