I have some very exciting news to announce.
For the past several months, we have engaged Dr. Lawrence Rudner, former Chief Psychometrician of the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC, the makers of the GMAT®), to review our practice tests. Dr. Rudner is one of the world’s leading experts in item response theory, the testing principle on which the GMAT is based. He is the definitive authority on the GMAT examination.
And here’s what he has to say about Manhattan Prep’s practice exams:
“I conducted an extensive examination of student data for all of the Manhattan Prep test questions and I was very impressed. I can attest to the fact that very high percentages of Quant and Verbal items have excellent psychometric properties. I can further attest that Manhattan Prep’s GMAT practice exams do an excellent job of predicting a student’s score on the actual GMAT examination. Manhattan Prep’s GMAT practice exams can help you accurately gauge when you’re ready to achieve your goal score on the real test.”
In short, our tests do “an excellent job of predicting” your score on the real GMAT. That’s great news!
I am particularly excited about the fact that our CATs were so strong that Dr. Rudner offered his endorsement without requiring us to change a single thing. Going into the review, we had thought that we would be given a required list of changes before he could give his seal of approval.
I do have to add a caveat: nothing is perfect and not everyone scores on the real test exactly what they scored on our test (or any practice test). No standardized test is that precise, including the real GMAT. There are also other factors that can negatively affect certain students, such as anxiety (you know your practice tests don’t really count) or mental fatigue (don’t study for 6 hours the day before the real exam!).
Caveat over. In general, you can trust our exams to help you know when you’re ready to get in there and take the real thing. I already felt that way before, but now I can say it with conviction, because Dr. Rudner has confirmed the accuracy of our exams.
I have to give a shout-out to all of our instructors who have worked so diligently on our exams over the years—you know who you are. We literally would not be having this conversation right now if not for your hard work and dedication to making our materials the best. Thank you for your love of teaching and your complete fascination with the GMAT. I’m proud to call you colleagues and friends.
And back to our students: Go forth and study! You can beat this test!
Now that the new 2016 Official Guide books are out, I’d like to talk about how to use these problems to get the most out of your study. I also want to talk about what not to do, as a lot of people end up essentially wasting these great study problems (not to mention valuable time!).
What should I NOT do?
Your goal is to learn from the Official Guide (OG) problems in such a way that, if you see something similar on the real test, you’ll recognize what to do on that new problem.
Keep some things in mind:
- Your goal is NOT to memorize how to do the problems that you’re studying. You won’t see these exact problems on the test! Can you tell me exactly how to do a particular problem? That’s great. But I care far more whether you can tell me how you know what to do and why you want to take the steps that you take. If you can, then you’ll know how to think your way through a new problem on the real test.
- Your goal is NOT to try to get everything (or even most problems) right. Sometimes, what you want to recognize fairly quickly is that you should guess immediately and move on. Other times, you want to recognize that your best strategy is to spend some time making an educated guess—and then move on. Still other times, you’ll have to be able to recognize that you initially thought you could do this one but it’s just not happening, so you’ll need to cut yourself off, guess, and move on.
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 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.
Yesterday, the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC, the organization that makes the GMAT) released its annual mba.com Prospective Students Survey, a wide-ranging study of nearly 12,000 prospective GMAT-takers and graduate-school-applicants. While this survey is designed primarily to target the needs of graduate schools, there are some interesting data points that you, the aspiring student, may want to know.
Why do people want a graduate business degree?
The survey identified three main groups of people:
Career switchers (38% of respondents): these prospective students are looking to switch industries or job functions and hoping that a graduate degree will give them the boost they need to make the change successfully. People in this group are more likely than the overall pool of respondents to be age 24 or older and living in the U.S. or Canada. The size of this group has dropped by 8 percentage points in the last 5 years, perhaps not surprising as the economy has picked up since 2010.
Career enhancers (34%): these prospective students are seeking a graduate degree primarily to enhance their existing careers, whether planning to keep their current jobs or move to a new employer. People in this group are more likely than the overall pool of respondents to be female, under the age of 24, and living in Asia-Pacific, Europe, or the U.S. The size of this group hasn’t changed much in the past 5 years.
Aspiring entrepreneurs (28%): these prospective students hope to start their own businesses, possibly even before they earn their degrees, though only about 10% have already started businesses. People in this group are more likely than the overall pool of respondents to be male and living in the Middle East, Africa, Central or South Asia, or Latin America This group increased by about 9 percentage points in the past 5 years.
These three groups show some very interesting regional differentiation:
What does that mean for you? First, it’s just interesting to know. Second, it gives you a sense of whether you are coming from a more “common” demographic or whether you will stand out more from the crowd. If the former, then you’ll want to look for other ways to make your story stand out.
Want kind of degree do people want to get? What kind of program do they want to attend?
The survey includes some very interesting data about the types of degrees people want. First, let’s address the two main categories of degrees: MBA and specialized. A little over half of the respondents were firmly focused on MBA degrees, while about 22% said that they want a specialized degree (such as a Master of Finance). The remaining 26% were considering both types of programs (it was unclear whether they are considering getting a dual degree or whether they just haven’t made up their mind about which type of degree to get).
Check out the graph below. Of the people considering only an MBA program, about 32% were most interested in a full-time 2-year program and 27% were aiming for an accelerated full-time 1-year program. For those considering only a specialized degree, Master of Accounting and Master of Finance programs are by far the most popular programs.
The report did not indicate what these numbers looked like in the past, but I would speculate that more people today are interested in a shorter study timeframe than 5 years ago. As the economy picks up, people don’t want to spend a full 2 years out of the work force, particularly those who are looking to stay in the same industry after graduate school. (This is just my anecdotal take based on the questions and comments I hear from students in my classes and on our forums.)
The below data reflects two combined categories: those who know they want a specialized degree and those who are still considering both types of degrees. There are distinct preferences by region for the two most popular specialized degrees.
There’s strong interest in a Master of Finance degree in Asia-Pacific and Europe. Those considering a Master of Accounting degree are most likely to live in the Asia-Pacific region or the U.S.
Want to read more?
If you’d like to read more, hop on over to the GMAC website and download the full report. If you have any interesting insights to share, or want to discuss something you find intriguing, let us know in the comments!
The GMAT® is property of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. All data cited is from GMAC’s 2015 mba.com Prospective Students Survey.
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.
The Graduate Management Admission Test, better known as the GMAT®, is a standardized test used in the admissions process for business school and other specialized Master’s programs. The exam measures certain skills that the business schools care about, most notably Executive Reasoning skills. It does not test any specific business knowledge.
When is the GMAT given?
You can take the GMAT year-round, nearly any day of the week (though they limit you to 5 sittings in a 12-month period and require a wait of 31 days between tests). The exam is given on a computer and is known as a “CAT.”
What is a CAT?
A CAT is a computer-adaptive test: the test actually adapts itself to you while you’re taking it! Two of the four sections on the GMAT, the Quantitative and Verbal sections, are adaptive. Each of these two sections begins with a random, approximately medium-level question. The computer chooses each subsequent question based upon your collective performance to that point in the section.
The practical implications are important. First, every test taker will take a different exam with a different mix of questions, but the test feels hard for everyone, since the test will just keep getting harder until it finds a particular person’s limit. Second, the scoring is pretty peculiar; it’s important to understand how the scoring works.
Want to try your hand at a practice test? Take our free, full-length practice exam here.
How is the GMAT Scored?
Tests you took in school were generally based on the percentage of questions answered correctly: the more you got right, the higher the score you received. As a result, you have been trained to take your time and try to get everything right when you take a test. This general strategy does not work on computer-adaptive sections of the GMAT because, strangely enough, the quant and verbal scores are not based on the percentage of questions answered correctly. On the GMAT, most people answer similar percentages of questions correctly, typically in the 50% to 70% range (even at higher scoring levels!).
How is that possible? The first thing to know: the GMAT is not a school test. The quant section is not really a math test, and the verbal section is not really a grammar test. Of course, you do need to know how to handle those topics. The test writers are really interested, however, in knowing how good you are at making decisions and managing scarce resources. (That’s the second time we’ve linked to that same article. Go read it!)
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.
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!