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You can win every question on the GMAT. That seems a little surprising at first, I know. If you’ve been studying the GMAT for any length of time, you’ve probably already heard several times about the importance of guessing and the perils of perfectionism.
But notice that I didn’t say you could get every question right. I said you could win every question. And that difference is key.
First, you have to know the game.
You can’t win unless you know what game you’re playing and how it’s scored. While the GMAT scoring algorithm is complex, the basic idea is simple: the GMAT is not really a math test and not really a grammar test, but is fundamentally a test of decision-making. That means that to win a particular question, you don’t have to get it right, but you do have to make the right decision on it.
Second, you have to know the play.
If the game is decision-making, you have to think in those terms as you study and review. The key question is “do I know what to do in every situation on the GMAT?” Again, that doesn’t mean you need to know how to do every problem or be able to get it right. But you need to know that when you see DS, you follow these steps, and when you see PS, you follow these other steps and have these different options for solving. I know that when I see a problem that makes no sense, the right decision is to take a guess. I know that when I’m behind on time, the right decision is to skip a problem. And so on.
Third, you have to practice the right way.
Realizing how the game is scored and what the proper plays are makes a big impact on how you study and win every question. When you review a tough exponents problem that you didn’t understand, you do want to try to understand how to do that problem. But you also want to think about what you should do the next time you see a problem you don’t understand. You may or may not see that particular kind of exponents question on the exam, but I guarantee that you will see a problem that you don’t understand how to do and you need to practice how you deal with that. Did you recognize that you didn’t know what to do and get out of that problem quickly? Did you think you knew what to do but were able to let go when you realized it wasn’t working out? That’s the key to winning every question!
Fourth, you have to trust the process.
You may be wondering how this actually works out if many of your “wins” actually result in getting problems wrong through properly taking guesses and getting out early. The fact is you get one reward from the time you have left to tackle problems that you are able to do, saving you from rushing through and making careless mistakes. You get the second reward from being in a better mental state because you feel good about how you’re performing and this better mental state makes you better able to recall content and better able to work quickly and precisely. Putting these together means you actually get more challenging questions right and make fewer careless mistakes, resulting in you maximizing your score on test day. Knowing the game, the plays, and how to practice really does pay off! 📝
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James Brock is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Virginia Beach, VA. He holds a B.A. in mathematics and a Master of Divinity from Covenant Seminary. James has taught and tutored everything from calculus to chess, and his 780 GMAT score allows him to share his love of teaching and standardized tests with MPrep students. You can check out James’s upcoming GMAT courses here.