Are the tasks on the GMAT exam harder than are the available prep materials?


My students often complain that the tasks they received on the real GMAT test seemed harder than those that they did while studying for the test. In my opinion, this is not really the case. I would agree with them in saying that they may look different, or rather that you may experience different feelings when doing the real test; the problems themselves, however, test the same concepts. 



I believe that the real reason you may feel perplexed is that when you were preparing for the test, you often knew what concept was tested by this or that question. In the real GMAT, you have to identify those concepts by special markers, which are often invisible to an average test taker.  I recommend that you create a table in which there are two columns, one for 'Markers' and the other for 'Rules'. 



Table for Sentence Correction



Require/ request/ demand… + THAT

Subjunctive mood

Had + V3

Past Perfect (check for Past simple or ‘By’)

Either X or Y

S-V agreement (Y is the subject)




On the other hand, the time pressure that you experience while taking the real test may also interfere with your perception of the problems given. As you may know, it often happens that you eliminate three out of 5 answers to a given problem and then decide on the correct answer. In the GMAT exam, this decision-making process may take too much time and the task of choosing the final answer may seem extremely difficult. To improve your time management skills, you need to do as much timed practice as possible. At the same time, make sure that you not just do tons of practice but also analyze all the answers properly, paying attention to every possible concept tested by those problems. Make your own error log to boost your performance.



What seems different personally to me are Sentence Correction problems. One of my students has recently told me that in the real GMAT exam he encountered a Sentence Correction problem whose one of the answers contained a portion of text in round brackets. I have never seen anything like that in the official study materials. However, it does not mean that that answer went out of the scope of Sentence Correction topics tested by the GMAT exam. So, at most some of the problems may just look unusual, but they still test the same concepts. 



Also, it seems to me that the proportion of math tasks containing a huge number of words or information is higher, on average, in the real GMAT test than in any study resource. You may say that it all depends on the GMAT adaptivity. However, more and more students, regardless of their scores, are saying that it took them a really long time to read question stems to the end and understand what they required.


by Tory Dove


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