HOW TO OVERCOME GMAT TEST ANXIETY ARTICLE
Posted on
22
Sep 2020

How to Overcome GMAT Test Anxiety

by ApexGMAT

Contributor: Fatma Xhafa

Sept 22, 2020

Methodical test prep is a painstaking, yet necessary, process for anyone striving for a top score on the GMAT. Most elite MBA programs require a 700+ score for admission. Applicants face a lot of pressure leading up to test day. It’s normal to experience anxiety while studying. 

Apex Instructors have noted that GMAT test anxiety is the most common external factor that directly affects GMAT performance. Almost everyone experiences some anxiety, and about 60% of our clients experience anxiety severe enough to affect performance if left unaddressed. Test anxiety is distracting. It negatively affects a test taker’s concentration, leading to declining comprehension, especially on word problems and the verbal section. 

In extreme cases, test takers might experience a racing heart-beat, nausea, or headaches. Most importantly, anxiety draws attention away from the test. The consequences can be significant if it isn’t managed well.

Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome test anxiety.

What Causes Anxiety?

It’s normal to doubt ourselves and our abilities, but the way we channel doubt makes or breaks our performance. Knowing how to manage stress and trust our abilities is essential to navigating the treacherous waters of the GMAT. 

A strong GMAT preparation plan emphasizes mastering the required skills while maintaining composure in the face of outward distractions. That annoying guy clicking his pen on the other side of the room can be a major stressor. When test takers learn to manage anxiety and resist distraction, a high score takes care of itself.

When we address personal challenges, it’s important to understand the root of the problem. Identifying the exact causes and associated triggers of the anxiety is the first step to conquering it. To pinpoint exactly what is triggering anxiety, determine if the anxiety is situational (caused by taking an unfamiliar exam) or emotional (fear of failure, the pressure to perform well, etc).

For example, if a patient’s heart races during a routine checkup at a doctor’s office, even though the patient doesn’t expect to receive any bad news, their anxiety may be situational; the anxiety comes from the clinical setting itself. However, if a patient becomes anxious waiting for serious test results, the anxiety is likely emotional. The first patient’s anxiety simply comes from being in a doctor’s office. The second patient is anxious due to the potentially life-altering consequences of the test results, rather than a particularly upsetting setting or circumstance. 

Some Anxiety Will Always Exist

When it comes to the GMAT, or any other stressful situation, keep in mind that some level of anxiety will always be present. The trick is to adjust to it. For most test takers, the problem isn’t the initial anxiety, but anxiety about the anxiety

Anyone can become anxious before getting a shot at the doctor’s office. However, most people don’t dwell on the anxiety for weeks or miss an appointment because of it. Someone who thinks about their fear of needles for a long period of time leading up to a doctor’s appointment will probably be more anxious when it’s time to get the shot. The same principle applies to the GMAT. Remind yourself, “this is going to suck, but I’ll get through it.”

Time Management

The clock is ticking and with each passing moment you become more and more worried that you won’t have enough time–an all too common experience for GMAT takers. This fear is understandable considering that the inability to allocate time can impact scores significantly. Fortunately, with proper time management training, anyone can learn to manage time and resources during the exam. When time management is addressed with strong methodologies and best practices, the decision process manages the time, not the test taker

Apex’s curriculum utilizes a proprietary methodology that manages time for test takers. Following this process removes the need to think about timing, takes the pressure off, alleviates anxiety, and allows applicants to focus on the problems at hand.

Computer Adaptive Test

The GMAT uses Computer Adaptive Testing to evaluate applicants’ readiness for business school. Simply put, answering a question correctly leads to more challenging questions, and getting a question wrong leads to less challenging ones.

This creates pressure to answer each question correctly or risk getting easier questions, which affects the overall score. CAT can heighten anxiety levels in general during the test, but especially when test takers focus on difficulty level. It may be tempting to keep track, but it’s ultimately a waste of valuable time and energy to focus on the scoring system rather than the test itself. 

If a question seems easy, it doesn’t mean it actually is. Many high scorers stress themselves out because they don’t internalize how skilled they are. 

In reality, it’s almost impossible to get every question right, even for strong test takers. Strong and weak test takers get about the same number of questions wrong. The difference in score comes from the level of the questions answered correctly. 

The GMAT tests for decision making and time allocation skills. Anxiety disrupts these; that’s why it’s so insidious. For most people, the challenge is combating the low-level anxiety from the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can be annoying and distracting.

Here are some useful methods that alleviate score-related anxiety:

  • Forget about the score altogether. When studying and taking the test, shift your focus towards the most important thing: individual question performance. Shift away from thinking about the score. The only way to get a good score is to focus on individual questions. 
  • Become familiar with the CAT scoring system, especially for GMAT. Understanding the underlying mechanism for scoring can make test takers less nervous and more confident in their performance. Mike Diamond, the Head of Curriculum at ApexGMAT, has provided a detailed explanation HERE.

Past Poor Performance or Low Scores 

Some test takers lose confidence due to negative experiences with the GMAT, such as lower-than-expected results on previous tests or practice tests. This can cause anxiety, insecurity, and even panic.

It’s best to frame practice tests, or official tests that don’t go as planned, as tools to assess  timing calibration, strengths and weaknesses, and to develop efficient study plans. After all, falling short is the first step in any meaningful learning experience. When we excel right off the bat, it’s usually because we’re using skills we’ve already mastered in a new way. Otherwise, we should expect to fail at new things. Failure provides an opportunity to isolate challenges and accelerate improvement. Overcoming obstacles means we’ll know what to expect, and with hard work, we’ll be better prepared for the next test. 

Consider the following strategies:

  • Put yourself in scenarios that mimic test day (situational) stressors. Taking practice tests or timed tests will not only help you adjust to the scoring system, but will also help with time management. Try taking practice tests in a coffee shop, common study room, or library, where distractions are minimal, but beyond your control. This will provide a greater sense of what to expect, and as a result, help alleviate environmentally induced anxiety.
  • Go to the testing center for a dry run. This helps reduce anxiety because it familiarizes you with the testing environment and ensures that there will be no surprises when you take the exam. If the environmental stress is holding you back, the best way to address it is to get used to the environment. 

Pressure from Friends and Family

Parents, professors, and friends want to see us thrive, and while they can be a great source of support, they can also contribute to our stress. Some test takers feel like a weak performance is a betrayal of the people who have invested time, care, and even money, in their success. 

More likely, the pressure comes from an internal desire to live up to what we perceive as others’ expectations. It’s easy to misinterpret enthusiastic support for a personal, emotional investment in our goals. A score that doesn’t reach the goal can feel like a blow to the ego, especially if our initial expectations for success weren’t in line with the amount or type of preparation we performed.

It can help to simply avoid the topic of scores in conversation. Focus on updating loved ones on the process of preparation rather than scores. It’s highly important to prioritize yourself because ultimately, you’re what matters most!

How to Reduce the Anxiety and Enhance Performance

Everyone has their own way of preparing for an important exam, and there is no “right” way to go about it.

However, there are some best practices that can make the process smoother:

Practice, practice, practice! 

Everyone has heard the phrase: “practice makes perfect.” This is just as true of the GMAT. 

It’s very important to practice using sample GMAT questions. Knowing what to expect on the exam can alleviate a lot of anxiety. 

Get 8 Hours of Sleep Consistently

Getting a good night’s sleep not only helps us absorb new information during the studying process, but also prepares the brain to retain more detail in the future. When it comes to the learning process, sleep is essential. 

Experts say that on average, adults need about 8 hours of sleep a night to maintain a healthy sleep cycle. We all perform better when we prioritize our health and wellbeing. A healthy lifestyle, including a regular and consistent sleep schedule, is key when it comes to taking the GMAT and achieving our long-term goals. 

Have a cup o’ Joe

Drinking coffee during test prep and before taking the exam enhances mental acuity due to blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Coffee makes us alert, focused, and ready to crush the GMAT. 

But it’s important to keep in mind just how much coffee is too much coffee. Drinking too much will only make you more anxious and jittery, which is the last thing you want. It’s all about finding the perfect balance that works for you.   

How Can Private GMAT Tutoring Help with GMAT Test Anxiety?

At Apex, we focus not only on the fundamentals of the exam, but also on test anxiety, time management, alternative solution paths, and test reading to use the test’s structure to our clients’ advantage. 

We take pride in our GMAT Curriculum, which is unmatched in the industry. We take the time to cover the widest possible range of methods and develop strategies that work best for individual clients.

When it comes to private GMAT tutoring, personalized attention is the key to 700+ GMAT scores. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. We understand that the same strategy does not work for every client.

Private tutoring can be a gateway to the amazing scores that get applicants into their dream school. A good score on the GMAT is the first step towards career advancement. 

Eventually, it all comes down to vigorous prep and feeling confident in yourself and your abilities. 

At Apex, we focus on the learning process, not just the final score. With the right process, the score will take care of itself. 

Key Takeaways

Hopefully, these tips and strategies have brought you a step closer to identifying and confronting the source of your test anxiety. 

Some things to keep in mind:

 

  • Practice, practice, practice! Practice will do no harm. It familiarizes us with what to expect, and helps us perform better and feel more confident.

 

  • Try private tutoring Personalized instruction is one of the best ways to guarantee GMAT success. To schedule a complimentary phone call with one of our 770+ scoring instructors, click HERE.

 

 

Good luck!

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how to increase your gmat verbal score
Posted on
08
Sep 2020

How to Boost Your GMAT Verbal Score

By Apex GMAT

Contributor: Irena Georgieva

8th September

The GMAT is notorious for its grueling quantitative section, but many test takers also struggle with the verbal section–especially non-native English speakers. A high verbal score will boost your overall score and enhance your critical thinking skills, bringing you one step closer to your dream job.

So how can you improve your score? Don’t worry. We’re here to help. 

1. Start with the basics

To avoid running into difficulties in the GMAT verbal section, familiarize yourself with English grammar and style. If you aren’t confident in your grammar skills, start by reviewing English grammar from the beginning to master the basics–and don’t forget to practice! Try solving a few grammar questions to see if you can apply the skills you learned. If you need more time, take it. Study diligently. This first step is paramount to verbal prep. 

2. Learn to distinguish between different writing styles

The verbal section isn’t just about grammar. To get a high score, you’ll also need to take writing style into account. Consider the sentences the woman ran here and she darted over. The meanings are similar, but elements such as context, tone, and word choice may be different. Think in terms of the most appropriate answer given the surrounding text. And be sure to read carefully!

3. Read, read, read. And did we mention read again?

In addition to the official GMAT guide, we advise clients to read on a daily basis to strengthen vocabulary and comprehension skills. Explore news sources like The Economist, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal–these publications often cover topics that you’re likely to encounter on the GMAT, and you can keep tabs on current events while you study. News sources provide good examples of the kind of writing style, vocabulary, and tone you’ll find on the GMAT, as well as unfamiliar idioms and phrasal verbs.

4. Make flashcards

Speaking of idioms and phrasal verbs, flashcards can be great tools for learning new vocabulary. GMAT flashcards are available for purchase, or you can make your own cards at home. Keep track of the words you’re struggling with and review them daily. With hard work and repetition, you’ll improve your verbal score and expand your vocabulary. 

5. Try private tutoring

If you’re still having trouble with the verbal section, consider hiring a private tutor. It’s OK to be picky–it’s important to work with an instructor who meets your needs. A good tutor will consider your history with the GMAT, address your concerns, and develop a personalized study plan to maximize your strengths and address your weaknesses. With effective test prep, your score will improve before you know it. 

We recommend 5 takeaways from a successful GMAT journey and GMAT scoring explained next. 

 

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Posted on
07
Jul 2020

GMAT Problem – Speed Distance Problem

Speed and distance problems are among the most complained about problems on the GMAT. Numerous clients come to us and say they have difficulty with speed and distance problems, word problems, or work rate problems. So we’re going to look at a particularly difficult one and see just how easy it can be with the right approach.

The Two Cars Problem

In this problem we have two cars – car ‘A’ and ‘B’. Car ‘A’ begins 20 miles behind car ‘B’ and needs to catch up. Our immediate DSM (Default Solving Mechanism) is to dive in and create an equation for this and that’s exactly what we don’t want to do.

These types of problems are notorious for being algebraically complex, while conceptually simple. If you hold on to the algebra, rather than getting rid of it, you’re going to have a hard time.

Solution Paths

In this problem we’re going to build up solution paths. We’re gonna skip the algebra entirely. We’re going to take a look at an iterative way to get to the answer and then do a conceptual scenario, where we literally put ourselves in the driver’s seat to understand how this problem works. So if we want to take the iterative process we can simply drive the process hour-by-hour until we get to the answer.

Iterative solution path

We can imagine this on a number line or just do it in a chart with numbers. ‘A’ starts 20 miles behind ‘B’ so let’s say ‘A’ starts at mile marker zero. ‘B’ starts at 20. After one hour ‘A’ is at 58, ‘B’ is at 70 and the differential is now -12 and not -20. After the second hour ‘A’ is at 116, ‘B’ is at 120. ‘A’ is just four behind ‘B’. After the third hour ‘A’ has caught up! Now it’s 4 miles ahead. At the fourth hour it’s not only caught up but it’s actually +12, so we’ve gone too far. We can see that the correct answer is between three and four and our answer is three and a half.

Now let’s take a look at this at a higher level. If we take a look at what we’ve just done we can notice a pattern with the catching up: -20 to -12 to -4 to +4. We’re catching up by 8 miles per hour. And if you’re self-prepping and don’t know what to do with this information, this is exactly the pattern that you want to hinge on in order to find a better solution path.

You can also observe (and this is how you want to do it on the exam) that if ‘A’ is going 8 miles an hour faster than ‘B’, then it’s catching up by 8 miles per hour. What we care about here is the rate of catching up, not the actual speed. The 50 and 58 are no different than 20 and 28 or a million and a million and eight. That is, the speed doesn’t matter. Only the relative distance between the cars and that it changes at 8 miles per hour.

Now the question becomes starkly simple. We want to catch up 20 miles and then exceed 8 miles, so we want to have a 28 mile shift and we’re doing so at 8 miles an hour. 28 divided by 8 is 3.5.

Conceptual scenario solution path

You might ask yourself what to do if you are unable to see those details. The hallmark of good scenarios is making them personal. Imagine you’re driving and your friend is in the car in front of you. He’s 20 miles away. You guys are both driving and you’re trying to catch up. If you drive at the same speed as him you’re never going to get there. If you drive one mile per hour faster than him you’ll catch up by a mile each hour. It would take you 20 hours to catch up. This framework of imagining yourself driving and your friend in the other car, or even two people walking down the street, is all it takes to demystify this problem. Make it personal and the scenarios will take you there.

Thanks for the time! For other solutions to GMAT problems and general advice for the exam check out the links below. Hope this helped and good luck!

Found it helpful? Try your hand at some other GMAT problems: Profit & Loss Problem.


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Posted on
28
May 2020

Gas Mileage GMAT Problem

The Gas Mileage problem is a classic example of the GMAT triggering one of our DSM’s: Our Default Solving Mechanisms for applied math. Yet there are three higher level solution paths that we can engage instead. So we are going to skip the math entirely on this one. In reading the question stimulus, there’s a signal that estimation is going to be a very strong and viable solution path and in fact for most folks estimation is the dominant solution path for this problem.

What to Take Note Of

Notice in the first sentence here that we are given the relationship between the efficiency for Car X and the efficiency for Car Y. When comparing 25 to 11.9, 11.9 is a little bit less than half. Whenever we have a relationship that is a little less or a little more than a factor, that’s a clear signal that the GMAT wants us to estimate.

Now, we have an inverse relationship here, between the efficiency of Cars X and Y and the amount of gas they use. So if Car Y is using a little half or rather if Car Y has a little less than half efficiency it’s going to use a little more than double the amount of gas. Managing the directionality of estimation is essential to make full use of this solution path.

Estimation Solution Path

Right off the bat, we have a sense that Car Y is going to use a little bit more than double the amount of gas. Now, all we need to do is figure out how much Car X will use. This is an exercise in mental math. Instead of dividing the 12,000 miles by 25 we want to build up from the 25 to 12,000.

Ask ourselves, in a scenario type of way, how many 25’s go into 100 – The answer is 4. 4 quarters to a $1. Then we can scale it up just by throwing some zeros on. So, 40 25’s are 1,000. How do we get from 1,000 to 12,000? We multiply by 12. So 40 times 12, 480 25’s gives us our 12,000 miles. Car X uses 480 gallons.

Therefore, Car Y is going to use a little more than double this and we point to answer C because we just need to answer the amount Y uses in addition to X. SO there is a bit of verbal play there that we also have to recognize. That’s the estimation solution path.

Graphical Solution Path

We can see this via the graphic solution path by imaging a rectangle, where we have the efficiency of the engine on one side and the amount of gallons on the other. With Car X, 25 miles per gallon time 480 gallons is going to give us the area of 12,000 miles. That is we’ve driven the 12,000 miles in that rectangle. If we are cutting it in half on efficiency, or a little more than half, we end up with two strips and if we lay them side by side we see that we’re doubling of going a little more than double on the amount of gas that we use to maintain that 12,000 mile area.

Logical Solution Path

Finally, we can look at this from a logical solution path which overlaps a bit with the estimation. But the moment we know that Y uses a little more than double the amount of gas of X, we can also look at and not manage that directionality and just say it uses about double. The only answer choice among our answer choices that is close but not exactly, is C – 520. 480 is our exact number and the A answer is way too low. It’s not close enough to 480 to be viable. So here is an example where, while best practices have us managing the directionality, we don’t even need to do that.

Similar Problems

For similar problems like this take a look at the Wholesale Tool problem, The Glucose Solution Problem and for a really good treatment of the graphic solution path check out Don’s Repair Job. There should be links to all three right below and I hope that this helps you guys on your way to achieving success on the GMAT.

If you enjoyed this Gas Mileage Problem but would like to watch more videos about Meta strategy, try “How coffee affects your GMAT performance“.

 

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Posted on
27
May 2020

How To Select A GMAT Tutor

Hiring a GMAT tutor is something that hopefully, you only have to do once, but this video is for everybody, whether you are brand new to the GMAT or whether you have had one or two bad tutoring experiences. And this isn’t an uncommon thing, a lot of clients come to us after having lackluster success with other tutoring services or with other tutors. So, today I want to talk about what to look for in a tutor. While I’m hopeful that you’ll end up working with us, should you give us a call, I want to give you a framework for what to look for and why these things are important for your learning experience.

Tutors Who Claim They Know What You Need

A lot of these characteristics are rather counter-intuitive. So for example, when interviewing a tutor, when speaking with a tutor be very wary of a tutor who claims to know exactly what they are doing. Everyone learns a little differently and it takes a tutor years and years of experience, dozens if not hundreds of clients to really have a sense of what an individual needs.

Any tutor that you speak with who says: “I know exactly what you need, here is the program that we are going to do” and isn’t asking you enough questions or isn’t spending enough time with you to understand what it is that makes you, you and what your specific background is, represents a red flag. A huge flying, waving red flag that tells you to run in the other direction. Successful tutoring, just like successful education and doing things more generally successfully, is full of uncertainties. You should be identifying a tutor that recognizes that.

Tutors Who Want to Use Their Method

Many tutors will tell you about their tried and true method or have a particular methodology that they want to follow. This is another one of those red flags. Every learner is a bit different but when you have a tutor that is very top down what they are doing is instead of focusing on you as a learner they are focusing on themselves and what works for them. Or, a little better but not great, what works for the general population, 50, 60, 70% of people. That is great if you are looking to get from a 500 to a 600, but when you are looking for top performers, when you are looking for a 700+ score, you need to leverage your own strengths and recognize your own weaknesses.

Anyone who says, “this is how I solve a problem so you should do as I do” or, “this is the best way” should make your ears prick up because this is someone who is not going to be flexible enough to work with the various balance of characteristics that you have and may throw at them as you hit resistance points in the mid to upper 600s.

Guaranteed Results

Finally, any tutor that promises guaranteed results is not being realistic. One of the best kept secrets in test preparation is that not everyone achieves their goal. While we have a great track record and we don’t really have anyone who fails to improve, not everyone gets to that 700 score. A lot of it is dependent upon the priority that you give the GMAT, your rapport with your instructor, the skills that you come in with, but also your openness to acquiring new skills. Many of the companies out there will advertise certain success rates and under close scrutiny most of those numbers actually don’t compute.

They don’t account for wash out rates, people who decide to start but don’t finish or people who have inconsistent prep because they are focused on the next promotion or planning a wedding. And these are obstacles that can be worked around but at the same time, the idea that everyone who walks in the door succeeds is one that should raise red flags for you. So any sort of assurance is indicative of someone who is trying to sell you something, rather than someone who is genuinely concerned with giving you a realistic lay of the land and speaking about your possibilities and their success rate in a meaningful and realistic way.

Do Your Research

I hope this is useful as you continue to navigate the uncertain world of test preparation. There are a lot of great practitioners out there but there are also a lot of duds and often price point and guarantees don’t tell you who is who. So do your research, have a lot of deep conversations, ask good questions and ultimately go with your gut. Go with what’s comfortable for you and who you feel most comfortable with because ultimately that will lead to the best experience and the greatest amount of openness of your part to master new techniques. So I hope this helps you guys find the tutor that’s right for you.

Wishing you all the best in your GMAT preparation.

If you enjoyed “How To Select A GMAT Tutor”, watch Why A 4.0 Does Not Equal GMAT Success.

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Posted on
19
May 2020

GMAT Scoring – Demystified

One of the most common questions asked by those who are new to the GMAT is how exactly does the computer adaptive test or CAT work? The long and short of it is that if you get a problem correct, they give you a harder one, if you get a problem incorrect, they give you an easier one. By doing this the GMAT is able to bounce up and down and calibrate to your skill level.

Should You Spend more time on the first 10 questions?

A few things come out of this including questions about how to spend your time. Whether certain questions are weighted more than others, whether your timing, that is the amount of time you spend on a problem factors into the score.

To start, there’s a common misconception that you should spend more time on the first 10 questions because they tend to adjust your level for the computer adaptive test at a greater rate. While that’s true in the sense that the computer adapted model on the GMAT does influence it more at the outset, whether you should spend more time is actually a more complex question because generally the GMAT is going to give you problems that are about average and build up or down from that average.

Planning To Score An Elite GMAT Score

If you’re planning on performing at a top level, at an elite level, if your goal is 700 or even 600, you need to assume that those early problems that are average level problems you’re going to do well and in a timely manner anyway.

That is spending extra time to ensure you get them correct is a grandiose version of spending extra time to make sure that you’re getting two plus two correct. You wouldn’t check that because you’re confident enough in your skills and if you’re in the GMAT and you’re getting ready to shoot for a 700 you should already be confident enough in your skills not to have to spend extra time on average level problems. To take these problems on a problem-by-problem basis rather than with blanket statements.

Does The Test keep Track of Other Information?

A common question is whether or not the test keeps track of the type of problems you do. This can refer to:

    • subject matter
    • problem solving versus data sufficiency 
    • reading comprehension versus critical reasoning versus sentence correction

However, we can still go about it with the core rule: if you get it right you’re going to see something more challenging, get it wrong, less challenging. We tend to believe that they don’t keep a great track of that but really rely upon the bouncing up and down to calibrate you to your average performance level. You don’t want to sweat any single problem or worry about any single problem type in regards to the Computer Adaptive Test.

Certainly,  sometimes you’ll know that certain types of problems require more or less attention from you or that you make common errors on those problems. However, that’s not a CAT thing, that’s just a general GMAT thing. 

You are penalized for spending too much time on a problem but not in the way you think.

The other big question we hear a lot is whether or not the amount of time you take on a problem factors into the score. The answer here is subtle, it’s yes and no. No in the sense that the GMAT scoring algorithm does not track the amount of time that you spend on a problem. But, yes in the sense that the more time you spend on problems the less time you have for other problems. In particular, if you’re scoring above average, you’re on this ascendant curve so that the difficult problems at the end require more time than the less challenging problems at the beginning.

Therefore, if the GMAT kept track of your time and penalized you for spending longer on problems they would actually be penalizing you twice and this gets us into our timing decisions and the trade-off between time and score.

Time and Score Trade-off

When you’re armed with confidence and knowledge about how something works you don’t have to worry about how it works or how what you’re doing affects how it works and you can focus on the task at hand. 

The more that you can offload the burden of worrying about the scoring and the mechanisms by which the GMAT measures you, the more success you will find. As always, I hope this helps and keep prepping!

If you enjoyed GMAT Scoring Demystified, watch The Effects Of Coffee On GMAT Performance.

 

 

 

 

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Should You Retake the GMAT? All That You Need to Consider – Apex GMAT

There it is. A 690. Not what you wanted, but pretty damn good. Should you keep the score or cancel it? Do you take the exam again, after all the agony, or hope that it will be enough?

GMAT test takers face these questions each time they sit the exam, and there is no one size fits all answer. There are many factors to consider, from your personal situation, available time, career and MBA goals, and the draw of being done with the GMAT.

You Are Not Your GMAT Score

Let’s begin with a more general premise: YOU ARE NOT YOUR GMAT SCORE. As much as some might have you believe so, your GMAT score is not the be all end all of your life, self-worth or MBA candidacy. It’s important to keep this fact in mind, and what follows from it – while a strong GMAT score is necessary to demonstrate academic skill and preparedness for an MBA or other graduate program, a strong score is not enough, especially if you’re applying to a top ranked program.

Something that almost no one will tell you – nearly everyone struggles on the GMAT and spends months preparing. We often see clients from top consulting and banking firms who insist on not recommending us to others because they don’t want anyone they work with to know that they needed help!

How The Admissions Committees View Your Score

An admissions committee is looking at your entire profile – your resume, recommendations, accomplishments, and presentation in an interview setting. While they use the GMAT to determine how well they believe you’ll thrive in the academic parts of the MBA program, they’re really looking at the individual when making a decision.

Admissions committees want to see you at your best, so having a second score on your score report, or even speaking about your struggles on the GMAT and how you overcame them can work as a positive to your application. Many programs are also willing to “super score” – taking the best subsections and combining them into the best possible score, and, especially on the quantitative, want to make sure that you’ll be able to handle the rigors of the program. Having an inferior score on your score report is a lot like running a race slowly… no one cares about your worst time, they only care about your best. You might be tired, ill, have a nail in your shoe, or some other calamity, so only your best time represents your capability, and admissions committees know this. So when should you retake the GMAT? Well ask yourself the following question before you make that decision:

What Does This Increase Really Mean To You?

Another factor to consider is how much an incremental increase in your GMAT score will be compared with spending the time elsewhere – adding another activity to your resume, spending more time on crafting your essays, or even feeling better by going out and seeing friends more regularly so you don’t absolutely freaking lose it!

These are real considerations, and being well rounded in fact, not just on paper, will provide a notable enhancement to your ability to market yourself effectively and accomplish your goals – career, romantic, and otherwise. Are you really prepared to give so much up for a number on a piece of paper?

Why Should You Retake The GMAT ?

On the other hand, perhaps you had an off day, or perhaps it is really important to you to crack that 700 because your brother/partner/boss got there and you want to be in that same rarefied air. There’s nothing wrong with that, and that drive can be a healthy one. Retaking the exam, especially after significant preparation, represents an extra $250 GMAT retake fee and an afternoon. Additional retakes are “free” relative to the time and commitment you’ve spent to get to the first exam, so to the extent it’s not damaging to your mental health, relationships, and lifestyle, there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t take the exam one or more additional times. Admissions committees can’t see that you’ve cancelled your scores, so don’t worry about looking try-hard. Besides, like everything in life, you’re doing it for you, right?

GMAT Retake Strategy

In the end, there is no right or wrong answer, just the answer that is right or wrong for you. Consult with your family, partner, friends and colleagues. If you’re working with a professional tutor, they should be able to provide you perspective as well, especially since they’ve seen this many times before, and maybe have gone through it personally. If you would like to talk about your GMAT prep or retaking the GMAT with an Apex instructor leave us your details.

If you enjoyed “Should You Retake the GMAT?”, watch why a 4.0 GPA does not always equal a high GMAT Score.

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Posted on
25
Mar 2020

GMAT Videos: Will They Help Improve My Score?

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.

Passive Learning

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.

If you enjoyed this video watch: How to Avoid Stupid Mistakes on the GMAT.

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Posted on
24
Mar 2020

Stupid Mistakes – How to Avoid Them on the GMAT

Stupid Mistakes On The GMAT

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.

Careless Mistakes

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.

Pivot Questions

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.

If you enjoyed this video you can watch: GMAT Scoring Plateaus

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Posted on
13
Mar 2020

What Are GMAT Scoring Plateaus and How To Overcome Them

Mike from Apex GMAT, here to talk about scoring plateaus on the GMAT. You might be surprised to learn that I don’t really want to talk about specific scores. Plateaus exist and as tutors we kind of know where they are but the important takeaway is not to focus on the score but rather the skills that you have or don’t have that cause you to plateau at a certain level.

Scoring Plateaus Explained

Everyone goes through one or two, sometimes three plateau levels during their prep. This is very normal, but it can be disconcerting especially if it’s the first time that you’re encountering this. Or if you’re used to being excellent in school or with a particular subject matter. These scoring plateaus have everything to do with the way you approach a problem and what we call the level of abstraction that you understand the problem at. Whether we’re talking about quantitative problems or verbal problems. At different levels on the GMAT, it requires us to look at them from an increasingly abstract wide angle lens to understand what’s going on and what’s being asked of us.

The First Scoring Plateau (mid 500s)

At the most basic level, certainly through the first 40, 50th percentile on all the sections. So up to the mid-500s let’s say, most of what you’re being asked is skills oriented. That is if you understand the mechanisms of action the formulas the basic English construction behind problems you should be able to get to an answer. That’s not to say that your correct answer will have been done in a timely manner. That is that you’ve used the correct solution path or rather a time efficient, optimal solution path but you should be able to get there. But then the GMAT has to differentiate among all the people who have the base level skills and they really expect you to have these skills.

Implementing Your Knowledge

It’s not that they’re testing you on whether you know how to compute the volume of a cube. They want you to know that. They want to see what you can do with that when you’re presented with a more complicated problem. And so the first level skill set is to see a problem not as a, identify the problem, plug in a formula, analyze an argument, get to an answer, but rather be aware of the construction of a problem and understand what an optimal solution path looks like. Recognize shortcuts, recognize signals in the problem that permit you to have a greater understanding and a quicker decision process.

The Second Scoring Plateau

As we progress further, the next scoring plateau comes in where the GMAT that presents something in such a new way that you are not unprepared for it. Where you have to utilize and bring to bear some of your creative thinking skills to a problem because it’s presented in a way that’s less familiar or less practiced. The GMAT can do this at any level. But this means that your focus needs to go from understanding what’s in the problem to understanding what the problem is asking for and the common mechanisms of action that the GMAT will use to enhance the complexity of a problem. Once you’re aware of how they complicate a problem you can more readily address it. And directly utilize your knowledge of the underlying subject matter to come up with a creative on the spot solution.

Final Plateau

At the highest levels, this is in overdrive. Where you’re given a problem that’s highly complex and usually requires inductive rather than deductive thinking. Deductive thinking is starting with some premises and breaking them down further. Inductive thinking is taking your premises and what they break down to but adding something at the level above that. This causes us to be able to see something in this pyramid further down the line. This is a type of thinking that’s taught much less at schools. It is one of the core characteristics that allows for success at the highest levels of the GMAT. Where you need to think beyond what you’re given and create a new nest a new home for this problem that gives it additional definition.

This is of course much easier said than done. The scope of this video is to outline this thematically. If you look at our other videos, you’ll start to see hints of this framework as we talk about different problems, the way to approach them and of course what the GMAT exam tests. So check out some of our videos below and give us a call if you need some help. We’re here to help and we want to see you succeed.

If you liked this video, check out: GMAT: Not a Standard Standardized Test. For more videos visit: Apex GMAT Vlog

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