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GMAT Myths Debunked

By Ajay Amar, Ph.D., May 2 2017 01:00PM

The makers of the GMAT devote parts of The Official Guide for GMAT Review to clarifying common misconceptions. For example, many test-takers believe, erroneously, that the first 10 questions of the exam count the most toward your final total score. (In actuality, the score is calculated from the difficulty of all of the questions that you answer; the exam's algorithm adjusts the level of difficulty as you go along.) This bad piece of advice, among many others, continues to be passed around on Internet forums, and the more that it's repeated, the more it's believed.

Where do these myths come from? Mostly from people's desire to discover a magic key to unlocking the exam's secrets, while reassuring themselves that they can beat the GMAT. And once repeated or copied without scrutiny by enough people on the forums, the myths attain a certain level of permanence.

Time to bust some insidious myths (other than the ones GMAC has already clarified). In this article, I debunk three myths that keep popping up more persistently than the Easter Bunny.

Myth #1: Engineers will automatically do well on GMAT quant.

Professionals with quantitative backgrounds – engineers, IT developers, bankers, financial professionals, accountants – often overestimate their abilities on the quant section of the GMAT. It is true that by virtue of their training, these professionals are strong in the “traditional math” aspects of GMAT quant – aspects such as computation and equation solving. However, on a multitude of GMAT quant questions, the “math” is only the last phase of a four-step process for solving the problems.

In Austin GMAT Review’s approach, we teach a four-step framework for solving word-based problems: Translation, Organization, Strategizing, and Solving (T-O-S-S). The key to solving word-based problems is to delay the Solving phase. Engineers and others with strong math backgrounds tend to jump over the first three phases and go straight to Solving. They usually end up disappointed, for the test is designed in a way that most attempts to quickly get to math, e.g., writing an “equation to solve the problem,” prove futile. But once you go through the first three steps, Translation, Organization, and Strategizing, the final step, Solving, becomes easy.

Truth: Take a lesson from the Tortoise from the fable The Rabbit and The Tortoise. Instead of relying on a fast start to get to the answer, adopt a step-by-step approach. That is the key to winning the race.

Myth #2: If you speak English well, the GMAT verbal section will be a piece of cake.

Maybe if you grew up next to Scotland's Loch Ness, you wouldn't be scared if a giant creature suddenly poked its long neck out of the water. You might be so familiar with the Nessie legend that you lose sight of the obvious: That's a monster!

It's probably been a while since you learned grammar rules, or paid attention to word choice and sentence construction. Unless you have a trained editor overseeing you, you likely have fallen into sloppy habits in writing and speaking. The GMAT takes advantage of these weaknesses. The exam purposely provides answers that sound "right" to your ear but – like a mermaid's song – will lure you away from the correct answers. Next thing you know, you've crashed on the rocks.

The GMAT tests you not only on the rules but also on your ability to understand and analyze what you've read. Does that sound easy? If you're like most people, you probably skim quickly through what you read; you probably multi-task. If so, you may find that your reading comprehension and analysis skills have atrophied. If you don't know what you're doing on the GMAT, you'll find your score has mysteriously vanished into the Bermuda Triangle, and you won't know why.

Truth: You don't bring a water gun to a fight with Godzilla. The GMAT will put your grammar, reading, writing, and logic skills to the test. Take your preparation for the GMAT verbal section seriously.

Myth #3: More Practice = Higher Score.

This myth, like a zombie, stubbornly refuses to die, because after all, wouldn’t practice make us better? The answer is – not necessarily, for your method of practice matters, and matters a lot!

Let's pretend I believe in leprechauns. Every time a rainbow appears, I run toward the rainbow's end in search of a pot of gold. I train hard and become faster and faster. Will I reach my goal of becoming rich in this manner?

Obviously, there is no such thing as leprechauns and therefore no stashes of gold, and perceiving a rainbow prism in a shower of rain requires one to keep a certain distance. I may practice forever, but my practice is based on flawed thinking. Similarly, if I am working through practice GMAT problems, and repeatedly going about my problem-solving in the wrong way (with faulty knowledge or inefficient techniques), I am reinforcing my mistakes. My practice is not helping me to reach a higher GMAT score.

In fact, unlearning bad habits is much more difficult than learning good habits. This is why I ask my students to stay away from random advice found on the Internet, and to stick to official preparation materials provided by the maker of the GMAT.

Truth: Practice makes permanent. Only practice with the intent of understanding and correcting your errors prepares you for the GMAT.

Preparing for the GMAT is like going on a snipe hunt. Just get out there in the woods and wander around, while banging on a bucket and making clucking sounds…no, no, no. Actually, I recommend that as you prepare for the GMAT, seek expert help. You may not be a gullible person, but it can be difficult to avoid some of the common myths and misconceptions that surround the GMAT. Get yourself a myth-buster, and save yourself a lot of time and confusion.

Austin GMAT Review is the premier GMAT test prep company in Central Texas, offering structured GMAT courses and GMAT tutoring to professionals preparing to enter full-time MBA or executive MBA programs. Austin GMAT Review caters to busy professionals who don't have the time to sort through masses of generic study materials. Meeting with an experienced professor face-to-face in limited-size GMAT classes, students receive the personalized coaching that they need and strategies to excel on the GMAT.

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