How to Track Your GMAT/GRE Errors

Test Prep Tutor and Writer,

Jan   2013



Error LogStudying for the GMAT or GRE and find yourself making the same mistakes over and over again? Do you feel “stuck,” like no matter how many questions you answer, your score just won’t improve? It’s time to create an error log! An error log is essentially a customizable spreadsheet that allows you to track all of your incorrect questions. Fill it in as you go and review it thoroughly to pinpoint where and how you’re getting questions wrong then devise a plan to tackle those weaknesses!

When you get a question wrong, make sure to immediately add it to your error log. If you wait too long, you’ll forget what your thought process was when you first approached the question. The idea is to identify what was faulty about your original method of thinking, then revise it for the next attempt. In this way, you can start to look at incorrect questions as a benefit. They’ll teach you exactly what you have to change to get a higher score!

But how can we categorize our errors? All errors will fit into one of three categories: strategy errors, content errors, and “oops” errors.

  • Strategy errors are the most important. This happens when your step-by-step process of approaching the question isn’t serving you, or you’re not implementing it accurately. Ask yourself: Am I taking shortcuts due to laziness or impatience? Do I have a “sort of” strategy for each question type or a real, effective one? List your steps for each question type and have them next to you as you practice, so you can be sure you’re taking the time to follow them.
  • Content errors are easier to identify and correct. These occur when you simply did not know the required formula, the grammatical concept, or the vocabulary word needed to get the question correct. To improve, consider what you need to work on to get more of these types of question right. Perhaps a little more review of coordinate geometry concepts? Or a quick read-up of pronoun-antecedent agreement?
  • Finally, “oops” errors are those careless mistakes we all make when we’re in a rush and/or under stress. Did you forget to carry a 1, or subtract instead of add? These are easily corrected, but make sure not to brush them aside. Too many “oops” mistakes may be indicative of a larger issue, such as improper use of scratch paper. Neatness counts!

There’s a huge amount of GMAT-related material on Learnist to help you review. Start with this overview of the GMAT Quantitative section, and use the search box to look up more specific concepts as you progress with your Error Log! You can also find a variety of sample error logs on Beat the GMAT.

Good luck hunting errors!

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About Vivian Kerr

Vivian Kerr

Vivian Kerr has been teaching and tutoring in the Los Angeles area since 2005. She graduated from the University of Southern California, studied abroad in London, and has worked for several test-prep companies including Kaplan for whom she taught ACT, SAT, ISEE, GRE, GMAT, and did admissions counseling. She is a contributing blogger at Beat the GMAT, and currently blogs, tutors, and writes content for the online test prep company Grockit, which focuses on making standardized test preparation affordable and accessible for students around the world. She loves to see her former students succeed in grad school!

You can find Vivian's profile on Grockit or subscribe to her CollegeXpress blog