Four GMAT Myths Busted

A lot of well-intended advice for GMAT test takers can be found out there. Unfortunately, some of the most reasonable-sounding and frequently repeated claims are actually false. In this article, our friends at Manhattan Prep look at—and debunk—four of the most common GMAT-related myths. Please note that in this article, the scores that we discuss are for the classic GMAT, not the new GMAT Focus.

1. I need to get 90% of the questions right to get a 700.

This part is true: someone who got a 700 on the GMAT probably got more questions right than someone who got a 400. However, the opposite is not automatically true: just getting more questions right does not increase your score. The GMAT scoring algorithm does not look at how many questions you answered correctly in a section. Instead, it looks at the difficulty level you have reached by the end of that section. You could reach the same difficulty level by missing a lot of questions or by missing only 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 are applying to and the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of your profile. Some schools want a high Quant score, while others care more about whether you hit a particular overall number. In some situations, Quant might be very important.

However, with respect 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 these two scores were reversed. Also, many candidates, especially native English speakers, find improving their Verbal score easier, quicker, and more fun than improving their Quant score. If you just want to earn a particular overall score, you might get there faster by focusing on Verbal. Do not leave points on the table by ignoring Verbal! Even if you are 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 creates the impression that the earlier questions are very important, while the later questions hardly matter at all.

However, that is not 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 is not based on the highest difficulty level you hit. Instead, it is 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 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 cannot answer quickly—even at the beginning of each section.

4. If I want a 700, I should mostly study 700- to 800-level problems.

Do not 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. To get the test to show you tough questions, you need to be very quick and consistent on the slightly easier questions. If you are not quite there yet, you will not even see the super-hard stuff—so there is 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 will not hurt your score very much, and attempting it could waste a lot of time. However, if you have spent a lot of time studying really tough questions, you will have a harder time making 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!

Manhattan Prep is one of the world’s leading test prep providers. Every one of its instructors has a 99th percentile score on the GMAT and substantial teaching experience. The result? More than 20 years and thousands of satisfied students. By providing an outstanding curriculum and the highest quality instructors in the industry, it empowers students to accomplish their goals. Manhattan Prep allows you to sit in on any of its live GMAT classes—in person or online—for free! Check out a trial class today.

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