Getting Past Your GMAT Score

So you took the GMAT and are not happy with your score.

First and foremost, you should not be feeling depressed by your score, even if that score is not what you wanted or what you expected. The GMAT is often difficult to do well on. Take the next few days to assess what you did to prepare, whether you did as much as you could or should have, and how you could have done more to ensure you have the score you wanted. Assess whether the course you took or tutor you worked with was really in line with your learning style and whether you should have recognized that earlier and done something to make the course or tutoring more effective. Finally, stop beating yourself up if you did not get what you wanted or expected. It often takes a couple stabs at the test before you settle down enough to achieve your best score. To provide you some perspective, the arithmetic mean (a little GMAT speak for you) score is 544 and 78% of test takers score below 650, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.

On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumni Goreleigh Willis

Last year we posted several Q&As with former Bell Curves students (Lauren Sickles, Gabe Perez, Rhomaro Powell, Denitresse Burns, and Radina Russell) in which they shared their experiences in business school and how it benefited their careers. The insights were well-received, so we decided to conduct a few more with a slightly different focus. This time around we were interested in hearing from MBAs that recently completed their first year.

For our first offering in this installment, Goreleigh Willis shares his experiences and insights.

Prior to pursuing his MBA at Cornell University’s Johnson School, Goreleigh was an Associate with the Private Bank at J.P. Morgan in New York City. For five years, he worked with families to manage their wealth, as a Banker Analyst, and more recently as a Trust Officer. Previously, he spent four years in management consulting within the firm. At Johnson, Goreleigh is a Vice President of the Old Ezra Finance Club. He is also the Vice President of Alumni Affairs for the Black Graduate Business Association and a Vice President of the Johnson Soccer Club. Goreleigh will be an investment banking Associate at Lazard this summer.

Goreleigh holds a B.A. in Economics and Political Science with Honors distinction from Swarthmore College.

What was the most surprising aspect of your first year in an MBA Program?
The most surprising thing for me was the pace of Johnson. Many of the core courses are 8 weeks long, so there is no time to fall behind.  Even though I heard from the second year students beforehand, it was still a challenge to balance academic work with recruiting. Efficient time management is crucial!

Mind Bumps: Proceed With Caution

The human brain is a miraculous organ. Neurons and synapses firing  so quickly, processing so much in the tiniest fractions of a second that even the most powerful of computers still have not matched its complex computing capability (even if IBM’s Watson can kick the best human butt at chess and Jeopardy). Together with your experience, your brain can be a powerful tool to avoid traps and tricks on the GMAT. That is, if you let it.

I tutor and teach and counsel hundreds of GMAT test-takers every year. And I’m consistently amazed by how often students ignore “warning signs” their brains are frantically trying to flag. I call these warning signs “mind bumps.” A mind bump occurs whenever you read something that, at first or second glance, strikes you as strange, odd, or nonsensical. Given that they’re almost always rooted in reading (just reading, not Reading Comprehension per se), these mind bumps are ubiquitous on the GMAT, occurring with enough regularity on both the Quant and Verbal that they should be used as a valuable tool to improve your score.

GMAT Tip: Advanced Sentence Correction Strategy

Some of the more difficult Sentence Correction questions for test-takers are those that have a lot words in the underlined portion, which can create confusion and indecisiveness. The difficulty can be compounded when the underlined portion doesn’t seem to have any obvious errors but nevertheless “sounds” bad. SC questions that have these characteristics can, however, be better managed with the right approach. Let’s take a look at an example and then outline how to tackle it:

GMAT/GRE Quant Tip: Summation? Swap Rules for Strategy

Questions that involve the summation formula, whether on their own or one component of a more complicated problem, often trip test-takers up for the simplest of reasons: figuring out “how many items” are in the set can sometimes prove tricky. One way to avoid the headache of trying to remember the rule for each different kind of limitation (consecutive even/odd/other, inclusive vs. exclusive, whether the set starts/ends with an even/odd), is to simply employ a strategy that will quickly and consistently allow you to determine the number of items in the set: patterns.

Before we delve into how, let’s review the summation formula and when it’s used. The summation formula:

∑ = (# of Numbers in the Set)(Largest Number + Smallest Number)/2

GMAT or GRE, As Easy as 1-2-3

With a growing number of schools accepting the GRE for the MBA, we constantly get questions about which test people should take, so here are a few considerations to help students answer that question of GMAT or GRE:

1. The Advantage of History. The GMAT is the gold standard for the MBA application. Institutions have no questions about what GMAT scores mean and how to compare them retrospectively to students in their programs both current and past. Only recently (the last half-decade) has the number of schools accepting the GRE increased significantly. Advantage: GMAT.

BC Review: GMATPrep v. 2.2

It has always been a love hate relationship with the GMATPrep software.  Every version of it has had some major flaw, but at the same time you have to love the thing because it houses the only official GMAT CATs available.  In any event, each revision of the software has come with incremental improvements (happily 2.1 brought GMATPrep to Apple computers! woot!), and the new GMATPrep 2.2 continues the slow crawl forward.

Installation was a snap.  I downloaded it, double clicked the install package, agreed to the terms and conditions, and entered my log-in information and within minutes I was exploring the new GMATPrep software.  I have had many install and functionality issues with the last version so this smooth sailing was a nice surprise.

What’s new?  There have been some solid organizational improvements in Question Pack 1, as well as a very critical functionality upgrade.

The Meaning and Value of Practice Tests

Often, confusion exists about the uses and benefits of practice tests, and the role of practice tests in preparing for the GMAT. Let’s try and offer some clarity to the situation:

Practice Tests

Practice tests are evaluative tools and should be used as such. They are NOT learning tools. You use tests to assess what you have learned and your ability to apply that learning under conditions as similar to the real exam as you can make them. As such you should only be taking practice tests at most once per week (unless you are not working), and should seek to simulate the conditions of the actual test as much as possible when doing so (especially in the last few weeks before the real exam). In the larger preparation picture, you should take a practice test at the very beginning of your preparations to establish a baseline and determine your areas of strength and weakness. After that, it would be advisable to hold off on doing another practice test until you’ve had a chance to do some content review and focused, small-scale practice. Once you’ve gotten a sizable chunk of material and practice behind you, you should start incorporating full-length practice tests into your preparation regiment.

Key points for simulating practice tests:

Revamping Your Prep

Below is a letter from a test-taker seeing advice for GMAT preparation (some names have been changed to maintain the person’s anonymity):

Hello,

My name is Nunya and I am currently planning to apply to MBA programs. I am struggling with the GMAT and am looking for any suggestions on study strategies that you may have to offer.

Last year, I took a six week GMAT prep course that the University of Malawi offered through their College of Continuing Education program. The course ended on July 19 and I took the GMAT on August 30. I will admit that my study schedule between the last class and the day of the test was not consistent and I could have devoted more time to it. My overall score was a 530 with a 32 in Verbal and 31 in Quantitative.

This year, I decided to get more serious about the test. I took an eight week Kaplan course that ended a few months ago. From the day that the course ended until last week (3 months), the day of my test, I studied three hours a day and took one practice exam almost every week. Most of my studying was focused on the quantitative area. When I first started taking the practice exams, my scores were all over the place from 490-590. In the last four exams, my scores were consistently at 590, however, I never scored in the 600s. On the day of the exam, I scored 540 overall with a raw score of 29 in verbal and 35 in quantitative.

I am going to retake the exam, but I undoubtedly need a new strategy. Is there anything that you would recommend? Any suggestions or feedback is greatly appreciated.

Thanking you in advance,

Nunya B.

Reply:

Dear Nunya,

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:

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