TAKING THE GMAT?
Your experience taking the GMAT examination will depend to a very small extent on your test center, because there are a few extraneous factors that can help or hinder your performance, for instance excessive noise, uncomfortable seating, poorly controlled climate, or other distractions. If you do experience such things while taking your GMAT, don’t accept passively: instead, complain.
The GMAT takes a long time. You can expect to be in the test center for around four hours. This is made up of two hours and thirty minutes of GMAT multiple-choice questions, plus the ‘issue’ and ‘argument’ essays, of thirty minutes each. You are allowed two breaks of ten minutes each, and administration information from the test center monitors will occupy a further ten minutes
Marathon or sprint?
The test is a marathon rather than a sprint. To do well in the GMAT you need to prepare for it just as you would prepare for a marathon: with training and practice. You wouldn’t do well on a marathon if you limited yourself to short fast training runs. Nor will you do your best on the GMAT if you limit yourself to short practice sessions.
One of the best ways you can take control of the experience is to regularly practice full-length tests until you are confident that you have the resolve and the stamina to confidently ace your test-day GMAT.
The GMAT Essays (known as the AWA: Analytical Writing Assignment.)
There are two essays in the GMAT: the ‘Argument’ and ‘Issue’ essays.
The argument essay:
The Argument essay requires you to discuss the ‘prompt’ supplied by the test maker. You are not supposed to take sides but to examine alternative points of view. This essay tends to be oriented around the concept of assumptions.
What is an assumption? It is the (usually unspoken) ideas that form the background to an argument. The GMAT appears to use a kind of formula, that is:
assumption + evidence = conclusion
Generally a GMAT prompt includes the evidence and conclusion; it is up to you to pick the argument apart by exploring the unspoken assumptions and examining whether or not the evidence is actually supported.
A simple example of the AWA ‘argument’ essay:
Company ‘A’ decides to locate to country ‘B’ because the bill for wages and salaries will be a lot less in country ‘B’, therefore increasing the profits of company ‘A’.
The evidence for the conclusion is that workers are paid less in country ‘B’ therefore since employment costs will reduce, then more profit will be made. However there are many unspoken assumptions that could negate that argument. One assumption, for example, is that the cost of transport of raw materials and finished goods will not be higher than company ‘A’ is paying prior to moving the plant to country ‘B’.
The ‘Issue’ Essay:
Whereas the ‘argument’ essay requires you to take a balanced viewpoint and argue both sides, the ‘issue’ essay requires you to take a point of view and justify it. Many people find this easier than the ‘argument’ style.
You will start the GMAT with the AWA assignment (the essays): that’s one hour of writing. Then you get a ten minute break. Use the break for whatever you like, but try to do one thing: prepare the scratch paper or scratch writing board for the multiple-choice questions that come next. By this, I mean doing things like writing down any useful formulae such as permutations and combinations, Pythagorean Ratios, and so forth, that are likely to be useful.
The Quantitative Section:
The GMAT Quantitative Section consists of 37 questions in 75 minutes, roughly 2 minutes per question. The questions fall into two types: Data Sufficiency and Problem Solving.
The Verbal Section:
The GMAT Verbal Section consists of 41 questions in 75 minutes, rather less ( 1 min. 50 sec.) per question than the quantitative part. While some questions are simple ‘fill in the blanks’ others require reading a passage and referring to it.
TAKING CONTROL of the process means USING YOUR TIME EFFICIENTLY. Work smart rather than hard! That’s the key. If you don’t practice with full-length sections and real GMAT questions, you will find, on test day, that you can’t properly pace yourself.
If you lose control of time you will find yourself unable to complete a section – and that’s pretty much fatal to your score as there’s a substantial penalty – or you are likely to rush through a section so as to finish on time, but find yourself with a high proportion of wrong answers and time left over at the end.