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GMAT Diagnostic Test Recommendations

This blog article is to make study recommendations to folks who took the Magoosh GMAT Diagnostic Test.  For folks who took both the Quant Diagnostic and the Verbal Diagnostic, the recommendations here will fall into four buckets, according to your scores on the two diagnostic tests.

1) Group 1: Quant score 1-6; Verbal Score 1-6

2) Group 2: Quant score 1-6; Verbal Score 7-10

3) Group 3: Quant score 7-10; Verbal Score 1-6

4) Group 4: Quant score 7-10; Verbal Score 7-10

If you took only one of the two diagnostic tests, probably you have a reasonably good sense of your skill level in the other area, so that should make it easy to figure out which “bucket” best describes where you fit.

If you feel that, for whatever reason, one section or another of the Magoosh GMAT Diagnostic Test did not accurately capture your skills, then feel free to explore the group that you feel represents you the best.  It’s always a tricky thing to balance the well-deserved confidence in one’s own strengths with a grounded sense of humility about what one still has to learn.  Remember that few people have ever harmed themselves by being overly conscientious.   Trust your intuition to follow the recommendations that work best for you.

In each “bucket,” we recommend a different three-month plan.  Three-months is a good solid time that allows for ample improvement in one’s GMAT performance.  If you have more time, you might look at our six-month plan.  If you have less time, look at our one-month plan, but if you can, incorporate some of the materials & recommendations from the relevant three-month plan. Below the individual plans, also see our general recommendations concerning the habits of excellence.

Group #1: Quant Score 1-6; Verbal Score 1-6

Many folks preparing for the GMAT will fall into this group, including most people who are at the very beginning stages of their studying, and that’s perfectly fine.  Yes, this is the “lowest” of the four groups, but this doesn’t NOT mean you are starting with any kind of disadvantage.  In fact, an extremely intelligent student might choose to start with the advice in this section as a gesture of tremendous conscientiousness; from a pedagogical view point, this would be an admirable choice.   I will emphasize, once again, that it is quite possible to start with these recommendations and get a score in the high 700’s on the GMAT.  Again, it all depends on your commitment to excellence.

1) This is the recommended 3-month study plan.  This plan recommends several study resources that you will find helpful.

2) Use the GMAT Math Flashcards = drill these until you know them all

3) Use the GMAT Idiom Flashcards = drill these until you know them all

4) Your results suggest that you need to learn material.  Many student who join Magoosh make the disastrous pedagogical mistake of binging on questions and ignoring lessons.   Watch lessons!

In the math lessons, the first modules are elementary: if you can pass the quiz on the end of the module, don’t sit through the whole module. At the end of most lessons, there’s a summary screen that outlines what the lesson covered: if you jump ahead to this screen, you will get a good idea about what was covered, and if it’s all elementary to you, you can skip that lesson.  That’s perfectly fine for the first couple modules, but even by the time you get to Integer Properties, there are mathematic ideas not to be underestimated.   It’s a balance: don’t waste time watching lesson after lesson of material you already understand inside-out, but again, lean toward conscientiousness if there’s a chance to understand something more deeply.

The Sentence Correction lessons account for more than 50% of all the Verbal lessons.  The first lessons on Parts of Speech may seem basic, but it’s very important to master the terminology so you understand fully the later discussion.

Group #2: Quant Score 1-6; Verbal Score 7-10

Many of the folks who land in this group are probably verbally-skilled native English speakers.  It’s good that you have such a strong understanding of the verbal concepts.  We need to work on math!  It may be that you were very good at math in other periods of your life and are just a little rusty now.  It may be that you bid a bitter adieu to math sometime in the middle of high school, hoping you would never have to see this dreaded beast again, and now, after an absence of many years, this Grendel has stalked out of the infernal depths to confront you on the GMAT Quant!  Either way, we can help you feel much better about your mathematical prospects on the GMAT.

1) This is the recommended 3-month study plan.  This plan recommends several study resources that you will find helpful.

2) Use the GMAT Math Flashcards = drill these until you know them all

3) For a Magoosh student in this group, probably most of the Verbal lessons would be unnecessary.  It may be good to watch the summary of some lessons, simply to make sure that you are familiar with all the points covered.

4) Of course, watch all the Magoosh math lesson videos.  That plan has you go through the entire sequence, then start at the top, and watch them all again.  If you watch any lesson and are aware you didn’t get all of it, watch it again right away.  Conscientiousness is more important than efficiency in learning!

5) Someone in this group needs to focus on math.  You need to math every single day, especially mental math.  You need to work on developing number sense.  People who love math get excited over all the patterns inherent in numbers: as one explores, one will learn more and more of these patterns.  Of course, someone in this group should watch the eight Magoosh lesson videos in the General Math Strategies module until one remember to practice all these habits every day.

Group #3: Quant Score 7-10; Verbal Score 1-6

A few of the people in this group will be techie American students who have always focused on math & science and who reflexively have avoided “things with words.”  I imagine the majority of folks in this group will be all the very intelligent folks for whom English is not a native language.  If you are in this latter group, then congratulations on learning English well enough to read this blog article!  You have come very far, and we can support you the rest of the way!

1) This is the recommended 3-month study plan.  This plan recommends several study resources that you will find helpful.

2) Use the GMAT Idiom Flashcards = drill these until you know them all

3) If you are this advanced in math, you probably need to see very few math lessons.  Take the quizzes at the end of the Magoosh lessons modules, and if you continue to perform well on these, you are probably in good shape.  If in the course of practice questions, you come across a math concept on which you are not 100% clear, go back to the related lesson to solidify that.  Overall, this is probably not where you need to focus the bulk of your learning.  Doing a lot of math practice would be very important, to keep all your skills sharp and to see the range of variation in GMAT Quant problems.

4) Watching all the Magoosh Verbal lessons is a must.  That study plan has you watch all of them, and then go back to the top and watch them all again.  Some of the other resources in that plan, such as the three MGMAT verbal books, will reinforce the same basic ideas.  On the one hand, everything you need is in the Magoosh lessons, and on the other hand, many people learn many ideas more deeply when they are taught them in two different ways.   It will also be important to watch every video explanation to every Magoosh verbal question, regardless of whether you get the question right or wrong: always be pushing yourself to learn more deeply in every way!

5) As the person weak in math needs to practice mental math daily, the person who needs to boost her verbal performance needs to read daily.   For someone whose native language is something other than English, I would recommend reading difficult sophisticated writings in English for at least an hour a day every single day: that’s a hour over and above any time you spend studying for the GMAT.  Again, a hard habit to implement, but nothing about excellence is easy!

Group #4: Quant Score 7-10; Verbal Score 7-10

If you are in this group, then congratulations!  You already have shown tremendous progress toward an impressive GMAT score.  Now, having said that, I will caution you: getting complacent is the best way to fall short of your potential.  So many people get to this point and then lose a sense of urgency, and this is precisely why so few wind up with scores over 700.  Even though your prospects are good, the worst thing you could do would be to take anything for granted.  You still have to hunger for excellence.  You still have to apply the habits of excellence assiduously.

1) This is the recommended 3-month study plan.  This plan recommends several study resources that you will find helpful.

2) You probably know most of the content of both flashcard decks, but it would be particularly conscientious to run through each just to check.

3) It’s good to do high level reading as part of your preparation.  Certainly, you should read enough to be highly conversant with the major issues in the business world, especially those issue in the sector you would like to enter.   Beyond this, read academic books or journals.  Force yourself to read articles about which you have little expertise or spontaneous interest.

4) It’s always good to practice mental math, and if you have a facility with math, try to challenge yourself in this regard.  For example, in the USA, license plates of privately owned cars tend to have three digit numbers on them: find the prime factorizations of those in your head.  Practice squaring two digit numbers in your head.  Add and subtract fractions in your head.  By the time test day comes, there should be no mental math in which you are not already well practiced.

5) Challenge yourself to push to deeper and deeper levels of understanding.  One of the best ways to do this is to put yourself into a situation in which you have to explain a problem to someone else.  It is one level of understanding to known how to do a problem and be able to do it cold.  It is a higher level if you can walk someone who is confused through the problem step by step, answering all her questions so the problem makes complete sense to her.  You really have to understand something deeply to teach it.   You can do this in a study group, or you can find opportunities on the GMAT forums.


Now that we’ve discussed the recommendations for the four cases, I will make a few general comments.  Folks naïvely think getting a good GMAT score is all about finding the best resources with the best content.   Magoosh provides excellent content, and the content supplied by many other companies is also very good.  A large percentage of folks studying for the GMAT have access to excellent content, but only 10% of these test takers cross the magic 700 threshold.  Many many more people have the good content than are able to capitalize on it.   What’s going on?

You see, the focus on the content arises from a fundamental misconception about education.  The misconception is that education is something that the teacher or the GMAT expert does to the student: the teacher is the active giver of education and the student is the passive recipient and consumer.   That is a damaging misapprehension.  In fact, education is something the student does by herself, for herself, to herself, with the support of a teacher or expert.  You are 100% responsible for your own learning, and how much you learn depends considerably more on your own choices that most people appreciate.

Suppose you aspire to a 700+ GMAT score, an excellent score.  One could start in any one of these buckets and achieve that score, but again, your outcome will depend very much on you.  If you want to achieve excellence, then you would be well advised to practice the habits of excellence.  Here, in brief, are some of the more salient habits of excellence.

1) Be assiduous in learning from your mistakes.  This involves the optimistic attitude of always looking for what else you can learn and being grateful for opportunities to refine your understanding.

2) Focus on the process, not on the outcome.  Make your own excellence the standard, not something outside of yourself.

3) Lean toward depth over breadth: understanding ten problems inside-out is much more valuable than having a superficial understanding of 100 problems.

4) Choose conscientiousness over efficiency: if you think you understand something but are not 100% sure, then read the explanation or watch the video again.

5) Insofar as any concept or topic evokes feelings of confusion, anxiety, or dread, make yourself prioritize your engagement with this material.

6) Ask not “is this good enough?” (one of the defining questions of mediocrity); instead, as “what else can I do?”

7) Don’t be quick to check off any concept: instead, push yourself to deeper levels of understanding.

8) Ask excellent questions.

9) Learn the test maker’s priorities and preference in each question type.

10) Practice mindfulness for focus enhancement and stress reduction.

11) Cultivate curiosity as a worldview.

The great philosopher Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE) said, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Your best chance of producing an excellent performance on test day is to practice excellence as a habit, in your GMAT studies and in every area of your life, for the weeks and months leading up to the test.   Develop a passion for bringing the best of yourself to every situation.  Of course, it’s very hard to live that way.  Here, I will remind you of the Great Law of Mediocrity: if you do only what most people consider reasonable to do, then you will wind up with the result that most people get.   If you want to have truly extraordinary results, then everything about your approach from this moment forward should be extraordinary.


Good luck in your preparation for the GMAT!  Remember that Magoosh can help you!

By the way, sign up for our 1 Week Free Trial to try out Magoosh GMAT Prep!

One Response to GMAT Diagnostic Test Recommendations

  1. Sahil October 10, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

    Wonderful Article. Especially liked the excellence part.

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