From the Trenches – Part 2.


GMAT by the Bay
Time and Place

Joseph Kambourakis took the GMAT in that grand old dame of a town Oakland, California. At one time in his life Tupac Amaru Shakur lived here, so I thought this would be as good a place as any. The test center is on 22nd Street, Downtown. The test center workers, Steve and Carmen, were very friendly. I asked them a bunch of questions, among them whether Carmen would be averse to a date with myself. Steve was none-too-thrilled. My amorous attempts shot down, they gave me some info about the location. They said that all test centers have the same pictures on the wall, which is why no one remembers any of them. The computers and monitors were the same kind as in the Boston office, which is why people are as thrilled to take the test in Oakland as they are in Boston (I’ve been to both, I prefer Oakland). The notepad and marker were also the exact same. The marker was a Staedtler brand marker, a fine writing instrument crafted of German engineering. The earplugs were similar as well, which means they could have been better. Steve told me that the pictures on file are checked versus my previous pictures when I signed up, but he wasn’t sure about the fingerprint. I said that’s okay because I was using the same fingers I used when I took the test in Boston.
The Business At Hand
My first essay question was an Analysis of an Argument, the gist of which is below:

University hospitals are not as good as private or community hospitals. This is because University doctors need to spend part of their time teaching and doing research, which distracts them from helping patients. University hospitals also generate less profit than do private hospitals and the revenue returns from last year show this.

I didn’t answer this essay; instead I tried to see how much space I could fill. I copied the question and pasted it 30 times and never ran out of space, so I think you might get infinite space. I was worried I would crash the computer, which would have been interesting, but also probably resulted in me having to do the whole thing over again. I love Oakland and all, but not that much. You can see how concerned I was about the results of the essay. Come to think of it I think I got a six, they must have been impressed with my ingenuity (just kidding…about the score, I didn’t get a 6; I’m serious about the ingenuity though).

During the time allotted for the first essay I also clicked on the help link. It said that some questions might not be graded and were only for testing purposes. So now you know, not all questions are necessarily being used for your score. Good times I say.
My second essay question was the Analysis of an Issue, the gist of which is below:

The rise of multinational corporations is making the world more homogeneous. Everyone will want the same products and this will cause cultural differences to disappear.

This essay I answered normally as I’m terribly concerned with homogeneity in the marketplace. I’d feel suffocated if I couldn’t obtain 37 different varieties of energy drink.
The Real Business At Hand

QUANT

The math had a relatively even breakdown between the two types of Quant Problems, 20 Problem Solving and 17 Data Sufficiency. My goal was to more or less guess on certain questions. All told my guesses added up to about one-third of the test. When it was all said and done I had about 15 minutes left. I noticed that skipping a few questions left me with a lot of time to focus on the questions I was doing, and I was never really stressed with extremely difficult questions. I moved through the question methodically and with few snags, so much so that even doing the work on two thirds of the questions I still had about one-fifth of the allotted time left.
There were no questions about circles, interest, percent change, special triangles, combinations, permutations, 3 groups, standard deviation, or primes, which should make some test takers happy, others sad. Me personally, I can’t get enough of permutations so I was a little bummed out. There were two questions with the I, II, III format, questions 12 and 36. There seemed to be a disproportionate number of quadrilateral geometry questions (5) and there were quite a few algebra questions which one could do pretty easily with substituting your own numbers in and then solving or using the answer choices (9 out of 20 total PS). Assuming one reviewed these concepts in the Bell Curves GMAT Center they would have been no trouble at all.
There were a couple of math questions I found interesting. They could be answered using methods found in the Center, but they still caught my eye. They were:

Editor’s note: Questions have been altered to preserve the integrity of the GMAT.

If , and d are sides of a triangle and d is an integer, what is d?

P = 0.26p7,p = ?

1) If you round to the nearest hundredth, you get 0.27

2) If you round to the nearest thousandth you get 0.268

For questions from the GMAT center that would help familiarize you with questions such as these checkout QID#s 1942, 5252, 8906 and 8910.
As for the Quant results, I got a raw score of 37 using my specific approach. This score is lower than the scores I got when implementing the same approach (with relatively similar success, especially in the first third of the test) on the practice CAT tests from GMAC. One practice test score was 6 points higher, the other 4. The moral of the story? GMAC Practice material probably scores the material a little easier. This isn’t the first time we’ve noticed slight variances between practice test CAT scoring and real CAT scoring. This circumstance is compounded by the fact that on the practice tests I was intentionally getting every third answer choice wrong (that’s right, actually doing the work to make sure I got the question wrong) as opposed to guessing like a test taker might do on the real thing.
VERBAL
The verbal was very straightforward in the question type selection. It started on a SC and then went through a fairly normal pattern: CR and SC up to Q4, then 3 RC questions, alternating SC/CR, more RC, more alternating SC/CR/RC. The last RC usually comes around question 32 and the last 5 or 7 questions are SC/CR.  This test was almost exactly like that except I got a SC first which is a little odd.
For my strategy I guessed A on the last 11 RC questions to save time. The RC topics were women’s suffrage, String Theory, business managers, and conflicting views about business, which was a two passage topic. I got a 27 on the verbal, which was in between my practice test scores of 31 and 25. The only strange occurrence of note was one SC which required a choice between “best-known” vs. “most well-known”. Strange and semantical if you ask me.
Tasty Tidbits & Parting Words
Overall I got a 37/27 540 (M/V/Scaled) compared to a 43/31/620 on the first practice test and a 41/25 550 on the second practice test, employing the same strategies. My percentiles were 53, 45 and 51, respectively, for the three tests.
Both the Math and Verbal Strategies gave me more time to focus on the problems I wanted to do without feeling a time crunch. The scores are around the fifty percentile. The test as a whole was typical of what we’ve seen on practice test and other real tests in the same range.
For practice related to the kinds of questions I saw on my test go to the insights question page on the site to try your hand.

Good luck and Godspeed
Joe K
Bell Curves GMAT Center Manager

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