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Manhattan GMAT Books Review

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Manhattan GMAT Books Review [#permalink] New post 05 Apr 2006, 15:24
This stands true for all 7 Manhattan GMAT books. Are they a bit more expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. I've had both Kaplan and Princeton books, CDS, other books, and I always felt they fell short. Other books focus on teaching you relatively complex strategies to save time, but ignore the fundamentals. Problem is, you can show me a million shortcuts, but if I don't remember HOW to solve the problem, the shortcuts only get me to a wrong answer faster.

The Manhattan method addresses fundamentals directly.

If you don't remember Geometry, thats fine - Manhattan will teach it to you again, ground up. Have trouble manipulating fractions? Again, manhattan will go over it from the ground up - while showing you a few speed tricks - but the focus is on the fundamentals, not just some "tip".

Their philosophy is that if you don't remember the fundamentals of a specific subject, you can't possibly be expected to get the question right - speed tip or no speed tip.

The method in which they cover each subject is also helpful. Typically, they introduce a concept, then show you how that concept applies with one or two sample questions, then build on that initial easy question and show you another piece of the puzzle, then again, show you with sample questions. Unlike a lot of the other books I have where the sample questions that supposedly build your knowledge are typically written by the guys making the book, in almost every case, Manhattan uses a specific question from the Official Guides. This not only means that you are learning using real examples, but that you can find the question and MBA's solution as well.

It's very much of a building block mentality - step by step. Understand what an integer is first, then understand a fraction, then understand how to manipulate fractions, then understand different properties of fractions, then combine fractions with exponents and learn how to manipulate those, and so on. By the end of each chapter, you'll end up seeing more challenging problems.

I also appreciate that the books really start from the bottom of a topic - the first page of a chapter is typically so basic that you will skim it - but in areas where you might be weak, that first piece may actually be very helpful.

The tips they provide are not just tips, they are real intelligent methods of solving a problem. For example, every book teaches you to memorize the data sufficiency options - A is this, B, is that, if its not A then it cant be D, etc. Kaplan tries to teach you this by making you memorize each option and the combinations. If its not B, and not A, then.... To me, this was just confusing. Manhattan teaches you what they call an AD/BCE method, which is very easy to memorize and takes ten or twenty minutes to master.

They also teach you strategies that will work in a bind - Questions such as (and im making this up to illustrate the point, but you'll get the idea) "What is 26/49ths of 5340" tend to freak me out (or they did), until Manhattan taught you to recognize that twice 49 is 98, and twice 26 is 52, so roughly, whats 1/2 of 5340? It may seem immediately obvious to a lot of people, but if it didn't to you, Manhattan will teach you how to estimate with confidence. If the question was very exact, you may not be able to do this, but often, you'll find that the estimate is sufficient to identify the right answer. Similar strategies are taught for dealing with decimals, exponents and big numbers - (whats 0.0015 divided by 0.05?).

The material is laid out in a much much clearer fashion than most other books which tend to lump huge pieces of the exam together. I've seen many books have a chapter called "Geometry". And in there is a laundry list of formulas.

Not so with Manhattan.

Each book contains several chapters, each chapter on a very specific section of material. At the end of each chapter are a list of specific questions from the Official Guide 11th edition and the verbal and math supplements that test exactly what was in that specific chapter. So, after reading about, say, manipulating inequalities, you can go practice on ten or twenty or thirty practice questions that specifically address exactly that subject. Each subject is segmented well.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only series of books that ties their own strategies and lessons to specific questions in the Official Guide to this level of detail. They even tell you what questions in the Official Guide are considered "challenge problems", so if you think you've got a subject down already, just go try those.

The huge advantage of this is two fold:

One, because you test your understanding immediately by focusing on exactly the right kinds of questions, you can quickly figure out if you "get it". With other books, I'd find myself reading up on a specific subject - say Rate problems - and then wondering where to go find more rate problems.

Second, if you later want to come back and do practice problems of a specific kind because you need to review, it takes all of 3 minutes to find the right page in the book and you have a huge section of practice problems straight from the official guide to go back to.

This was one of my frustrations with previous books - finding a specific kind of question that I wanted to practice on was often tricky because the competitors don't segment the content as finely. Other books tend to lump this material together and you have to wade through hundreds of questions on similar material before you find the two or three questions that test exactly what you were looking to practice.

As a result, the Manhattan books save you time - and a lot of frustration. This is particularly the case as you get closer to the exam and you begin to want to review very specific portions of the material.

Also, note that they cover every single question in the official guides. If you do all of the chapters in all seven books and complete all questions listed in the back of every chapter, you will have done all 800 practice questions from the Official Guide and all questions from the verbal and quantitive supplements. In other words, they don't cherry pick the questions to make you feel good. You will do everything from the easy to the hard.

In addition, each chapter contains 15 practice questions that are not multiple choice (so you can't just pick numbers or back-solve). This forces you to really learn the material again rather than simply looking at a problem and testing out answer choices.

As with most books, the focus is on the quantitive side, but the verbal books are the only ones I've read that actually provided tangible help. One of the most amazing strategies you will read about is how you DONT read those long reading comprehension passages. Seriously. Don't read them.
Sound strange? Yes. But it works.

I started using their strategy - haven't read a whole reading comprehension passage in weeks, and I'm getting 85 to 95% of the questions right - as opposed to 50 or 60% (the book explains why this is often the case). Not only that, but if you don't have to read 70 lines of text three or four times on an exam, you easily add 10 minutes of extra time to all the other questions.

Strategies for Sentence correction are strong. They cover all the subjects in excruitating detail. Modifier this, past participle that, parallelism, you name it.

I think their Critical Reasoning strategies are helpful, but not particularly ground shaking. That being said, how do you teach someone to reason critically? They provide a framework and some basic guidelines, but CR is something that just takes practice.

In short, I think the Manhattan books are outstanding.
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 [#permalink] New post 05 Apr 2006, 15:47
I would not use them to improve scores from 45+!

They seem to focus on the basics! I used two of them and found them useful ut not to get a score above 45
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 [#permalink] New post 25 Apr 2006, 05:49
I recently started taking the online class in conjunction with studying from these books and I've found them to be quite helpful. I've been out of school for a while, so I really needed to brush up on the basics. The books are excellent for beginning with the basics and moving up to more difficult concepts. The explanations for each question are very detailed and simple to understand. So far, I these books are great when used in conjunction with the OG.
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 [#permalink] New post 28 Apr 2006, 10:34
Honestly though, I don't think I've seen ANY book or program that will help you get beyond 45+ on math. I second RYHME's recommendation of the MGMAT books. If you're scoring beyond 45 on math, you are just plain smart -- you're thinking through the logic. Past 45, it less about the foundations, and more about how you apply them, and I don't see how that can be taught. You just have to do hard problems, over and over.
  [#permalink] 28 Apr 2006, 10:34
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