In the Fall I left the sunny climes of Northern California to travel to frigid New York City for the third annual GMAC Test Prep Summit. For those of you who are not familiar with GMAC, it is the organization responsible for creating, developing, and maintaining the GMAT test. The purpose of this conference was to inform test prep organizations about GMAT test taking data and trends-information we would then use to pass along to our students.
The GMAC Test Prep Summit was fascinating (for GMAT nerds like me), and the event featured many great speakers-the highlight of which was Dr. Lawrence Rudner, the head of research at GMAC. Here are some of the major points I took away from the event:
Invest Time to Prepare for the GMAT
There is a very clear correlation between amount of time spent preparing for the GMAT and your actual GMAT score. Bottom line: people that spend more time preparing have a much higher likelihood of getting a great score.
GMAC shared some interesting data to support this point. The following shows the percent of people who scored a 600+ on the GMAT by amount of prep time:
- 29.4% - 0 weeks of prep
- 40.5% - Less than 1 week of prep
- 46.9% - 1-3 weeks of prep
- 48.8% - 4-6 weeks of prep
- 57.1% - 7-9 weeks of prep
- 60.5% - 10+ weeks of prep
The lesson here is that if you want to get a great GMAT score, allocate sufficient time to prepare for the test. For self-studiers, I normally recommend a 12-week GMAT study plan.
The GMAT is a Decent Indicator of Your First-Year Performance at Business School
This takeaway should come as no surprise, but the GMAC did show an interesting chart correlating GMAT scores with first-year MBA GPA. The conclusions from the data are pretty clear-higher GMAT scores indicate higher first-year GPA. Business schools obviously seek students who will perform well in their programs, so that's one reason they look at your GMAT score so carefully.
One interesting point was made during the lecture-there aren't very good studies available yet correlating GRE scores with first-year MBA student performance. This makes sense because the GRE only recently became adopted (by some schools) as an alternate test to the GMAT. One hypothesis floated by an attendee was that admissions committees at MBA programs may still look at the GMAT more favorably than the GRE because of the verified relationship between the GMAT and GPA. This argument made sense to me, but take it with a grain of salt since this discussion was coming from a conference sponsored by the GMAC.
Get Used to the Official Guide for GMAT Review 12th Edition
Get comfortable with the beloved Official Guide for GMAT Review (OG) 12th Edition book. According to the GMAC product teams, there are no plans in the works to update this book with a 13th edition any time soon. The next release might not happen until 2013 when the next-generation GMAT will be released.
One point that was reinforced: practice with the latest OG books whenever you can. While the GMAT test format hasn't changed, the questions are slowly evolving over time. Thus, older OG books may not reflect today's GMAT questions as well. Personally, I think that you'll find useful practice from OG 10th Edition thru OG 12th Edition.
Myth: The First 10 Questions on the GMAT Count the Most
Historically, there has been lots of speculation made by GMAT test takers that the first few questions on each section of the GMAT determine your final GMAT score. This is a myth. Two takeaways from the GMAC conference:
1. Even if you start out missing some questions, you can recover later in the section and still get a great score.
2. Don't worry about this myth! Master your pacing on the test and finish-that is more important than getting the first couple of questions correct.
I can't reiterate the second point enough, about the importance of finishing the test. Dr. Rudner, the head of research at GMAC, showed the example of an examinee whose percentile score dropped from the 70th percentile to the 55th percentile simply because he did not finish the last 5 questions. Ouch!
Mac Version of GMATPrep is Coming Soon
As a recent Mac convert, this news made me particularly happy.
GMAC offers two free practice tests through its GMATPrep software (download at MBA.com). These tests are considered the best GMAT practice in the market because they feature real, but retired, GMAT questions.
Right now the GMATPrep software only works on Windows-but not Vista or Windows 7. GMAC wouldn't give dates, but they said a Mac version was in the works.
When I asked whether GMAC was ever going to come out with a web version of GMATPrep, they said that wasn't in the plans. The primary reason was that this software has to be accessible to test takers around the world, and many places do not have reliable Internet access yet.
GMAC is taking security very seriously. In many testing centers you will now have to get scanned using an advanced palm vein reader, so don't be tempted to ask your friend take the test on your behalf.
Additionally, don't attempt to search for live GMAT questions (i.e., questions currently tested on the GMAT) anywhere. Searching for live questions is likely a pointless exercise to begin with: even if you could find a set of live GMAT questions, the likelihood that you are going to actually see one of these live questions during your GMAT test would be quite small since GMAC's question bank for live tests is quite large. But the downside for getting caught is huge-not only will you get banned from taking the GMAT, and thus will never go to business school, but the GMAC may also prosecute you.
The GMAC has hired a worldwide legal team to crack down on cheaters. Avoid any temptation to seek out live GMAT test questions!
What Was Not Discussed: Details about the New GMAT
There has been some talk in the past few months about what the next generation GMAT would look like. The new GMAT is being planned for release in 2013. During this conference I was hoping for more details, but the GMAC wasn't willing to share much. It appears that the GMAC is just kicking off its research for the new test and is in the process of defining requirements.
Beat The GMAT will be one of the first communities to learn more about the new test as details become available.
There were a lot of other topics discussed during the GMAC Test Prep Summit, but I've covered the most interesting points for test takers like you.
Overall, I was really impressed by the conference and by the GMAC, which appears to be making a strong effort to collaborate with test prep organizations to disseminate accurate information about the GMAT to students. If you have any questions about the GMAT or the GMAC, please feel free to ask in the Beat The GMAT community.
About the Author: Eric Bahn is the founder of Beat The GMAT, one of the world's largest resources for free GMAT prep and MBA admissions advice. To read more articles on the GMAT and applying to business school, visit: http://www.beatthegmat.com