Scored low on GMAT exam, despite scoring high on the mock tests

This is a scenario that is a nightmare for test-takers. Unfortunately, it's all too common. Various GMAT forums such as GMATClub are replete with posts of dejected test-takers, wondering what happened on the day of th exam, as they scored 100+ marks lower on the actual GMAT, than they were scoring on the mock tests.

In this blog, we discuss the most common reasons for this discrepancy between mock test scores and actual GMAT score. This will enable test-takers to have an outcome on the actual exam that closely resembles their outcome on the mock tests as part of preparation.

1) Taking unofficial mock tests

Unofficial 2

If you've been preparing for GMAT, you would know the sanctity of official mock tests. These official mock tests come from the creators of the actual exam. Consequently, the scoring algorithm used in official mock tests most closely mirrors the algorithm of the actual GMAT exam. So, the scores that you get in official mock tests are the only true representation of your scoring ability in the actual GMAT. Hence, during your preparation, stick to official mock tests only.

Too many test takers commit the folly of appearing in dozens of unofficial mock tests that are offered by various test-prep companies. The high scores that test takers get in many of these unofficial mock tests, sets an unrealistic sense of preparedness. Remember that the scores you get in these unofficial mock tests may show significant deviation from your scoring ability in the actual GMAT.

2) Attempting very few mock tests

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While GMAC offers two free official mock tests, there are four more offical mock tests that you can buy. We believe that this is a very worthy investment, as part of your GMAT preparation. So, if you score in the 700 range in all the six official GMAT mock tests, your potential to replicate this performance in the actual exam is significantly more than if you attempt only 1-2 official mock tests and score in the 700 range.

On a similar note, consistency matters. If the volatility of scores in your official mock tests is significant (for example, you've scored 720 in one mock and 620 in another), you clearly could either land up either at 720 or at 620 on the actual exam. In our experience, significant volatility in scores is symptomatic of shaky concepts. Hence, you would need to further prepare for GMAT.

3) Getting repeat questions in mock tests


During your preparation, you might have used publicly available repositories of official questions, for practice. So, when you appear in official mock tests, you are likely to again encounter some of these publicly available official questions. Since you already know the solution to these questions, the scores that you get in official mock tests would be inflated and not representative of your actual scoring ability on the GMAT exam.

4) Stress on the day of the exam

Exam Stress

Giving mock tests in the comfort of your home in a relaxed environment is obviously different from giving the actual GMAT. The  stress is more and stakes higher. For some test takers, this difference between mock tests and the actual exam, turns out to be a very big deal. Stress, anxiety, and nerves get the better of them, thereby significantly impacting their exam-day performance.

5) Last minute strategy changes

Strategy Change

The strategies that you adopt in your actual exam (such as section sequence, inter-sectional gap, timing strategies etc.) should be exactly the same as the strategies that you have been following in your mock tests. If there any tweaks in strategies, those tweaks should be tried in the mock tests, to arrive at the most optimum test-taking strategies. Once you've finalized these various pieces of test-taking, do not tinker with them on the day of the exam.