In this article, we’ll introduce you to the concept of using a GMAT error log while you are studying for the GMAT.
But let’s start with some context around why keeping an error log during your GMAT prep is a good idea.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
If you haven’t heard that saying before, I’m sure you will at some point in your professional career.
The idea behind the saying is simple. If you don’t keep track of something (i.e., you don’t measure it), you can’t improve it. For example, imagine you are running a business that sells GMAT tutoring (like this one!), but don’t keep track of customer complaints about various tutors. Further, imagine that you work with 10 different GMAT tutors. One gets negative feedback 20% of the time while others only receive negative feedback 5% of the time. Also, the others get much more specific positive feedback, while this one bad apple gets far less positive feedback. You may intuitively sense this, but you don’t track it anywhere quantitatively.
Without keeping track of feedback in some diligent, quantitative way, it’s hard to identify that this person is a problem for your business. But every time you connect a new student to this tutor, you are much more likely to lose the student and negatively impact your brand.
But the solution is not difficult. At a minimum, you can ask for feedback via phone or email, and keep track of it in a simple spreadsheet. Now, you are measuring. You’ll quickly see that this particular tutor is getting a ton of negative feedback. And then you can “manage” the situation. You can try to work with the tutor to help him or her improve, or simply choose not to send students in his or her direction.
Why is “managing what you measure” important in GMAT prep?
When you are preparing for the GMAT, this notion of not being able to “manage what you don’t measure” is particularly important. Perhaps the most important role of a GMAT tutor is helping a student build a customized GMAT study plan. Indeed, whether you are working with a GMAT coach or not, you’ll want to have a GMAT study plan that is customized to your strengths and weaknesses. You might start with an official GMAT practice test. Suppose that test indicates that your GMAT verbal score is much stronger than your GMAT quant score. So, you know you’ll be looking for ways to improve your GMAT quant score. At the highest level, you can do this by spending more time practicing GMAT quant than GMAT verbal questions. But a GMAT error log can help you go a level deeper to really unpack how you can improve your GMAT quant score.
What is a GMAT error log?
A GMAT error log is simply a tool to keep track of every practice problem you do when studying for the GMAT. It helps you understand and unpack why you miss certain problems so that you can understand where to focus to build your GMAT skills and improve your score.
For example, in the below image of a GMAT error log, we are looking at the Quantitative Reasoning section.
This is where you create the fact-base on your performance.
As you can see, it helps you to document:
- If you got the question right or wrong
- If right, did you solve it or guess?
- If wrong, was it a careless mistake or did it address a GMAT concept you don’t fully grasp?
- What type of question was it, problem solving or data sufficiency?
- What topic did it address? For GMAT quant questions, the options would be things like: absolute values, algebra, arithmetic, combinatorics, geometry, etc.
- What was the source of the question? Question bank, official GMAT practice test, etc.
How to Use a GMAT Error Log?
To properly use a GMAT error log to study for the GMAT, you’ll need to be able to categorize the questions and topics appropriately.
The right-hand side of this GMAT error log is where you analyze your performance to understand where your skills are stronger or weaker. You can look by topic or problem type and calculate your performance and whether the errors you are making are more conceptual or careless. If conceptual, you’ll know you need to spend some quality time learning new concepts. If careless, you’ll know you need to focus on execution (i.e., paying attention to detail, etc.).
How can a GMAT error log help you improve your GMAT score?
By using a GMAT error log, you can home in on the specific skills you need to build and/or types of questions you are struggling with. Then, whether you are working with a GMAT tutor, pursuing self-study, or doing your GMAT prep in a classroom environment, you can review your GMAT error log and customize your study plan accordingly. You can add more statistics and travel rate GMAT problems if you are struggling there and spend less time on geometry where you are already strong.