General Mistakes to Avoid on the GMAT
This article covers all the general mistakes to be avoided by the test takers of the GMAT
Not knowing what the test is aboutSections and Sub sections
: Before one takes the GMAT exam he/she should be well versed with all sections and subsections of the test –AWA, IR, QUANT, VERBAL and the number of questions per section, time allotted to each section, number of breaks, etc. One should also have a tried and tested strategy in place to handle each question type in every sub-section. Scoring
: Unlike paper-pencil tests the GMAT score is not based solely on the number of questions you answer correctly. Some questions matter more than the others. Answering an easy question incorrectly will hurt your score more than getting a difficult question wrong. You will have to guess on a few difficult questions (difficult for you) in order to spend time on the ones you can tackle. Hence, knowing how the scoring algorithm works will help you plan your test taking strategy better.Concepts tested
: GMAT not only tests the basic knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, sentence structure, and reasoning, in Quant and Verbal sections but it also tests implicit skills such as decision making, reading closely , time and stress management, and maintaining stamina. Most test takers only practice the concepts and forget about the implicit skills required to ace the GMAT exam.
Not practicing enough before taking the testNot practicing daily:
Data in the past has shown that test takers who diligently practiced every day for a few minutes to few hours versus those who practiced for many hours after taking many days off did better on the actual exam. Daily practice gives better results than a sporadic one.Not solving Official problems
: Old GMAT problems in the official guide and its supplements are the best source of reliable GMAT problems and give insight into how official problems are designed by the test makers. But many people do not practice or review them enough, instead they prefer to practice from other sources that promise hard 700+ level problems that may not be representative of the GMAT exam. Solving from too many varied sources
: Too many cooks spoil the broth as too many sources can confuse the test taker. Very often two books will have different strategies to tackle test problems especially the critical reasoning problems. Following too many varied strategies can be confusing for the test taker. However, before the test one should try to solve any GMAT problem in multiple ways so know what approach works best for him/her and practice it enough to internalise it.Un-timed practice
: GMAT is a time bound test and usually every test taker has a timing issue in the actual exam. If we were given unlimited time to answer every GMAT question probably all of us would correctly answer most of them. But in the actual exam you are given only 2 minutes/question in Quant and about 1.50 min/question in verbal section. So, you need to train your mind to answer questions under time constraint and develop shortcuts, alternative approaches, and quick calculation methods accordingly. This can only happen if you practice solving questions with a timer or stopwatch Moreover, unless your time management is good on the test day you cannot reach your desired score. Only practicing under timed conditions can condition a test taker to perform optimally during the actual exam.Not noticing patterns in questions and silly mistakes:
Everyone makes careless errors on the GMAT –calculating x instead of y, missing words like ‘Except’ ‘Not’, misreading few words, etc. But if one closely observes, our careless silly errors usually have a pattern to them. Only when we keenly observe them and become aware about the patterns we can avoid them in future.Similarly, if you solve enough GMAT problems you can easily spot the patterns in questions especially in the Verbal section and knowing and recognizing these patterns can save a lot of time in solving problems.Not going back and reviewing ALL problems:
Most of us like to practice a chunk of GMAT problems and find out how we performed. Seldom we go back and review ALL problems including the ones we answered correctly. Reviewing the sums we answered correctly can help us know our strengths, encourage us to solve those questions even faster and apply those successful practices to other questions. Reviewing and analysing our previous problems is a must to understand the takeaways from each problem and improve our test taking strategy.
Strategy errorsNot maintaining an error log:
An error log
is the window of your test-taking behaviour. What problems you answered correctly? Which ones consume more time? What question type if tough for you? Do you finish your section on time or you have to rush at the end? All these statistics from you error log
will help you to customise your guessing and pacing strategy.Not having a guessing strategy in place
: If you approach the GMAT with the same mind-set when taking the traditional paper pencil tests you will fail badly. Because once you know how the scoring works you will find that trying to get every questions right is the best way to perform badly on the test. So you will have to guess on a few questions in the actual exam. If you maintain an error log
during your timed practice sessions you will know which question types you can answer correctly in the stipulated time and the question types with which you struggle. If pressed for time then guess on those questions types you generally find hard to solve (your weaknesses) or are too time consuming for you. Always have a pre-thought guessing strategy and practice it well during you mocks. Do not leave it for the actual exam. Not having a timing /pacing strategy in place:
You have 2 minutes/question in Quant but this is just the AVERAGE benchmark. Few long and tricky questions will take more time and the short and easy ones can be solved within seconds. So know yourself and average time taken by YOU to solve practice GMAT questions and allocate time accordingly per question type. Remember if you have 700 level concept knowledge but 500 level time management skill you final score will reflect the later more than the former. Not letting go of questions
: This is the MAIN reason why many people fail to score on the D-day at par with their mock scores. The GMAT tests not only your content knowledge and Timing skills but also your decision making ability. Ask yourself: Do I need to spend these extra 30 sec to 1 min on this problem or should I guess and move on? Rushing through at the end and getting multiple problems wrong will hurt your score more rather than getting a few hard problem incorrect. Don’t miss the forest for the trees.Learning new concepts and strategies just a week away from the test
: Most experts will vouch that studying too much and learning new concepts/formulas/short cuts too close to your test date will not help you on the G-Day. Instead reviewing all the concepts, mistakes, and patterns will prove to be more helpful.Taking too long to schedule the GMAT
: Ideally 4 to 6 weeks are enough to prepare for the test, but you may need fewer or more days depending on your personal situation. However, postponing the test day for too long (more than 3 months) can do more harm than benefit. The new concepts learnt over time will be forgotten, taking so long shows that you are not consistent with your practice, and delay only builds up test anxiety. So prepare and devout time daily and do not delay your test.
Mock errorsUsing Mock tests as a learning tool
: Mock test are meant to be evaluation tools that tell you where you stand with respect to your preparation. Many test takers use them as a means for learning instead. That is why giving multiple mocks in a short period of time won’t improve your performance unless you analyse and rectify those mistakes [both conceptual and strategic] before taking your next mock.Not taking enough mocks or taking too many
: Taking mock test without the proper post-mock analysis and review is meaningless. So taking 3 mocks in a week without review will do you no good but taking 3 mocks in a month can help increase your score tremendously provided you work on the concepts, careless mistakes and timing after taking each mock. Those who struggle with timing should make it a point to take a good number of mocks before the GMAT to iron out any shortcomings in their timing/guessing strategy and follow their tested timing routine to a T on the test day.Not taking mocks under Official test conditions
: To get an accurate picture of your performance it is imperative to take the mock tests under strict official test conditions- always taking the test with AWA and IR sections. Only taking two 8 minute breaks in between the sections. Practice using the scratch pad and pen, etc. Basically, treating the mock just like your GMAT exam. Most test takers skip the AWA and IR during mocks and do not develop the necessary stamina and focus for the actual GMAT and when they give the actual test they feel drained out and distracted due to this, resulting in a sub-par score.
Miscellaneous errors:Scheduling the GMAT at a wrong time and day
: Taking the actual exam when you are exhausted or ill can drastically affect your score. Rescheduling is a good option if you have an urgent work or personal situation. Everyone has a preferred time of taking the test. Some prefer to schedule the test in the morning while other in the afternoon/evening. Practice and find out what time best suits you and try to schedule your GMAT appointment accordingly. Not including rest and off days in your preparation
: Most often test taker do not account for rest and off days in their preparation plan. Not allowing your brain to rest while preparing can badly hamper your reasoning ability. Taking a day or two off in a week while preparing will actually be beneficial rather than detrimental since this rest period will help the brain to make new associations and consolidate what you have learned over the week. Remember GMAT test your everyday logic, reasoning and decision making not just application of rules and calculation. Not maintaining and proper diet and sleep cycle in run up to the test day
: Maintaining a proper diet, exercise, and sleep cycle will help to maintain your overall physical and mental well-being and prevent you from falling ill close to your test day. It will also help to maintain focus, mental alertness, and stamina during the test. Exhaustion and distraction due to stress, lack of sleep and improper diet are the leading causes of suboptimal performances, while a good night’s rest and proper breakfast can help the test taker do better on the test.Leaving stamina and timing issues for the test day
: Many feel compelled to schedule the test once they have finished preparing and the application deadlines are approaching but often they do not get their timing and stamina issues sorted out before the test day. If you do not get these two out of our way before the GMAT there might be a huge gap between your mock scores and your actual test score. Postponing things for the last day
: Keep things such as Identity proof, passport, and etc. ready and know how to reach your test centre all this will help to cut down the anxiety on the test day and avoid any inadvertent delays and problems. Also decide what you will eat and drink during the breaks (including medication, if any) to make sure to don’t have to rush at the last minute to buy those things.Treating GMAT as your adversary
: Quite few of us cut out our social life completely while preparing for the test and soon began to resent the test. Though it is necessary to prioritize and make time for preparing but one should not shut out everything. It is important to enjoy the journey as well.