GMAT Tips to Finally Get Over That Plateau!

Posted by Maryam Amr on 8/28/15 11:00 AM

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Have you reached a plateau?  These GMAT tips might be just what you need!

You’ve been studying for months and it seemed to be paying off at first.  You watched your practice GMAT test scores jump by 50, then 100, then maybe even 150 points, but you’re still short of the score you need to get into your dream MBA program.  Now, your projected score has reached a plateau and you’re understandably frustrated.  Don’t be!  Plateaus are fairly normal, and our GMAT Tips will help you figure it out if there's any room for improvement.  

When you first start studying for the GMAT, you learn about the various question types you can expect and dust off skills you have not used since high school.  This results in large gains in a relatively short period of time and your projected GMAT score could jump 20 to 30 points per week.  As you close the gaps in your knowledge, and begin to fine-tune your approach, it becomes harder to continue to make those gains at the same page.  Eventually, you stagnate.  

Your Cambridge Coaching tutor can help you identify your weaknesses and surmount your plateau, but if you haven’t spoken to him or her yet, here are some GMAT tips to try in the meantime.

Identify your weak areas

We know it can be difficult to review a practice exam after you complete it, particularly if you are disappointed in the result, but this is a crucial must-do!  Practice makes perfect only if you learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them.  Using the Question Log your Cambridge Coaching tutor provided as a guide, go through your most recent exam and figure out which of these three common areas you may fit into:

Running out of time:  

Whether you encountered some timing issues on a specific problem or on the exam as a whole, this is a good time to discuss timing strategies with your GMAT tutor.  Remember:  the GMAT is very much an exam that rewards test-takers who are able to pace themselves and complete the entire exam.  If you find yourself falling behind, you should see if a particular question type is the culprit, or if your pacing in general needs adjustment.

One way to know for sure is to take an exam without timing yourself.  As a rule of thumb, if you can answer 80% of a type of question correctly, your issue is likely timing and managing stress.  If you think your issue may be stress-related, talk to your GMAT tutor for strategies and approaches.  There are many strategies to help you control your stress levels and he or she can likely help you pick the right one for you.   

Not understanding or recognizing the question:

As we mentioned, one way to figure out if time was or wasn’t a factor is to solve the question without timing yourself.  If you still wouldn’t have answered it correctly, it’s time to take a closer look.  Do you see any patterns in the types of questions you encountered and couldn’t solve correctly?  It’s important to dig deeper here, looking at not only what types of questions were incorrect, but also why.  For example, your issue may be with algebra and not rate problems, specifically, on the Quantitative section of the exam.    

Accidentally clicking the wrong answer choice:  

You did all the work correctly and then simply clicked the wrong answer choice.  This happens to even the best test takers.  If this was the reason you answered more than one question incorrectly, you may need to slow down.  If you pace yourself during the rest of the exam, you should be able to spare yourself a few seconds to make sure you selected the correct answer choice.

Be cognizant of your energy levels

Are you a morning person?  Or do you focus better in the afternoons?  You know yourself best and should use this knowledge to your advantage in preparing for the GMAT.  Not only should you study during the times of day that you are most alert, you should also try to schedule your exam for the same time period.  If your GMAT score has plateaued, taking the exam when you are most alert could boost your score just enough to get you into that program you’re eyeing.   

If you cannot study during the time periods when you are at your best, then, at the very least, try to take your practice exams and the actual exam during these time periods.  

Stick to a balanced study (and rest) schedule

If you have been studying continuously for weeks or even months, you could likely benefit from some time off.  Take a day or two off and try not to think (or stress) about your upcoming GMAT exam.  Moving forward, take one day off every week.  Being well-rested makes sure you are at your best when you are studying for and taking the exam, which could just help your score the extra points you need.

On another note, make sure that you rest the day or two before the GMAT exam, too.  For advice about do’s and don’ts for test day, click here.

Know when to stop retaking the GMAT

Finally, if you have already taken the GMAT two or more times, it is important to know when the score you have is sufficient.  Your Cambridge Coaching application consultant should be able to look at your candidate profile as a whole and let you know if the other aspects of your application can carry you through on their own.  It could hurt your admissions chances if you have taken the GMAT three or more times because admissions officers may credit any increase in score at that point to your ability to take the exam, instead of as a measure of your reasoning skills.  

Looking for more GMAT tips or help with your applications to business school? Check out these other blog posts written by our business school admissions consultants in Boston and New York: Does success on the GMAT predict success in MBA classes, MBA programs: You Got In! Now What?, and An MBA is Only as Good as Your Plans For It. If you'd like more hands-on support, feel free to reach out to Cambridge Coaching! Our business school admissions coaches will be happy to help.
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Tags: GMAT