But the GMAT is not linear—it’s an adaptive exam that changes constantly. One question may be harder, and take longer, than you expected. And then the next one may be startlingly easy. Never in the history of the GMAT has a student been helped by predicting the difficulty level of a question. If you think to yourself, “Wow, that’s an easy question… I must be doing poorly”, there’s no way that that line of reasoning can help you, but it can certainly hurt! If that “easy” question causes you to lose confidence, or to waste time on the next 2-3 questions overthinking them to somehow get back the points that you might have lost (but didn’t necessarily), that prediction of your current score level will inevitably have a negative impact on your real score.
In reality, that “easy” question is probably one of two things – either an unscored, experimental question that the GMAT needs to test on high scorers (even the test makers need to experiment to gauge a question’s difficulty level), or a challenging question for which you completely missed the difficulty. It looked easy, but it wasn’t as easy as you thought. And you just walked right into one of those traps I tried to warn you about.
So let go of your goals and focus on your performance. In other words, don’t let your GMAT goal be the very obstacle that keeps you from excelling on the GMAT.
Brian Galvin is Director of Academic Programs at Veritas Prep, a GMAT prep and graduate school admissions consulting provider.