In keeping with our 5th Edition Release Week festivities
, we’re really excited to bring to you an interview with three of the people behind our awesome new 5th Edition Manhattan GMAT Strategy Guides
What’s it like to actually write a textbook? Where do you start? What is the day-to-day process like?Stacey Koprince:
We do a lot of research before we can even think about starting to write. We examine every all of the most recent official questions to determine patterns, language structures, traps, and so on. We use that data to determine the best solution methods and what and how our students need to study in order to succeed with that question type or content area.
After several months, we’re finally ready to start writing. The process isn’t that different from writing a school paper – a really long school paper! I start with an outline, and then I expand the outline chapter by chapter. Once I have a clear idea of the sub-sections I want to have in each chapter, then I dive into the actual writing.Liz Moliski:
Well, I worked on Roadmap with Abby [Pelcyger, Instructor] and we started with a big collection of articles written by instructors and a vague plan about pulling them together into a sort of a GMAT travel guide for students. We categorized each article and thought about the advice that students most often asked for and then we started laying out chapters. Of course as we got going, we revised things and moved chapters around. Eventually, we laid out everything in a giant color coded spreadsheet for tracking progress on each piece that Chris Ryan, the head of MG Prep curriculum, called the Roadmap heatmap. It was motivating to change the pieces from red to yellow to green, meaning undone, in progress, and ready for editing respectively. Believe me, there were days when Abby and I really needed motivation! I wish I had used that system on my dissertation! At the end, when we were about to drop, we were assigned the most wonderful editor, Liz K, who pulled it all together and made it look like a real book! A lot of work went into that as well and into the layout too. I wish I’d had MG Prep’s editorial and graphics staff to help with my dissertation as well!
I also worked on IR with Chris, and we used the heatmap and the same editing support. That was an easier book to write in soem ways because it was more of a traditional textbook, but also harder because we had to do the bulk of the writing before GMAC had released many IR questions. Again, thank goodness for MG Prep’s editorial and graphics staff!David Mahler:
I always like to start by feeling completely overwhelmed. Then you outline the entire project as best you can and make sure that you’re providing a steady flow of content to Dan [McNaney, Senior Manager of Media Production] and Cathy [Huang, Media Production Coordinator] so that everyone always has something to do to keep the process moving.
How long did you work on the 5th edition books?Stacey Koprince:
It took about 3 months to write the Critical Reasoning book. I didn’t work on it 8 hours a day, but I did write anywhere from a little to a lot each day. On a “high output” day, I might write 3,000 to 5,000 words.
Once I was done with “my” book, I then edited the 5 quant books, which took another couple of months. I did every single problem in all 5 books, so now I can tell my students that I truly know their pain when I’m giving them all of their homework. (Although, for me, it wasn’t painful – I like doing math problems!)
Liz Moliski: The groundwork started over a year ago actually. I was discussing ideas with Manhattan GMAT
’s Curriculum Team and thinking about timelines way back in December of 2010, but the bulk of the work was done in summer and fall of 2011, and lasted about 6 months.David Mahler:
Probably not nearly as long as it felt. It must have been a solid 6 months.
What are some of the major changes between the 4th edition and 5th edition books?Liz Moliski:
Overall, I’d say that the edition books are much more streamlined, content-wise. There was no Roadmap in the 4th edition.Stacey Koprince:
The Critical Reasoning book changed a great deal. We developed a new overall process, we grouped the questions into three major families based on certain characteristics, and we developed some new question categories and dropped others. We’re really excited about our new Critical Reasoning strategies. I’ve already been using them with my students because I wanted them to have the advantage of all of this great research even though the books weren’t out yet – and my students have really liked the new way of approaching CR.David Mahler:
Critical Reasoning was brand new, and a TREMENDOUS improvement upon our earlier system. Cannot sing the praises of Ian Jorgeson and Stacey Koprince highly enough. Ian for developing the new framework, and Stacey for presenting that framework to our students in a very user-friendly guide. Our students are going to get a LOT better at Critical Reasoning.
I tried to make 3 primary improvements to our quant guides.
1. Focus less on the number of practice problems in the guide and focus more on the quality of those problems.
2. Simplify the discussion of each topic. Even, maybe especially, advanced concepts need to be introduced in a way that allows the students to see the simple story first, and then build towards questions that test the topic on a more advanced level.
3. Separate the discussion of content from discussion of specific strategies. Strategies are most effectively implemented on the test when a student first has a strong understanding of the content.
What was it like to finally finish the books? What was the final “rush” to beat the deadline like?Stacey Koprince:
I was lucky in that I received the research relatively early on for my book, so I was done in advance of the eventual deadline. I say the “eventual” deadline, because the first deadline I was given didn’t end up being the final deadline. Because some of the other books were delayed, all of the deadlines were pushed back several times, so I finished on time. I’ll admit, though, that I might’ve missed the original deadline if it hadn’t been moved back. : )
For the quant books, though, I would sometimes receive part of the galleys (the files that needed to be proofed) one day and need to give my edits the next day or the day after. Towards the end, we were all working to turn things around so quickly that I would often only be given a chapter at a time, and by the time I was done with it (an hour or two later), the next chapter would be ready to edit.Liz Moliski:
Thanks to the heatmap, we were pretty close to finishing on time with Roadmap. The last couple of weeks were very busy, with copy flying back and forth between me and Liz K., and then there was a hurricane in NYC during the last few days! Wow! It was exciting. I was so glad to be done! IR was tougher. We had to write most of the book before GMAC had released a lot of problems and so there was a lot of frantic last minute work.David Mahler:
It was an enormously satisfying feeling. One of the best things about a large project is the increasingly crystallized sense of how things are going to turn out. Every guide complete made the process fell that much closer to completion. It was great to have those kinds of milestones along the way to keep us motivated and rewarded.
What part/section of the new 5th edition books are you most proud of?Liz Moliski:
Why, the parts that I worked on of course! David Mahler:
We’ve traditionally tried to talk about not only all the content tested, but all the variations in the ways questions are asked. That’s unfortunately an impossible task, and ends up confusing the overall picture for our students. These guides are streamlined; they’re designed to emphasize to our students the material that they absolutely have to understand in order to tackle more and more difficult questions.
Was there a part/section of the 5th edition books you really struggled with?Stacey Koprince:
What didn’t I struggle with! Whenever we produce any teaching material – books, articles, test questions – we’re always obsessed with making it as good as can be. The material itself needs to be clear, easy to understand and simultaneously comprehensive and concise. We also need to make sure that it really works on actual GMAT questions. For any GMAT questions we write, we also need to make sure that they are what we call “GMAT-like,” meaning they mimic official GMAT questions. The best compliment I can receive is having someone believe that a question I wrote is actually an official question. So we’re constantly agonizing over whether we’ve hit all of our own standards.Liz Moliski:
Getting the quant IR examples just right was tough for me. There just weren’t very many sample problems to look at and I knew that students would need good examples.
How much student feedback do you incorporate when you’re coming up with a new edition of books?Stacey Koprince:
Everything I write is with the students in mind. When we’re coming up with ideas, a lot of those ideas are driven by discussions we’ve had with students in class or in the forums in terms of what they struggle with, what kinds of explanations do and don’t work, what kinds of solution methods are easier vs. harder to use, and so on.Liz Moliski:
A lot! I read every piece of student feedback for over a year and categorized everything into a big spreadsheet before we made any changes and sent summaries to Chris so we could figure out what students needed us to do.David Mahler:
It’s always important to find that right balance between what students want and what students need. We always listen when students say that a particular section is confusing. The whole point is to make sure we’re describing things in a way that makes sense to our students.
There are so many books, it seems! Where should a student start when attacking the 5th edition?Stacey Koprince:
There is a lot of material! If someone’s in a class, she or he can follow the syllabus, but everyone should also think carefully about strengths and weaknesses before diving in. Plan to spend more time in your weaker areas, of course, and don’t hesitate to move more quickly through an area of strength. You don’t have to do every last problem in every last problem set – if you already get the material, then move on to harder material in the same area or move on to another area entirely.Liz Moliski:
Start with GMAT Roadmap
– there is a reason why it is numbered as Guide 0. David Mahler:
The GMAT Roadmap
is a wonderful addition. It can be very helpful if a student is getting lost in details and needs a look at the bigger picture. Other than that it’s important not to get too lost in the details of any chapter. Do practice problems at the end to really get a sense of how well you know the topic. And always make sure that you’re doing problems from the OG – knowing the content is one thing, and knowing how they test it is another.
Is there anything else about these new books we should know/people would find interesting?Liz Moliski:
All of the people on the covers are actual MGMAT Instructors and staffers!David Mahler:
Our books are definitely not made of people.
Want to win a full set of 5th Edition Strategy Guides?Check out this previous GMAT Club thread
and tell us!Originally posted on the Manhattan GMAT Blog
Matt Mapplebeck | Manhattan GMAT Online Marketing Associate | New York
Manhattan GMAT Discount | Manhattan GMAT Course Reviews |
Manhattan GMAT Reviews