Resetting and Retaking GMAT Prep Practice Tests – One time is OK, but don’t overdo it, and get smoked.

Resetting and retaking GMAT Prep exams can be a good idea. There are only six GMAT Prep practice tests available, and by resetting and retaking the tests you can get some more practice using official tests. Especially if your expected score is increasing, and so the test is serving more difficult questions, while you may see a few repeats, it’s likely that in a first GMAT Prep retake you won’t see too many repeated questions. So via retaking you can create a fairly accurate representation of the GMAT experience, the first time.

Here’s the thing though. I have seen people do multiple retakes of the GMAT Prep tests, and generally those people have generated scores on the actual GMAT that were not just lower but shockingly lower than the scores they were generating on the practice tests. In fact, in a significant proportion of those cases, the test takers generated scores lower than they had before they started practicing, and here’s what I am pretty sure is going on.

While there are certain concepts that one needs to understand in order to score high on the GMAT and while there are certain ways of answering questions that can be useful, the GMAT is not really a test of knowledge. It’s a test of skill in figuring out on the fly how to use available resources to get to answers. So here’s what happens when people do multiple retakes of GMAT Prep tests and start seeing many repeated questions.

While they do get practice in handling certain types of questions and a good review of certain concepts, they get decreasing amounts of practice in figuring out how to come up with ways to get to answers as they see more repeated questions. Further, because even if they don’t fully remember repeated questions, they can generally get to the answers to those questions fairly easily, they don’t feel the time pressure or experience the the degree of mental strain that one experiences when taking the actual test. Time pressure and mental strain are key aspects of the GMAT experience. So retaking GMAT Prep tests multiple times, rather than being a way to get good practice, is a great way to develop habits that won’t work and to become complacent.

So naturally what often happens to people who have used multiple GMAT Prep retakes to prepare for the GMAT is that they get totally shocked by the pressures of the actual test and basically bomb it. For example, in one case I saw, a guy who had scored around 600 on the GMAT continued to prepare in order to take the test again. After preparing for months, partly via using multiple GMAT Prep retakes, the next time he sat for the GMAT he generated a score around 500. While he had learned more about concepts and strategies, he was completely unprepared for the pressures he would experience on test day.

So clearly, the multiple retake route is probably not the way to go.

Here are some alternatives you can go with if you want to get lots of practice taking full practice tests.

One alternative to retaking is to mix higher quality test prep company tests with GMAT Prep tests. Yes, the questions on test prep company tests don’t always accurately replicate official questions, but remember much of what you need to practice is finding ways to get to answers on the fly under time pressure. So to a degree it doesn’t matter whether the questions you are answering are exactly like official GMAT questions as long as they involve concepts that show up on the test and require coming up with a way to answer them. Another alternative is using the two PowerPrep tests. While PowerPrep tests, which are from an older official software package, don’t include an AWA section, while they include questions that also show up in the three Official Guides, and while some of their sentence correction questions are somewhat out of date, the two PowerPrep tests do provide great, official GMAT practice. Moreover, if you use them toward the beginning of your preparation, before you have seen many of the Official Guide questions, you won’t have already seen the questions they contain, and so you will get the type of pressured. mentally challenging experience that you need in order to develop the skills necessary for scoring high on the actual test. You can download the PowerPrep software from here.

Whatever you decide to do, remember what the GMAT is actually testing and make sure that all of your preparation, including your practice tests, is optimal for handling what you are going to experience.



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