You may have heard that, on Monday, some GMAT students started receiving emails inviting them to take part in a Select Section Order Pilot program that GMAC (the organization that makes the GMAT) is holding in late February/early March.
This pilot is to test an awesome potential new feature: the ability to select the order in which you do the various sections of the GMAT!
Below, I’ve laid out all of the important details and I also talk about how to decide whether to join, if you were one of the lucky students invited to take part.
How does the pilot work? What are they testing?
On June 24th, GMAC (the organization that makes the GMAT®) made two announcements that change the GMAT testing game. Read on to find out what they are!
I’ve just finished trying all of the new verbal OG problems. (If you haven’t yet read my earlier installments, start here.) This installment includes my summary of All Things Verbal as well as lists of the new problems by book and question type.
Also, we’re hard at work writing new solutions to add to our GMAT Navigator program, so if you have access to Navigator, you can start to check for new solutions there in—best guess—July.
What’s new in Verbal?
Now that I’ve seen everything, I’ve been able to spot some trends across all of the added and dropped questions. For example, across both The Official Guide for GMAT® Review (aka the big book) and The Official Guide for GMAT® Verbal Review (aka verbal-only or the verbal supplement), 6 science passages were added (out of 11 new passages total), while only 3 were dropped. In addition, 3 social science passages were added (compared to 5 dropped) and 2 business passages were added (compared to 2 dropped).
So, in the books at least, there’s a slight shift towards science. It’s unclear whether this signals an actual change in emphasis on the test, though; these may just be the best retired passages that they wanted to use.
For Critical Reasoning, the same total number of questions were added and dropped. The differential (added minus dropped) for Strengthen questions was +8. Further, 6 of the 22 total new Strengthen questions are fill in the blank (FitB) format, and no new FiTB’s were introduced that were not Strengthen questions.
The differential for Weaken questions was -8 and for Inference questions, it was -4. I’m not entirely sure what to make of the drop in Weaken. I’ve been hearing from students that they’ve been seeing a lot of Strengthen / Weaken on the real test and not many (CR) Inference questions. The Strengthen jump and the small Inference drop seems to go along with that, but not the larger Weaken drop. (This is why I’m always skeptical about drawing broader conclusions based on changes in the books.)
As I mentioned in my first report on Sentence Correction (part 2 of this series), it is difficult to compare categories here because one SC can (and usually does) cross multiple topics. The trends I reported before still hold after my review of the Verbal supplement: meaning and sentence structure are increasingly important, and parallelism and comparisons are just as important as they’ve always been.
Ready for the problem lists?
I have now done every last one of the new quant problems in both new books—and there are some really neat ones! I’ve also got some interesting observations for you. (If you haven’t yet read my earlier installments, start here.)
In this installment, I’ll discuss my overall conclusions for quant and I’ll also give you all of the problem numbers for the new problems in both the big OG and the smaller quant-only OG.
What’s new in Quant?
Now that I’ve seen everything, I’ve been able to spot some trends across all of the added and dropped questions. For example, across both The Official Guide for GMAT® Review (aka the big book) and The Official Guide for GMAT® Quant Review (aka quant-only or the quant supplement), Linear Equation problems dropped by a count of 13. This is the differential: new questions minus dropped questions.
That’s a pretty big number; the next closest categories, Inequalities and Rates & Work, dropped by 5 questions each. I’m not convinced that a drop of 5 is at all significant, but I decided that was a safe place to stop the “Hmm, that’s interesting!” count.
Now, a caveat: there are sometimes judgment calls to make in classifying problems. Certain problems cross multiple content areas, so we do our best to pick the topic area that is most essential in solving that problem. But that 13 still stands out.
The biggest jump came from Formulas, with 10 added questions across both sources. This category includes sequences and functions; just straight translation or linear equations would go into those respective categories, not formulas. Positive & Negative questions jumped by 7, weighted average jumped by 6, and coordinate plane jumped by 5.
Given that Linear Equations dropped and Formulas jumped, could it be the case that they are going after somewhat more complex algebra now? That’s certainly possible. I didn’t feel as though the new formula questions were super hard though. It felt more as though they were testing whether you could follow directions. If I give you a weird formula with specific definitions and instructions, can you interpret correctly and manipulate accordingly?
If you think about it, work is a lot more like this than “Oh, here are two linear equations; can you solve for x?” So it makes sense that they would want to emphasize questions of a more practical nature.
The new Official Guide books are here! Last time, we talked about the Quant portion of The Official Guide for GMAT, aka the OG or the big book. In this installment, we’ll discuss the Verbal section of the big book. Later installments will talk about the Quant Review and Verbal Review (the smaller books), as well as question lists for the new questions.
(Note: I have not yet had time to analyze the IR problems that come via your special online access. I’ll get to that soon—the quant and the verbal are higher priority!)
Part 1 included an overview of the changes to the whole book; I’ve included that overview here as well (the next section!), in case you’re reading this installment first. (The only difference is one sentence in the first paragraph.)
What’s new in OG 2016?
Approximately 25% of the questions are brand new, and there are some beauties in the mix. As I worked through the problems, I marveled anew at the skill with which the test writers can produce what I call elegant problems. On the verbal side, I loved how some of the new questions wove meaning into the issue of Sentence Correction; if you have been focusing on grammar and shortchanging meaning, you’re definitely going to need to change your approach.
The new Official Guide books are here! Aren’t you excited?!?
Okay, I realize that most people probably aren’t as excited as I am. But there are still some interesting and useful things to know about these new books as you get ready to take the GMAT. So let’s talk about it!
In this installment, I’ll discuss additions and changes to quant sections for The Official Guide for GMAT® Review 2016, aka the OG or the big book. Keep an eye out for later installments, in which I’ll discuss the verbal section of the big book, as well as the Quantitative Review and Verbal Review books. I’ll also be providing you with a list of the new questions, in case you decide to study from both the 2015 and 2016 editions.
If you haven’t already bought your official guide books, then do buy these latest editions—sure you might be able to get a discount on the 2015 editions, but since you have to spend money anyway, you might as well work from the latest and greatest.
If you have already bought the older editions and are debating whether to buy the new ones, too, then you’ve got a decision to make. On the one hand, there are a lot of great new questions in the 2016 editions. On the other, the 2015 edition already has a ton of problems; you may not need even more. If it were me, I’d wait until I’d used up the ones in the materials I already have. If I still felt that I needed more beyond that, then I’d consider getting one or more of the new books.
What’s new in OG 2016?
Approximately 25% of the questions are brand new, and there are some beauties in the mix. As I worked through the problems, I marveled anew at the skill with which the test writers can produce what I call elegant problems. On the quant side, I saw example after example in which the problem can be solved with little to no computation as long as you can decode and understand the fundamental concept underlying the problem—that’s the real test-taking skill!
Big news from GMAC, the makers of the GMAT! Starting January 29th, you can order an Enhanced Score Report (ESR) that will contain all kinds of nifty data from your official GMAT CAT. I’ve got all of the details below, but first I’ll address a few details that will be on everyone’s mind.
- Costs $25.
- Is available for any GMAT taken from October 2013 forward, as long as you are still within the 5-year window from the date of the exam (which everyone is right now!).
- Contains great data such as: percentage correct by question type and certain content areas; average time by question type and certain content areas.
- Is available even if you cancel your score!
Read on for more.
Why did they create this report?
The motivation was primarily student-driven. Test-takers naturally want more data about their strengths and weaknesses for a variety of reasons, some obvious and some not so (more on this later). Spokesperson Rich D’Amato, speaking on behalf of GMAC, told me that they have been beta-testing the ESR with students for the past year, exploring what students would want to see, how they would use the information, and how best to display that information visually so that it is easy to analyze.
In fact, Rich said something that impressed me enough to write down verbatim: “We spent a great deal of time listening.” So thank you to all of the beta-tester GMAT takers who gave their time and thoughtful opinions to help develop these reports, which will help all of the rest of us going forward.
Last week, I attended the annual GMAT Summit, held by the fine folks at GMAC (who own / make the GMAT), and I have some interesting tidbits to share with you.
It really is a myth
You know what I’m going to say already, don’t you? The first 7 (or 10, or 5) questions are not worth more than the questions later in the exam. I’ve written about this topic before but I’m going to mention it once again because of something that happened at the conference.
Fanmin Guo, Ph. D., Vice President of Psychometric Research at GMAC, was answering questions after a presentation on the test algorithm. A couple of people were peppering him with questions about this myth and apparently just didn’t seem to believe that it could possibly be true that the early questions aren’t worth more. One of the questioners also made a pretty significant faulty assumption in his arguments—and now I’m worried that an article is going to pop up trying to revive this debate. I don’t want any of my students led astray on this topic.
First, to understand why the early questions actually aren’t worth any more than the later ones, see the article I linked a couple of paragraphs back.
Second: here was the faulty assumption that I heard:
“You said that the earlier questions aren’t worth any more than the later ones. So you’re telling us that students should spend the same amount of time on every question.”
Dr. Guo was saying the first part: that the location of a question on the test doesn’t impact its weighting in the overall score. He and the other GMAC folks weren’t saying anything, though, about how you should take the test.
In fact, it would be silly to spend exactly the same amount of time on every question. Some questions are harder than others. In addition, you have various strengths and weaknesses in terms of both accuracy and speed. There are, in fact, very good reasons not to spend the same amount of time on each question. All Dr. Guo was saying was that the location of the problem in the section is not one of those reasons.
So, if you read something that says that you should spend more time on the earlier questions, roll your eyes and click away. Alternatively, if you read something that concludes that you should spend the same amount of time on every question, drop that source as well. Take a look at the data in my other article to see that GMAC actually does know what it’s doing and the GMAT is not just a test of how you perform on the first 7 or 10 questions.
GMATPrep offers more data
GMAC has been building more score reporting functionality into GMATPrep to give us a better idea of how we do when we take the official practice CATs. In fact, this capability has already launched! I need to go download the newest version of GMATPrep to see exactly what’s offered (and I’ll report back to you once I’ve done so), but they’ve started to offer data for sub-categories such as question type and content area.
GMAC just released new 2015 editions of its three The Official Guide for GMAT® Review books. Here’s what you need to know as you decide whether to buy these books and how to use them.
The three books in question are The Official Guide for GMAT Review 2015 (formerly known as the 13th edition of the Official Guide, or OG), The Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review 2015 (formerly known as the 2nd edition of the Quant Review), and The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review 2015 (formerly known as the 2nd edition of the Verbal Review). I’ll refer to these throughout this article as OG2015, QR2015, and VR2015, respectively.
The questions (and explanations) contained in all three 2015 versions are the same as the questions (and explanations) in the previous versions. There are no new questions.
The new editions do come with special codes to access an online software program that contains the problems from the books. Now, when you want to do a set of random OG problems, you don’t have to create the sets for yourself—you can have the online software do it for you. (OG2015 also still provides online access to the 50 Integrated Reasoning questions that come with the 13th edition of the book.)
The online software also has some short videos (one for each book) starring the incomparable Dr. Lawrence Rudner, Chief Psychometrician for GMAC, answering frequently asked questions from students.
How does the software work?
The software for all three books gives you the ability to choose Practice mode or Exam mode. In addition, OG2015 offers a Diagnostic test mode that contains the questions from chapter 3 of the printed book.
Certain features are offered in all three modes:
– Question Type, Number, and Difficulty. You can choose from among the different question types (PS, DS, SC, CR, RC), as well as by difficulty bucket (easy, medium, hard, or all). You can also decide how many questions you want to be in the set.
– Timing. The software will keep track of how much time you spend per question, as well as your overall time for that set of questions. (It does not, though, give you a time limit, so you will have to set one for yourself.)
– Bookmarks. You can bookmark problems that you want to remember for some reason—maybe your guesses or the ones that you want to try again before checking the answer or explanation.
– Calculator. Yes, the software offers a calculator, even though you’re not allowed to use a calculator on the quant section of the real test. My recommendation: pretend this button doesn’t exist.
– Pause. You can pause the question set. This is useful if someone suddenly rings your doorbell, but do not pause the software while continuing to work on the problem. Otherwise, your data will be skewed and you won’t really be able to tell what your strengths and weaknesses are.
In the Diagnostic and Exam modes, you can only move forward in the question set (as on the real exam), but in Practice mode, you can move back and forth. If you come back to a problem for the second time, the software will actually remember how much time you spent before and will start counting your time where you left off! I was really impressed with this feature.
I do have to warn you about three other somewhat-faulty features (maybe these will be changed in future). First, when you click to go to the next question, the software does not ask you to confirm. That’s fine in Practice mode, where you’re allowed to go backwards, but in Diagnostic and Exam modes, if you accidentally click “next question,” you will be moved to the next problem even if you have not yet entered an answer—and there is no way to go back.
Second, in any of the three modes, you’ll be able to go to a results screen when done with a question set. For both Exam and Practice modes, these question sets will be saved and you’ll be able to review them at any time in the future. In Diagnostic mode, however, you can only see the results screen right after you have finished the problem set. Once you close out of that area (or out of the software entirely), that data will disappear, so make sure you take screen shots of the results screen before you leave that area of the program. (In fact, I recommend taking the screen shots immediately after finishing a Diagnostic set. I accidentally clicked something that took me out of that part of the program and lost all of my data before I could review it.)
Third, in both Practice and Exam modes, the RC questions are offered one at a time, not in sets of 3 or 4 (as on the real test). For this reason, I recommend doing RC questions out of the physical book. Reading an entire passage only to answer a single question is not a good use of study time.
I was also excited to see that the Practice mode offered a “notes” feature, where you can actually type notes to yourself while working on the problem. I was disappointed that those notes seemed to disappear afterwards. When I was reviewing the results screen and the problem explanations, I couldn’t find any way to access my notes again.
How do I get the most out of these new books?
If you already have the previous incarnations of these books (OG13, VR2, and QR2), then I don’t actually recommend buying the new editions unless money is not a concern for you. The most important thing is to have access to the questions themselves. While the new software does make it much easier to set up problem sets, many people probably aren’t going to pay $46 just for that.
If you don’t yet have these books, though, then of course you’ll want to get the 2015 editions. In that case, here’s how I would use the new features:
1. In the first week or two of your study, take the Diagnostic mode tests. I would do these in 5 separate sittings, one for each question type. You don’t need to set yourself a hard overall time limit, but do pay attention to that clock and be honest with yourself when a problem just isn’t happening. Guess and move on. (Note: if you’re taking our class, then you can dispense with this step and save the problems for review later in your studies.)
2. As you work through whatever material you’re using to learn all about the math, grammar, and question types tested on the GMAT, you will initially try just a couple of OG problems that directly test whatever you recently studied. In this case, you won’t be using the OG software because the software doesn’t let you select by topic.
After you get at least halfway through your study material though (e.g., about 3 of our 5 quant books, or halfway through the chapters in the SC book), you can start to set up random sets of questions for yourself using the software’s Practice mode. When you’re offered a question on a topic you haven’t studied yet, just do your best; this will help you to have an idea of your strengths and weaknesses so that you know how much time to spend when you do get to that topic.
Whether you want to do random sets of problems or choose specific topics, here are some guidelines for creating your own OG problem sets.
3. Save Exam mode for a bit later in your studies, after you’ve been through all of your main study material once. Both Practice and Exam modes are pulling from the same pool of questions, but Exam mode imposes some additional restrictions that make your practice closer to the real test (for example, you can’t go back to questions that you’ve already completed).
Everyone should be studying with the Official Guide materials—nothing is better than the real thing! If you already have the 13th edition or 2nd edition books, don’t feel that you must buy the 2015 editions, but if you don’t, then certainly get the latest versions and take advantage of the new online problem set program.
Have you heard? GMAC® just announced that, as of 27 June, we’ll be allowed to decide whether to keep or cancel our scores after we find out how we did. Exciting news!
What just changed?
I’ll summarize the details, but you can also read the full press release yourself here: Score Preview Added to GMAT.
Here’s what will happen when you get in there. You’ll take the test and, when you’re done, you’ll be shown your scores for everything but the essay. You will then have 2 minutes to decide whether to accept your scores.
You must actively accept them; if you do nothing, the scores will be canceled.
If you do cancel, you will then have 60 days to decide whether to reinstate the scores—for a fee of USD100. (Also, if you cancel, the schools will still see that you sat for the exam, as always.)
Okay, so what is the significance of this new feature?
Technically, this new feature shouldn’t really change anything because business schools really do use only your highest score. It’s hard, though, to remember that while the clock is ticking. The single biggest value here is peace of mind.
Of course you don’t want to become ill or have a panic attack or mess up your timing so badly that you don’t finish a section of the test. If any of those things happen, though, then you can cancel your score. (Just as you could before, actually—though you wouldn’t have known your score when making the decision.)
The overall message is the same as always: if you don’t hit your goal score, you can always take the test again, so just do your best and see what happens.
Know what you’re going to do before you get in there
2 minutes to decide? That just ADDS stress!
It could, yes, but you will already have decided what you’re going to do if faced with various scenarios.
Scenario #1: Goal score 720. Actual score 670.
Do NOT cancel this score. Sure, it’s below your goal, but it’s still a good score—and you don’t know for sure that you’ll hit 720 next time. In fact, some students score lower on their second test. Do not lose this score.
Scenario #2: Goal score 650. Actual score 450.
Most people will want to cancel this score. Several of my fellow teachers argued that we should tell everyone not to cancel anything, since the schools really do take the highest score. Still, realistically, I think most people will want to cancel a score 200 points below their goal. (But you really could leave it—the schools won’t care!)
Where does the line flip? How far below your goal score do you need to be in order to consider canceling?
I’ve been polling my colleagues since the news was announced yesterday afternoon and, while opinions vary, we all agree that anyone within 100 points of their goal score should definitely keep that score.
I’d go a little further. I think you should keep (or consider keeping) the score if you’re within 150 points of your goal. If you score 600+, keep the score even if your goal is 750.
Scenario #3: First official test Q 61st percentile, V 93rd percentile. Second official test, Q 76th percentile, V 84th percentile.
Even though the Verbal score went down on the second test, the Quant score went from a not-very-competitive score to one that is acceptable to all schools, so keep that score! This is true even if your overall score went down.
I canceled but now I’m thinking I should reinstate the score…
Come and talk to us on the forums. We can help you plan what to do before you get in there and we can also advise you after the fact. Post in the General Strategy folder in the Ask An Instructor section of the forums.
Definitely keep the score if you are within 100 points of your goal. Strongly consider keeping the score if you are within 150 points. (Pick a specific cut-off point for yourself before test day.) If you are more than 150 points below a reasonable* goal, then go ahead and cancel the score.
*Anything above 750 is not a reasonable goal, unless your real goal is not business school but teaching for us.
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