(This is part two in a series on the GMATPrep Question Pack. If you’re interested in reading more about the basics of the GMATPrep Question Pack, please check out part one.)
Q: What is the best way to use the quant questions in the GMATPrep Question Pack? Should I do the questions in order, or should I randomize them, or…?
A: Here comes a very long answer. Consider yourself warned.
If you want, you could just do the questions in order, the same way you would use the GMAT Official Guide or any other GMAT test-prep book. But I think it’s better to compile the GMATPrep Question Pack exercises into what I call “fake tests,” since there’s a desperate shortage of computerized practice tests that use actual, retired GMAT questions.
Here’s how it works: for quant, select the questions that you think are appropriate for your level. If you’re struggling on the quant section of the GMAT, maybe you should stick with the easy and medium questions. If you’re consistently scoring in the mid-40s or above on the quant section, then you should probably select all of the medium and hard questions, as shown below. And then hit the buttons for “random” and “study” mode.
This will give you a nice, randomized selection of questions, vaguely approximating the feel of the actual GMAT exam. This isn’t a perfect approach, since the actual GMAT is adaptive, and the GMATPrep Question Pack “fake tests” are randomized. But to be honest, the actual GMAT exam often feels pretty darned random, and if you select your GMATPrep Question Pack difficulty levels correctly, the 37-question “fake test” will feel very much like an actual GMAT exam.
The only problem is that you’ll have to set your own timer for 75 minutes, and you’ll have to stop yourself when you’ve completed 37 questions. The software won’t do it for you. That’s annoying, but easily fixed with the help of a stopwatch or a kitchen timer.
Sure, this isn’t exactly the same thing as taking, say, a GMATPrep practice test. You won’t get a scaled score. But these “fake tests” will give you an opportunity to test your mettle on real GMAT questions, under timed conditions.
Even without a scaled section score, you can learn a ton from your mistakes. Did you make a lot of careless errors under time pressure? Did you have to scramble at the end of your “fake test” because you spent too much time on a handful of hard questions? Should you have been quicker to let the tougher questions go?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you probably need to focus carefully on your timing and accuracy before you take the actual GMAT exam. So the GMATPrep “fake tests” aren’t exactly perfect, but they’re still an outstanding tool for improvement if you’re diligent about analyzing your errors and your timing.
Q: What about verbal? How should I use the verbal questions in the GMATPrep Question Pack?
A: On the quant side, I would argue that the GMATPrep Question Pack “fake tests” offer a reasonable facsimile of the actual GMAT experience. On the verbal side, I’m not so sure.
In theory, you could select a nice cross-section of GMAT sentence correction, reading comprehension, and critical reasoning questions, and then select “random” and “exam” mode, just as you would for the quant “fake tests.” And then you could do 41 questions in 75 minutes, and it would feel much like the actual GMAT. In theory.
Here’s the problem: there’s a little hitch in the GMATPrep Question Pack software, and if you select “random” and “exam” mode for reading comprehension questions, you’ll only receive one question for each reading comprehension passage, instead of the three or four questions that you would see on each RC passage on an actual GMAT exam. So you might see 10 or 12 or 15 reading comprehension passages in your “fake test”, and each of those passages would include only one question. Not fun.
The only alternative is to select “in order” instead of “random,” but then you’ll see an endless series of consecutive reading comprehension questions. And obviously, that isn’t realistic, either.
So the bottom line is that you can’t really do anything to produce semi-realistic verbal “fake tests.” And that’s a sad story. You can, however, skip the reading comprehension questions, and stick with critical reasoning and sentence correction only (in “random” and “exam” mode). You’ll probably have an easier time finishing 41 questions in 75 minutes when there aren’t any reading comprehension questions included, but at least you’ll be able to do something that resembles an actual test. If nothing else, you’ll get some good exposure to official questions, and your stamina will be vaguely challenged by the experience, especially if you do a quant section beforehand.
And then if you really want to do some extra GMAT reading comprehension practice, you can just do those questions in order.
Q: When should I use the GMATPrep Question Pack?
A: As I discussed in part one of this series, the GMATPrep Question Pack contains some of the newest official GMAT questions available, and it is definitely one of the best GMAT study resources out there. But it’s wise to avoid burning through the best materials too early in the study process, so you might want to make sure that your quant and verbal fundamentals are sound before you rip through all of your official GMAT materials, including the GMATPrep Question Pack.
At the very least, the GMATPrep Question Pack definitely isn’t the first resource you should turn to when preparing for the GMAT, and it makes sense to use it only when you feel 100% ready. For most of you, that means saving the GMATPrep Question Pack until the last few weeks before your actual GMAT exam.
Q: I finished a GMATPrep Question Pack “fake test” and now I can’t access the questions I completed! WTF?
A: Yeah, welcome to the wonderful world of janky GMAC software. (And yes, I’m proud that I managed to use the word “janky” on a GMAT blog.)
I also mentioned this in part one of this series, but it’s always a good idea to take screenshots of the questions you missed immediately after finishing anything in the GMATPrep software, including both the “real” GMATPrep tests and the GMATPrep Question Pack “fake tests.” It’s annoying, but it’s also the only way to be 100% certain that you don’t miss an opportunity to review the questions.