“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results”
Preparing for the GMAT exam is a tricky task. Even with the right prep strategy in place (you can read more about the how and when of test prep here), you might still find yourself struggling with one problem after another, or unable to let go of that one question that keeps nagging at you like something caught between your teeth. When you are preparing for the exam on your own, it becomes an even tougher challenge.
Discipline – before, during and after each mock test – is usually the biggest casualty when there are no institutes enforcing a GMAT – like atmosphere, no friends to play Test Administrators and no mentors to go over your mistakes. After a lot of conversations with our students, we’ve distilled some of the most common mistakes you might make (or already be making) during test prep, and how to avoid them.
- One-shot Approach
GMAT is one of those rare competitive exams that give you the chance to retake the test as often as you want, allowing you a second chance to qualify in the same academic year. So one need not worry about “Putting all your eggs in one basket”. While each test does cost a pretty penny, it helps to take a GMAT test as a ‘practice’ test – it will prepare you for the whole exam-day process from beginning to end, serving as a dry run for a more serious attempt at the next available slot. You need not worry that if you end up scoring low you will have to waste an entire year to attempt the exam again. GMAT can be attempted up to 5 times in a calendar year with a 16-day gap between each attempt.
- Too late to get through the gate
When you schedule your test, always make sure you do not take it too late to have a retest should you need it. Planning for a retest (which you might not need) that’s still within your preferred school’s admissions window is what smart candidates do. After all, it is better to have an extra arrow in your quiver and not need it, than to have none when you need one! As stated above you have the option to retake the exam up to 5 times so you need not fret in case you have obtained a low score. You can always scrutinize on where you went wrong and work on the problematic areas so that in your next attempt you can overcome the same. It is definitely beneficial for the candidates to do a Strengths and Weaknesses analysis so that they don’t repeat the same errors the second time they attempt the exam.
- Consistency and Over-confidence
There is a saying we have about mock tests: the last thing you must be happy with is a consistent score! (Unless it’s 760!) A mock test must familiarize you with the rigors and demands of the GMAT. Since the GMAT is an adaptive test, a steady score essentially means that you have not improved significantly enough to be given tougher – and higher scoring – questions. Thus, a steady score across different mock tests should not lull you into a false sense of security. Instead, your aim should be to score higher each time. There is no certain way to overcome the adaptive test so the only measure one can take is to become more familiar with the pattern. The mock tests only ensure that you are more prepared for this type of testing and it is not something unfamiliar for you. Keep in mind that the mocks can only give you an approximate score range which you may fall under, this may not always be completely accurate. Mock tests also enable a candidate to get accustomed to the testing conditions of GMAT like – the break schedules, no use of a calculator in the quant section and of course the time you take to solve each section.
- Partial Preparation
Different schools of thought guide candidates differently. Some advise you to concentrate on your weaker areas; others advise you to bank on your strengths. Neither technique will guarantee you success on the GMAT, which requires you to have both breadth and depth of knowledge on the test topics. The only way to guarantee a high score is to diligently and equally practice all sections and different question types. This is where a study plan plays a huge role since it helps you keep a track on the progress you have made so far. It also assists you so that you don’t miss out on any of the important topics or overlook some categories either. Preparation is a key element for the GMAT exam and it is vital that you are not neglectful of this. Planning and executing different study strategies will without fail prove beneficial at the time of the exam.
- Obsessing over Questions
Some questions, we know, will be difficult to let go. They nag at your sense of accomplishment or insult you with their remarkably-easy solutions. In any case, you get caught up. Pursuing tough questions is something that seems obvious enough, but you must ensure that it does not turn into an obsession that takes away time you should be spending on other topics. Set yourself a hard deadline if you catch yourself in the grip of a question that won’t let go – sometimes, a fresher look a few hours later does a wonderful job of making everything look simpler! Pacing yourself is another critical element, where you need to allocate time appropriately for each section. Devoting too much time on a single section or too less time on any section is not recommended. Both of these could result in costing you a precious few points on your score.
- Taking your mock test scores too seriously
We can’t emphasise this enough: mock tests’ scores are only indicative of how you might do on the actual test, and even that is conditional on various other factors such as the complexity of the mock tests, the environment you practice in, the mental space you are in on the days of the tests, etc. But beyond that, practice scores mean very little. The important thing is how you prepare for every mock test. As mentioned earlier these tests can only provide you with an approximate range of GMAT scores which you may end up with. They are not 100% accurate and therefore you must not either be complacent/overconfident or dejected/disappointed with the scores you receive in the mock exam. Determining your actual GMAT scores on the basis of your mock scores is not a wise idea as you may encounter a completely different outcome at the end of the day. Click for Free GMAT Online Mock Test.
- Going overboard with your prep
Preparing for GMAT is not a short-term commitment. It will take time to identify and eliminate bad test-taking habits, sharpening your skills and knowledge sets, to get into a comfort zone with the test’s conditions and requirements. A typical mock-test regime we recommend is fifteen tests in about as many weeks or less, with the time in between spent identifying weaknesses and augmenting strengths. Given the intensity of this exercise, a burnout is always on the cards. Prep fatigue can typically strike in the last few days leading to the test – the ‘home stretch’ if you will – resulting in diffidence, over-confidence or carelessness; it can destroy focus and disturbs your state of mind to the extent that you might forgo your strategy or even freeze. The key, therefore, is to schedule your mock tests and actual test such that you hit the latter at the peak of your focus. If you feel prep fatigue coming on, take some time off to refresh and reorient yourself.
- Setting yourself up for failure
Unlike many other exams, the GMAT is specifically designed to highlight a candidate’s skill profile. Thus, it is entirely possible that some of you may score highly while others might not, perhaps on account of just a section or two. It is essential that you understand your limitations and, rather than getting discouraged at that point, rework your strategy to maximize the chances of a conversion. To put it bluntly, not everyone is going to score in the mid-to-high seven-hundreds, but there is no dishonor in being a 680er if it fits in with your overall MBA goals. There are plenty of good B-schools that take candidates with a 650+ score if other criteria are met! You can always build a strong profile by strengthening the other aspects of your application namely – SOP, LOR, completing internships and acquiring online certifications.
BYJU’S will be glad to help you in your GMAT preparation journey. You can ask for any assistance related to GMAT and MBA from us by just giving a missed call at 08033172797, or you can drop an SMS. You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.