Think you know the GMAT? There are a lot of misconceptions about this exam. Before you begin your GMAT prep, be aware of the five most common GMAT myths.
Myth # 1: The GMAT is just like the GRE, but with more business content.
Many GMAT misconceptions stem from confusion between the GMAT and GRE. Often, B-school hopefuls make the mistake of assuming the GMAT is a business-oriented clone of the GRE. Sure, there are some obvious parallels between these two tests: both have a Verbal Section, as well as a Quant Section, and an AWA Essay Section. Beyond that though, there are some very significant differences between these two exams. The GMAT has an extra section called Integrated Reasoning, and the GMAT’s AWA section has a single Analyze an Argument Task, while the GRE has both Argument and Issue Essays.
There are also some subtle but important differences between GMAT/GRE Quant and GMAT/GRE Verbal. Confusion about these two sections are a source of two additional myths. We’ll get to those next.
Myth # 2: GMAT Math and GRE Math are more or less the same.
It’s a mistake to think of the math on the GRE and the GMAT as equivalent. Most obviously, the GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning (IR) tests math skills in a way that isn’t at all GRE-like. IR involves reading highly-technical business reports and doing advanced math. Moreover, the math in both GMAT IR and GMAT Quant is harder than GRE math, on average. And to make GMAT Math even more challenging, you can only use a calculator on Integrated Reasoning—not on the actual Quant section. (In contrast, Calculator use is permitted in GRE Quant.)
Myth #3: GMAT English is easier than GRE English.
Without a doubt, GMAT Verbal is structurally different than GRE Verbal. But it’s hard to say which Verbal section is truly easier, because the two exams’ Verbal sections focus on different skills. GMAT Verbal is much more grammar-oriented than GRE Verbal, and focuses less on vocabulary skills.
It’s also wrong to assume that GMAT AWA is easier just because it only has one essay task. Although the GMAT has just one task, if you are weak in argument analysis, then getting a good score on GMAT AWA will be harder than scoring well on GRE AWA– you’ll have to put all your effort into a task you’re not strong in. In addition, GMAT essay prompts are much more business and math oriented than GRE ones. If you’re not comfortable dealing with numbers or juggling specialized business lingo as you write, there’s another reason you may find GMAT AWA more difficult than its GRE counterpart.
Myth # 4: You only need to submit your highest GMAT score to schools.
Most standardized tests issue a separate score report every time you take an exam. GMAT score reports, on the other hand, are more like an academic transcript. Your GMAT score report won’t just show your most recent score– it’ll also show the scores for any additional times you’ve taken the GMAT in the last 5 years.
This may or may not be a problem. Some schools only consider the highest score on your GMAT “transcript.” But other schools look at all recent GMAT scores. If you’re worried that a record of a disappointing GMAT score could hurt your chances of admission, ask your target school about their policy on past scores (or their policy on disappointing retake scores).
Myth # 5: You Need Lots of Expensive Books to Pass the GMAT.
Because GMAT test-takers have a strong interest in business, they often approach their GMAT prep with an “investment mindset”; purchasing an array of GMAT prep books. In reality, you should apply a much more basic business principle when gathering your GMAT study resources: the principle of thrift.
Rather than investing money into your studies, invest time. Organize your study regimen by following a pre-outlined GMAT schedule; peruse the endless amount of study guides out there, then whittle down your selection to the ones you know you’ll use; dedicate an hour every few days to studying. If you’re organized and approach GMAT prep with a clear head, you’ll find the process much more enjoyable.
David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent.