5 GMAT Mistakes You Must Avoid

You’ve studied long and hard for the GMAT. You know the test in and out. You’ve scheduled a GMAT test date. So what could possibly trip you up on test day? Once you’ve prepared for the exam, most GMAT mistakes come down to timing. Let’s examine five blunders to look out for before you take the GMAT.

1. Arriving late to the center

The first step to avoiding GMAT mistakes is simply showing up on time. You should be at your GMAT testing center at least 30 minutes ahead of time. In fact, if you arrive more than 15 minutes after your scheduled exam time, you may not be admitted to take the test. Plan your travel route and visit the center beforehand to avoid any day-of transportation issues. Introduce yourself to the receptionist or center manager and let them know you will be taking your exam there. Identify the locations of the lockers and the restrooms. Bring water and snacks for the scheduled breaks. But most importantly, rest the day before so you have the energy necessary to get through the three-and-a-half-hour test.

2. Not taking the optional breaks

You may wish to try and save time by working through your breaks, but this isn’t always advisable; in fact, it is a common GMAT mistake. It will not necessarily help your performance because you run this risk of burning out before you reach the end of the exam. Take this time to relax, use the restroom, drink your water, and/or eat your snacks. Use your breaks as periods of reinvigoration to help you continue to perform your best on the following sections of the GMAT.

3. Solving questions solely in your head

You don’t get extra points for your thoughts, so make sure you use the noteboard provided to show your work when applicable. Organize your pages so that you can read your work and strategically eliminate incorrect answers. Even the simplest formulas can become stressful to work out mentally on test day. Jotting down notes, equations, keywords, and phrases can help you concentrate on the question at hand and lead you to the best answer choice.

4. Dwelling on previous or future questions

The GMAT is a computer adaptive exam; you can only answer the question in front of you, and you can’t continue until you provide an answer to that question. Therefore, you should focus solely on addressing the question currently on the screen. Don’t worry about what came before or what will come next. Furthermore, don’t try to determine the level of the question. This won’t help you solve it. Instead, try to understand what this particular question is asking, select the best answer choice, and then move on to the next question.

5. Taking too long on any one question

You should try to spend no more than a couple of minutes on each question. Use your time strategically. This means knowing your strengths and weaknesses on each section and on each question type. Not completing an entire section on time (i.e. leaving questions unanswered) will result in a penalty, so answering every question is a must.

However, getting through a section too quickly is not necessarily advisable either. If you are flying through a portion of the exam but not answering all of the questions correctly, then slow down. Take the time to read each question carefully. There is no bonus for finishing the exam with extra minutes left over, so use all the time that you are given to reach your target GMAT score.

To avoid these common GMAT mistakes, preparation is key. Take your GMAT practice tests in an environment that closely replicates the test center’s environment on exam day, in the same time period—including the breaks. Jot down your thoughts as you move through the test. Focus on the question at hand and keep a steady pace in each section. By practicing for the GMAT in this methodical way, you will be able to not only answer the questions on the exam, but also prevent any slip-ups that could stand in the way of performing your best on the GMAT.