When it comes to the GMAT, there are several myths that test-takers believe.
One of the most common myths is that if you answer a question incorrectly, you will be given an easier question.
This myth implies that the test is adaptive and that it adjusts the difficulty level of the questions based on the test-taker’s performance. However, this is not entirely true all the time.
The behavior of the algorithm can change when a test taker is doing exceptionally well on the exam.
The Official Guide of the GMAT debunks this myth by stating that the test selects a specific number of questions of each type to ensure that everyone receives the same content.
Therefore, the difficulty level of the questions is somewhat predetermined. You will very likely still see easy questions even if you answer everything correctly.
The Official Guide gives the following example: if the test calls for the next question to be a relatively difficult problem-solving item involving arithmetic operations but there are no more relatively difficult problem-solving items involving arithmetic, the test-taker might be given an easier item.
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How GMAT Question Difficulty is Determined During the Exam
The difficulty of the questions you receive is determined by your performance on previous questions. One way to interpret it is as a rolling average that takes into account all the previous results leading up to the current question.
Therefore, this average can have a lot of variation at the beggining, when it has less data. As you answer more questions, the average becomes more stable and changes less.
In most cases, if you answer a question correctly, you’ll be given a slightly more difficult question next. If you answer a question incorrectly, you’ll be given a slightly easier question next.
This process continues throughout the test, ensuring that the difficulty level of the questions is tailored to your individual abilities.
Why Attempting to Guess a Question’s Difficulty is Ineffective
What makes a particular GMAT question difficult boils down to one factor: the percentage of people that answer the question correctly in previous exams.
If a question has a trap that many test takers fall for, it can be considered difficult even if it appears easy and straightforward at first glance.
Be cautious of going to the extreme of becoming overly paranoid and investing too much time in searching for traps that may not even exist.
If you spend too much time on truly easy questions, you may run out of time for the more difficult questions.
Conversely, if you rush through difficult questions because you run out of time, you may make careless mistakes and lose points.
Strategies for Approaching GMAT Questions of Varying Difficulty
One strategy for approaching questions of varying difficulty is to focus on understanding the underlying concepts being tested rather than solely relying on memorization or tricks.
This approach can help you solve more difficult questions and provide a solid foundation for answering easier questions.
Another strategy is to manage your time effectively. If you encounter a difficult question, it may be beneficial to skip if it means that you can answer more questions later.
This can help prevent getting bogged down on one question and potentially missing out on easier questions later in the test.
Additionally, it can be helpful to practice with a variety of difficulty levels in order to become comfortable with the types of questions that may be presented on the test.
This can also help build confidence and reduce test anxiety.
It is important for test-takers to focus on answering each question to the best of their ability, rather than worrying about the difficulty level of the next question.
By understanding how questions are selected and presented, test-takers can approach each question with confidence and focus on achieving their best possible score.
This is really interesting. Am preparing for GMAT and I find this helpful especially considering the myths someone encounters during their first few days of preparing for gmat.