So what should you take away from this?
We’re all susceptible to making silly mistakes, but the highest performers among us are particularly susceptible to them in this context – when our intellect has been satisfied elsewhere, the trap can hide in plain sight. So as you study for the GMAT:
- No error is “too basic”. If you made it once you could make it again – don’t assume you’re better than any one type of error.
- Be thorough and complete the last few steps. Think like the testmaker – they know that we’re all guilty of the Law of Least Effort and they’re apt to exploit it. Difficulty on the GMAT doesn’t necessarily all derive from “the hardest concept to grasp” – it often comes from the silly mistake that most make right after they’ve mastered that hard concept.
- Make a checklist of the silly errors that befall you on practice tests and have a regimented process for double-checking them. The GMAT will keep your high-powered intellectual side busy, so you should have a system in place to guard against that inevitable lull your mind will experience after the heavy lifting is done.
Those who know the GMAT well typically agree that one of its greatest qualities is that its difficult questions aren’t difficult because they’re “obscure”, but rather because the test finds ways to hide its difficulty in plain sight. The test is full of Shrumbusters, opportunities to run afoul of the Law of Least Effort. The way that your mind is wired for efficiency might well become the least efficient component of your GMAT performance; the GMAT testmaker knows that for certain, but now that you do it’s a fair fight.
Brian Galvin is Director of Academic Programs at Veritas Prep, a GMAT prep and graduate school admissions consulting provider. This is his second column for Poets&Quants.com. His contrarian views appear monthly.