At Kaplan, we’ve been working with standardized tests for years. Through this experience, we continue to see trends and patterns. The GMAT is fundamentally different from other standardized tests – the test is a competency based test: Meaning that the GMAT isn’t testing your quantitative facility, it is testing your ability to deal with certain situations – situations that are repeated test administration after test administration. As part of our new GMAT program, we re-tooled our course around a set of core competencies. These competencies permeate the test and are necessary not just for the test, but for business school and for success in the corporate world.
Competency #1: Critical Thinking
It is easy for a test prep company to say that the GMAT is testing your Geometry skills. It is easy to learn geometry – you already have in high school. However, do you believe that business schools actually care about your ability to manipulate squares and triangles? No. When I was a TA for Corporate Finance, we never discussed Triangles. The GMAT is testing your ability to identify innovative and creative approaches to solving problems. As you study for the GMAT, realize that simply learning content won’t get the score you want – learn the content and learn to apply it in creative ways.
Competency #2: Pattern Recognition
For the past six years, I’ve worked in the consulting industry. As consultants, we walk into different environments and are asked to solve complex problems. The key to success in these complex, fast pace situations relies on the consultant’s ability to see similarities to previous problems and solutions. The GMAT is also testing your ability to identify common recurring themes and topics. For example, 93 percent of all sentence correction problems fall into 7 definable categories. Knowing these 7 categories saves you from having to re-learn all the intricacies of the English language.
Competency #3: Paraphrasing
Have you noticed the difficult language on the GMAT? Some quant problems are convoluted. Many of the Critical Reasoning questions are difficult to fully grasp. However, most of the time, a detailed understanding of every part of these problems isn’t required to get to the right answer. It is important to be able to articulate the ‘gist’ of arguments, reading comprehension passages, and word problems in the quant section. The ability to summarize details and articulate the primary point is beneficial on the GMAT (so beneficial it is a core component of our course) as well as beneficial to your future career as a business executive.
Competency #4: Attention to the Right Detail
Have you ever got what you thought was the right answer to the quant problem but when you checked the answer, the answer was actual wrong? Unfortunately, the GMAT often contains many answer choices that are correct, if the question was different. The test requires that you pay attention to the specific question being asked. Additionally, as you work through Reading Comprehension problems, there are questions that direct you back to the passage directly and/or indirectly. Paying attention to the right details as you read the passage, improves your ability to get to the right answer on test day.
At the end of the day, the GMAT requires some content knowledge. However, this content is straight forward. The truly difficult part of the test is the unique and unexpected way the GMAT builds these relatively simple principles into difficult problems. Be sure to pair content with strategy – the most effective way to maximize your score.