What are the Dos and Don’ts to get the most out of your CATs? If you have not yet read the earlier installment of this series here, go take a look!
Most of the time, DON’T take a CAT more than once every three weeks
There are two broad modes of study: the “trying to improve” phase and the “final review” phase. Most of our study is the first phase; the final review phase kicks in for just the last couple of weeks.
During the “trying to improve” phase, taking a CAT more frequently than about every three weeks is a complete waste of time. Really! The whole point of taking the practice CAT is to figure out what needs to get better. Then, go get better! Until you have made substantial progress toward whatever issues were uncovered, taking another practice CAT is just going to tell you that you still have those same issues.
That even applies when you are trying to improve timing or stamina issues; you have other ways of addressing these issues besides taking a CAT. If quant timing is a struggle, GMAT Focus is a great “intermediate” resource from the real test makers. You can also set up longer sets of questions for yourself (in the 15- to 20-question range)—your practice sets do not have to be 37 or 41 questions for you to learn to handle the timing better. (Read this article on time management for more.)
You can practice building stamina every time you study. Figure out everything that you are going to do for the next hour or two hours. (I try to set up what I think will be three hours’ worth of work, just in case I finish faster than I think; if I do not finish, I save the rest for the next day.) Then, go for one hour without stopping—no email, no smart phone, no food, nothing. If you want to do a second hour, take a 15-minute break and go again for a second hour without stopping.
After that second hour, do take a substantial break (at least one hour, but ideally two) before you study any more that day. Making new memories is more mentally fatiguing than recalling memories (you only need to recall memories during a CAT), so do not do this exercise for more than about two hours in a row or your study will suffer.
Once you hit the “final review” phase, you can take a CAT once a week for the last couple of weeks; at this point, your goal is to solidify everything and develop your game plan.