How to Avoid Common GMAT Mistakes |

How to Avoid Common GMAT Mistakes

By QS Contributor

Updated August 21, 2014 Updated August 21, 2014

The Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) and test prep company Kaplan speak to about how to avoid making common mistakes on the GMAT

With essays, personal statements, and a good GMAT score to deliver, pre-MBA prep work may be overwhelming for some. Knowing how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls during the application process could put you ahead of the game. 

“The top one mistake is failing to size up the competition,” says Andrew Mitchell director of pre-business programs at Kaplan Test Prep.

Mitchell points out that some MBA applicants will have very demanding jobs and are very engaged in their career – the very reason why they would make a good candidate for business school. But he warns that due to demanding work commitments, for some filing a good MBA application might be of a second priority.

“Some applicants fail to dedicate time to their application and think that their work experience will speak for itself. That isn’t necessarily true. To counter that, a good move would be to do your research on what it’ll take to make your application competitive,” Mitchell advises.

Average GMAT scores

Keeping tabs on the average GMAT score is an important move in staying ahead of the competition, “In our survey, we asked admission officers which elements of an MBA application were most important. We found that GMAT was the number one factor. People can see what the average GMAT score is at a specific business school and then know how they compare,” Mitchell adds.

The average required GMAT score for individual business school admissions across the globe can be found on online resources such as’s Scorecard.

However, a common mistake is under estimating the difficulty level of the GMAT or GRE, according Lee Weiss, director of graduate programs at Kaplan. He adds: “GMAC publish a study each year and what it found was that people who score in the top 600 to 700 tend to put in 100 hours or more worth of study – that’s an important thing that prospective candidates should keep in mind.”

When it comes to sitting the GMAT, some candidates make the mistake of investing too much time on the first ten questions with the view that the adaptive testing algorithm uses these initial ten to estimate their ability.

Every question counts

“The reality is that every question counts. In fact, it can hurt your ability to finish the test. It’s very important to pace yourself. Completing the test is one key to a better score. If you are stumped by a question, give it your best guess and move on. The penalty is severe if you don’t finish the test,” GMAC director of marketing Jane Delbene advises.

Trying to estimate the difficulty level of the test questions could be to the detriment of securing a good score; with many candidates thinking that an easier question could mean that they had answered the previous question incorrectly.

However this is not necessarily true. The computer adaptive system selects a specific number of questions from each category, “Let’s say the test calls for your next question to be a relatively hard problem-solving question involving arithmetic operations. If arithmetic-based questions of this difficulty have all been administered, then you might be given an easier item,” Delbene explains.

“It takes special skill to correctly estimate the difficulty level of test questions – most people get it wrong. Don’t waste valuable time during the test trying to figure it out,” she stresses.

Impressing the business school admission officer with a refined and compelling pitch during an interview will bring candidates a step closer to bagging a place at their desired business school, Kaplan advises. But as Weiss points out, it is important not to brag.

“It’s about setting the right tone. Demonstrate that you have leadership qualities, that you’re proud of your accomplishments and articulate where you want to go in the future – but don’t come across as too arrogant.”

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This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in August 2014

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