How to Analyze the Upgraded GMAT Enhanced Score Report

by , Jul 2, 2016

study_gmatGMAC has just launched a beta version of their Enhanced Score Report (ESR), with fantastic new data to help us figure out how to get better at taking the GMAT. Read on for the scoop!

First, if you have bought an ESR in the past and are feeling bummed right now, dont be. Just go download* your ESR again. Youll get all of the new data. (*You have to log into your account at mba.com and click on the Enhanced Score Report link next to the test result for which you ordered the report. An email will be sent to you; click the link in that email and youll get your new report.)

What is the ESR?

The ESR provides detailed data about your actual official test. If youre thinking about taking the test again, the data can help you to determine where you need to focus your studies.

The basics:

  • Costs $25.
  • Is available for any GMAT taken from October 2013 forward, as long as you are still within the 5-year window from the date of the exam (which everyone is right now!).
  • Is available even if you cancel your score!

What does the ESR contain?

Heres a summary broken down by section of the report.

  • Overview

The overall summary contains an overview of most of your scores (Quant, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoningthe only thing missing is the Essay score). It also details your average time spent per question for these three sections.

  • Integrated Reasoning

The IR summary also breaks down average timing by correct and incorrect answers.

  • Verbal

(Note: Im talking about Verbal first because it comes first in the report.)

Heres where we get to some great data. First, youll be told your Sub-Section Rankings: percentile rankings for each of the three verbal question types (CR, RC, and SC). If any two rankings are within about 10 percentile points, I would consider that noise; that is, the data is likely within the margin of error and you can consider your skills roughly similar in those two areas. A larger difference can indicate a true strength or weakness.

Make sure to pair those percentile rankings with your Sub-Section Time Management data, though. Ive often seen reports in which the percentile ranking for RC, say, is lower but so is the average time spent. If youre rushing something, one natural consequence is a lower performance, so check to see whether thats what is actually happening.

In the sample report posted on the GMAC website, the student scored an impressive 91st percentile on CR but just 46th percentile on SC. She clocked in at 68th on RC.

Before she decides to spend all of her study time on SC, though, she needs to combine the above with the timing data: did she bomb SC because she rushed it?

Nope. In fact, she rushed CR, averaging just 1:30, yet still did an amazing job. She can afford, then, to spend a bit more time on RC and SC, but she does need to draw one important takeaway: while she is naturally fast at CR, she should never push herself to go so fast that she hurts her CR performance.

I see this happen all the time: people spend more time on weaknesses and then rush their strengthsand drop their score. Dont do that! Its okay if your strengths are faster than the average naturally, but dont push yourself to go too fast and hurt your performance.

Broadly speaking, this student needs to concentrate on SC and RC for her re-take, while keeping up her skills on CR.

Now, on to the new data in the report, contained in a section called Performance Progression. First, we get Percent Correct by quarter of the test. How would you interpret this data? (Note: this is sample data provided by GMAC; if youd like to see the original source, the link is below each image.)

Image copyright GMAC

This student was doing really well for most of the section, but her performance took a nose-dive during the last quarter. Since the GMAT is essentially a where you end is what you get test, this would really have hurt her score. She has some time management issues or mental stamina issuesor quite possibly both. Thats important to combat before she takes this test again.

The next two charts are going to help us figure out whats going on in more detail. Heres the next chart in the report, Average Difficulty:

Image copyright GMAC

And heres the final one for verbal, Time Management:

Image copyright GMAC

First, take a look at her average difficulty. On a great test, youd want the average difficulty to start in the middle but climb higher right away and stay up there for the whole test. In addition, youd want the average difficulty of incorrect answers to be higher than the average difficulty of correct answers; in other words, you should be getting easier stuff right and harder stuff wrong.

In this case, that pattern holds for the first half of the test. Things get a little more muddled in the third quarter and the fourth quarter shows a big problem. She did get some hard ones right, but her average difficulty for incorrect problems plummeted, seriously hurting her score. If you get too many lower-level questions wrong, your score will be pulled down.

The Time Management data is striking. She spent a lot of time in the middle of the test and really had to rush towards the end. Now, were starting to understand why she missed lower-level questions. It looks like she messed up the timing. When you rush, you make careless mistakes.

Next, note something cool: when you look at the online version of your report, if you scroll your mouse over the pie charts, youll get an additional breakdown of the timing data: average time for correct questions and average for incorrect.

Open up the official sample report yourself, click on the Verbal tab, and scroll down to the Time Management pie charts. Roll your mouse over the 3rd quadrant of the test and look at the detailed data. Notice anything?

Wow! She averaged 2:10 on the ones she got right and 3:22 on the ones she got wrong! More than a minute longer per problem! And she got them wrong anyway!

Now, she didnt get a ton wrong; in that quadrant, she answered about 70% correctly and only about 30% incorrectly.

But imagine if she could have recognized that these problems were too hard and cut herself off around 1 minute or so. Shed have saved 2+ minutes on each one, and she could have used that time during the final quarter of the test. She might not have plummeted to 38% correct and knocked down her score.

If this were you, you would also want to think about how you were feeling mentally during the test. If you were experiencing any of the classic symptoms of mental fatigue, then youd know that mental fatigue likely contributed to the timing issues you had during the test.

Timing issues are really a product of faulty decision-making. Its important to use your Executive Reasoning skills to ensure that you are making appropriate decisions about what to do and what not to do.

  • Quant

The quant section of the report allows you to do a similar kind of analysis. Try that out yourself on the official sample report, then come back here and Ill tell you my analysis.

You ready? Lets do this.

This students DS performance is much higher than PS without spending a bunch of extra time; in other words, she has a true strength in DS. Shes also decently better at Arithmetic vs. Algebra / Geometry. My guess is that she feels fairly comfortable with the overall concepts / theory of the math but can stumble when it comes to advanced calculations. She can still get through DS using just the theory, but she falls short on PS, where she has to do more actual math.

Shed do well to study alternative strategies for answering more algebra-based problems: choosing smart numbers, working backwards, estimating, testing cases, and so on.

Next, I actually jumped down to the Time Management section. That was so useful in Verbal that Im anxious to see whether there were any big trends on quant, too.

And there are! Yikes: she had to spend just 1:07 per question in the last quadrant! Shes really lucky she didnt get a lot more questions wrong. And look at how much time she spent on incorrect questions in the 1st and 3rd quadrants. She has some work to do on learning to make better decisions about where to spend her time (and where not to).

Plus, she likely used up a lot of mental energy on those long-and-wrong questions. You still have the verbal section to come, too, so deciding to spend extra time on a really hard quant question has repercussions even for your verbal score.

In this case, the remainder of her detailed data doesn't contain any huge revelations. Her percent correct by quarter is pretty steady across the test; she didnt have a big drop in one quadrant as she did on verbal.

The average difficulty chart does show a big dip for incorrect questions, but note that in this quadrant, she only missed 14% of the problems. Thats probably just one question. (Note: we dont know exactly how many counted questions are in each quadrant; these reports strip out the nonoperational, or experimental, questions. At least, they do as of right now; the upgraded reports are still in beta.)

Speaking of beta

This is awesome data. But maybe youre looking at it and thinking, It would be so great if they told me

What is that thing you want to know? Tell them! GMAC really wants to hear from you.

In fact, if you have ordered your ESR, you will see that the online version has a big Take the Survey button at the bottom. It actual wiggles periodically to get your attentionthats how much they really do want to hear what you have to think. :D

And who knows? Maybe theyll take your suggestion and youll get even more useful data to help you figure out how to lift your GMAT score.

When and how can I order it?

Sometime in the week after you take the test, youll receive an email indicating that your ESR is available to order. Youll see the information to order right there on the mba.com website when you log in to view your official score report.

As I mentioned earlier, you will be able to order your ESR even if you cancel the test scores themselves. This is great news! Chances are good that someone who canceled is going to take the test again, so having this additional data can be really valuable in helping to prepare for a re-take.

Should I order it?

I would, if I were going to re-take the test. Youll have to decide for yourself whether you think the information is worth $25.

And I'd like to know what you think! If you buy the report, tell me what you discovered from the data. If you didn't, tell me why you thought it wasn't worth the expense.

Happy studying!