An exclusive interview with GMAT coaching expert Nirav Rawell, Business Head, IMS Bangalore on cracking and scoring 720 and above score in GMAT. Get insights, useful strategies and tips to score higher in GMAT.
About IMS: IMS Learning Resources Pvt Ltd. is India’s one of the oldest and most reputed training institutions which prepares students for entrance examinations and professional courses. Founded in 1977 by Prof. Nagesh Rane, the institute has grown tremendously with 75 centers spread across 44 cities in India. The institute believes in mentoring, motivating, guiding and accompanying student to achieve their dream of crossing the threshold of entrance exams and studying in one of the top management institutes in India or abroad.
Nirav Rawell, Business Head, IMS Bangalore: Mr. Nirav Rawell, Business Head, IMS Bangalore, has 8+ years of experience across Technology, Infrastructure and Education sectors. He holds a BE degree from RV College of Engineering (Bangalore) and an MBA degree from Indian School of Business (Hyderabad). He has been associated with IMS Bangalore for the last 4 years mentoring students in Study Abroad options for BS/MS/MBA programs. To date, he has mentored more than 1,000 students and helped them achieve their study or career goals.
1. What are the major challenges Indian students face while preparing for GMAT?
The challenges are two-fold – first, the very nature of the exam (GMAT is more analytical in nature compared to Indian exams). All the Indian exams such as CAT, XAT etc. test the breadth of students’ knowledge whereas GMAT (an international test taken in 120+ countries) is designed to test the depth of knowledge in a student.
In terms of syllabus, there is not a lot to prepare. Indian students are good at doing a lot of calculations, but GMAT gives a different set of problems where students need to look at a problem, think about it, and find solution. Even students who score 98% – 99% in CAT fail to score 700 score in GMAT.
Secondly, Indian students are weak and tend to struggle a lot in the Verbal section. Internationally even if the scores are good, Indian students tend to score average or just above average scores in the Verbal Section. On the other hand, Mathematics scores are pretty good. Basically, the skill sets that Indian exams seek to tackle are different from what GMAT intends to tackle.
2. What preparation tips would you like to suggest for GMAT?
Quantitative Section: GMAT Quantitative section is more analytical and include Speed, Time & Distance, Profit & Loss, and Time & Work problems quite often. They basically frame questions based on real-life scenarios and there is a heavy arithmetic component. Students should ensure that they get basic score if not a really high score.
One book I would recommend to GMAT aspirants is The Official Guide for GMAT, which consists of actual questions which are now no longer a part of the examination. Reading the book will help the students to get a clear idea about the structure of the exam and question pattern.
Integrated Reasoning: Coming to the Integrated Reasoning section, this is something GMAT has recently added, probably a couple of years ago. This is one of the trickiest and one of the most interesting and challenging questions because it tests a student’s Verbal Reasoning skills, Analytical Reasoning skills, and Quantitative Reasoning skills, all together. Students should practice as much as possible, referring to the Official Guide and practicing the set of 50 questions would immensely help them. Not a lot of additional preparation is required for this section.
Verbal Section: The Verbal Section has three parts – Sentence Correction (Grammar based), Critical Reasoning (Logic driven), and Reading Comprehension (Stats based). Each of these three require different strategies.
Sentence Correction and Critical Reasoning are lot more structure driven. Once a student understands the structure by analyzing in depth then it is not very difficult to get 90% accuracy level.
Reading Comprehension is a little more subjective, (especially for 700+ score level) the answer options are quite close to each other. In the Reading Comprehension student can get around 80% accuracy.
To tackle the Verbal Section, one should develop a good reading habit and try to look at the bigger picture.
Analytical Writing Assessment: It is a subset of the Critical Reasoning that we have in the Verbal Section. Students try to give their point of view of the topic which results in a score of zero.
Generally, the given topic would have few logical fallacies. The objective of the essay for the student is to identify – what are the assumptions made in the questions, what are the logical flaws that exist, and what data it provided that can help them to address these flaws (which is exactly what critical reasoning questions actually do). If students prepare well for the Critical Reasoning and a little bit of practice for Analytical Writing Assessment, that would be good enough.
3. Which are the best books in your opinion to refer for each of the sections?
To be honest, there are different types of books for different type of students. Best way to start is to take the Diagnostic Test before starting to prepare for the exam.
The test is available at www.mba.com, once students take the test, they will get to know where they stand. If they score more than 600-650 some amount of self-preparation and fine-tuning would be fine. If a student scores in the range of 500-550, however, they would require more hand-holding. In that case, books alone won’t suffice and more mentoring would be required.
Students can take up either offline or online training. A majority of the students who retake the test do not score more than +/- 30 of the old score (though there are exceptions). I will definitely say students should avoid taking the test without preparing for it.
4. How students should manage their time while solving GMAT question paper?
Unlike many of the Indian exams, GMAT is a computer adaptive test which does not allow for moving forward without answering the current question. There is no option of skipping questions.
As it is an adaptive test, in the first few questions the computer tries to gauge more or less your competency level, as you go ahead it fine tunes its score or evaluation of you. What I recommend to students is that they should divide their time into three different slots of 25 minutes each (75 minutes total) and set smaller goals and milestones within that time frame. Sometimes students go at their own pace and realize that they have solved only 5-7 questions in the last 5 minutes. By the time they realize, it’s too late.
They can equally distribute time for all the questions. Students can slow down a bit (if in case they are going fast) in order to ensure a higher level of accuracy for the answers.
5. What is the average GMAT score required to get into top U.S. and U.K universities?
Honest assessment from the majority of the students who got into top universities – they say it is ideal to get a 720 GMAT score. In addition to a great score, students must understand the importance and benefits of a good profile. Sometimes students who get a 650-670 score manage to get into top university with a good profile (which means great job experience). There are specific management programs for freshers as well in the UK and USA and such opportunities are increasing.
After a couple of years of slow growth, GMAT test-takers in India are now growing and this year it registered around 17% growth. There are enough options available and good scholarships as well e.g. recently the UK has announced Great Britain Scholarship where 401 scholarships would be awarded to students who get into any of the top universities. Indian students should explore these great opportunities. There is enough funding and opportunities for students who are looking forward to studying or pursuing a career abroad.
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