Most people who plan to take GMAT seriously take a few prep tests, practice tests or mock tests, whatever you may like to call them. Usually, the tests are taken to gauge one’s current level i.e. to get an approximate idea of what one would score if one were to take GMAT that day. Of course, they have other uses too – practice in timed environment, build stamina, identify strengths and weaknesses etc. Usually, these tests are fairly accurate (with an error of up to 40-50 points in the total score). A recent phenomena has been much lower score (especially verbal) compared to the prep test scores (not among Veritas Prep students though – I will explain the reason for this soon).
Today I would like to discuss possible reasons for this unfortunate phenomena and measures you can take to avoid this situation.
I cannot take credit for this discussion since the offered reasoning was Brian’s brain child. Nevertheless, I am putting up some pointers so that people are aware of these issues and can take remedial actions.
- First let’s pick up the problem with RC passages. A lot of test prep RC passages are old style i.e. long-winded 400+ word count passages using simple language. The newer passages are shorter and denser so they are more convenient but also more convoluted. It takes more time to read them through and everyone seems to get 4 passages (I have also heard about some people getting five but I cannot be sure. It seems less likely since it will increase the time pressure manifold. More passages will mean fewer questions from each passage which means your return on time investment in reading the passage will be lower).
- The official SC is getting tougher. If you are a memorizer, you might have gotten by on previous “memorize between vs. among” or “memorize such as vs. like” questions but now the questions are more reasoning-based (more questions based on accurate meaning). Not only do you need to catch grammatical mistakes, you also need to catch meaning errors e.g. which sentence conveys the correct meaning: “I will try and call you” or “I will try to call you”? I doubt some of the popular tests have caught up to this changing trend, so people are still practicing for older questions. Overall, the GMAT seems to be evolving faster than some popular practice tests.
- Another major reason is the new IR section. Many people skip the AWA and IR sections while taking mock tests (or they don’t take these sections seriously). But these sections, which account for one hour, sap people’s energy more than they realize and hence they lose focus and will toward the end of the actual test. Since the verbal section appears at the end, it suffers the most.
- A downside of being net savvy – if people spend a lot of time online discussing questions and solutions, they invariably come across lots of prep test questions (or direct rip-offs of prep test questions) and their variations. This inflates their prep test scores when they take them later. The actual GMAT questions are all new i.e. they test the same concept but in innovative styles. It takes some effort to uncover the concept they are testing and hence the actual GMAT score could be lower than the prep test score.
On the whole, the point is that actual GMAT is tougher than some popular practice tests. These tests have probably been the same for the past 3-4 yrs though the pattern especially of Verbal has changed drastically.
My suggestion going forward will be to adapt yourself to the new GMAT – shorter but denser RCs and reasoning based SCs. Try to get hold of some latest tests for two reasons – the questions would be better suited to the current GMAT and the questions would have novelty value. Also, web based tests are better than downloadable onse since web based tests are easy to update. Keeping these things in mind, Veritas Prep has created tons of new relevant questions in the past few months (they appear in our Next Gen Tests). Also, they have novelty value since they have not been discussed online yet and are web based so we keep updating them with new questions. Also, I have noticed that the scores given by these Veritas Prep practice tests are quite indicative of the actual GMAT scores. So if you are one of our students, we have already taken care of these issues for you (You may want to close this window now and call it a day.)
If you are not our student, you may get in touch with the practice test providers you use and ask them about the age and relevance of their tests in the current format. Take the score of only their latest tests (which are according to the changing GMAT pattern) seriously. Their older tests can be used for practice. Let me add an important point here – it is common knowledge that officially released GMAT questions are old questions (which appeared in GMAT a few years back), but they are a must do to acquaint yourself with the GMAT style so don’t ignore them. However, if you try out enough official questions before taking the test, keep in mind that your score in the official test will be inflated.
Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!