How to Beat the GMAT at Its Own Game

In the GMAT, everything is carefully constructed — the same math or grammar used in lower level questions is used to test your critical thinking skills at a higher level with carefully laid traps.

Looking for a trap

You can beat the test at its own game by specifically looking for the trick in every problem and attempting to deconstruct the question behind the question by asking: “What’s the trap?”

Writing and analyzing hundreds of GMAT questions and spending years thinking about standardized tests full-time gave Erika from PrepScholar GMAT an advantage in achieving a score in the 99th percentile. She knows how the questions are built and can often instantly recognize the tricks that the test makers like to put into the different types of problems. However, you can apply these same principles.

Get into the test maker’s shoes

Rather than believing that you know the answer, consider what the test maker wants you to do. What piece of information do they want you to ignore? What do they want you to mix up? What false shortcut do they want you to take? A good principle to take to heart: If the problem is easy right off the bat or if anything seems obvious, slow down. You are probably missing something.

This attitude will help you avoid traps on test day, but it will also help make your practice more effective. As you analyze more and more problems through a “What’s the trap?” lens, you will discover a secret that the folks who write these questions are not very original. You will start to see the same types of traps over and over again and learn which types of problems lend themselves to the various traps. This is especially helpful in conjunction with making an error log. As you determine why you made a particular mistake and how you can fix it, you can start to generalize about what category of mistake it is, what type of problem it commonly appears in and how you can recognize it next time. This is the most empowering knowledge you can have on a standardized test — the ability to take apart problems, notice the traps laid for you, and then intentionally avoid them.