# GMAT™ Exam Prep: Three Steps to Identify Your Testing Strengths and Weaknesses

An important step in preparing for the GMAT exam is figuring out where to begin.

While having a study plan is a critical first step, you also need to know where to focus your efforts. To do this, you need a firm understanding of your GMAT test-taking strengths and weaknesses. Only then can you establish a baseline for success and figure out where to spend your time studying.

Follow our three-step plan to discover your greatest GMAT strengths and weaknesses:

1. Take practice exams

• Take “official” GMAT practice exams: Don’t rely on just any practice tests. Use free practice exams from the makers of the GMAT, as these contain real questions from past exams and use the same GMAT 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.
• Pretend it’s a real test: Approach your practice exams with the same time constraints and level of focus as you would the real exam. This will help you understand your capabilities and uncover less obvious 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.
• Strategize section order: When you take the actual GMAT exam, you can customize your experience by determining which section you want to complete first (note: Integrated Reasoning always comes third). Therefore, you’ll want to determine a strategy in advance. For example, if your practice reveals that you’re strongest in Verbal Reasoning, you may want to start with that section to bolster your confidence at the beginning of the exam, or you may decide to tackle a more challenging section while you're sharpest.

After you take a practice test, identify big-picture patterns across your mistakes and successes. This is one of the most important (and neglected) steps in understanding and improving your GMAT-taking abilities. As you review your practice exams, ask yourself these questions:

• Why did I make this mistake? For every 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 error into something more meaningful. After all, isn’t it more helpful to know you’re prone to mental math errors, rather than “silly mistakes”?
• How can I prevent it from happening again? Now it’s time to make an action plan! If you make a lot of calculation errors, for example, your action plan may entail double-checking all math answers.
• What can I learn from my test-taking strengths? While looking at your weaknesses is helpful, you also need to pull learnings from areas where you did well. This will not only keep you motivated, but it will also help you identify strategies to apply to weaker areas.