The GMAC Test Prep Summit

A few days ago the world had their eyes focused on New York City, where the biennial GMAC Test Prep Summit was held. Okay, so maybe the whole world wasn’t watching, but we at Bell Curves were, as were a great many others in the test prep community. Over ten hours, attendees were treated to a wealth of information (some new, some not) from GMAC, the company that develops the GMAT.

Presentation topics included world-wide GMAT testing volume and new developments for the test and its administration (by the end of 2009 every test center will require you to use the vein patterns in your palm as identification – and no, I’m not kidding, it’s called ‘Palm Vein Recognition’).

Also discussed were candidate demographics and the role of the GMAT in admissions. While all this stuff was interesting, of more import were the discussions about GMAT psychometrics, particularly test preparation and computer adaptive testing. Here are a few things you’ll probably want to know if you’re thinking about taking the GMAT:

Prep, Prep, Prep – most of us know we’re better off if we spend some time preparing for the GMAT before taking it. It is a vital part of your admissions application, and people who prepare score better than people who don’t. The statistics GMAC presented bear this out. Amazingly, almost one-third of all test-takers spend less than 20 hours preparing, and it should be no surprise that almost 60% of these people scored below 600. On the flip side, 64% of people who spent 101 or more hours preparing scored above a 600. The mean amount of prep time for those who scored between 650 and 690 was 114 hours. The lesson, as always: preparation usually equates to success and time on task matters.

True or False 1: The Test ISN’T Front-loaded. This one’s tricky, but ultimately deceptive. GMAC took pains to say all questions count and that it’s a myth that test-takers should spend the most time on the first 10 questions. Of course it’s true that all questions count, but GMAC’s own graphics and data indicate that some questions count more than others. We agree that people shouldn’t spend most of their time on the first 10 questions. But we also advise that people spend, on average, a little more time on those first 10 or so questions and a little less time on later questions. Of utmost importance is developing a personal pacing plan that has been honed through preparation.

1. Start strong but don’t overdo it.

2.Think in blocks not individual questions.

3.-Have a plan.

True or False 2: There is a penalty for not completing a section on the GMAT. This one is out-and-out true. Everyone should be aware that not completing either the Verbal or Quant section of the test will result in a significant decrease in your score (as much as 15 percentile points in some cases). What this means is that, as we advise all our students, your pacing plan and practice tests should always include a couple minutes at the end of each section to give an answer for any remaining questions you don’t have time to do.

There was a ton of other information presented (as well as whispers of the new GMAT coming in 2013), which we’ll bring to you in the coming weeks here at the blog. One last tidbit though: if you live in an out-of-the-way place far from a Pearson VUE testing center, look into the GMAT Mobile Test Center schedule, as the mobile testing bus may be rolling through a town near you sometime in the near future. That’s it for now.We’ll be back with more soon.

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