GMAT questions are complex, testing a lot of concepts at once, so you need to really know fundamentals like math formulas, idioms, and grammar rules. But what’s the best way to learn them? GMAT flashcards! They can help you practice these key quant and verbal concepts until they become second nature.
In this article, I’ll talk about why flashcards are useful, how you should study with flashcards, whether or not you should make your own flashcards (spoiler alert: you should), and review some of the best GMAT flashcards available.
Why Should I Study With GMAT Flashcards?
For many test-takers, studying for the GMAT can seem like a long, difficult affair that involves many hours hunched over an in-depth review guide. Are simple tools like flashcards, then, even worthwhile for GMAT prep?
In a word: yes.
Flashcards are an incredibly effective way to prepare for both the GMAT quant and verbal sections. You can use GMAT quant flashcards to build your fluency with the formulas and concepts you’ll see on the GMAT quant section. Verbal flashcards, on the other hand, are a great way to improve your mastery of the idiomatic language and grammar skills.
Here are three reasons why flashcards are a great tool to help your GMAT prep:
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#1: Flashcards Help You Confront the Material
Flashcards require you to actively engage with the material. For instance, rather than just trying to memorize a list of many different formulas you’ll use on the quant section, you’ll engage with each formula one by one. You’ll be forced to ask yourself whether or not you really know how to use the formula in a quick, concise way.
#2: Flashcards Are An Effective Study Tool
According to a study by Time, flashcards are one of the best tools you can use to master material. Every time you use a flash card, you’re training your brain to quickly and accurately recall information. As you practice with flashcards, you’ll be able to strengthen your knowledge and build your memory.
#3: Flashcards Help You Master Quant Fundamentals
Questions on the GMAT quant section often ask you to use more than one skill to get the right answer. Flashcards, on the other hand, only ask you to use one skill. In some ways that’s a drawback, but practicing each skill in isolation will help you achieve mastery of the fundamentals you need to succeed on GMAT quant. Then, when faced with a complex question you’ll be able to confidently combine those skills.
What Can I Study With GMAT Flashcards?
As I mentioned before, flashcards are a great tool to help you study for the GMAT, but they don’t have long, GMAT-style questions on them. Instead, they have bitesize chunks of information on them, such as an idiom or a particular math equation. You’ll use flashcards to build your fluency with these fundamental concepts that you need to master the longer, harder GMAT questions.
Most GMAT quant flashcards ask you about simple math concepts such as: “What is a polygon” or “Factor this equation.” These bite-sized math chunks are basically the fundamental high school math skills you’ll need to answer the more complicated math questions on the GMAT quant section.
Most GMAT flash cards for the verbal section focus on either idioms or grammar terms. Idiom flashcards ask you to explain the meaning of common idioms that you’ll see on the GMAT verbal section, while grammar flashcards ask you about grammar concepts that come up on sentence correction questions, such as identifying where to correctly place a comma in a sentence.
Again, GMAT flashcards don’t focus on GMAT-style questions. Rather, they focus on building the fundamental skills you need to answer GMAT-style questions.
How to Study With GMAT Flashcards
As with any study method, there are good and bad ways to practice. In this section, I’ll teach you the best way to study with GMAT flashcards to maximize your studying time.
The best way to study GMAT flash cards is to use the waterfall method. In the waterfall method, you work through smaller and smaller subsets of flashcards as you learn the different topics, then work back up through the cards once you’ve learned them all.
Let’s see how that works. Take your pile of flashcards.
First, you’ll go through the cards individually. For each card that you can answer right easily, you’ll put it in the “Know it” pile on the left. For each card that you answer wrong or struggle with, you’ll put it in the “Struggled” pile on the right.
Once you’ve gone through all of your flashcards, pick up the “Struggled” pile. Go through this pile. For cards that you can answer, place them in a second “Know it” pile next to but not combined with the first “Know it” pile.
For cards that you can’t answer, make a new “Struggled” pile next to but not combined with the first “Struggled” pile. Repeat this process until your “Struggled” pile only has 4-5 cards. This process creates your “waterfall.”
After you’ve worked through all of your flashcards, you’re going to move back up the “waterfall.” Starting with the last “Struggled” pile, repeat these flashcards until you can answer every question in the pile.
Then, add the most recent (the rightmost) “Know it” pile. Go through these cards until you can get all of the answers right. If you miss any cards, shuffle the cards and start again. Continue this process with every stack of cards as you move back up the waterfall. Keep going until you can answer every card correctly.
The waterfall method works because you’re seeing the concepts that you struggle with the most often. You’ll study the cards you don’t understand more than you’ll study the concepts you’ve already mastered.
Eventually, you’ll have worked through your flashcards so often that you’ll know every concept.
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Should I Make My Own GMAT Flashcards?
There are tons of free GMAT flash cards out there. Is it worthwhile to make your own?
Yes. The best flashcards are the flashcards you make yourself.
For one thing, writing down material is a great way to learn it. As you’re making your flashcards, you’ll be writing material, which will help you learn.
You can customize your flashcard set so that it contains more of the content you’re struggling with and less of the content you’ve already mastered. Building your flashcard deck with lots of cards on topics you struggle with will help you see those questions more often and lead to faster mastery.
When making your own flashcards, then, consider the topics you struggle with. Maybe you have trouble mastering the rules of probability. Maybe you really struggle with idioms. Build cards with those questions into your deck.
You’ll want to have two sides to each flashcard. On one side, you’ll give an example of a skill. For instance, you might want to write: “How do you find the area of a triangle?” On the second side, you’ll provide the correct answer to the question. You can also have a short question (such as, “Factor this equation”) on the first side, with the answer on the second side.
Ideally, you’ll make your flashcards on notecards so that you can use the waterfall method when you’re studying. You can purchase notecard decks or rings at any office supply store. You can also use an app to make your flashcards or create them in a program like Microsoft Word.
Keep your flashcards short and sweet. Flashcards aren’t the place to test your ability to solve long, multi-part questions. Each flashcard should only test one specific skill. Testing one specific skill means that you’ll have a targeted focus for each card and that you’ll be able to easily identify which skills you’re struggling with.
Best GMAT Flashcards Review
If you don’t want to make your own flashcards, or you’re looking to supplement your own flashcard deck with other flashcards to practice, there are a number of different options available around the web. There are free GMAT flashcards that you can download or use online, as well as flashcards you can purchase. In this section, I’ll review some of the best GMAT flashcards out there.
Beat the GMAT
- Cost: Free with login
- Format: PDF or app
Beat the GMAT’s downloadable flashcards cover all the major topics tested on the GMAT, as well as strategies for the verbal and quant sections. You can practice memorizing different formulas you’ll see on the quant section as well as applying the knowledge you’ve gained with short, one-step questions. These flashcards come in PDF form or through an app, so you can use them with the waterfall method or just pull out your phone if you don’t have a lot of space to work in.
- Cost: Free with login
- Format: PDF
GMAT Club has an extensive array of flashcards that cover almost every concept you’ll see on the GMAT, from statistics to subject-verb agreement. This set is the most complete set of flashcards you’ll find on the GMAT. The questions are presented in easily digestible chunks which make the flashcards perfect for truly targeting your practice and mastering fundamentals one at a time. The PDF does have four different flash cards on one page, so you’ll have to spend some time with scissors getting them ready for use.
- Cost: Free
- Format: Online or in-app
Magoosh’s online GMAT flashcards are easy to use and get started with. You don’t have to have a login or download an app; you can simply visit the website to get started. The site breaks down flashcards by concept (e.g., algebra or number properties) and offers mixed concept review as well. The flashcards ask you questions about concepts more than they ask you to memorize formulas, such as “How do we add or subtract fractions?” If you’re looking for clear, quick answers, these cards might not be for you, as the explanations can be a bit wordy. Unfortunately, since you can only use these flashcards online, you can’t use the waterfall method with them.
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- Cost: $12.70
- Format: Paper flashcards
Kaplan’s GMAT flashcards are better for building your knowledge of the GMAT than for testing the actual content on the test. While there are cards that review grammar, math formulas, and idioms, a large percentage of the flashcards focus on the GMAT itself, asking questions about the different sections of the test or how much time you have for each section. The breakdown of the flashcards is 260 cards for the quant section, 190 cards for the verbal section, and 50 cards on the test format itself. If you’re not concerned about the mechanics of taking the test, I’d skip these cards. You can get better flashcards for free from Beat the GMAT or GMAT Club.
Ready4 GMAT (Formerly Prep4 GMAT)
- Cost: Free with in-app purchases
- Format: iOS/Android app
Ready4 GMAT (formerly Prep4 GMAT) is a great app that has a number of features, including practice questions, in-depth answer explanations, and personalized coaching and feedback. The app also has hundreds of flashcards that review important GMAT skills, like idioms and formulas. The app also contains flashcards that review vocabulary words you may see on the GMAT verbal section. While you can access the vocabulary flashcards and some introductory flash cards for quant and verbal for free, you have to subscribe to the app to use all of the features. A subscription is a one-time fee of $19.99 (not including tutoring).
The app has a sleek design and is packed with content, but can be buggy and slow. If you’re already thinking about purchasing the app, the flashcards are a nice bonus feature. If not, I’d use one of the other resources before trying this one. Unfortunately, since you can only access these flashcards via an app, you can’t use the waterfall method with them.
Are you filled with flashcard card and wondering how to build flashcards into your GMAT study plan? Well, you’re in luck! Check out our total guide to crafting a GMAT study plan and learn about how many hours you should devote to studying with flashcards every week.
Wondering what other GMAT resources you can use to supercharge your prep? Don’t worry, we’ve done all the research for you. We’ve compiled guides on the best GMAT books, as well as the Best Online GMAT Resources (link coming soon!). Check out these detailed guides to find the resources that’ll work for you.
Looking for even more ways to achieve your GMAT goal score? Our guide to the top 10 GMAT strategies offers tips and strategies to help you ace your practice and the GMAT itself on test day.