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The what, when and how of the GMAT

The what, when and how of the GMAT

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The what, when and how of the GMAT
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Pratik Bharti
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The what, when and how of the GMAT - October 6th, 2007

The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals."

-- Hal Higdon, American writer and runner


The GMAT is the standardised test you take when you want to seek admission into most business schools around the world. It is administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), and is usually available on most days of the year in most parts of the world. You can get all the details from www.gmac.com.

The GMAT is best viewed as a marathon, and you prepare for the GMAT just the way you would train for a marathon. The most important requirements, apart from your basic knowledge of high school math and a very good grasp of English, are for you to keep your wits about you and the stamina to keep them for the entire duration of the exam. Yes, the GMAT is the long haul, with the total duration of time spent in the exam centre easily breaching four hours.

When

The GMAT is usually the first step in the journey to business school. Therefore it makes sense to decide when to take the GMAT based on the admissions deadlines of the schools you are interested in.

Most US B-schools have their first round deadlines in October/November. The Indian School of Business (ISB) had its first round deadline for admission into the 2009 batch on September 15 2007 (second round deadline on November 15). So we work backwards starting from October (assuming you are applying to a US B-school).

You need about 15 days to fill in all your details on the online application and at least a couple of months to write your essays and get your letters of recommendation. Which means you should have written your GMAT and been done with it sometime in June, or latest in July. Any later than this and you'll be pushing yourself really hard and making compromises in your application process that you needn't have to.

What

The GMAT has 4 sections -- the first two sections are essays (together called Analytical Writing Assessment). One essay requires you to take a stand on a contentious issue, and make a cohesive, coherent argument for your position.

The other requires you to critique an argument that you are provided with, looking for logical inconsistencies and structural flaws in the construction of the argument. Both essays are to be written in 30 minutes each.

Then you have one Verbal section and one Quantitative section, each of 75 minutes duration. These two sections have multiple-choice questions, with varying levels of difficulty. Here is how the questions are shot at you by the GMAT computer -- all questions on the GMAT question bank are divided into bins of varying difficulty -- so you have the Very Easy, Easy, Moderate, Difficult and Very Difficult bins holding questions.

For the first question, the computer picks a question from the Moderate bin. And you start off with the median score (GMAT scores run in 10 point increments within the range 200 to 800.

So the median score that everyone starts off with is 500). If you answer the question right, your score is incremented and the computer picks the next question from a higher difficulty bin. If you answer the question wrong, the computer decrements your score and picks the subsequent questions from an easier bin.

For those of you familiar with computer algorithms, the GMAT test works like a sort of 'binary search' to level in on your relative score in the 200 to 800 range. If you get answers right, you are asked progressively tougher and tougher questions, and your score is adjusted upwards. If you get answers wrong, your score is adjusted downwards and you get easier questions.

At the end of about 37 questions, the GMAT test assumes that it has gotten close enough to your true score and the section ends. This format works for both the Verbal and Quantitative sections, although the number of questions in a section may vary. Another important thing to keep in mind is that the quantum of increment or decrement in score after each question answered is higher for the first few questions, and keeps decreasing as you progress into a section.

This means that it is very important for you to get the first few questions dead right -- if you start off bad it becomes very difficult to recover. Another side effect of this testing format is obviously the fact that you cannot go back to a question later in the test -- every question has to be answered as you come across it.

[Caveat -- the above description is based on my understanding of the test, and is meant to only give you an indication of how the GMAT test works. It is very likely to be factually incorrect -- for instance in the number of different question bins].

How

The time and amount of preparation required for the GMAT can vary a lot, and depends to a large extent on the individual taking the test. Here is how I would recommend you go about the whole process (this is based on my experiences and is full of my opinions) -- the first thing you do is to go to the GMAT site (www.gmac.com) and download the test preparation software that is available for free.

This software comes with two practice tests. Since the makers of the GMAT provide these tests, it is the closest you will get to the actual GMAT itself. Take the first test immediately. This will help you determine where you stand.

Say you scored a 650 in this first test that you took right off the bat, without any preparation. If your target school requires a score of 710, then you know that right now you are probably 60 points short of where you want to be. And to be safe, you should target a score between 730 and 750.

Of course, as with any other score, the more your GMAT score, the merrier you are. You should also do an analysis of where you scored well and where you made most of your mistakes. With many people, most points are lost in a particular sub-section or a particular type of question.

For instance, my weakness used to be 'Sentence Correction' questions in the Verbal section of the test. So you need to identify your weakness, and work on it. Lots of companies provide GMAT training material. I would recommend you try at least the following two -- the material from Kaplan as well as the 'Official Guide to the GMAT' (published by the GMAC). If you have the time, you could do Princeton Review and Barron's too, although the Barron's material is rather easy, and thus a waste of time in my opinion.

Going back to the marathon analogy, the Kaplan material is like high-altitude training for GMAT. It is probably the toughest GMAT material around, and once you're through with it, the GMAT will be a cakewalk. Once you've done Kaplan, if you have the time, do the Princeton review GMAT material.

If you don't have the time, go directly to the 'Official Guide to the GMAT'. Also remember to keep doing practice tests regularly. You can find a lot of these online, and the Princeton Review material even comes with a CD that allows you to take something like 15 full time tests.

Remember the key here is to practice with the full time tests. If you add all four section timings of the GMAT, you get a total test length of 210 minutes. Add in the five-minute breaks you will take between sections, and the initial time for registration and other formalities and you are looking at well over four hours spent at the test centre. So you can imagine what your state of mind will be when you are doing the last section of the GMAT (usually Quantitative), about three and a half hours after you walked into a test centre. You will be very tired mentally.

Therefore it is very important to practice with the full-length tests -- have a watch/clock next to you, and take the entire test in one stretch. This will not only give you a feel for what D-day will be like, but if you do this consistently every other day for a month, it will also build your stamina, so you feel reasonably alert and challenged even when you've been at it for four hours at a stretch.

In my opinion, this is the most important part of preparing for the GMAT. Indians are generally very good at math, especially the high school math that is asked on the GMAT. So it is important that you don't lose any marks on the Quantitative section -- any errors you make here are free points you are giving away.

Indians generally find the Verbal section a lot more challenging. The Verbal section of the GMAT is at a whole different level from the other B-school entrance exams one writes in India. You need a very good grasp of English, especially for sub-sections like 'Sentence Correction', where you have to identify subtle and involved errors that are not very apparent at all. It definitely helps a lot if you're the sort who's spent about one-fifth of your life so far reading novels, literature and P G Wodehouse.

The final leg of your preparation should involve taking the second test in the preparation software you downloaded from www.gmac.com. Since these tests are the closest you can get to the GMAT, doing well on this test a day or two before your actual test date will give you a huge confidence boost.

In conclusion, some tips:
  • Pick a time of day for the test when you feel you are most alert -- some folks are morning people and others come into their own late in the afternoon.
  • Try to do a recce of your test centre a day or two before, so you know where to go and how to get there on D-day -- just in case you are faced with a traffic jam or some other form of ill luck.
  • For the same reasons as above, plan to reach your test center about 30 minutes or so before you are due there.
  • Remember that your GMAT score is valid for five years. Something to keep in mind when you're planning long term (or you're just getting out of undergrad school).
  • Lastly, remember the three most important things to cracking the GMAT are -- endurance, endurance and endurance.
Enjoy your preparation -- like you would enjoy training for a marathon. That is the secret to doing well. The GMAT is a fun exam to prepare for. Not only will you get a good score at the end of it all, you will have gained much from the journey itself -- you will discover new things about yourself, about the subtleties and eccentricities of the English language, and a lot of confidence for your everyday conversations.

The author scored a 770 on the GMAT in August 2006, and is currently doing his MBA at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
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Re: The what, when and how of the GMAT - October 9th, 2007

gr8 info...thanks pratik
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Re: The what, when and how of the GMAT - October 12th, 2007

Quote:
Originally Posted by pratikbharti View Post
The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals."

-- Hal Higdon, American writer and runner

@ Pratik: Hi Pratik this is Samrat. I'm doing s/w job in IBM currently. I'm 2006 B.Tech passed out. Im looking forward to get in ISB and complete my MBA. The problem is I have only 1 1/2 yrs of exp only. Would you suggest me when I should apply for ISB? And also about the Experience criteria considered by ISB guys. I have an aggregate of 72% in B.Tech. Is that sufficient? Lots of questions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pls help me mannnnnn!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks in advance. Bye..........

Last edited by gaurav200x; October 13th, 2007 at 01:07 AM.. Reason: <Please Don't put the whole post in Quotes. Edit it and put only 2-3 lines in that>
   
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Re: The what, when and how of the GMAT - October 13th, 2007

Quote:
Originally Posted by samratisking View Post
@ Pratik: Hi Pratik this is Samrat. I'm doing s/w job in IBM currently. I'm 2006 B.Tech passed out. Im looking forward to get in ISB and complete my MBA. The problem is I have only 1 1/2 yrs of exp only. Would you suggest me when I should apply for ISB? And also about the Experience criteria considered by ISB guys. I have an aggregate of 72% in B.Tech. Is that sufficient? Lots of questions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pls help me mannnnnn!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks in advance. Bye..........
Well ISB demands a minimum of 2 yrs of work ex. Nothing can be said for surety... since, the people who go and study there, have a high profile... Some of them, are having a work ex of 6-8 yrs too, but there would be people who would be having a work ex of 2 yrs too.

So, beyond the minimum requirement, you can apply. But whether it is sufficient or not, can't be said.


Regards,
Gaurav Mittal



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Taking the GMAT? What to expect...
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Lightbulb Taking the GMAT? What to expect... - October 26th, 2007

So you've decided you want to apply to a B-school abroad, the next step is to take the Graduate Management Admissions Test or the GMAT, as it's called. But what does the test measure and what format does it follow? Here's what you need to know:

What does it test?

The GMAT is designed to test:
  • Quantitative abilities: The aim is to ensure that the applicant possesses the basic quantitative skills to be able to understand various concepts discussed in various courses in a business school.
  • Verbal abilities: Students in a business school are expected to have a minimum basic knowledge of the English language. This helps them comprehend various text books, business cases and lectures in the class. A business programme does not leave enough time to spend on improving your verbal skills.
  • Analytical abilities: A candidate appearing for the test needs to have decent analytical abilities since some questions cannot be answered if this quality is lacking.

The format

The following table describes the test in a condensed manner.



GMAT scores

Once you have completed your test at the centre you will get a print of a score report which is called your "unofficial GMAT score report" or "test centre score report". This will contain the scores obtained by you in the quantitative section, the verbal section and the total score. Scores for your analytical writing assessment are not included in this report. Each section and the total score are reported in two formats: the 'raw score' and the 'percentile score'.

~ Raw score: This is your absolute score that was obtained in the section. The maximum score that can be obtained is 60. This score is obtained by scoring the number of questions answered correctly and the level of difficulty of questions answered. According to GMAC, scores above 44 in the verbal section and above 50 in the quantitative section are very rare. The total raw score is reported out of 800.

~ Percentile score: The percentile score tells you what percentage of candidates who have appeared for the GMAT till date scored below you. For example, if the verbal raw score is 27 and the percentile score is 50 it means that 50 per cent of all GMAT test takers have got raw score of below 27.

Reporting your test scores

The schools that accept the GMAT scores require GMAC to send the "official GMAT score report" to the school. There are two ways to send this official report to the schools that you wish to apply to.

1. On the test day: On the day of the test you will asked to choose up to five schools that you wish to report your scores to. The fee for sending these scores to these five schools is included in the GMAT fee. If you do not choose to send any scores at this point you will not be allowed to send these score reports free of charge later.

2. After the test date: You may request for additional reports to be sent to schools through the GMAT website at www.mba.com. Please note that there is an additional charge of US$ 28 for each additional report requested.

The official GMAT score will contain all the scores you obtained in your unofficial score report and also your AWA scores. The raw AWA scores are reported out of 6 and the percentile score is also generated.

Please note that your test centre score and your official scores will have the same raw score report but may carry a different percentile score. This is due to the very nature of the percentile score. For example, if people who have taken the GMAT after you all scored better than you did then with the same raw score you will get a lower percentile rank. This should not be a cause of concern as the difference is usually not more than one percentile.

Retaking the test

You are allowed to retake the test but there must be a gap of one month, 31 days to be exact, between your previous test date and your next appointment. It is therefore wise to take this test as early as possible. If you take the test close to the application deadline of a school and you feel that you could get better scores if you take the GMAT again, you will miss the application deadline that year.

Validity

The GMAT scores are valid for a period of five years. Hence, one should plan for her/ his education well in advance, prepare for the GMAT and take the test well before the application deadlines.

The author is the Director - Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, India.


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Thumbs up What is the GMAT and how do I apply? - October 26th, 2007

The Graduate Management Admissions Test, or GMAT as it is more popularly known, was created by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) to measure the abilities of the applicant aspiring to undertake higher education in the field of business or management.

Over the 50 years of its use, the GMAT has been repeatedly studied, tested, modified and updated to ensure that it continues to help predict performance in the first year or midway through a graduate management programme. The GMAT exam is conducted under standard conditions across 150 countries, with the highest level of security, to ensure that the scores are comparable across all applicants.

MBA programmes typically attract applications from talented individuals with diverse academic and work experiences, unlike many other programmes where subject-relevant education is a pre-requisite.

Such applications come from various countries, regions, education systems and specialisations. While diversity in applications is desired, it also poses the challenge of comparability for the admissions officers since they have to ensure that applicants who finally enrol as students are able to complete the programme successfully.

Reliability

The GMAT is extremely reliable when it comes to predicting academic performance in graduate level management programmes. The GMAC routinely conducts validation studies to understand how GMAT scores are related to academic performance of students in various programmes.

It has been found that there is a high degree of correlation (0.41) between the GMAT score and the grade obtained by the students during the MBA programme. This correlation is higher than the correlation between the grades during the MBA programmes and those obtained by these students at their undergraduate degree (Bachelor's degree). Therefore, the basic premise on which the GMAT was founded stands justified.

Also, the average reliability of the GMAT score is 0.92; this means that if one candidate takes the test more than once there is a probability of 92 per cent of her/ him getting the same score.

The global benchmark

The GMAT score being more reliable in predicting the performance of the student during the graduate management programme compared to the grades obtained during undergraduate study, it has thus become an invaluable tool to assess applicants' potential for success in an MBA programme.

Accordingly, the GMAT has emerged as a global benchmark for evaluating applicants for admission to business schools across the globe. In fact, almost all the top business schools make the GMAT a mandatory part of the application.

The global acceptability of the GMAT has also eliminated the need of various tests for each school, region or country. By taking this test an applicant can apply to most business schools in the world irrespective of the geography in which it may be located.

Scenario in India

The GMAT is increasingly gaining popularity in India as can be seen from the graph below. The reasons for this can be attributed to:
  • The plethora of B-school entrance examinations in India (CAT, MAT etc) are school-specific. This requires an applicant to take these various exams if one wishes to apply to more than one school, which is usually the case.
  • The GMAT is accepted worldwide and is the default test for admission into a good business school for an MBA programme.
  • The Indian School of Business (ISB) pioneered the enabling of global quality in admission standards by accepting only GMAT scores and not any other examination scores. This pioneering effort by the ISB also resulted in some other Indian b-schools starting to accept GMAT scores in lieu of the Indian b-school entrance examinations.



Method of administration

The GMAT is a computer-based test. It therefore requires some basic knowledge of working on a computer and a decent typing speed on the keyboard to be able to compose and type the essays on the computer.

The test is administered at the authorised testing centres by Pearson VUE, the organisation authorised by the Graduate Management Admission Council to administer this test.

Test centres

Testing centres are located in 150 countries. In India the test is administered in the following cities.
  • Hyderabad
  • Bangalore
  • Mumbai
  • Chennai
  • Kolkata
  • Cochin
  • Ahmedabad
  • Allahabad
  • New Delhi

A complete list of the centres can be found on the GMAT website.

Identification requirements


The GMAC requires applicants to produce valid proof of identity to gain entry into the test centre. For India, and a few other countries, the only acceptable proof of identity is a passport. For other countries, other forms of identification like driving license, national identity cards or military identity cards may be acceptable.

Dates of test

The test is administered throughout the year at all the test centres, barring certain holidays. However, one can only appear for the test by prior appointment and walk-in test takers are not entertained. Appointments for the test can be scheduled:

~ Online
~ By Phone (+91 120 439 7830 for India)
~ By mail
~ By fax

Online test scheduling is the fastest and most convenient way of scheduling an appointment to take the test. You will need to register on the site www.mba.com to enable you to schedule the appointment and you will need a credit card to pay the test fee.

Since India has the largest number of GMAT takers in the world after the US, it is advisable to schedule your appointment well in time. Ideally you should schedule your appointment at least two months before the intended test date. Remember, the test slots get filled very soon as you approach the application deadline for the Indian School of Business and those of the US B-schools, and the harder it is to get an appointment. After all, it is the early bird catches the worm!

The GMAC also monitors the status of appointments and if the slots have nearly filled up they may open additional slots; hence, it is advisable to keep checking the website to see if any additional slots have been created to meet the additional demand.

The facility to reschedule an appointment also exists, although there is a fee associated with this service. You should use this only in cases where unforeseen circumstances prevent you from taking the test on the appointed date and time. It is better than not showing up at the test centre and forfeiting your test fee.

Please note that you have to send in your request for rescheduling at least seven days before the originally scheduled date otherwise the entire test fee will be forfeited.

Fees

The fee for the GMAT is US$ 250. Some countries also impose a tax on this fee. As of now no tax is imposed on this fee in India.

It is advisable to prepare well for the test and then appear for it rather than using your first test as a diagnostic tool. Also note that some schools also take all your scores into account and a low score in your 'diagnostic test' may actually work against you.

The fee to reschedule your test date/ time is US$ 50.

The fee can be paid using a credit or debit card, demand draft or money order. The amount has to be in US dollars and drafts have to payable in banks located in the US.
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Re: What is the GMAT and how do I apply? - October 26th, 2007

Excellent piece of information, pratik... Keep it up !!


Regards,
Gaurav Mittal



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Re: What is the GMAT and how do I apply? - June 15th, 2008

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Originally Posted by pratikbharti View Post
The Graduate Management Admissions Test, or GMAT as it is more popularly known, was created by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) to measure the abilities of the applicant aspiring to undertake higher education in the field of business or management.

Over the 50 years of its use, the GMAT has been repeatedly studied, tested, modified and updated to ensure that it continues to help predict performance in the first year or midway through a graduate management programme. The GMAT exam is conducted under standard conditions across 150 countries, with the highest level of security, to ensure that the scores are comparable across all applicants.

MBA programmes typically attract applications from talented individuals with diverse academic and work experiences, unlike many other programmes where subject-relevant education is a pre-requisite.

Such applications come from various countries, regions, education systems and specialisations. While diversity in applications is desired, it also poses the challenge of comparability for the admissions officers since they have to ensure that applicants who finally enrol as students are able to complete the programme successfully.

Reliability

The GMAT is extremely reliable when it comes to predicting academic performance in graduate level management programmes. The GMAC routinely conducts validation studies to understand how GMAT scores are related to academic performance of students in various programmes.

It has been found that there is a high degree of correlation (0.41) between the GMAT score and the grade obtained by the students during the MBA programme. This correlation is higher than the correlation between the grades during the MBA programmes and those obtained by these students at their undergraduate degree (Bachelor's degree). Therefore, the basic premise on which the GMAT was founded stands justified.

Also, the average reliability of the GMAT score is 0.92; this means that if one candidate takes the test more than once there is a probability of 92 per cent of her/ him getting the same score.

The global benchmark

The GMAT score being more reliable in predicting the performance of the student during the graduate management programme compared to the grades obtained during undergraduate study, it has thus become an invaluable tool to assess applicants' potential for success in an MBA programme.

Accordingly, the GMAT has emerged as a global benchmark for evaluating applicants for admission to business schools across the globe. In fact, almost all the top business schools make the GMAT a mandatory part of the application.

The global acceptability of the GMAT has also eliminated the need of various tests for each school, region or country. By taking this test an applicant can apply to most business schools in the world irrespective of the geography in which it may be located.

Scenario in India

The GMAT is increasingly gaining popularity in India as can be seen from the graph below. The reasons for this can be attributed to:
  • The plethora of B-school entrance examinations in India (CAT, MAT etc) are school-specific. This requires an applicant to take these various exams if one wishes to apply to more than one school, which is usually the case.
  • The GMAT is accepted worldwide and is the default test for admission into a good business school for an MBA programme.
  • The Indian School of Business (ISB) pioneered the enabling of global quality in admission standards by accepting only GMAT scores and not any other examination scores. This pioneering effort by the ISB also resulted in some other Indian b-schools starting to accept GMAT scores in lieu of the Indian b-school entrance examinations.



Method of administration

The GMAT is a computer-based test. It therefore requires some basic knowledge of working on a computer and a decent typing speed on the keyboard to be able to compose and type the essays on the computer.

The test is administered at the authorised testing centres by Pearson VUE, the organisation authorised by the Graduate Management Admission Council to administer this test.

Test centres

Testing centres are located in 150 countries. In India the test is administered in the following cities.
  • Hyderabad
  • Bangalore
  • Mumbai
  • Chennai
  • Kolkata
  • Cochin
  • Ahmedabad
  • Allahabad
  • New Delhi

A complete list of the centres can be found on the GMAT website.

Identification requirements


The GMAC requires applicants to produce valid proof of identity to gain entry into the test centre. For India, and a few other countries, the only acceptable proof of identity is a passport. For other countries, other forms of identification like driving license, national identity cards or military identity cards may be acceptable.

Dates of test

The test is administered throughout the year at all the test centres, barring certain holidays. However, one can only appear for the test by prior appointment and walk-in test takers are not entertained. Appointments for the test can be scheduled:

~ Online
~ By Phone (+91 120 439 7830 for India)
~ By mail
~ By fax

Online test scheduling is the fastest and most convenient way of scheduling an appointment to take the test. You will need to register on the site www.mba.com to enable you to schedule the appointment and you will need a credit card to pay the test fee.

Since India has the largest number of GMAT takers in the world after the US, it is advisable to schedule your appointment well in time. Ideally you should schedule your appointment at least two months before the intended test date. Remember, the test slots get filled very soon as you approach the application deadline for the Indian School of Business and those of the US B-schools, and the harder it is to get an appointment. After all, it is the early bird catches the worm!

The GMAC also monitors the status of appointments and if the slots have nearly filled up they may open additional slots; hence, it is advisable to keep checking the website to see if any additional slots have been created to meet the additional demand.

The facility to reschedule an appointment also exists, although there is a fee associated with this service. You should use this only in cases where unforeseen circumstances prevent you from taking the test on the appointed date and time. It is better than not showing up at the test centre and forfeiting your test fee.

Please note that you have to send in your request for rescheduling at least seven days before the originally scheduled date otherwise the entire test fee will be forfeited.

Fees

The fee for the GMAT is US$ 250. Some countries also impose a tax on this fee. As of now no tax is imposed on this fee in India.

It is advisable to prepare well for the test and then appear for it rather than using your first test as a diagnostic tool. Also note that some schools also take all your scores into account and a low score in your 'diagnostic test' may actually work against you.

The fee to reschedule your test date/ time is US$ 50.

The fee can be paid using a credit or debit card, demand draft or money order. The amount has to be in US dollars and drafts have to payable in banks located in the US.
hey its really nice information....thnx a lot.....
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