Will You Ever Feel Ready to Take the GMAT?

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Quite often, the last time I meet with a student, often a couple of days before their GMAT test date, they tell that they don't "feel" ready for the exam. In some cases, they've been studying hard for months; how can it be that after all that time, they don't feel fully prepared?

The truth is, very few people very feel truly ready to takea the GMAT. You probably won't either. Waiting until you feel ready is just asking to burn out, and it's probably not an efficient use of your time.

The Adaptive Test

Like so many aspects of the GMAT, this is closely related to the nature of the adaptive test. Because the test gives you questions dependent on your performance, it can get extremely difficult. If you're working through The Official Guide to GMAT Review, you've probably noticed that the math problems toward the end of the Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency sections are really, really tricky.

Therein lies the problem: if you don't get to those questions, you feel like there's a whole section of preparation you haven't done. If you do get to those problems, you either struggle mightily with them, or learn how to solve them but realize that there are other questions out there you might not be prepared for.

In short, it doesn't matter what level you're at, you'll know there are questions out there you aren't fully prepared for. It's the nature of the beast. And it's okay.

Handling That Feeling

It may help just to know that everybody else feels the same way you do. Last fall, I had a student who asked me, a few days before his exam, if anyone ever feels ready for the test. He certainly didn't, and he got a 750 that week. Could he have prepared more? Sure. Would it have made a positive difference in his score? I don't think so.

The key thing to realize is that, no matter how prepared you are for the test, you will see questions that are unfamiliar. Sometimes that can be horribly jarring; last time I took the test, one question took me by surprise. You'd think that after having done tens of thousands of practice GMAT questions and having written thousands more, I'd seen it all...but no. And if I'm not 100% ready, I'm sorry to say that you never will be, either.

As always, remember that you don't need to get every question right. In fact, you can get 8-10 questions wrong per section and still crack a 700. You may never feel prepared enough to answer 78 out of 78 math and verbal questions correctly, but it must be reassuring to know that you don't have to.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

Total GMAT Math

The comprehensive guide to the GMAT Quant section. It's "far and away the best study material available," including over 300 realistic practice questions and more than 500 exercises!
Click to read more.