Joe vs. the GMAT

Every few months Bell Curves teachers take the GMAT in order to assess our test taking techniques, evaluate the accuracy of our question pool, and experiment with different result patterns.

Interviewee: Joseph Kambourakis, Instructor and Developer

Interviewer: James Yudin, Online Support Manager

The Assignment

Joe’s assignment was to go all out on the math section, getting as many correct as possible after getting the first question wrong, and to get about 1 in 4 wrong on verbal.

Pre-Test Experience

JY: Where did you take the test?

JK: In Boston in Downtown Crossing.

JY: So what time did you arrive at the testing center?

JK: I got there about 7:45 because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t late. I found out they open at 8am, so I got a coffee across the street and waited 15 minutes. Finally, they did arrive and I started at 8:20 or 8:25.

JY: So after you had to wait for 15 minutes you go in. How would you describe the center? Was it quiet? Would you recommend it to others? How would you describe the staff? Were they helpful? Friendly?

JK: They were VERY strict; I couldn’t take my bag out of the room during the break. I couldn’t use my own earplugs even though the ones they gave me sucked. This time, unlike when I took it in January, they let me move the keyboard around. During the quant and verbal sections I was able to put it way out of reach and used the mouse with my left hand and wrote with my right.

JK: From the random rule file, I was told that men aren’t allowed to wear a hoody but can wear a suit jacket.

JY: Really?!?!? That’s really arbitrary.

JK: Yeah, but not quite as arbitrary as the rule that no watch is allowed. Apparently, PeasonVue is worried about James Bond sneaking in to steal GMAT questions. I wonder if they ever considered that anyone that would have the resources to buy a watch that had recording capabilities would have far more important things to do than steal GMAT questions. But it could be that my proctors were overzealous. They told me “you can have clothes, locker key, photo ID, and that’s it!”

[Editor's note: GMAC publications state that "stopwatches or watch alarms" are not allowed] JY: They allowed clothes, that’s mighty big of them. So anyway, after they frisked you and made you denude yourself of all your worldly goods, then what? JK: They took my mug and prints and I’d just cut my hair so I looked nice. I wonder if my mug will end up on … Anyway, I sign in with one woman at the desk, then she leaves my ID on the desk and another woman brings me 10 feet to the room. She gives us plugs and an erasable noteboard, which is a spiral bound set of 5 laminated sheets of legal paper.


JY: So you do all the sign in stuff … lady escorts you to seat and the test starts. Anything to say about the essays? Were they the typical essays?

JK: Not only were they typical, but they were extremely similar if not the same as ones from the OG. The Analysis of an Argument Essay topic is extremely similar to the one on page 795 of the 10th edition or page 772 of the 11th. Test takers who are concerned about the essays should make sure to review several of the topics at the back of the OG because they will often use topics that are very very close.

My responses were pretty basic. I just followed the format in the Bell Curves workbook like I did before when I got a 5. I just wrote people don’t have access, it costs more to drive than park anyways, and people could park nearby. I’m betting I got a 5.5. I definitely did better this time around than last, but probably just got a 5, cause I seem to always get that.

The Analysis of an Issue Essay asked me to take a position on a statement about education being the primary path to opportunity and success. Again my response was fairly typical. I mentioned that the argument was full of unsupported assumptions and pointed out 1 assumption per paragraph.


JY: What do you remember of your first Verbal Section?

JK: Overall verbal was normal, with a typical distribution of RC, CR, and SC. About 30% RC, 30% CR, and 40% SC.

The test started with 2 SC, 3 CR, then 4 RC. The reading passage was about steel industry versus airplane manufacture and economic change between the 1960s and 1980s. None of the SC I remember were really really short where only 1 – 3 words were unlined but none that I remember had the entire sentence underlined. All the SC however seemed to test multiple rules, so after eliminating several choices based on one rule you had to find the next thing tested. The CR was a mixed bag of commonness; weakens, strengthen, 1 bolded phrase, no evaluate the argument, a paradox or 2 and an inference or 3. There were no RC questions in the last 6 -7 question of the section.


JK: What do you remember of your math section (topics, question types, etc)?

JK: Algebra and number properties seemed to dominate, though Arithmetic (rates, word problems) was a close second. I got *^%$$ on the first question. There’s no way it was a medium level difficulty, and during the test I was not sure how to do it. Thankfully, part of my assignment was to get the first question wrong to see how much I could recover if I did fairly well after that. The first question I got asked something like our question ID 6902, which states:

If x and y are positive integers 4500x = y3, what is the minimum possible value of x?

(A) 5

(B) 6
(C) 12
(D) 30
(E) 90

[Editor's note: If you have an account you can look up the explanation to this question]

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What really sucks is that as soon as I left the test and was in the coffee shop across the street writing this question down to review later I realized how to do it. I remember about 20 of the questions (6 number properties, 2 simple probability, 2 quadratics, 1 similar triangle, 0 circles, 2 rates, 2 functions, 1 parallel lines, 1 ratio DS that did not use the word ratio). Anyway I didn’t get a DS until my 4th or 5th question, but the ratio of DS to PS was pretty typical at about 20 to 17. Math continues to test the same topics in a variety of ways and a thorough understanding of the concepts is more imperative. For example, I also had something like this question:

If x and y are integers and x4y4 = 175, what is the value of x?

This question is very similar to the one above in that it deals with your knowledge of perfect squares, cubes and fourths.

The Verdict

JY: What were the final numbers?

JK: Well my assignment was to test some of the scoring patterns so I got the first math question wrong. I finished the math with 30 minutes to go and I got the first question wrong. The verbal I did not pay as much attention to because my assignment was to get a slightly above average score by again playing with the scoring patterns.

Math: 49 Verbal: 38 Total 710

Final Thought

JY: If you are planning to take the test soon you should practice on some of the sets in the “Insights” lesson. That is where we will generally place question sets inspired by things that our teachers saw on the test.

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