There’s this trend among GMAT aspirants:
For some reason, many aspirants believe that taking practice test after practice test is a great way to prepare for the GMAT.
We’re so baffled by this idea that we decided to write an entire blog about GMAT practice tests and how you should be using them.
And no, this is not a rant. Promise. You’ll learn useful stuff from it!
In case you don’t believe us, here’s what we’ll discuss in this article:
- GMAT Practice Tests = Thermometers
- GMAT Practice Test ≠ Brain Gym
- Simulate the Test Environment
- Learn to Strategize
- Keep It Official!
Confused? Don’t worry!
Read on to figure out what we mean.
1. GMAT Practice Tests = Thermometers
Do you ever just pick up a thermometer to check your body temperature as you walk about your house?
Well, nobody does.
Are you getting the drift?
There’s such a thing as an appropriate time to use a thermometer even though there’s no rule that says you can’t randomly use it to check your temperature.
It’s a different matter entirely that it’s just weird to check your body temperature for no reason.
The case is exactly the same when it comes to GMAT practice tests. Of course, you can go take a test whenever you feel like it, but it is really odd to just keep taking them.
We think it’s odd because it serves no purpose. Just like a thermometer, a GMAT practice test is a diagnostic tool. You’re supposed to use it when its report is going to help you decide on a future course of action.
Depending on the score you get on a practice test, you can figure out whether you need more prep or if you’re ready for the real deal.
What on earth is the point of thundering through some 50 tests one after the other?! It is literally like measuring your body temperature every hour of the day just because you can!
If you think we’re wrong and that you are, in fact, finding it useful to take test after test, this next one is for you.
2. GMAT Practice Test ≠ Brain Gym
Here’s a fun fact:
The human brain cannot take a test and learn simultaneously!
Don’t believe it? Well, think about this:
When someone throws a ball at you, you catch it. But you probably missed the catch more often as a kid than you do now, right?
Did you get better because people kept throwing balls at you or did you get better because your overall hand-eye coordination got better doing everyday activities?
Now, let’s try and apply this analogy to your GMAT prep. Every practice test you take is like a ball thrown in your direction. If you keep having a ball thrown at you and give yourself no time to process why you failed or succeeded at catching it, you’ll never know why you’re getting better or worse.
This leaves you in no position to control whether or not you get better, going forward.
Further, when it is something as simple as catching a ball, the right way to do it is pretty straightforward. But the moment it comes to something like GMAT Quant… you know what we’re getting at.
The point we’re making here is simple:
Repeatedly taking GMAT practice tests is not going to help you get better at taking the GMAT. What will help, though, is studying the concepts that the GMAT tests you on.
It’s one thing to solve practice questions and completely another to take full-blown practice tests. Once you’ve learned concepts, go ahead and solve practice questions to help internalize what you’ve learned.
You should only approach GMAT practice tests when you’ve prepared for the entire exam because the point of taking a practice test should be something entirely different. In fact, that’s what the next section of this piece is about.
3. Simulate the Test Environment
The GMAT is unlike any other public test in that it is more interested in seeing how you apply what you know rather than in testing how much you know in the first place.
As such, there are two elements to GMAT prep:
One is that you are expected to work on expanding your knowledge. Actually, the entire GMAT Syllabus, from Quant to Verbal, is based on things we’ve already learned in high school. So, you don’t really have to learn “new” concepts, you just have to refresh your memory.
The second element of preparing for the GMAT is learning how to take advantage of the GMAT exam pattern. Given the way the exam is structured, it allows you to leverage the given information to find answers without actually solving every question.
In fact, there are many tips and tricks to game the system and use the GMAT exam pattern to your advantage.
What we’re trying to say is this:
GMAT practice tests aren’t meant to help you practice solving questions; they’re meant to help you get better at taking the GMAT.
As such, there are a few Dos and Don’ts that we recommend while taking GMAT Practice Tests:
- Take the test with the AWA and IR sections. This is to help you understand that you’re already going to be mentally tired after the Quant and Verbal sections.
- Take the test at the same time as your booked or prospective test slot. This way you are able to understand your circadian cycle a lot better.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 to cigarette breaks.
- 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.
Basically, do everything that you’d do during your actual GMAT test attempt and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do then.
4. Learn to Strategize
As mentioned in the previous point, a lot of your GMAT prep is about learning to take the GMAT test. That’s based on how you strategize.
For example, a good time management strategy can be the difference between a 600 and a 700.
With so much at stake, you should get your test strategies down to a science.
You should know exactly how to pace yourself, when to give those 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.
In our opinion, these are 3 absolute must-dos for any test you take:
- Keep an Error Log
An Error Log tells you WHY you made the mistake and not WHAT mistakes you made. The difference is crucial because it helps you to not repeat it. As you go through the questions you got wrong, ask yourself, “Can I get the right answer now?”
If you can, the Error Log has done its job.
- Analyze Your Practice Test
Honestly – analyze the hell out of every practice test you take from a behavior point of view.
Ask yourself why you made that silly error, go over the scratch pad to see what was going on in your brain when you were solving the question, check why you did not guess when you know you should have, look into why you didn’t use back-solving for that tough quant problem – you get the drift?
Thoroughly understand the mistakes you’re making and see what mental blocks are leading you to make them.
- 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!
Ultimately, the GMAT is as much a mind game as it is a test of your aptitude for management. Anyone preparing seriously for the GMAT can tell you that. That’s why the way you handle failure is very important.
Taking a test and getting a low score can be devastating to morale. So, it’s important to know how to stay focused and keep chipping away at the prep. Also, remember that practice tests are not indicative of the final score you should expect on the GMAT.
You could never cross 650 on practice tests and end up with a 700+ on the actual GMAT, or vice versa. In short, no matter what your practice score is, don’t let it affect your prep.
The GMAT is like cricket – it’s a game of glorious uncertainties and you never know the result till the last ball is bowled!
Next up, we talk about the kinds of practice tests you should be taking.
5. Keep it Official!
Did you know that the GMAC spends close to $2000 to create a single question on the GMAT?
There’s no way any test prep company could do anything close to that!
None of the practice tests available on the internet come close to simulating the algorithm and question elegance of the real GMAT test. The only ones that can do so are the official GMAT practice tests provided by the GMAC.
However, there are only 6 such tests available.
That’s another reason why we recommend that you solve practice questions from official sources first and then go on to intelligently use the 6 available official GMAT practice tests.
By ‘intelligently’ use these tests, we don’t mean ‘save them all for the end’.
We’ve observed that most test-takers don’t take the official GMAT prep tests until the very end because they want to save the best for the last. The problem with this approach is that your prep will end up being guided by tests that don’t adequately reflect the GMAT.
That way, there’s a chance you may not be prepared for how the real GMAT test at all!
Isn’t that scary?!
Sure is, to us! The best way to avoid that is to pace out and plan your prep in a way that incorporates the official GMAT practice tests from time to time.
One thing you can do to make up for the lack of unlimited official tests is to solve GMAT prep questions on online forums. CrackVerbal students get a personal copy of a composite Question Bank with about 2000 questions from previous GMAT tests!
So, if you are one – don’t 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 let us know in the comment section below.
Head over to our free GMAT Resource Library for more useful information on how to achieve an awesome GMAT score!