Is there anything more useful in your course of study than utilizing the power and might of diagnostic GMAT exams? Any well-informed test instructor or tutor will tell you that tracking your progress through mock tests is a vital factor in the trajectory of a high scorer’s GMAT preparation journey. After all, how are you able to comprehend the full scope of the exam apart from isolated practice exercises without sitting for a simulated test day experience? No doubt the advantages are copious—and not to mention fun, especially when you see your score enhance over time. Mock exams are here to show you all of your hard work and determination can pay off.
Some prospective test-takers may tackle mock tests wondering, “How am I to adequately analyze this?” Well, deconstructing them is a common obstacle, as most people aren’t aware with a full GMAT test and may become overwhelmed when looking at all the data before them. Let’s break down how to best approach the analysis process when looking at the results from your mock exam so you can better implement them in your week-to-week practice. Nothing beats learning about the real thing from actually sitting for the real thing, right? Even though mock exams aren’t technically considered “real”, they are about as close as you can get, making them fundamental in the overall preparation process!
- Correct Answers
Yes, while there may be a primary emphasis on your incorrect answers in analyzing mock exams, it’s also important to look at your correct answers, as well. Perhaps in doing so, you’re seeing tangible proof of progress, which can be a real confidence-builder as you creep closer to test day. In doing so, it’s imperative to ask yourself: Did I make the most of my time constraints and solve the problem most competently? Would it have been attainable to save a few minutes on a particular question or section? Ultimately, is there a better way to tackle, approach, or solve it? These are all vital when identifying your own progress and in particular, GMAT test-taking strengths. If you’re maintaining an error/mistake log, you may even be able to view with your very own eyes how each strength shows signs of improvement and success.
- Incorrect Answers
Clearly, scrutinizing your GMAT mock exam consists of looking specifically at your incorrect answer selections. If you are sitting for your mock exam at a computer, hopefully, it will calculate which answers you answered correctly and which you didn’t. When examining incorrect answers—which is the basis of tracking progress and curtailing your future course of GMAT study—it’s imperative to keep the following tips in mind:
First, categorize your errors. That’s right—we said categorize—meaning put them not only into Quant/Verbal columns, but examine them by question type. Are Data Sufficiency questions giving you the most problem and causing you to falter? Is it Reading Comprehension you’re having issues with when it comes to answering questions correctly about dense reading passages? Perhaps Sentence Correction is causing confusion, leaving you in a quagmire of wrong answers and frustration. When you’re able to sort them out by question type, this helps bring about alacrity as to patterns and trends.
Speaking of patterns and trends, that’s the next thing to pay attention to when exploring your diagnostic GMAT exam mistakes. Are you noticing the bulk of your wrong answers are in the beginning of a test section or at the end? Are you hitting roadblocks because of silly, avoidable errors? By understanding the patterns and trends of how these mistakes come about, we are better to solve them in the next practice test we take.
Third, don’t be afraid to really delve deep into why you got a particular question or group of questions wrong. For instance, are you misreading questions and their overall instructions? Are you making frequent computational errors? Did you follow an effective process in arriving at the answer choice(s)?
Naturally, it feels self-sabotaging to focus so much on “what we got wrong” in a given practice exam; but in doing so, you are able to locate your mistakes before they become too endemic and address them in your study time—be it in a group class or through one-on-one private tutoring. It takes a brave student to do this, as you have to acknowledge first and foremost you aren’t perfect and neither are your GMAT results. (Easier said that done, right?) Try keeping an “error log” throughout your course of study, one that you make a habit of inputting all of your frequent mistakes, organizing them by date.
Any high scorer will tell you it’s imperative to face your GMAT errors and mistakes head-on. This way, we can track a great amount of progress and take real pride in questions that were once hard and now seem rather easy. Get going on your error log today by breaking down your most recent practice test. What are your common errors? What are some frequent patterns or trends? How can you best remedy them the next time you sit for a mock exam?
In addition to the incorrect/correct answer insight one can absorb from diagnostic exams, a better understanding of your pacing is also very advantageous. But wait—isn’t it only about right and wrong answers at the end of the day? What does pacing have to do with GMAT preparation and practice tests, anyway?
Each GMAT section is timed. Even students just beginning their preparation know that you don’t have all day to sit for this important test. Like most things in life, it’s timed under the pressures of a stopwatch; naturally, we perform differently when faced with the constraints of time. Time management is paramount for high scoring success. Each practice test you take should bring you one step closer towards a better understanding of your relationship to time constraints and Verbal/Quant questions. Make time on your side and part of your test day strategy as you study, particularly when using a tool as valuable as a practice test.
- Comparing Exams
Comparing current exams to ones you previously took, say, several months or weeks ago is a great tool when deconstructing your progress and making sense of mock GMAT tests in general. Some students may even opt to chart their progress on a graph to see upward motion—days and weeks of getting closer to your ideal score. However you want to track your tests, doing so with a “macro” perspective will help you stay on top of your heard-earned progress.
In the end, remember that mock tests are available to assist you throughout your journey, not hold you back and frustrate you to the bitter end. Keep your confidence high as you tackle each one, particularly as you begin to see real signs of improvement. These are simply one tool amongst many to help you understand the GMAT in a more thorough fashion. If you embark on your exam prep 3-4 months before your actual test, try sitting for a practice test every few weeks. The results are endless, especially when it comes to attaining that elite score for the school of your dreams.