Understanding Your GMAT Practice Scores

With Round 1 application deadlines for many schools just a scant 3 months away, many people are revving up their preparation. One big component of the application process is the test score (GMAT or GRE) that most schools require, and a big part of any preparation are practice tests. In a later post we’re going to discuss how practice test scores influence when we should take the GMAT, but today we’re going to take a look at how practice tests (or an official score you’re not happy with) should inform your preparation decisions.

Before we get into discussing practice test scores, we should take a moment to clarify a few important considerations about practice tests themselves:

Game Changer? Harvard Changing Admission Application

Beginning this fall the Harvard Business School application will reflect its most significant changes since 2003. Long a source of anxiety and many sleepless nights, the HBS application as recently as last year required applicants to submit four different essays that totaled up to 2000 words. Starting for the class of 2015, the number of essays will be halved, with the word limit capped at 400 per essay.

Not only will they be fewer in number and shorter in word requirements, the essays will also be more straightforward. The two essay prompts slated for this fall are

  • Tell us something you’ve done well.
  • Tell us something you wish you had done better.

The HBS application process will also involve another wrinkle. For those who succeed in making it past the first cut, and thereby required (or given the chance) to sit for an interview, an additional post-interview essay will be required. The wrinkle? Well, the essay will be due within 24 hours of the interview, and should address something the applicant wished she or he had said during the interview. This essay will also be capped at 400 words.

6pm GMAT Test Time? Say What?

It’s the end of the GMAT as we know it! It’s the end of the GMAT as we know it (And I feel fine)!

We are down to the last two weeks of the GMAT B.I. (Before Integrated Reasoning) and people are scrambling to get their official test done before the switch on June 5th.

We’ve written frequently in this space about how people shouldn’t rush their prep just to avoid IR (i.e. you should not rush to take the test before the IR section gets added in June if you are going to get a lower score on the sections that matter – Quant and Verbal). That being said, there are a number of folks who have been prepping to take their test in the next couple weeks and are ready to do so.

I have a couple such tutoring students, and I found it interesting when one of them told me that her upcoming GMAT was scheduled for 6 o’clock. As in 6 o’clock PM. 1800 hours. Say what? Starting a GMAT at 6pm means ending your GMAT around 10pm. Not good times, but unavoidable it seems given the high volume of test-takers rushing to take test before the change to NextGen GMAT.

Another student taking the test before the change said he had a 4pm test appointment, which is better than 6pm, but certainly outside the ideal testing time for most people. It got me thinking that it might be beneficial to share some tips with people about how best to gear up for their official tests. People with particularly unorthodox testing times like 4pm and (gasp) 6pm should pay particular attention to numbers 1 and 3 below.

  1. Practice (Test) like it’s the Game – Your full-length practice tests should mirror your official test in every way possible: focus, intensity, start time, and components (meaning do the essays, even if you don’t want to). Your goal is both to increase your stamina and prepare your mind/body to be “on” at the same time you have to “on” for the real thing. The later your test is in the day, the more important this is, as people (even late-risers like me) are less fresh and sharp as the day goes on. 6pm, for example, is really pushing the limit of people’s endurance.
  2. Don’t Go Overboard – Practice tests are designed to be evaluative and help you hone your pacing and test management. They’re also designed to increase your test stamina. Doing a test every day isn’t a surefire way to get there. You need time to review, and time to recharge. For every person who says “I did a full-length test every day for two weeks and got a 700,” there’s a dozen people for whom that will not work as a strategy (not least of all because that 700-scorer was probably already ready to score 700). Find your happy medium for practice tests that will allow you enough time to increase your stamina AND give you time to thoroughly review your mistakes and hone skills.
  3. Seek Balance – Don’t disrupt your normal routines too much. We are creatures of habit, and if you all of a sudden stay up really late for a couple nights so you can sleep in later for your noon (or 4pm) test time, your body will NOT be pleased. Same goes for amending your diet or exercise routines. Find the balance between preparing for your test time and maintaining your normal life rhythms.
  4. Avoid Last-minute Practice Tests – Taking a practice test a day or two before your official tends to offer the potential of far more negative consequences than positive. GMAT Preparation is a marathon, not a sprint. Squeezing in that last-minute practice test is going to do very little for your chances on the real thing, largely because you have very little time to learn from and assimilate any insights from it. Conversely, a poor result a day or two before the test can really affect your confidence, and (again) leaves you with little time to redress that blow. Additionally, a 3.5-4 hour GMAT practice test is no joke. It drains you (or should if you’re doing it right). Recovering from that takes time, in the same way that recovering from a marathon session at the gym might for your body.
  5. Don’t Limit Your Prep to Practice Tests – You can do effective practice in small doses as well. In fact, some of the most effective practice comes in smaller doses, largely because you can more easily learn from those sets and then turn around to apply that learning on another set. Regardless of whether you’re doing a lot or a little prep, try to start around the same time you’re going to be taking the real thing (largely because of the reasoning outlined in number 1).
  6. Relax  - The final 24 hours before your test should largely be a stress-free affair. You’ve prepped. You’ve learned what you’re going to learn and have improved as much as you’re going to improve. Frantically running through a bunch of problems the night before (for a morning test) or day of (for afternoon/evening tests) is a recipe for disaster. It taxes you and drives your stress levels way up. You want to go into the test cool, calm, collected, and rested. Period.

For all those taking the test in the next couple weeks, good luck! May the GMAT be permanently in your rear-view when you’re done!

On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumnus Denitresse Burns

We thought that many of you battling through the business school application process might benefit from some thoughts and insights from others who went through the experience. To that end, we started On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. Last time around we spoke with Lauren Sickles, and before that we got insights from Gabe Perez, Rhomaro Powell and Radina Russell. This time, we’ve asked Denitresse Burns to provide her take on some interesting business school questions.

Denitresse is a 2009 graduate of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.  Currently, she’s a part of John Deere’s Strategic Management Program (a leadership rotational program).  Her rotations have included:

1.       Economics: As a Project Manager, she supported the Chief Economist, looking at global economic and policy trends to understand their impact to their business and customers.

2.       Social Media:  As John Deere’s first Social Media Manager, she launched the social media program at John Deere from the ground up, growing the base to over 500k and designing and implementing the internal processes to support the channels.

3.       Strategic Planning:  As Strategic Ambition Coordinator, she manages the strategic planning efforts for one of the largest global platforms in John Deere’s agricultural division.

Why did you go to business school?
I decided to go to business school for a number of reasons. Some rational… some, well, not so much.  In undergrad, when I finally declared a major in International Finance, I knew I would also pursue my MBA (someday).  In my mind, the two simply went hand in hand.  When a mentor left my firm to attend Stern, I was reminded of item #8 on my “Deni Do List.”  Three years later I found myself doing well in my career but completely uninterested and as a result, uninspired.  At that point, I knew I was ready for a complete career change and that a MBA would give me the latitude to make that transition.

Integrated Reasoning Scoring Scale


So we’ve all been waiting patiently for the scoring scale for the new GMAT Integrated Reasoning section. This week GMAC released the scoring scale: 1-8 points in one-point increments.

Preview: Latest GMATPrep

Coming soon to a Mac and PC near you: an updated version of GMAT Prep (available on April 2nd, 2012). Like good investigative journalists (or paparazzi) we got our hands on some of the goods as soon as possible. The goods in question? Screenshots of the latest version of GMATPrep.  Macrumors on the latest iPhone/iPad/Macbook Air this is not, but people are pretty excited about this development, so might as well not wait!

Let’s take a look and point out some of the interesting new features…

GMAT Insight: Reading Comp vs. Reading Comp

With the recent release of the new Official Guide for GMAT Review, 13th Edition and the impending release of a new version of GMATPrep, we thought we’d shed some light on a particularly key distinction between the two kinds of practice material: paper vs. computer.

On the surface the distinction between these two kinds of practice would appear to be self-evident, and to a large extent it is. What isn’t so clear is the potential value of each. With the value of each in mind, one place that most clearly illuminates the difference is with Reading Comprehension.

Review, pt. 2: GMAT Official Guide 13th Edition w/ Integrated Reasoning

As we discussed in a post a couple days ago, GMAC has finally released the first new practice materials in anticipation of the Next Generation GMAT change on June 5th. We ran through some initial and general impressions, and we’re back to take a closer look. Here’s what we were told by our sources at GMAC:

Official Guide for GMAT Review, 13th Edition Fast Facts (from GMAC)

  • 75 New Quant and 80 new Verbal Questions
  • New Integrated Reasoning (IR) Chapter
  • Online access code for 50 IR questions available as online practice
  • None of the questions – new or old – are available in any other GMAC products
  • Retail Price: $42.95 (available in the Bell Curves Bookstore for $29.95)

Looking more closely at the practice questions for the respective questions types, we’ve formulated a list of the new questions in the 13th Edition.

Review pt. 1: GMAT Official Guide 13th Edition w/ Integrated Reasoning

After a long, mouth-watering wait, the first set of of new practice material from GMAC became available this week. We got our sweaty, eager hands on some copies of the Official Guide for GMAT Review 13th Edition as soon as possible so we could get information out to people. If you’re looking to get your hands on a copy, you can find them in our bookstore.

Here’s a quick recap of what you can expect when you get one of your very own:

  • Integrated Reasoning Chapter - The integrated reasoning chapter includes descriptions of the question types and strategies, explantions of the question directions, and, of course, a limited number of example questions. Don’t expect too much here, as the whole chapter is about 12 pages long.

On The Record: Q&A with BC Alumnus Gabriel Perez

We thought that many people out there battling through the business school application process might benefit from the thoughts and insights of others who went through the experience. To that end, we started On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. We’ve heard from Radina Russell and Rhomaro Powell. Let’s get the low-down from Gabriel Perez.

Why did you go to business school?

A career change was the real impetus for me to apply to business school. I saw business school as an attractive proposition for several reasons. First, I knew I wanted a career change, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to change it to. I felt business school could act as a sort of looking glass, giving me unique insights into a number of different industries and career tracks. Secondly, I felt that by going to business school I could manage to make a career change that wouldn’t necessarily force me to take a step down, but allow me to make a lateral move in terms of responsibility and compensation. Perhaps most important though, I saw business school as the best way to develop many of the “hard skills” I would need for long term success in the business world, especially coming from a non-traditional background (i.e. not I-Banking or Consulting)

  • (877) 223-3828
CONNECT WITH US
COPYRIGHT ©2002 - 2014 BELL CURVES LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. All tests names are registered trademarks of the respective testing companies, which do not endorse and are not affiliated with Bell Curves.
BELL CURVES - 151 West 46th Street, Suite 901 - New York, NY 10036 Bell Curves is an educational services and test preparation company. It delivers high-quality consulting services, test preparation programs, and self-study resources to students throughout the country.
Equal Opportunity Employer - Privacy Policy - Refund Policy