I retook the GMAT in late May, because I had not yet taken the Next Gen GMAT with Integrated Reasoning. My new GMAT score is 770, same as my prior score. My scaled section scores are Q51 and V42. My AWA score remains a perfect 6 and my IR score is a perfect 8. Based on this testing experience, there are some observations that I can share. Obviously I cannot share information about specific questions that I saw in my examination. Please also keep in mind that because every GMAT administration is different, your experience may vary.
My test day didn’t start off well, as my son woke me up more than an hour earlier than usual. So I was a bit tired and cranky, despite having gone to sleep early the prior night. For breakfast, I ate two Sausage McMuffins with Egg from McDonald’s. Not the healthiest breakfast, but I recommend lots of protein for mental concentration. I then completed a few light errands, avoiding anything that would be mentally taxing. I then drove to the testing center, stopping at a different McDonald’s for a light lunch; I ate only the grilled chicken inside a McWrap. I also drank a Coke Zero, as I needed some caffeine after the early awakening.
My test time was 12:15 pm at the Pearson center in Lake Forest, CA. I liked the Lake Forest location more than Pearson center in Anaheim, where I have gone previously. The Lake Forest location seemed quieter, calmer, brighter, and more welcoming than I remember the Anaheim location to be. The Pearson staff was very friendly and helpful. I arrived at the center 30 minutes in advance of my appointment time, as recommended. I was promptly checked in, and since a workstation was available, I was seated for my test around noon. Although I felt a little nervous before the test, some deep breaths and positive affirmations helped me quickly overcome any stress and focus fully on the test.
During the GMAT
During the 8-minute breaks, it took about one minute each time for the test proctor to notice that my hand was raised and to come escort me out of the testing room. I had already scoped out the restroom and asked permission to use it during the breaks. My break routines followed exactly what is outlined on our Taking the GMAT page, with the entire routine taking about five minutes each time. For each snack, I had half a cheese stick and a few sips of Gatorade. I made sure to get checked in and escorted back to my workstation with at least one minute to spare each time.
On test day, Integrated Reasoning, the entire math section, and Reading Comprehension turned out easier than I expected. On the other hand, Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning were harder than I expected. This is reflected in a lower verbal scaled score than I expected (especially compared to the V49 that I received using GMATPrep). My expectations were based primarily on my familiarity with GMATPrep and the Official Guide. Keep in mind that I was expecting very hard questions on the adaptive math and verbal sections, consistent with a 99 percentile score. Yet the difficulty of some SC and CR questions still surprised me. Let me elaborate a bit for each section.
Observations About Test Sections
The Analysis of an Argument essay was very straightforward, as expected. The most helpful form of AWA preparation is to write full essays for several prompts picked at random from the Official List of essay topics.
As described in my prior post about the 105 official GMAC practice IR questions, difficulty for the practice questions varies but includes some very challenging questions. The IR questions in some third-party (non-GMAC) diagnostics are even harder and far more calculation-intensive. In my practice, I had consistently found it challenging to complete 12 IR questions within the 30-minute time limit. By contrast, the 12 IR questions that I saw on the real GMAT were relatively straightforward. I would not rate a single of these questions as difficult. No question took more than 3 minutes to complete. Based on the GMAC practice questions, I was not expecting to use the calculator much. In fact, I only used the calculator for some basic calculations on two of the 12 questions.
Question difficulty overall was easier than I expected, although still challenging. I had faced harder questions in GMATPrep and elsewhere. Due to careless errors and other mistakes, Q50 was the highest I had scored with practice diagnostics. Since several questions on the real test seemed quite straightforward and because the math section is adaptive, at times I wondered whether I messed up along the way. Fortunately this was not the case. The easier difficulty was seen in both Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions, and across all types of math concepts.
Reading Comprehension was a bit easier than expected, mainly because three of the four passages were shorter than diagnostic test passages. Some RC questions were subtle but not extraordinarily difficult. Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning, however, contained some very challenging questions. Fatigue may have set in by the time I reached the Verbal section, compounding the difficulty. A few tricky SC questions underlined only a few words, and I struggled to determine the best construction between two possible answers. On a few tricky CR questions, none of the answers seemed appropriate (a situation I have rarely faced) and I needed to make a best guess. I was hoping that these were experimental questions, but based on my final verbal score, that doesn’t seem to have been the case.
As a final note, the free preparation advice on the GMAT Genius website is completely solid – nothing changes based on my test experience. I followed the advice that we offer, and this advice served me very well. Similarly, the math and verbal concepts that we teach to our clients remain perfectly applicable. No additional concepts were required to answer the questions that I saw, nor does our material contain extraneous content. Every GMAT experience is different, but hopefully these insights will help in your preparations.