What is an Error Log?
One of the most important parts of GRE test prep is learning from your mistakes. To do that, of course, you need to remember them. An error log is a great way to record, review, and remember missed answers. This kind of log is also sometimes called a mistake journal. You'll make note of specific questions you've missed, details about the questions format and content, and why you missed them. They'll make your study sessions far more efficient. If you’ve ever studied for a test before without one, you may have come across a common phenomenon: making the same mistakes over and over, wasting your precious study time and frustrating you in the process. With an error log, you can study your mistakes and avoid making similar ones in the future.
Why you should use an Error Log
It’s one thing to have a feeling about which areas you need to improve in--but it’s far better to have actual, concrete data. And that’s exactly what an error log gives you: data about what types of problems you tend to get right and wrong. By collecting data during your sessions, you'll learn about your strengths and weaknesses.
This has huge implications for your study plan! If you know where you're struggling, you can analyze what exactly you need to focus on re-approaching or asking for help. And by understanding your strengths, you’ll know what problems will likely take you less time on test day, so you can answer them quickly and efficiently--getting the easier points before racking up the harder ones.
How to use your Error Log
Though any type of error log is better than no error log, yours will be most useful if you use it during every practice test you take. Practice tests are different from practice problems or practice sets, because you’re likely taking them under timed conditions (and if you’re not, you should!). Some types of problems may be possible to answer correctly when you have unlimited time, but you may make errors when forced to answer them quickly--an error log will help you spot these! The best time to create your error log is right after the test--the day after is ideal, as the problems will be fresh in your mind, but you’ll have some emotional space from the score itself.
In other words, we recommend a log that's more "journal-format." When you make note of your mistakes, don't just indicate what the question was and what your answer was. To truly learn from your mistakes, you should go a few steps further in your error log. For any missed question, think about what actually went wrong, and make note of your exact mistake. What was the flaw in your thinking or approach? And what can you differently when you encounter similar questions in the future? Also really take time to think about and note the exact concepts and strategies involved in your missed questions.
Be sure to also record the source of each question, whether it's a web link, a screenshot, or a page number in one of your test prep books. As you review your error log, it's good to have fast, direct access to the question in full.
Mistake Journal Template
This "long format" error log gives you a briefer overview of each missed question, what you did well, what you'll need to do next time, and what you learned. Of course, you're always welcome to modify this to your own learning needs and preferences. Want to make your own error log? Check out this Magoosh article for general tips on how to DIY.
(NOTE: To access the Google Doc template below and use it to create your own error logs, go to File>Make a copy in the Google Doc. Once you've made your own copy, you can alter it as needed. :) )
As you journal your mistakes in detail, you should see a pattern of errors emerge. A well-designed error log creates a profile of the kinds of mistakes you most frequently make. Such a mistake journal also allows you to map your path to success. Good luck on your study journey, you've got this!
Special thanks to Melody Joy Desjardins (Test Prep Expert), (Matthew Slayton (Magoosh Subject Matter Expert), and Andrew Furney (Magoosh student) for filling the template with great actual notes!