6 Key Takeaways from the GMAT Test Prep Summit 2013

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Yesterday some members of the Aristotle Prep team had the pleasure of attending the GMAT Test Prep Summit conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) at New Delhi, India. This is the first such summit for this year and the fact that the GMAC has started off with India shows how seriously it is taking the Indian market for the exam. There were several interesting and informative nuggets of information (most of them came from Dr Larry Rudner, but of course) that we will be discussing over the next few days.
To start with, here are some key takeaways for you from this summit:

1. "The IR section will become increasingly important in the coming admission cycle so ask your students to not take it lightly" - Dr Larry Rudner

2. "The OG does not contain the best questions. Remember that the OG contains questions that have been 'retired' from the test. Do not over analyse the OG" - Dr Larry Rudner
Dr. Rudner's comment is extremely crucial in light of the fact that most students and experts alike regard the OG as the be all and end all of GMAT preparation. We had a long discussion with Dr Rudner offline as well and we'll post more of his views and our conclusions on how to use the OG, especially the explanations contained in the OG, in a comprehensive article in the next few days.

3. Experimental questions on the actual GMAT (Dr. Rudner refers to these as 'operational' questions btw) do not come at the beginning or towards the end of the test. They are typically scattered in the middle. Dr Rudner refused to divulge the number of these questions students are likely to see on the GMAT.

4. Dr. Rudner has finally revealed how the penalty is calculated for leaving questions unattempted at the end of a section. We'll cover this is in a separate article subsequently but needless to say, it is a bad idea to leave questions unattempted in the test.

5. GMATPrep version 2.2 will be launched in March 2013. It will have added functionalities such as the ability to make your own practice sets by selecting high, medium, and low difficulty questions. It'll also have a live timer function that will tell you, while you are taking the test, whether you are within the recommended time limit for a particular question or whether you have exceeded this limit.

6. Lastly and most importantly, the GMAC will be releasing a separate GMAT practice exam pack later this year that will contain an additional 2-3 full length CATs. This will be a paid product that students will have to purchase from the GMAT website. Over the years it has been a common complaint of students that the 2 full length tests that come as part of the GMATPrep are not enough and that they need more practice tests that use the actual GMAT algorithm. Finally the GMAC has heeded your views! This exam pack is expected to be release in the 3rd quarter of this year.
These were just some of the quick takeaways from the summit. We'll be posting detailed articles on these and other important learnings from the summit over the next few days.

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by [email protected] » Sat Feb 23, 2013 11:18 am
Thanks for the info!
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by vomhorizon » Mon Feb 25, 2013 7:25 pm
GMATPrep version 2.2 will be launched in March 2013. It will have added functionalities such as the ability to make your own practice sets by selecting high, medium, and low difficulty questions. It'll also have a live timer function that will tell you, while you are taking the test, whether you are within the recommended time limit for a particular question or whether you have exceeded this limit.
Thanks for the information. Did he say anything about whether their would be an increased number of free practice questions that come with the new software compared to the older 2.0 version? From what i get, the new version would probably have the same features as question pack 1 but with lesser amount of questions.
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by AristotlePrep » Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:43 am
vomhorizon wrote:
Thanks for the information. Did he say anything about whether their would be an increased number of free practice questions that come with the new software compared to the older 2.0 version? From what i get, the new version would probably have the same features as question pack 1 but with lesser amount of questions.
Dr Rudner didn't mention whether the number of free practice questions in GMATPREP 2.2 will increase or not but you're right that it doesn't look likely that the number of questions will increase significantly, if at all.

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by brianlange77 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:58 pm
AristotlePrep wrote:1. "The IR section will become increasingly important in the coming admission cycle so ask your students to not take it lightly" - Dr Larry Rudner

2. "The OG does not contain the best questions. Remember that the OG contains questions that have been 'retired' from the test. Do not over analyse the OG" - Dr Larry Rudner
Dr. Rudner's comment is extremely crucial in light of the fact that most students and experts alike regard the OG as the be all and end all of GMAT preparation. We had a long discussion with Dr Rudner offline as well and we'll post more of his views and our conclusions on how to use the OG, especially the explanations contained in the OG, in a comprehensive article in the next few days.

3. Experimental questions on the actual GMAT (Dr. Rudner refers to these as 'operational' questions btw) do not come at the beginning or towards the end of the test. They are typically scattered in the middle. Dr Rudner refused to divulge the number of these questions students are likely to see on the GMAT.

4. Dr. Rudner has finally revealed how the penalty is calculated for leaving questions unattempted at the end of a section. We'll cover this is in a separate article subsequently but needless to say, it is a bad idea to leave questions unattempted in the test.
I'm struck by these comments -- call me crazy, but there is nothing newsworthy or valuable in any of these first four points.

1. Yes -- and when admissions officers also share that commentary, the market will agree.
2. Does anyone truly believe that the OG was made up of the 'best' questions? They're just old questions from the test library -- neither good nor bad... just what they are.
3. We shouldn't be worrying about experimental questions in any form.
4. This is like finding out how painful death will be if your parachute doesn't open when skydiving -- we know it's bad... and ideally, we want to make sure that doesn't happen. DON'T LEAVE QUESTIONS BLANK.
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by Ian Stewart » Wed Feb 27, 2013 4:04 am
brianlange77 wrote:
I'm struck by these comments -- call me crazy, but there is nothing newsworthy or valuable in any of these first four points.

1. Yes -- and when admissions officers also share that commentary, the market will agree.
2. Does anyone truly believe that the OG was made up of the 'best' questions? They're just old questions from the test library -- neither good nor bad... just what they are.
3. We shouldn't be worrying about experimental questions in any form.
4. This is like finding out how painful death will be if your parachute doesn't open when skydiving -- we know it's bad... and ideally, we want to make sure that doesn't happen. DON'T LEAVE QUESTIONS BLANK.
I don't really agree with your take on these things, besides perhaps your comment about the IR section.

2. I certainly think the OG is made up of the best questions that you can find in a book. There are better questions in GMATPrep and GMATFocus (since those questions are more recent, for the most part), but there is no prep company book which contains better questions than the OG. I don't think you can reasonably say OG questions are 'neither good nor bad'. They were good enough to appear on the GMAT, and real GMAT questions are held to exacting standards - the questions simply have to be good.

What I suspect Lawrence Rudner was cautioning against was drawing specific conclusions about the GMAT from the questions in the OG. So, for example, the content balance in the OG may not perfectly reflect the content balance of the actual test. Or it may be the case that the OG does not give a fair reflection of the difficulty level of current GMAT questions, at least at the higher end of the test. But I can't see how anyone could say the questions are bad.

3. The way in which experimental questions are used is something I think should be of concern at least to GMAT experts, if only so experts can correct the misinformation you so often see about how experimental questions are used. Some people develop test-taking strategies based on a misunderstanding of how experimental questions work. I want to have actual facts, and not just speculation, to use to correct those misunderstandings.

4. First, it's never been a mystery how the penalty for unanswered questions is applied. The OG even explains it; it's a simple proportional penalty. So the OP is quite misleading in claiming that some GMAT secret has finally been revealed. Second, it is simply not true that test takers should never leave questions blank and many sources overstate the importance of finishing the test at all costs. There's an official GMAC research report that discusses this very issue. It turns out that sometimes by guessing randomly at the last few questions, you lose more by getting those questions wrong than you would if you hadn't finished the test at all. Because question selection is unpredictable (sometimes the last few questions will be easy, and guessing those incorrectly hurts a test taker a lot), it's impossible to say, on a particular test, whether guessing randomly just to finish is a good idea or not unless you know the exact characteristics of the questions the test taker will guess at. But for higher level test takers, finishing the test is much more important than it is for lower level test takers, who might actually be worse off by guessing in order to finish.
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by rishi raj » Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:57 am
brianlange77 wrote: I'm struck by these comments -- call me crazy, but there is nothing newsworthy or valuable in any of these first four points.

1. Yes -- and when admissions officers also share that commentary, the market will agree.
2. Does anyone truly believe that the OG was made up of the 'best' questions? They're just old questions from the test library -- neither good nor bad... just what they are.
3. We shouldn't be worrying about experimental questions in any form.
4. This is like finding out how painful death will be if your parachute doesn't open when skydiving -- we know it's bad... and ideally, we want to make sure that doesn't happen. DON'T LEAVE QUESTIONS BLANK.
I agree with Ian here and don't subscribe to your views too. I think it's always good for the community if misconceptions are cleared time and again. You are a GMAT expert so you would obviously know all the things but students prepping here are unfortunately not experts so most of the things are new for them. The more insights, the better it is for the community :)
And i think schools may or maynot take IR seriously this year; that's for the schools to decide but at least we shouldn't ignore IR now-that's what point 1 was about i guess.
Last edited by rishi raj on Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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by vomhorizon » Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:18 am
And i think schools may or maynot take IR seriously this year; that's for the schools to decide but at least we shouldn't ignore IR now-that's what point 1 was about i guess.
I think what brian was alluding to was the fact that the importance of the IR section would be based upon what the Adcoms and individual programs think of it rather then what GMAC thinks. Of course, the GMAC thinks that it is a GREAT THING however how important such a section is , depends not on GMAC but on the adcoms that use it. Because the percentage of applicants that have taken the GMAT before the IR was introduced would still be relatively high this year it is unlikely that the IR will be considerably more important this year compared to last year. Having said that, i agree, no section of the GMAT should be neglected.
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by brianlange77 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:43 pm
Dramatic misinterpretation of my first reply in this thread.

RE: point 1 -- Didn't say to ignore IR. Simply said -- when we have a clearer signal that ultimate decision makers are more heavily relying upon IR, the market will respond accordingly.

RE: point 2 -- My comment was simply to say that the problems in the OG are retired test problems. That is fact. They are an important tool in prepping for the exam, but they are not an exam. They're retired problems from the test library. No judgment implied, other than perhaps surprise that students were relying upon the OG as a higher power.

Re: point 3 -- Should have provided more context to my comment. If a student is taking the exam and evaluating their likelihood of getting into b-school on a question by question basis because of their own perceived notion of whether or not a question has become harder/easier -- then that student has been poorly guided in preparing for the exam. IMHO, The best way to think about experimental questions is to know that they exist, and then not really worry about it again. Because there is NOTHING that a student can do about it. And any attempt to 'adjust' will not end well. Just as macroeconomic indicators show us the downside risk in trying to "Fight the Fed", IMHO, there's nothing but downside if a student is trying to develop a strategy 'around' experimental questions. Hence -- we (general student test taking population) shouldn't worry about experimental questions.
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by brianlange77 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:49 pm
Regarding point 4 -- I think we open up a dangerous Pandora's Box there. The guidance I've always given to my students, and basically mirrored out of the GMAC report's conclusion is "Answer the questions to the best of your ability within a reasonable amount of time, to allow ample opportunity to give thought to every question."

No one should disagree with that.

https://www.gmac.com/~/media/Files/gmac/ ... ssWhat.pdf
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by Tommy Wallach » Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:18 pm
Yes, my understanding is that leaving questions blank (i.e. with the old strategy of devoting more time to the front) is a bad strategy at any reasonable test score level, and so it would be irresponsible to give any advice other than "Don't leave questions blank."

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by [email protected] » Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:34 pm
Ian Stewart wrote: It turns out that sometimes by guessing randomly at the last few questions, you lose more by getting those questions wrong than you would if you hadn't finished the test at all. Because question selection is unpredictable (sometimes the last few questions will be easy, and guessing those incorrectly hurts a test taker a lot), it's impossible to say, on a particular test, whether guessing randomly just to finish is a good idea or not unless you know the exact characteristics of the questions the test taker will guess at. But for higher level test takers, finishing the test is much more important than it is for lower level test takers, who might actually be worse off by guessing in order to finish.
Ian is correct in his analysis of the "proportionality-based scoring"! It is statistically possible that you can end up being penalized more answering the questions incorrectly than leaving them blank. The factors at play here are:

1. The number of questions left

2. The accuracy of your previous responses

3. The accuracy of the rest of your responses (i.e. while you are guessing)

Having said that, it is just a theoretically POSSIBLE but definitely not RECOMMENDED.

The probability that you will be penalized more severely for leaving out questions >> The probability that you may end up scoring better by that strategy. So for all practical purposes, given the data we know students should always be advised to guess and complete the test.

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by [email protected] » Thu Feb 28, 2013 9:34 am
This was a great writeup. I'll be interested to see how much GMAC revealed about exactly how the penalty for not finishing is calculated. In the meantime, GMAC has given some pretty specific guidance in the past about what a student should do towards the end of the exam, when time starts to run out:

https://officialgmat.mba.com/2009/09/17/ ... -guessing/