The Top 5 GMAT Mistakes Students Make

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) first came about in 1953 when graduate business schools realized they needed another way to find out whether prospective students were truly qualified to be seriously considered for admission in their programs. Having a straight 4.0 grade point average and/or excelling on the SAT exam was not enough to ensure that students had the aptitude to succeed in graduate business studies.

The GMAT is a standardized test that measures sufficiency in analytical writing skills, quantitative reasoning skills and verbal reasoning skills. Each section has a fixed number of questions or essays that must be completed within an allotted amount of time. It sounds easy, especially if you have always done well in school. However, the GMAT measures more than whether you are good at math, reading and writing. Reasoning, analysis and problem solving are what the GMAT is really all about.

If you are serious about doing well on the GMAT, it is imperative that you prepare well. Unfortunately, many prospective graduate business school students tend to underestimate this very important step. The wise candidate can learn from others’ mistakes in both preparing for and taking the GMAT, thus minimizing the potential for error. The following list of things to avoid while preparing for and taking the GMAT should help you get the score you need.

1. Not doing GMAT practice tests at all.

No matter which source or method you choose to prepare yourself for the GMAT, make sure to take timed GMAT practice tests. Many students that get poor scores on the GMAT only read through the material either in a book on on a website. Only by taking several practice tests can one truly simulate the true rigors of the GMAT.

2. Not practicing enough

Another common mistake that graduate business school applicants make is to put off studying and practicing until maybe a month or so before the test. This is not nearly enough time, even though many people think they have it nailed. A good three or four months of proper GMAT test prep is necessary to really get familiar and comfortable with the exam.

3. Not pacing yourself.

One thing that often leads to lower GMAT scores is taking too much time on questions and then not being able to finish them all. If you time each section of questions exactly the same way they will be timed on the test, you will learn to pace yourself properly and not allow yourself to get distracted or bogged down when it really counts.

4. Doing the practice tests but not examining each wrong answer closely enough to learn why it was wrong.

An extremely important part of doing the GMAT practice tests is learning what you are doing right and wrong, and why. In fact, this one of the main reasons you are doing practice tests at all. If you understand the reasons behind why you make errors on certain types of questions, then you will be much less likely to make those errors at all. These errors can be grouped into two different classifications: Process Errors and Conceptual Errors

  • A process error happens when the student answers the question wrong because they made a mistake in the process of solving the question. In this case, the student feels at lease somewhat comfortable with the concept, but made an error in the process. In analyzing this type of mistake, the student should familiarize themselves with the process of solving the problem within the given conceptual parameters. The GMAT is all about problem solving, thinking through the question, and how you reach the correct conclusion with the given process.
  • A conceptual error occurs when the student does not have enough of a grasp on the concept that the question is testing. If this is the case, then it will not matter how many times you see how to solve the problem. It will be difficult to solve the problem (without guessing) unless you understand the underlying concept that the question is testing for. In this case, the student should review concepts deemed important to the GMAT and revisit the practice question with new found understanding.

5. Not reading the test questions carefully enough.

Many of the questions on the GMAT exam are intentionally tricky and it is easy to misread, misunderstand and thus give the wrong answer. Read each question very carefully, at least twice until you are completely sure that you understand what is being asked. Attention to detail is a crucial asset in graduate business school, and if you don’t have that, then you may not have what it takes to succeed.

If you follow these tips on what to avoid when preparing for and taking the GMAT examination, you should be okay. Just remember that the GMAT is not about what you know, but about your thought processes and how you analyze and work through problems.

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