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Top 4 mistakes Test-takers commit on the GMAT

Posted on January 15, 2011
mistakes

Over the last decade I have spent countless hours with thousands of students, helping them understand why their scores were not going up. I have come to the conclusion that the root of all lies in the same four basic problems in our approach to test-taking.
 
 

1. Brute Force Approach:

 
If your scores are not going up then we are told, as per the Indian education system, that we need to practice harder. Isn’t that what we saw in the guy who topped in school and college – that he burned the midnight oil? So we hit the books even more intensely only to realize we have hit a “plateau” and it is very, very frustrating to be “stuck” at this 620 or 640.
 
The problem here is not with practice – the problem is that you have an underlying technique that is flawed. So the more you practise the better you are getting at that flawed technique. In fact you are getting BETTER AT BEING BAD. The only way to improve scores is to use the right technique – practice will only help hone it.
 
 

2. The famous Indian “pattern” recognition technique:

 
I see way too many students fussing over how they saw a question they never encountered before during their practice. On the GMAT the chances are bleak that you see a new question type (I can imagine the surprise on the face of the first guy who got the bold-face!). What this means is that you simply have not been able to apply yourself to the question or the verbiage intimidates you.
 

3. Saving the best for the last – not taking enough tests:

 
It is going to take an hour and 30 minutes from the time you reach the Prometric testing center to the time you even see 1 question that will count towards your 3-digit GMAT score. It will be another excruciating 3 hours before you stagger your way out of the center.
 
GMAT, above all, is a test of your mental stamina. Any test of endurance, like say a marathon, cannot be won by building your reserves the night before. It takes many, many practice runs before you can build the patience and energy to last the full distance.
 
Take around 10 tests before your final GMAT in the same time slot as your actual test. Your reaction to a question under the duress of a test is a lot different than how you will react in isolation.
 
 

4. Consistency and not Contingency:

 
I have heard way too many people crib about how they find time only during the weekends. My only answer to this is if Anil Ambani can spend an hour in the morning running in the streets of Mumbai, you or I have no reason to say we do not have time.
 
At least for the GMAT – which can catapult your career to great heights! In pure monetary terms, a higher GMAT score can potentially win you a scholarship worth a few lakhs. It is hard to argue against such over powering logic that you are not able to spend 2 hours a day for just 6 to 8 weeks!
 
I suggest if you are a morning person wake up a bit early and practice from say 6am to 8am before heading for office. If you are an evening person then come back home, watch TV, relax and then hit the books at 10pm going on till 12 midnight. Whatever works for you – but make sure you study diligently everyday.
 
Studying only on the weekends (or whenever the mood strikes) will produce a very low return on investments. In fact studying 2 hours a day for 5 days is a lot more productive than studying 10 hours over the weekend because the former allows your brain to internalize the problem better and let the concepts sink in better.
 
Also the gap between 2 weeekends is too large for the brain to properly assimilate and absorb the information.
 
 
Now that you know the “secret” behind studying effectively I hope you are able to practice these principles and keep a small note above your study area which reminds you of them.
 
 
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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