RC: The Key to GMAT Verbal Success

Over the course of a few weeks in December and January I received a number of practice test results from students preparing to take the GMAT. As the fourth or fifth result came my way I noticed that all of these students happened to be struggling to break the 35-point barrier on the verbal section. The realization gave me pause (I mean, I’m a test prep geek, why wouldn’t it?). Over the years I’d come to realize that many students at one point or another struggle to maximize their verbal score, and more importantly, these struggles were usually tied to reading comprehension.

I wanted to see if I could quantify this a bit for folks, so I started by going back through those student’s results to see if there were any trends. Sure enough, an initial investigation revealed what looked to be a pretty strong correlation between RC and Verbal subscore.

My interest piqued, I started to dig a little deeper. Bear with me, there’s gonna be a few numbers with this. Numbers? you ask. In a blogpost about verbal? Yup. Think of it like an integrated reasoning blog post.

So, with the help of one of our interns (big shout out to Cannie L!) we tabulated the results of about 220 GMATPrep, and broke out their respective accuracy %s on CR, RC, and SC. After grappling MMA-style with those percentages (grappling I’m not going to bore you with – let’s just say it was ugly…almost as ugly as this knockout), were able to see some pretty clear – and surprising – trendlines. Let’s take a look at our sample:

Total GMATPrep Results: 216

# with Verbal 35 or greater: 92

# with Verbal 34 or less: 124

Essentially, I aggregated and compared these results to see if, in fact, there was some strong correlation between RC accuracy and Verbal score. Turns out, there kind of is. Of the 92 results that scored 35 or above on the verbal, only 3 of those had managed that score with an RC-accuracy below 71%. It’s important to note that we just studied results where test-takers answered all of the Verbal questions. Reading comprehension totals 14 questions of the verbal, and 71% is 10 out of 14 questions correct. So basically, only three of the 92 results had fewer than 10/14 of the RC questions correct. That’s approximately 3.2% of the sample. 96.8% of the results that were 35 or higher had 10 or more RC correct! The breakdown is illustrated here:

SAT Tips: A Plurality of Pronouns

 

In our continuing series of SAT Tips, today we’ll show you another way the SAT Writing test applies pronoun rules to questions. (You might want to first check out this older post about pronouns before reading further.)  Also remember that the goal of doing the QOTD is to learn at least one thing about the SAT. If you’re not learning from each problem then you’re not getting the most out of your practice. Today’s post teaches us about a couple of the more rare pronouns.

SAT Tips: Right Triangles That Make You Feel Special

Click on the image to go to collegeboard.com and answer the question.

As we’ve stated before, the SAT is standardized, and what that often means is that the types of questions they ask and the type of information they expect you to know reappears over and over from test to test. Today’s question of the day, which a surprisingly small percentage of people got correct, is a great example of how the SAT loves to present Right Triangles. So before we send you off to the College Board’s site to give this question “the old college try,” let’s explore what you need to know about right triangles on the SAT.

SAT Tips: Know Your Pronoun Rules

Click on the image to go to collegeboard.com and answer the question.

 

One of the best ways to prep for the SAT is to do the SAT question of the day from the College Board. If you’re a high school student you should answer the question and challenge your parents to answer it too (most parents will do better than you in Reading and Writing but you’ll kill them in Math). Each time you do the QOTD, you should be looking to learn at least one thing about the SAT. Something they like to test, some rule that you need to know, some word that you didn’t know, or some great new shortcut for doing a problem more efficiently. If you’re not learning from each problem than you’re not getting the most out of your practice.

SAT Tips: Rules of Zero

While many people talk about SAT tips and tricks, you also have to know a fair number of math rules, terms, formulas, and logic in order to get a top score. When you’re preparing for the SAT, you should focus on learning the rules and terms in conjunction with (or before) worrying about any tricks. You’ll get more points knowing the information tested than you will trying to rely on “tricks.”

Today’s review is Rules of Zero. Before we get to the rules let’s check out a sample problem:

Question Trends and Prep Strategies

I recently took the GMAT test and noticed a few trends in the Quant section:

1.  Arithmetic was crucial (the basic operations, fractions, decimals, PEMDAS, etc.).  The GMAT tests critical thinking but the basic components, the 1’s and 0’s, the nuts and bolts, are composed of arithmetic.

2.  There were very few “formula questions”. Formula questions are those that require very little critical thinking and rely largely on knowing a specific mathematical concept, rule, equation, or formula.

3.  There was very little geometry and no coordinate geometry. Geometry questions are often heavily rooted in formulaic information like rules and properties, but can be made more difficult by combining concepts (whether multiple geometry-related concepts or geometry and other concepts, like algebra).

What does this mean?

October 2012 SAT Vocabulary: Phlegmatic Vainglorious Narcissistic Polymaths

 

In the world of test preparation, December brings not only presents from Santa but it also brings many gifts from the College Board and colleges. Today’s College Board gift is a copy of the October 2012 SAT, which we get because one of our staff took the test and ordered the Question and Answer Service (for an additional $18, unless you have a fee waiver which will also waive the fee for the QAS if you choose to order it.) The QAS is available for the June, October and Jan SAT administrations each year and whenever its available we get it so we can peruse the test for trends,  patterns,  and any fun new words the College Board has decided to throw at college-bound students.

If you’re planning to take the SAT soon you should make sure you learn all the words on the list below, which were taken from the October 2012 SAT.

  • plodding
  • soothed
  • novella
  • modest
  • incredulity
  • recrimination
  • commensurate
  • indifferent
  • acclamation
  • disproportionate
  • autonomous
  • expedient
  • communal
  • munificent
  • narcissistic
  • egalitarian
  • reciprocal
  • aroused
  • perspicacious
  • phlegmatic
  • estimable
  • overbearing
  • resolute
  • philistine
  • polymath
  • charlatan
  • ideologue
  • cultivated
  • benevolent
  • pedantic
  • morose
  • gregarious
  • cosmopolitan
  • cavalier
  • urbane
  • erudite
  • mordant
  • unequivocal
  • consensus
  • pervasive
  • archetypal
  • lumbering
  • behemoths
  • Belittle
  • cynical
  • ambivalent
  • nostalgic
  • contempt
  • embroiled
  • degraded
  • underscore
  • exploit
  • unravel
  • foretell
  • scant
  • ambitious
  • timid
  • vaingloriously
  • unflagging
  • indefatigable
  • complacent
  • ineffectual
  • circumspect
  • baffle
  • enmity
  • defy
  • elucidate
  • duplicity
  • collusion
  • superfluous
  • pragmatic
  • onerous
  • subversive
  • fraudulent
  • obliged
  • supplant
  • skew
  • profound
  • mollify
  • soporific
  • insidious
  • bewildering
  • indiscernible

If you’d like a  few other lists to keep your studying going click here to see the others  we posted.

Good luck and remember if you need help preparing for the SAT or ACT visit us at sat.bellcurves.com!

Making Test Day a Breeze

Editor’s Note: Bell Curves periodically enlists our teachers to take the official GMAT to keep themselves sharp, help them better inform their students about current testing trends and procedures, and provide additional insight for materials development and instruction. Sometimes, we have gung-ho teachers that just want to take the test for fun. To which we say, Rock On! Today’s post comes from Andrew Geller, one of our NYC-based instructors. Below, he provides some insights on making your test day as stress free as possible.


 

Test day can be stressful but the more you know about the logistics of the test center the better you will feel on your big day.  As we all know: feeling comfortable = better performance.

So what can you do to make the test day easier?  Plan in advance!

The Night Before

The night before, pick out your clothes, know what you will have for breakfast, pack your snack pack, pick out 5-10 quantitative questions as warm-ups (I like to pick ones from my error log that are challenging but that I have reviewed at least once), and know the route to the test center.

The Morning Before

Arrive early to your exam. A half hour or so should suffice.  It helps to arrive early because you get to check in first and end up waiting less.  The test center provides lockers where you must store all of your personal belongings.  You can only enter the testing room with the clothes on your back (you are allowed an extra sweater) and your ID.  No watches.  No bracelets.  No lucky coins.  You will be asked to empty out your pockets for inspection.  If you have forgotten to store an item before checking in you may be sent to the back of the line.  This happened to three people on my test day.

During the Test

Scratchwork – At your cubicle you will be provided with one ten page plastic notepad, one marker, ear plugs, and over-the-ear headphones.  I tried on the headphones but did not like the feeling of being in a sensory deprivation chamber.  I could see them being useful if another test taker were making a racket. Test your marker BEFORE the section begins.  If you need another notepad during a section you have to raise your hand and wait for the proctor to retrieve your pad and replace it with a fresh one.  During each break you can get a fresh pad, however.  My recommendation is to only get a new pad between sections.  It is a waste of time to get a new pad mid-section.  If you must get a new pad then signal for one BEFORE your old pad is full so that you have the least disruption possible.  A quick tip to get the most out of your pad:  you can use the cover page for notes.

Snacks and Breaks – The test is long so the snack pack is important.  Your snack pack should have a caffeine beverage, water, and a sugary snack (I like Cliff Bars and Snickers).  I brought some dark chocolate as well.  Be aware that you can only access your personal items during the eight-minute break between sections and that the timer is running while you sign in and out.  If you are late getting back the time is deducted from the section.  The proctor had issues with the computer while I was signing in so I was late getting back to my cubicle.  Luckily, the proctor reset my timer.  Do not expect this to happen if you are late getting back from a bathroom break.  You have time for a gulp of coffee, a bite of Snickers, a quick bathroom stop, and a quick stretch (this helps!).

The Testing Room – Whenever you need anything you must raise your hand.  You are not allowed to get up from your cubicle without an escort.  Even after the test is over, you will be ushered back to the waiting room and given a printout of your score report.

Tackling the GMAT – Performing well on the GMAT is dependent on many factors.  Some of these factors have nothing to do with the content but with your state of mind.  A couple of things that can help during the test:  First, we all can get a bit dazed during a section.  I like to take a moment every once in a while (2-3 times per section) to reset myself – disengage from the screen, stretch my legs, roll my neck, refocus.  Second, after you confirm an answer choice that question is over, MOVE ON!

The GMAT is an arduous undertaking in the best of circumstances, but as we can see there are steps you can take to make test day go a little more smoothly. The biggest piece of advice: plan ahead. Know where your test center is, how to get there, especially if you are taking public transportation which may experience delays and construction re-routes. Know the testing procedures, and the ins and outs of the test center. Know what you can and cannot bring, and what you can and cannot do. Know how you’re going to approach the test, and know that once a question has been answered that question is finished. One great way to plan ahead is to practice as you expect the test to go. When doing your practice tests, try however much as possible to mimic what you’ll be doing on test day. That’s right, put together a snack pack for your 8-minute breaks. Rush through your break rituals when you’re doing your practice test, and by all means stick to the 8-minute break on your practice tests as well. Following these helpful tips will help you make the best of your countless hours of preparation come test day. Good luck!

Admissions Spotlight: Timelines & Planning

‘Tis that time of year again. No, not the time when most of the well-intended New Years Resolutions begin the long limp to failure, but rather a new crop of b-school hopefuls gearing up to make a run at their choice programs. To help prospective b-school candidates get a jump on their preparation and make the most of their efforts, we thought we’d share some guidance on how best to plan for the upcoming application year.

Between the GMAT, the essays, the recommendations, and everything else, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to apply to b-school. Your best asset when starting this process is a timeline. Include events and deliverables including GMAT practice tests and courses, application essays, scholarship applications, recommendations, and school visits. Once you figure out what needs to be done first, your priorities begin to align themselves!

Below we’ve included a standard timeline that outlines the bigger picture events you should plan for:

The road to the promised land of GMAT and application glory is long and arduous. To help you retain your sanity, and make this the rare resolution that comes to fruition, keep in mind a few key tips:

  • Start Early – As the timeline indicates, prudent planning should provide six months to prep for the GMAT. If you knock the GMAT out early, great! If not, this allows you time to deal with unexpected interruptions to your prep (they almost always happen) or setbacks, or simply the need for more time to get the score you want. The plan also provides time to focus squarely on applications instead of having to split time two ways (and usually more if you consider most people have full-time employment to deal with, not to mention family and other obligations that come with having some semblance of a life). The bottom line: budget room to have more time, not less, to make your prep a less stressful endeavor.
  • Have a Plan…but be Flexible – As we mentioned above, unanticipated events always arise. Having a plan does wonders for streamlining prep and staying on task, but don’t become too beholden to any one path. Don’t limit yourself to a single approach, a single mode to prepare for the GMAT, or an arbitrary deadline for achieving scores you need on the GMAT. Have a plan and modify as needed. Just think about the “plans” you had for yourself in high school. Have those plan manifested themselves? For most people the plans change. This realm is no exception.
  • Be Tenacious - Your goals are imminently achievable. The path is winding, it is difficult, but it has an end, and it’s the end you want. But to reach that end, you have to stick to your goals. Don’t be dissuaded by setbacks or delays. Don’t let your expectations undermine your commitment or motivation. If you want it, it’s there for the taking. All that’s needed is dedication and prudent preparation.

Happy New Year and best of luck with your GMAT preparation and b-school applications!

For more on how Bell Curves could help you improve your preparation, visit us at gmat.bellcurves.com. Sign up for a free Bell Curves demo account to practice with computer-based materials. Join us for a GMAT Sample Class to experience our fantastic teachers, materials, and approaches to the GMAT, and see firsthand how Bell Curves could help you Get Ahead of the Curve today!

You’ve Taken the PSAT, Now What?

Thanksgiving marks not only the start of the Christmas season but also the beginning of the college process in earnest for many Juniors. Before December brings Santa down your chimney, it will bring PSAT results back to your high schools. The College Board will be sending your score reports back to your schools in the first couple weeks of December, which means you should have your scores in your hand just in time to put them under the Christmas tree. In this post, we’ll break down what the PSAT tells you about the SAT and if it impacts your future SAT score. (You should also check out “What Is The PSAT?” to learn more about what the test is and how it’s used. )

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