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How is it possible that some students work incredibly hard at GMAT prep for months, read all the study guides, and do hundreds of practice questions—and then end up with a terribly disappointing score on exam day?
This is a worst case scenario for many reasons: wasted time, loss of confidence, a significantly weakened B-school application…and of course, having to take the test all over again!
So why do hard working, intelligent test-takers under-perform on the GMAT? And how can you protect yourself from the same downfall?
Start with an honest appraisal of your study plan. If you’ve already scored low, these are the five most likely reasons why.
Still in the midst of prep, but feeling “stuck?” This list may show you where you’re veering off course.
1. Your GMAT prep didn’t cover every topic
It’s hard to believe, but a great many students simply underestimate the full scope of the GMAT. They either skim over certain topics because they feel strong in those areas—or they rely on a prep course that sacrifices thoroughness for brevity.
Far too many GMAT classes promise comprehensive prep in just 20 -50 hours, when it’s impossible to cover all topic areas adequately within such a small time frame.
Did you encounter topics on exam day that you simply didn’t prep for? Or only vaguely remember?
Thorough GMAT prep demands nothing short of 100 hours of study, best served up as one or two hours of daily practice. Think back to your approach. How consistently did you study? Which Quant or Verbal topics did you neglect?
2. You missed out on essential problem-solving strategies
Did you rely on previously learned problem-solving methods while prepping for the GMAT? Perhaps you used techniques that worked well for you on university or high school exams?
On the surface, this sounds like a great shortcut. Unfortunately, the GMAT is not like other tests you’ve taken, so using conventional methods tends to backfire.
This exam has its own unique question-types and challenges, and you need very specific strategies for tackling each one—and avoiding cleverly laid traps.
The right set of “attack plans” will help you break down and solve tough questions efficiently and accurately. Without specialized techniques, you’re far more likely to second-guess yourself, get stuck, panic, and make avoidable errors.
3. Your weak points were never identified or addressed
One of the biggest keys to successful GMAT prep is identifying weaknesses early on, and finding ways to close those gaps prior to the exam.
The only way to achieve this is by carefully analyzing your performance on practice tests and question sets. It all begins with taking a mock GMAT exam, before you even start studying.
The mock reveals your baseline score, natural strengths and weaknesses, and will help you set a realistic target score.
From there, you can seek out GMAT help where you need it most, and track your progress toward your goal. Ongoing analysis will help you target and address problem areas, and continue to hone your strengths.
If a low score has caught you by surprise, it’s very likely that your weaknesses were never identified or addressed—and you primarily studied topics that aligned with your natural strengths.
Need help analyzing your GMAT practice results? Check out this post, 5 Tips for Better GMAT Practice Test Analysis.
4. You struggled with pacing problems
Did you have trouble finishing the Quant and/or Verbal section of the GMAT? Or, did you complete the exam before most of the other candidates?
A number of factors can contribute to pacing problems on the GMAT, but perhaps the biggest culprit is lack of self-awareness. You can only know how you’ll react on test day by taking as many simulated exams as possible—and analyzing your response times.
Using a timer during practice tests is helpful, as is taking several formal mock exams (which are totally free).
Students need to know if they tend to rush through certain questions, or linger where they shouldn’t—and how to address those issues—well in advance of exam day.
5. You experienced exam day anxiety
In many cases, exam day anxiety is a product of under-preparedness. While lack of preparation is usually not intentional, it will nonetheless manifest itself in a number of score-crunching ways—like rushing, forgetting important strategies, lack of concentration, or simply “freezing up” and being unable to proceed.
But even if you’ve struggled with test anxiety in the past, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a low GMAT score. There are practical techniques for diffusing stress well before it derails your performance on exam day.
Take a look at this post for proven techniques: GMAT Prep & Math Anxiety: Helpful Tips for Defeating the Beast.
Need some more GMAT help? Looking for ways to sharpen your study strategy, or just can’t understand why you scored low on the exam?
Drop us a line, or give us a call.
Quantum has prepared over 10,000 successful MBA students in the GTA, and we’re proud to have achieved the highest GMAT score improvements in Canada. Find out how we can help you.