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Succeed on the Analytical Writing Assessment with Kaplan's expert strategies for approaching the computerized essay ...
Succeed on the Analytical Writing Assessment with Kaplan's expert strategies for approaching the computerized essay grader.
Prepare with quizzes for Problem Solving, Critical Reasoning, Data Sufficiency, Reading Comprehension, Sentence Correction, and a new, expanded GMAT Math Reference section.
Practice with a full-length GMAT, complete with explanations for every answer and detailed score analysis.
Score Higher with effective strategies and advice from Kaplan's expert instructors.
Even more practice online!
Chapter One: Introduction to the GMAT
Let's start with the basics: The GMAT is, among other things, an endurance test. The GMAT consists of 150 minutes of multiple-choice testing, plus two 30-minute Analytical Writing Assessment sections. Add in the administrative details, plus two 5-minute breaks, and you can count on being in the test center for about four hours.
It's a grueling experience, to say the least. And if you don't approach it with confidence and rigor, you'll quickly lose your composure. That's why it's so important that you take control of the test, just as you take control of the rest of your application process.
What's on the GMAT?
The GMAT begins with two Analytical Writing Assessment sections. For each of these sections, you have 30 minutes to type an essay into the computer using a simple word-processing program. The test may start with either the "Analysis of an Issue" topic or the "Analysis of an Argument" topic.
After the essay sections, there are two 75-minute multiple-choice sections -- one Quantitative and one Verbal. The Quantitative section contains 37 math questions in two formats: Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency, which are mixed together throughout the section. The Verbal section contains 41 questions in three formats: ReadingComprehension, Sentence Correction, and Critical Reasoning, which are also mixed throughout the section. Within each section, question types appear in random order, so you never know what's coming next.
Some important things to note:
• You'll get a five-minute break after the second essay section and another break between the two multiple-choice sections.
• So-called experimental questions will be scattered through the test. They will look just like the other multiple-choice questions, but won't contribute to your score.
We'll talk more about each of the question types in later chapters. The big thing to take note of right now: You'll be answering roughly 78 multiple-choice questions in two and a half hours. That's just a little less than two minutes for each question, not counting the time required to read passages. Clearly, you're going to have to move fast. But you can't let yourself get careless. Taking control of the GMAT means increasing the speed of your work without sacrificing accuracy!
Your GMAT Scores
You'll receive four scores for the GMAT:
• Overall scaled score, ranging from 200 to 800
• Quantitative scaled subscore, ranging from 0 to 60
• Verbal scaled subscore, ranging from 0 to 60
• Analytical Writing Assessment score, ranging from 0 to 6 (this score is separate from your overall quantitative and verbal score)
Because the test is graded on a preset curve, the scaled score will correspond to a certain percentile, which will also be given on your score report. An overall score of 590, for instance, corresponds to the 80th percentile, meaning that 80 percent of test takers scored at or below this level. The percentile figure is important because it allows admissions officers at business schools to quickly get a sense of where you fall in the pool of applicants.
SOME SAMPLE PERCENTILES
Percentile Approximate Score
99th percentile 750
95th percentile 700
90th percentile 670
80th percentile 620
75th percentile 600
50th percentile 530
Although many factors play a role in admissions decisions, the GMAT score is usually an important one. And, generally speaking, being average just won't cut it. Although the median GMAT score is somewhere around 500, you need a score of at least 600 to be considered competitive by the top B-schools. According to the latest Kaplan/Newsweek careers guide, the average GMAT scores at the best business schools in the country -- such as Stanford, Sloan (MIT), Kellogg (Northwestern), and Wharton (Penn) -- are above 670. That translates to a percentile figure of 90 and up!
Fortunately, there are strategies that can give you an advantage on the computer-adaptive GMAT. You can learn to exploit the way that the computer-adaptive test (CAT) generates a score. We'll explain how in the next section.
How Does the Computer-Adaptive Test Format Work?
The computer-adaptive format takes some getting used to -- in fact, it's pretty weird at first. Here's how it works. You will see only one question at a time. Instead of having a predetermined mixture of basic, medium, and hard questions, the computer will select questions for you based on how well you are doing.
The first question will be of medium difficulty. If you get it right, the second question will be selected from a large pool of questions that are a little harder; if you get the first question wrong, the second will be a little more basic.
If you keep getting questions right, the test will get harder and harder; if you slip and make some mistakes, the test will adjust and start giving you easier problems, but if you answer them correctly, it will go back to the hard ones. Ideally, the test gives you enough questions to ensure that scores are not based on luck. If you get one hard question right, you might just have been lucky, but if you get ten hard questions right, then luck has little to do with it. So the test is self-adjusting and self-correcting.
Because of this format, the computer-adaptive GMAT is structurally very different from a paper-based test. After the first problem, every problem that you see is based on how you answered the prior problem. That means you cannot return to a question once you've answered it, because that would throw off the sequence. Once you answer a question, it's part of your score, for better or worse. That means you can't skip around within a section and do questions in the order that you like.
Another major consequence of the GMAT format is that hard problems count more than easy ones. It has to be this way, because the very purpose of this adaptive format is to find out at what level you reliably get about half the questions right; that's your scoring level.
Imagine two students -- one who does ten basic questions, half of which she gets right and half of which she gets wrong, and one who does ten very difficult questions, half of which she gets right and half of which she gets wrong. The same number of questions have been answered correctly in each case, but this does not reflect an equal ability on the part of the two students. In fact, the student who answered five out of ten very difficult questions incorrectly could still get a very high score on the GMAT. But in order to get to these hard questions, she first had to get medium-difficulty questions right.
What this means for you is that no matter how much more comfortable you might be sticking to the basic questions, you definitely want to get to the hard questions if you can, because that means your score will be higher.
Section Management Techniques
In the chapters that follow, we'll cover techniques for answering various types of questions that you can expect to see on the GMAT. But you'll also need strategies for managing a section as a whole. Here are some strategies for attacking a section of the GMAT.
Because it's so important to get to the hard questions as early as possible, work systematically at the beginning of a GMAT section. Use scratch paper to organize your thinking. If you eliminate choices, cross them off and guess intelligently. The first 10-15 questions of a section are crucial in determining your ability estimate, so invest the necessary time to try to answer these questions correctly. You must, however, leave enough time to mark an answer for every question in the section. You will be penalized for questions you don't reach.
Draw a Grid
If crossing off answer choices on paper tests really helps to clarify your thinking (using a process of elimination), you may want to consider making a grid on your scratch paper before you begin the GMAT. Use it to mark off answer choices that you have eliminated, as shown below. That way you can tell at a glance which answer choices are still in the running. If you end up using it often, it'll be worth the 10 seconds it takes to draw a simple grid.
Of course, the last thing you want to happen is to have time called before you've done half the questions. It's essential, therefore, that you pace yourself, keeping in mind the general guidelines for how long to spend on any individual question or passage.
No one is saying that you should spend, for instance, exactly 90 seconds on every Critical Reasoning question. But you should have a sense of how long you have to do each question, so you know when you're exceeding the limit and should start to move faster. You'll develop this sense if you time yourself while working on practice GMAT questions.
Stop the Clock
The timer in the corner can work to your advantage, but if you find yourself looking at it so frequently that it becomes a distraction, you should turn it off for 10 or 15 minutes and try to refocus your attention on the test, even if you lose track of time somewhat. The GMAT rewards focus and accuracy much more than it does speed.
Don't Waste Time on Questions You Can't Do
We know that foregoing a possibly tough question is easier said than done; we all have the natural instinct to plow through test sections, answering every question as it appears. But it just doesn't pay off on the GMAT. If you dig in your heels on a tough question, refusing to move on until you've cracked it, you're letting your test macho get in the way of your test score. Like life itself, a test section is too short to waste on lost causes.
It's imperative that you remain calm and composed while working through a section. You can't allow yourself to be rattled by one hard question or Reading Comp passage to the degree that it throws off your performance on the rest of the Verbal section. Expect to find some difficult questions, but remember, you won't be the only one encountering difficult problems. The test is designed to challenge everyone who takes it. Having trouble with a difficult question isn't going to ruin your score, but getting upset about it and letting it throw you off track will. When you understand that part of the test maker's goal is to reward those who keep their composure, you'll recognize the importance of not panicking when you run into challenging material.
Analytical Writing Assessment -- GMAT Style
The GMAT begins with two 30-minute essay topics. You not only have to analyze the given topic and plan your attack, but you must also type your essays into a simple word processing program. If you aren't comfortable with complex word processing programs, don't worry. The only commands you'll use are cut, paste, and undo. There's nothing fancy here, not even a spell-check. If you're worried about having to type your essays, you should spend some time practicing typing and getting comfortable with a keyboard between now and the day of the test. A slow typing speed could lower your score.
Your essays will be graded by a human grader as well as a computerized essay grader, called the e-rater. But don't be thrown by this high-tech twist. The e-rater was designed to make the same judgments that a good human grader would make. Even though you don't have to reinvent your writing style to suit the e-rater, there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of getting a good score for the e-rater.
• Good organization always counted, and now it's more important than ever. Outline your essay before you begin to write.
• Keep in mind that the length of your essay is not a factor; the computer doesn't count the number of words in your response.
• Use transitional phrases like first, therefore, because, and for example so that the computer can recognize the structured argument your essay contains.
• Avoid spelling and grammar errors. Although the e-rater doesn't grade spelling per se, if it can't tell what word you were trying to use or thinks you used the wrong words, it could give you a lower score.
Strategically, assuming your typing skills are adequate, you don't have to do much of anything differently on the computer-adaptive test than you would when writing an essay on paper. You can write an outline on your scratch paper. You should spend about five minutes developing, 20 minutes composing, and the last five minutes proofreading each essay. For more tips on dealing with the GMAT AWA, take a look at chapter 11.
Navigating the GMAT: Computer Basics
Let's preview the primary computer functions that you will use to move around on the GMAT. ETS calls them "testing tools," but they're basically just boxes that you can click with your mouse.
Here's what the various buttons do.
The Time Button
Clicking on this button turns the time display at the top of the screen on and off. When you have five minutes left in a section, the clock flashes and the display changes from Hours/Minutes to Hours/Minutes/Seconds.
The Exit Button
This allows you to exit the section before the time is up. If you budget your time wisely you should never have to use this button -- time will run out just as you are finishing the section.
The Help Button
This one leads to directions and other stuff from the tutorial. You should know all this already, and besides, the test clock won't pause just because you click on Help.
The Quit Button
Hitting this button ends the test.
The Next Button
Hit this when you want to move on to the next question. After you press Next, you must hit Confirm.
The Confirm Button
This button tells the computer you are happy with your answer and are really ready to move to the next question. You cannot proceed until you have hit this button.
The Scroll Bar
Similar to the scroll bar on a Windows-style computer display, the scroll bar is a thin, vertical column with up and down arrows at the top and bottom. Clicking on the arrows moves you up or down the page you're reading.
Pros and Cons of the Computer-Adaptive Format
There are both good and annoying things about the GMAT's computer-adaptive format. The following are a few things you should be thankful for/watch out for as you prepare to try your luck on the test.
Eight Good Things about the Computer-Adaptive Test
• There is a little timer at the top of the computer screen to help you pace yourself (you can hide it if it distracts you).
• There will be only a few other test takers in the room with you -- it won't be like taking it in one of those massive lecture halls with distractions everywhere.
• You get a pause of five minutes between each section. The pause is optional, but you should always use it to relax and stretch.
• The computer-adaptive test is much more convenient for your schedule than the pencil-and-paper exam was. It's offered at more than 175 centers three to six days a week (depending on the center) all year long.
• Registering to take the computer-adaptive test is very easy, and sometimes you can sign up only days before the test. However, depending upon the time of the year and the availability of testing centers in your area, you may have to register several weeks in advance for a desired test date.
• The computer-adaptive test gives you more time to spend on each question than you got on the paper-based test.
• You can see your scores before you decide which schools you want to send them to.
• Perhaps the computer-adaptive test's best feature is that it gives you your scores immediately and will send them to schools just 10 to 15 days later.
Seven Annoying Things about the Computer-Adaptive Test
• You cannot skip around on this test; you must answer the questions one at a time in the order the computer gives them to you.
• If you realize later that you answered a question incorrectly, you can't go back and change your answer.
• If the person next to you is noisy or distracting, the proctor cannot move you or the person, since your test is on the computer.
• You can't cross off an answer choice and never look at it again, so you have to be disciplined about not reconsidering choices you've already eliminated.
• You have to scroll through Reading Comprehension passages, which means you won't be able to see the whole thing on the screen at once.
• You can't write on your computer screen the way you can on the paper test (though some have tried), so you have to use scratch paper they give you, which will be inconveniently located away from the computer screen.
• Lastly, many people find that computer screens tire them and cause eyestrain -- especially after four hours.
The following chapters of this book provide an overview of the different sections you'll encounter on the GMAT exam. But before you move on to them, take note of the GMAT Registration Checklist opposite. This checklist will serve as a useful resource for you when it's time to sign up for the test.
GMAT Registration Checklist
• For complete registration information, download the GMAT Information Bulletin from mba.com/mba/TaketheGMAT.
• The cost to take the GMAT is $225 (USD) worldwide (at press time).
• Register Early. Many centers have long waits, especially if you want to take the test on the weekend. Make sure to register early so you can secure the date you'd like. Also, make sure you know the application deadlines of the schools to which you are applying so you can take the test with plenty of time to report your scores.
• Identify Yourself Correctly. When you schedule your test appointment, make sure that the spelling of your name matches the name printed on the ID you will bring with you to the test center. If the two names do not match, you will not be allowed to take the test and your test fee will be forfeited.
• To take the GMAT, you must first select a test center. Each test center operates on its own schedule and can accommodate varying numbers of test takers throughout the day. To choose a location, go to mba.com.
Once you have decided where to take the test, you will need to schedule a GMAT appointment. If you are registering in the United States, Puerto Rico, or Canada, you may register online, by phone, by mail, or by fax. You will take the test in a quiet environment within an individual computer workstation.
Online: You may schedule a test appointment online if you plan to take the GMAT in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, or at a Permanent test site elsewhere in the world. Go to mba.com and register there. You will need to sign up as a user of the mba.com website before you can make your test appointment.
Phone: To schedule your test appointment by phone in the United States, Puerto Rico, or Canada, you must pay by credit card. You can:
• call (800) GMAT-NOW ((800) 462-8669
• call the test center directly (see the Test Center List at mba.com) or
• call (800) 529-3590, if using TTY
To schedule your test appointment by phone in all other locations, call your Regional Registration Center (RRC). Go to mba.com and consult the International Test Center List for your location and phone number.
• If you are Registering at a Supplementary (International) Test Center, you will have special registration requirements. The Supplementary test centers offer the GMAT as a paper-based test, and offer the test only once a year, so planning is essential. Please refer to the International Test Center Locations List at mba.com for instructions. • If you have questions about GMAT registration, contact ETS-GMAT Customer Service at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) GMAT-NOW. Copyright © 2004 by Kaplan, Inc.
Excerpted from Kaplan GMAT 2005 by Kaplan Copyright © 2004 by Kaplan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
• If you are Registering at a Supplementary (International) Test Center, you will have special registration requirements. The Supplementary test centers offer the GMAT as a paper-based test, and offer the test only once a year, so planning is essential. Please refer to the International Test Center Locations List at mba.com for instructions.
• If you have questions about GMAT registration, contact ETS-GMAT Customer Service at email@example.com or call (800) GMAT-NOW.
Copyright © 2004 by Kaplan, Inc.