Category Archives: Test Prep Advice

B-School AdComs Still Iffy on GMAT IR

According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2013 survey of business school admissions officers*, 57% of MBA programs say that an applicant’s score on the GMAT’s recently launched Integrated Reasoning section is not currently an important part …

According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2013 survey of business school admissions officers*, 57% of MBA programs say that an applicant’s score on the GMAT’s recently launched Integrated Reasoning section is not currently an important part of their evaluation of a prospective student’s overall GMAT score.

Despite that finding, Kaplan’s survey also finds that 51% of business school admissions list a low GMAT score as “the biggest application killer,” confirming that applicants still need to submit a competitive score overall.

In Kaplan’s 2012 survey, business schools were largely undecided about Integrated Reasoning’s importance, with 54% saying they were unsure how important an applicant’s score would be; 22% said it would be important and 24% said it would not be important.

Because test takers receive a separate score for the Integrated Reasoning section, poor performance on this section cannot be masked by stronger performance on other sections of the GMAT.

“It’s not surprising that a majority of business schools are not currently placing too much importance on the Integrated Reasoning section, since it makes sense they’d want to gather performance data on a new section before fully incorporating it into their evaluation process,” said Lee Weiss, Kaplan Test Prep’s executive director of pre-business programs. Weiss also noted that because test scores are good for five years, some applicants in 2012 and 2013 submitted scores from the old GMAT.

“Moving forward, business schools may decide that Integrated Reasoning should play a more critical role. In the meantime, prospective MBA students should not take Integrated Reasoning any less seriously than the Quantitative or Verbal sections. It still matters,” Weiss said.

* For the 2013 survey, 152 admissions officers from business schools across the United States were surveyed by telephone between July and September. Among those 152 are five of the top ten MBA programs, as compiled by U.S. News & World Report.

Posted in Test Prep Advice | Tagged , , , , ,

Breaking from the GMAT to Prepare for the TOEFL

Guest post by our friends at Magoosh Are you a non-native English speaker? Chances are you’ve spent the past months swimming in a sea of GMAT questions and now your gears have to shift to …

Guest post by our friends at Magoosh

Are you a non-native English speaker? Chances are you’ve spent the past months swimming in a sea of GMAT questions and now your gears have to shift to the TOEFL. Unless you are a TOEFL teacher yourself or you’re retaking the test, you probably have no opinion about TOEFL books. And unless you know are in a TOEFL class or have a friend who studied a lot for the test, you might not know how to choose a book.

Should you trust the amazon.com reviews? If people say the reading is too difficult, does that mean it’s actually good practice? Is it important to have a CD with computer practice tests? Is the Official TOEFL Guide the best just because it’s official? What is important in a book?

Well, The answers to those questions, in order: Only a little, rarely, yes, no, and it really depends. That last question is the trickiest one, and that’s what we’ll talk about here.

Learning About the Test

Some students really only need to learn about the format of the TOEFL and some test-taking strategies. If you have spoken English regularly (not just in a class) for many years, you probably fit in this category. If GMAT Verbal was a breeze, the TOEFL likely won’t be so bad.

To find out about the structure of the test, learn how hard the TOEFL is, and get practice taking it, there is no better resource than the official books from ETS. They give the best representation of the test.

But you might also want to learn more about test-taking strategy. For this, other resources become important. You want a book that has a lot of answers and explanations. Ideally, each reading and listening question should have a very long section of explanation. The wrong answers should be explained. Every speaking and writing task should have a few different sample answers and analyses for those samples.

There should be information on how to take good notes, how much time to spend reading each passage, what keywords are important to notice when listening, how much time you should spend speaking about examples, how to format your essays, and many other small topics, too. Cambridge, among other books, does this pretty well. You may have acquired a lot of this over this course of preparing for the GMAT. Use these skills–they’ll help.

For a student in this situation, grammar and vocabulary aren’t as important, so don’t worry if you don’t see many word lists or grammar exercises. Your TOEFL book might be very different from your other English textbooks, and that’s okay.

Improving Your English

Your TOEFL scores are a measurement of more than just your TOEFL practice. They show your total English experience. If you have only studied English in high school or college classes, never lived in an English-speaking country, and don’t have English speaking friends or family, then you might need to improve your English in general. Your GMAT experience helps here, but you’ll quickly learn it’s not eactly the same test of language as the TOEFL.

That means learning more than just the structure of the test and question strategies. It means using English as much as possible, improving your vocabulary, and correcting grammar mistakes. The most important of those three is using English. You need as much experience as possible in all skills (reading, listening, speaking, and writing), especially if you have not practiced speaking and writing essays in the past.

And no TOEFL book includes the type of natural practice you need to really get better. That improvement requires frequent conversation with native speakers. There is no better way to improve your speaking and listening than that.

But if you are in this group–students who are trying to make general English improvement over a long time and learn about the TOEFL–some books are definitely better than others. The Official Guide is not enough. It teaches you about the test, but doesn’t help improve your English very much.

A good book for this type of student would give a lot of reading practice, grammar lessons, hundreds (or maybe thousands) of vocabulary words with exercises, and more. I have, sadly, not yet found the perfect book for this. Just like I’m sure you’ve discovered with the GMAT books out there, there simply isn’t one that is perfect. But if you are looking at reviews on the internet in a store looking at books, look for those three pieces: reading, vocabulary, and grammar.

And here’s where you’ve really got to change your study habits from your GMAT prepartions: make sure you get that speaking and listening practice, too!

This post was written by Lucas Verney-Fink, resident TOEFL expert at Magoosh. For more advice on TOEFL prep, check out Magoosh’sTOEFL blog.

Posted in General, Test Prep Advice | Tagged , , , ,

Is MBA Admissions Affected by IR Scores?

Guest post by Zeke Lee, founder of the GMAT Pill The IR section has been around for a year now, with 196,712 scores recorded. With all these scores taken into account, the average (mean) IR …

Guest post by Zeke Lee, founder of the GMAT Pill

The IR section has been around for a year now, with 196,712 scores recorded. With all these scores taken into account, the average (mean) IR score was found to be 4.34 / 8.00 with a standard deviation of 2.1

Since 95% of the distribution lies within 2 standard deviations, we can roughly say that 95% of the distribution lies between 2.24 and 6.44. Please take into account that this is not a normal distribution and that the score intervals only change by 1.  

Interesting points

  1. The IR section is more than just another score.

Ever since the IR section’s debut in 2012, the MBA admissions committee has begun to understand how the IR score compares in relation to a student’s overall application.

How should this affect the students who apply?

Well, the MBA programs always have qualified applicants looking to get in. However, there are not always enough seats for all of the applicants. Those who can score a high enough IR score can set themselves apart from the others.

 How so?

It’s no surprise that students with high GMAT Quant scores are qualified for MBA School. After all, business is a career that reveals around numbers. However, with so many qualified applicants, the mere difference of 2 quant questions can completely alter a score’s percentile.

For example, a Q48 student may not even be in the 90th percentile of scores anymore. Fortunately enough, the difference between two questions is not enough for the admission committee to select the Q50 student over the Q48 student.

Imagine this scenario: Two qualified applicants remain for the final seat at Stanford MBA. Which one would you choose?

Candidate 1: Q48 / IR 8
Candidate 2: Q50 / IR 4

Based on these statistics alone, Candidate 1 can potentially appear to be more well-rounded than Candidate 2. There is too much discrepancy between Candidate 2’s overall GMAT score and his IR score.

Speaking of discrepancies between GMAT scores and IR scores, the difference is quite noticeable among Chinese and Indian applicants. As a result, if applicants from China or India can score well enough on the IR section as well as the overall GMAT, then they can beat out other applicants from the same region.

  1. Scholarship Money

The GMAT Pill community is to proud to admit that several alums have gone off to attend top business schools around the world. But even more impressive are the ones who scored a merit-based scholarship along the way. These candidates often have high marks across all categories on the GMAT exam – including IR.

Why is so much emphasis placed on the IR?

The IR section is more than just another score. It was carefully designed to test a student’s ability to analyze information and make appropriate decisions. Such qualities are what attract colleges and potential job recruiters. If a college is able to determine a student’s capabilities beforehand, then they will be more willing to invest in that student through scholarships and grants.

Proof: One of GMAT Pill’s former students (and now GMAT Pill instructor) James –obtained a $93k MBA Scholarship from London Business School. It’s no surprise considering that his stats included a GMAT score of 770, an IR score of 8/8 and an AWA score of 6/6.

  1. Consultants understand the IR score

When job recruiters visit college campuses, they are mostly interested in those who have relevant work experience. And among those with relevant work experience, the ones with high GMAT scores and GPAs may stand out. However, soon enough, another requirement will be added to that criterion. High IR scores can be play a factor for those interested in consulting because the IR section test the same skill sets that consultants use on the job.

  1. After the fall of 2013

As of today, GMAT test takers will enter the testing room, take the test and receive an unofficial score report that does not have their IR scores. However, all that will change after the fall of 2013. After finishing the exam, test takers will receive an unofficial score report with their IR scores.

  1. 20 Days or less

The official score report is said to come within 20 days of the testing day. However, test takers often find the score reports in their mailboxes within a week. Chances are, your official score report will come within a week as well.

  1. One GMAT score

Talk has taken root about a single GMAT score of 800, made up of 4 sections, quant/verbal/awa/ir. This would be a huge change considering that the current 800 score is only made up of quant and verbal.

Despite all this talk, this type of change is not likely to take place anytime in the near future. Several years would pass before all of the adjustments are made to the scoring system, the test booklet, etc. That is, if GMAC decides to create a single 800 score.

Here at GMAT Pill, we believe that having a single overall score would be a smart move. If all of the sections are distributed evenly, the IR section will be much more emphasized than it is now. It will have a place within the 800 score—the score most students take account to– the score that top business school will display on their admission pages, etc

More opinions need to be gathered before GMAC actually makes any decisions, but the GMAT Pill community remains hopeful.

Analyzing the IR Stats

With a year passing since the IR section’s release, the GMAC community found some interesting information about the relationship between a country’s average GMAT scores and IR scores.

Test takers from China and India have been found to face the largest discrepancy between GMAT scores and IR scores. The IR scores appear to be inadequate in relations to the GMAT score.

What can we do with this information?

This information is important for Chinese/Indian test takers because if they can manage to score well on BOTH the overall GMAT and the IR section, then they can stand out among ordinary Chinese/Indian test takers who have high GMAT scores, but insufficient IR scores.

With China and India facing the largest discrepancy between scores, Australia and America face the least discrepancy between GMAT scores and IR scores.

If an MBA admissions committee wanted to determine an applicant’s future graduate GPA, they would look at his IR score. Why? Although not completely accurate, research has been made to determine which testing metric would best predict an applicant’s future graduate GPA.

Using the total 800 score, the AWA score, the undergraduate GPA, and the IR score to test the prediction, it was concluded that the IR score was the victor. The IR score best predicted graduate GPA in comparison to the other testing metrics.

What kind of influence does the IR score have on a student’s admission?

The IR score usually portrays an idea of whether or not an applicant should be accepted or denied. Although there might npt always be a clear cut answer on who should be accepted, it helps to decide which students should be denied.

How does it work?

For applicants scoring 650 or higher, the number of students scoring low on IR (1, 2, or 3) was 2%, 3%, and 6% respectively. In other words, if a student scored high on GMAT, chances are that he/she scored at least a 4 on IR.

So what does this mean?

Well, you don’t want to stand out in a bad way. You don’t want to score 650 or higher and then be one of those 11% who bombs the IR.

Advice: Try to be as well rounded with your scores! Having a superb GMAT score and an insufficient IR score will do more damage than good.

Chinese and Indian applicants may be an exception to the advice above because large discrepancies are common among their regions. But if they want to have an edge during admissions, they should try to score on higher end of the IR section. An 8 would be incredible, but it’s not completely necessary. Simply scoring a 6 or 7 should be good enough.

A high IR score is not just desired by upper tier programs, but by all MBA programs, including the less competitive ones. A good portion of applicants end up receiving a score of 1, 2 or 3 on the IR. In fact the chance of scoring a 1, 2 or 3 is 6%, 10%, and 14%, respectively, which means 30 percent of IR test takers end up with a 1, 2 or 3.

Predicting a career path
Despite being around for only a year, the average IR score differs among MBA careers. For example, MBAs who head into Consulting, Operations, and Finance have scored higher on the IR than MBAs who head into human resources, marketing, or general management.

GMAC confirmed that top consulting firms such as McKinsey, Bain and BCG have taken interest in asking a job candidate for his IR score.

Consultants can evaluate with IR Scores
Since the IR section tests the same skills that consultants must use, consultants can use IR test results to find out who is best suited for a job. For example, in order to become a management consultant, it is necessary to understand the prime objective, and what is necessary to achieve it. After analyzing data and finding the lurking pattern, appropriate decisions must be made in order to turn that goal into a reality.

Before establishing GMAT Pill, I used to work at Booz & Company, as a managing consultant. As a result, I can understand, first hand why consulting firms want students with high IR skills. These are the students that have the necessary skills to succeed as a consultant and help strengthen the firm.

Future management consultants should take this information into account and begin prepping for the IR section. It may play a huge role when it’s time to find a job.

Final Thoughts & Outcome

As the IR section grows older, the MBA admission committee has a clearer understanding of how the IR score contributes to an applicant’s statistics.

There are several things to keep in mind, with  regards to the IR section. Chinese and Indian applicants often notice a huge difference between their 800 GMAT score and their IR scores. About 30% of the test takers received a 1, 2, or 3 on the IR score. The importance of the IR score differs based on region and it’s important to do GMAT practice questions to get used to the new question types. 

Sometimes a decent score of 4 is good enough for certain individuals to get into the school of their choice.

High scores in all categories – verbal, quant, AWA, and IR- will be beneficial in obtaining scholarship money. As previously state, London Business School offered former GMAT Pill former (and now GMAT Pill instructor) James a full tuition scholarship after he scored a GMAT score of 770, an IR score of 8/8 and an AWA score of 6/6.

In the long run, IR scores will play a role in influencing MBA admissions AND corporate recruiting. Keep in mind that high scores always be a plus!

The unofficial score report received after the test will carry your IR score following the fall of 2013. Talk has taken root about a single GMAT score of 800, made up of 4 sections, quant/verbal/awa/ir.

More opinions need to be gathered before GMAC actually makes any decisions, but the GMAT Pill community remains hopeful.

—————-

Zeke Lee, the 98%ile in 2 weeks guy from Stanford, is the founder of the GMAT Pill, an online GMAT course that teaches “speed-learning” techniques designed to help busy working professionals ace the GMAT in as little time as possible. These techniques combine with a collection of 1,000+ GMAT practice questions and video explanations to form the ultimate study resource for the GMAT test taker.

Posted in Test Prep Advice | Tagged , , , ,

Why Can’t I Score Above 700 on the GMAT?

By Kevin Rocci, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep. Every test taker seems to covet a 700+ score on the GMAT. For good reason too, since a score of 700 means …

By Kevin Rocci, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep.

Every test taker seems to covet a 700+ score on the GMAT. For good reason too, since a score of 700 means that student broke into the 90th percentile—a big deal when the average GMAT score is a 545. Although a 700 is not a guarantee of getting into a grad program, it will make the admission committee notice you. And if anything, it will keep your application out of the rejection pile.

But how to score 700 if you are stuck in the 600s? Let’s examine the common habits of students who score in the 700 range and dispel some common myths that test takers have to help you succeed.

Practice GMATS are not the Real GMAT

First, to score in the 700 range, let’s calibrate our expectations. Taking mock tests is a crucial part of preparing for the test, but don’t expect your performance on a practice test to match your performance on the real GMAT. Every practice test was not created equal and every practice question is not necessarily a strong representation of actual GMAT questions.

So don’t put too much weight in a practice test result unless it is the GMATPrep Software from the test makers. Make sure that you know what the best GMAT prep books are and use them. Don’t waste your time with flawed resources.

Multiple Attempts

The real test can cause more stress, which leads to a loss of focus and an increase in mistakes compared to a practice test. So do not expect to reach a 700 score in one, two, or even three attempts. Many students need multiple attempts to see an increase from 600 to 700 (one student didn’t see improvement until he took the test eight times!).

The students who break into the 700 range are working hard to do so, and often take the test multiple times. Remember that a score of 700 means that you are doing better on the GMAT than 90% of the people who take the test. This is an elite group, and you won’t make it there without hard work, dedication, and probably multiple attempts.

Practice Questions aren’t Enough

Plenty of students think that if they answer 1000+ practice questions, they will be ready for the test. This is a myth. The best test takers, the students who do score in the 700 range, not only answer a lot of practice problems, but they also read The Economist and The New York Times regularly.

The are challenging themselves by choosing articles that they normally wouldn’t read so that they are comfortable with new, strange, foreign reading passages. These students have made a habit of improving their skills outside of doing practice problems and learning grammar points. Make practicing for the GMAT more than just opening a test prep book or logging into your test prep software.

Pacing is Key

Not only are they expanding their skills outside of practice problems, but these students also have a very strong understanding of the questions types, the common wrong answer traps for each question type, and the strategy for each type of question. This knowledge, like knowing the answer choices and how to eliminate them in Data Sufficiency, ultimately, saves them time.

And this is the last piece: students scoring in the 700 range have a strong pacing strategy, know how to save time, and use time efficiently. Not feeling rushed is a key to success, which comes with practice problems for sure. But not just answering questions correctly, but also setting a timer for questions and answering them correctly. If you lack a pacing strategy, it is time to start coming up with one.

Focused, Targeted Practice

Each time you sit down and study, you need to have direction and purpose. The big difference between a 600 and a 700 is targeting weakness and improving. So that means sitting down to study, and working on those weakness.

You need to be constantly on the look out for weakness. Be honest with yourself and keep track of your weaknesses in a notebook. Then when it comes to practice, focus on improving those skills. For example, if you struggle with identifying assumptions in arguments, then you need to spend your time generating assumptions and doing practice problems that are about assumptions.

Or if you struggle with statistics, you need to spend time watching lesson videos that teach the basics, like Khan Academy. Without a strong foundation in the basics of math and grammar, you cannot expect to break into the 700 range.

Do you even need a 700 on the GMAT?

But, let’s step back from this problem. Do you even need to take the GMAT and get a 700 to actually get into a graduate program? Plenty of business schools now accept the GMAT or GRE, so even before you invest all of your waking hours to preparing for the GMAT, look into the GRE. Take a practice GRE test and see how you do. If you do better on the GRE, you might want to pivot your preparation to the GRE.

For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog

Posted in GMAT, Test Prep Advice | Tagged , , , , ,

Guest Post: An Optimistic Approach to GMAT Math

Winston Churchill said: “The pessimist see difficulty in every opportunity.  The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”  While the words of the good prime minister have much wider implications, consider  how this phrase might reframe …

Winston Churchill said: “The pessimist see difficulty in every opportunity.  The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”  While the words of the good prime minister have much wider implications, consider  how this phrase might reframe one’s approach to GMAT math.

I realize many folks come to the GMAT having bid mathematics a fond (or not-so-fond) farewell way back in high school.  Now, a college degree later, one has to re-acquaint one’s self with such topics as solving for x and angles in a triangle; some topics, such as combinations (nCr) might be entirely new — even more daunting for our would-be GMAT taker. If one is facing the long uphill climb toward mastery on GMAT math, how does one view this onerous task optimistically?

I realize that every practice question you get wrong can be discouraging.   Mathematics can be a demanding task-master. For any particular math problem, there may be, say, twenty different mathematical facts, from easy to hard, that you need to know to solve a problem, and if you know nineteen of those twenty, you get the problem incorrect.  In school math, there might have been partial credit, but on the GMAT, if you choose an incorrect answer for almost-correct work, you get zilch for that.

In fact, if in your mathematical reasoning, you overlook a frequently overlooked mathematical step, then you can bet your bottom dollar that the GMAT test-writer will have an incorrect answer choice corresponding to this frequently overlooked step — that’s Test Writing 101!  Given the low success rate of a beginning GMAT-studier, rusty at math, how can one maintain the vital engagement necessary for progress without becoming jaded or discouraged?  Of course, part of the answer is the emotional maturity and security not to take personally the initial lack of success.

There’s a wonderful story about Thomas Edison.  He and his team were trying to develop a commercially viable light bulb, and the problem was finding the right material for the filament.  They tried a plethora of different possible materials, and each one melted or burnt out as soon as the current passed through.

Finally, the Edison’s foreman, utterly exhausted and frustrated, came to complain to the great inventor: “We should give up!  We’ve tried a thousand ways with no success!  We’re wasting our time!”  Edison immediately responded, “A waste of time?  Nonsense!  We now know a thousand ways that it doesn’t work!”  While that kind of optimism may sound over-the-top to the point of lunacy, it is precisely this level of indefatigable perseverance that brought about the light bulb, the archetypal symbol of a good idea.

You see, every math problem you get wrong is an opportunity to learn and grow.  You have to be disciplined about studying solutions and taking explicit notes about the mistakes you made and ideas you overlooked.  The mark of an excellent student is: never making the same mistake twice.

While striving for that ideal takes discipline, the promise of holding to that standard is: every problem you get wrong represents a mistake from which you are determined to learn.  Thus, say, for 200 questions you get wrong, you would have learned “200 ways it doesn’t work”, and by extension, understand 200 mistake that you will not repeat in the future.

In some cases, it may be a matter of knowing a formula, although generally it’s minimally helpful to memorize formulas, and considerably important to remember arguments and logical interconnections.   In some topics, especially in GMAT probability questions, how one frames the problem is very important, more important than any of the individual solution techniques.   For each math question one gets wrong, one has to study the solutions at multiple levels of analysis.

This approach takes energy and discipline.   It takes an Edison-like optimism in the face of frustration.   Very challenging, but if you want climb into the higher reaches of the GMAT score percentiles, then one attains extraordinary results only by making an extraordinary effort.  Not everyone can do this, but those who are able to able to turn every challenge, every difficulty, into an opportunity for learning & growth, will have reason to be optimistic about the GMAT as well as about their careers in the modern business world.

This post was written by Mike McGarry, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep. For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog.

Posted in Test Prep Advice | Tagged , ,

Magoosh Introduces New Tool for GRE Verbal

The team at Magoosh has put together an awesome online tool for tackling the GRE verbal with a set of brand-new GRE vocabulary flashcards launching today, August 13th. If you’re considering using the GRE as an alternative …

The team at Magoosh has put together an awesome online tool for tackling the GRE verbal with a set of brand-new GRE vocabulary flashcards launching today, August 13th. If you’re considering using the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT for your b-school application, this could be the perfect tool for your test preparation.  It’s completely free for users to use and comes in web, iPhone, and Android formats.

Check it out!

Posted in General, Test Prep Advice | Tagged , , ,