Recently we conducted an informal poll of business school applicants preparing for the GMAT. We wanted to learn more about what GMAT students know — and what they don’t know — about the exam. Some of the results surprised us. It turns out that there are some critically importance details about the GMAT that many students do not know, and, even more dangerously, there are some myths out there that need to be dispelled.
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From the results of the poll we created this list of Five Things You Should Know About the GMAT but Don’t:
- Your Verbal and Quantitative scores matter at least as much as your overall score. Some test takers hope that an exceptionally strong performance on one section of the GMAT will overcome a weak performance on the other section. However, MBA admissions officers care about both sections’ scores, not just the overall score, so a balanced strong performance is critical. While it is by no means a mandatory minimum score, applicants can improve their chances of admissions by reaching the GMAT’s “golden ratio,” with scores in at least the 80th percentile on both the Quantitative and Verbal sections and an overall score of at least 700.
- You’re not doomed if you miss the first few questions on the GMAT. Many people wrongly assume that the first questions matter far more than any subsequent questions in computer adaptive exams, which present questions of greater difficulty if a question is answered correctly, and questions of lower difficulty if a question is answered incorrectly. No less than the Graduate Management Admission Council, which runs the GMAT, has publicly debunked this myth. In reality, computer adaptive exams such as the GMAT are very sophisticated, and will accurately hone in on one’s true ability by the end of the test, whether or not a student accidentally misses an easy question early on.
- You don’t need to master difficult math concepts to do well on the GMAT. In reality, the math tested on the GMAT is high school- or middle school-level arithmetic, and does not require advanced knowledge of finance or calculus. The GMAT is designed to evaluate a student’s ability to reason (such as the capacity to recognize patterns), as opposed to gauging how well test-takers understand advanced mathematical concepts.
- Business schools do not look unfavorably upon people who take the GMAT multiple times. Admissions officers realize that a single test sitting does not necessarily reflect a candidate’s true ability. In general, they are very open to considering an applicant’s best score among multiple scores—and many applicants do in fact take it more than once. However, taking it more than three times can be a red flag to an admissions officer.
- Retired real GMAT questions are not the only ones suitable for studying. While going “straight to the source” to get GMAT practice questions certainly makes sense, by no means are previous questions the only questions that can give an applicant an accurate feel for the real GMAT. In fact, retired questions are only published after they have been out of use for five years, during which time the test continues to evolve. GMAT experts, such as those at Veritas Prep, constantly monitor the exam and frequently create new questions to reflect these changes, preparing applicants for what they will see on test day.
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