Taking The GMAT Without Studying: Is It Really Possible?

by Maximilian Claessens
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Taking The GMAT Without Studying: Is It Really Possible?

While it can be fulfilling when it’s focused on the right topics, studying can be the most boring and time-draining activity in life. Studying can seem never-ending, and it can feel as though hours need to be committed before any results can be achieved. It can also seem as though there’s never enough time in the day for uninterrupted study. For many of us, screaming kids, demanding pets, busy jobs, and never-ending social commitments are always pulling our minds away from what we’re focused on and can make studying near impossible. If you’re someone who can’t study effectively, or won’t study at all, you might be someone that’s planning on taking the GMAT without studying. This is a very risky decision to make but isn’t unprecedented. You wouldn’t be the first to take the GMAT exam without meticulous study, but while a few have succeeded, many have failed. It will be an enormous undertaking if you’re planning on taking the exam using the knowledge you have naturally, even if you’ve already been working in business and have experience with what’s being taught in the exam. The reason for that is the particular theories and schools of thought behind the questions and problems in the exam. There’s a lot that study will do for you, but if you plan to forgo it, here are some considerations you should make and bare-bones planning you shouldn’t go without.

Studying Without Studying

One major benefit of studying for the GMAT exam is that you can refresh yourself on theories from which many of the quantitative questions are derived. As long as you’re able to understand and execute a mathematical theory or formula, there are many questions you’ll be able to answer without spending too much time calculating. If you’re someone that still remembers all the mathematical formulas and their execution from high school math and your undergrad, you may have an advantage. But you should be careful that you haven’t forgotten how to execute formulas that you remember in theory, but haven’t practiced executing in a long time. The quickest and safest way to be sure that you still remember theories and formulas is to take a practice GMAT exam. When you booked the exam you were given access to two practice exams at no extra cost. Taking the first of these exams with a notebook is beneficial, you can take note of anything you find difficult. Then, once the exam is over, look up the questions you had trouble with online and find out where the gaps in your knowledge are. If nothing else, it’ll guide you in finding out which YouTube videos you should watch[1].

Even if you’re not planning on taking the GMAT without preparation, it can’t hurt to watch a few YouTube videos and brush up on some theories you’ve either forgotten or never learned. There are some very slick productions on YouTube these days and bonafide teachers that have excellent editing skills. While not every video on the site is a work of art, some are well-thought-out video essays that will give you the knowledge you need quickly and easily. After you’ve watched some videos and have a grip on a theory you didn’t really understand before, it’s highly recommended to try them out on a few practice questions and problems you find online. You don’t need a full study session to sit down and solve a few problems, especially if you do it while eating or on the subway. If you’re someone that does a few Sudoku puzzles every day, try swapping them out for some quantitative problems temporarily. It’s far smarter to get the learning curve of a new or re-discovered quantitative theory out of the way on the subway and not during a timed exam that you’ve paid to attend. So while it’s indeed possible to take the GMAT without studying, it’s advisable to take a few steps to increase your knowledge and deeper your understanding of relevant quantitative disciplines to ensure you give yourself an advantage when the day comes.

There’s More Than Just Quantitative

Besides the quantitative portion, it’s important to remember the challenges of the verbal portion of the exam before taking the GMAT without studying. This portion can be a big challenge for people who either don’t have a lot of experience writing argumentative essays or those who speak English as a second language. This portion of the exam is often overlooked, even by those who study intensely. Many who take the exam either feel that English is something that doesn’t need to be studied or they forget that this segment exists. But what’s important to remember is that the GMAT examiners are looking at the details[2]. Many who speak English every day are making small mistakes that aren’t important for everyday conversation but are going to trip them up in an exam. It takes practice to think deeply and form a cohesive argument, so it’s a good idea to get some practice in any way you can. For some people, this means joining a debate club. There are often debate clubs held at community centers at no charge for enthusiasts who like to get together and debate current political issues. A single debate session with experienced debaters will go a long way in improving the way with which you structure an argument and will help iron out English issues you may have. This is one way of having fun and being social while attempting the GMAT without studying.

The Mid-Exam Study Technique

For some, there’s a strategy that can be implemented during any exam that can be the difference between success and failure, and that’s the mid-exam study technique. For those who want to take the GMAT without preparation, this can be a life saver. This technique is based on the theory that all quantitative theories and schools of thought can be gleaned from the exam questions themselves. All questions and problems operate under a theory and a certain stream of logic. When it comes to multiple-choice, one of the supplied answers is the correct solution to the problem. If you can use common sense to deduce the correct answer to a problem, you can reverse-engineer the connection between the question and the correct answer to understand the theory behind the question being answered. If you’re able to do this, you’ll have no trouble applying the same stream of logic to the rest of the questions that are similarly constructed.

Across the entire exam, there’s a finite number of theories and methods for you to decipher, which theoretically means that you’ll only be attempting a small number of questions blind, with the rest being attempted using the logical pathways previously deduced. This is a very risky strategy because it requires a high level of mathematical competence and a sharp eye for quantitative reasoning. You need to be someone that can understand a quantitative construct very soon after encountering it because the exam is timed and doesn’t allow anything more than a couple of minutes to mull over a question. You should be someone that comes across algorithms and raw data in everyday life and can trace the line of logic and equations back to their roots without much effort. If you’re one of those people with minds that work that quickly, this may be the strategy for you.

One important point to remember before taking the GMAT without preparation is that study exists to provide those of us with regular brains a chance to solidify knowledge and schools of thought into our brains[3]. For many of us, we can’t look at an equation and deduce the method for constructing it purely from instinct. We need to know how it was done, but more importantly, understand how the framework was constructed and why. Math operates on a set of rules, but only when we understand why these rules are erected can we truly put them into use when working out a quantitative problem. Studying exists because it takes time not only to teach our brain the rules but to reach the “clicking” moment when our brains truly understand the why and how of the mathematical construct. So if your plan is to deduce quantitative theories by reverse engineering multiple choice questions, you need to trust your own brain to work quickly and make logical leaps efficiently and correctly. Also, don’t forget about the verbal portion of the exam. If you’re planning to attempt this portion without study you’ll need to be sure that you have an advanced knowledge of English and an instinctive ability to work with the rules of English grammar while demonstrating a significant range in your English vocabulary. You’ll also need to demonstrate an ability to form logical arguments and demonstrate reasoning, something that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Typically, natural mathematical ability isn’t synonymous with an equal level of English talent. So it’s important to be self-aware and realistic about your strengths and weaknesses when attempting the GMAT without studying.

Everyone is Different

The ideal amount of study time that should be spent preparing for the GMAT is different for everyone and depends on your unique understanding of quantitative theories, ability to think and make rational arguments, and grasp of the English language. For some, the ideal amount of time is six months, because it’ll take that long to ensure that all theories sink in and can be actioned on problems given during the exam. The most standard amount of time is three months, which is the perfect amount of time to research theories, practice implementing them, and drill the mind to think and work faster and more efficiently. It’s important to ensure that you don’t just understand a theory in principle, but can implement that theory when solving a relevant problem and do so within a couple of minutes. This type of skill is reactionary and requires muscle memory, the ability for your brain to reach conclusions without conscious thought, which your brain is constantly doing. You don’t think about taking a step, breathing, or speaking in your native language, all of these things your brain is controlling without your conscious involvement. The more you solve problems using a theory or school of thought, the more you move mental processes to the parts of the brain that operates without your involvement. The more study you commit to, the more you can bury quantitative reasoning into your unconscious mind and the better chance you’ll have of solving problems quickly on exam day.

If you’re choosing not to study for the exam because you hate studying or you don’t have time, you’ll need to rely on sneaking study into your day. As mentioned, watching informative and reliable YouTube videos as well as solving problems during your usual Sudoku times are great ways of sneaking study into your day. Another way of training your brain without consciously studying is to put a GMAT podcast on while you’re in the car or at the gym. ‘The GMAT Strategy Podcast’ and ‘The GMAT show’ are just two examples of exams that provide a lot of helpful advice, while also inspiring you to do a bit more reading and problems than you might otherwise do. Adding mathematic, quantitative, and argumentative podcasts into your day is also advisable and may go a long way in training your brain while you accomplish other tasks. For listening material that’s less interesting, such as audio lessons, you can listen to those while you sleep and allow the information to flow straight to your subconscious directly. There are many that swear by studying subconsciously, with people buying audio textbooks that they can play through the night and allow to permeate their minds on the deepest level[4].

So, Can You Take The GMAT Without Studying?

However you choose to incorporate the GMAT into your life in the lead-up to the exam, what matters is that when the day arrives, you’re as prepared as you can possibly be. Whether that means studying or not, only you know your brain and the limits you have on your ability to solve quantitative problems and make rational arguments, even without extensive practice and preparation. But even if you plan on not preparing at all, it’s important to at least prepare your mind in some way and re-orient your thinking so that you’re predisposed to answering the questions faster and rationalizing better. You still may not score as high as you would have if you’d studied, but you may achieve a result you can live with.

Here are the key takeaways to make up your mind whether you want to attempt the GMAT without studying:

  • Attempting the GMAT without studying is incredibly risky and requires a certain type of mind that can solve problems and reverse-engineer theories very quickly.
  • There are a lot of ways of fitting learning into your day without sitting down to study, such as watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts.
  • The right level of study is individual to everyone, and only you know how much you need for optimal results on a test.

[1] Admin, Articles Blog, Arizona State University, Accessed 2022, https://web.asu.edu/newblog/benefits-using-youtube-your-online-education

[2] Uncredited, What’s Tested on the GMAT: Verbal Section, Kaplan, Accessed 2022, https://www.kaptest.com/study/gmat/whats-tested-on-the-gmat-verbal-section/

[3] Uncredited. 12 Study Hacks to Pass Exams without Studying, Eduauraa, Accessed 2022, https://www.eduauraa.com/blog/how-to-pass-my-exams-without-studying

[4] Zilberman, Arkady, New Pedagogy of Subconscious Training in English Skills, eLearning Industry, 2021, https://elearningindustry.com/new-pedagogy-subconscious-training-in-english-skills

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