How to Identify Your GMAT Strengths and Weaknesses
By: David Recline, Magoosh
Sometimes the hardest part of GMAT prep is knowing just where to start. To figure this out, you need to take a dual approach: a strengths approach and a weaknesses approach. Once you’ve identified your strengths, you’ll have a foundation for your GMAT success. And once you’ve identified your weaknesses, you’ll have a plan of attack to reach your target score.
Step 1: Practice!
I can’t emphasize how important this is. First, figure out how to break down your studying time by taking a look at a study schedule –like this one month GMAT schedule. Then, before you start studying any specific skill or academic content, take at least one practice test, and not just any practice test. To get a true idea of your GMAT abilities, take an official GMAT practice exam from the people who actually make the test.
MBA.com, the official GMAT website, offers free GMAT practice software that you can download instantly. The question sets in this software are roughly equivalent to one full GMAT test. The GMAT also offers plenty of free web-based Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) essay practice too. But honestly, I recommend you don’t stop at the free resources. You should do a few extra official GMAT tests too, either from the current edition of the GMAT Official Guide, or from used editions. Any GMAT OG from 2014 or later will be accurate to the current test.
Once you’ve finished a few practice tests, calculate your average GMAT score. Then figure out how competitive your score is right now. How competitive you are depends on your percentile, the percent of GMAT students whose scores are lower than your practice scores. Use this guide to GMAT scores by percentile to work out how well you did in your initial practice sessions.
Step 2: Get feedback on your AWA
This part is tricky. Your practice AWA essays can’t be automatically scored because they aren’t multiple choice. You may want to show your AWA essays to a study buddy, a friend or relative whose judgment you trust. Of you might want to put your AWA writing on a GMAT Internet message board such as URCH GMAT or GMAT Club. And if possible, I strongly recommend getting AWA feedback form an actual teacher or tutor.
Step 3: Identify Your Strengths
Look back at your first few practice tests. What sections did you do the best in? Your scores could reveal that you’re especially strong in Quant, really good at Verbal, or particularly successful in Integrated Reasoning. Your AWA feedback might show a strength in GMAT essay writing as well.
But knowing your abilities in each section is just the start. From there, look at the types of questions where your performance is best. You will find you’re better at certain kinds of math operations, specific reading and writing skills, and so on. As you work to identify your strengths, keep doing more practice questions. During this additional practice, start to think about how you feel in practice. Which aspects of the GMAT are you most comfortable with? What exam tasks seem to come naturally to you?
Knowing your strengths allows you to build on them, If you are especially good at algebra, you can transfer this skill to story problems, geometry questions, or any other math operation with algebraic variables. Good ability in AWA can translate into improved performance with Sentence Correction questions in Verbal. You get the idea. This process also identifies the areas where you need to stay in practice. Your strengths are valuable, so you’ll want to maintain them.
Step 4: Isolate Your Weaknesses
It’s definitely best to identify your strong areas on the GMAT first. Leading in with this strengths-based approach boosts your confidence and motivation. It also allows you to build a solid platform of ability from which you can take on your weaknesses. Once you’ve started to get a pretty good feel for your strengths, start analyzing your weaknesses too.
Again, ask yourself questions about your performance. What sections are you doing the most poorly in? Which question types are hardest for you? What aspects of the test leave you feeling unsure of yourself? When you get a question wrong, why do you get it wrong? What kinds of mistakes are you making?
Once you get the answers to these questions, you’ll be ready to attack your weaknesses, assured that your strengths can help you improve.
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