Over the last few years, I have trained over 5000s of students for the GMAT. Some have scored spectacularly well , while some have not been able to score as much as they desired. Recently a student asked me what my observations were, on the top mistakes made by my students on the GMAT.
Since most of my students are Indians, I will qualify it further, as in the title of this blog.
#1 Incorrectly focusing on Idioms in sentence correction.
In the class, despite telling them more times than I care to remember, I invariably have someone picking the answer based on their understanding of the idioms. While these are obviously valid reasons to separate the right from the wrong answer options, I insist that as Indians, we should pick something more clear (and certain) such as parallelism, subject verb agreement, and comparisons.
Some variations of this problem would be the students picking the right answer choice because it “Sounds right” or because “Being” is considered wrong on the GMAT.
#2 Trying to focus on understanding the entire RC passage
While solving RC questions, students seem to be caught up in the details of the passages. Instead the students who do very, very well on the GMAT understand that they just need to have a bird’s eye-view (as opposed to a worm’s eyeview) of the passage.
Remember you are NOT tested on how much of the passage you understand. You are tested on whether you can answer the questions correctly. Trying to understand the entire passage not only takes your focus away from the main task but also ends up sucking your time in a big way.
#3 Getting lost in dense CR arguments
Perhaps the culprit here is the Indian mentality of solving based on “rules”. The only “rules” that really help you on the GMAT CR are the ones you make while solving 100s of questions. So when you see a subjective conclusion being made based on an objective data (“He will get into Harvard because he has a 760 on the GMAT”) you will be able to quickly spot the underlying link (“correlation between GMAT scores and getting into HBS”).
As long as you are able to do this, there is no reason to really learn the X->Y therefore Y’-> X’ stuff (I just made it up – but you know what I mean :)). Instead learn to apply yourself on the question by using real-world assumptions and some solid reasons to eliminate the wrong answers.
#4 Having a limited approach on Quant
This is a corollary to the above problem. In Quant, the inability to step outside your comfort zone – solving questions by plugging in values into the variables of an equation – is perhaps your biggest enemy.
Remember that there is no single “best” approach in Quant and that you just need to get it right within the prescribed time-limit. This means you may need to “hack” your way through by plugging in test-cases in DS and back-solving & approximation in PS.
Are these methods very elegant? Heck no! But they are effective. So unless you have this “swiss-army knife” equivalent of strategies on quant – you will be in trouble in Quant on the GMAT especially after the 80th%ile.
#5 Inability to make educated guesses on the GMAT
Right from childhood we are taught to keep chipping away at the problem till we get a solution. Maybe it is a great approach to life (though I disagree with the fundamental concept). But on the GMAT, the consequences can be disastrous.
At the cost of sounding like a shrink, I just tell my students to “let go” of the fear that a particular question can tank their scores. It’s like kung-fu, unless you are able to overcome your “ego” – you will not be able to get better of the opponent (read as “the GMAT”)
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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