Trends in the GMAT
What follows is an analysis of test-taking trends in the GMAT based on reporting from students who took the GMAT.
Testing centers have been very strict. Test-takers were not allowed to bring anything into the exam room, including water or writing instruments. You’ll receive pencils and six sheets of scratch paper at a time, each with typed instructions. You’ll need to turn those pages in before you’re given more.
The test used to begin with a tutorial, in which you would be instructed on the basic keyboard functions. Test-takers have reported abbreviated tutorials, and in some cases there has been no tutorial at all. There is mounting evidence that ETS is working towards elimination of the tutorial; so you should be ready to begin your test after reading only a single page of instructions.
The GMAT begins with the Analytical Writing Assessment, followed by a Quantitative and Verbal section. You will get a 5-minute break after you complete a section. Approximately one out of every five questions is experimental, but you won’t be able to identify them, and you shouldn’t try.
The prompt for the issue task, which usually comes first, states an opinion on an issue of general interest. You must take a stand on the issue and support your view. The Argument essay requires you to critique an argument given in a prompt. The essays are scored by both a computerized e-rater and a human scorer on a scale of 0 to 6. The scores for the two essays are then combined into a single score. If the e-rater and the human scorer differ, another human scorer will establish the score. (ETS has recently reported that the e-rater and human scorer agree over 95% of the time.)
Since the AWA is the first section on the GMAT, even if you are confident in your writing ability, you should follow the Kaplan strategies and be prepared with a reliable approach to the essays—both to maximize your writing score and to build confidence going into the math section.
The Quantitative Section
Approximately two-thirds of the questions are Problem Solving, which are multiple choice math questions. The remainder are Data Sufficiency questions, a fixed format question type (the answer choices are always the same) that asks a question and requires you to determine whether two given statements provide sufficient information to answer the question. You should be sure you are comfortable with the meaning of the answer choices, which involve whether one statement, both, or neither provides sufficient information. Test-takers have reported that the Kaplan method for predicting what would be sufficient before examining the statements was extremely helpful in identifying potential traps and answering these questions efficiently.
Test-takers reported that the content tested on the GMAT was consistent with what they had studied in their Kaplan classes, a mixture of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and number properties. Many questions combined more than one subject area. You should expect to see a large number of word problems.
Based on feedback from test-takers, it appears that those scoring in the higher percentiles often see an increased number of combination/permutation, probability, and coordinate geometry questions. This was not true across the board, however, and you should not assume you are performing below par if you do not see these questions.
The Verbal Section
On Reading Comprehension, test-takers reported having at least one business-related passage, and others that were on a variety of topics, ranging from humanities to sciences. The passages were of various lengths, and passages appearing later in the section tended to be shorter. You will likely see 3 or 4 reading comprehension passages, and be asked 3 to 5 questions associated with each passage.
Critical Reasoning questions provide a paragraph-long stimulus, followed by a question. Test-takers reported that the questions broke down with assumption, strengthen/weaken, and inference questions making up the majority. You should expect to see a number of “EXCEPT” questions, such as, “each of the following would strengthen the passage above EXCEPT…” Test-takers found the Kaplan strategy of characterizing the choices to be very useful with these complicated question stems.
Sentence Correction questions provide a sentence, at least part of which is underlined. The answer choices provide a correction for the grammatical errors, if there are any, in the underlined section. The first answer choice repeats the question stem, and is correct if there is no error in the initial sentence. Test-takers reported that the grammatical rules tested were completely consistent with the eight fundamentals taught in Kaplan classes, including modification, subject-verb agreement, verb tense, and parallelism.