Q: I heard that the first 10 questions on the GRE/GMAT can make or break your score, since it is an adaptive test. Any merit to this claim?
A: No. None. This is a widely spread myth around GMAT circles and it is wholly untrue. Reason being, oddly enough, is the very one you cited for the rumor actually being true–it is an adaptive test. With adaptive tests, the scoring algorithm (which is far too sophisticated and closely guarded by its designers for anyone to claim complete knowledge of) take into account three things:
- The total number of questions correct.
- The pattern of incorrect and correct answers throughout each section.
- The number of easy vs. medium vs. difficult questions that one sees.
As such, you can answer the first 10 questions all WRONG–on both the verbal and quant sections–and still score in the 90th percentile. We know; we’ve done it! We have experimented with the scoring algorithm by taking GRE/GMAT exams using different scenarios and have determined conclusively that the first 5-10 questions have no more bearing on one’s score than any other segment of questions on the test. Ignore any GMAT/GRE forums that say anything contrary; there is likely other dangerous misinformation there too.
Q: I have taken the test twice now and each time I’ve scored about the same–waaaay below what I need to for my program of choice. And I’ve studied my ass off for months. Am I just not cut out for these tests? Heeelp!!!
A: Thanks for the question, believe me, we feel your pain. Though we teach mastery of the GMAT/GRE, we never claim to be fans of using standardized tests to measure human potential. In fact, we know that there are badasses like you out there whose strong suit is not standardized tests but whose passion and clarity of purpose would make you shine if accepted into your dream program. That’s why we’re here. We want to ensure that the GMAT/GRE is NOT what prevents deserving people from entering a program they know is right for them. That said, are some people better suited for the GMAT/GRE than others? Yes. Does that mean that you can’t still get a rock-solid score? No.
The disconnect between effort and result with these tests is most likely a result not of your lack of study time but rather how you are using that time to study. Most people try to capture every single piece of content that is presented on the test and so they cast a wide study net of every math concept tested, every grammar rule tested and every obscure algebra formula from high school. This is the wrong approach.
Twainstein’s curriculum was developed using the 80/50 Method–mastering 50% of the concepts to capture 80% of the questions on the test. Casting too wide a study net on these tests is anathema (good GRE word) to success on the test. Take heart in knowing that lot’s of our students have found themselves in the very situation you described–much studying with little to no results. Having an expert instructor walk you through not only how to study, but what to study, often saves you from spending months on end at Barnes & Noble reading every single GMAT book ever written with nothing to show for it.
If you have a question you’d like us to include in the (e)mail bag, send it here and you may see it answered in this column next month.