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.
Studying for the GMAT? Take a free GMAT practice exam, or sign up for a free GMAT preview class, running all the time near you, or online. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and follow us on Twitter!
Beginning Friday, June 27th, 2014, prospective business students taking the Graduate Management Admission Test® will now be able to preview their unofficial scores before deciding whether to report or cancel them, the Graduate Management Admission Council® states. The score reporting feature will be available at all 600 test centers around the world that administer the GMAT exam.
“We are pleased to offer this feature as part of our efforts to make preparing for and taking the GMAT exam easier,” said Ashok Sarathy, GMAC vice president, product management. “The new score reporting feature gives test takers more certainty and control in the testing process and in how their scores are reported to schools.”
GMAT takers will be given the option of reporting or canceling their scores immediately after taking the test before leaving the test center.
Read the full details in our latest blog post on this, To Keep or To Cancel Your GMAT Score? — That is the question!
We are happy to announce that the latest version of our free GMAT app, Pocket GMAT Flashcards, is now available for download via the App store! New updates include:
- Back-end and usability fixes
- Content overhaul
- Updated for iOS7
- Shiny new icon
Containing over 350 GMAT quant flash cards, Pocket GMAT uses an adaptive algorithm developed by Manhattan Prep instructors to help you target cards you most need help with. Allowing you to strengthen your GMAT quantitative skills anywhere and at any time, the Pocket GMAT app is an indispensable tool for iPhone users.
The app also now works better on iOS6 devices and we have fixed issues with scrolling and swiping, so overall navigation is smoother. We’ve also fixed content errata and made the images look better.
Manhattan Prep has teamed up with Learningpod to make Pocket GMAT free for everyone! In addition to the adaptive algorithm, there is also a sequential practice mode that lets you flip through the cards however you want. You also have the ability to enter a Target Date to keep you on pace and track your progress. The flash cards are organized into “KeyRings” by topic and include algebra, number properties, word problems, geometry, fractions, decimals, and percents.
We hope the new updates improve your studying experience, and if you’re as excited as we are about the revisions, please let us know in the review section of the App store. We use your feedback to make our study tools the best they can possibly be!
We are very excited to announce that our new book, The Official Guide Companion for Sentence Correction, will hit bookshelve today, December 3rd!
What is the OGSC (for short)?
It’s one of the best GMAT study guides you could have (if we do say so ourselves)!
Here’s the deal: nearly everyone studies from The Official Guide for GMATÒ Review, 13th Edition (or OG13). This book contains about 900 real GMAT questions that appeared on the exam in the past. OG13 does contain explanations, but those explanations are “textbook” explanations: reading them is like reading a grammar book. The answers are completely accurate but a bit hard to follow if you’re not a grammar teacher (and some of them are hard to follow even when you are a grammar teacher… ahem).
So we decided to remedy that problem by writing our own explanations for every single one of the 159 Sentence Correction problems contained in OG13. We’ll tell you the SC Process for getting through any SC question efficiently and effectively. We’ll also discuss how to eliminate each wrong answer in terms that are easy for students (not just teachers) to understand. The book includes an extra section on sentence structure and a glossary of common grammar terms. Finally, you’ll gain access to our online GMAT Navigator program which lets you track your OG work, time yourself, and view your performance data so that you can better determine your strengths and weaknesses.
Who should use the OGSC?
Are you struggling to improve your SC performance? Do you love studying official problems but hate trying to decipher the sometimes-mystifying official explanations? Do you want to throw your OG13 across the room when you read yet another explanation that says an answer choice is “wordy” or “awkward”?
If something is “awkward,” there is a real reason why—and we explain that specific reason to you so that you can start to pick out similar faulty constructions on other problems in future. (Did you know that, most of the time, “wordy” and “awkward” are code words for an ambiguous or illogical meaning? The OGSC will help you learn how to decipher these for yourself!)
How can I get the most out of the OGSC?
First, read the introduction chapter, where you’ll learn all about how to work through an SC problem in an efficient manner.
Next, if you have already started studying Sentence Correction problems from the OG, begin with the problems that you’ve tried recently. Try to articulate to yourself why each of the four wrong answers is wrong. Try to find all of the errors in each answer (though, on the real test, just one error is enough to eliminate an answer!).
Note: You don’t need to use grammar terminology when you’re trying to articulate why something’s wrong, but do try to go beyond “this one sounds bad.” That’s a good starting point but which part, specifically, sounds bad? What sounds so bad about that part?
Then, check yourself against the explanations. If you didn’t spot a particular error, go back to the problem and ask yourself what clues (in the form of differences in the answer choices) will alert you the next time this particular topic is being tested. If you didn’t know how to handle the issue but now understand from the explanation, make yourself a flashcard to help you remember whatever that is for future. If the explanation seems like Greek to you, then maybe this particular issue is too hard and your take-away is to skip something like this in future and make a guess!
When you’re ready to try new OG problems, make sure to do them under timed conditions (try to average about 1 minute 20 seconds on SC). When you’re done, check the answer. If you guessed, go ahead straight to the explanation. If you got it right, try to articulate why each incorrect answer is wrong, then check the explanation. If you got it wrong, look at the problem again to see whether you might have made a careless mistake. Then go to the explanation.
Where can I get the OGSC?
You can find The Official Guide Companion for Sentence Correction on our website starting today!
Let us know what you think in the Comments section below. Good luck and happy studying!
Exciting news! GMAC (the owners of the GMAT) announced on Friday that, starting immediately, we’ll get our unofficial IR scores as soon as the test is over. They already do this for our Quant, Verbal, and Total scores, so IR will be added to the mix.
As with the other scores, the IR score will be considered an “unofficial” score until you receive your official score report. You can consider these test-day scores essentially official, though, as it’s incredibly rare for something to change after that day. The folks over at GMAC are professionals; they’re not going to release scores if there’s even a small chance that something could change, upsetting students who thought they had earned a different score.
So now you won’t have to wait to find out how you did on IR. (You’ll still wait for the essay score, of course, but that’s not quite so nerve-wracking, is it?)
Need to practice IR? Try our new free GMAT Interact lessons for Integrated Reasoning.
Happy studying and good luck on test day!
Last week, GMAC updated its percentiles for GMAT scores. The organization does this once a year to smooth out any differences in the testing pool.
What do I mean by “differences?” The demographics of the people taking the exam change over time. In particular, over the last ten years or so, GMAC has seen a huge increase in the number of non-United-States-based students taking the test. A majority of these students speak English as a second (or third!) language; a majority also have a better grounding in quantitative skills than the average U.S.-educated student. These differences lead to changes in the data over time.
Scaled Scores vs. Percentiles
GMAT results are reported using various “scaled scores.” We receive a 2-digit score for quant, a separate 2-digit score for verbal, a Q+V-combined 3-digit score, and two more separate scores for the essay and IR sections.
Think of these scaled scores as “skill levels.” They reflect a specific, measurable level of ability. Here’s the interesting thing: the skills needed to reach a certain level do not change over time. A quant score of 45 today reflects the same skill level as a quant score of 45 earned ten or even twenty years ago.
What does change over time is the percentile ranking associated with that score. A percentile ranking reflects how much better you did than a certain percentage of the test-taking population. For example, if you score in the 75th percentile, then you scored better than 75% of the people taking the test—not just that day, or that week, but for the past couple of years (or whatever timeframe is designated for that test).
Imagine that you give a math test to a bunch of 10-year-olds. The scoring algorithm is very simple: if you get a question right, you get one point. You then gather all of the scores and figure out percentile rankings for that group. Let’s say that a certain score (let’s call it 5) represents the 50th percentile. A student who scores 5 earned a better score than 50% of her peers.
Then you take that exact test and give it to a bunch of 14-year-olds. They’re a lot better at math. The same score of 5 might represent only the 25th percentile for this new group, because more of these students have better math skills and can answer more questions correctly. A score of 5 still means the same thing (in this case, 5 questions right), but the pool of testers has changed and so the percentile rankings change too.
This is essentially what happens with the GMAT over time as well. If more people who are good at math start taking the test, then that score of 45 (which represents a certain, fixed level of skill) will drop in the percentile rankings because more people will be capable of performing at that level or higher.
We’ve seen especially big demographic changes on the GMAT over the last 5 to 10 years. In 2006, a quant score of 45 was rated the 78th percentile. Someone scoring at that level had better quant skills than 78% of the people taking the exam around that time.
Today, that same skill level of 45 rates the 66th percentile. This does not mean that someone scoring a 45 today is worse at math than someone with the same score in 2006; rather, the two students are equally good. Instead, a greater percentage of the population taking the test today has stronger math skills.
You might be thinking: oh, great. So that means I have to do even better at math. Actually, the opposite is (sort of) true. Keep reading.
This Year’s Trends
The new release of GMATPrep, version 2.2, is a significant upgrade!
The biggest improvement is that the software now allows you to review previous practice problems and tests. I was excited when I saw this feature listed in the README and I was thrilled when I found that I could actually review the practice problems and the tests that I took last year! Thank you, GMAC! This is enormously helpful for test takers.
The default for both practice problem sets is now to do what most people want to do, which is to save the test for later review, and the new user interface makes it very hard to accidently delete a practice test. You have to press a test ˜reset’ button and then go through a dialog to reset your tests, another big improvement.
I was also delighted to see that in the practice utility, the Reading Comprehension problems are now grouped correctly. In the previous versions of GMAT Prep, each RC practice problem included an entirely new passage, unlike the real test, where of course each passage has 3 or 4 associated questions. This is another significant improvement and makes the practice utility more helpful for people who are working on RC or who want to do mixed verbal sets. Since this new feature works correctly with mixed drills as well, you can now use GMATPrep to specify realistic verbal mixed sets, with SC, CR, and RC problems, as well as realistic quant mixed sets of PS and DS problems.
Although the two practice tests still seem to have only one IR section, an IR percentile ranking is now computed, which is helpful.
There are is also some new timing analysis available in practice sets, along with some at least moderately useful progress tracking graphs for examining progress on practice sets.
And speaking of time, you can now pause a practice exam or question session. Although you really shouldn’t do this if you want a realistic practice experience, sometimes it is helpful, such as when you are writing a review of the software and need to test features and then write about them. J
GMAC must be thinking more about customer support because you can now generate system information at the click of button, which makes things much easier if you ever need to call of email GMAC about a software problem.
And finally, if you are a test taker with a GMAC approved timing accommodation, you can ask for a special code that you enter that will allow you to take practice tests with the appropriate amount of extra time.
All in all, very well done GMAC! I noticed a couple of weird little bugs that I’ve listed below, but they are minor compared to the improvements and have easy workarounds, which I’ve described.
Weird Little Bugs:
- You have to enter your mba.com account name and password when you first launch GMATPREP and if you are logged in to mba.com when you try this, you will get an unhelpful unknown error message. If you see this message, just log out of mba.com’s website and try starting GMAT Prep again.
- When you solve an IR table question, the ˜submit’ button will be grayed out until you click on sort by a column “ even if you have filled in all of the answers “ so just remember to click on something to sort by if you didn’t actually have to sort (and usually you will have to) to answer the question.