Preparing for GMAT, a nightmare for the unwary
Published here on Express Tribune.
I will give huge credit to my previous university for teaching me one great skill … passing exam by just studying a couple of hours before the paper. I don’t know if it ruined me or blessed me but after nearly two years since graduating from university I find it hard to get back down and study with the same focus and zeal I had as a student.
GMAT, as it turned out, is not your run-of-the-mill exam and it can never be attempted successfully by rattafying (rote learning) the book. If you have a good memory, you might be able to do well in one or two segments of the exam, for the rest you’ll be out of luck. I cannot help but admire the examiners who constantly design and develop pitfalls for students using the simplest of tools. Many of the hardest questions can be solved through common sense while others with little bit of careful reading.
Sentence Correction may sound easy but believe me, we are not talking about spelling errors and simple grammar here. Sentence Correction alone is capable to bring you worst nightmares of your life. This segment deals with the “Science of English” where you would have to take apart the sentence(s), identifying subjects, objects, prepositions, nouns, pronouns, modifiers and idioms and checking them thoroughly to make sure you pick the right answer. We are quite adapt at “Feeling” English, checking how the sentence sounds and determine it as correct or not, a method which is sure to fail.
Don’t believe it? Let’s try a medium level question that I am reproducing from Princeton Review book and see if you can answer it.
Thelonious Monk, who was a jazz pianist and composer, produced a body of work both rooted in the stride-piano tradition of Willie (The Lion) and Duke Ellington, yet in many ways he stood apart from the mainstream jazz repertory.
Choose the best answer to replace the bold part of the sentence above. Answer choice (A) is same as mentioned in the question.
(A) Thelonious Monk, who was a jazz pianist and composer, produced a body of work both rooted
(B) Thelonious Monk, the jazz pianist and composer, produced a body of work that was rooted both
(C) Jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk, who produced a body of work rooted
(D) Jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk produced a body of work that was rooted
(E) Jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk produced a body of work rooted both
I hope the example above is enough to jolt some sense into the careless and unwary who consider MBA child’s play or have not seen world out of their frog well in which they happily crook their endless list of successes. If good universities world over are accepting students who score close to or above 600 out of 800 despite the fact that one can score about 450 without any practice at all, there must be a good reason behind their decision. The difference between 450 and 600 is just 150 but those who have studied for GMAT or have some idea would tell how much significant it is. For those curious about the question, the correct answer choice is (D).
The verbal section has much more to test apart from Sentence Correction and includes Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension. The Quantitative section tests your maths skills and one of their scarier segments is called Data Sufficiency.
The beauty of Data Sufficiency is that you don’t need to solve the question fully to find out the right answer and its answer choices never change. They remain the same for all Data Sufficiency questions, you only have to know how to attempt those questions and prepare your basic maths skills well (and also utilize plenty of common sense too). Let’s look at a Data Sufficiency question of Medium difficulty reproduced from Princeton Review book and see if you understand what I mean.
What is the value of x?
(A) Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked;
(B) Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked;
(C) BOTH statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question asked, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient;
(D) EACH statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question asked;
(E) Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question asked, and additional data are needed.
It might seem strange reading the question format, but the more you read it the more it settles down and makes sense. You have to read the statements given under the question and see which answer choice is the correct one. From a rough glance one can see that statement (1) alone is not sufficient and neither statement (2) alone is sufficient, so answer choices (A) and (B) are out of question, but I am sure that answer choice (C) seems attractive since both statements combine does give an answer.
If you chose answer choice (C), then let me congratulate you for being one of the normal people who have no idea of GMAT. For those who are curious, the correct answer is (E).
GMAT also includes (and the test begins with) essays, two of them in fact. The first one is called “Analysis of an Argument” in which you are provided an argument and asked to either support or defend it, in 30 minutes. As soon as you are done with it, the second essay starts titled “Analysis of an Issue” in which a statement is presented (which is an issue, obviously) and you are required to provide your opinion, again within 30 minutes. Each essay is scored out of 6 and is marked twice, once by computer and once by an actual examiner, then scores of both essays are averaged. So if you scored 5 in first essay and 4 in second essay, your final score will be 4.5 out of 6. Marks are always given as integers for individual essays and never in decimals like 3.5 or 4.5, only the final score could be in that form after both essays are averaged.
What more, nearly 30% of the total questions in GMAT actually have no answer. There are test questions within both Quantitative and Verbal sections that examiners include to see how the test takers attempt them and weather these question serve the purpose they have been designed for. So, if you get the test questions wrong but others right, you will end up with high GMAT score but if you got test question correct (hypothetically, since there is no correct answer) and other questions wrong, you’ll probably be cursing your luck.
Last but not the least, GMAT is CAT (Computer Adaptive Test) based exam. You’ll be sitting in front of the computer and answering questions on the screen. Each correct answer means the following question would be harder while each wrong answer means following question would be easy. I guess you can now understand how hard it is to score well on GMAT.
So this is a short introduction to GMAT and what it entails, a perfect trap for those who didn’t plan well for future, don’t work hard, didn’t put enough time and effort, don’t have any clue what to do with their life and particularly those who are over-confident and too full of themselves.