Profiles of Candidates Scoring 650 on the GMAT| GMAT Talk
Today we’re going to speak about what we call profiles in the 650. A lot of times people see their score as sort of a fixed assessment of where they are rather than as a result of a balance of different characteristics that they have and that is feeding into their score. So when we speak with clients a lot of times they say:
“Oh well, I’ve got a 650 I want to get to a 720 – What do I need to do?”
The short answer is: We’ve got no idea because there’s a lot of different ways to make a 650 or a 580 or 620 and so we will talk about a few different profiles and how they could all result in the same score.
First off we’ve got Albert who is an engineer. He’s very meticulous. He knows a lot of quantitative information so he’s got really strong fundamentals but he also has been trained in an engineering environment which means he approaches problems very linearly. Not just the quantitative problems but the verbal problems as well because his education, especially his higher education, has been very targeted, very straightforward.
Albert knows the fundamentals but the moment he sees a problem he already has decided how to solve it or rather his training has decided how to solve it. He has one solution path. He knows it works and he’s perfectly clear on what to do so he sits down and he does it. This means it’s generally time inefficient but also that he’s not bringing to bear one of the most useful characteristics to his GMAT, which is creative problem-solving.
By not availing himself of his executive-level critical thinking skills or of thinking about the structure of the GMAT rather than just the content he’s doing everything to perfection which has a time constraint and he ends up performing fairly well but gets stuck on the more challenging problems where the algebra or the technicalities of grammar become overwhelming. And in this way, Albert gets to a 650 but he plateaus. He can’t get any further on the exam.
Next, we have Betty, and Betty is really sharp and has always been someone able to thrive in different work environments and to a large extent in academic environments. However, she’s never been one for more formal education and training.
What happens with Betty is that she’s got great instinct. She looks at a problem and she sees the quick way to solve it partially because a lot of her training isn’t formal and she doesn’t know all the rules or all the mechanics of the grammar or how the GMAT structures critical reasoning or reading comprehension or how exponents work but she’s got a good enough idea to use her high-level functioning skills to ‘bounce’ around to a path of success.
Betty also does well and gets to a 650 but her gap is very different than Albert’s. Where Albert needs flexibility Betty just needs a refresh on the fundamentals. Given the fact that she’s already there with strong instincts and some basis in the fundamentals those fundamentals for Betty would be much easier to plug in.
As such she’s going to have a much shorter prep timeline than Albert even though they have the same score going into it. What’s more Albert’s going to have to focus on unlearning habits that he’s developed over years and years of training whereas Betty can lean into her habits.
Finally, let’s talk about Charlie. Charlie has always been a grade 4.0, all A-level type of student. He studies a lot and he’s always been really great at presenting exactly what’s needed to get the marks.
As such he’s always done really well on examinations including standardized examinations maybe like the SAT or the ACT. However, the GMAT is the first time he feels really challenged and the reason for that is that the GMAT is adaptive. So Charlie’s modus operandi – the way he’s been trained and the way he approaches things, is to understand what’s expected of him and then fulfill that. So he’s in reactive mode, whereas the GMAT knows that or the designers of the GMAT know that people who prep in a reactive fashion will eventually get to a point where their solution path’s default solving mechanisms don’t give them the unique approach to allow them to excel past a certain level.
So he also stops at a 650 and he’s sort of halfway between the two others that we already discussed, where he’s going to have to unlearn some habits but he’s also probably in a better position than Albert if he can get away from the prescribed ways that he approaches the exam and the fundamentals. He might need to study the fundamentals but he’s probably over studying them and not looking enough at approaches outside what he thinks the exam wants.
So Charlie would need to work on developing a sense of the structure of the exam, of using the skills that he’s developed to understand when a question is put to him what it is structurally that the GMAT is looking for, how it’s built so that he can react to it with his top-level fundamentals and the creativity that he’s always had as a student but molded in a very different way.
So these are three profiles in a 650 with three very different prep timelines and more importantly three very different sets of skills that these clients need to work on.
So if you see yourself in one or several of these (and these three are by no means exhaustive), give us a call and we’ll be happy to talk with you, understand where you’re coming from on the exam, and try and get a sense of which profile you fall in.
Lets talk About Your GMAT Prep
Bear in mind that everyone’s different and these are three extreme examples. You probably are somewhere in a mix between these and a few other of the archetypes that we see regularly. By getting a sense of who you are(which also includes your personality and your behavioral and emotional approach to the exam), how you like to learn and how you perform we can put together a way for you to move forward if you’re stuck and you’ve hit a plateau.
If you don’t feel like talking to us, by all means, think about these different characteristics: how reactive you are, how prescribed your methods are, how many solution paths you see when you take a look at a particular problem, and if any of those seem very restrictive focus on that but don’t get caught up in the trap that most people fall into which is reviewing their fundamentals over and over and expecting movement because most of this game (and I’m calling it a game on purpose) is played on a behavioral and emotional level.
If you score 650 on the GMAT and can’t seem to move on from that score speak to an apex instructor to find out more about our personalized approach to GMAT prep.
The GMAT is a challenging exam, and in this article we’ll provide both a broad overview of how it works as well as a deep dive into its nuances to put you on a surer footing for preparing, and ultimately conquering, the exam. There’s a good chance that you’ve already decided to apply to several MBA programs, and that they all require a GMAT score, so let’s get started!
What is the GMAT?
The GMAT (short for Graduate Management Admissions Test) is an advanced examination that is a requirement for admission to most MBA (Masters of Business Administration) programs. The GMAT consists of four sections – Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning and the Analytical Writing Assessment. Each part examines a particular set of skills vital in the business world. A candidate’s performance on the exam helps admission officers assess their suitability for the rigorous curriculum and challenges of an MBA program.
The GMAT requires knowledge of high school level math as well as English language and grammar. The catch is this: they’re not testing your knowledge, but rather your creative application of that knowledge. In that sense, success on the GMAT boils down to two things – your critical assessment of information and your ability to reason.
How does a single exam measure whether or not a candidate has the skills to excel in a top MBA program and, by extension, thrive in the business world? The thing is that the GMAT is not a standard standardized test, but it is a CAT.
What the heck is a CAT?
CAT stands for computer-adaptive test, which means that the test adapts to your skill level. It does this by modifying the questions according to your performance. The first question will typically have a moderate level of difficulty, then the difficulties of the second and subsequent questions are based upon your performance on previous questions. The algorithm selects which problems to deliver depending upon your collective performance so far. If you continue to answer correctly, the difficulty of the questions will rise and vice versa.
On the GMAT three of the sections are computer-adaptive – the Quantitative, the Verbal and the Integrated Reasoning.
No two people have ever taken the same exact GMAT test. What’s more, the test is challenging for everyone, even top 700+ performers. Why? First, each candidate gets a unique mix of questions as the test adapts to your performance in real time. This pushes each candidate to the edge of their capabilities, making the GMAT feel like it’s more difficult than it is, and making you feel that you’re not doing as well as you are. The test can continue to toss increasingly challenging questions at you until it reaches your limit.
The CAT model has another interesting feature. The test taker is presented with one question at a time and cannot go back and forth within the exam. Once an answer is provided and the test taker proceeds to the next question, they cannot return. This is understandably quite nerve-racking and can contribute to stress-based under performance. Overcoming anxiety surrounding the GMAT can be a daunting task, but it is vital for excellent performance. That is why having effective strategies on how to manage the GMAT related stress is a must in order to enhance your performance.
Immediately After Taking the GMAT Test
Right after you sit the GMAT you will see four out of your five scores: The Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning and your aggregate score out of 800. Those will be your unofficial scoresand you will have two minutes to accept or cancel your results. If you do not decide, your score will be automatically cancelled. The AWA/Writing section is graded by an actual human and so that score comes in with your Official Score Report.
The Unofficial Score Report
When given your scores, you will have two minutes to decide whether you want to keep them. If the time expires before you make a decision the score will be automatically cancelled. Rest assured, if you cancel them they can be reinstated within 4 years and 11 month from your exam date. You can also cancel them within 72 hours for a fee if you change your mind later on. If you decide to accept your results, an Unofficial score reportwill be issued. You will receive it prior to leaving the test center. The report will contain your Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning and Total scores, as well as some personal information. The unofficial score report can help you determine whether you are a competitive applicant for your desired program and whether you need to retake the GMAT, though you should have a sense of what score you are seeking before entering the testing center, so that you can make a good decision about cancelling/keeping scores.
Although the unofficial report can be very helpful to you, it cannot be used for your MBA applications. Only the Official score report that comes in the mail a few weeks later and is send separately to Business Schools can be used for your application and admissions.
Within Three Weeks After the Exam
You will be sent a notice that your Official score report is ready. Besides the scores from your unofficial report, it will contain your Analytical Writing Assessment score, your GMAT percentile rankings – it shows where your score is on the scale compared to your peers, the personal data you provided at registration, and scores from other GMAT tests you have taken within the past five years.
Your official score is valid for five years, which gives you the flexibility to send it out to universities when you are ready, or to defer application to another year.
In addition to the official report, an applicant can request an Enhanced score report for a fee of $30. It contains a comprehensive performance analysis by section and question type, and can provide the candidate with an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses as well as how they rank among their peers.
When you receive your Score Report you will see scores for each section ranging as follows:
The major difference between non-adaptive tests and the GMAT is that the GMAT score is derived not by how many problems you answer correctly, but by the relative difficulty of the problems that you answer correctly.
In standard assessments, like the SAT or the TOEFL for instance, each problem has a firm percentage that contributes to the final grade. These tests demand a certain approach that we are all familiar with from high school: dedicate time to each question and try to get everything right. This approach is ineffective, however, when it comes to computer adaptive tests like the GMAT. In fact, due to the adaptive nature of the exam, regardless of how well they perform, most test takers only answer correctly between 40-60% of the questions. The critical point is that your score depends on the most challenging questions that you can answer correctly on a consistent basis. In essence, the higher the overall difficulty level at which you get 60% of the questions right, the higher you will score.
The best way to perform well on the GMAT is to be properly prepared. This means not only knowing the material on which you are being tested, but being able to effectively allocate scarce resources like time, attention, and focus. Since you are unable to jump backwards or forwards and because each question depends on your answer to the previous one, you need to be able to accurately assess how much of these resources each question deserves in the context of the greater exam. You should be able to balance spending more time on hard questions while not running out of time on any particular section. It is imperative to note that there are harsh penalties for incomplete sections, so be sure to answer each question before time runs out, even if you must guess at random.
What are the GMAT sections?
The GMAT test is comprised of four distinct sections. Each section assesses a particular area of subject matter expertise and each has its own unique problem types; however, critical thinking and analytical reasoning are the core skills that will get you through each section and through the whole exam.
The GMAT can be broken down to:
Analytical Writing Assessment
The student sitting the exam has the opportunity to choose with which part to start. There are three variations:
You will be able to choose the order following the computer tutorial you will be given at the test center just before you start your exam.
Pro tip: Choose the order of the exam based upon your comfort levels. Most people like to put their most challenging section first so that they can optimize their performance by tackling the difficult section while one’s brain is still crisp. Others may opt to start off with a stronger section, or the less important AWA/IR to get into a “flow” state before tackling the sections that they find most challenging or important. Ultimately, the best advice is to experiment, and go with what makes you most comfortable, because a strong performance can only come with comfort.
The Verbal sectionpermits test-takers to present their reasoning skills, critical thinking, and command of English grammar. It measures the test taker’s ability to read and comprehend written materials, reason and evaluate subtle arguments, and correct written sentences to match standard written English.
There are three types of questions in the Verbal section:
These questions test your ability to read critically. More specifically, you should be able to:
summarize the text and derive the key idea;
distinguish between ideas stated directly in the text and ideas implied by the author;
come up with conclusions based on the information in a given passage;
analyze the logical structure of the argument;
deduce the author’s attitude towards the topic.
You will be presented with a short argument and asked to select a statement which either represents the conclusion, strengthens or weakens the argument, or analyzes how the argument is constructed. In order to excel in Critical reasoning one should be familiar with logical reasoning, common fallacies and assumption, and structural connections between evidence and conclusion. We all use reasoning daily but more often than not our thought process is not logically precise or rigorous and that is what the GMAT test writers count upon. Examining your own thought process and understanding where you are susceptible to imprecise thinking can be a good start for prepping.
These questions test your knowledge of English grammar and accurate expression. On sentence correction you’ll be shown a somewhat complex sentence, part of which or the whole of which is underlined. You will be asked to select the best version of the underlined portion, whether the original or one of four alternatives presented.
After getting familiar with the specifics of the Verbal section, you might wonder whether native speakers have an unfair advantage. That is a fair contention, however the answer is nuanced. The GMAT does not test particularly one’s command of English, as opposed to some other language, but their understanding of language construction. If one has a strong eye and ear for grammar in another language, they will likely perform well on Sentence Correction. Bottom line: there can be advantages and disadvantages for both native and non-native English speakers. The key is to learn to use them to your advantage.
The Quant section on the GMAT is designed to evaluate the candidate’s analytical knowledge and depth of understanding of basic mathematical concepts like algebra, geometry, number properties and arithmetic. More to the point, the expectation is that you know the math typical for any high school student, but the GMAT is using that as a base of knowledge to test your creativity.
There are two types of problems in the Quantitative section:
These problems consist of a single question and two statements of truth. The task is to determine if each of the statements (or both together) contain enough data to answer the question definitively. DS questions test your ability to promptly identify what information is crucial to answer a particular question and how well you ignore or eliminate unnecessary or insufficient data. It is important to note that you are not being asked to solve the problems, and often it is preferable to not solve the problem. Pro Tip: Insufficient data will often lead you to multiple possible answers – Be Careful!
PS problemsare somewhat generic, and very much what you may be used to from your school days. Each presents a candidate with a problem that they need to solve, and the answer is multiple choice. The knowledge required is high school level maths up to algebra and geometry, with a smattering of statistics and combinatorics, but nothing terribly high level. Once again, in this part as in the GMAT test as a whole, the main skill that is evaluated is your ability to critically assess information. In fact, it is particularly important to avoid doing the actual mathbut rather pick apart the problem and reduce it to a much simpler question.
The Integrated reasoning section was added to the GMAT exam in 2012 and is increasingly becoming a more important part of the exam.
The IR contains both verbal and quantitative topics, weaved together into a challenging problem landscape. This section assesses the ability of a candidate to comb through a significant quantity of data, often delivered in a complicated fashion, and identify a particular piece of information or derive a specific insight.
There are four types of questions in the Integrated reasoning section:
This problem type offers a combination of text, tables and graphs, and then asks you to identify discrepancies among different sources of data or ask you to draw conclusions or derive inferences by taking tidbits from various sources and combining them together. The key skill here is adaptability to structurally different content and being able to draw associations between the various content types. Keep in mind that most of the data is not relevant – with multiple sources comes plenty of unnecessary information, so being deliberate with the information you choose to analyze more deeply is essential.
Graphic interpretation is exactly what it sounds like. You may be presented with a more traditional graph like a pie or bar chart, but you might also be provided anunusual diagram. The test-taker should be able to accurately interpret the information, recognize relationships among the data and draw conclusions from the graphics provided. It’s crucial to remember that you shouldn’t get carried away trying to understand or interpret all of the information but that the core task is to focus on what you are being asked and finding that needle in the haystack of data provided.
These types of questions measure one’s ability to solve complex problems – quantitative, verbal or a combination of both. Each question has two sub-questions which can be dependent upon one another. Irrespective of whether they’re related, like other Integrated Reasoning questions, you’ll need to answer both parts correctly to get credit for the question. The format of the problems in this section is intentionally diverse in order to cover a wide range of content and test your ability to synthesize knowledge from different fields.
This question type presents a table of data, but that’s just the beginning. The challenging part of these problems is determining what’s being asked for, and then using the provided tables in an efficient manner.
Table analysis requires not just reading information from the tables provided, but requires one to understand the question, and organize the data in such a way so that it can be efficiently sorted. The candidate is tasked to determine what from the given information is relevant or meets certain criteria.
Analytical Writing Assessment
The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) or the “essay” section provides admission officers
with an idea of your writing skill. The AWA section is scored separately and does not count towards the Combined (200 to 800 points) score. The essay is checked twice – once by a human reader and once by a computer algorithm. The final grade is an average from both scores. If the scores differ greatly, then the writing sample is reviewed by another human reader and after that the final grade is decided.
For this task you will be presented with a passage similar to those from Critical reasoning in the Verbal section of the GMAT. You will be asked to provide a well-supported critique of the author’s argument, to analyze their strong points and identify the weaknesses in their line of reasoning. What’s more, the AWA section measures the candidate’s ability to express themselves and their ideas clearly and with precision in written form.
Now that you have a thorough understanding of what to expect on the GMAT you might be concerned with the practical side of things like how, whenand where.
The GMAT test is administered by the global testing network Pearson VUE. They have 600+ centers all around the world where you can sit the exam. The GMAT is facilitated through a computer system available at the designated Pearson VUE centers, which means that you can take the exam only at those centers.
First of all, you should make sure you know your chosen MBA programs’ application deadlines and from there coordinate accordingly. Consider how much time you will need for preparation. You should also plan to take the exam more than once; even with a strong score, there’s always room for continued improvement, and you might as well take it a second time after putting all that effort into preparing. So plan to factor in a re-take or two, just in case – also good if you do well… you can always do better! This is important because the GMAC has rules regarding re-takes: they must be at least 16 days apart, there cannot be more than 5 within a year and there’s a lifetime limit of 8 total attempts at the exam. You can take the GMAT at any time of the year, and appointments are generally availab;e if you plan a few months ahead, so you can launch your plan without worrying about the precise exam date and then midway through make an appointment based on your progress and practice exam results.
And last but not least – how much does it cost?
The total price of the GMAT is $250 – as of July 2020 230 Euro/203 GBP. This amount includes sending your official score to up to five universities or MBA programs of your choice. You can of course request your results to be sent to additional programs; each one will cost you an additional $35.
This all might seem a little overwhelming, which is reasonable given how important the exam is, and all the idiosyncrasies of the GMAT. Growing familiar with the exam is a challenge in itself. With determination and the proper guidance, you can unleash your full potential and obtain admission to your dream MBA programs. Set yourself up for success by learning how to select the right tutorto begin your GMAT journey.
More than 250,000 students take the GMAT every year as a requirement to get into the thousands of different MBA, EMBA, MFin, MAcct and Management PhD programs worldwide. However, due to the complexity of the exam as well as its adaptive difficulty only the top 12% of test-takers manage to score 700 or above. Here are 8 GMAT test strategies you can utilize to achieve a higher score on the exam, no matter where you currently are on your GMAT preparation journey.
1. Adopting the proper mindset
Perspective is everything. It is very important to understand that even though getting in the top 10% of test-takers might seem like a spectacular achievement (and don’t get me wrong, it certainly is) setting your goals on a certain score tends to be counterproductive. Instead, focus on attaining specific skills, knowledge, and command, and the score will follow. Goals lead to expectations and fear of failure, and fear of failure in turn results in stress, which can greatly hinder performance.
2. Overcoming stress!
Stress and fear can greatly influence your results, but there are ways to manage these very normal responses to a high stakes situation. One of the ways to reduce stress and boost your confidence is by beginning your preparation process as early as possible – ideally 90-120 days before the exam. This provides enough time to fully grasp the complexities of the exam, and more importantly internalize a new set of skills to handle that complexity.
A test taker’s greatest enemy is test anxiety. Understand that anxiety happens to everyone. What sets top performers apart is how they handle that anxiety, and how they direct it back into their performance. Many people use a variety of relaxation techniques for dealing with test anxiety. The most common and easy to use method is to practice deep and controlled breathing in combination with visualization techniques.
3. For exam day…
Are you a coffee drinker? Surprisingly, caffeine can really help your performance on test day. Caffeine is apowerful nootropic that will help keep your senses sharp and will also boost the oxygenated blood flow to your brain, subsequently enhancing your performance. For more info on how coffee affects your performance click here.
Remember how we said that it’s important to begin your exam prep early? This “early bird” attitude can be applied in more ways than one. What this implies is that you must (not might,not should) prepare your GMAT Test Day Survival Kit on the previous day and not leave this for the last moment. Everyone has waited for the last minute to do something, and chances are everyone has left something crucial behind. With the GMAT being such an important exam such situations should be avoided as much as possible. Try having a mock exam day. Map out the whole test day and practice it as if it were real, including your trip to the testing center. This will help you normalize the process and alleviate anxiety on test day.
4. Value your time and manage it efficiently!
Since the GMAT is a timed exam one’s planning and strategic skills are put to the test as they have to come up with an efficient time management strategy.
Use mental math tools whenever possible and also try getting used to reading and analyzing charts, graphs and tables efficiently for the Integrated Reasoning section.
Once you’re further along in your preparation and have mastered seeing multiple solution paths before engaging any of them, familiarize yourself with common problems, and built up test reading and perspective skills, then you can begin dedicating yourself to timed sets: working on a cluster of 10 consecutive questions for each section of the exam when on the clock. This helps you calibrate your timing decisions and more readily notice when they require adjustment.
Remember, just because the GMAT is a timed exam, this doesn’t mean we must learn under a time constraint. Like good cooking, good learning takes time. Give yourself sufficient time to learn, while also making sure the learning time is spent as productively as possible.
5. The Integrated Reasoning section
Dealing with 12 multi-part questions in 30 minutes means that you’re going to be overwhelmed with information, and you won’t have much time to spare. Sorting through large amounts of data and understanding it in a timely manner is key to getting through this section.
A good way to rapidly identify information needed to solve a problem is knowing what to look for. Read the problems carefully (and this applies to all sections) and proactively determine what you want out of the information or solution path. This way, you will sift out most unnecessary information in advance, saving plenty of time along the way. However, this does NOT mean to ignore the text written around the tables/graphs/charts.
6. The Analytical Writing section
Failing to plan is planning to fail! Always plan your essay! Set aside 4-5 minutes to plan what you are going to write and how you are going to structure your essay.
Create an essay template in advance! There are many ways you can go about making one but usually, the more you practice your essay writing skills the more used to a specific writing style you are going to get ultimately resulting in your own template.
7. Ask for help
There is nothing embarrassing about asking for help, especially when it comes to an exam that is so vital to one’s future. There are numerous GMAT forums and courses on the web, where you can ask and get help from people who have already taken it.
However, if you would prefer a more personal and individualized approach you could consider hiring a private tutor. The benefit of not preparing alone but hiring a tutor is that it allows for direct feedback on what are an individual’s strengths and what needs improvement, while also receiving advice on how to achieve those improvements. As a result, when the exam day comes you will not only be well prepared but will also know it, having built up confidence in your abilities.
8. Practice, practice, practice!
No doubt you’re familiar with the phrase “practice makes perfect.” There is a reason why this is such a popular saying: it’s true! Not all practice is equal, though. Varied practice that aims at building on existing skills and knowledge is much more high yielding than repetition. No matter how clever you are, no matter how good of a student you’ve been or how proficient in math you are if you do not put enough time and effort in your prep you are not likely to be happy with the end result. Even the top tutors and courses out there won’t be able to help you out if you don’t give your best. So remember, don’t just go through the motions, but practice by constantly looking at the same problems and concepts in new ways, and trying to use them in novel situations, and you’ll find your GMAT prep vastly accelerated.
That was the list of 8 strategies to help you score high on the GMAT. Keep in mind that what works for one person will not necessarily work for another as everybody learns differently. It is only through practice and proactive learning that you will be able to find what are the best methods for your success.
5 Minutes with the GMAT: Everything You Need to Know (and nothing you don’t)
Scoring, Timing, Sections, Purpose, Costs, & more
If you are reading this, you are probably well on the way to pursuing a high-quality master’s program from a prestigious business school. First things first: you will need to take the GMAT to fulfill your application requirements. Furthermore, you will have to perform well on it, especially if your grades from college/university aren’t strong.
ABOUT THE GMAT EXAM
The General Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is considered the most trusted, proven, and well-understood predictor of academic success for MBA programs. The exam is crafted and administered by the General Management Admissions Council (GMAC) to measure a candidate’s verbal, mathematical, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing skills. You can also register for the GMAT through their official portal or browse through some practice questions here.
The GMAT test is a multiple-choice, computer adaptive test (CAT) – this means that an algorithm selects each following question based on the test taker’s ability level and performance on previous questions. If you are new to this concept, the most important feature to understand is that when you answer a question correctly, the following question will be even more challenging. Conversely, if you answer a question incorrectly, it will give you an easier one next.
WHAT IS THE GMAT USED FOR?
The GMAT test is primarily used for admissions to more than 2,100 institutions, universities, and MBA programs worldwide that offer business and management disciplines. Keep in mind that many business schools screen applicants based on a range of criteria, but GMAT scores are among the most important screening metrics used. Others include undergraduate GPA, work and other relevant experience, application essays, recommendation letters, and personal interviews. Strong GMAT results are necessary, but certainly not sufficient to gain admission to the best MBA and business oriented grad school programs like Masters of Finance (MFin), Masters of Accounting (MAcct), Masters of Business Administration (MBA), Juris Doctor & Masters of Business Administration (JD-MBA) and PhDs in all these disciplines. Remember also that, while the GMAT is important, it’s certainly not a measure of who you are as a person and is one part of a many faceted application.
An investment of time and resources into the right GMAT preparation program or plan will result in a higher score on the test, which has a direct correlation with your admissions success, and will have a positive impact on your business school experience and future professional career.
STRUCTURE, SECTIONS, TIMING, & SCORING
The GMAT test consists of four sections with categorized problems aiming to assess a different skill set. Each part differs in terms of score range and the number and types of problems:
Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)– 1 task |30 minutes |scored from 0 to 6 (0.5-point increments)
Integrated Reasoning (IR)– 12 questions |30 minutes | scored from 1 to 8 (1-point increments)
Quantitative– 31 questions | 62 minutes | scored from 0 to 60 (1-point increments)
Verbal– 36 questions |65 minutes | scored from 0 to 60 (1-point increments)
There are several other factors worth mentioning:
The total score of the GMAT ranges from 200 to 800 in increments of 10.
Despite the official scoring guides, the maximum you can score on the Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections is 51.
The test taker can opt for twobreaks totaling 16 minutes (8 minutes each).
The total time to take the GMAT test is 3 hours and 23 minutesincluding the two breaks.
GMAT test takers can choose the order of sections when taking the exam:
AWA » IR » first break » Quantitative » second break » Verbal
Verbal » first break » Quantitative » second break » IR » AWA
Quantitative » first break » Verbal » second break » IR » AWA
GMAT SCORING & VALIDITY
While you’ll get your unofficial score when you complete your exam (for all sections besides the AWA Writing), you and your designated schools will receive your official GMAT score within 20 calendar days of the exam, and it will be valid for the following five years. In order to determine what score will be good for you, you should consider both the average (mean) score and the range of scores of applicants admitted to your desired university.
HOW, WHEN, & WHERE CAN I TAKE THE GMAT?
How & Where?
You can take the GMAT in one of the 600+ physical test centers worldwide (official list available here). The test is administered on a computer, via a platform used worldwide: Pearson VUE. The GMAT is available only at designated Pearson VUE test centers, thus assuring each candidate the exact same experience as all other test takers around the world.
You can take the GMAT test almost anytime that you want, depending on the availability of dates into the test center(s) you have chosen. However, there are some requirements regarding re-taking the exam. You can do so once every 16 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days), and up to eight total times.
Online GMAT Test in the face of COVID-19
As of mid-June 2020, at this article’s writing, you should know that the GMAC is offering an online version of the GMAT test in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Some of its key point of differences compared to the original version are:
It excludes the AWA section.
The exam’s duration is 2h and 45minutes, excluding one single 5-minute break.
You can use a physical or an online whiteboard.
You can send your score report for free to an unlimited number of schools.
Can be scheduled anytime, 24 hours a day.
The online GMAT costs $200 and has reschedule and cancellation fees waived.
You can learn more about the online GMAT test here.
HOW MUCH DOES THE GMAT TEST COST?
The cost to sit the GMAT exam is $250. This includes sending your results to up to five schools of your choice. All additional score reports past the first five schools require a $35 fee per institution.
Rescheduling & Cancellation of your GMAT appointment
In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, at this article’s writing, the GMAC has temporarily waived all exam cancellation, reschedule & score reinstatement fees for GMAT test-center based appointments
Regular Rescheduling fees:
$50 if requested more than 60 days prior to appointment
$100 if requested 15 to 60 days prior to appointment
$150 if requested 1 to 14 days prior to appointment
Regular Cancellation fees:
$150 with a $100 refund if requested more than 60 days prior to appointment
$175 with a $75 refund if requested 15 to 60 days prior to appointment
$200 with a $50 refund if requested 1 to 14 days prior to appointment
ADDITIONAL COSTS WORTH CONSIDERING
Apart from the test fee, there are other costs that you may want to consider. GMAC advises people preparing for the exam to utilize the GMAT Official Guide (as do we) alongside other learning aids as additional materials. Please note that the Official Guide is a great resource for problems, but the explanations leave something to be desired, so using only the Official Guide is not recommended.
A large percentage of test takers who wish to score in the 90th percentile or higher (700+) on the GMAT invest in private GMAT preparation as a personalized means to achieving long-term career success. Our firm, Apex GMAT, specializes in offering private, customized GMAT preparation and admissions consulting. We focus on individual learning and a holistic coaching environment where we tackle not only the fundamentals, but the underlying structure and complexity of the GMAT. We do this not just to get you a good score, but to prepare you for your Masters/MBA program and career beyond by focusing on universal critical thinking skills, cognitive heuristics, emotional and behavioral aspects of learning and high stakes performance, and other learning techniques that can be applied widely over the course of a lifetime. We take pride in exactly this personalized approach as a means for every candidate to utilize their strengths better, focus on their weaknesses, and overcome test anxiety through an exclusively designed GMAT curriculum.
A lot of people try to save money on the GMAT preparation process. When you consider that a top MBA can lead to millions of dollars of extra earnings over the course of a lifetime, it makes sense to invest in GMAT preparation. Learn more about this subject with our instructors Mike and Jaymes, here: Why is GMAT Prep so Expensive?
That’s it! Thanks for sticking with us to the end of this GMAT test crash course! If you are looking for a more comprehensive version diving deeper into what the GMAT has in store for you, feel free to check out our GMAT 101 guide.
Mike from Apex GMAT is here to give you part two on our update about the online GMAT exam that’s being rolled out in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
The Exam Overview
This exam is designed to be a standalone, separate exam that’s done in the test centers. While there are going to be many similarities there are also a few key differences that you should know about. If you haven’t done so already I’d encourage you to check out part one of our video. It has a lot of key details about the exam.
When it comes to scheduling the exam unfortunately it seems that you can’t take an appointment that you have for a live test center and convert it to an online appointment. I’m not entirely sure why this is but due to pricing differentials, scheduling differentials, your online exam has to be a separate enrollment. Your live exam can still be rescheduled for a time when a test center opens.
Take it 24/7
One of the benefits of the online exam is that you can schedule to take it 24/7. It’s going to operate around the globe so there’s no middle-of-the-night blackout time. You can do it at that time of the day that you feel most pumped for the GMAT. This is really great because many times were forced into a time slot either because availability or just because you might be a night owl and the testing center closes at 5:00pm. So this is a real advantage for people who feel on at all hours.
Setup & Proctoring
There are several key things that are going to take place in the setup and proctoring of the exam for security purposes that you should be aware of. First off, there’s going to be a live proctor watching you during the exam. They’ll be able to see you and listen to you during the entirety of the exam. If you have a problem, if you have questions you can both buzz them in a chat or raise your hand and they’ll come on camera live. If you’re having a connection issue or there’s some technical glitch the GMAC is pledged to be fair and not take off time from your exam. However, if you’re raising your hand for the proctor for something that wasn’t an issue, your time, your clock doesn’t stop. So in that sense it’s just like the live GMAT.
If there’s a major technical issue retakes are available but that’s really going to be something that’s subject to the judgment of the GMAC. We would expect that their system works very well and that the need for a true retake is going to be very rare. Coinciding with this you’re only going to be able to take the online GMAT one time. You won’t get your score immediately but rather sometime within about seven days. It’s a score that can’t be canceled because the online GMAT is designed to only be taken once.
So it’s really more of an emergency measure where people who need to take the GMAT to get an application out should be able to do so. But those same people shouldn’t be able to cancel their score because this is their their ultimate attempt. That being said, there’s nothing stopping you from taking additional GMATs once the live appointments become available. Do be careful here, because it can lock you into a score that you might not want.
The check-in procedure for the exam is somewhat involved. It’s done live with a proctor and it takes 10 to 15 minutes. What they’re going to have you do is take a selfie, upload a photo or a snapshot of your photo ID. Then they’re actually going to have you walk around the room. Show them the corners, show them that your desk is clear without any papers on it. Show them the door to the room to ensure that there’s no one in the room. For the duration of the exam, including the breaks, you won’t be permitted to leave the room.
Exam Section Order
The online GMAT has a predetermined order of sections. So unlike the testing center version of the GMAT you won’t be able to pick and choose which sections you do first, second and so on. So after the check-in you’ll be immediately directed to the quantitative section, then the verbal, a five-minute break and then the integrated reasoning and then you’re done.
With respect to the scratch paper that we normally get in an appointment GMAT which is that dry erase sort of stuff – on the online GMAT you won’t be permitted to write as we understand it. There’ll be an online calculator for the integrated reasoning section just like on the normal GMAT and then you’ll have a white board that should be some sort of adjustable screen window that you can scribble on and you should be able to move it around the screen for your convenience during the exam.
And this is something that we’re mildly concerned about and you know we have this saying here, “if you’re doing math you’re, doing something wrong.” That said having scratch paper and the comfort of physical pen and paper is something that a lot of people rely upon so keep this in mind as you get ready to take the online GMAT.
Extra Time On The Exam
Finally, for those of you who have an accommodation of extra time from the exam, the online GMAT isn’t available now but they expect that functionality to roll out in mid-may both for time and a half and double time and that also includes an extended break instead of five minutes going to ten minutes in between the verbal and the integrated reasoning.
You most likely navigated to this video after watching some other GMAT videos. If you’re self-prepping by watching a lot of GMAT videos I’ve got some bad news for you. It’s a very low yield way to prep, especially if you’re doing it to the exclusion of other things.
Now we have plenty of videos up here: some informational, many problems, testimonials, all kinds of stuff. It’s not that they don’t have a role in your preparation.
However, if you’re spending a lot of your prep time on a regular basis watching videos then what you’re engaging in is passive rather than active learning. Again, that’s a very low yield way to learn. That’s the most generous explanation. A realistic explanation might be that you’re using these videos, going around YouTube, looking at different platforms, as a way to feel like you’re making progress. Especially if you’ve been prepping for a long time without a measurable result or if you’ve hit a plateau.
This idea of doing more, engaging more, watching more videos, doing more problems, seems like a really good idea because that’s worked for you in the past. But in fact what you’re doing is self-medicating the psychological anxiety of either not improving or having to put forth meaningful effort & work to change the way you’re approaching the GMAT.
Change Your Approach to Watching GMAT Videos
The good news is there’s a solution for this and it doesn’t mean that you need to stop watching videos. When you’re watching GMAT videos you should be then taking a step back and practicing what you’ve learned. Changing what you’ve learned to see if it’s really sunk in or if you’re really just feeling forward momentum because you’re spending time exposed to the GMAT.
This is sort of a kin to feeling smarter because you carry books around, if you never read the books. You know the book, you know the title and you know the author. If you don’t know what’s inside or you have the story memorized but you don’t know the meaning behind it, the symbolism, why the author wrote it, then you can’t really be said to know the book.
Problem Identification Is Only Half The Work
The GMAT is the same way. It’s very easy to convince ourselves that we’re making progress. Or that we’re proficient by saying “oh yeah that’s a work rate problem. That’s a data sufficiency problem which is a system of equations”. And use that anchor of identification as a way to say I know this when in fact it’s a very surface level understanding.
In order to get to a deeper level, you need to not only recognize what you’re looking at but be able to respond to it in a new and interesting way.
What you need to be able to do is not just recognize the problem when you’re looking at those types of problems but recognize them within the general universe of other types of problems that you’re looking at. Just like when you’re sitting in the exam. A core skill is being able to not just recognize the problem but also have a good idea of what to do when you encounter that type of problem.
A work rate problem, to take this example further isn’t a particular problem, it’s a category of problems. Depending upon the way they introduce this problem determines what solution paths, what avenues of approach are going to be the most useful, the most time-efficient and depending on your learning style the most intuitive for you. The skill that you really want to grow in watching GMAT videos is using them as a basis in order to have a better sense of what you ought to be doing. That is, develop the skill of decision-making in an unknown environment not just identification.
Continue to Watch GMAT Videos
As you continue to watch videos keep this in mind but if you’re sitting there just watching video after video, frankly you’re wasting your time. Be sure to take a step back and ensure that you’re able to not just replicate what you’ve seen done in a video but to understand when it’s appropriate to use it and be prepared to do so in a less confined, less predetermined setting. I hope that is helpful and it’s not designed to make you feel bad about what you’re doing but to enhance what you’re doing. I’ll see you guys next time.
Hi guys. Welcome back to Apex GMAT’s channel. It’s Mike here and today I want to talk about stupid mistakes and let’s start how just with nomenclature. The idea of a stupid mistake is something that we really don’t like here. We don’t like the word dumb. We don’t like the word stupid because even if you’re saying it in a “haha” joking way and you’ve got high self-esteem and a lot of intellectual rigor you’re suddenly putting yourself down. You’re also drawing away attention from the core reasons for these errors.
So we like to call them careless mistakes or careless errors and this allows them to be addressed to be solvable. If you’ve done a stupid mistake either you’re stupid, hopefully not, or you’ve done something foolish. What you’re doing is offloading the responsibility for that error to it being unavoidable. I was not functioning well so I did it rather than addressing the root cause. This is not that you made an error but that there’s a step before the error was made where you failed to catch the error. That step can be before or after the actual processing error was made. Most often it’s sourced from a lack of attentiveness. You’ve missed a detail because you haven’t read closely enough or you crossed your wires through what they call labeling error. Where you’ve called one thing by the wrong name and stored it incorrectly in your head.
Difficulty of Addressing Careless Mistakes
Careless errors are notoriously difficult to address, but the first step is recognizing what they are. They’re processing errors that require your attention and this is something very different than any intellectual failing. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, everybody makes careless errors. Frankly the more rapidly you think the more sort of cycles your brain goes through in a given second or minute the more likely you are to make a careless error. So what differentiates people who make many versus those who make few? Infact the people who make fewer careless errors make just as many as those who make more except they tend to catch them.
How to Work On Them
There are heuristics that we can work on both to preempt careless errors but also to recognize them. Numerically for example you often catch a careless error by noticing that the number doesn’t sound right. If I tell you that it is 150 degrees out. Fahrenheit or Celsius you know that that number doesn’t sound right because it’s anchored to a reality. A lot of times when we’re doing math on the GMAT or in life we don’t have a good anchor for those numbers so the idea of a reasonable or unreasonable number doesn’t get to go through that cognitive filter. So anchoring whether it’s to temperature or money or number of pumpkins in a field, gives us this added check in order to catch a careless error when we make it.
Similarly, when we’re reading a word problem or we’re looking at a verbal problem a lot of times using pivot questions to prioritize and understand and really call out what it is we’re trying to do allows us to be both sensitized when we do make the inevitable error but often get in front of many of the errors that we might otherwise make.
Once again, I want to emphasize that careless errors are not intellectual errors. It has nothing to do with being smart or knowing your stuff and so the moment you write off a dumb or stupid error as oh I need to study that again or I forgot that but I’ll remember it next time you’ve already missed your opportunity to improve. So thanks for watching this video guys check out more below. Remember careless errors are both inevitable and solvable. So looking forward to catching you next time and continue prepping.
A question that we get here a lot, especially from our international clients, is about standardized testing in general. As Americans ourselves and any Americans that might be watching you’re pretty familiar with them in fact in some countries they even call them American tests. They’re so heavily associated with us. For everyone else they’re saying what the hell is this? It’s something that I’ve never seen before, let me freak out about it. There’s really no need to freak out, there’s some commonalities among standardized tests but I think if anything the important thing for you to get about this is that the GMAT is not a standard standardized test. That was clever. Thank you, I do what I can.
Not having an experience with standardized tests is not at all a disadvantage for the GMAT and in fact, it could be an advantage, the case that having too much experience of standardized tests is going to lead you down the wrong path for what you should be doing for the GMAT itself. If you’re an American, the way you prepped for the SAT or ACT or similar test is really going to do your great disservice when you try and approach the GMAT because there are loads of vocabulary lists to memorize, there’s no formulas and everything else, and the GMAT is a lot harder.
Computer Adaptive Test
Also, it might technically be a standardized test, but it’s a much more apt name to call it what it is which is: a computer adaptive test. That actually has a much, much greater effect on how you prepare. Computer Adaptive Test, James, what does that mean? Let’s talk about that. Computer adaptive test, I’d say first the biggest difference between a standard standardized tests and the GMAT is in some standard tests you typically can go in whatever order you’d like, within a section, right, within one section you can start with question 1 or with question 10. You can skip through it and you should when doing those other tests. Those are very important strategies but that’s not the case on the GMAT.
Tell them about the GMAT, Mike, lay it on them. Okay, computer adaptive test is a lot what it sounds like, computer: it’s on the computer. Adaptive: it changes according to your response, more on that in a moment, and Test: because it’s testing. It is a test, that’s right, in case you didn’t know. It is a test, but you’re testing my patience. I am? Well thank you. The main difference I think from this is that you have to go one question at a time, you do not get the skip, you do not get the chance to go back and look at them, and the reason for this is because the computer adaptive test basis what it’s going to give you on how you have performed on previous questions.
How It Works
By in large the rule is, you got the last question right, they’re going to give you one that’s a bit more difficult. A little higher. You get a question wrong, one that’s a little less difficult, and eventually they bounce around until they get to where you’re at and they’re actually pretty good at it. They’re very good at and just so you know if you’re sitting there thinking like how evil is this that this test is going to adapt itself to become my worst nightmare. Well it’s this evil, it’s going to make it so that you’re always going to feel off your footing. When you come out of a great exam, that is a great performance on the exam, you’re going to be like what the heck did I just look at I didn’t feel comfortable at all through that entire thing.
Which brings up a point that I like to reiterate in my classes. You’re going to be surprised by this but it’s a sports metaphor, and that is from question to question you need to have shooters amnesia. Now just briefly indulge me because I love Kobe, doesn’t matter what your opinion is on him. The basketball player not the massaged Japanese beef. We’re vegetarians here at Apex, we believe all lives are valuable. We’re vegetarians… is news to me. The best thing for a basketball player to do is to shoot the ball and it doesn’t matter if he missed the last shot or made the last shot that has no bearing on whether or not he will make or miss the next shot, so they just forget it completely. If you are constantly thinking about all the shots that you’ve missed it’s going to affect your performance.
Be Process Orientated, Outcome Agnostic
Sure and if you do it right and this is this is really a deep thing even though it’s not may become seem so deep, if you’re doing it right you shoot the ball, you shoot the puck, you do whatever it is you can do, you throw the dart, and you don’t need to look at the result because once your action is over, whatever the result was is what it’s going to be either you shot it well or not. Yeah. Be Process Oriented, Outcome Agnostic. First of all, excellent, excellent phrase! That was: Process Oriented, Outcome Agnostic, for those of you who missed it the first time.
I think an another great aspect of this is that when you start to think about whether or not you’ve got the question right or wrong you are wasting energy. Yeah, really distracting your attention to something that you can’t change and we all do this we all do this. I wish Jaymes wasn’t my coworker but I can’t reflect on that I just have to move forward … There’s nothing you can do about it… and deal with the train wreck yeah that’s sitting next to me. Day by day. Day by day.
Unused Test Strategies in the GMAT
Just for those of you who are familiar with standardized tests something else to keep in mind, a strategy that you can use not very often on some of the like the SAT of ACT, but a strategy that you might have adopted during your education for standardized tests is using answer choices from one question to help you answer other questions. Can’t do that. That will never apply on the GMAT, ever, so there’s absolutely no reason to carry any of your thought process, any information from one question to the next on the regular quantum verbal sections. Oh the last two answers have been C’s, the third one must be a C or must not be a C. They call that a gambler’s fallacy, look it up, Wikipedia’s got a great thing on it.
Every question is like the first question. Wow, you make it sound so sweet. Well then your entire test and your entire obligation to the test is one question, it’s not this huge three-hour test. The math section the quant section is thirty-one single question tests anything that happened before and after, doesn’t matter.
How Is The GMAT Different From Other Standardized Tests?
Just to change your frame of mind about this evil test. The fact that it is adapting itself to be difficult for you, this is actually what allows the GMAT to have so few questions. Traditional standardized tests have to have scores of questions, hundreds of questions sometimes. That’s because they have to give weaker students the chance to show that they’re capable, and they have to provide difficult questions for stronger students to show that they’re capable, and they have to give both the weak students and the strong students the same questions.
The GMAT: A Customized Test
The GMAT can skip a lot of that process and streamline it and customize the test for you. The test itself is going to be customized for you which is again supporting our strategy. The preparation that you choose needs to be customized for you.
The adaptive test is vital for the GMAT’s very challenging job of differentiating among high performers. Make no mistake other tests you’ve taken whether standardized tests in the States, other exams in just about any country’s academic system has you up against your entire cohort for your age or your school. The GMAT is self-selecting. Meaning that the pool of people that you’re competing against and the percentile within that cohort is much more challenging. All the success you’ve had for better or for worse is a function of what you’ve done.
If the tasks before you, and this happens a lot in school, good school, bad school, doesn’t matter. If the task before you is, do as we’ve shown you, then the moment you’re in a place like the GMAT puts you on. Right, something new, something unexpected. Yes, something that’s not really new, right, but it’s in a new packaging, it’s wrapped up in a different way, and it’s a puzzle. New presentation, what we call perspective shift. The moment you’re off your footing then all of a sudden you’re very unpracticed. Yeah, you’re prepared for a specific path and not for being able to choose the right path. Unless you’re preparing with Apex of course. Of Course! You’re prepared for that. And preparing to prepare is very good preparation. It’s also similar to other standardized tests the GMAT doesn’t really test how good of a student you are.
Are You An Excellent Student, Test Taker or Both?
Absolutely. I can tell you this because well, I’m an excellent test taker, I’m not an excellent student. My sister, my younger sister she’s an excellent student, terrible test taker. So I’m not trying to say this to stress you out about something. I’m saying that just because you are a good student doesn’t necessarily mean that you will succeed unless you prepare adequately. Yeah and there are very different skills, that’s not to say that we don’t have plenty of 4.0 s that just wreck the GMAT. Wreck! Wreck in a good way. Wreck, yeah, like just yeah destroy, render it innocuous. Destroy in a good way. Yeah these are good things! Did I go to vocab-y there? No, I think it might be just to American centric.
If you enjoyed: The GMAT Is Not A Standard Standardized test, watch our Cost of GMAT Prep.
I want to discuss one of the core tenents of Apex’s quantitative philosophy on the GMAT. “If you’re doing math, you’re doing something wrong.” Meaning, if you find yourself doing math, that’s a signal from the exam that you’re using a sub-optimal solution path. By math I don’t mean any calculation whatsoever, but any calculations that aren’t reasonable. That don’t come out easily, neatly and cleanly, once you’re well practiced with mental math. So it’s not that we’ll never do a calculation, but every calculation we do should be deliberate and smooth.
The Most Overused Solution Path
Let’s go a little deeper into this, because it’s a really important concept. Many, many people preparing for the GMAT spend way too much time worrying about the math. Being freaked out about the math and on the exam doing the math. The applied mathematical solution path is the most over used solution path on the quantitative side of the GMAT. Particularity among engineers, and with people who do a lot of self-prepping. They look to the back of the book or look to previous experience as students. And get caught up in the idea that their answer needs to be precise. This gets in the way of using our estimation solution path or other higher solution paths, which can get us to the correct answer much more quickly.
The GMAT isn’t Testing Your Math Skills
How do we know that math is not what the GMAT wants us to do? It’s quite simple. If the GMAT was the referendum on how well you can do mental math, then the scores would reflect your ability to do so. MBA programs at top business schools would be filled with people with extraordinary, almost savant like mental math abilities. We know this isn’t the case.
Actually, as we improve on our mental math, we get diminishing returns with it. So we see a lot of clients getting up to the 70th, 80th, or 90th percent level even, on the quantitative side of things. Then, all of a sudden they plateau; they can’t get any higher. The reason is they are so focused on the math. They are missing the bigger logical reasoning picture or the structure of quantitative problems that doesn’t rely on doing math that allows both quick and accurate solutions.
Key Things to Avoid
While math has its place, we want to be sure that we’re not putting it on a pedestal. And that when we’re performing computations, we’re doing so with great deliberation, intentionality, and that we have a good reason for doing any computation we’re doing. If you find yourself diving into the equation or doing a lot of processing, stop. Say “Wait a minute, there must be a better way to do this.”
Another option is that sometimes you make a basic error early on and that leads to ugly numbers and math. But you should never, never, never be multiplying decimals out to the fourth decimal. That sort of math is the true trigger, the true signal, that there’s a better way to solve the problem. When you’re self prepping, this is what you want to look for.
So by the time you get to the exam, you’re not catching yourself doing math, but you’ve already incorporated it into your process, the fact that math shouldn’t be your default.
So, remember, guys, if you’re doing math, you’re doing something wrong and you can take this one to the bank.
I’m Mike Diamond Head Instructor for Apex GMAT, here to talk about the top six things GMAT preppers get wrong.
1. Thinking that a correct answer means you’re done with the problem.
When you arrive at a correct answer, that should mark the beginning of your preparation, not the end of it. There are almost always better solution paths that are more time efficient. They work better with the way your brain engages the problem. Or they will add understanding either to the content or more importantly to the underlying structure of the examination.
So, when you arrive at a correct answer look for alternative solution paths, and for shortcuts. Give yourself the latitude to explore. Moreover, try to identify what permitted you get to get the problem correct in the first place. A lot of times people focus much more on the problems they get wrong; on what they’re doing wrong than on what they’re doing right. And what you’re doing right can often inform those problems where you are struggling. So remember, once you arrive at the correct answer, that’s your starting point.
2. Overusing practice tests.
Practice exams are a crucial part of GMAT preparation, but they’re often misused and overused. Most people use a practice exam to see how they’re doing. But being focused on your score is absolutely the wrong way to approach the GMAT.
Rather, you want to be focused on your process and if your process is tight, if your process is correct. Then the score is going to take care of itself. Practice tests are best used for a number of reasons, none of which have to do with your score.
They can be used to calibrate your timing decisions. They can be used to identify weak points in your conceptual understanding. Finally, they can be used to identify where you DSM, default solving mechanism, back into old time consuming and unconstructive solution pathways. So, the next time you have an urge to do a test remember that this is going to rob you of two to three hours of valuable prep time. When you’re doing a practice test, you’re not learning, you’re doing.
3. Caring about your score.
I know it’s counter-intuitive, you want that 700-plus score. It’s all you think about; it haunts your dreams. And yet caring about your score is the quickest way to a test anxiety problem and it’s actually entirely unconstructive. Rather, you need to focus entirely on your process and let the score handle itself.
Imagine you’re running a race and you’re running as fast as you can. Whether you’re a super fit marathon runner or a couch potato, you can only run as fast as you can. And the time on that race is going to reflect that. So don’t sweat the score, sweat your fitness! Understand what things you can do to improve your GMAT fitness and the score will take care of itself.
4. Studying under a time constraint.
Time trials are really important as you mature in your GMAT progress. But at the start, you want to focus on the mastery of skills in an un-timed environment. Only once you’ve achieved mastery try to do them ever more quickly.
By focusing on the time before you have the underlying process conquered you end up rushing yourself in a way that exacerbates your mistakes rather than allows you to correct them. So as you’re prepping, focus on total mastery and understanding first and then begin putting them under time pressure.
5. Low-yield self-prep.
Most people spend entirely too much time preparing from the GMAT. They do so because they’re not getting enough out of their prep time.
Does this sound familiar? Okay, I’m going to do a group of 10 questions, maybe on a timer for 20 minutes. Afterwards I’m going to look in the back of the book. When I get the problem right I’m going to say, “yeah, I never have to deal with this problem again.” When I get it wrong in going to go a little bit further and normally I’m going to find something that I knew but I sort of forgot. I’ll say, “You know what I won’t forget that, I’m going to get that right next time.”
But it doesn’t happen that way does it? That’s a very low yielding strategy. Instead, you need to become responsible and accountable for your learning and Apex shows you the way to do so by not just being reactive to problems but proactively creating problems of your own.
6. Doing the math.
We have a saying around here and you may have heard it on some of our materials or online videos. If you’re doing math, then you’re doing something wrong. Most of the GMAT quantitative section requires little to no processing and if you’re scribbling tons of stuff on paper it means you’re missing the bigger picture. So remember, if you’re doing math there’s always a better way!
Enjoyed “Six things that GMAT preppers get wrong?”, find more videos here.