As a Kaplan coach and teacher, I spend part of every day ensuring that my students build confidence and stay determined. It’s very easy to concentrate on rekindling long-forgotten math skills or memorizing patterns commonly found in Reading Comp passages, but if you spend all of your energy on these content-based skills, you may omit strengthening your performance on the emotional aspects of prepping for the GMAT.
Building confidence against the difficulty of the GMAT
As a computer-adaptive test (CAT), the GMAT rewards correct answers with harder questions. Harder questions take more time and mental energy to process. They can be intimidating. Likewise, incorrect answers are followed by lower-difficulty questions. These can also be stress-inducing: “These questions are too easy! I must be doing terribly!”
Before I talk about ways to master the emotional side of the test, I must address two reasons the perceived difficulty level should not impact your confidence on Test Day:
- The first is that something you know how to do is likely to feel easier than it may actually be. For example, symbolism questions almost always involve low-difficulty math. But because they are intimidating to most students, they usually are rated as high-difficulty questions. If you see “a#b = 2(a + b)” and are asked for the value of 3#4, that will feel easy despite actually being high difficulty.
- The second reason is that GMAT CATs include unscored experimental questions at every difficulty level. So you may get a string of questions correct, then see a low-difficulty “easy” question because it is being tested. Your performance has no bearing on the difficulty level of an experimental question. DO NOT let your confidence be shaken because a question seems easy!
In addition to trying not to evaluate your performance during the test and not beating yourself up over how you think you are doing, here are some other steps you should take to start building confidence and determination while you prep:
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Jennifer Mathews Land has taught for Kaplan since 2009. She prepares students to take the GMAT, GRE, ACT, and SAT and was named Kaplan’s Alabama-Mississippi Teacher of the Year in 2010. Prior to joining Kaplan, she worked as a grad assistant in a university archives, a copy editor for medical web sites, and a dancing dinosaur at children’s parties. Jennifer holds a PhD and a master’s in library and information studies (MLIS) from the University of Alabama, and an AB in English from Wellesley College. When she isn’t teaching, she enjoys watching Alabama football and herding cats.