7 GMAT Myths
It's easy for a pre-MBA student to assume that the GMAT is similar to other standardized tests in form and content, and it is also tempting to believe what you’ve read about the GMAT online. In reality, the GMAT is its own unique test, and online GMAT resources are often full of misinformation.

1. The GMAT is an intelligence test

Have you ever wondered if there is a correlation between the GMAT and IQ? There is, but correlation is not the same thing as causation (a famous anecdote holds that a correlation was once found between the number of babies born in a German town and the size of the local stork population, but this does not mean that storks deliver babies). There are so many variables that come into play in the GMAT that it could not possibly be a true assessment of human intelligence (if such a concept can even be objectively defined at all) for an MBA student.

The GMAT is ultimately nothing more than a test of your ability to take the GMAT. The exam does require certain critical and analytical reasoning skills that make it quite a challenge, but it is not a final measure of your intellectual worth. The standard for GMAT quantitative and verbal skills is high, and you will need a lot of time to prepare, but you needn't fear a designation of having a ‘low’ IQ. Some researchers believe that IQ stabilizes after adolescence and that people do not have the ability to change their inherent intellectual capacity, but there is no evidence that this belief is applicable to the GMAT. Numerous studies have shown that scores can and do improve significantly with an effective study plan and competent instruction. In other words, your GMAT score isn’t predetermined. With the right test prep materials and resources, you can be confident that you will reach a satisfactory score.

2. The GMAT is a business test

Another misconception about the GMAT is that it is a test of business concepts that MBA applicants are expected to know. In reality, GMAT exercises ask you to simplify down to the essentials and demonstrate quick use of common sense (business knowledge is not required). Test writers want to see how closely you pay attention to the details as you work your way through a series of riddles and brainteasers.

Make sure you don’t complicate matters by focusing on counter-intuitive aspects of the questions, and beware of falling into your own faulty assumptions or experiences. Rely on your common sense; because it might not be as common as you think. Be encouraged by the fact that you can count on logic and reason rather than memorized content. The math on the GMAT is limited to the high-school level, and quantitative problems are primarily about how you apply the GMAT's foundational common-sense principles.

3. You should focus on getting the specifics right

Although it’s important to answer as many questions correctly as possible, you should never forget the broader context of the exam (and the GMAT actually gives heavier penalties for unanswered questions than for incorrect answers). Managing your time to make sure you complete all GMAT questions and sections is a favorable strategy in itself - don’t miss out on any opportunity to answer a question, even if you have to guess.

Difficult questions do carry more weight than easier questions, but spending too much time on a challenging problem may ultimately cost you more points than timely answers to three easier questions. The bigger picture is the highest score you can achieve, and speed is just as important as accuracy.

4. A month is enough to prepare for the GMAT

Procrastination is never helpful. The more you delay studying at a consistent pace, the more likely it is to hurt you. At least two to three months of full concentration are necessary in order to see substantial score improvements.

The GMAT is a skills test, and skill development takes time. A window of one month is quite simply insufficient. Test takers who score 700 or above often commit to 200 hours of work, rationed over four to six months. You may find it tedious to plan that far ahead, but the GMAT is too important to your business school application to give anything less than full effort.

5. Practice the hardest questions; disregard everything else

If you haven’t exercised for a while and you want to get back into shape, you wouldn’t try to run a marathon right away. The same concept applies to GMAT prep.

Assess your current level of stamina and aim for something slightly higher. Large score increases result from several small gains. The hardest questions are often outliers, and there’s a good chance that you will get some of these wrong no matter how rigorously you prepare. The best preparation approach is to incrementally increase the difficulty level by working on questions that are slightly above your current capability. Spending too much time on the toughest questions might not be all that helpful, as this strategy can take time away from the less-challenging majority of GMAT questions. Find the areas where you are inconsistent and work on building those skills. Gradually increase the level of difficulty, making sure to do so by manageable amounts.

6. Low GMAT scores hurt even if you achieve higher scores on other test attempts

Top business schools focus on an applicant's highest GMAT score, not the averages (they will usually ask a prospective student which GMAT scores he or she wants considered). Even if you take the test again and score lower, this is generally not a problem. Don’t view a low GMAT score as the final verdict on your GMAT performance; see it as a starting point for score improvements.

Some top business schools might actually question your ambition if you only take the test once, and it’s common for people to take the GMAT up to three times. If your application is accepted, your highest score will be incorporated into the class average, and this is the data that schools report publically. Consider your highest GMAT score as a true reflection of your talent and abilities and view lower scoring test attempts as mere steps to that goal.

7. If you see an easy question on the GMAT, it means you answered the previous question wrong

Everyone who takes the GMAT knows that the difficulty level of verbal and quantitative problems is determined by your answers to the previous questions, but you shouldn't concern yourself with this while taking the test. You need to focus on answering the question in front of you correctly, and your answers to previous questions are now irrelevant to that task. Remind yourself that the GMAT is sophisticated enough to reveal your true score level at the end. The test also includes experimental questions for research purposes, which may account for up to 25% of the total. You therefore shouldn't assume that you missed a prior question just because the next question is easier. Furthermore, the concepts of ‘easy’ and ‘difficult’ are subjective and variable (what's easy for you may be inordinately difficult for someone else). Carry on and stay on track.

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As stressful as the GMAT is, you can manage and reduce anxiety if you take your GMAT preparation as a challenge and an inspiration. Your GMAT score can enhance your career even after you've graduated from business school. The GMAT measures a number of skills with a high degree of relevance in the business world, such as how well you perform under time constraints and how well you infer the information most important to problem solving. Top business schools rely on the GMAT to measure analytical and reasoning skills, and this is ultimately because these skills are essential for life after business school.

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