GMAT Practice Accuracy

July 5, 2012
Eli Meyer

GMAT practice test accuracy, calibration with official GMATOne of the most common questions I field from students posting on MBA forums, is whether Kaplan CATs are accurate.

Some people see official scores so far above or below their expectation that they assume a math error is the only explanation. Others hear that a batch of Kaplan tests from around 2007 had some scoring irregularities, and assume (incorrectly) that we haven’t fixed things in the past five years. And still others just haven’t practiced enough to understand the ins and outs of the GMAT’s adaptive testing. But the question is always the same: are Kaplan tests mathematically representative of the real GMAT?

The answer is “yes.” Kaplan uses the Official GMAT tests to normalize our scores; students who take a Kaplan test and the Official GMAT in the same weekend usually get scores no further apart than the test’s statistical margin of error, 29 points.

But that’s not the whole story. As I mentioned, many students do see scores on test day that surprise them. Test scores on practice tests can vary wildly from exam to exam. Assuming an “accurate” test, this seems impossible; the GMAT produces very consistent scores.

The key lies in the fact that practice tests are practice. The GMAT isn’t purely a test of grammar, logic and math. It’s a mental game, testing your endurance and focus. Students who force tests into a busy schedule will find their late-night scores plummeting. Conversely, students who were nervous going into the real test but relaxed under the low pressure of a diagnostic may find their practice scores leagues higher than their official results.

So when you take a Kaplan test, you can be confident that it’s an accurate mathematical representation of your score. But you can’t be sure it’s an accurate real-life approximation. Instead, you need to ask yourself: how did I feel when I took the mock test? How will I feel on Test Day? If you realize there’s a discrepancy, take that into account when you look at your score. And try to minimize the factors that could disrupt your score; you can reduce study-stress by planning out a study schedule, and use stress-reduction techniques on the day of the GMAT to make sure your head stays in the game.

Eli Meyer Eli Meyer has been a Kaplan teacher since 2003. He has spent the past four years focused almost exclusively on the GMAT, and also has prior experience helping students ranging from middle-schoolers taking the ISEE to professors retaking the GRE for their second PhD. During his Kaplan career, Elis has also written and revised Kaplan course materials and acted as a community liaison on several popular GMAT message boards, all the while helping his students succeed both in and out of the classroom.

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