In the first section, the essay section, you will have 2 essays to complete, 30 minutes per essay. The first essay question will ask you to analyze an issue; the second essay question will ask you to analyze an argument. The second section will give you 75 minutes to complete the quantitative questions, including problem-solving and data sufficiency questions. The final section will give you an additional 75 minutes to complete a mix of sentence correction, critical reasoning, and reading comprehension question.
The Quantitative and Verbal sections of the GMAT are presented in a computer-adaptive format. The final score is determined by the following criteria:
- The number of questions answered correctly and the number of questions answered incorrectly
- The relative difficulty of the questions answered correctly and of the questions answered incorrectly.
Additionally, there is a penalty for not completing all of the questions in a particular section.
How does the computer-adaptive format work?
The first question (in either the verbal or math section) is a medium-difficulty question. If this first question is answered correctly, a more difficult question usually follows, but if it is answered incorrectly, a less difficult question usually follows. Thus, as questions are answered correctly, the test should become more difficult. This process continues until a particular section is completed. At the end of each section, a score is calculated that reflects one’s general ability level in that particular section. A separate score is given for the math and verbal sections, and from those two scores, an overall scored is computed.
How should I approach the computer-adaptive format?
One of the biggest mistakes any GMAT test taker can make is to try and “beat” the test. No one, except for the people at GMAC, truly understands how the computer-adaptive algorithm works. Your main focus on any GMAT exam should solely be on accurately answering each question and finishing each section.
Another major mistake people make when taking the GMAT is to try gauge how they are doing, in real time, during the exam. While, in theory, the computer adaptive format will present a harder question after each correctly answered question, experimental questions whose difficulty is undetermined are also included on the GMAT. There is no sure way to know how many experimental questions you will see on your exam, nor do these particular questions count towards your overall score. They are “experimental” because the GMAC is trying to determine the relative difficulty of the questions before using them as real questions in future exams. As a result, these questions may appear to be out of place in relation to how well you are doing on the exam. Thus, it is extremely difficult to truly gauge your progress on an exam by rating the difficulty of any particular question. Any attempt to gauge your progress will most likely waste time and stress you out during an already stressful test!
Since the computer-adaptive format of the GMAT is out of your control, there is no need to focus on this during your exam. Your only focus during your GMAT should be on accurately and efficiently answering the question in front of you. Keeping this attitude during your exam will bring you one step closer to GMAT success.
Jeffrey Miller is Chief Quantitative Instructor at Target Test Prep, LLC., an international GMAT preparation company based in the United States. He has taught hundreds of students from countries as diverse as the United States, Switzerland, Morocco, Pakistan, and China. Jeff’s students are well-represented at such schools as Wharton, Booth, Stanford, Oxford, and Stern.