(This is one of a series of GMAT tips that we offer on our blog.)
We recently took a call from a distressed GMAT student after a disappointing exam performance. The story? She struggled through the quantitative section and went in to the break exhausted and disappointed — after months of study and preparation, how could she feel so confused by a few quant questions? Why was she struggling to finish on time? From what she could remember, the verbal section was, accordingly, a blur — her confidence destroyed by the quantitative section, she couldn’t focus, she gave up early on questions and simply guessed, and she limped to the finish, guessing on the last few questions just to get it over with. All in all, it was a very frustrating experience.
The result? 90th percentile on the quantitative section, and a dismal performance on the verbal section that pulled down her overall score.
Read that again: After all of that, her score on the quantitative section was in the 90th percentile. All her worry on the verbal section was for naught — she was essentially ‘playing with house money’, as her high quantitative score, if combined with even an above-average verbal score, would have earned her a competitive overall profile. Instead, because she doubted her performance early, she didn’t give herself a chance at the verbal section.
The lesson? The GMAT is an adaptive test, designed such that everyone will feel challenged by most of the problems that they face. Furthermore, questions that appear “easy” are often more difficult than you’d think — if you miss a word that changes the tenor of the question, you, and countless others, can miss a question that appears easy enough to shake your confidence (“the questions are too easy…I must not be doing very well”), but actually carries some high difficulty.
So, above all else, be confident throughout the test — trust in yourself and the preparation you have completed, and keep your focus on the questions to come, rather than on the questions that you’ve already faced. As Lindsey Buckingham and, later, Bill Clinton, would say “yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone (so don’t stop thinking about tomorrow)”.
Naturally, a GMAT instructor telling a test-taker to “just be confident” when taking the exam is akin to Tom Brady telling, well, a GMAT instructor to “just be confident” when talking to a supermodel. There are, however, reasons to be confident when taking the test — if you have prepared thoroughly, taken practice tests, and analyzed your mistakes, you can confidently approach the exam knowing that you won’t see anything for which you’re not ready, and that you know how to respond to any situation. At Veritas Prep, our goal is to provide students with more than enough GMAT resources to earn that confidence, and, in turn, a high score.