Is Testing Good For You?

February 1, 2011

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Most of us tend to think of tests--particularly standardized tests like the GMAT--as a necessary evil. Maybe they serve some purpose, but (many of us think) they are not the most effective or enjoyable way of learning new skills.

According to new research, testing is more effective than many other common study methods. You can find the academic report here, or a more layperson-friendly recap here.

I could write all day about why this may be the case, but the "why" is beside the point. What does this mean as you prepare for the GMAT?

Test-like practice

Realistic practice problems need to be a core part of your study regimen. A bi-weekly or monthly practice test is not enough. Don't take more CATs; instead, work through practice problems a few at a time.

The constant use of practice problems creates a positive feedback loop. By doing the problems, you'll solidify your content knowledge. And because you know you'll be doing problems soon, you'll always study with practice problems in mind.

Change your attitude

Many of you believe that testing is irrelevant, or that standardized tests are not a good way to gauge your skill level, or that the GMAT tests the wrong things.

Some of that may be true. But none of those beliefs improve your odds of scoring high on the GMAT.

Think of it this way. Analytical reasoning is important in the real world, and despite its limitations, the GMAT aims to evaluate your analytical reasoning skills. By studying for the GMAT, you will likely improve your analytical reasoning skills.

That skill improvement has the immediate benefit of improving your GMAT score. In the long term, it makes you a smarter person--maybe even a better manager and decision-maker.

That's good, right? The GMAT may feel like an obnoxious imposition, but compared to workshops and employee training, a test may well be the best way to build analytical skills.

In the end, it doesn't matter why you change your attitude and think more positively about studying for and taking the GMAT. If you're like me, though, you will find it easier to adjust your perspective if there is solid reasoning behind it.

Yes--it's possible that testing is a good thing.



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.