GMAT Impact: Please Don’t Make These Mistakes

When it comes to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. In this weekly blog series, Manhattan GMAT’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.

Recently, someone asked me: what is the most common “fatal mistake” people make when studying for the GMAT? I’ve managed to narrow it down to two.

Don’t prioritize accuracy over efficiency.

“Accuracy” = answering questions correctly. “Efficiency” = time management. Most people worry much more about getting things right than they do about managing their time well. Here’s the thing: the GMAT is explicitly testing you on your ability to set priorities and make decisions about what’s worth your time. Those are actual business skills!

In other words, expect to see questions that are too hard for you to do in the average time frame. You should actually have to choose to bail on a small number of questions—if you don’t, then you’re doing something wrong.

If you continue to try to get everything right while taking a CAT, you will almost certainly score lower (possibly much lower) than you are capable of scoring. Read the Scoring section of Manhattan GMAT’s free e-book The GMAT Uncovered Guide. (If you have any kind of account with Manhattan GMAT, even a free one, then the e-book is already in your student center.)

Don’t confuse “doing” with “learning.”

When you start the timer and tackle a set of questions or a practice test, you are not learning! You are using everything you have already learned to test yourself—to see whether you really learned what you thought you learned. Let’s call this “doing” or “testing yourself.”

The “smart” students (“smart” in a test-taking sense) know or discover that you learn by reviewing—you need to analyze your work on the problems and analyze the problems themselves. What do I mean by “analyze”? Here’s one article that talks about analyzing problems. Here’s another that talks about analyzing practice tests. These two articles are not comprehensive, but they should give you a good idea of the difference between “doing” and “analyzing.” I have spent 5, 10, even 20 minutes analyzing a single problem—and that was after I already figured out the answer.

So make sure that you’re not just doing but also learning!

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