5 Things You Should Know Before Taking Any GMAT Practice Tests
I have spent over a decade in the test prep space in India – starting with CAT before going to the “dark side,” i.e. GMAT, in 2005. I want to give the readers the background about the birth of a species called MCT (patience please – the full-form is coming up).
Many years ago a relatively new entrant in the Indian CAT test prep space came up with a very innovative strategy to market. They created a “Mock CAT” series that started very early – around June or so.
One had to take a “Mock” CAT every Sunday to assess where one stood in relation to thousands of other test-takers. What’s more, the product was priced very aggressively – just around a few hundred rupees.
This opened up a new market for them – students who had enrolled elsewhere took this test series as an add-on. The low price point helped. Over the next few years in a show of one-upmanship, the rest of the CAT test-prep players jumped into the battlefield by trying to outdo each other with the number of “Mocks” they offered. This gave birth to the new segment of test-takers i.e. the hungry “Mock CAT” Taker (MCT).
The MCT, after a few failed attempts at CAT, reared its head towards the GMAT. This is when the need for mock GMAT came. In fact, the word ‘mock’ test, is a very Indian term – in the West, it is called a ‘practice’ test. Sorry, I digress.
Here are 5 things you should know about GMAT Practice Tests:
1. GMAT practice tests are like a thermometer
If you were unwell you would use a thermometer to measure how you are doing. But the thermometer cannot be a cure by itself. So is the case with the GMAT practice tests – it can tell you where you stand in terms of your prep. But it cannot make you better on the test.
The mistake that test takers make is that they tend to take too many practice tests and too often. My suggestion is you take one to begin your preparation so that you have an idea of what to expect. Take another 3 over the next 6-8 weeks of your prep. Towards the end you should take a maximum of 1 test per week.
Remember, your brain cannot “learn” while you take the test. So you are not going to get better at solving parallelism questions in sentence correction by taking more tests. You can get better only if you study in depth i.e. learn the concept and practice questions based on it. As I said earlier, don’t think the thermometer can cure you J
2. Learn to SIMULATE the Test Day
Taking practice tests too lightly is the worst thing you can do. Remember, the GMAT is a 4-hour marathon and part of the exercise is also to prepare you for the rigors of the real test. So here are some dos and don’ts you can stick on the desk while you take the test.
1. Take the test with the AWA and IR sections. This is to help you understand that your brain would already be mildly fatigued by the time you hit the Quant section.
2. Take the test at the same time you have booked your test slot (or plan to book it). This way you are able to understand your circadian cycle a lot better.
3. Eat and drink whatever you would during the breaks. This is to ensure that you understand how your body responds to the surge of carbohydrates.
1. Take extra long breaks. On the real test you will get around 8 minutes; so stick to that. Use a small alarm or a watch to help you do this.
2. Eat or drink anything during the test. A nice mug of steaming coffee can surely help you while you practice, but remember that on the real test day you will have none of this. The same rule applies for cigarette breaks as well.
3. Check your mobile phone or emails during the test. On the real test day, you will have it switched off in a locker – try to do the same here.
You can book a slot to take practice tests at CrackVerbal’s test simulation lab at our Infantry Road center. You will also be given a GMAT scratch pad to work on – this is as close as it gets to the real GMAT experience!
3. Learn to STIMULATE your brains
A lot about GMAT is how you strategize. A good timing strategy, for example, can be the difference between a 600 and a 700. With so much at stake, you should get your test reactions down to a science.
So you know exactly how to pace yourself, when to give that extra 30 seconds to a question, and when to guess and move on. This is something we train our students to do, throughout the duration of our course.
Here are 3 absolute must-dos for any test you take:
1. Keep an error log that tells you WHY you made the mistake and not WHAT mistakes you made. The difference is crucial because it helps you not repeat it. As you are going through the questions you got wrong, ask yourself “Can I solve it now?”.
2. Analyze the hell out of the test from a behavior point of view. Ask yourself – why did you make that silly error, go over the scratch pad to see what was going on in your brain when you were solving the question, why you did not guess when you know you should have, why didn’t you use back-solving for that tough quant problem – you get the drift?
3. If you found a specific area uncomfortable on the test, go back to practicing more questions from that area. Maybe you want to ask for help – if you are a CrackVerbal student our faculty is just a phone-call/email away! 🙂
4. It is all in the mind – and we are not talking Karate here!
Anyone preparing seriously for the GMAT can tell you that it is as tough a mental game as it can get! We are almost reminded about sports – how players who have great ability perform poorly when they are not in form (leading to the cliché “Form is temporary, Class is permanent”).
Taking a test and scoring low can be devastating to the morale. So it is important that you know how to keep your focus and keep chipping away at the prep. Let us take a step back and try to see the goal of taking such practice tests.
You are taking the test to:
(a) Build your mental stamina
(b) Strategize on timing
(c) Do a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities and threats) analysis for your prep
(d) indicate your final GMAT score
Yes – the last one is struck out for a reason. I know students who have not scored above 650 on the practice tests getting a 700! On the other hand, there have been students who have consistently scored 750 on the practice but because they were not able to hold their nerve – ended up with a sub-700 on the real test.
Just like cricket, the GMAT is a game of glorious uncertainties and you never know the result till the last ball is bowled!
5. Keep it Official!
Do you know the GMAT spends close to $2000 to create a single question? No test prep company can come close to it! What’s more – the GMAT algorithm is a closely guarded secret.
When I was talking to Dr. Larry Rudner, the chief psychometrician of the GMAT, I was surprised to know that even what we know of the test now, such as the number of experimental questions used, could be wrong.
So what happens is that apart from the GMAT prep tests, none of the other practice tests available come close to simulating the algorithm and question elegance of the real GMAT test. So when you take a test and end up with a random score, you get either dejected or elated. Both are wrong reactions.
Now you can choose the order in which you want to take up the sections before starting the test. This is a recent change to the GMAT test structure. It was introduced in July 2017. We have done a detailed analysis of what this means to an Indian GMAT test-taker in the this blog
The GMATPrep and ExamPack update (official tests available on mba.com) is scheduled for 31st July and our existing licenses will be valid. The update will not contain content updates. It will just be a UI overhaul with the new selection style offered.
Another issue I have observed in test-takers is not taking the GMAT prep tests till the very end because they want to save the best for the last. The problem with this approach is that you end up wasting thousands of awesome GMAT questions that best reflect the test – I would even say, better than the OG.
So once you have taken the GMAT prep test enough times, make sure you are able to solve as many GMAT prep questions on online forums. CrackVerbal students get a personal copy of this composite Question Bank that contains close to 2000 questions!
So if you are one – no need to worry, just stick to the study plan we have made for you!
Hope these techniques make a positive difference to your GMAT prep! If you’d like to share what works for you and what doesn’t, please leave a comment in the comment section below.
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