Going For Gold On The GMAT Test

This is where that myth that the first 10 questions matter more got started, so let’s clarify. It’s not that those questions matter more, but rather that once you’ve made a few consecutive early mistakes, the computer has reason to doubt your ability and will require you to “waste” several easy questions just getting back to average. Like a decathlete who suffered his worst performance in his worst event, you’ve fallen so far behind in the computer’s eyes that it would take a heroic effort to make up for it, if that’s even possible at all.

On the flip side, once you’ve demonstrated to the computer that you’re a high-scorer, you can miss quite a few nonconsecutive later questions because those are the questions at the top of your ability level, and as long as you don’t go on a run of consecutive misses you won’t show the computer enough downside to completely reassess its view of you.

Which again brings this back to the decathlon – the best runners in the decathlon have little to gain by focusing more and more time on shaving a few hundredths of a second off of their best events.  Instead, they need to make sure that their throwing and jumping events are above average so that they don’t waste their strengths by fully succumbing to their weaknesses.

The decathlon champion is usually the best all-around athlete, but it’s not uncommon for him to not completely excel at or dominate any one event. Similarly, on the GMAT, those who score well above 700 may not overwhelm you with their knowledge of any one subject, but they avoid mistakes well enough to stay consistently-very-good, and that’s better for your score than sporadically-great.

On the GMAT, spending your study or test-day time chasing those obscure rules, formulas, or concepts isn’t nearly effective if doing so leaves holes in your core “events” that could drag you down.  Like Dan O’Brien and Reebok learned the hard way, being the best in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t earn the opportunity to prove it. On the GMAT, if you don’t master the easy questions you may never see the harder ones and your score will stagnate. Or, Olympically, if you don’t pass the Trials, you can’t win the Games.

Brian Galvin will run the free seminar

Brian Galvin is Director of Academic Programs at Veritas Prep, a GMAT prep and graduate school admissions consulting provider. Galvin writes a monthly column for Poets&Quants, offering typically contrarian advice for GMAT test takers.

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