Grab the CAT by the Tail

Many GMAT test-takers are often confused by how scores are generated for the test. Lots of this confusion stems from the seemingly straight-forward, but not easily explained, notion of a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT).

The confusion is pervasive enough, it seems, that GMAC often makes a point to clarify what a CAT is and does at various conferences, on their website, and on their official GMAT Blog. In a recent blog post, Dr. Eileen Talento-Miller provided some information about how CATs are designed and how they function in a way that even us lay-people can understand. Dr. Talento-Miller is a Ph.D.-certified psychometrician, and in many respects she does a sound job laying out the CAT basics in an easy-to-digest fashion.

The GMAT is A-Changin’

On June 25th a short press release from GMAC provided the first details on the previously announced changes to the GMAT that were announced late last summer. The press release coincided with the company’s Annual Industry Conference (AIC) in sunny San Diego, California. As is often the case, the AIC was a gathering place for the GMAC member schools and business school industry members. Our very own Akil Bello not only presented a workshop at the conference, but was also able to learn more about the upcoming Next Generation GMAT.

Here’s what we know so far about the new GMAT:

Making the Jump, pt. 2 – Higher Scorers

As we discussed a few weeks ago in Making the Jump Part 1, there are some general rules that everyone can apply to improve their scores or break out of the range they’re stuck in. For each type of scorer (low, medium, high), however, a modified approach would also be beneficial. In today’s post, we’re going to tackle some strategies that higher scorers can use to help them break through the often difficult 650 point barrier.

First, we have a testimonial from a student was able to break out of his range and get the higher score that would get him into the schools he wanted:

Evaluating Practice Tests, Part Deux: A Case Study

Any given GMAT score for an individual is really a specific value that can (and should) be seen as part of a range. What this means is that when you “think about” or “talk about” GMAT scores, you should do so in the context of a GMAT score range. To better understand what we’re talking about, consider that GMAC indicates the standard margin of error for the GMAT is 40 points, meaning that a person with a certain defined ability will score within 40 points of that ability from one test to the next (assuming no additional preparation between tests).

For more, see the following link:

Evaluating Practice Tests, Pt. 1: What NOT to Ask an AO

Because we are engaged in the business of preparing people for the GMAT, an integral part of their business school application, we often speak with AOs (that’s trade talk for Admissions Officers) about various facets of GMAT testing, among them the role the test plays in admissions.

Recently we had a conversation with an AO from a top 10 school that went something like this:

That Age-old Question: What’s a Good GMAT Score?

So you started preparing for the GMAT and you’re perhaps wondering, “What is a good score?” While there is no simple (or absolute) answer to the question of what a
“good score” is, here are two ways to evaluate your GMAT score and assess how much preparation you should do (or if you have taken the test already, whether you should apply with the score you have).

Personal Best Effort

Your personal best effort means you have done all you can to achieve your highest possible score. Defining your best effort can be tricky, but you must consider whether you have invested all the resources at your disposal to help you achieve your score. You will have to look critically at what you’ve done in preparation for the GMAT and what you could have done. You have to consider what you have invested (not just financially but also mentally) in preparing for the test, and whether that is all you could have invested.

The chart below shows the correlation between time invested preparing for the test and GMAT scores.

Q&A Goes Virtual

Today we’re thrilled to announce the impending launch of Bell Curves’ Virtual Q&A’s. The classroom version proved so popular and beneficial we’ve decided to move the party to the virtual world.

Now ALL Bell Curves students past and present can attend a weekly Q&A session regardless of where they are in the world.

Here are the facts on the new Virtual Q&As:

The Last Hurrah

Here are some facts, reminders, and strategies to improve the last couple weeks or so of studying until you face off with (and hopefully destroy) the GMAT.

In the last few weeks you should be winding down your prep and spending most of your time accomplishing a comprehensive review. You should review all formulae, rules, approaches, strategies, and personal notes from the very beginning of your book/preparation materials, and ensure that everything is committed to memory.

Undergrads, They’re Coming For YOU!

In order to encourage undergraduates to begin thinking about b-school and the GMAT (when they are better positioned to effectively prepare for it), the good folks at GMAC launched a marketing campaign called “Direct Your Destiny.” The campaign includes a web-based video campaign and other approaches aimed at increasing the number of GMAT test-takers from the undergraduate or recent graduate pool. I checked out the videos the other day, and in all honesty a couple of them are pretty funny.

While the videos are entertaining, the rationale underpinning GMAC’s pitch to undergrads has some significance. Based on the logic, many business majors or business-minded undergraduates should consider taking the GMAT, particularly if they’re pretty sure an MBA is in their future.

Here are a couple things to consider:

Making the Jump, Pt. 1

So you say you’ve reached a plateau with your GMAT scores? They’ve leveled out (or stayed level) and won’t for the life of you go any higher? You’ve been at it weeks (or months) only to see ten points here and ten points there? I feel your pain. Many test-takers find themselves caught in a similar place, and it’s a frustrating circumstance. The GMAT is designed to thwart score improvement. GMAC, which administers the test, seems to take a certain sadistic pride in touting its algorithm’s accuracy at determining one’s “true” ability on the GMAT, and even has research that shows the average retake score improvement to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 points. 30 little points! So what can you do to counter this trend? Let’s take a look in today’s post at some general things you might do to garner yourself a bump. In later posts we’ll return to this theme to look closer at people scoring at different levels to see how they might get themselves out of the GMAT scoring rut.GMAT-Retakers-gmac

1. Study differently — the old adage that “practice makes perfect” only goes so far. For a test as specific and regimented as the GMAT, a certain kind of practice is required. One of the primary inhibitors to improvement is using the same methods over and over and over again (it is this simple fact that often turns peoples’ “three-month study plan” into a year-long struggle). Here are a few things you might do differently:

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