3 Mistakes Every GMAT Rookie Makes... And How to Avoid Them

The GMAT is not an easy test. It’s not meant to be a diabolical one, but it is designed to get to your true ability level, whatever that may be. Sounds fair enough, but what if you true ability level is in the low- or mid-600 range (on the GMAT’s 800-point scale), when you’re aiming for a score above 700? What can you do to move yourself up the scoring scale?

One way to get immediate results is to recognize the mistakes you’re likely going to make along the way. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) needs some way to separate good GMAT takers from great ones, and one way of doing this is to allow students to trick themselves and walk right into easy traps. If you know that you’re prone to making these three mistakes, you can train yourself to be on the lookout for them as you prepare for the GMAT:

1) Reading and Reacting
Your goal is to maximize your score; the GMAT’s goal is to minimize the risk of over- or under-estimating your ability level. Often it does so by including convoluted, difficult-to-understand subject matter in its questions, and succeeds as test-takers aimlessly read the prompts before determining what they will be asked to do. Savvy test-takers read proactively, focusing first on what their role will be, and then reading specifically for relevant details to help them perform that role. Simply by determining your task first, you will save time and build confidence.

2) Answering the Incorrect Question Correctly
The GMAT’s goal of eliciting incorrect answers is often accomplished by asking questions that differ slightly from what a student might assume. For example, a question for which the value of x can easily be solved, the question might well require using that value to determine the value of y; similarly, many questions will require a simple conversion to be made at the end (minutes to seconds, perhaps, or meters to kilometers), and you can be sure that the incorrect answer choices will include the values that would result from not taking that last step. Test-takers who take care to explicitly answer the correct question will avoid these easily-made errors and increase their scores accordingly.

3) Poor Time Management
The computer-adaptive nature of the GMAT ensures that test-takers often struggle with pacing. Because it is not possible to save difficult questions for later, or use additional time to check answers, it is important to progress efficiently and accurately through the exam with a sense of personal pacing. While many test-takers make the obvious error of taking too much time and failing to answer all questions, others unsuccessfully employ the opposite strategy, rushing through the test and making numerous errors, only to have ample time at the end that can only be devoted to the final question. Go into the test knowing which problem types tend to give you trouble, and smartly devote more time to these problems as needed, knowing that after a certain amount of time you’re ready to cut bait and move on, if needed.

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