Read time: 5 minutes
Why are GMAT practice tests such an important part of your study strategy?
The answer is fairly obvious: practice tests reveal your strengths and weaknesses, and help build the endurance you’ll need to make it through GMAT exam day.
Less obvious is how best to leverage each practice test experience, so you can actually improve your technique and performance, and ultimately, boost your overall score.
Students can take numerous practice tests and still feel “stuck” with a plateaued score, or persistent difficulties in certain topic areas.
To see real improvements, you’ll need to approach each test strategically, analyze results effectively, and tweak your GMAT prep accordingly. As with all things GMAT-related, you need a smart plan to be successful.
Remember: every simulated exam you do takes up numerous hours of precious study time. Follow these steps to ensure you’re investing this time wisely—and getting the most out of each trial run.
How Many GMAT Practice Tests Should You Take?
This is a question we hear often from students. And it really depends on your score goal. Want a competitive score of 700+? You should aim to take 8-10 practice tests.
This means examining your overall study schedule, and building in time for tests at regular intervals. It’s a good idea to spread the simulations out evenly (say, about twice a month, if you’ve set aside 5-6 months for prep), so you can catch and correct performance problems at every stage.
Simulating the GMAT Exam Day Experience
Do you really need to mimic exam-day conditions when taking GMAT practice tests? Yes—if you want to truly fortify your test-taking skills, and get an accurate assessment of your progress (which is what it’s all about, right?)
Replicating an authentic exam experience means following the official rules, including:
- sticking to the time allotted for each section (no extra minutes to complete one last problem)
- removing all study aides from the room, including notes, books, manuals, calculators, and your cell phone
- taking breaks only as allowed during the exam (you’ll get two breaks, of about 8 minutes each)
- not using technology during your breaks (no social media, no phone calls, and no television)
- eating only the kinds of snacks you’ll have available on exam day (note that smoking is not allowed during breaks at the exam centre)
- wearing the kinds of clothes you’ll have on at the exam (so, probably not pajamas!)
- taking practice tests during the time of day you’ll be challenging the real exam
Practising with real exam-day constraints is key for building up your mental, physical, and psychological stamina—and reducing unsettling surprises on test day.
Analyzing Your GMAT Practice Tests
How closely are you examining each GMAT practice test you take? Are you focusing mostly on your overall score, or how many questions you got wrong in each topic area?
You’ll need to go far deeper than surface results to get the most out of each simulation. In order to be truly beneficial, your practice test analysis should involve:
- a close examination of incorrect AND correct answers (always look for ways to improve your process and efficiency, even if you got the answer right)
- learning why you got an answer wrong (did you rush, read the question wrong, make a calculation error, have to guess?)
- looking closely at pacing (did you run out of time, finish too early, rush through certain questions, or linger too long on some problems?)
Deeper analysis will help you spot patterns, identity recurring mistakes, and disrupt bad test-taking habits. An extra hour spent reviewing your results can save you significant frustration and wasted time down the road.
Continually Refining Your GMAT Prep
After every GMAT practice test you complete, take a moment to ask yourself two key questions:
- How will you put your analysis into practice, and use those insights to improve your GMAT prep strategy?
- What goals will you aim to achieve on the next simulation?
You might be working toward improved pacing, or looking to implement a new problem-solving technique. Perhaps you’ll focus on a certain question-type, or aim to improve your score on a particular section of the exam.
Note down your objectives, and make sure you’re adjusting your study plan to meet those goals. Your GMAT strategy should continually evolve to reflect the strengths and weaknesses revealed through each simulation.
If you’re not tweaking your strategy, you’re not using practice tests to your full advantage.
Looking for more free GMAT help, study tips, or practice materials? We’ve got you covered.