5 Common GMAT Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

by Emmanuel Carita
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5 Common GMAT Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is an important test for anyone planning to study for a graduate business degree. GMAT measures the verbal, quantitative, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing skills of candidates.

Some candidates prepare hard for the GMAT for weeks or months and study a lot of resources. Unfortunately, a few common mistakes can derail their efforts which makes them lose out on opportunities. In this article, we will explore 5 common GMAT mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Overemphasizing Certain Sections of the Test

Too much concentration in a certain section is a common mistake made by GMAT candidates that has caused several to get low scores on the test.

For example, most candidates place too much emphasis on the quantitative section, believing that a high score in this section will make up for a lower score in the verbal section. However, the GMAT is a holistic test, and admissions committees look at all test sections when evaluating candidates.

To avoid this mistake, it’s important to develop a balanced approach to test preparation. This means devoting equal time and energy to each section of the test during preparation. It’s also important to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and to focus on improving in areas where you need more strength.

As you prepare for the test, you must take note that GMAT measures general proficiency in both verbal and written. Therefore, candidates are expected to have almost equal knowledge of both.

Understandably, you may be more proficient in one aspect and weak in another. One model we encourage candidates to employ during preparation is to dedicate 40% of practice time to areas of their strength and 60% to areas of their weakness.

If you implement these tips, you will avoid the pitfall of concentrating on only one subject area when taking the GMAT.

2. Not Practicing Under Test-Like Conditions

If you casually prepare for a GMAT test, then you may be setting yourself up for failure.

A common mistake we see candidates make when preparing for the GMAT is not practicing under test-like conditions. Some people prepare for the GMAT by working through practice questions at their own pace and without the time pressure of the actual test.

However, you should know that GMAT is a timed test, and it’s necessary to practice under timed conditions to build up your stamina and improve your time management skills.

To avoid this mistake, it’s important to take timed practice tests and simulate test-like conditions as much as you can before the actual test. This means practicing in a quiet environment, without distractions, and with a strict time limit for each section of the test.

If you are successfully able to practice your GMAT questions under timed sessions a couple of times, you will be assured of feeling less pressured when it is time to take the actual exam.

Thankfully, there are several websites you can use to practice GMAT tests (e.g., Kaplan, Veritas, Manhattan Prep). These websites offer the same experience as the actual GMAT test.

The 5 Most Common GMAT Mistakes You Should Avoid

3. Focusing Too Much on Content and Not Enough on Strategy

Knowing is not enough for you to pass the GMAT with flying colors. There are many examples of people who are knowledgeable but still failed to attain the score they envisaged. Therefore, focusing much on content is not an entirely cool strategy.

Although it’s important to have a solid understanding of the content covered on the GMAT, it’s equally beneficial to develop effective test-taking strategies and skills. For example, knowing how to effectively guess questions you don’t know the answer to can save you valuable time on the test.

It is important to learn and practice effective test-taking strategies, such as the process of elimination, educated guessing, and time management techniques. This will not only help you on test day but also make your preparation more efficient.

Test-taking requires an effective strategy and skills that can only be developed by constant practice. Therefore, it is important to keep refreshing your test-taking skills with constant practice to develop the right skills.

4. Ignoring the Importance of Time Management

This is one of the most common mistakes test-takers make and it keeps repeating every year. 

The GMAT is a (scarcely) timed test, and you need to manage your time effectively to ensure that you can complete all sections of the test within the allotted time. However, many test-takers spend too much time on difficult questions, leaving them little time to answer easier questions.

To succeed on the GMAT, you must develop time management strategies and practice them during your preparation. This might include setting time limits for each question or section of the test, using the right guessing strategies for difficult questions that you will not be able to solve, and knowing when to move on to the next question.

Once you cannot decide on an answer or even an approach to solve a specific question within 30-45 seconds, it is advisable to choose the answer you feel most confident with and move to the next one. This is more difficult than it sounds: most test takers at some point get stuck, concentrate on one question for a too long time, and run out of time to solve the ones they could actually answer.

5. Neglecting to Review and Learn from Mistakes

The final common mistake on the GMAT is neglecting to review and learn from mistakes. Many test-takers focus only on their practice test scores without analyzing their mistakes and identifying areas for improvement.

However, reviewing your mistakes and learning from them is crucial to improving your performance on the GMAT.

Some people have taken the GMAT several times without success but instead of investing time to understand why they keep getting poor scores, they focus on solving practice questions.

While solving practice questions is not entirely bad, test takers need to look at their previous performance holistically. A thorough review of performance in past tests will help test-takers to understand their mistakes, improve specific areas and get it right on the next (and hopefully final) attempt.

How Can You Avoid Making Mistakes on the GMAT?

Mistakes are costly and may cause a low score on the GMAT. Most of the most common mistakes made by GMAT students can be avoided in one of the following two ways:

1. Practice regularly: practice makes perfect. This is also true when it comes to the GMAT. Set aside a specific time each day to practice your test questions. This will help you improve and make you more confident in approaching the actual test. Obviously, the time you set aside each day strongly depends on how long you take to prepare. Check out our guides on developing your study plan if you have 6 months, 3 months, or just 30 days to prepare.

2. Understand the question: Once you understand the question, you are 80% on track to getting the correct answer. When you rush and answer a question without thoroughly analyzing the question, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Often, questions may look easy on the surface but are actually quite tricky. These types of questions mostly test your logical reasoning. Therefore, you must make sure you understand the question first before attempting to answer.

You can develop the habit of taking time to understand questions during your practice period. This will make it easier during the actual test.

What Impact Do GMAT Mistakes Have On My Score?

The GMAT is a computerized test. In short, this means that your GMAT score is determined by the number of questions answered correctly, as well as the difficulty level of those questions.

Each GMAT question is given a difficulty level, and the computerized adaptive nature of the exam means that the difficulty level of the questions presented to you will change based on your performance. Therefore, answering a question wrongly could lead to easier questions being presented, while answering a question correctly could lead to harder questions being presented.

The impact of mistakes on the final GMAT score is not a straightforward matter, as it depends on the number of questions answered correctly, the difficulty level of those questions, and the number of questions answered overall.

In general, it is essential to minimize mistakes on the GMAT as each incorrect answer could lead to easier questions being presented, which may result in a lower overall score. However, it is important to remember that the GMAT is meant to be challenging, and even the most successful test-takers may make mistakes.

To obtain the best possible GMAT score, it is crucial to not only focus on minimizing mistakes but also on developing strong test-taking strategies and time-management skills. Additionally, preparing for the GMAT through study and practice can help you feel more confident and perform better on the test.

Can a GMAT Prep Course Help You Avoid Common Mistakes?

Yes. Taking a prep course before taking your GMAT test can help you to avoid common mistakes that GMAT test-takers make. These prep courses are specifically designed to ensure such mistakes do not happen. While they are costly, think about how much you would give for getting admitted to the MBA program of your dreams, and how much that MBA program would cost. In comparison to that, the cost of a GMAT prep course is totally negligible.

Best Strategies That Help You Avoid Common GMAT Mistakes

There are several methods and strategies you can take to avoid common GMAT mistakes. These mistakes may be simple but can cost an overall low score on the test. Some of the ways to avoid these common mistakes include:

  • Read the question carefully: Misreading the question is one of the most prevalent GMAT blunders. Before you begin to answer, read the question carefully and make sure you understand what is being asked.
  • Managing your time: Time management is essential on the GMAT since you only have a certain amount of time to finish each section. Keep track of the time and allocate it appropriately to each question.
  • Frequent practice: Use GMAT practice exams and sample questions to refine your abilities and find areas for development.
  • Use scratch paper: Scratch paper may be used to figure out calculations and keep track of your progress. This will help you avoid casual errors. On the actual GMAT, you will get scratch paper as well.
  • Don’t make assumptions: Don’t presume you understand the question. Take your time to read the question and make sure you grasp exactly what is being asked.
  • Maintain focus: Avoid being sidetracked by other questions or outside factors. Keep your attention on the job at hand and don’t speed through the questions.
  • Employ the process of elimination: To limit your options, use the process of elimination. This can help you avoid guessing and boost your chances of success.

Are There Any GMAT Study Resources That Can Help Me Avoid Common Mistakes?

Yes, there are several materials and resources you can use to practice your GMAT and avoid making mistakes during the actual exam. Some of the most popular GMAT resources include the following:

  • GMAT prep books: GMAT prep books are widely accessible, including those issued by well-known exam prep businesses such as Kaplan and Princeton Review. These publications give comprehensive explanations of test subjects as well as tips for avoiding typical errors.
  • Official GMAT prep materials: The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) designed the GMAT exam, and they provide official GMAT prep resources such as practice tests, sample questions, and study guides. These materials might assist you in becoming acquainted with the test structure and the sorts of questions that will be asked.
  • GMAT prep courses: There are several GMAT prep courses available both online and in person. These courses cover all parts of the GMAT and might assist you in identifying and correcting your flaws.

How Does Anxiety Fuel GMAT Mistakes and How Can It be Managed?

Anxiety can contribute significantly to GMAT errors. Anxiety can cause a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, including elevated heart rate, perspiration, racing thoughts, and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms can disrupt during the test and lead to errors.

Here are some techniques for dealing with nervousness and performing well on the GMAT:

  • Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation should be used before the exam. These techniques can help you relax and lessen anxiety.
  • Have a good attitude and focus on your strengths rather than your faults. Instead of fretting about what can go wrong, imagine yourself succeeding and reaching your objectives.
  • Have Enough Sleep: Before the exam, make sure you receive enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause anxiety and difficulty concentrating.
  • Frequent exercise can assist to relieve stress and anxiety. Include frequent physical activities in your study schedule, such as going for a walk or performing yoga.
  • Take Breaks: Taking pauses during the exam is essential for avoiding burnout and reducing stress. To freshen your thoughts, take a few deep breaths, stretch, or close your eyes for a few seconds.
  • Get Help: If your anxiety is interfering with your ability to prepare for or perform on the GMAT, consider obtaining help from a mental health expert. They can assist you in developing coping techniques.


The GMAT is a significant test that demands enough preparation in order to attain a good score. To prevent common mistakes made by candidates which result in low scores, test-takers must devote time and effort to understanding the GMAT structure, and then identify and improve weak areas.

Preparing with authentic GMAT resources, managing time efficiently throughout the exam, and taking breaks to keep focus and avoid exhaustion is also a very important strategy to take.

If you follow all the tips outlined in this post, you can dramatically enhance your chances of success on the GMAT and accomplish your academic and professional goals.

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