There’s a lot of well-meaning advice for GMAT test takers out there. Unfortunately, some of the most reasonable-sounding and frequently-repeated claims are actually false. In this article, our friends at Manhattan GMAT look at four of the most common GMAT myths, and what you should do instead.
1. I need to get 90% of the questions right to get a 700.
It’s true, somebody who got a 700 on the GMAT probably got more questions right than somebody who got a 400. However, the opposite isn’t true: just getting more questions right doesn’t increase your score. The GMAT scoring algorithm doesn’t look at how many questions you answered correctly in a section. Instead, it looks at the difficulty level you’ve reached by the end of that section. You could reach the same difficulty level by missing a lot of questions, or by only missing a few, depending on where in the test you miss them and whether you finish the section on time. Check out this article for more info on what your GMAT score really means.
2. Quant is more important than Verbal.
This is a tricky one. In part, it depends on the programs you’re applying to and the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of your profile. Some schools will want a high Quant score, while others will care more about whether you hit a particular overall number. In some situations, Quant might be very important.
However, when it comes to achieving a high overall GMAT score, Verbal is slightly more important than Quant. Getting a 90th percentile Verbal score and a 50th percentile Quant score, for example, will give you a slightly higher overall score than if they were swapped. Also, many students, especially native English speakers, find it easier, quicker, and more fun to improve Verbal than Quant. If you just want to earn a particular overall score, you might get there faster by focusing on Verbal. Don’t leave points on the table by ignoring Verbal! Even if you’re starting with a high Verbal score, an improvement of just ten percentile points can go a long way.
3. The first eight problems in each section are the most important.
Like most GMAT myths, this one has a kernel of truth to it. As you work through each section of the GMAT, the test will get harder when you answer a question correctly, and easier when you answer a question incorrectly. These difficulty changes are larger at the beginning of the section than at the end. This makes it seem as if the earlier questions are very important, while the later questions hardly matter at all.
However, that isn’t really the case. Getting the first eight questions right would cause your GMAT to rapidly increase in difficulty, up to the maximum level. However, your score isn’t based on the highest difficulty level you hit. Instead, it’s based on the difficulty level at the end of the test. A strong start is nice, but spending extra time on the early problems means having very little time to answer hard problems later on. You might even run out of time at the end, which carries a hefty score penalty. So, if you can answer all of the early questions correctly and quickly, go for it. Otherwise, work at a steady pace throughout the test, and proactively guess on hard questions that you can’t answer quickly—even at the beginning of each section.
4. If I want a 700, I should mostly study 700-800 level problems.
Don’t base the problems you study on the score you want. Instead, base your studies on your current ability level. When you take the GMAT, the difficulty of the test will change depending on your performance. In order to get the test to show you tough questions, you need to be very quick and consistent on the slightly easier questions. If you aren’t quite there yet, you won’t even see the super-hard stuff—so there’s no point in studying it just yet.
In fact, spending a lot of energy on studying hard material can be counterproductive. If you see a very hard question on test day, the best move is often to proactively guess on it: missing a hard question won’t hurt your score very much, and attempting it could waste a lot of time. However, if you’ve spent a lot of time studying really tough questions, it’ll be harder to make yourself guess on them when you need to. Instead, study the questions that will really help you on test day: the ones right at or slightly above your level, or easier questions in areas that tend to trip you up. Happy studying!
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