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4 Silly Mistakes That Many GMATers Make on Test Day (And What YOU Should Actually Do Instead)

By Max Peterson On Oct 2, 2015 In  Study Plans General GMAT 


Test Day is an almost universal ‘event’ for most Test Takers. While you might hear the occasional ‘horror story’ about how something went wrong at the Testing Center, the reality is that most administrations of the GMAT follow an established routine. As such, beyond preparing to face the Exam, you can also prepare to face the very Day itself. Regardless of whether you’ve given yourself just a month to prepare or if your studies are more thorough, you can plan ahead and avoid the following silly mistakes that other Test Takers make.

1 - Skipping breakfast 

It’s not cliché – breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. The human brain and body need ‘fuel’ to function properly. Skipping breakfast will almost certainly hurt your performance over the course of the Exam. You DO have the time for breakfast – you just have to choose to do it.

INSTEAD: Beyond eating breakfast on just Test Day, you should be eating breakfast EVERY day. During the weeks and months of lead-up to Test Day, you should take the opportunity to experiment a bit with various foods. You might find that certain types of food impact your mindset and energy levels in a more beneficial way. 

2 - Bringing practice materials with you to the Testing Center

You’ve been studying for some time and you’ve learned everything that you could reasonably learn. There’s nothing more to be gained, so you should leave all of your GMAT materials at home. Trying to ‘cram’ through a pile of materials while sitting in your car right before your GMAT is just going to upset you. 

Bringing practice materials into any part of the Testing Facility is actually a violation of the Exam rules.  If you are caught doing so, then you will not be allowed to take the GMAT and you will forfeit the $250 fee.

INSTEAD: You can do a little ‘warm-up’ work while you’re eating breakfast. Nothing too hard though, nothing complex and nothing that will upset you. This warm-up is meant to get you into the strategic mindset that you need to perform at a high level on the GMAT. When you leave your home, you must leave all of those materials behind. 

3 - Attempting to arrive at the Testing Center ‘on time’

Many Test Takers end up extremely ‘excited’ on Test Day (some might use the words ‘nervous’ or ‘anxious’, but those words imply a lack of control and preparedness – you’re ‘excited’ for Test Day). That excitement keeps them from thinking about the realities of getting to the Testing Center. There could be heavy traffic, construction, inconsistencies with public transportation, etc. Any of those potential hindrances can make that trip to the Center take longer than expected. By extension, feeling as though you might be ‘late’ can really put you into a bad mindset and distract you from your goal. Unfortunately, you might not be able to anticipate any of these hindrances.

INSTEAD: Leave at least 15-30 minutes earlier than you think you need to. The extra time will lighten any of those stresses that you might face. In many cases, if you arrive at the Center early, and a computer is ‘open’ (which it should be – you’ve already scheduled the appointment), then the Center staff will likely let you start your Exam early (instead of having you wait in the lobby burning your energy).

4 - Writing “ABCDE” 37 or 41 times across the top of your pad before the section starts

Test Takers have been running this idea past me for years. It’s impractical on a variety of levels though. First, the time and effort that it takes to write down all of those characters is significant. Try it and you’ll see. You’ll likely need 2 minutes of furious scribbling just to get it done once. Second, certain questions won’t actually require that you write down ABCDE, so writing down those letters would be unnecessary. Third, unless you can answer every question in the section on that first laminated sheet, you’re going to need to flip pages. So when you’re on page 2 (or 3 or 4, etc.), do you really expect to flip BACK to page 1 where you wrote down all of those ABCDEs? Having to do THAT would be a huge distraction to your performance and could lead to a number of silly mistakes.   

INSTEAD: Try writing down 5 dashes (to represent the 5 answers) as needed, in the same space that you’re taking notes for the question that you are working on.  You won’t need to do that on every question, and you might choose to write “AD BCE” for DS questions, but you now have the freedom and flexibility to work as needed.

A big part of putting together a strong performance on Test Day is in making good decisions and avoiding as many little mistakes as possible. Thinking ahead, and properly preparing for the entire Test Day ‘event’, is essential to helping you maximize your performance. To that end, we’re here to help.

GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,


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