GMAT™ Exam Prep: Three Steps to Identify Your Testing Strengths and Weaknesses
Your GMAT™ exam success starts with proper preparation, the right testing strategy, and plenty of test practice.
Once you have a study plan in place, you need a firm understanding of your GMAT exam test-taking strengths and weaknesses so you know where to spend your time studying. Follow these strategies to discover your greatest GMAT exam strengths and weaknesses:
Start with a GMAT exam practice test
While you may already have an idea of where you will excel or struggle, a GMAT exam practice test will help you best gauge your abilities. Ideally, you should take one exam upfront to establish a baseline, then another one later to check your progress. Here are a few pointers to help you during this test prep discovery phase:
- Practice official GMAT exam practice questions: Make sure you’re using free GMAT exam practice tests that contain real questions from past exams and uses the same algorithm as the actual test. This is your best option for simulating the real test experience, which will prove most valuable in exposing your abilities.
- Take GMAT exam practice testing seriously: Approach your practice exams with the same time constraints and focus of the real exam. This will help you understand your capabilities and uncover less obvious test strengths and weakness, such as how you perform under pressure and where you start to lose focus. However, before you jump right into timed practice, take an untimed test first to orient yourself with the test and its questions.
- Start the exam where it’s best for you: You can customize your GMAT exam experience by determining which section you want to complete first (note: Integrated Reasoning always comes third), so you will want to determine a strategy in advance. For example, if your practice reveals that you are strongest in Verbal Reasoning, start with that section to bolster your confidence at the beginning, or you may decide to tackle a more challenging section while you are at your sharpest.
Analyze your GMAT exam test results
After your GMAT exam practice test, identify big-picture patterns across your strengths and weaknesses. This is one of the most important (and neglected) steps in understanding and improving your test-taking abilities. As you review your practice exam, ask yourself these questions:
- Why did I make this mistake? For every GMAT exam practice question you answered incorrectly, write down the reason that you made the mistake. This can include everything from knowledge gaps to not reading questions correctly, rushing, running out of time, forgetting formulas, and more.
- What can I learn from it? Resist the urge to credit mistakes as a one-time occurrence. Instead, take the opportunity to turn every GMAT exam error into something more meaningful. After all, isn’t it more helpful to know you are prone to mental math errors, rather than “silly mistakes”?
- How can I prevent it from happening again? Formulate an action plan: If you make several calculation errors, for example, your plan may entail double-checking all math answers.
- What can I learn from my GMAT exam test-taking strengths? While looking at your weaknesses is helpful, you also need to pull learnings from areas where you did well. This will keep you motivated and help you identify strategies to apply to weaker areas.
Use what you learned from the strategies above to create a custom study plan. Focus on your test weakness and create practice sets. This exercise will help you improve, while also exposing additional GMAT exam testing strengths and weaknesses that will refine your practice efforts. Use these tips to get started:
- Customize your GMAT exam practice: Build unique practice sets that prioritize your test weaknesses. Leveraging tools like the GMAT™ Official Guide allow you to filter GMAT exam questions by areas like type and level of difficulty, which can help you segment questions more quickly.
- Establish a GMAT exam testing baseline: As mentioned, take one GMAT practice exam upfront to establish your starting point. Then, take at least one more evaluate how your strengths and weaknesses evolve with more GMAT exam test practice. Measure your abilities and progress against the clock, noting that on average each Quantitative question should take about 2 minutes, while Verbal questions should take about 1 minute and 45 seconds and Integrated Reasoning questions about 2 ½ minutes.
- Don’t ignore the GMAT exam essay: Since the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) isn’t multiple choice, it can feel more daunting to study for. However, just as you would for the other sections, focus on improving weak areas. Make a list of categories (i.e., grammar, spelling, logical argument structure) to “grade” your GMAT exam practice essay against. Also, solicit outside feedback from study partners and GMAT exam tutors or use GMAT Write™, a handy tool that scores your practice essays based on the GMAT exam algorithm and provides feedback on categories, such as thought organization.
Resources for your best GMAT exam test prep:
With these tips and strategies to help you identify your testing strengths and weaknesses, remember that practice makes perfect. Your best resource for getting started is the GMAT™ Official Starter Kit that includes practice exams all for free!
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