Category Archives: Test Prep Advice
November 28, 2014
Guest post by Rich Cohen, Co-Founder, EMPOWERgmat The process of putting together a study plan for tackling the GMAT can be a daunting one. First, there are a myriad of different resources. Second, it’s tough …
Guest post by Rich Cohen, Co-Founder, EMPOWERgmat
The process of putting together a study plan for tackling the GMAT can be a daunting one. First, there are a myriad of different resources. Second, it’s tough to predict how much time will be required. Third, there’s no way to know if your plan is actually going to help you succeed until you get deep into it (and realize that you may have made some ineffective choices along the way).
After putting together a reasonable plan and studying for some appreciable amount of time, the nightmare situation happens: you’re STUCK at a particular score level! Maybe it’s the 500s, maybe it’s the low-to-mid 600s, but you can’t seem to get past it. So now what?
The above situation is arguably the most common problem to strike GMAT test takers during their studies. Thankfully, the solution isn’t that hard to come by, but some serious adjustments must be made.
1) Acknowledge that what you’ve done so far has not gotten you to your goal. Continuing to approach the GMAT in the same way is NOT going to magically fix your problem. Investing in new materials and lessons, and putting in the necessary practice to change how you approach the GMAT, is what’s required.
2) The little areas that you “cheat” on (or skip altogether) during practice are costing you BIG when you take the GMAT. The “reality” of test day should not be ignored. For example, the GMAT requires you to face the Essay and IR sections, so you should include those sections when you take your practice CAT tests. Think about all of the little details that will occur on your test day and do your best to mimic them during practice.
3) YOU are likely causing your pacing problem. Maybe you keep rereading and rereading and rereading prompts. Maybe you don’t take enough notes. Maybe you’re trying to solve a problem the “long” way when faster, more efficient methods are available.
4) Mental acuity is tied to physical well-being. If you have trouble focusing or you lose your will at the end of the Verbal section (and think “I just want this test to be over”), then your problem might actually be physical.
The EMPOWERgmat Score Booster has become wildly successful in helping thousands of test takers to improve on their existing scores, and it’s currently free to try out at www.empowergmat.com. Studying for the GMAT is a BIG task, but it doesn’t have to be a hard one. With the right tools and the proper guidance, you can get “unstuck” in a hurry.
November 11, 2014
Are you heading to business school and thinking about taking the GRE? Our friends at Magoosh have created a nifty infographic to help answer the million dollar question: what is a good GRE score? The …
Are you heading to business school and thinking about taking the GRE? Our friends at Magoosh have created a nifty infographic to help answer the million dollar question: what is a good GRE score?
The fact is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Depending on the programs you’re applying to, a “good score” could take on various amounts. The infographic is organized by grad school programs, so you can quickly scroll through to find the average test scores necessary to get into any engineering, physical sciences, business, and more, grad programs.
So take a look at the Magoosh infographic and learn to answer the loaded “what’s a good GRE score?” question with ease!
October 29, 2014
Guest post from Josh Jones of Test Prep Unlimited, a private GMAT tutor in the San Francisco Bay Area. His students have reported score increases as high as seven points per tutoring hour.
How to and how much you should study depends on your starting/target scores and the amount of time you have, but this guide should give you a good sense of how to structure your study. It’s best to use multiple GMAT resources, but be deliberate about how you use them to maximize your efficiency. If after reading this you still have questions, you can ask me at the Facebook Page for Test Prep Unlimited.
Your first step is to learn how to speed-read. Your words per minute should be at least 400 (with >95% comprehension). Faster is better; 500+ would be great. Here’s a test for you: What speed do you read?
Next, download the free, official GMATPrep® Software from the makers of the test. Read a little bit about the format and structure of the test, do 1 easy, 1 medium, and 1 hard question of each type (but save the rest of the questions and exams for later!), then take a full-length diagnostic exam under semi-realistic testing conditions (no outside reference or calculator, no pausing the exam to think about questions, etc).
On timing: You’ll want to spend about two minutes per Quant question (perhaps more for Data Sufficiency and less for Problem Solving) and 2.5 minutes per Integrated Reasoning question. For Verbal, 75-90 seconds for each Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning, 2-3 minutes for each Reading Comprehension Passage, plus 90 seconds each for the three or four questions that follow. The Verbal numbers will vary slightly depending on your strengths and weaknesses, but you have about 1 minute 49 seconds per Verbal question.
If your starting score is under 550, you will want an entire foundational overview. I would recommend using Manhattan’s Foundations of GMAT books. Attempt some of the drills at the end of the section, and if they take you more than 15 seconds each, read the section beforehand and try again. Then you can move onto comprehensive strategy guides.
If you’re between 550-650, you will still want that foundational overview, but you can do it more quickly. Then you can move onto comprehensive strategy guides.
If you’re between 650-700, you can skip the foundational overview and work on the comprehensive strategy guides.
If you’re already above 700, just focus on the 700-800 level questions, and on the specific subjects you need help with. Kaplan has a GMAT800 book, MGMAT has an Advanced Quant book, Veritas has a Data Sufficiency book, an Advanced Verbal book, etc.
Books and Resources: The two most popular sets of comprehensive strategy guides are MGMAT and Veritas Prep. I personally prefer Veritas’s books; They have a better understanding of the test and their questions are closer to real GMAT questions. MGMAT’s guides are farther from the GMAT. They are a good first step, and are useful if you don’t need to gain more than 100 points, but they are far from ideal. They’re just marketed better, so they are more widely known. As for online resources, there is also GMATPill, Magoosh, and Economist GMAT Tutor.
You cannot neglect studying Verbal! This is true even if you are a native English speaker (or even an English major!). The reasons are a) The Verbal skills cultivated in college are not exactly what the GMAT measures, and b) Many international applicants with superior Quant but weaker Verbal skills take the GMAT and skew the results so that the tail is much longer above V45 than for Q45.
So if you have a solid Verbal score, you can still break 700, even with a less-than-stellar Quant score. For example, with a 40 in Quant, you could still break 700 with a 45 in Verbal. (In practice this is extremely difficult to attain, even for most native English speakers.) But it’s better and safer to have a more balanced score.
If your Verbal score is below 40 and you have the time to do so, start your Verbal prep by using ACT and SAT verbal prep materials (take all of their practice tests). Yes those are for high-schoolers applying to college, but what is more important here, your MBA or your ego?
If you want to be a Verbal superstar, which is required to be above 750, do the Verbal sections from past LSAT‘s, as they are harder than the GMAT’s Verbal. These are good for Reading Comprehension and especially Critical Reasoning, but not Sentence Correction. Don’t do the LSAT Analytical Reasoning (as there is no parallel in GMAT), just the Reading and Logical Reasoning (which is similar to GMAT to Critical Reasoning).
For every 50 hours of study that you do, take another practice test under exam conditions and review the solutions. GMATPrep has four, and you’ve used one already, so if you plan on taking several practice tests, use others first then come back to the GMATPrep exams at the end.
Don’t burn through your practice tests without significant study in between, unless you’re already at the 750+ range, because you’re just using up your practice tests without gaining much in between.
If you can afford it and would benefit from doing so, hire a private tutor to structure, motivate, and expedite your study (this will cost between $1,000-10,000 dollars). Be aware though: Tutoring companies take a large percentage of the tutor pay—70% or more—so if you can find an independent tutor with excellent credentials, teaching experience, and reviews, that’s a much more cost-effective route. Students in remote areas, countries outside the U.S., or with severe budget constraints, may benefit from online adaptive learning software such as Economist GMAT Tutor ($500-1,000).
You can also take a class, but if you’re disciplined about your GMAT studies, you won’t get much more out of it than you would by following the program I’ve outlined, especially if you’re ahead or behind the curve for the class, as you will not move at your optimal pace. Actually the primary potential benefit of a class in this case is the potential for community you can form with your peers, but you will have to take that initiative and there is no guarantee you’ll get what you’re looking for.
Finish your study with GMAC materials, first with The Official Guide for GMAT Review 2015 and the supplemental Quant and Verbal guides, then with GMATPrep. Always try to do the question first without looking at the solution, but don’t spend more than 5 minutes trying to solve a question if you’re stumped. Try to keep in mind actual test pacing, but spend as much time on each question as is necessary for you to complete it and understand the solutions provided (which are often not the best or fastest way to do the problems, by the way). In other words, first focus on getting questions right, then focus on getting them right quickly.
Take another practice exam (see the timing suggestions at the beginning of this post), go over the answers, then do *ALL* of the GMATPrep questions in exam mode. Then take another practice exam, look at the solutions, and repeat as necessary until you feel satisfied with your results.
Since OG and GMATPrep are real GMAT questions from the makers of the test, you will develop appropriate habits for test day as opposed to using test prep company materials which are imitations of, rather than substitutes for, real questions. So if you’re going to use multiple materials, DO NOT START YOUR STUDIES WITH GMAC MATERIALS!!! Once those questions are gone, they’re gone, and if you’re unsatisfied with your score, you’ll have to wait until either you forget these materials, or they release an entirely new set of questions (which will take years, since the updated questions are not for the entire set).
Come test time, relax the day before the test (don’t cram!) and make sure you eat a healthy meal and sleep well. Know your biological clock and pick a 4 hour block for the test when you will be most alert and energetic, one that doesn’t require you to skip a meal. Bring healthy snacks, and stay hydrated, focused, and positive. Good luck on your studies and on your dreams!
October 21, 2014
First off, congratulations to all of the R1 applicants to Michigan Ross School of Business who received an invitation to interview yesterday! MBA admissions director Soojin Kwon discusses the subject of retaking the GMAT in …
First off, congratulations to all of the R1 applicants to Michigan Ross School of Business who received an invitation to interview yesterday! MBA admissions director Soojin Kwon discusses the subject of retaking the GMAT in her latest blog post, noting that the question also frequently comes from candidates who have already submitted an application.
Perhaps not surprisingly, her answer to whether someone should retake the GMAT is, “It depends.” The tried-and-true advice is to aim for a score in the 80% range, which at Michigan Ross is 650-750. But, 10% of Ross admits have scores below 650, and Kwon explains what an applicant would need to have in order to counterbalance a low score.
That 10% looked something like this:
- had undergrad/post-undergrad records that demonstrated solid academic achievement including in quantitative skills and/or they took post-undergrad courses to demonstrated quantitative ability;
- had a strong track record of professional achievement that demonstrated an ability to contribute to class discussions;
- submitted essays that were well thought-out and well-written with rec letters that demonstrated a fit with Ross’ collaborative, initiative-taking community; and
- solidly reinforced all of the above in their interview. If you look like this, then you may be fine. Keep in mind that there may be many other applicants who look like this.
If applicants wish to retake the GMAT exam and can get their scores submitted to Michigan Ross reasonably close to the application deadline, Kwon says the program will consider the updated score. However, a new score won’t change an admissions decision once it has been made.
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October 10, 2014
According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2014 survey of admissions officers at over 200 business schools across the United States, 60% say that an applicant’s score on the GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning section (launched in June 2012) …
According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2014 survey of admissions officers at over 200 business schools across the United States, 60% say that an applicant’s score on the GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning section (launched in June 2012) is not currently an important part of their evaluation of a prospective student’s overall GMAT score.
This represents a slight uptick from Kaplan’s 2013 survey, when 57% said an applicant’s Integrated Reasoning score was not important. Despite that finding, Kaplan’s survey also finds that 50% of business schools pinpoint a low GMAT score as “the biggest application killer,” confirming that applicants still need to submit a strong score overall.
And because GMAT takers receive a separate score for the Integrated Reasoning section, poor performance on this section cannot be masked by stronger performance on the Quantitative, Verbal or Analytical Writing Assessment sections of the exam.
Brian Carlidge, executive director of pre-business and pre-graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep, says the current lack of emphasis on the IR section may be due to the fact that applicants in 2012, 2013, and 2014 probably submitted scores from the old GMAT, since scores are good for five years.
The tide will likely change though as more applicants submit scores from the current iteration of the GMAT with the IR section. For that reason, Kaplan advises MBA applicants to continue preparing for and doing well on the IR section.
“Similar to how not scoring well on Integrated Reasoning cannot be masked by good performance on other sections because it receives its own separate score, doing well on Integrated Reasoning can set you apart from other applicants in a positive way,” says Carlidge. “Use it to your advantage.”
For the 2014 Kaplan survey, admissions officers from 204 business schools from across the United States – including 11 of the top 30 MBA programs, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report – were polled by telephone between August and September 2014.
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July 31, 2014
You can’t avoid it. Every exam prep checklist has it, and every experienced tutor will advise you to do it: STUDY! Yes, we all hate to have to do it, but it really is the key to your success on every exam you’ll have to take.
But, the fact is, even after you’ve studied all you can for whatever test you have coming up, you’re not guaranteed success. You might have heard stories of a classmate who crumbled under the pressure of studying for a test, or who slept right through his alarm on the morning of the test, or who ran out of energy and collapsed right on top of her desk during the exam. It really could happen to anyone.
Before you panic about the chances of this happening to you, we’ve got good news! Our friends at Magoosh put together an Exam lifehack infographic to make sure you safely avoid any test-day nightmares. The infographic includes study tools and tips you probably didn’t consider before but that are crucial to keeping you sane all the way up to your test date. So, take some time to browse their list of exam lifehacks and master the 18 unexpected tips you’ll need for a higher test score.