If you have reached the final week before your scheduled GMAT exam, congrats! As much as you may not feel like it, you can breathe a sigh of relief: For the most part, your GMAT score has already been determined by the quality of your studying over the last months. With the test so near, however, many people find this week incredibly stressful as they agonize over the results of a recent practice test or fixate on a section or concept that still find difficult.
These tendencies are only natural, but while you may feel compelled to take another practice test or practice a slew of 800-level questions, these strategies won’t make much of a difference on test day. In fact, putting all your energy into learning new or difficult concepts or practicing every GMAT sample question you can find are inefficient ways to prepare in the final week.
If you instead focus your remaining study time on identifying and minimizing your most common mistakes and creating or reviewing a pacing strategy, you can help ensure you’ll reach your best possible GMAT score. Combine these practices with a calm, focused mindset and you’ll walk away happy from the exam. Follow the strategies below to make the most of the final week.
By the final of week before the exam, you’ve learned all the Reading Comprehension, Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, Quantitative and IR concepts you’re going to learn. It’s time to switch your focus from learning to ensuring. By ensuring, we mean ensuring that you don’t make preventable errors on the questions you know.
The real way to maximize your GMAT score in the final week of study is to reduce the amount of errors you make rather than learn new concepts or practice harder questions. For example, if after three months of studying you still score poorly on difficult Critical Reasoning questions, it’s not likely that in one more week of studying you’ll suddenly master CR concepts. Rather than spending time and effort to try to get a few difficult questions on the GMAT correct, practice preventing careless errors or falling for common traps. Not only is this study goal achievable within a week, but it will also lead to greater score gains. Preventing five errors will increase your score more than getting one more difficult question correct.
How do you practice minimizing errors? Look back over your practice tests. How many of the errors that you made were due to a difficult question and how many were due to careless mistakes or other preventable errors? Focus on this second group of errors and parse out any patterns.
Do you sometimes make calculation errors on Problem Solving questions? Maybe you select the wrong answer on Reading Comprehension questions because you misread the question stem. Whatever your common faults are, write them down so that you can remind yourself what to watch out for on the test.
No one gets every question right on the GMAT, and even the top testers who score above the 90th percentile have to guess occasionally. Therefore, it’s better to prepare for when you have to guess than hope it won’t happen.
If you’ve taken a practice test or two, or have timed yourself while answering sample questions, you probably have a good idea of your average pace for each section. Don’t expect this pace to miraculously improve on test day. If you know that you’re usually five minutes too slow on the Verbal section, then be prepared to have to guess on two or three questions or leave a few blank.
Leaving a few of the last Verbal questions blank will not significantly change your score, and knowing how many guesses you may have to make before hand will alleviate some of the pressure you may feel while taking the test. The GMAC, the people behind the GMAT, completed an extensive study on the effects of guessing or leaving questions blank on the GMAT. The detailed article lays out what strategy is best for the Verbal and Quantitative section. It’s worth reading before taking the test; check it outhere.
Last but certainly not least, your mindset can make all the difference in the week leading up to the test and on the day itself. Whether it’s a standardized test or a 100 meter dash, people perform best when they’re relaxed and confident.
Relaxation can be tricky as your test date approaches; it’s not something you can force, try as you might. The best way to relax before the test is to turn your mind to something else. Do an activity you enjoy or that calms you: Make time to take a walk, exercise, watch a funny movie, hang out with friends or just unwind. Eating well and getting adequate sleep can also mitigate stress and anxiety. Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep leading up to the test.
As far as confidence, take Henry Ford’s adept insight to heart: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t — you’re right.” Sometimes the only element missing in successful GMAT prep is the belief that a tester can, and will, do well on the exam. Of course, much of this confidence comes from putting in the work by studying thoroughly, but this work will do little if it’s not backed by a belief in your abilities.
No matter how much studying you do, it will always feel like there’s a little extra you could have done. However, by the final week, the best test takers accept what they didn’t do or don’t know and instead focus on what they did do and do know.
By studying your mistakes, knowing how and when to guess, and being relaxed and confident, you’ll be ready for anything the GMAT throws your way.