Scoring GMAT 700: Why Learning Goals are Important than Performance Goals

GMAT Performance Learning GoalsSetting 700+ performance goal for your GMAT exam is essential. However, studies by Gary P. Latham, Gerard Seijts and Dan Crim on The Effects of Learning Goal Difficulty Level and Cognitive Ability on Performance show that when the participants are focused on higher learning goals than higher performance goals the potential to reach their goals is higher. This is true only in the initial stages of the learning process.

When you are in the initial stages of GMAT prep, setting higher GMAT score goals will motivate you to start the process, but that does not guarantee a higher performance. A motivational self-talk to do your best in the initial stages of preparation (First 1.5 months in a 3 Month Schedule) will result in better performance than setting concrete goals. Why do we experience a contradiction when statistics have proved that concrete goals improve our performance?

Knowledge Acquisition

The contradiction arises when we consider the knowledge level of the test taker. For example, if the GMAT test taker has a sound foundation in GMAT Math and is weak in GMAT Sentence Correction, setting performance goals like increasing accuracy from 75% to 85% doesn’t lead to higher motivation or better performance. Most test takers will perform poorly. Performance goals create tunnel vision and test takers will lose perspective on the strategies, and the process of knowledge acquisition required for improved performance.   

Higher Learning Goals

After the first diagnostic test, GMAT test takers should shortlist topics and sub-topics where they have performed poorly. Careless mistakes should be discounted, and concepts that looked alien should be the one that need mastery.


After learning the concepts, GMAT Test takers who systematically search for strategies, shortcuts, and processes to solve GMAT questions performed better than test takers who focused solely on the end goal.

GMAT Preparation – Learning goals

The first stage (1.5 Months) of GMAT preparation should be spent on reaching learning goals and the next stage (1.5 Months) on reaching performance goals. Some might argue that learning goals are not concrete.

Example: How do you track mastering Ratio & Proportion as a Learning goal?

Concrete accuracy goals (85%-100%) on Ratio & Proportion question set should be the focus while reaching this learning goal. The overall test score or even timing should not be a priority.

GMAT Preparation – Performance Goals

Once every topic is covered with learning goals, the last 1.5 months should be focused on timing and stamina for long tests – a key success indicator. Concepts already covered in the first 1.5 months should be revisited through self-prepared notes or the notes available in Official GMAT Guide.

Further Reading
Mastering GMAT Critical Reasoning
Essential GMAT Reading Comprehension Guide

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