gmat calculator
Posted on
26
Nov 2020

GMAT Calculator & Mental Math – All You Need To Know

by Apex GMAT

Contributor: Ilia Dobrev

November 26, 2020

Are calculators allowed on the GMAT? It seems like a pretty straightforward question, but the details are a bit more complicated. 

The short answer is: yes and no. In fact, the calculator question holds the key for a strong performance on the exam as a whole. This article explains when calculator use is permitted and, more importantly, when using a calculator isn’t the best approach to solving a given problem.  

So if you’re used to using a calculator on math tests, don’t worry! We’ve provided a list of some handy mental math techniques and time saving strategies that will enhance your performance on the Quant section and beyond. 

Calculators on the GMAT | Explained

  • You are not allowed to bring your own calculator to the GMAT exam.

According to the GMAC, no personal items are allowed in the exam room at any certified test center.

However, the proctor will provide a blank canvas with plenty of space to perform any necessary calculations by hand.

  • You cannot use a calculator on the Quantitative section.

There’s no reason to be intimidated by the restriction on calculators. Although most of us are used to using calculators for arithmetic, the GMAT is not designed to test your ability to perform complex mathematical operations. The Quant section draws from secondary-level math and basic algebra and geometry to test other skill sets, such as critical thinking, logical reasoning, and problem solving. 

In fact, the majority of the Quant questions can and should be answered without any calculations beyond estimation. 

For example, data sufficiency problems, which are more geared towards reasoning than math skills, typically only call for basic calculations and estimation. If you do need to do math, keep in mind that the GMAC designers usually keep numbers simple and avoid decimals. If you see large numbers or complex fractions, it’s a good bet that there’s an easier solution path. 

For another example of how mental math can save you time, see our explanation of the movie night combinatorics problem

  • You can use an on-screen calculator on the Integrated Reasoning section.

Surprisingly or not, a calculator will be provided for the Integrated Reasoning section. This GMAT calculator has the standard basic functions, CE (clear entry) button, C (clear) button, an sqrt function, a % (percentage) button, and a 1/x button that calculates the reciprocal of the entry currently on the screen. There is also a row with the standard memory functions

    • MS (memory store) stores the current entry in the calculator’s memory.
    • MR (memory recall) displays the last number stored in the calculator’s memory.
    • M+ (memory addition) adds the current entry to the value stored in the calculator’s memory. This button is helpful when you need to add a long series of numbers, but don’t have time to retype each one.
    • MC (memory clear) erases whatever is in the current memory. Use it before every new calculation set.

Improve your Mental Math and Reduce Calculator Dependence

Survival Tips & Tricks

  • Do not overuse the IR calculator.

Although the GMAT provides a basic calculator for the Integrated Reasoning section, don’t use it too often. You’ll waste more time than you save. However, you can apply some of the same solution paths used in the Quant section to problems in Integrated Reasoning.

  • Practice mental math operations regularly.

Mental math operations are easy to learn with some practice, and mastering mental math can provide a significant morale boost leading up to your test date. You can add, multiply, subtract, and divide when you pay bills, check out at the grocery store, calculate a tip, etc. without using a calculator.

Try putting away the calculator and practicing mental math in your daily life to save time and, ultimately, enhance your GMAT score.

  • Make accurate estimations

Learning to estimate efficiently is the key to saving considerable amounts of time on the GMAT. Convert unwieldy numbers to more manageable figures, like 0 or 5, for the quicker calculations. Then, you can browse the answer choices and select the answer that’s closest to your preliminary estimate.

  • Don’t use a calculator when prepping for the Quant section.

Preparing without a calculator is a great way to practice mental math operations outside of your daily life. The test setting and Quant context will help accustom you to the environment. You’ll feel more prepared if you know exactly what to expect on test day. 

  • Familiarize yourself with a basic GMAT calculator and practice using its memory functions.

Since the on-screen calculator will be your only technical aid during the Integrated Reasoning section, it’s smart to spend some time getting used to it. When you’re pressed for time, the calculator’s memory function can be a crucial tool for staying on track with a healthy exam pace. 

  • Look to the answer choices to guide your strategy.

Sometimes, you can eliminate a couple of answer choices immediately. 

Even when time is in short supply, you can make educated guesses and use your reasoning skills to boost your chance of arriving at the correct answer.

  • Don’t panic if you see big numbers.

Keep in mind that the people behind the GMAT are aware that they’re designing questions to be answered without calculators. This limits the difficulty of the arithmetic and encourages test-takers to look for the more straightforward approach.

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gmat probability problems
Posted on
20
Nov 2020

GMAT How-to: Probability Problems

GMAT probability questions, which test logical reasoning skills, tend to be quite daunting. The good news is that they don’t appear very frequently; the Quant section contains no more than three or four probability questions. However, since so many test-takers struggle with these questions, mastering probability can be an excellent way to boost your overall score. 

GMAT probability questions aren’t so hard once you’ve grasped the basic concepts. Like the majority of the Quant section, probability questions only cover high school level material. The principle challenge is the tricky wording. 

This article will cover some methods to simplify probability questions and boost your Quant score. 

What Is Probability?

The first step to mastering probability is to break down the basic idea:

Probability = the number of desired outcomes / the total number of outcomes

Or in other words, the chance of something happening is the quotient of the number of desired outcomes and the total number of possible outcomes.

A coin flip is one generic example that can help us understand probability.

There are two possible outcomes when we flip a coin: heads or tails. If we want the coin to land on heads, then we divide 1 (the chance that the coin will land on the desired outcome, heads) by 2 (all possible outcomes, heads and tails), and the result is ½ or 0.5 (50%), meaning that there is a 50% chance that the coin will land on heads.

Although this is an elementary example, it demonstrates the fundamental concept behind all probability problems–a ratio between a part and a whole expressed as a fraction or percentage.

Probability of Independent Events

The probability of x discrete events occurring is the product of all individual probabilities.

For example, imagine that we toss a coin twice. Each toss is independent of the other, meaning that each toss has an equal chance of landing on either heads or tails (0.5). If we want to calculate the chance of getting heads twice in a row, we need to multiply the probability of getting heads the first time by the probability of getting heads the second time. 

Or, represented as an equation:

 ½ x ½ = ¼ 

We get a 0.25 or 25% chance that the coin will land on heads twice. 

Probability of Getting Either A or B

Keep in mind that the sum of all possible events is equal to 1 (100%). 

If we continue with the coin toss example, we know that the probability of landing on heads is 0.5, and that the probability of landing on tails is also 0.5. Therefore:

0.5 + 0.5 = 1

The possibility of landing on either heads or tails is equal to 1, or 100%. In other words, every time we flip a coin, we can be certain that it will land on heads or tails.

Probability Of An Event Not Occurring

Following the concept that the sum of all possible events is 1, we can conclude that the probability of event A not happening (A’) is 1 – A, or equal to the probability of event B occurring.

The chance that the coin will not land on heads is equal to the chance that the coin will land on tails:

1 – 0.5 = 0.5

This method is most useful in situations with many favorable events and fewer unfavorable ones. Since time management is essential on the GMAT, it’s better to avoid solution paths that require more calculations. Subtracting the number of unfavorable events from the whole is quicker and simpler, and thus, less likely to result in mistakes.

Pay Attention to Keywords

Read each problem’s wording with great care to determine exactly which operations to use. 

For example, if the problem uses the word “and,” you need to find the product of the probabilities. If the question uses the word “or,” you need to solve for their sum.

If we flipped one coin and we wanted to know the chances of landing on either heads or tails, we would calculate it like this:

0.5 + 0.5 = 1

Similarly, if we were to toss two coins and we wanted to find the probability of landing on both heads and tails, we would use this equation:

0.5 x 0.5 = 0.25

Avoid Common Errors

Minor errors, such as missing possible events, can lead to incorrect answers.

These pointers will help you avoid some common mistakes on probability questions:

  • List all possible events before starting any calculations;
  • Sum up the probabilities of all possible events to make sure they add up to 1;
  • If there are several different arrangements possible (for example, picking different colored balls from a box), find the probability of one of the events and multiply it by the number of different possible arrangements.

If you enjoyed this article make sure to check out our other How To articles like: Efficient Learning & Verbal section.

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GMAT in new york
Posted on
17
Nov 2020

Taking the GMAT Exam in New York

Table of Contents:

  1. Who administers the GMAT test?
  2. What does the test center look like?
  3. Where are the test centers located?
  4. Test center holidays
  5. Top MBA programs in the area
  6. Tips
  7. Test Day FAQs

About ¾ of the way through your extensive GMAT prep you should begin to start planning your test day, including scheduling the test, preparing your trip to the test center, and even pre-visiting the test center so that you know exactly where it is. This guide is here to offer you all the required information related to taking the GMAT in New York. 

Who administers the GMAT test?

Pearson Professional Centers – administers the GMAT and EA exam on behalf of the GMAC. To find out more about the Pearson Professional test centers visit https://www.pearson.com/us/

What does the test center look like?

A Pearson Professional Center will include individual testing areas for each test taker with a separation screen between each test-taker.

Where are the test centers in New York?

These are the top 3 locations where test-takers generally had the best experience:

Pearson Professional Centers- NY (Herald Square)

31 West 34th Street

Suite 1001

New York, New York 10001

United States

Phone: 212-967-0471

By car:
From Central Manhattan (19 minutes):
    • Head northeast on 

  • East Dr toward E 90th St
  • Keep right to continue on Malcolm X Blvd
  • Turn right onto Central Park N
  • Central Park N turns right and becomes Duke Ellington Circle
  • Turn right onto 5th Ave
  • Turn right after Reinlieb Laurence (on the right)
  •  Destination will be on the left

By train:

  • Should take around 22 minutes

Test-takers’ review:

This test center was rated 4.3 by Google reviewers. Testing stations are clean and comfortable and the staff was friendly and professional. They also mentioned that the room temperature was colder than usual, so make sure to bring a sweater or jacket.

Pearson Professional Centers-Forest Hills NY

118-35 Queens Boulevard

Suite 1260, 12th Floor

Forest Hills Tower

Forest Hills, New York 11375

United States

Phone: 718-263-3801

By car:

From Queens Center (7 minutes):

  • Get on I-495 E
  • Continue on I-495 E. Take I-678 S/Van Wyck Expy to Union Tpke. Take exit 7 from I-678 S/Van Wyck Expy
  • Follow Union Tpke to New York 25 Service/Queens Blvd

Test-takers’ reviews:

This test center was rated 4.3 by Google reviewers. They generally had a great test-taking experience. The staff was polite and professional and the waiting rooms were comfortable. It was also mentioned that the testing-rooms were a bit hot.

Pearson Professional Centers-Yonkers NY

73 Market Street

Suite 374

Ridge Hill

Yonkers, New York 10710

United States

Phone: 914-423-8437

By car:

From Yonkers (12 minutes):

  • Head northeast toward S Broadway
  • Get on Cross County Pkwy
  • Continue on Cross County Pkwy. Take I-87 N to Ridge Hill Boulevard. Take exit 6A from I-87 N
  • Continue on Ridge Hill Boulevard. Drive to Market Street

Test-takers’ reviews:

This test center was rated 4.5 by Google reviewers. The reviewers mentioned that the staff was helpful and polite as well as courteous. The environment was neat, clean, and professional and the building had easy access to the highway.

Test Center Holidays:

The most popular times for GMAT preparation and test-taking are during the holiday seasons. Be mindful of dates that you will not be able to take the GMAT or EA at any of the test centers mentioned above. Pearson test centers are closed during the following dates:

  • 1 Jan – New Year’s Day 
  • 2 Apr – Good Friday   
  • 5 Apr – Easter Monday 
  • 3 May – May Day 
  • 31 May – Late May Bank Holiday   
  • 30 Aug – August Bank Holiday
  • 25 Dec – Christmas Day
  • 26 Dec – Boxing Day 
  • 27 Dec – Christmas Holiday
  • 28 Dec – Boxing Day Holiday 

Top MBA programs in New York

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quant score tips
Posted on
03
Nov 2020

7 Tips To Improve Your GMAT Quant Score

If you’ve experienced the GMAT, you may have noticed that your score is higher on some sections than others. Some otherwise strong business school candidates struggle with their score on the quantitative section. The problem might derive from preparation style, in which case, you might consider professional GMAT tutoring, a service offered by a number of organizations including Apex GMAT. Until then, these tips will help kick start your prep process so you’re ready to ace the quant section.

What’s on the GMAT Quantitative section?

First, let’s talk about what exactly the GMAT quant section consists of. Test takers have 62 minutes to answer 31 math problems. This means that on average, each question should take two minutes. However, this isn’t a hard rule, so there’s no need to get nervous if one problem takes longer than others. 

The questions are divided into two types: data sufficiency and problem-solving.

Data sufficiency questions ask test takers to analyze two given statements and determine whether the provided data tells readers enough to solve the problem. These questions are designed to evaluate quantitative fluency and critical thinking skills.

Problem-solving questions are multiple choice. They evaluate logical and analytical ability. 

Keep in mind that both question types require only algebra, arithmetic, and geometry, so there’s no need to worry about trigonometry or calculus. Moreover, all of the problems can be solved using basic high school level math. 

Why is the GMAT Quantitative section so difficult?

Based on the above description, you might think that the quant section won’t be too difficult. That isn’t exactly true. The GMAT is designed to confuse and restrict test takers in various ways. For example, each problem has a time limit and calculators aren’t allowed. Furthermore, problem solving and data sufficiency problems are in the same section, so test-takers must alternate between the two question types. These factors can cause stress. 

The following tips will help you remain calm and collected as you prepare for the quant section.

1: Don’t overthink the math

First and foremost, don’t forget that the GMAT quant section consists of simple math problems. Use this to your advantage. Don’t do all of the calculations; rather, determine what makes a problem look more difficult than it actually is. 

2: Start managing your time before the test

You can start saving time before you even pick up your pencil by practicing arithmetic. Limiting the time it takes to do simple equations means you can spend more time on the problems. Be sure to review exponent rules and brush up on decimals with fractions. And don’t forget about higher powers!

3: Use alternative strategies to find solutions

If you can’t solve a problem with simple math, try using an alternative path to the solution. There’s usually an easier way to solve quant problems–the GMAT is designed to test for efficient problem solving. Sometimes, straightforward logic or plugging in numbers will solve a problem faster. Keep in mind that a traditional approach might not be necessary for every problem. 

4: Analyze each sentence step by step

During the GMAT preparation process, learn how to simplify each question. Some problems might seem daunting, but they can be broken into smaller steps that you can solve one-by-one. Trying to solve the whole problem at once can lead test takers to answer the wrong question. The more you break down the problem, the easier it will become. Don’t worry–you’ll actually save time by (re-)reading the questions. 

Tip 5: Simplify the answer choices

In addition to simplifying the questions, the answer choices can also be simplified. For example, all data sufficiency questions use the same five answer choices: 

  1. Statement 1 alone is sufficient but statement 2 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.
  2. Statement 2 alone is sufficient but statement 1 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.
  3. Both statements 1 and 2 together are sufficient to answer the question but neither statement is sufficient alone.
  4. Each statement alone is sufficient to answer the question.
  5. Statements 1 and 2 are not sufficient to answer the question asked and additional data is needed to answer the statements.

Seems wordy, doesn’t it? Fortunately, you can memorize these simpler versions:

  1. only statement 1
  2. only statement 2
  3. both statements together
  4. either statement
  5. neither statement

Tip 6: Scratch paper is a must

Although scratch paper may seem unnecessary for quant problems, it can help you keep track of calculations and clarify your thought process. It might take a little extra time, but ultimately, avoidable mistakes are even more time consuming.

Tip 7: Plug in the answer choices 

Another way to save time with alternative solution paths is to start by reading all of the answer choices and plugging them into the problem. If you don’t know which answer choices to start with, start from the middle.

Bonus tip

The most important tip of all is practice, practice, and practice! There are many different ways to prepare: memorizing rules and formulas, watching GMAT problem-solving videos (don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel), and enrolling in professional GMAT courses

Follow us to learn more about the GMAT preparation process. Good luck on your exam!

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Fortune 500 CEO’s with MBA’s
Posted on
29
Oct 2020

Fortune 500 CEO’s with MBA’s

Running a fortune 500 company seems like an out of reach dream for many, but some have climbed up the ranks of these companies to the ultimate position. Not all top CEO’s have obtained MBA’s at prestigious universities but it is clear that obtaining an MBA often leads to success in this role which is why so many CEO’s have an MBA. All the CEO’s on this list claim their continued success to their MBA studies coupled with determination and hard work.

Tim Cook

As the current Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc., Tim Cook helped pull Apple out of its financial woes in the late 90’s with its founder Steve Jobs. Although he is most well-known for his position at Apple, Cook has had many influential positions including at IBM, Compaq and Intelligent Electronics. Like other successful people, Cook is known to work odd hours, sending his first emails of the day at 4:30am and holding Sunday strategy meetings. He graduated from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and this has undeniably helped shape him into the successful leader that he has become today. With a GMAT score range of 660 – 740, Duke’s MBA is a tough program to get accepted to but we expect that Cook’s creative and critical thinking skills allowed him to excel on the GMAT. Our guess: 750

Mary Barra

Mary Barra certainly earned her current position as the Chief Executive Officer of General Motors as she began working at the company at the age of 18. Over the years, she worked her way to the top, making her time at GM total over 30 years. She is the first female to hold the CEO position at the company and has been in it for 15 years. To ensure her continued upward growth in the company she attended Stanford Graduate Business School to obtain her MBA. Stanford has the highest average GMAT score of any of the top schools in the country at 737. Barra has not only successfully used her MBA to climb to the highest position in the company but has held many other leadership roles within the company on her journey to the top. We assume that she was determined to get a great score on the GMAT and achieved this as she attended the graduate school on a GM fellowship. Our guess: 740

Sundar Pichai

If you are not firstly familiar with him from being the CEO at Google, then you might recognize him from his congressional testimony in 2018. Sundar started off his career working at Mckinsey & Company and moved to Google in 2003 where he worked his way up the ladder through various positions until being offered the ultimate one, CEO. He was even considered for the CEO position at Microsoft but lost out to another member on our list: Satya Nadella. He obtained an MBA from Wharton School of Business where the GMAT average score is an impressive 732. We have no doubt that Sundar comfortably exceeds this range as his education history is crammed with awards and recognitions. Our guess: 770

Satya Nadella

Satya has enjoyed a very successful tenure as CEO of Microsoft having changed the direction of the company back to its roots successfully, tripling its stock price and transforming Microsoft’s corporate culture into a more collaborative and learning focused company. In 2018 he was named the best CEO of a US large firm and followed this by being named Person of the Year by the Financial Times. He has published a semi autobiography: Hit Refresh and has a passion for continued learning. He attended Booth School of Business which has an average GMAT score of 730. With all his success we are sure that Satya scored well above this. Our guess: 750

Indra Nooyi

Ranked as one of the most powerful women in the world for multiple years Indra Nooyi served as the CEO of Pepsi Co. for 12 years, from 2006 to 2018. Before her time at Pepsi she held high level positions at Johnson & Johnson, The Boston Consulting Group and Motorola. By 2014 she was making close to $17 million dollars a year and has received several awards and recognitions. She attended Yale School of Management and although she did not pursue an MBA, she would have still needed to take the GMAT to get into her Master’s in Private and Public Management program. Yale has a median GMAT score of 720 and Indra would attained a score that is close, if not exceeds this. Our Guess: 720

Jamie Dimon

Voted one of the most influential people by Time Magazine, Jamie Diamon is the CEO and Chairman of JPMorgan Chase. He started his career at American Express after turning down offers from Goldman Sachs, the Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley. Following this, he moved to JPMorgan Chase in 2000 and 5 years later was named CEO. He is one of the few bankers to become a billionaire during his time in banking. He attended Harvard School of Business which has a median GMAT score of 730. With countless achievements and successes in the banking industry we are sure that he excelled during his program at the Ivy league school. Our guess: 760

Check out our MBA Titans on the Forbes List article next. 

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awa section template
Posted on
23
Oct 2020

Master the GMAT AWA section with this comprehensive template

GMAT AWA Section Template For Success

By ApexGMAT

Contributor: Altea Sulollari

October 23rd, 2020

One of the easiest ways to succeed in the GMAT AWA section is by preparing beforehand for the essay that awaits. Having a ready-made template in mind can be extremely helpful, especially because you can use that same template for every single topic you’ll come across in the exam. Also, it will be easier and less time-consuming for you to simply fill in the missing information once you read the passage.

Check out our ready-made GMAT AWA section template that will make your life easier and will help you get the score you’re aiming for!

The first step

Before going in to write your essay, there is one major thing that you need to consider. This step will not be the most time-consuming one as the actual writing of the essay will take the greatest portion of your time, however, it is crucial to the final essay that you’ll be producing. Your very first step after reading the passage is a mental analysis of the construction of the argument presented to you in the passage. To do that, you’ll need to consider 3 main points:

  1. Understanding what the author of the text is inferring/ claiming
  2. Pointing out how the argument is flawed as it relies on premises that are based on assumptions rather than actual facts
  3. Deciding how the argument can be strengthened in order to make it more viable, or how it can be weakened if certain counterexamples are introduced.

1. Understanding the Author’s Claim

This is a crucial step to the whole process, as it leads the way for the analysis to follow. After reading the passage, you should be able to carefully consider the argument that the author is introducing, and you’ll also be able to evaluate the logical reasoning behind it. Try answering these questions: Is the conclusion reasonable and logical, or otherwise, can it be weakened or strengthened if other information is presented?

After you’ve answered those questions, you can identify the key points of the argument and you can rank them in order of importance. You will have to discuss every single one in detail in the body paragraphs when you write the essay.

2. Pointing out how the author’s argument is flawed

After pinpointing the premises of the argument, you can easily decide how they are flawed, and if they do not flow logically. The fact that you can identify things in the argument that do not make sense and are not logical, make the argument flawed and unconvincing, and that is basically your thesis statement that you’re going to discuss in detail in your body paragraphs.

3. Deciding how to strengthen/weaken the argument

As your final step in your initial analysis, you’ll have to come up with ways to either strengthen the author’s claim in order to make it more convincing and sound or to weaken the author’s argument by using certain counterexamples or other evidence that claims otherwise. You’ll have the opportunity to draw examples or point out information that is missing in the passage in order to further support your analysis.

The Final Step

Once you have taken the 3 above-mentioned steps and have analyzed the argument in detail, you’ll have a ready-made outline in mind that you can easily follow in order to write your final essay as all you’ll need to do is put everything down in a written form.

Introduction:

This section is essentially where you’ll be able to clearly state that the argument in the passage is flawed. You can state the different flaws that you were able to point out and then make sure to state your clear intention of discussing them, what evidence they are lacking and how they can be made more convincing. Here are a few expressions you can use:

  • The argument/ author claims that…
  • In this state, the argument seems flawed/unsound/unconvincing because…
  • The argument will not be deemed convincing until further evidence is presented to prove the assumption that…
  • As it is, the argument also fails to mention… and further discuss…

Body paragraphs:

In these body paragraphs, you’ll get the opportunity to discuss in detail every single flaw you were able to point out in the argument. Make sure to clearly state what is wrong with said flaw and discuss how it fails to be convincing and use counterexamples and other details to prove your point. Suggest ways the flaw can be improved in order to make the argument more plausible at the end of every paragraph. 

  • Initially/ Firstly/ To begin with…
  • Secondly/ To add more/ In addition…
  • Thirdly/ Finally…
  • That claim is unlikely/flawed/unconvincing because…
  • Something else that undermines the argument is the lack of supporting evidence like…
  • The argument can be strengthened by mentioning… (another possible scenario, another example, other supporting evidence)
  • The argument assumes that…
  • That is a weak claim as it assumes that…
  • To further illustrate, the claim does not clearly state that…
  • The lack of supportive evidence makes the claim…
  • If further evidence that… was provided, then…
  • In order to make the argument more convincing, the author should have mentioned… (suggestion, supporting example, etc.)
  • The author concludes that …
  • The lack of supporting evidence that…, is proof of the poor reasoning on the side of the author.
  • The insufficient evidence and the conflicting claims that… are also an indication that…
  • To further strengthen the argument, the author should provide evidence that…

Conclusion:

The last paragraph is your chance to recap the thesis statement and acknowledge once again that the argument is flawed because of what you mentioned in the body paragraphs. You can also briefly mention that even though in the current state the argument is unconvincing, it can be strengthened by providing supporting evidence and more specific information.

  • In conclusion/ To conclude/ In summary…
  • The argument that… is flawed because… (briefly mention Flaw 1, Flaw 2 and Flaw 3)
  • In order to make the argument fully convincing and sound, the author would have to provide further details and evidence that…
  • In the current state, the argument that the author makes remains weak and flawed because of the lack of evidence that…

For more GMAT AWA information read: 4 Tips for success of the AWA Section. 

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GMAT awa
Posted on
20
Oct 2020

4 Best Practices to Help You Master the GMAT AWA Section

Posted By: Apex GMAT

Contributor: Altea Sulollari

Date: 20 October 2020

When preparing for the GMAT most people neglect the GMAT AWA section, and even though this section is scored separately, it is important that you spend some time focusing on performing well on it.

The section is specifically designed to test your ability to impartially analyze an argument and to state your ideas with precision – skills that will be invaluable in your future career.

Another reason to pay attention to this section of the GMAT is the fact that the schools you apply to will get to see your essays, and impressing them with your writing skill can only help your application.

In the upcoming sections, we’ll go over all you need to know about:

  • The GMAT AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment)
  • How the AWA is scored
  • Five best practices to follow when preparing for the AWA section

The GMAT AWA Explained

When it comes to the AWA, keep in mind that this section is not as important as the others as it does not contribute to the all important 800 score. That being said, your essay is sent to the schools that you are applying to and the recruiters will get to see how you structure an argument. Even though the GMAT AWA section is not the most important, it still showcases your writing skills and that is a good enough reason to put some effort into it.

The section is a timed 30-minute essay writing task. You will be presented with a passage and your task will be to analyze the author’s argument to the best of your abilities. You will be expected to provide a thorough analysis of the strong points as well as to point out the weaknesses of the argument. Similar to the critical reasoning section, you will have to speak about an argument construction using abstract language and to show how it can potentially be weakened or strengthened. Your ability to successfully express your ideas in a precise manner will be crucial in this process. A good way to do this is to constantly ask yourself the question: “What if?”, to show you the methods that an argument can be strengthened and weakened. 

The GMAT AWA Scoring System

Now that you know what this section is all about, let’s focus on the scoring system for this part of the GMAT.

Your analysis will be scored separately from the other sections of the GMAT and the score you get will not count towards your final combined score, which ranges from 200 to a maximum of 800. Rather the AWA score range is from 0 to 6 in half point increments, where 6 is the maximum score for a well-structured analysis.

The second thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that your essay will be checked twice: once by a human reader and once by a computer algorithm. The scores from both are taken into consideration and your final score will be the average of those two. However, if the scores from the human reader and the computer algorithm differ from one another significantly, another human reader has to check your argument analysis.

This information is important because although you do not have an idea about how the human reader will check your essay, the computer algorithm uses certain criteria to base its final decision on, and this criteria includes keywords related to the topic, grammar, punctuation, structure, etc. This is useful insight into what is asked of you and where you should focus when preparing for the section in order to succeed. 

What’s a good GMAT AWA score?

Consider the AWA to be pass/fail, where the task in question is whether you can construct a coherent argument, as compared to your peers. In this light, a passing grade would be a 4.5 or greater.  While it is always good to aim high, it’s important to keep in mind that once you’ve achieved a 4.5, there’s very little use of worrying about obtaining a higher score, and you’d do better focusing on the other parts of your application to distinguish yourself.

Pro tip: There is a simpler way to improve your GMAT AWA score without putting too much effort into preparing for this specific section: master the GMAT Verbal section! Both the Verbal section and the AWA section require you to have good critical reasoning skills and for you to be able to analyze arguments impartially. As both of these sections require the same set of skills, you won’t have to work harder, only smarter!

4 Best Practices to Help You Ace the GMAT AWA Section

Now that you’re familiar with the GMAT AWA section and its scoring system, here are some best practices to follow that will assure you master this section.

1. Remember that you are dealing with an analysis! 

Do what is asked of you and do not deviate from that. You’ll need to focus on analyzing the arguments that are presented to you in the passage. Concentrate on identifying the strong points as well as the weaknesses of the argument. This is not, however, an opportunity to express your own opinion on the matter or topic, so be careful not to cross that line and risk losing points. Also, try to stir away from personal views and irrelevant outside information that can potentially affect the way you structure and phrase your analysis. Instead, try to focus on the logic of the argument and stick to that.

2. Do NOT focus too much on the word count!

The number of words you use does not matter as much as the structure and quality of your work. However, there’s a catch! The computer algorithm that checks your essay is more likely to give you a higher score if you write a longer essay with more complex sentence structure. Ultimately, you’ll have to make sure that you have a clearly laid out argument in an easy-to-follow structure, and if you do so well, generally the length will be sufficient and you won’t have any problems regarding word count. Bottom line: if your essay is a bit short, there’s probably something you’ve missed, so go back and look for additional features of the argument to deconstruct. 

Pro tip: Mind your grammar and punctuation! Grammar and punctuation are just as important as structure. A well-written essay should not have grammatical mistakes or sentences that are out of place or do not make sense. Use your Sentence Correction skills! 

3. Practice is key!

Practice makes perfect. Writing a few practice essays is particularly important when it comes to acing the AWA section of the GMAT as it familiarizes you with the process of writing an analysis of argument under a time constraint. Reading many arguments in different formats and on varying subjects will certainly help you improve your overall skills and make you ready for any argument presented come test day.

That being said, do not overdo it. If you graduated from University in an English speaking country with a liberal arts or social sciences degree under your belt, this should be enough for you to make the 4.5 mark in the AWA without much further preparation.

Finally, make good use of ready-made templates to structure your essay. There are plenty of templates that you can download for free so make sure to take advantage of that.

4. Don’t stress it too much!

There is nothing worse than stressing out on exam day as it can affect your overall performance on the exam. Working on the GMAT AWA section can be especially stressful and overwhelming because you have to come up with your own explanations rather than rely on provided answers. Try to take it easy and remember that the AWA’s role on the GMAT is as much about grinding down your stamina as it is about writing. You’ve practiced a lot and are prepared to ace this section and the exam as a whole, so don’t worry about it.

Now that we went over everything, you’ve got an ace up your sleeve and you’ll be able to tackle the GMAT AWA with confidence.

Good luck with your exam! 

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Posted on
13
Oct 2020

The Online GMAT Experience-from preparation to post MBA 

by Apex GMAT

Contributor: Ilia Dobrev

 

Advancements in technology, combined with constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, have prompted the GMAT world to adapt by shifting a large portion of the exam and preparation materials online. Both test takers and tutoring firms have seen positive outcomes from interactive learning aids, an abundance of resources, and easily accessible networks of people at different stages of the GMAT journey. However, the transition has also introduced some hazards concerning physical test endurance, focus, and anxiety. This article evaluates risks and challenges you may encounter taking the online exam and summarizes everything you need to know to be ready for your online GMAT experience.

The Online GMAT Exam

Since the onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, the General Management Admissions Council (GMAC) has introduced an innovative, completely online version of the physical GMAT test. This allows test takers to maintain social distance by sitting for the exam from the comfort of home.

As of late July, 2020, at the time of writing, anyone can schedule an online exam before December 31, 2020. In order to accommodate candidates’ availability, appointments are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 24 hours before an available time slot. Note that the online GMAT exam is not available in Mainland China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan due to local data privacy regulations.

Differences from the regular GMAT exam

  • The GMAC has determined that the Quantitative, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning sections are the most relevant for graduate business education. Therefore, the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) has been excluded from the online GMAT test.
  • The duration of the online test is shorter–2 hours and 45 minutes compared to 3 hours and 23 minutes. This time frame includes a 15 to 30 minutes tutorial to  familiarize candidates with the online proctored platform and all its functions.
  • Online, you will not be able to choose the order of the sections. The sequence is fixed as follows: Quantitative, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning.
  • You can use a physical whiteboard, the built-in online whiteboard, or both for note taking. 

If you’re planning to use a physical white board, there are several requirements it must fulfil: it should be no larger than 12×20 inches (30×50 centimeters), use up to 2 dry erase markers and 1 dry erase whiteboard eraser. Items such as whiteboards with grids, background colors, or other markings, paper, pen, pencil, permanent marker, tissues (paper towels, napkins), whiteboard spray, chalkboards, writing tablets, and others are not permitted.

During the online exam, test takers will be able to access an online board from the icon. It contains an endless canvas to take notes on, which eliminates the need to erase your work as you progress through the sections.

  • In contrast to the two optional breaks in the regular exam, the online GMAT allows candidates to opt for only one 5-minute break before the Integrated Reasoning section.
  • Official GMAT scores are available on mba.com within 7 business days of completing the exam.
  • Another perk of the online GMAT experience is that it allows applicants to send scores to an unlimited number of institutions free of charge.
  • The online GMAT fee is $200, compared to the original $250 cost for the physical exam.
  • The online test cannot be retaken for any reason except a verified technical issue or authorized retakes.

Similarities with the regular GMAT exam

  • The online GMAT consists of the same Quantitative, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning sections. Despite excluding the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), each of the other three sections contains the same number of questions as before–31, 36, and 12 respectively. In terms of timing, there are no alterations–the sections take 62, 65, and 30 minutes.

online GMAT breakdown

  • To ensure that GMAT scores are compatible and comparable across the online and test center-based versions, the online version adopts the same scoring algorithm. This means that both exams are equally replaceable with one another. 
  • Validity remains the same – 5 years.

Online GMAT Preparation, Tips & Tricks

As the online exam practically covers the same content, regular GMAT preparation remains relevant. If you are trying to figure out which prep method (self, group, or one-on-one) suits you best, you can check out the Four Ps of the best GMAT Prep. Apex’s GMAT tutors and custom-made curriculum are tailored to meet the needs for an online learning environment by providing private GMAT tutoring and nurturing constant feedback.

From a technical viewpoint, it is important to get used to the online whiteboard tool. It is available in all of GMAC’s Official Practice Exams, where anyone can practice all its functions in a simulated, timed environment. Keep in mind that you are not permitted to use touchscreens, graphics tablets, or stylus pens. And lastly, before starting the online GMAT exam, you can do a system test before to ensure your computer meets the operational requirements.

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gmat percentile rankings aticle
Posted on
06
Oct 2020

GMAT Percentile Rankings: Demystified

by Apex GMAT

Contributor: Ilia Dobrev

The GMAT exam is an important part of the admissions process for over 7,000 business programs worldwide. GMAT performance is widely regarded as one of the best predictors of not only high academic honors, but also long-term career success. Achieving an excellent GMAT score and ranking in the top percentile is the first stepping stone in anyone’s journey to a prestigious business career.

The competitive admissions environment surrounding top tier universities has resulted in a 10-20% acceptance rate. This corresponds with percentile rankings in specific sections: for example, the GMAT Quant. But what do percentile rankings really mean?

This article describes the relationship between GMAT scores and respective percentile ranking, both in terms of individual sections and as a whole.

How do GMAT scores translate into GMAT percentiles?

According to the GMAC, two-thirds of test takers from all over the world score between 400 and 600. GMAT scores also translate into a percentile ranking. A number indicating the percentage of test takers at or below a given score. Percentile rankings are determined by comparing scaled Quant and Verbal scores (which can range from 6 to 51) to your peers’ scores. For instance, if you scored in the 90th percentile, that means that just 10% of all examinees outscored you. It’s important to note that the percentiles are recalculated every summer. This means that the current percentile rankings are likely different from the previous year’s rankings. 

The GMAC considers a sample size of test takers tracked since January 2017 to calculate percentiles. Until the beginning of 2020, a total of 695,794 GMAT exams were taken and scored, with a standard deviation of slightly above 116. Consequently, the GMAC shares average percentiles rankings for each of the four sections:

 

  • Quantitative: 36%
  • Verbal Reasoning: 45%
  • Integrated Reasoning: 33%
  • Analytical Writing Assessment: 19%

 

While these numbers seem low, applicants need to score well above the average to earn a spot in the most competitive business schools.

GMAT Scoring Grid

GMAT percentile rankings

How have percentile rankings changed by section?

Over the years, there is a trend towards increasing average GMAT scores and, consequently, percentiles have risen, too. In particular, the GMAT Quantitative percentiles have become considerably more competitive and increasingly important for MBA admissions. As more and more test takers master the GMAT quant section, it gets harder to score in a high percentile. 

One reason may be that as the GMAT’s worldwide popularity increases, non-native English speakers coming from math-proficient countries such as China and India make up a large proportion of the GMAT test takers. On the other hand, the GMAT Verbal section remains rather challenging–a score of 40 out of 60 ranks in the 90th percentile. The increasing representation of non-native English speakers might also help explain why the verbal section remains challenging. 

In any case, balanced percentile refers to the combined result of your scores on the Verbal and Quant sections.

What about the AWA and IR?

The Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning sections are scored separately. They also have their own scoring scale, independent from the 200 to 800 scale used to evaluate Quant and Verbal. A strong performance on the Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning sections can boost your admissions chances. Nevertheless, we recommend that applicants prioritize ranking in the top percentiles in the Quant and Verbal sections.

What do GMAT Percentiles mean for admissions to B-schools?

While most business schools don’t have a straightforward cutoff for GMAT results, the majority of admissions committees consider both percentile rankings and total scores. 

Top-tier institutions like Wharton, Stanford, INSEAD, and MIT are known to perform more in-depth analyses of candidates’ total scores compared with percentile rankings. These programs value exceptional scores, but place additional weight on how competitive candidates are compared with their peers. During particularly competitive admissions cycles, the most selective business schools only consider candidates who scored above the 90th percentile. Admissions decisions entail a more holistic selection process in which committees consider work experience, former education, motivation letters, resumes, recommendations, and other factors that signal applicants’ potential for success in the business world.

If you want to get into the right business program, it’s a smart move to familiarize yourself with the yearly data reports that most business schools produce regarding their current students’ GMAT scores and percentiles. 

Boosting your GMAT score

Depending on your score goals, current level of preparation, and anticipated exam date, you can opt for one of three GMAT prep options that will best suit your needs, budget, and learning style. If you’re aiming for a 700+ score, a professional GMAT tutor might provide the guidance you need to leverage your strengths and weaknesses. This could ultimately put you on the path to degree and career success. 

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How To GMAT: The Verbal Section
Posted on
29
Sep 2020

How to Prepare for the GMAT: The Verbal Section

Posted by: Apex GMAT

Contributor: Ivan Minchev

How To GMAT: The Verbal Section

The business world is dominated by numbers, charts, and graphs. Thus, most business school hopefuls understandably focus on developing their analytical thinking and math skills when preparing for the GMAT exam. But it’s a mistake to neglect the verbal section. Effective test prep requires a balanced, well-rounded approach.

Here’s what you need to know about the GMAT verbal section. 

What is the verbal section and what does it test for?

The verbal section primarily evaluates the test taker’s overall command of standard written English, ability to analyze and evaluate arguments, and critical reading skills. As such, the verbal section is made up of three types of problems: critical reasoning, sentence correction, and reading comprehension. 

The 3 sections have a total of 36 questions, with a time limit of 65 minutes. This leaves, on average, 1 minute and 49 seconds per question.

How Is it scored

The verbal section, like the quantitative section, is evaluated on a scale of 0 to 60. A 51 is considered a perfect score on both sections. 

The GMAT also ranks test takers by percentile. The percentile system uses GMAT scores from the previous three years to calculate how applicants performed compared to their peers. For example, if an applicant scores in the 80th percentile, it means he or she performed better than 80% of test takers over the last three years. 

Although the scaled scores don’t change over time, the percentiles do. Business schools assess both the scaled and percentile scores to get an adequate understanding of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Language on the Verbal Section

The language in the verbal section is more sophisticated and academic than intermediate, everyday English. If you aren’t accustomed to reading formal English, your verbal prep might require some extra time and energy. 

It will be easier to identify errors, main points, and bias statements once you’ve trained your ear to formal English. Practice reading formal texts efficiently and effectively, and avoid vernacular texts. Instead, choose sources that are known for using elevated writing styles, such as The New Yorker or The New York Times. 

Critical Reasoning

The critical reasoning subsection consists of a brief text outlining an argument (usually less than 100 words) and five answer choices. Critical reasoning questions measure the test taker’s ability to formulate and evaluate arguments. To answer correctly, consider the argument’s logical structure. Each answer choice might strengthen the argument, weaken the argument, or explain the argument’s flaws.   

Although the best tip for critical reasoning questions is to read carefully and watch out for tricky wording, it will help to keep the following questions in mind:

  1. How is the argument structured?
  2. What’s the conclusion?
  3. What evidence supports the conclusion?
  4. Which assumptions link the evidence to the conclusion?

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension evaluates not only the candidate’s understanding of words and statements, but more importantly, the underlying logic behind them. 

In this subsection, you’ll find passages of text followed by several questions about the text’s details and implications. Some passages draw from various disciplines, such as the physical, biological, or social sciences, while others  refer to business-related fields. 

Here are some tips to make the process less tedious and more efficient:

  1. Read the whole passage without taking too much time to memorize details
  2. Analyze the logical structure of the passage
  3. Ask yourself: 
    • What’s the main argument?
    • What does the author state explicitly?  What is implied?
    • How would you describe the author’s tone and attitude?

Keep an eye out for opinionated words–for example, “clearly,” “obviously,” or “apparently”–these words hint at the author’s attitudes, and they’ll help you suss out the main point. 

Sentence Correction

The sentence correction portion tests a candidate’s ability to communicate effectively. Effective communication isn’t just grammatically correct–it’s clear, direct, and concise. 

In this portion, you’ll find five different versions of the same sentence. The goal is to choose the version that’s grammatically correct and expresses the idea with precision and clarity. Choose wisely!

Conclusion

Taking the quantitative section into account, there are a number of score combinations that will lead to the same overall score, which leave plenty of room to maneuver. However, given the rise in quantitative scores in recent years, total scores and percentile rankings have shifted. This gives candidates an opportunity to boost their overall scores by mastering the verbal section. 

For additional tips related to the verbal section of the GMAT read: How to boost your  verbal score next.

 

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