Do I Need a GMAT Error Log?
GMAT students ask me all the time whether they need to use an error log for their GMAT prep, and my answer is, invariably, YES! However, I also always make sure that my students understand that there is a right way and a wrong way to use GMAT error logs. If you use a GMAT error log the right way, it can help make your GMAT studying incredibly focused, efficient, and effective. If you use an error log the wrong way, it can have the opposite effect, adding time, hassle, and even confusion to your studying.
In this article, we’ll look at why error logs are an important part of GMAT prep, what an error log should include, how to properly use your GMAT error log, and some pitfalls to avoid so that your error log works for you, not against you.
First, let’s discuss what exactly an error log is.
What is an Error Log?
At the most basic level, an error log is a record of all of the practice questions you answer incorrectly and the specific mistakes you made that led you to those wrong answers.
For example, say you’ve finished learning about the topic of Number Properties in GMAT Quant, and you’re moving on to practicing questions on that topic. After doing a problem set of, say, 15 practice problems on Number Properties, you would evaluate the questions you answered incorrectly and add information about those errors to your log.
So, let’s say you answered 4 questions incorrectly. Ideally, your error log would contain a record of what the exact question was, the topic covered in the question (in this case, Number Properties), how long you took to answer the question, the wrong answer you chose, and the reason why you chose that answer. If, for example, you got a question wrong on remainders, you would record whether you did so because you made a careless mistake, didn’t properly apply the remainder formula, didn’t understand a concept in the question, etc. A really robust error log will also organize your data in an easy-to-read format and contain key stats such as how often you make each type of error.
Not all error logs are organized the same way or contain the same features, and certainly, “homemade” error logs can be as simple or as complex as the user decides to make it. Now, I’ll discuss shortly the pros and cons of making your own error log vs. using one designed by a GMAT course. For now, the important thing to note is that error logs come in all shapes and sizes, and some are far more useful than others.
Before we get into what to avoid when it comes to error logs, let’s look at the value that a good error log can provide.
The Importance of a GMAT Error Log
Given all of the data that a good GMAT error log can contain, an error log can certainly be a powerful weapon in your GMAT arsenal. If used correctly, your error log can help you pinpoint weak areas you need to focus on, show you your most common errors, reveal patterns in the way you answer questions, and provide valuable information about faulty strategies you may be using.
All of this data can help you be more strategic in your GMAT prep and save you a substantial amount of time in the long run. After all, if you know exactly what your mistakes are and when you tend to make them, you can more easily correct them and avoid making them again in the future. Every error you eliminate will bring you one step closer to your score goal and shave time off your GMAT studying — studying that can spiral into a never-ending, circular process if you keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Error logs help you maintain steady, focused progress throughout your GMAT prep, so you’re not left spinning your wheels, wondering why you can’t seem to conquer a certain question type or push past a particular score plateau.
Just as importantly, an error log can help identify a mistake you’re making early on in your prep, so that you can nip that mistake in the bud before it becomes ingrained. The notion of catching and correcting errors early on is particularly important when considering what I call “macro errors.”
Macro errors can be difficult to identify because they’re not related to gaps in your content knowledge. Macro errors are the bad habits, the behavioral tendencies, the misguided strategies that lead you to choose wrong answers. So, if a macro error is at play, you can’t simply go back to your study materials and brush up on a grammar rule or memorize a quant formula in order to get that question type correct in the future. As a result, if you don’t catch macro errors, they have the potential to plague you throughout your GMAT prep and pop up on test day, doing serious damage to your score.