June 3, 2012
A little thing here or there doesn’t usually make a whole lot of difference. But when you aggregate, knowing some of the little things about the GMAT can be a big help on Test Day. In this blog post, I am bringing some perhaps unexpected or otherwise novel little GMAT tidbits to your attention in hopes you find them useful or at least interesting. This list is not comprehensive, of course, but is rather whatever sprang to mind as I thought about it. If you, dear reader, have anything you’d like to add then please do so in the comments section below. Thanks!
- Your photograph taken at the testing center on test day will be sent to schools. That’s right, folks. Just when you thought it was safe to wear your lucky shirt—you know, the one with the crass cartoon of a feral dog at a cocktail party—Big Brother steps in and spoils it for you. According to GMAC’s website, your test day photograph as well as any voluntarily reported background information (e.g., undergrad GPA, phone number, intended area of graduate study, etc.) will be sent along with your score report to any of your selected recipients if they have requested to receive such information.
- Full copies of your Analytical Writing Assessment essay will be sent to schools. Whether admissions officers actually read these essays we can never know, but we do know that those officers can read them if they want to. What does this mean for you? Eh, not much. You are going to learn how to write a top scoring essay way before you sit for the exam and the one you write on test day will be one of several well-composed writing samples you’ve completed. In fact, you’ll want people to read it because it will be that good!
- The unique pattern of the veins in your palms will be used to identify you. Who doesn’t love a good biometric identification device? We don’t live in the future just to offer up a driver’s license or a finger print. Come on! We want computers to scan our veins!! In addition to having both palms scanned, you will also have to bring valid photo identification, allow your picture to be taken at the test center, and sign a digital signature pad. Oh, and you’ll have to scan your palms every time you re-enter the testing room—for example, after using the rest room during one of the two 8-minute breaks.
- You receive your GMAT score instantly. You will have to wait to receive your AWA and IR scores as well as a breakdown of your total score, but as soon as you choose to accept your scores… TA-DA!!! Your 200-800 point GMAT score will appear on the screen in front of you instantaneously. When I took the GMAT, this took me completely off guard, actually. I knew I’d get my score on the same day, but the speed with which it flashed on the screen startled me. I think I actually jumped and gasped in the same way I would at the unanticipated sight of a latex zombie in a haunted house at the state fair. However, unlike the zombie, my score looked beautiful.
- You can only take the GMAT once per every 31 days and only up to 5 times per year. The good news is that since you did such a wonderful job preparing for the exam the first time, this information won’t apply to you. However, I do recommend a thorough understanding of what taking the GMAT twice really means [please link the phrase “taking the GMAT twice” with the blog article of the same name (post #110)] and what it doesn’t. This knowledge about the frequency at which you can sit for the exam may be of some help when planning your b-school application timeline. By the way, it’s once per 31 calendar days and 5 times per twelve month period. Basically, you start your own clock on the day you initially sit.
- Preparing for the GMAT takes longer than you think. I wrote about this in a previous blog article that I suggest you read right now. This may well be the most vicious of the unexpected and is arguably quite out of place on a list of “little things.” However, since we’re talking about aspects of the GMAT that may surprise you, a long prep runway is something you can and should plan to lay out for yourself. Respect the test.
May 28, 2012
Although it is yet to be seen how Integrated Reasoning scores will actually be used by admissions committees, we do now at least know what they will look like. Starting June 5, 2012, the New GMAT goes live with one less essay (Issue) and one more section (Integrated Reasoning). Contrary to what some might have heard, your performance on the new IR section will not impact your 200-800 point GMAT score. Rather, you will now receive five separate scores across four separate scales.
- Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) – 0 to 6 points in ½-point increments
- Integrated Reasoning (IR) – 1 to 8 points in 1-point increments
- Quantitative – 0 to 60 in 1-point increments
- Verbal – 0 to 60 in 1-point increments
- Aggregated Quant and Verbal (Total Score) – 200 to 800 points in 10-point increments
On test day, immediately upon completing the exam you will receive your total score. Up to 20 days later (though it often takes less time than that) you will receive your Official Score Report as will the institutions you selected to send your scores to upon sitting for the exam. In that official report from GMAC, you will receive your AWA, Integrated Reasoning, Quant, and Verbal scores as well as an affirmation of your total score. [Note: your total score will not change from what you see on test day.]
A wild card in all of this is the instability of the translation of your 1-8 IR score into a percentile ranking. All reported scores are coupled with a percentile ranking. In other words, each listed score will be shown alongside the proportion of scores below your score in order to communicate how your scores compare with those of other GMAT test takers. For example, if you receive a total score of 700 then you will have scored better than 89% of your peers, hence putting yourself into the 90th percentile.
Typically, GMAT score percentiles are based on three years of performance data moving through time. That is, your percentile ranking is based on the data set created by all individual GMAT scores created on the day you took your GMAT aggregated with all other GMAT scores from the three previous years. What this means is that the point value of your score today will change in percentile terms over time. While your Official Score Report hardcopy will remain constant, as will those score reports sent to the (up to) five selected institutions, any future score report requests will reflect the most current data.
Since IR is brand spanking new, GMAC will update percentile-ranking distributions with greater frequency (monthly) for the rest of 2012 as the organization grows its sample size. From 2013 forward, IR score updates will follow the same updating schedule as the other generated GMAT scores (annually). All of this translates into a notable and interesting unknown. We can say for sure that your IR score as a percentile value will change. For better or worse? Well, only time will tell.
Are you studying for the new test? How are you coming along with the new section?
January 2, 2012
Over the last couple days, a few of my students took a practice test. All of them did better than their last test. However, each shared a common reaction to their increase in score: disappointment. What? Why? Shouldn’t one be happy when one makes measured progress toward their goal? Well, sure, but we all tend to be our own worst critics, don’t we? We are too quick to tell ourselves, “It’s just not good enough.”
As I’ve mentioned before, attitude has a major impact on both GMAT prep success and test day performance. Fact: you are not going to be at your goal only halfway down the road. The important thing is that you are making progress toward it, and you need to let yourself celebrate that progress. Even if it’s just another ten or twenty points, you deserve to be proud of the improvement. Build on that momentum so you can keep the chart headed in the right direction.
Most of the time, after students watch my reaction, they tend to allow themselves a little smile. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the concept applies to your target score. Keep at it and get yourself some ice cream.
So how are you supposed to interpret a drop in scores? Come back tomorrow to find out! I’ll discuss the very normal and very common ‘performance dip’ in my next blog post.
December 31, 2011
In a move to increase the regional and global competitiveness of the nation’s business schools as well as simplify the admissions process, India’s Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has officially cleared use of the GMAT for admissions screening purposes. Prior to this landmark decision, India’s management education programs used other, obscure admissions tests including institution-specific tests, “the common admission test (CAT) conducted by the IIMs; management aptitude test conducted by the All India Management Association; Xavier Aptitude Test conducted by XLRI, Jamshedpur; the joint management entrance test (JMET) conducted by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs); and a national test conducted by the AICTE.” This alphabet soup of admissions testing hurt the institutional credibility of India’s universities and their global rankings.
The decision to make way for the GMAT, the world’s top graduate management admissions examination, India has made a significant step forward in its bid to grow the number, quality, and diversity of its students. In the near-term, India is looking to significantly increase its applicant pool from Africa, West Asia, and South Asia to become a leader of business education in the region. As India continues to increase its relevance, profile, and competitiveness in global commerce, I am very interested to see how the nation’s institutions of higher learning evolve.
December 24, 2011
‘Twas the night before GMAT, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The knowledge was learned by the student with care,
In hopes that their Score soon would be there.
The test-takers were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of case studies danced in their heads.
With she in her ‘kerchief, and he in his cap,
They’d just settled their brains for a fitful night’s nap.
When up in their heads arose such a clatter,
They sprang from their beds to think what was the matter?
Away to the bathroom they flew like a flash,
Tore open their stomach and threw up their mash.
The nerves in the tummies of the new-learned folks
Gave the luster of Test Day which freaked them the most.
When, what to their wondering minds should appear,
But confidence and pride in all they’ve prepared.
With a little reminder, so true and so quick,
They knew in a moment they’d win with their wit.
More rapid than eagles the problems they came,
And they whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now Verbs! Now, Pronouns! Now, Idioms and Style!
On, Triangles! On, Cubes! I’m armed with a smile!
To the top of the pack! To the top of the curve!
To 800 we go, without even a swerve!”
With vigor and spirit, the merry would fly,
When met with an obstacle, they mount to the sky.
So off to the center, the testers they flew,
With their heads full of formulas and patterns they knew.
And then, in a twinkling, they arrived on the roof
With the prancing and pawing of each little boot.
As they drew in a breath, and were turning around,
They couldn’t help but wonder why they weren’t on the ground?
They were dressed all in layers, from their head to their foot,
‘Cause if cold or if hot, the room never stays put.
A bundle of i.d.’s they had flung in their pack,
Since security’s run by a TSA quack.
Their eyes – how they twinkled! Their dimples – how merry!
They knew in an instant their apps would be cherry!
With droll little mouths drawn up in tight a bows,
They took to the task and got on with the show.
The stump of a pen held tight in their hands,
On dry erase boards, they hashed essay plans.
With the thinking all done they took to writing their prose,
And penned their strong points with examples for flow.
The Quant questions were fun and right answers did come,
And they laughed when they saw the traps set for the dumb!
With the wink of an eye and a clickitty-click,
Soon they’d finished the math and took a break nice and quick.
They tore through the Verbal, dreaming of perks,
They spoke not a word while admiring their work.
With a “Give me my score!” and a whistle “Woot-woo!”
They stared at the screen – dreams do really come true!
They sprang to their sleighs, their engines a roar,
Away they all flew, quite hungry for more.
Then we heard them exclaim, as they drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to the GMAT, ‘Good-night!’”
December 1, 2011
Being in the test prep biz, I run into lots of different people with lots of different stories. In class, we’ve all come together on this common ground in order to beat the GMAT. Whether online or onsite, I always like to take a poll on who in the room has prior GMAT experience and, if so, to what extent. Every now and then, someone will raise their hand, tell their story, and finish it with: “…but I cancelled my score.”
Cancelling scores is a topic covered in every Kaplan classroom and it is a decision each test-taker must reach before test day. By the way, there is only one decision to come to: NEVER CANCEL YOUR SCORE.
Trying to assess your performance during your test is a fool’s errand. What is more, landing on the notion that you performed so terribly no trace of your efforts should be left on Earth or in the ether once you’ve completed the test is the most costly wrong answer of the day. Want to know why? Because until you click “No, I do not want to cancel my score,” you have no knowledge of anything.
An excellent Kaplan instructor I’ve had the pleasure of working with on several occasions, Emery Dora, always shares his own experience on this issue with his students. I also share Emery’s experience with all of my students, and now I want to share it with you.
By the end of my Emery’s test, he knew he’d blown it. Absolutely no doubt about it, he bombed the exam. When the computer asked with deafening silence if he would like to cancel his scores, the mouse’s cursor crept ominously toward “Yes” almost like a Ouija’s planchette. His finger hovered, quivering over the left button. As Emery’s index dropped ever so slightly, ears tensed and ready for the tell-tale *click*, his Kaplan instructor’s voice bellowed from the depths of his stressed and tweaking mind, “Don’t cancel your scores!”
Hesitantly but definitively, he moved the cursor to the left and clicked “No.” Emery scored in the 95th percentile on the GMAT.
[Want another account of a top-scorer feeling terrible during the test? Here’s a link to a blogger that got a 770. He thought he was screwing it up, too!]