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First Steps to GMAT Focus Success

While the GMAT Focus is still largely a derivative of the classic GMAT exam, there are some key distinctions that have become apparent as we at MyGuru become more familiar with this new version of the GMAC flagship business school entrance exam. Understanding how the GMAT Focus Edition is scored and what it tests can help MBA candidates immediately improve their performance. Furthermore, familiarizing yourself with the nuances of the exam will help you to aim for the top of that now 805 scoring scale!

FInish each section

The need to finish each section of the GMAT Focus cannot be stressed enough. The test severely punishes not answering all of the questions in any of the now 45-minute sections. On any official or practice administration you will need to ensure that you select a choice for each of the questions to get an even remotely representative score. Not finishing any individual section is almost guaranteed to result in a section score in the 60s and such a result is likely to relegate a candidate to a sub-500 overall score regardless of performance on the other two sections.

A good way to ensure that you are able to finish any section is to follow what we like to call the 3-minute rule. As soon as you notice that there are fewer than 3 minutes remaining in any of the exam's sections, you'll want to blindly select a consistent answer for each of the remaining questions to guarantee that you won't be punished for not completing the section in full and possibly get one or two correct based on simple probability. Once you reach the final question, attempt it in full as a way to try and break your string of possibly incorrect answers. Then, with any time remaining you can take advantage of the new question review and edit function change up to three answers functionality of the GMAT Focus to review the answers you blindly selected (and change them as warranted) until time expires.

Not only will not finishing an official exam hurt your score, but not finishing a practice exam will also harm your ability to effectively prep. Each of the GMAT Focus Official Practice Exams doesn't even allow students to review questions that they do not attempt under time. So, always make sure to click through each section on your practice tests to allow yourself the opportunity to maximize the value of the attempt, considering you can only take each paid exam twice!

Attack weakness until it becomes A strength

One priority that the GMAC had in updating the GMAT was resetting the score curve to combat the score inflation that had the 50th percentile of the classic GMAT reach almost 600 before it was retired. Now, the 50th percentile is back at a 555 and the 90th percentile has been set at 655 as opposed to a 700 or 710. You can check out the full concordance table for classic and new GMAT scores, but the primary way that the GMAC achieved this new scoring curve is by deepening the exam's question bank and making it more adaptive.

So, what does this mean for when you take the test? Well, whatever problem you miss, you'll see another similar problem as soon as the exam determines that you are getting too far removed from that 50th percentile. On the quantitative section this could mean seeing three out of four exponential manipulations once you show an inability to factor. On the verbal section, it might mean three reading comprehension passages in a row, chock full of inference tasks. For the data insights section, it could manifest itself in a run of several consecutive time-consuming two-part analysis questions.

Ultimately, though, this scoring methodology is a huge opportunity for the diligent test taker. With the data provided both by the practice exam and official score reports, you'll be able to see exactly where you struggled on any GMAT Focus attempt. This information, if used wisely, will put you in position to avoid making the same mistakes again and truly separate yourself from the MBA candidate pack.

Section order matters (a little Bit) More

As has been the case for decades, the GMAT Focus is adaptive by question, so accuracy on one question in large part dictates the difficulty level of the next question. However, taking a cue from the Executive Assessment exam, performance on one section of the GMAT Focus does to a limited degree affect the starting level of difficulty in the subsequent section(s), so with every test taker able to choose any of eight section orders, it is worth a couple of different section ordering options in your practice exams to determine which arrangement is best for you.

Starting with your strongest section can put you in a better position for a high overall score. That said, it remains much more important to consider your own personal preference and whether you need time to warm up or want to leave a more personally engaging section for later in the exam when attention and focus may begin to wane. And whichever order you prefer, by your third practice exam, you should settle on a definite section order, because the only way to guarantee order affects your test negatively is by keeping your plan undefined on test day.

Be flexible on the Quantitative Section

For years, we at MyGuru have told every GMAT test taker that the exam is not a math test. It's a test of problem solving and logic that uses the languages of arithmetic and algebra. Now that plane geometry has been removed as a concept on the GMAT Focus Edition, this is truer than ever before.

Ultimately, the skill that is most rewarded on the quantitative section is flexibility in approach. Most of the word problems can be solved in more than one way, so when reviewing your drill sets, you'll want to consider more paths to a solution than just the provided technical explanation. Even on some of the purely technical manipulations, a bit of logical estimation can eliminate at least of couple of impossible options when the mathematic approach eludes you in the moment. Challenge yourself to find different methods and on test day you'll truly be in position to maximize your quantitative performance.

Force engagement through verbal prediction

On the verbal side of the exam, the key is to predict what each correct answer should do rather than blithely relying on cross checking through process of elimination. Remember that the GMAT is theoretically intended to evaluate skills that are beneficial as a business student, and proactivity is certainly rewarded in the classroom as well as the boardroom. 

The test knows that test takers will try to use shortcuts to avoid fully engaging with the critical reasoning prompts and reading comprehension passages, so the incorrect answers are built to be appealing by using recycled language in wrong answers. However, if you're able to properly predict what correct answers should do to address the verbal question tasks, you'll be able to accurately identify the right answers even when the language they use is broad and unattractive.

commit to a consistent study schedule

This tip isn't new, but it remains as important as ever. Studying for the GMAT is like training for a marathon. Quality and regularity of your practice is more important than sheer volume of study. Most students should not do more than an hour and half of GMAT prep at a time unless attempting a full practice exam. Of course, always make sure to fully self-review your practice after a break of at least a couple of hours and contact us at MyGuru if you want a top-notch tutor to guide your GMAT Focus journey!