Sunday, December 07, 2008

Top Tips for GMAT Essays

Here are some QuickTips that apply to both Analytical Writing sections.

1. Be sure to include brief introductory and concluding paragraphs, which are consistent with each other and with the paragraphs in the body of your essay.

2. Your essay must at least appear to be well organized. Use transition words and phrases to help the reader follow the flow of your discussion.

3. Compose your introductory paragraph last—after you've completed the rest of your essay. Why? Because you essay might evolve somewhat from your initial plan; if you've composed your introduction first, you might need to rewrite it.

4. For every point you make in a GMAT essay, always provide a reason and/or an example to support that point!

5. Pay close attention to writing mechanics—grammar, sentence construction, word usage and diction (whether you've used the right word for the right job). It doesn't matter if your essay contains brilliant ideas if you can't express them. In short: It's form over substance!!

6. It's okay to refer to yourself in your essays—at your option. Just don't overdo it. Phrases such as "I think," "it is my opinion that" and "in my view" are superfluous and a waste of your typing time.

7. Don't try to impress the reader with your vocabulary. There's nothing wrong with demonstrating a strong vocabulary. Just don't overdo it; otherwise the readers will suspect that you're using big words as a smokescreen for poor content.

The GMAT CAT's Computer-Adaptive Feature—and How to Use It to Your Best Advantage

This Q&A answers frequently asked questions about the computerized GMAT testing system (how it adapts to your ability level and how the scoring process accounts for this feature), and what this system suggests in terms of test-taking and test-prep strategies.

Q: The GMAT is a "computer-adaptive test" (CAT), meaning that it adapts to each individual test-taker. But how does it do that?

A: During each of the two multiple-choice sections (Quantitative and Verbal), each question the CAT presents to you depends on your responses to earlier questions of the same type—for example, Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, or Problem Solving. For each question type, the first question posed will be average in difficulty level. If you respond correctly to the question, the next question of that type will be more difficult; conversely, if you respond incorrectly, then the next question of that type will be easier. So as you proceed, you’ll encounter fewer and fewer questions that are either "gimmees" or, at the other extreme, far too difficult for you. Thus the CAT can "zero in" on your ability level with fewer questions than a non-adaptive test can. The end result is that the particular GMAT you take will be custom-built for you; no other test-taker will encounter the same combination of questions.

Q: Given this adaptive feature, your score must be based on more than just the number of correct responses, right? Otherwise, to maximize your score wouldn’t you want to intentionally respond incorrectly to difficult questions, to keep the overall difficulty level of your test down to a level that you can handle comfortably?

A: That’s right. And that’s why the CAT scoring system determines your GMAT Quantitative and Verbal scores by accounting for not only the number of questions you answer correctly but also the difficulty level of the questions you answered correctly. Your reward—in terms of points—for responding correctly to a difficult question is greater than for an easier question. Of course, the scoring system for a non-adaptive test can also account for difficulty level—simply by assigning greater weight to more difficult questions. But the adaptive feature creates a certain dynamic—a self-adjustment mechanism—that continually homes in on your level of ability in each test area.

Q: Does the scoring system take into account any other factors as well?

A: Yes. The scoring system accounts for a third factor as well: the range of cognitive abilities tested by the questions you answered correctly—within each of the two multiple-choice sections. The Quantitative section, for example, embraces a variety of substantive areas: number theory, arithmetical operations, algebra, geometry, statistical reasoning, interpretation of graphical data, and so forth. Also, the Quantitative section employs two distinct question formats: Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency. Problem Solving questions gauge your ability to work to a numerical solution, whereas Data Sufficiency questions stress your ability to reason quantitatively. Proving to the CAT that you can handle a variety of substantive areas in both question formats will boost your GMAT score.

As for how the CAT quantifies this third factor, the calculation involves the statistical concept of standard deviation. The greater the deviation among your areas of ability, the lower your score. In other words, the GMAT rewards generalists—test takers who demonstrate a broad range of competencies—while punishing less versatile test-takers who are not as well-rounded in terms of their skill sets. I don’t want to overstate the significance of this third factor, though. The other two—number of correct responses and difficulty level—are the primary determinants of your score.

Why is the scoring system designed to account for this third factor? Because the GMAC (Graduate Management Admissions Council) recognizes that crack mathematicians or grammarians don’t necessarily make good business managers. It’s people who can put it all together—people with an overall package of quantitative, verbal, and analytical skills—who are most likely to succeed in B-school and beyond.

Q: Given how the adaptive test moves you up and down the difficulty ladder, with point rewards dependant on difficulty level, it would seem that random guessing can do more damage than good to your score, since the odds of guessing correctly are stacked against you? Is this correct?

A: The conventional advice that you should avoid random guessing is generally good advice. The Quantitative and Verbal sections provide only 37 and 41 opportunities, respectively, for you to prove yourself to the CAT. Actually, the number is even lower, since about 10 questions in each section are pretest, or unscored, questions. A random guess will save you a bit of time, of course. But the risks far outweigh the time reward. Your chances of guessing correctly are only one in five. Moreover, incorrect responses move you down the difficulty ladder, which exerts downward momentum on your score. In the meantime, you’re wasting precious questions.

But I should refine this piece of advice somewhat. When it comes to resorting to guesswork, you should also consider how far along you are in the exam section. An unlucky guess early in a section is far more damaging to your score than later in the section. Why? Toward the beginning of a section, the computer-adaptive algorithm moves you up and down the ladder of difficulty rather dramatically and quickly. In as few as four questions you can move up to the highest possible level—by responding correctly to all four questions—or down to the lowest possible level—by responding incorrectly to all of them.

Once the test establishes what it thinks is the appropriate difficulty level for you, the algorithm places a heavy burden on you to prove the system wrong—that your first few incorrect—or correct—responses were flukes and you’re actually quite a bit brighter—or dimmer—than the CAT believes. If you’ve established a low ability level, and only have a few questions remaining in the section, the CAT algorithm is not going to let you take a stab at a few very difficult questions so late in the game to let you pile up some last minute points.

Think of a GMAT score like your college GPA. Low grades during your freshman year will establish a very low GPA, and you’ll be swimming upstream the next three years to redeem yourself. But low grades during the final semester of your senior year will have almost no impact on your 4-year GPA. The analogy isn’t perfect, but it’s useful nonetheless in helping you appreciate that guesswork can do far more damage to your score early in a test section.

Q: You mentioned pretest, or unscored, questions. Why does the testing service include them on the exam, and what do they mean for the test-taker?

A: The testing service is continually replacing questions in its data base with new ones, if for no other reason to prevent test-prep companies from hiring sharp test-takers with keen memories to take the GMAT again—in order to replicate the official test bank. Before a new question is added to the bank of scored questions, it is included in the bank of unscored questions, so that the testing service can determine its difficulty level and its integrity (both as determined by test-takers’ responses to the question).

Pretest questions will look just like scored questions, and you won’t be able to distinguish one type from the other. So there’s no sense in trying to guess which ones are unscored, and make a quick random guess on them to afford you more time on the scored questions.

Q: Does the computer-adaptive algorithm and scoring system you’ve described suggest any specific test-taking strategies?

A: Yes. Exercise special care in responding to the initial questions during each of the two multiple-choice sections. Read very carefully, double-check calculations, and so forth. I should augment this advice when it comes to the Verbal section. During this section, take particular care with the first few questions of each type—Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction. Typically, you won’t encounter at least one question of all three types until you’re at least ten questions into the Verbal section. So whenever you see that first question of each type, slow down and take your time with it.

However, I’d caution against taking the foregoing advice to the extreme—for two reasons. First, if you spend too much time on a few questions, you might not have adequate time for reasoned responses to all of the questions in the section. So it’s a balancing act in terms of proper pacing. Secondly, intuition plays a role in multiple-choice testing, and second-guessing yourself can be counterproductive, because changing your initial response to a question more often than not results in an incorrect response.

Q: The testing service claims that the CAT’s adaptive feature enables a more accurate measurement of your cognitive abilities relative to other test-takers than the old paper-based test, even with fewer questions. How is this possible?

A: The primary advantage—in terms of fairness—of adaptive testing over non-adaptive testing, whether computer-based or paper-based, has to do with distribution of scores. Assume two GMAT test-takers X and Y. Suppose that X has great difficulty with every question type at even low difficulty levels, while Y can handle any question type at even the highest difficulty level. Because the GMAT CAT adapts to individual ability, and rewards fewer points for correct responses to easy questions than difficult ones, the difference between GMAT scores for X and Y might be far greater than if they had taken the same bank of questions. In other words, a non-adaptive test does not allow for as wide a distribution of scores.

To the extent that the CAT creates a broader distribution of scores, it is a better means of comparing the cognitive abilities of test-takers. This is a statistics concept that’s really pretty easy to understand on a non-technical level. Scores for multiple test-takers that all cluster closely together are less reliable for the purpose of comparing ability levels than more widely distributed scores are.

Q: Okay, I understand that the adaptive feature leads to a wider score distribution, and in turn to more reliable performance comparisons. Nevertheless, with only 27 scored Quantitative questions and 31 scored Verbal questions, not to mention the wide variety of question types within each section, how can the CAT possibly make a fair assessment of your abilities?

A: You’ve hit on the most common complaint about the GMAT. But this drawback is not unique to the GMAT; you can say the same about almost any standardized exam. The greater the number of questions, the more accurate the assessment—all else being equal. But all else is not necessarily equal. During a longer test endurance becomes a factor—a factor that can undermine the purpose of the test to begin with. Also, with the inception of the CAT test-takers can take the GMAT far more often than they could under the old paper-based testing system; the more often a test-taker takes the GMAT, the more reliable the measurement.

In an ideal world, perhaps a more extensive battery of tests spread over several weeks—or even months—and that includes an oral component as well would be fairer. But it comes down to a tradeoff between fairness and administrative efficiency. The testing service couldn’t provide such a test on an affordable basis, especially considering that more the a quarter-million GMAT tests are administered every year!

Q: Given the adaptive nature of the GMAT CAT and the resulting scoring system, is the best way to prepare for the GMAT to use software that simulates the computerized GMAT—rather than GMAT-prep books?

A: My advice is to take a balanced GMAT-prep approach. Use books to brush up on your math skills, to review rules of grammar, to identify your weak areas, and for exercises and drills that help strengthen those weak areas. Use software to determine your optimal pace, to acclimate yourself to the computer interface, and to measure your performance—so that when you take the actual test you’ll have a good idea whether you should cancel your scores and/or retake the exam.

I don’t mean to suggest here that taking paper-based practice tests is not worthwhile. As long as they accurately reflect the style and difficulty level of the actual GMAT, they’re quite useful for additional practice. By the same token, you shouldn’t assume that any GMAT software product will be a reliable predictor of your performance on the actual GMAT. I’m not at liberty to make any specific product recommendations here, but keep in mind that some GMAT software products are better than others—both in terms of replicating the style and difficulty level of actual GMAT questions and in terms of forecasting your scores on the actual GMAT. So choose your test-prep software carefully.

Graduate Management Admission Test GMAT

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardized test for applicants who are planning to do an MBA or a PhD in Business Management or a Masters program in Finance, Human Resources etc. from a business school in US, Europe or Canada. Many universities in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore also ask for GMAT scores. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) under the sponsorship of Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) publishes GMAT. In India Prometric administers the test.

GMAT Eligibility

The US Universities require 16years education for admission to graduate studies. However if you have more than 3 years of work experience some universities may waive the 16th year requirement. For students with work experience between 0-2 years, the academic record plays a very important role. It ultimately shows how well you managed your time, resources and money as a student.

GMAT Exam Structure

GMAT Exam consists of following three main parts

1. Analytical Writing Assessment
2. Quantitative section and
3. Verbal section

Analytical Writing Assessment: The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section of the test consists of two essays. In the first, the student must analyze an argument and in the second the student must analyze an issue. Each essay must be written within 30 minutes and is scored on a scale of 0-6.

Quantitative Section: The quantitative section consists of 37 multiple choice questions, which must be answered within 75 minutes. There are two types of questions: problem solving and data sufficiency. The quantitative section is scored from 0 to 60 points. This sections consists of

* Problem Solving
* Data Sufficiency

Verbal Section: The verbal section consists of 41 multiple choice questions, which must be answered within 75 minutes. There are three types of questions: sentence correction, critical reasoning and reading comprehension. The verbal section is scored from 0 to 60 points. This section consists of

* Sentence Correction
* Critical Reasoning
* Reading Comprehension

GMAT Registration
You can register in four ways - (i) Online Registration (ii) Registering by Phone (iii) Registering by Fax (iv) Registering by Mail/Courier. You can take GMAT any day, throughout the year, (except on holidays and weekends - Saturdays and Sundays). In India, you can register by telephone or fax or mail at Prometric Testing (P) Ltd., Senior Plaza 160-A, Gautam Nagar, Yusuf Sarai, Behind Indian Oil Building, New Delhi 110 049, TEL : 011- 26512114/26531442, Fax: 265229741, Or online on

GMAT Exam Cost
US$ 250* (Includes fee for reporting scores to 5 universities). Additional Score Report: US$ 28* per university. You will incur taxes when you schedule an exam in certain countries. Preferred Forms of Payment By credit card (Visa®, MasterCard®, American Express®, or JCB®); Debit card (Visa® or MasterCard® only); By cashier’s check (mailed forms only); By money order (mailed forms only); Personal check (mailed forms only); Payments by check must be payable in U.S. dollars and drawn on banks located in the United States.
*subject to change

Sunday, October 29, 2006

GMAT and Some tips for preparation.

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT®) is a standardized test used for the purpose of admissions to the M.B.A and Ph.D. programs offered by the Business Schools (B-Schools).

If you are planning to do an MBA in US/UK/Australia and other countries GMAT score is very essential to determine your admission prospects.

For the most of MBA aspirants, cracking the GMAT/CAT would be the prime goal. The GMAT is usually the goal for the more experienced professionals, who want to pursue an MBA later in their careers. People attempt CAT within the first 2-3 years after their bachelor degree. A fact is that CAT requires very high Math Skills, and within the first couple of years after passing out, there is a better chance that you will remember the complex calculus that you learnt in college. There are other reasons, more professional ones as well, for this pattern.

About the test:

Quantitative (simple math), English grammar, and Essay writing are the main three competencies tested in GMAT. It is nearly 4 hour long and it’s pretty exhaustive.

Data sufficiency and Problem Solving questions are mingled throughout the quantitative section, and Sentence Correction, Reading Comprehension, and Critical Reasoning questions are mingled throughout the verbal section.

1) The Quantitative section tests the students for basic mathematical thinking. This does not require complex techniques, but tests your ability to understand the problem and solve it using simple techniques. Since GMAT is a Computer Adaptive test, the difficulty level keeps increasing with each correct answer. However, even the most difficult questions on the GMAT Math section should not be too tough. At worst, it could take you a few extra minutes to solve. And it is up to your time management skills to decide whether you want to spend that extra 3 minutes trying to solve a tough probability question, or simply move on with an intelligent guess. In short, you can’t go wrong too much on this section if you were a fairly decent student in high school. A scaled score of around 45/60 is considered decent in this section, although most Asian students score higher than this.

2) The Verbal/English section tests the student on his/her grammar, comprehension and reasoning skills. This section comprises of three types of questions: Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension.

a) Sentence Correction requires a very sound understanding of the constructs of the English language and tests your ability to identify and correct very inconspicuous errors in sentences. In fact, some questions don’t even have any errors in them, and you are expected to select the answer which is most correct (since all answers are grammatically correct). These questions might prove very tricky for Indian students due to the liberal use of Hinglish and other vernacular corruptions of English in our daily lives.

b) Critical Reasoning comprises of a small argument, followed by one or two questions that test your reasoning ability. Every word in the argument should be carefully read and understood in order to be able to answer these types of questions. Not an easy cup of tea unless one carefully trains one’s brain to capture each and every detail.

c) Reading Comprehension questions usually comprise of a medium sized passage, followed by 4-5 questions based on the passage. The main difference between reading comprehension in GMAT and reading comprehension in other tests (TOEFL, GRE etc) is that in GMAT, most questions are based on inference and anticipation. Questions based on actual details found in the passage are very few. Consequently, no single technique can be completely successful for GMAT reading comprehension. From my personal experience, the best approach is to improve reading speed since other techniques like skimming, reading questions before the passage, etc. don’t work some of the times. Speed Reading is a technique that cannot be mastered overnight, and requires intense practice. Normal Lewis’ ’’How to Read Better and Faster’’ should be a good book to improve reading skills. Please be warned that Reading Comprehension can be really tricky and could throw you off your timing. So be very careful not to spend too much time re-reading passages. It is very important to improve your comprehension and retention skills if you want to excel in these questions.A scaled score of 35/60 is considered decent in this section. Students with English as their native language usually fare better than others.

3) Essay writing is the third section on the test. GMAT requires students to write 2 essays on topics that are provided at the time of the test. One is an Analysis of an Issue (AI) , and other is an Analysis of an Argument (AA). AI requires the test-taker to analyze the issue given, and take a stance, and then support the stance with facts, opinions, anecdotes, examples etc.AA requires the test-taker to analyze the argument given, and weaken it by identifying the flaws in the argument. The test-taker will also have to provide the necessary assumptions in order to strengthen the argument.The section tests both for analytical skills as well as English writing skills. Sentences should be formed with correct grammar and punctuations, although concessions are made for some spelling mistakes.

The verbal and quantitative sections are multiple-choice and computer-adaptive.

Computer Adaptive: The GMAT is administered only on computer. Computer adaptive means that when you are taking the test the questions given to you will be according to your level of competence. i.e., If you get 1st question right, you will be presented next question which is more difficult. If you get 2nd question wrong the third one will be of lesser difficulty.

Here we have to note one important thing: Every wrong answer damages your score. In fact, the scoring in the test is so weird that if you get the first few questions wrong then take a word from me you can’t by any damn chance get a score above 550. It is impossible.

If you get first few questions right and then you goof up in the following few still its OK. You still stand a chance to get a decent score of 650 or above by doing well in the rest of the questions.


The scoring for the GMAT combines the Math and English sections, and evaluates the performance for a total maximum of 800. Scores in the range of 650 are considered decent. However, students hopeful of getting into the Top 15 colleges should ideally score around 700. The essays are scored on a separate scale, which is not a part of the 800 score. The 2 essays are combined for a total maximum score of 6. Scores above 4 are decent.

Some Tips for preparation:

GMAT is not a tough test if you have decent English and average Math. And that’s why scoring 600-650 is very easy for most Indians. Therefore, if you want to have a higher percentile, you need to score close to 700. But scoring around 700 is not easy. Take more and more full-length tests, to improve your chances of getting that magical score.

The best way to prepare is to join a GMAT coaching program. Or get books and CDs that coach you for GMAT.

The people who are weak in verbal part tested (most people with technical qualifications face difficulty in this section) should start memorizing the dictionary. Make your word power very competent.

People with difficulty in Quantitative skills should pay more attention to their Maths.

Polishing writing skills and presenting views is extremely important as in GMAT two essays are asked. One is Analysis of an issue and other is Analysis of an Argument. You are given half an hour for each topic. The topics asked are usually such that you will be scratching your head thinking of what to write and in the mean time your time gets over.

You have to take a simulated GMAT before the actual test. You need to practice the GMAT on computer to get familiar with the computer based format of the test and get the hang of the test. From you can download the diagnostic test for practice which is free.

You cannot give GMAT more than once in any calendar month. Its a rule. Also the number of times you take a GMAT is on the record.

GMAT is expensive; fees are $190 (USD) and other fees for other purposes like reporting of scores or rescoring of essays and the like follow which makes it really heavy on pocket.For an average person 2 or 3 months of a dedicated preparation with 3 hours of studies put in daily is enough to get a good score in the test. Some may require more time and some may require just 3 days depending on their grey cells!.

Suggested material for preparation:

1) Princeton Review for GMAT (with CD) - Has 4 full length tests and many small execrcise.
2) GMAT PowerPrep (can be downloaded from Has 2 full length tests and many smaller tests
3) Online tests at,,
4) Kaplan GMAT (with CD) - Has 4 full length tests and many small execrcise.