With regard to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. In this blog series, Manhattan Prep’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.
“How do I make sure I don’t get more than two, three, or four questions wrong in a row?”
Students ask this all the time—they have heard that GMAT scoring penalizes us for getting a lot of questions wrong in a row.
This is true, to some extent. The GMAT test writers prioritize steady performance over the length of the entire test, so they have built safeguards into the algorithm to ensure that if, for example, we spend too much time early on, we will get penalized for running out of time at the end.
So… how do I avoid getting multiple questions wrong in a row?
People will say something like, “I am pretty sure I got the last two wrong—I just outright guessed on the last one. Now, how do I make sure I get the next one right?”
You cannot. You can never “make sure” that you get any particular question right. If you could…well, then you would not need any help, right? Nobody on the planet, not even the best test takers, can guarantee that they are going to answer any particular question correctly.
What do I do when I know I have just gotten a couple of questions wrong?
You are going to hate my answer: you ignore it. Do not even think about it in the first place.
You likely hate that answer because you feel that you have no control—and you are right. We cannot control this at all. That is why we should not waste a single second thinking about it. Try the question in front of you for some reasonable amount of time. If you just cannot do it in the expected time frame, find a way to make a guess and move on.
Spending more time (more than the rough average) does not actually increase the chances that you will get something right!
Expect that you are not going to be able to answer everything.
Know how to make an educated guess wherever possible.
Acknowledge when a problem just is not going your way, and, when needed, make a random guess without wasting a single second longer.
Change your response to the thought “I have to get this one right.” Have you already read this article: But I studied this – I should know how to do it!? If so, then you will remember that we talk about changing your response to the “but!” feeling. (If not, go read the article right now.)
The same thing applies here. When you find yourself thinking, “Oh, I need to get this one right!,” change your reaction. Instead of spending extra time and stressing yourself out, tell yourself, “I cannot guarantee anything. If I can do this one in regular time, great. If not, I will guess without losing time on it and move on.”