GMAT Focus Review

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As promised, from the mind of Instructor Josh Braslow, here’s a review of GMAC’s newest preparation product, GMAT Focus:

MBA.com’s new GMAT Focus provides a unique bank of retired GMAT quantitative questions in an adaptive GMAT-like format. The material is organized in mini 24-question quant sections, which are available for purchase through the mba.com website by following the tab on the home page for Take the GMAT. Each diagnostic costs $25, unless you buy a pack of three for $65. According to GMAC, There is no limit to the number of exams you can purchase. However, if you take the GMAT Focusâ„¢ exam more than four times you may see questions repeated. The following review summarizes my initial impressions of the software after test-running two diagnostic sections. I took the diagnostic once at full-speed (i.e. best effort), and then a second time at what felt to me around a mid-650 ability level. I also culled some statistics from 6 diagnostics taken from 2 advanced private students.

The Advantages:

1. The questions are top-notch and all of them are unique to any of the questions from other sources (Official Guides, GMAT Prep Software). In other words, you can see excellent REAL GMAT math questions that you can’t find anywhere else.

2. The questions have solution explanations, not just answers (in contrast with the free tests at www.mba.com). When you review questions, you can click on individual questions to see the solution. You can also review only missed questions or the whole set.

3. The interface provides the test-taker with an analysis of his/her performance. Performance is gauged across three criteria, Item Type (DS vs. PS), Content (Algebra vs. Arithmetic Operations), and Application (Real/Applied vs Pure/Formula Based).

Based on your performance in these areas, a probability (as a %) of scoring below average/average/above average/excellent in each area is forecasted. From these percentages, a final most likely rating is posited. I will speak more about the Content and Application criteria below.

4. The diagnostic provides statistics (correct/incorrect and average time) for the set of 24 questions. These statistics are also shown across the 3 criteria (Item Type, Content, and Application). The interface provides the student with an active link to review only questions which were INCORRECT or on which the student GUESSED.

5. A per item breakdown is displayed so that the student can click on specific missed questions or see results across a specific criterion by filtering with one of the buttons. You can select only questions from a particular category to review (e.g. algebra). You can also flag only questions that you guessed on and see what the average time was, which can be very useful.

Some potential drawbacks:

1. The Accuracy of the Prediction is not established. The software scores you by giving you a predicted range for your raw quant score based on your performance on the 24 questions (assuming that there are no experimental questions). The raw score is a range: i.e. 49-51, 37-45, etc. Besides the fact that they assert only an 80% confidence in the interval, the size of the range can vary quite a bit. In the eight diagnostics I have looked at thus far, I have seen ranges from 2 points to 8 points. The general trend, as expected, seems to be that as the performance goes down, the size of the range gets bigger. When I scored perfect 24/24, I received a 49-51 prediction. When I answered 13/24 correctly, I received a 37-45 prediction.

I can report that for one of my students, the diagnostic proved to be rather predictive. He scored 46-50, 47-51, 43-49 on his 3 diagnostics and last week scored a 48 on the actual GMAT.

2. The explanations are not stellar (in a typical Official Guide kind-of-way). The explanations leave something to be desired. In many cases, they are very algebra-heavy and unintuitive. They are highly reminiscent of the Official Guide explanations, which many students haven’t found entirely helpful.

3. The criteria of Content and Application don’t appear to be that helpful. The Content criterion will not be immediately useful to many students, as the categories are taxonomically too broad (e.g. Arithmetic Operations) to recommend concrete steps. The same is true for the Application criterion, as it’s not very helpful to know if a problem is practical or theoretical.

Final Note – Overall I would recommend the GMAT Focus product to my students. The appropriate time for its use seems to be after one has done ALL Official Guide problems, and during the final weeks before one’s exam.

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