Common Test Day Problems

I’ve written before about the importance of training your mind while preparing to take the GMAT. Many times, students perform well on mock exams through this training. But don’t forget to take those GMAT super powers along with you to the test center! Your concentration and confidence will be key to combating the most common test day problems. So, when the big day comes, here are some more things to keep in mind.

Playing Mind Games

The GMAT is a mind game. One thing the GMAT is testing you on is your ability to complete a long, hard task without knowing how you’re doing along the way. Over the years, I have seen many students suffer from the same problem time and time again. Here’s the situation.

Students become slightly unsure of their answer when they encounter a difficult question. They aren’t completely sure if the answer is correct, but they solve it and move on. Then they encounter another hard question, and then another one. With each unsure answer they encounter, their confidence drops a little bit more. They decide that the test is going terribly for them. They are no longer focused on following strategies to answer problems. Instead they are just thinking about how poorly they’re doing. When they finish that section and start the next one they’re distracted and their confidence is low. Perhaps they say to themselves “I don’t even care about this section, I already ruined my score.”

This is a situation I’ve seen play out far too many times, and it is exactly the wrong way to take the GMAT. I have had many students give up on the exam halfway through, only to find out at the end that they were performing exceptionally well!  


The reality is that you don’t know how you did on that difficult question! It’s very possible that you got it right! Continuing to think about an answer that is already done and gone will only distract you from answering the next question, thereby hurting your score.

Having a Short Memory
There’s great power in having a short memory. Remember that each question is a blank slate, a new opportunity to show what you know. This means that each time you get a new question, you should forget about all the questions before and after and just focus on that one task in front of you. Solve it to the best of your ability, and then move on! The same goes for sections of the test. Even if you have a sneaking suspicion that you bombed Quant, forget all about it once Verbal start. Too many students make the mistake of thinking they did poorly on one section and sabotage themselves.
I can’t emphasize enough that you will not know how you’re doing while taking the test. So don’t waste mental energy on this. Keep each question in your short term memory and discard it the second you move on. Train your mind to do this and save it for the real important task- answering questions right.