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EMPOWERgmat Blog

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3 Reasons Why You Probably Won’t Score Q51 on Test Day (And What You Can Do to Improve Your Chances)

Whether you know it or not, the top Scaled Score that you can receive in the Quant section of the GMAT is a Q51. These days, that score represents about the 97th percentile, meaning that 97% of Test Takers can’t (or won’t) do what it takes to score at that level. The Q51 has become something of an obsession for a subset of Test Takers – they become fixated on it and spend an excessive amount of time trying to achieve it (when that time and effort would almost certainly be better spent improving other things, such as their SC, RC and CR skills for the Verbal section).

One of the difficulties with scoring at that level in the Quant is that it requires a number of skills that are not needed to pass a typical ‘math test.’ Many Test Takers continue to study for the Quant section as if it were a math test though and can’t improve beyond a certain point (typically a score in the Q45 to Q49 range). Before you can earn a Quant Score above that range, you have to define what you’re not properly doing during your studies… and then make the necessary adjustments to how you prepare for the Quant section of the GMAT.

1 - You’re approaching the 37 Quant questions as if they were ‘math questions’

The Quant section of the GMAT is NOT a math test – it’s a critical thinking test that requires that you do a number of little calculations (typically involving basic math) throughout it. As such, there’s a general limitation as to how high you can score with ‘just’ math skills – since those skills are NOT what that section is designed to measure.

When scoring Q51, a variety of other skills take precedence over high-level math skills. Your ability to use Tactics, pattern-match, use the answer choices to your advantage, estimate, make logical deductions based on Number Properties, etc. all contribute far more to scoring a Q51 than you probably realize. Beyond those skills, your ability to take notes, do organized work, work efficiently and be thorough with your thinking (especially when working on DS questions) also factor in a great deal when handling the Quant section overall.

2 – You’re focusing on the wrong questions during your review

Many Test Takers become fixated on the ‘level’ of the questions that they’re getting correct and incorrect. That mis-placed emphasis on ‘700 level’ questions ends up distracting those same Test Takers from what they should actually be focused on – correctly answering all of the ‘gettable’ questions, regardless of the implied level of those question.

As a way to prove this point, you should take a good look at the Quant section of the last CAT that you took. Make a list of every question that you got wrong and try to categorize (in real simple terms) WHY you got each question wrong. How many questions did you think were just ‘too hard’ relative to all of the other questions that you got wrong? How many of those other questions do you think you could have gotten correct? I’ll bet that list is LARGER than the list of questions that you thought were too hard. Now, guess which list most people tend to fixate on….? If you’re wondering where you’re going to find the missing points that you’re looking for, then you should start with ALL of those gettable questions that you didn’t get correct.

3 – You’re taking your CATs in an unrealistic way and that’s impacting your score results

On Test Day, you’re going to have to go through quite a bit of work before you see your first Quant question. Beyond the check-in phase and the time it takes to get to your computer, you also have to work through the Essay, the IR section and the first 8-minute break. All of those tasks take time and effort. That first Quant question won’t show up until almost 1.5 hours have gone by on Test Day. When you take your CATs, have you worked through ALL of those Test-Day requirements before you begin the Quant section? Because if you haven’t, then you’ve taken a shorter, easier CAT that required less work from you; by extension, you went into the Quant section in an unrealistic way and you likely had an easier time dealing with it than you actually will on the Official GMAT. At higher and higher score levels, the GMAT becomes really ‘sensitive’ to little mistakes. If you’re not training to perform at a high level under realistic, test-like conditions, then you’re less likely to perform at a high level on Test Day.

Thankfully, all of these areas CAN be improved on. To start though, you have to acknowledge whether your current practice resources are helping you to stay focused on all of these essential details or not. If your study materials aren’t emphasizing all of these factors, then you have to consider working with the materials that DO emphasize them.

To that end, we’re here to help.

GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,
Rich
_________________

760+: Learn What GMAT Assassins Do to Score at the Highest Levels
Contact Rich at: Rich.C@empowergmat.com

Rich Cohen

Co-Founder & GMAT Assassin

Special Offer: Save $75 + GMAT Club Tests Free
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***********************Select EMPOWERgmat Courses now include ALL 6 Official GMAC CATs!***********************

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New post 01 Aug 2016, 10:51
Monday Mail-Bag: Advice on Big Picture Issues That Impact GMAT Test Takers…

This series of emails and PMs focuses on situations that many Test Takers face during their studies. The names of the original posters have been changed to protect their identities.

Data Interpretation Comes in Many Forms on Test Day
Hi Rich,

To what degree is data interpretation tested on the gmat?

Roosevelt

Hi Roosevelt,

Are you referring to DS questions, IR questions or chart/graph/table questions?

DS questions make up a considerable portion of the Quant section (you'll see about 15 on Test Day). While the IR section does include a variety of "table" questions to deal with, the Quant section usually includes 1 prompt that will include a graph or table of data. That one question in the Quant section often takes longer than average to solve, so you have to be prepared to put in a bit more effort when it shows up.

Effective Use of Time Per Question in the Quant Section
Dear Rich,

Some questions I am able to solve and move quickly through, others I find I am spending a lot of time on. Do you have a breakdown of what too much time on questions is?

Sherman

Hi Sherman,

When assessing the amount of time that you're spending on an individual question, you should define exactly what you're DOING with your time. If you're staring at the screen, then you're wasting time. If you honestly can't figure out what to do with a question, then you're wasting time. When you DO answer a question correctly, you should think about HOW you solved it and if that method was actually fastest. Most questions can be solved in a number of different ways, so you might want to ask yourself if your way was FASTEST.

Most pacing problems occur because of bad decision-making. Instead of restricting yourself to a particular amount of time per question, put your emphasis into proper note-taking and organization and learning the various approaches to each type of prompt. Also, you have to be mentally prepared to quickly "dump" a question if you can't figure out how to deal with it.

Dealing With Symbolism Questions on Test Day
Rich,

I faced this PS question below that I couldn't overcome.. Can you give me a way out?

For any numbers a and b, a · b = a + b - ab.
If a · b = 0, which of the following CANNOT be a value of b?

(A) 2
(B) 1
(C) 0
(D) -1
(E) -2/3

I hope you can explain me how to solve this question!

Truman

Hi Truman,

This is an example of a Symbolism question (and you'll likely see 1 on Test Day). The idea is that you'll be given a "made up" math symbol, told what it "means" mathematically and then asked to solve some minor equation.

Here, we're told to substitute values in for A and B so that the equation….

A + B - AB = 0

We're asked which of the following answers CANNOT be the value of B? So 4 of the answers are POSSIBLE and one is IMPOSSIBLE.

There are a couple of ways to approach this prompt. You could work mathematically or you can TEST THE ANSWERS. I'm going to use the answers to my advantage and find the 4 that are possible solutions and the one the creates an impossible situation:

If B = 2, then we'd have...
A + 2 - 2A = 0
2 = A
So B COULD be 2

If B = 1, then we'd have…
A + 1 - A = 0
1 = 0???????
B CANNOT equal 1

At this point, we could stop. Answer B is clearly the one that is NOT possible, so it must be the answer. I'll show you why the other answers are possible though:

If B = 0, then we'd have…
A + 0 - 0 = 0
0 = A
So B COULD be 0

If B = -1, then we'd have…
A -1 -(-1)(A) = 0
2A = 1
1/2 = A
So B COULD be -1

If B = -2/3, then we'd have…
A - 2/3 -(-2/3)(A) = 0
A + 2A/3 = 2/3
5A/3 = 2/3
A = 6/15
So B COULD be -2/3

Final Answer: B

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
_________________

760+: Learn What GMAT Assassins Do to Score at the Highest Levels
Contact Rich at: Rich.C@empowergmat.com

Rich Cohen

Co-Founder & GMAT Assassin

Special Offer: Save $75 + GMAT Club Tests Free
  Official GMAT Exam Packs + 70 Pt. Improvement Guarantee
www.empowergmat.com/

***********************Select EMPOWERgmat Courses now include ALL 6 Official GMAC CATs!***********************

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EMPOWERgmat Instructor
User avatar
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Status: GMAT Assassin/Co-Founder
Affiliations: EMPOWERgmat
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Location: United States (CA)
GMAT 1: 800 Q51 V49
GRE 1: 340 Q170 V170
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New post 08 Aug 2016, 10:20
3 Ways That Your PRIDE is Keeping You From Scoring Higher on the GMAT

Over the years, the EMPOWERgmat Team has worked with tens of thousands of Test Takers, helping each to score at a higher level on the GMAT. I’ve dealt with almost every situation that you could possibly imagine – from the obvious to the subtle. I’ve seen certifiable geniuses get ‘stuck’ and absolutely ‘average’ students score at remarkably high levels on the GMAT. Of all of the situations that I’ve faced, one of the most frequent actually has nothing to do with the intelligence or test-taking ability of the individual at all; it has to do with the personality of the Client. The Test Takers who have the most problems improving their GMAT scores are the ones who let their PRIDE get in the way of performing at a higher level.

Pride can be a subtle and powerful character trait. Unfortunately, when it comes to training to take a Standardized Test, pride is almost always a hindrance. The best Test Takers I’ve ever worked with were flexible thinkers – they could accept new ways of approaching the Test and be comfortable with processing information, and working through questions, in a way that was initially foreign to their traditional way of thinking.

If you find yourself thinking ANY of the following during your studies, then your pride is probably getting in the way of your improvement:

1 - “I don’t have to take notes”/ ”I can do it all in my head” - the GMAT is a consistent, predictable Test, and the type of ‘work’ that is necessary to correctly answer most prompts is relatively simple. As such, you have to ask WHY you would choose to risk making a little mistake by doing work ‘in your head.’ Isn’t your future worth a little bit of standardized note-taking? If you don’t think that it is, then that’s probably your pride getting in the way.

2 – “I don’t have time to take notes” – in real simple terms… YES you do. 75 minutes is actually the perfect amount of time to handle each of the Quant and Verbal sections. A little less time than that and the Test becomes unfair; a little more time than that and the Test becomes too easy. The time that you’re allotted allows you to properly read the prompt, take notes, and do the necessary work on each of the questions that you face. However, if you don’t take notes, then questions actually tend to take LONGER to solve than they should AND you run the risk of making little mistakes.

3 – “My way will get me to the correct answer (but I have to rush to finish the section and I end up guessing on a bunch of questions at the end)” - This argument hinges on the idea that you have an unlimited amount of time to answer all of the questions, which is NOT realistic. Most GMAT questions can be solved in more than one way. If you have to rush to finish the section, then it’s likely that “your way” is the “long way” to get to the correct answer. By extension, your pride is keeping you from learning new, faster ways of approaching the prompts.

Thankfully, ALL of these issues can ‘fixed.’ Since the GMAT is predictable, you can train for every subject and every situation that you’ll face on Test Day. But the key word there is “train”; if you’re letting your pride keep you from training properly, then you’ll likely get ‘stuck’ at a score level that is less than your potential.

One of the things that you’ll almost certainly have to overcome is your pride. To that end, we are here to help.

GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,
Rich
_________________

760+: Learn What GMAT Assassins Do to Score at the Highest Levels
Contact Rich at: Rich.C@empowergmat.com

Rich Cohen

Co-Founder & GMAT Assassin

Special Offer: Save $75 + GMAT Club Tests Free
  Official GMAT Exam Packs + 70 Pt. Improvement Guarantee
www.empowergmat.com/

***********************Select EMPOWERgmat Courses now include ALL 6 Official GMAC CATs!***********************

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New post 15 Aug 2016, 10:56
Monday Mail-Bag: Advice on Big Picture Issues That Impact GMAT Test Takers…

This series of emails and PMs focuses on situations that many Test Takers face during their studies. The names of the original posters have been changed to protect their identities.

The Basics Behind Prime Factorization
Hi Rich,

This question has kept me occupied for the entire day. I am trying to arrive at a general concept here.

"If a number Z is divisible by X, when would it also be divisible by Y"?

For Example: the number 108 is divisible by 27 and also divisible by 54. When would a number be divisible by both 27 and 54? What's the general concept hidden behind this problem that GMAT would try to test?

There is something it has got to do with the factors, but I just can't get clarity.

Uter

Hi Uter,

The concept that you've mentioned in this post is ultimately about "prime factorization" - by knowing what prime factors divide evenly into a number, you can figure out all of the possible values that can divide evenly into that number.

For example, the number 20 = 2x2x5

This means that the following numbers will divide evenly into 20:
1
2
4 = 2x2
5
10 = 2x5
20 = 2x2x5

This rule tends to come in handy when dealing with really big numbers or when trying to figure out the values at which numbers overlap with one another.

For example, what's the least common multiple of 4 and 6?

4 = 2x2
6 = 2x3

Notice how BOTH terms include one "2"? In this scenario, you DON'T count that 2 twice – you count it ONCE.

The LCM of 4 and 6 = 2x2x3 = 12

The Standard Work Formula Question That You Might See on Test Day
Dear Rich,

I know this is a work question, but I got stuck and I’m not sure how best to approach these questions.

If Sally can paint a house in 4 hours, and John can paint the same house in 6 hour, how long will it take for both of them to paint the house together?

A. 2 hours and 24 minutes
B. 3 hours and 12 minutes
C. 3 hours and 44 minutes
D. 4 hours and 10 minutes
E. 4 hours and 33 minutes

My workout :

1/4 +1/6 = 5/12, but I’m stuck after this.

Vernon

Hi Vernon,

This question involves 2 people working on a job together, so it's perfect for the Work Formula:

Work = (AxB)/(A+B)

A and B represent the amount of time that it takes each person to paint the house:

A = 4 hours
B = 6 hours

Now plug in…

(4x6)/(4+6) = 24/10 hours

2.4 hours = 2 hours 24 minutes

Final Answer: A

Your approach would also get you the correct answer. You’ve calculated the amount of the “job” that gets done in 1 hour. By ‘flipping’ that fraction (re: 5/12 ‘flips’ to 12/5), you end up with the total TIME (in hours) it takes to complete the job.

A Competitive Score vs. the School’s Average Score
Rich,

I am aiming to get into top 20-30 B-schools. Will I need a 700 or higher?

Wilhelmina

Hi Wilhelmina,

While most of the Top-20 US Business Schools have an AVERAGE GMAT score of 700+, that's just an average, NOT a requirement. In real basic terms, the higher your GMAT score, the better your "chances", but small increases are rarely meaningful (a 670, a 680 and a 690 all ‘look’ the same to Admissions Committees); a high GMAT score might also help you qualify for a scholarship. Keep in mind that a strong overall application is what it takes to get into B-School and your GMAT score is just one of the parts of the application. If you have a decent GMAT score, but your application ‘stands out’ in other ways, then you can still get into a Top Business School.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
_________________

760+: Learn What GMAT Assassins Do to Score at the Highest Levels
Contact Rich at: Rich.C@empowergmat.com

Rich Cohen

Co-Founder & GMAT Assassin

Special Offer: Save $75 + GMAT Club Tests Free
  Official GMAT Exam Packs + 70 Pt. Improvement Guarantee
www.empowergmat.com/

***********************Select EMPOWERgmat Courses now include ALL 6 Official GMAC CATs!***********************

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EMPOWERgmat Instructor
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Status: GMAT Assassin/Co-Founder
Affiliations: EMPOWERgmat
Joined: 19 Dec 2014
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Location: United States (CA)
GMAT 1: 800 Q51 V49
GRE 1: 340 Q170 V170
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New post 22 Aug 2016, 12:17
Your Ultimate Goals Are MORE Important Than Your Current Timeline

The process of successfully getting an invitation to attend your first-choice Business School requires a variety of intermediate ‘steps’ along the way. As that process requires a significant investment of your time, money and energy, it’s important to stay organized and plan a reasonable timeline so that you can accomplish all of the necessary tasks that are a part of crafting a strong Business School application. At this time of year, many applicants are planning for the upcoming Round 1 application deadlines. Thankfully, for those people, there’s still plenty of time to study for the GMAT and work on their applications. However, as the deadlines near, some of those applicants will lose sight of their ‘big picture’ goals and rush a less-than-perfect application out to their first-choice Business Schools. As a result, they WON’T get accepted to those Schools. Before you allow THAT situation to happen to you, you have to remember that your ultimate goals are MORE important than your immediate timeline and application deadlines.

If you don’t have a first-choice Business School, then you SHOULD have one. You will end up putting so much effort into this overall process that if you’re not applying to a Business School that is best-suited to YOUR goals and needs, then you’re acting in an unprofessional fashion (and likely wasting what your MBA could mean for your future). Defining what you want to do with your career, and how an MBA would help, is an essential part of making sure that you’re going after the proper degree (and from the proper School). Your process should include far more than just ‘name recognition’ though. If your first-choice School is Harvard because “it’s Harvard”, then you have NOT put the necessary thought into this process (and it’s likely that Harvard will figure that out about you and NOT choose you because of it). There IS a School (or perhaps several) that will be a perfect match for your needs – once you define what those specific needs are. Getting into THAT School is the ultimate goal. Whether that happens in Round 1, Round 2 or later on (even perhaps next year), you cannot allow yourself to lose sight of that goal.

An applicant’s GMAT score is arguably the first piece of the application that most Admissions Officers look at. The numbers are already defined, and have a ‘meaning’ that the Officers can quickly assess. Rushing to take the GMAT, with the goal of making an admissions deadline, is one of the WORST mistakes that you can make as part of the overall process. If you’re not scoring near your goal score during your studies, then you’re likely NOT going to “luck out” on Test Day and score much higher. In that same way, if you’re not practicing in a realistic fashion (meaning that you’re taking your practice CATs in a way that doesn’t ‘line up’ with what you’ll face on Test Day), then you shouldn’t be surprised when you end up suddenly scoring lower on the Official Test. Remember that the real GMAT will always give you the score that you EARN. You CAN properly train to score at a high level, but if you didn’t put in the necessary time, use the proper resources, learn the proper Tactics and put in the necessary effort , then you’re likely to end up with an Official Score that keeps you from getting into your first-choice School. And WHY did you end up with a lower score than you needed? Because you were rushing to make an admissions deadline? That is a CRAZY reason for not achieving your big picture goals.

Assuming that you have all of the necessary ‘pieces’ to your application (including a strong GMAT score, well-written essays, etc.), the final piece of the application puzzle could end up being one of the most important – and one that you have not even thought about. Admissions Experts can sometimes play a vital role in the application submissions process. While the services that they offer can be expensive, and (unfortunately) no Admissions Expert can guarantee you a positive result, those Experts can help you to craft an overall application that will properly impress Business School Admissions Officers. In that way, those Experts can help you to properly ‘market yourself’ AND avoid any potential errors or ‘hiccups’ in your application. Imagine if you made an avoidable error in an essay or during an interview… You wouldn’t even necessarily know that you made the error; you just wouldn’t end up receiving an invite (and you’d be left to wonder WHY you were rejected). As smart as you might be, you’re almost certainly NOT an expert when it comes to knowing what Admissions Committee Members think – and you probably will never become an expert in that subject. If you’re planning to apply to a highly-competitive Program, then you have to give serious consideration to hiring an Admissions Expert to help you. Whether you actually make that investment or not, you should consider the alternative… Would spending that money to increase your chances at getting in be worth your ultimate goals? Would saving that money be as important to you in the long run as having that MBA from your first-choice Business School?

There’s a great deal that goes into this overall process and it might be tough coming up with all of the answers on your own. To that end though, we’re here to help.

GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,
Rich
_________________

760+: Learn What GMAT Assassins Do to Score at the Highest Levels
Contact Rich at: Rich.C@empowergmat.com

Rich Cohen

Co-Founder & GMAT Assassin

Special Offer: Save $75 + GMAT Club Tests Free
  Official GMAT Exam Packs + 70 Pt. Improvement Guarantee
www.empowergmat.com/

***********************Select EMPOWERgmat Courses now include ALL 6 Official GMAC CATs!***********************

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EMPOWERgmat Instructor
User avatar
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Status: GMAT Assassin/Co-Founder
Affiliations: EMPOWERgmat
Joined: 19 Dec 2014
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Location: United States (CA)
GMAT 1: 800 Q51 V49
GRE 1: 340 Q170 V170
Re: EMPOWERgmat Blog [#permalink]

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New post 29 Aug 2016, 16:34
Monday Mail-Bag: Advice on Big Picture Issues That Impact GMAT Test Takers…

This series of emails and PMs focuses on situations that many Test Takers face during their studies. The names of the original posters have been changed to protect their identities.

Number Properties in DS Questions
Hi Rich,

I’m stuck on this DS. What’s the easiest way to solve it?

If x and y are prime numbers, is y(x-3) odd ?

1) x > 10

2) y < 3

Xena

Hi Xena,

This DS question is built on Number Properties.

We're told that X and Y are PRIME numbers. We're asked if "Y(X-3) is odd?" This is a YES/NO question.

Here are the Number Properties worth knowing for this question:
Odd x Odd = Odd
Even x Odd = Even
Even x Even = Even

Fact 1: X > 10

Since X is PRIME and X > 10, this means that X MUST be ODD. By extension, since X is ODD, then this means that (X-3) MUST be EVEN (since odd – odd = even). Next, remember that ANY integer multiplied by an EVEN yields an EVEN? So Y(X-3) will ALWAYS be EVEN (by extension, it will NEVER be ODD), so the answer to the question is ALWAYS NO.
Fact 1 is SUFFICIENT

Fact 2: Y < 3

Since Y is PRIME, it MUST be 2. Here, we're dealing with the SAME Number Property rule as in Fact 1: Since Y is 2, 2(X-3) MUST be EVEN, so it will NEVER be odd – and the answer to the question is ALWAYS NO.
Fact 2 is SUFFICIENT

Final Answer: D

General Verbal Advice To Build Your Skills
Dear Rich,

I’m about to start studying for verbal, are there any general tips or advice that you can offer?

Yasmine

Hi Yasmine,

Before you begin your studies in the 3 major Verbal categories (SC, RC and CR), here are some ideas that you should start off with:

1) SCs usually represent the largest number of Verbal questions in that section of the GMAT, so you have to make sure you know the major GMAT grammar rules that are tested (and that knowledge will be worth a LOT of points). Some of this comes down to repetitions and memorization, the rest comes down to building a "library" of the patterns that the GMAT uses to test these various rules, so that you can spot the correct answers faster.

2) RC and CR prompts require notes. DO NOT try to answer these questions in your head. DO NOT run to the answers and pick the one that "sounds best." Learning to predict the correct answer before you look at the options will help you to speed up and increase your score.

TEST THE ANSWERS with Algebra
Rich,

Can we use the answers against this question? And if yes then how?

Each digit in the two-digit number G is halved to form a new two-digit number H. Which of the following could be the sum of G and H?

A. 153
B. 150
C. 137
D. 129
E. 89

The first sentence in this question provides an important piece of information. Since EACH of the digits is HALVED to form a new number, then each of those original digits MUST be EVEN.

Eg. 46 halved is 23, but 57 cannot be halved to form a new integer.

You can TEST THE ANSWERS on this question. Here's how….

The question mentions that G is "halved" to form H. In algebra terms, this means…

G/2 = H

When the question asks for what COULD be the sum of G and H, what it's REALLY asking is…

G + H = ?
G + G/2 = ?
3G/2 = 1.5G = ?

Which of these could be the value 1.5G (given the constraints of the question)?

Let's TEST answer E…

1.5G = 89

Now multiply both sides by 2 to get rid of the decimal…

3G = 178

178 is NOT evenly divisible by 3, so it CAN'T be the answer.

Let's TEST answer D…

1.5G = 129
3G = 258

G = 86; this IS a 2-digit number with EVEN digits!!!!

G=86, H=43, G+H = 129
This matches everything we were told in the prompt.

Final Answer: D

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
_________________

760+: Learn What GMAT Assassins Do to Score at the Highest Levels
Contact Rich at: Rich.C@empowergmat.com

Rich Cohen

Co-Founder & GMAT Assassin

Special Offer: Save $75 + GMAT Club Tests Free
  Official GMAT Exam Packs + 70 Pt. Improvement Guarantee
www.empowergmat.com/

***********************Select EMPOWERgmat Courses now include ALL 6 Official GMAC CATs!***********************

Expert Post
EMPOWERgmat Instructor
User avatar
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Status: GMAT Assassin/Co-Founder
Affiliations: EMPOWERgmat
Joined: 19 Dec 2014
Posts: 11070
Location: United States (CA)
GMAT 1: 800 Q51 V49
GRE 1: 340 Q170 V170
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New post 05 Sep 2016, 15:06
That ‘Book Heavy’ Study Plan is Likely NOT Going to Get You to Your Score Goal

When it comes to studying for the GMAT, there are LOTS of different resources for you to choose from. As such, assembling the perfect combination of study materials can be a tricky task. What materials should you start with? What’s the ‘best’ way to learn the basics? How can you be efficient so that a 3-month study plan doesn’t balloon into a 6–month to 12-month study plan? Advice can come from so many different sources that you might not be sure whose advice to follow. Clouding the issue even further is that, for most of your life, you learned from books. There was never a question of whether there actually was a better, faster, more effective way to learn or not – you were given a book, taught out of a book and (likely) never given any other choice. When it comes to studying for the GMAT, your ‘built-in bias’ is almost certainly going to hurt your studies and limit your progress – that ‘book heavy’ study plan you’re using is almost certainly NOT going to get you to your score goal.

The reasons why a ‘book heavy’ plan likely won’t be enough to help you hit your score goal can be grouped into a few categories: the historical data/statistics, human nature and the limits of what a book can present:

The “Statistical Problem” with a Book Heavy Study Plan

I’m going to preface all of this by stating that I’ll be assuming certain ‘generalities’ about the pool of GMAT Test Takers in any given year. While the 200,000+ people who will study for (and likely take) the GMAT this year have individual goals, needs, timelines, etc., I can’t speak to every individual. Some of you will use a book heavy study plan and hit your goal score, but statistically-speaking, most of you won’t be able to hit your goal in that way.

Historical data from GMAC helps to prove this point. To start, the average GMAT score has remained remarkably consistent over the years (540-550) – it hasn’t changed in any meaningful way. The same can be said for the 90th percentile – it’s still right around 700-710. These data points have remained relatively stable for over a decade. As a GMAT Expert and professional in the field, the most common score goal that I hear falls into some variation of “700+.” Since roughly 90% of those 200,000 people CAN’T score at that level, that leaves only 10% (approximately 20,000 Test Takers each year) who CAN. The math gets even ‘worse’ at the higher levels. The 99th percentile is right around a 750, meaning that only about 1% (or about 2,000 people) can hit that mark each year. This happens EVERY year and includes groups of people who attempt to study for the GMAT for the 2nd or 3rd time.

Think of the commonalities of that HUGE group of people… What study approach did those 180,000+ people probably use? What materials did they focus on? Books are everywhere, they’re incredibly cheap (relative to the other non-book resources available) and easy to access. IF studying in that fashion consistently led to a 700+ score, then the statistical data would show a huge shift in the percentiles and the average GMAT score would greatly increase. That has NEVER happened though. By extension, that book heavy study approach that those MILLIONS of Test Takers have used over the last decade did NOT lead to a 700+ score. The data proves it.

To that end, what are YOU going to do that those MILLIONS of Test Takers didn’t do? They spent a LOT of time working through the same books – and there’s a good chance that you’re focused on some of that same print material…

Think Hard About How YOU Actually Learn BEST

Here, we have to start with some rhetorical questions:

If you were going to learn to play a musical instrument, what do you THINK would be the best way to learn? Would it be from a book? Wouldn’t it be easier to see and hear an Expert walk you through the process? If that Expert could show you the proper technique, give you tips, show you tactics, etc., and present all of that information in a multi-media format, wouldn’t THAT be ideal? How much faster would you likely learn, as opposed to having to process a lot of written words and try to duplicate the one (often technical) approach that is provided from a book?

The reason why ‘multi-media’ learning almost always works better than ‘book learning’ is that more of your senses are engaged. That higher level of engagement helps you to pay more attention and creates stronger memory and reference points (you’ll actually be more likely to recognize details in other questions that remind you of questions that you’ve already worked through). Most GMATers don’t realize that that higher level of engagement is actually necessary when training to face the GMAT. There are too many ‘little things’ that can be missed if you try to study from a book that you almost have to question why someone would purposely choose to study in that way.

The Limitations of the Print Format

Due to the economics involved in publishing books, there are certain built-in limitations as to what any individual book can contain. To start, nobody wants to carry around a gigantic book (much less multiple gigantic books), so books have to be designed to be ‘relatively’ thin (even though many books still turn out BIG). A sizeable part of each book is committed to the raw ‘content’ of the GMAT that has to be explained and a sizeable number of practice questions also have to be included. Books almost always follow an academic ‘design’, so explanations to those practice questions tend to be step-heavy and technical. Most writers don’t want to explain a question 2 or 3 times (even though most GMAT questions can be solved in 2-3 different ways), so the one explanation that is typically offered is the (often long-winded) technical one. By their design, books are not going to show you the Tactical way(s) to answer a GMAT question because that is not the academic ‘norm.’ Thus, you’re left working with a thick, overly-technical book that isn’t designed to focus on the Tactics, patterns and little ‘secrets’ to the GMAT. While some of those little tips tend to be sprinkled into some books, the larger pool of tips and advice are never given the proper emphasis because the book format doesn’t allow it.

By working in an overly-technical fashion, you will end up taking far too long to answer GMAT questions. In turn, this will create pacing issues that will limit the number of questions that you can properly handle on the GMAT – and THAT will limit how high you can score on this Test.

Given all of the data behind how most Test Takers study and score on the GMAT, the limitations inherent to books in general (and a book heavy study plan in particular), and the nature of how the human brain best learns, you really have to question why anyone would choose to base the bulk of their studies around this type of approach. There are faster, easier, more efficient options that greatly increase the chances of hitting one’s score goal – you just have to put in the necessary investment to research the options and choose the one that best fits your personality, timeline and budget.

To that end, we’re here to help.

GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,
Rich
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New post 12 Sep 2016, 11:51
Monday Mail-Bag: Advice on Big Picture Issues That Impact GMAT Test Takers…

This series of emails and PMs focuses on situations that many Test Takers face during their studies. The names of the original posters have been changed to protect their identities.

GMAT Apps are NOT Recommended During Your Studies
Hi Rich,

I am looking for extra materials to help my studies. Are there any good apps for GMAT?

Alan

Hi Alan

While there are a number of GMAT apps online, I don’t actually recommend that Test Takers use any of them. Beyond the lack of actual usefulness of many apps, there’s a ‘physical component’ to properly training to face the GMAT that apps don’t account for. When studying with online materials, the most realistic way to work is on a desktop computer (and barring that, a laptop computer set at eye level with a peripheral mouse). Doing practice questions off of an app is not realistic relative to the ‘mechanics’ of Test Day (nor is interacting with an app in general) – how you sit while taking the GMAT, the text font/size/placement on the screen, how you have to physically go about answering the question, etc. are all specific details that impact your performance a great deal over the course of a 4-hour Exam. Using an app won’t properly train you for any of those aspects of Test Day.

Using ‘Bunching’ to Quickly Solve Certain Arithmetic Questions
Dear Rich,

How are we supposed to answer questions that ask for large sums or products like this one?

The sum of the first 50 positive even integers is 2550. What is the sum of even integers from 102 to 200 inclusive?

A. 5100
B. 7550
C. 10100
D. 15500
E. 20100

There's a math pattern called "bunching", which can also be used to answer this question.

Since we're dealing with the EVEN integers from 102 to 200, we have a total of 50 numbers (there are 100 integers from 101 to 200 and half of them are even).

Adding the biggest (200) and smallest (102) gives us 302
Adding the next biggest (198) and next smallest (104) also gives us 302
This pattern continues with each ‘pair’ of numbers.

With 50 numbers, we have 25 pairs. Each pair = 302

25(302) is approximately 25(300), which = 7500

There's only one answer that's close to 7500

Final Answer: B

Using LSAT Material During Your Studies Can Actually Be Harmful
Rich,

I scored 500 on my first gmat, but I want to score 650+. I am thinking about using lsat materials to help with verbal. What do you think?

Clinton

Hi Clinton

GMAT RC and CR prompts are based on a limited number of question types and are written in "GMAT style." Studying LSAT questions will expose you to question types that DO NOT occur on the GMAT as well as patterns/logic that you will NOT see on the GMAT. By studying with LSAT materials you will end up wasting lots of valuable time on concepts that you will never see on Test Day. In addition, you’ll be committing to memory patterns/ideas/logic that you won’t ever use on the GMAT. Ultimately, you'd be better served by focusing on just GMAT material.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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New post 19 Sep 2016, 11:25
To Properly Train for the GMAT, You Should be Using GMAT Materials

Right now, we’re in the midst of GMAT ‘season’ - that period of time when most Test Takers are aiming at upcoming Round 1 or Round 2 application deadlines. As such, the larger number of people studying for the GMAT generates a higher rate of frequently asked questions about how best to study for the Exam. There are a variety of different GMAT study materials available, but a small percentage of Test Takers decide to use non-GMAT based study materials during their studies. As odd as it sounds, they believe that using LSAT materials is a good idea as they prepare for the Verbal section of the GMAT. Unfortunately, while that idea has benefitted a small percentage of those taking the GMAT, shifting your studies to focus on that ‘outside’ material will NOT be as beneficial as you think it will be (and it could end up hurting your studies more than helping your studies). You’re far more likely to waste time learning concepts that you’ll never see on the GMAT and train in a ‘medium’ that does not properly prepare you for the physical aspects of Test Day. If you want to properly train for the GMAT, then you should be using proper GMAT resources in a proper medium.

You Should NOT be Wasting Time on non-GMAT Concepts

To be fair, LSAT Logical Reasoning and Reading Comp have a lot in common with GMAT Critical Reasoning and Reading Comp. However, there are some significant differences that are worth acknowledging. First, LSAT passages and questions are generally larger than the GMAT equivalent. This is because its generally easier to read passages on paper than it is to read off of a computer monitor (and you have the ability to ‘mark up’ the prompts (taking notes, circling important ideas, summarizing paragraphs right next to the paragraph, etc.). Since those LSAT passages can be longer, they also include a broader range of concepts that are tested (and broader sub-sets of concepts that are tested). For example, GMAT CR ‘flaw’ questions are generally based on one of 2 ‘classic’ flaws (with rarer questions involving one of a handful of less frequent flaw types). LSAT LR ‘flaw’ questions can be written around one of 10 different flaws. Now, imagine putting in all of that extra study time, to learn those 10 flaws, spot them when they appear and practice repeated all the variations of LSAT ‘flaw’ questions…. and then NONE of what you’ve learned actually appears on the GMAT. That would be a colossal waste of time (and that’s just one small piece of the broader Verbal section). Beyond that, there are many types of LSAT LR questions that don’t even appear on the GMAT, including ‘Main Point”, “Point at Issue” and “Parallel Reasoning.” Since the goal is to hone your GMAT skills and score at a high level on the GMAT, that excess work shouldn’t be a part of your study plan.

The Physical Aspects of Test Day Matter a GREAT Deal

4 hours of working on a computer is a completely different experience from 4 hours of working out of a book. The LSAT is administered in pencil-and-paper format, so it makes sense that so many LSAT study materials are also in that same format. However, you will not touch paper nor a pencil during the GMAT. You’ll be reading off of a desktop computer monitor and taking notes with a marker on a laminated pad. Your mind and body have to ‘get used to’ the physical format of Test Day (and all of that ‘back and forth’ between the screen and the pad) for you to be at your best when you face the Official GMAT. To maximize your performance on Test Day, you really should try to ‘mirror’ all of the physical variables that you’ll face on Test Day. You would NOT train for a marathon by running sprints (even though both acts involve running). You would NOT train to play the violin by playing the cello (even though both instruments involve moving a bow across strings). Working with typical LSAT practice materials will NOT prepare you for any of the physical aspects of taking the GMAT, so you shouldn’t be working with LSAT materials (and by extension, you really should not be following a ‘book-heavy’ study plan either).

The Verbal Section of the GMAT is as Predictable as the Quant Section is

Many GMATers become worried about how they’ll perform on the Verbal section. That concern is understandable as the Verbal section has no ‘safety net’ (meaning that if you make a little mistake, then you probably won’t be able to catch that mistake – and you’ll end up convincing yourself that one of the wrong answers is correct). In addition, the Verbal section is the final 75 minutes of a 4-hour Exam, when you’ll be far more tired and ready to ‘give up’ than you would be during the Quant section. However, EVERY concept in the Verbal section is established and defined – from the ‘logic’ and style behind RC/CR prompts to the grammar rules in SCs – EVERYTHING is predictable. Even the wrong answers fall into common patterns. As such, you CAN train for those exact GMAT concepts by using the proper GMAT study materials. The patterns that you’ll face in LSAT materials are designed to mirror what you’ll see on the LSAT, not the ones that you’ll face on the GMAT. This is all meant to say, that your improvement on the GMAT will be best served by focusing on GMAT materials, concepts, tactics, etc.

To that end, we’re here to help,
Rich
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New post 26 Sep 2016, 11:30
Monday Mail-Bag: Advice on Big Picture Issues That Impact GMAT Test Takers…

This series of emails and PMs focuses on situations that many Test Takers face during their studies. The names of the original posters have been changed to protect their identities.

Make Sure to Answer the Question that is ASKED
Hi Rich,

If xy=1, then what is the value of 2^(x+y)² / 2^(x-y)²?

2
4
8
16
32

My Explanation:
Since they have the same base, then it would simplify to (x+y)^2-(x-y)^2

(x^2+2+y^2)-(x^2-2+y^2)

2+2 = 4

Dexter

Hi Dexter,

Your thinking was almost complete, but you forgot what you were solving for.

You correctly determined that the "top exponent" divided by the "bottom exponent" = 4

However, you forgot that the base was 2…

The correct answer asks for the value of 2^4….

2^4 = 16

Final Answer: D

Treating SCs as if They Were a ‘Game’
Dear Rich,

I am trying to remember the rules for sentence corrections but while solving the questions from the OG verbal edition I could not recollect what i had just learned in the lessons i.e the application of the rules is a really challenge for me. I need some help in this area.

Eddie

Hi Eddie,

SCs, just like every other question type on the GMAT, come down to patterns. You certainly need to know the various grammar rules that will show up on Test Day, but you also need to "spot" when the rules apply. To that end, grammar is essentially a big "matching game"; you have to spot the "matching words" and then eliminate the answer choices that don't match. For example, if you're dealing with a plural subject, and a pronoun shows up later in the sentence, you know that the pronoun has to be plural (you're matching the pronoun to the noun) - you'll eliminate the answers that use a singular pronoun.

When you review SCs, are you able to define WHY you're getting questions wrong? If the answer is that you really can't remember the rules, then you're going to need to drill (use flashcards, etc.) the various rules until you do have them memorized.

Learning From the CAT-Taking Process
Rich,

I’ve read that some people think it’s a good idea to take practice tests every few weeks. Wouldn’t it make more sense to learn everything first and then take those practice tests?

Frederick

Hi Frederick,

It takes time to build up your GMAT skills, but you still have to measure them periodically (even if you're not great at everything). Most Test Takers will screw up their first 4-5 CATs (silly mistakes, poor pacing, etc.), so you have to "build" those CATs into your schedule. Doing so will allow you the opportunity to make, AND FIX, those mistakes. Even when you see a question that you didn't know how to answer, you can note that concept for later review. Learning to crush the GMAT is a cyclical process: you'll end up going back to review earlier work and you'll likely go back to redo previous questions in different ways.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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New post 03 Oct 2016, 19:50
3 Reasons Why it’s Actually Advantageous to Apply For Round 2

The process of putting together a strong overall application involves a number of different ‘steps.’ However, many prospective MBA candidates come into the application process with an unrealistic sense of how long it actually takes to put together a ‘winning’ application, so they inevitably miss the Round 1 application deadlines. Some part of the application just isn’t strong enough (for many, it’s the GMAT Score, but sometimes it’s some other feature) and those same applicants are often really ‘upset’ about missing Round 1. However, there are some significant advantages to applying for Round 2.

To start, the applicants who receive their invites during Round 1 often give themselves far more time to prepare their submissions (sometimes upwards of 6-12 months) than the average applicant, so they’ve honed each of the pieces of their applications and nothing appears ‘rushed’ or ‘sloppy.’ The first impression that these applicants establish is fantastic, which is why they receive their invites. Once all of the Round 1 invites are sent, then you have to think about what happens to all of the other Round 1 applicants… If those applicants don’t establish an amazing first impression, then the Business School Admissions Committees would have absolutely NO reason to offer any of them an invite just yet. Many of those applicants get wait-listed.

The Value of a First Impression
1) While it might sound cliché, you really do get just one shot at a first impression. If you look at any part of your application and think “I can make this better…” then your application isn’t ready yet. Getting wait-listed isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if the Admissions Committee didn’t love you upon first review, then they’re probably not going to suddenly start loving you later. You’ll have to wait as hundreds and thousands of other applications are reviewed and the Schools give out those coveted invites to those ‘new’ applicants who have established a great first impression. You could still receive an invite, but you’ll have to wait while everyone else gets reviewed. If the Admissions Committees have somehow lost track of your application, or they just forgot about you, then you’re out of luck.

You CAN establish that same amazing first impression in Round 2 though – and imagine how good you might come across relative to all of those other applicants who rushed to apply for Round 1, didn’t present themselves properly and got wait-listed…

Relatively Easy-to-Improve Areas
2) You can make some BIG improvements to specific (and important) areas of your application in a relatively short amount of time. Business Schools place a certain amount of emphasis on both the GMAT Score and the Essay portion of the application. Both of these areas are fairly standardized (relative to the other aspects of the application) – as such, they’re predictable and can be ‘beaten.’ With the proper resources, Expert advice and overall guidance, you can make definable improvements to these areas (and by extension, your overall application). The extra 2-3 months between the Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines can be remarkably useful to the enterprising applicant who is willing to do the work to take advantage of that extra time.

More Prep Time = Greater Chance to Succeed
3) Attempting to work on an entire application, while juggling all of the other aspects of your life (work, family, social, etc.) will almost certainly be a challenge. Having more time to work on the application will allow you to focus on one ‘piece’ at a time, hone it, and then move on to the next ‘piece.’ Some of the people that you’re in competition against have been working on their applications for upwards of a year; if, after the Round 1 deadlines pass, you’ve been working on your application for just a couple of months, then working with the Round 2 deadlines will allow you to literally DOUBLE the amount of time that you can spend on your application. For something as meaningful and valuable as an MBA, the extra short-term investment can lead to an amazing payoff over time.

To that end, we’re here to help.

GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,
Rich
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New post 10 Oct 2016, 10:19
Monday Mail-Bag: Advice on Big Picture Issues That Impact GMAT Test Takers…

This series of emails and PMs focuses on situations that many Test Takers face during their studies. The names of the original posters have been changed to protect their identities.

Broad Study Advice
Hi Rich,

I’ve been studying for some time already and scored 550 on a practice test. I have two more months to study and want to score a 650. How many hours should I study each day?

Gabbie

Hi Gabbie,

You shouldn't expect to study every day, as it's not healthy to do so. As a general rule, I recommend a study plan based around 10-15 hours per week, under the additional rule that the studying be done in "small chunks" (the exception - full length CATs).

Unfortunately, volume of study doesn't necessarily lead to high scores. You still need to be sure that you're learning the proper tactics and improving over the course of your studies. A GMAT Course can help you to learn the right tactics and teach you all manner of inside information about the GMAT that you wouldn't necessarily learn from self-study.

FAST Tactics Besides Doing Math
Dear Rich,

How would you answer this question? How would you do the algebra or would you use a different method?

A certain state levies a 4 percent tax on the nightly rates of hotel rooms. A certain hotel in this state also charges a $2.00 nightly fee per room, which is not subject to tax. If the total charge for a room for one night was $74.80, what was the nightly rate of the room?

68
69
70
71
72

Hobie

Hi Hobie,

Certain GMAT Quant questions are written in such a way that you can just TEST THE ANSWERS against the information in the prompt until you find the one that matches. This method can be remarkably fast when done correctly.

With these 5 answers choices, you could technically start with any of them. In most cases, you should opt to test one of the "middle" answers first (usually starting with B or D is the best choice, but here answer C is a nice round number, so it would be easy to test).

If the nightly rate was $70, then the tax would be 4% of 70 = (.04)(70) = 2.80 and then you'd add the $2 room fee….

70 + 2.80 + 2 = 74.80 which is an exact match for what's listed in the prompt.

Thus, the final answer is C

Uncommon Language in CR Prompts
Rich,

Can you please explain to me the expression: “No two children understood?”

In an experiment, two-year-old boys and their fathers made pie dough together using rolling pins and other utensils. Each father-son pair used a rolling pin that was distinctively different from those used by the other father-son pairs, and each father repeated the phrase “rolling pin” each time his son used it. But when the children were asked to identify all of the rolling pins among a group of kitchen utensils that included several rolling pins, each child picked only the one that he had used.

Which one of the following inferences is most supported by the information above?

(A) The children did not grasp the function of a rolling pin.
(B) No two children understood the name “rolling pin” to apply to the same object.
(C) The children understood that all rolling pins have the same general shape.
(D) Each child was able to identify correctly only the utensils that he had used.
(E) The children were not able to distinguish the rolling pins they used from other rolling pins.

Ilya

Hi Ilya,

Answer B ("No two children understood that the name 'rolling pin' to apply to the same object") means that if you took ANY TWO children from the study and asked them to find the 'rolling pin', they would point to different objects.

This is inferred from the information in the last sentence of the prompt.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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New post 17 Oct 2016, 12:46
4 Silly Mistakes That Many GMATers Make on Test Day (And What YOU Should Actually Do Instead)

Test Day is an almost universal ‘event’ for most Test Takers. While you might hear the occasional ‘horror story’ about how something went wrong at the Testing Center, the reality is that most administrations of the GMAT follow an established routine. As such, beyond preparing to face the Exam, you can also prepare to face the very Day itself. Regardless of whether you’ve given yourself just a month to prepare or if your studies are more thorough, you can plan ahead and avoid the following silly mistakes that other Test Takers make.

1 - Skipping breakfast

It’s not cliché – breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. The human brain and body need ‘fuel’ to function properly. Skipping breakfast will almost certainly hurt your performance over the course of the Exam. You DO have the time for breakfast – you just have to choose to do it.

INSTEAD: Beyond eating breakfast on just Test Day, you should be eating breakfast EVERY day. During the weeks and months of lead-up to Test Day, you should take the opportunity to experiment a bit with various foods. You might find that certain types of food impact your mindset and energy levels in a more beneficial way.

2 - Bringing practice materials with you to the Testing Center

You’ve been studying for some time and you’ve learned everything that you could reasonably learn. There’s nothing more to be gained, so you should leave all of your GMAT materials at home. Trying to ‘cram’ through a pile of materials while sitting in your car right before your GMAT is just going to upset you.

Bringing practice materials into any part of the Testing Facility is actually a violation of the Exam rules. If you are caught doing so, then you will not be allowed to take the GMAT and you will forfeit the $250 fee.

INSTEAD: You can do a little ‘warm-up’ work while you’re eating breakfast. Nothing too hard though, nothing complex and nothing that will upset you. This warm-up is meant to get you into the strategic mindset that you need to perform at a high level on the GMAT. When you leave your home, you must leave all of those materials behind.

3 - Attempting to arrive at the Testing Center ‘on time’

Many Test Takers end up extremely ‘excited’ on Test Day (some might use the words ‘nervous’ or ‘anxious’, but those words imply a lack of control and preparedness – you’re ‘excited’ for Test Day). That excitement keeps them from thinking about the realities of getting to the Testing Center. There could be heavy traffic, construction, inconsistencies with public transportation, etc. Any of those potential hindrances can make that trip to the Center take longer than expected. By extension, feeling as though you might be ‘late’ can really put you into a bad mindset and distract you from your goal. Unfortunately, you might not be able to anticipate any of these hindrances.

INSTEAD: Leave at least 15-30 minutes earlier than you think you need to. The extra time will lighten any of those stresses that you might face. In many cases, if you arrive at the Center early, and a computer is ‘open’ (which it should be – you’ve already scheduled the appointment), then the Center staff will likely let you start your Exam early (instead of having you wait in the lobby burning your energy).

4 - Writing “ABCDE” 37 or 41 times across the top of your pad before the section starts

Test Takers have been running this idea past me for years. It’s impractical on a variety of levels though. First, the time and effort that it takes to write down all of those characters is significant. Try it and you’ll see. You’ll likely need 2 minutes of furious scribbling just to get it done once. Second, certain questions won’t actually require that you write down ABCDE, so writing down those letters would be unnecessary. Third, unless you can answer every question in the section on that first laminated sheet, you’re going to need to flip pages. So when you’re on page 2 (or 3 or 4, etc.), do you really expect to flip BACK to page 1 where you wrote down all of those ABCDEs? Having to do THAT would be a huge distraction to your performance and could lead to a number of silly mistakes.

INSTEAD: Try writing down 5 dashes (to represent the 5 answers) as needed, in the same space that you’re taking notes for the question that you are working on. You won’t need to do that on every question, and you might choose to write “AD BCE” for DS questions, but you now have the freedom and flexibility to work as needed.

A big part of putting together a strong performance on Test Day is in making good decisions and avoiding as many little mistakes as possible. Thinking ahead, and properly preparing for the entire Test Day ‘event’, is essential to helping you maximize your performance. To that end, we’re here to help.

GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,
Rich
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New post 24 Oct 2016, 11:47
Monday Mail-Bag: Advice on Big Picture Issues That Impact GMAT Test Takers…

This series of emails and PMs focuses on situations that many Test Takers face during their studies. The names of the original posters have been changed to protect their identities.

“Re-writing” DS Questions
Hi Rich,

I was working through a practice DS question, but had trouble understanding part of the explanation. The question says:

"If k is an integer greater than 1, and S is the sum of all positive divisors of k, is S>k+1?"

The rephrase in the explanation was "Is k not prime?" Can you help explain what this means?

Jacques

Hi Jacques,

This DS question (like many DS questions) is based on a Number Property.

The term "prime number" refers to a positive integer that is divisible by just 2 things: itself and the number 1.

Here are some primes: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11….

Since most numbers are NOT prime, they have additional factors.

For example, the factors of 8 are 1, 2, 4 and 8

This means that when you sum up all the factors (divisors) of a number, you'd get a total that is GREATER than that number + 1. With prime numbers however, you would get a sum that was EQUAL to that number + 1.

In this question, if K = 8, then S = 1+2+4+8 = 15 and the answer to the question would be YES
In this question, if K = 2, then S = 1+2 = 3 and the answer to the question would be NO.

In effect, it's asking whether K is a prime number or not.

Comparison Rules in SC Questions
Dear Rich,

Why is Answer A not correct here?

Like Austen, the characters of Forster are concerned largely with achieving economic security in a world riddled with class distinctions.

a) Like Austen, the characters of Forster
b) Like Austen, Forster's characters
c) Like Austen's, Forster's characters
d) As with Austen, Forster's characters
e) As are Austen's Forster's characters

Kellen

Hi Kellen,

This SC is based on Comparison rules, meaning that we have to compare LIKE things.

Here, we can compare Austen to Forster or we can compare Austen's characters to Forster's characters.

Answer A compares Austen to the characters of Forster, which is an invalid comparison.

With that insight, which answer would you choose?

Be THOROUGH When Dealing With DS Questions
Rich,

I’ve attempted this DS question, but I get answer A and the correct answer is answer C. What am I missing here (sorry the question did not have an explanation with it)?

1. How many integers x exist such that a < x < b?
(1) b - a = 7
(2) a and b are integers

Lucille

Hi Lucille,

This DS question is built around a test of your thoroughness. Notice how you are NOT told anything about A and B….?

We're asked how many integers are between A and B. This is a perfect question for TESTing Values

Fact 1: B - A = 7

If B = 8 and A = 1, then the integers between them are 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 (a total of 6 integers)
If B = 8.5 and A = 1.5, then the integers between them are 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 (a total of 7 integers)
Fact 1 is INSUFFICIENT.

Fact 2: A and B are integers.
Since we don't know what A and B are, there's really no way to answer this question…..but if you're looking for proof….
If B = 8 and A = 1, then the answer to the question is 6 integers
If B = 2 and A = 1, then the answer to the question is 0 integers.
Fact 2 is INSUFFICIENT

Combined, we know that B - A = 7 AND A and B are integers. This means that there must be exactly 6 integers between them. You can TEST any set of values that fit these rules and you'll get the same answer every time.
Combined, SUFFICIENT.

Final Answer: C

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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3 Reasons Why it’s Actually Advantageous to Apply For Round 2

The process of putting together a strong overall application involves a number of different ‘steps.’ However, many prospective MBA candidates come into the application process with an unrealistic sense of how long it actually takes to put together a ‘winning’ application, so they inevitably miss the Round 1 application deadlines. Some part of the application just isn’t strong enough (for many, it’s the GMAT Score, but sometimes it’s some other feature) and those same applicants are often really ‘upset’ about missing Round 1. However, there are some significant advantages to applying for Round 2.

To start, the applicants who receive their invites during Round 1 often give themselves far more time to prepare their submissions (sometimes upwards of 6-12 months) than the average applicant, so they’ve honed each of the pieces of their applications and nothing appears ‘rushed’ or ‘sloppy.’ The first impression that these applicants establish is fantastic, which is why they receive their invites. Once all of the Round 1 invites are sent, then you have to think about what happens to all of the other Round 1 applicants… If those applicants don’t establish an amazing first impression, then the Business School Admissions Committees would have absolutely NO reason to offer any of them an invite just yet. Many of those applicants get wait-listed.

The Value of a First Impression
1) While it might sound cliché, you really do get just one shot at a first impression. If you look at any part of your application and think “I can make this better…” then your application isn’t ready yet. Getting wait-listed isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if the Admissions Committee didn’t love you upon first review, then they’re probably not going to suddenly start loving you later. You’ll have to wait as hundreds and thousands of other applications are reviewed and the Schools give out those coveted invites to those ‘new’ applicants who have established a great first impression. You could still receive an invite, but you’ll have to wait while everyone else gets reviewed. If the Admissions Committees have somehow lost track of your application, or they just forgot about you, then you’re out of luck.

You CAN establish that same amazing first impression in Round 2 though – and imagine how good you might come across relative to all of those other applicants who rushed to apply for Round 1, didn’t present themselves properly and got wait-listed…

Relatively Easy-to-Improve Areas
2) You can make some BIG improvements to specific (and important) areas of your application in a relatively short amount of time. Business Schools place a certain amount of emphasis on both the GMAT Score and the Essay portion of the application. Both of these areas are fairly standardized (relative to the other aspects of the application) – as such, they’re predictable and can be ‘beaten.’ With the proper resources, Expert advice and overall guidance, you can make definable improvements to these areas (and by extension, your overall application). The extra 2-3 months between the Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines can be remarkably useful to the enterprising applicant who is willing to do the work to take advantage of that extra time.

More Prep Time = Greater Chance to Succeed
3) Attempting to work on an entire application, while juggling all of the other aspects of your life (work, family, social, etc.) will almost certainly be a challenge. Having more time to work on the application will allow you to focus on one ‘piece’ at a time, hone it, and then move on to the next ‘piece.’ Some of the people that you’re in competition against have been working on their applications for upwards of a year; if, after the Round 1 deadlines pass, you’ve been working on your application for just a couple of months, then working with the Round 2 deadlines will allow you to literally DOUBLE the amount of time that you can spend on your application. For something as meaningful and valuable as an MBA, the extra short-term investment can lead to an amazing payoff over time.

To that end, we’re here to help.

GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,
Rich
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New post 14 Nov 2016, 15:05
Big Factors in Why Verbal Scores Can Drop on Test Day

Recently, someone who is currently studying for the GMAT asked for my insights into why so many GMATers seem to experience a big drop in their Verbal Scaled Scores between their practice CATs and Test Day. The discussion was detailed and included some insightful follow-up questions. Below is the relevant content of that discussion.

Test Taker X: I wanted to ask you about the recent trend of very low verbal scores on the real exam. I have seen an increased number of topics on this - in which test takers mention that they had high verbal scores but received a disproportionally low one on the real exam (e.g. V40-45 --> V20-25), but this appears to happen in the Verbal section only. Could you share you thoughts?

You ask an important question, although the answer will vary somewhat from Test Taker to Test Taker, and each answer is a combination of a lot of detailed 'pieces.' Without going into every little detail, here are the major issues:

1) The realism with which each Test Taker works through his/her CATs. Test Day is a specific 'event', made up of specific details that you CAN define... so you SHOULD be able to prepare for those details. Most Test Takers don't consider all of those details (much less properly train to deal with those details), thus they are not properly prepared for Test Day.

2) There are a number of lower-quality products on the market that a certain number of Test Takers use; that lack of quality/realism impacts practice scores and gives those same people a false sense of their own readiness.

3) The Verbal section of the GMAT is just as predictable and pattern-based as the Quant section is, although many Test Takers find it easier to deal with Quant patterns than Verbal patterns. For example, the process that you go through to calculate 1+2 is the same general process that you go through to calculate 123+456 (it's just a little more work to do the second calculation and the digits are different). In that same way, the logic behind 'X causes Y' in a CR prompt is the same as the logic behind 'A causes B.' You just might have to do a little more work to sort through the details because the wording is different.

This is all meant to say that you CAN train to score at a higher level in ALL areas of the GMAT, but a certain responsibility falls on the Test Taker to train in the proper way.

Test Taker X: Really comprehensive answer, thank you. But a question arises - why does the quant performance remain almost the same and why are the CAT scores still high?

If one is not able to cope with verbal (re: cannot recognize verbal patterns) then his scores would be lower on the CAT, wouldn’t they? And if one gets nervous on the real exam then the quant part should suffer too.

You ask some good follow-up questions. In both cases, the primary issue often comes down to fatigue and endurance skills. The Verbal section is the final 75 minutes of a 4-hour Exam. Since you're not going to start the Verbal section until almost 3 full hours have gone by, almost everyone is tired by that point (and tired brains make bad decision - including missing details, not taking notes, randomly guessing when the correct answer is just one or two more 'steps' away, etc.). That issue can be compounded by the little 'details' that most Test Takers don't account for during their studies.

As an example… How long does it take you to get the Testing Center on Test Day, enter the waiting area and wait for your Test to start? 30 minutes? 45 minutes? An hour or more? Well, then you've just added another 30-60+ minutes to the day's activities BEFORE you even begin the GMAT. Energy must be spent on all of those tasks and all of that nervous energy (that you would focus into your CAT work) could be 'wasted' before the Test even begins. In this way, you'll be further 'depleted' by the time you start the Verbal section. Most Test Takers do not experience ANY of that when they take their practice CATs, so they're not prepared for it when it occurs on Test Day.

Since Quant questions are generally less 'wordy' than Verbal questions, it's often easier/faster to assess the concepts that are being tested in Quant questions than in Verbal questions (and again, you're likely more 'alert' and have more energy when the Quant section starts). So big Quant 'drops' are less likely to happen.

To reiterate, you CAN train for all of these details during your studies, but it takes a high commitment to the task.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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New post 21 Nov 2016, 12:41
Monday Mail-Bag: Advice on Big Picture Issues That Impact GMAT Test Takers…

This series of emails and PMs focuses on situations that many Test Takers face during their studies. The names of the original posters have been changed to protect their identities.

Be Mindful About What DS Questions DON’T Tell You
Hi Rich,

I found this DS question tricky. What should I look for so I don’t get similar questions wrong?

How many integers x exist such that a < x < b?
(1) b - a = 7
(2) a and b are integers

Moana

Hi Moana,

This DS question is built around a test of your thoroughness. Notice how you are NOT told anything about A and B…..? You might have to think about values that are NOT integers…

We're asked how many INTEGERS are between A and B. This is a perfect question for TESTing Values

Fact 1: B - A = 7

If B = 8 and A = 1, then the integers between them are 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 (a total of 6 integers)
If B = 8.5 and A = 1.5, then the integers between them are 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 (a total of 7 integers)
Fact 1 is INSUFFICIENT.

Fact 2: A and B are integers.
Since we don't know what A and B are, there's really no way to answer this question…. but if you're looking for proof….
If B = 8 and A = 1, then the answer to the question is 6 integers
If B = 2 and A = 1, then the answer to the question is 0 integers.
Fact 2 is INSUFFICIENT

Combined, we know that B - A = 7 AND A and B are integers. This means that there must be exactly 6 integers between them. You can TEST any set of values that fit these rules and you'll get the same answer every time.
Combined, SUFFICIENT.

Final Answer: C

GMAT or GRE?
Dear Rich,

I took GRE last month and here are my GRE scores:

V162
Q167
AW4.0

So should I take the GMAT? And how different is the GMAT vs the GRE? Are there any causes for worry other than integrated reasoning?

Nora

Hi Nora,

The GMAT and GRE have a number of aspects in common, especially when it comes to content and tactics. There are some notable differences though:

The GMAT Quant section includes DS questions, while the GRE Quant includes QC questions (and multi-answer and fill in the blank questions).
The GMAT Verbal requires more reading, while the GRE Verbal stresses vocabulary knowledge to a much higher degree.
In General, GMAT questions are "longer", but give you more time to answer than GRE questions.

Since you have a really strong GRE score, you might be able to apply to your schools without taking the GMAT. I would suggest that you contact an Admissions Consultant about your overall application and plans. If you're curious about how you would perform on the GMAT though, then you can download 2 FREE full length practice CATs from http://www.mba.com

Need Help With Verbal
Hello Rich,

I took GMAT twice and both the times I scored exactly same Q47,V23. Surprisingly, when I do verbal quizzes for cr and rc I do okay. But when I take the entire test, I don’t do well.

Olan

Hi Olan,

CR and RC prompts, like almost all GMAT prompts, are about patterns and repeatable steps. You might find an individual RC passage to be short or long, easy or hard, simple or complex…. but you should deal with it in the exact same way EVERY time. The Verbal side of the GMAT requires almost no imagination or cleverness on your part - it requires a cold, methodical approach. RC prompts require the same general approach regardless of the details because RC prompts are based on the same handful of question types.

CR prompts test a slightly wider range of thinking, but they too are based on patterns, common themes (and even common wrong answers). You should never "wing it" on a CR prompt. Identify the type of question that you're facing, then follow the proper steps to beat it.

From what you've described, I don't think that you were really focused on learning, memorizing and practicing the "steps" for RC or CR. With a V23 on your GMAT, you're also losing out on some SC points, so you might not know all of the grammar rules that are required. Furthermore, you could very easily be too fatigued to do the work correctly and the way with which you choose to handle the Verbal section might be leading to some pacing problems.

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,
Rich
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New post 28 Nov 2016, 10:34
Self-Analysis of Your GMAT Performance MUST Include Actual Analysis

Studying for the GMAT can be a challenging endeavor for many Test Takers. Arguably, one of the most common score goals for Test Takers (if not THE most common score goal) is 700+, but only about 10% of those same people can actually achieve that goal. One of the interesting aspects of scoring at that level though is that while you don’t have to be a ‘genius’, you do have to be able to figure out WHY you’re not getting questions correct... and then do specific work to fix those issues. As a GMAT Expert, I can tell you that the number of GMATers who cannot define WHY they’re under-performing is staggering. The reality is that the answers are never that complicated, but those same GMATers refuse to properly analyze their work.

As an example, consider Student X, who’s having trouble with Sentence Corrections. No matter how hard he studies, he still ends up getting over half of the SCs wrong on each CAT. What could POSSIBLY be the reason(s) for this? Stop reading this article and think about it. You should be able to name a couple of ‘causes’ right off the top of your head…

Seriously, you should consider this a critical thinking exercise (you’ll be asked to do considerably more difficult work in Business School, so embrace the challenge).

What did you come up with?

Here are some possibilities:

1) The obvious answer - Student X doesn’t know the necessary grammar rules well enough. This is essentially the same issue as not knowing the proper math formulas for the Quant section. While these rules are not the only things that you need to know, they are the basis for all of the work that is required in SCs. If there are ‘holes’ in your knowledge, then it will be difficult to answer the SC prompts that you’ll face on Test Day.

2) The realistic answer – Student X is ‘winging it’ through the Verbal section. If he didn’t actually study the proper materials, and just worked through 100s of SC prompts, then he never really trained correctly (even though he THINKS he did). There ARE patterns and Tactics that he could have learned to deal with SCs, but he never did learn them. Now he just narrows down the answers to 2 choices and picks the one that ‘sounds good.’ THAT is not a strategic approach (it’s what you would do when you had no other options) and it almost certainly will not lead to a high GMAT score.

3) The subtle answer – Student X is too tired to properly answer the question. Since the Verbal section of the GMAT is the final 75 minutes of a 4-hour Exam, it’s likely that Student X is slouching in his chair, not taking notes and not engaging with the Test. While he might be fine when he’s well rested and taking quizzes, when taking his CATs, he didn’t properly train for the physical challenges of the Test. As a result, all he can do is read through all 5 answers (sometimes repeatedly) without looking for the common themes that GMAT question writers use, then selecting an answer becomes all about guessing (and thinking about “how would I say this when talking.” Mathematically-speaking, you would be lucky to get 1 out of every 2 SCs correct when working in this way. The likelihood is that you’ll get fewer correct than that.

Any (or all) of these answers should be easy enough to define – you don’t have to be a genius to do so – and once the cause of the problem is known, then steps can be taken to FIX the problem. By extension, you have to be willing to do more than just extra practice problems to improve. If ‘your way’ of studying for the GMAT isn’t leading to improvement, then you have to find a new way to study.

To that end, we’re here to help.

GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,
Rich
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New post 05 Dec 2016, 12:09
When You’re Stuck, Ask For Help (And Try To Do So In A TIMELY Fashion).

We are currently right in the middle of “GMAT Season” – that busy time of year (after most of the Round 1 deadlines have passed) when many GMATers are still studying for their Tests while working on their applications for Round 2 AND juggling their lives, career, family, holidays, etc. Finding the proper time for all of those areas can be challenging, so staying organized is essential. To that end, planning ahead is a big part of successfully achieving all of your goals during this time of year. By extension, if your GMAT scores are ‘stuck’, then you have to be mentally prepared to ask for Expert help AND you really can’t afford to wait until the last days before your GMAT to do so.

Many Test Takers spend months studying (however they choose to) before stopping to properly evaluate their ‘situations.’ At a certain point, almost all Test Takers get ‘stuck’ – some part of the process just doesn’t seem to improve. With enough time and the willingness to make changes to how they study, those same Test Takers can potentially improve on their own. However, most Test Takers don’t have lots of available time and they don’t know how to make the necessary changes. At this critical point in the process, something almost unbelievable often occurs – those GMATers keep studying in the exact SAME way that they were studying before– and then they wonder why they aren’t improving.

Improvement, by definition, involves some type of ‘adjustment.’ An adjustment can be relatively minor, such as adding more labeling to your notes. An adjustment can also be relatively major, such as learning, practicing and mastering a new Verbal Tactic. In almost all cases, regardless of the magnitude of the adjustment, it takes TIME for you to incorporate those changes into a natural part of your test-taking process (since you have to overcome whatever tendencies you had developed during your prior studies). There’s a big different between using a new approach to answer a few practice problems and then properly using that same approach during a timed, Full-Length CAT.

Asking for help with less than a month to go before your Official Test Date makes it much tougher on YOU to properly make those adjustments. The GMAT is a predictable, standardized Test, so you CAN train to score at a higher level. That training takes time though.

As an example, consider the act of purchasing a gym membership. In real basic terms, you’re essentially purchasing resources. The membership isn’t what helps you get in shape – your regular use (and proper use) of the gym equipment is what leads to the change. Working with an Expert/Trainer (or seeking out Expert Advice in some other form) can also help make the whole process more efficient (and lead to better, faster results), but the ‘time investment’ is still a big factor in the magnitude of the improvement. You won’t be able to make gigantic improvements at the gym in a short period of time – that’s not how training works. Studying for the GMAT has those same restrictions.

The more ‘lead time’ that you can give yourself to learn/incorporate Expert GMAT advice, the more likely you will be to improve and score higher on the GMAT. This is all meant to say that you shouldn’t wait to ask for help. The moment that you think that there’s something off/wrong/problematic with your studies, then you should IMMEDIATELY seek out that advice (and be prepared to invest in the process). A higher GMAT score is never that far out of reach; you just have to be conscientious and forward-thinking enough not to put yourself in a difficult position.

To that end, we’re here to help.

GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,
Rich
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Status: GMAT Assassin/Co-Founder
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Re: EMPOWERgmat Blog [#permalink]

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New post 12 Dec 2016, 13:13
Efficient GMAT Test-Taking Comes From Efficient GMAT Studies

Any time a looming application deadline approaches, you’re more likely to see a group of Test Takers scrambling to jam as much extra study time into their schedules as possible. While putting in that extra study might seem like a logical idea (especially as far as earning that Official GMAT Score before the deadline is concerned) the reality is that quantity of study is not the same as quality of study (and/or efficiency of study). If you’ve been studying a certain way for some time and you haven’t achieved your score goals, then studying a lot more in that SAME way will likely not lead to an appreciable improvement in your performance. To improve, you have to make some logical choices about how you study AND take advantage of the efficiencies that can be gained by adjusting your routine.

Have you ever studied for a lengthy period of time (4 or more hours in a row)? At what point do you start to lose focus? For many Test Takers, it’s right around the 2-hour mark. This is one of the reasons why you never have to work for more than 75 minutes in a row on Test Day (unless you’re foolish enough to skip your 8-minute breaks). The human brain can handle only so much study time in a row, so you have to account for that and plan your study sessions for that efficiency. Plan to take a ‘break’ of some type every 1.5 to 2 hours or so. The break can be 15 minutes or longer (it’s up to you, but it’s important to get up, walk away from your studies and do something less mentally taxing – a physical task can be quite helpful to your overall wellbeing - take a walk, run an errand, etc.). As a general rule, on LONG study days, I recommend 1 hour ‘off’ for every 2 hours ‘on.’

Another common trait of many GMATers is that they have full-time jobs and long work hours. As a result of their work schedules, they often study AFTER work, when they’re already exhausted from a full day’s activities. That is an inefficient way to go about training for this Test. The human brain tends to do its most effective and efficient thinking in the first 4-5 hours of the day, so how can you take advantage of that fact? While it will require ‘shuffling’ your daily routine a bit, you could go to bed EARLIER, wake up EARLIER and study before going to work. You’ll be far more likely to practice effectively, learn new concepts, etc. when you’re awake and alert.

Pacing issues tend to hurt many Test Takers as well. While that might seem like an odd subject to bring up in the middle of this essay, ANY pacing problem that you might face during your studies or on Test Day is because of the inefficiencies in how YOU handle GMAT questions. Having to read prompts over-and-over is inefficient. Doing work in your head is inefficient (and actually takes longer, over time, than doing that same work on the pad). Randomly jotting down notes instead of doing so in an organized way on one ‘section’ of the notepad is inefficient. Take a good look at any question that you get wrong during practice because of a silly/little mistake. WHY did that mistake happen?....Answer: You did something inefficiently.

Thankfully, EVERY aspect of the GMAT can be accounted for. With the proper planning and decision-making, you can take advantage of ALL of the above efficiencies (and plenty more besides those ones). If you’re not sure how to find those efficiencies, then you should seek out advice sooner rather than later (when it is too late to properly incorporate those efficiencies into your studies).

To that end, we’re here to help.

GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,
Rich
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Contact Rich at: Rich.C@empowergmat.com

Rich Cohen

Co-Founder & GMAT Assassin

Special Offer: Save $75 + GMAT Club Tests Free
  Official GMAT Exam Packs + 70 Pt. Improvement Guarantee
www.empowergmat.com/

***********************Select EMPOWERgmat Courses now include ALL 6 Official GMAC CATs!***********************

Re: EMPOWERgmat Blog   [#permalink] 12 Dec 2016, 13:13

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