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4 Steps to Analyze Your GMAT Practice Tests (Part 1)  [#permalink]

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New post 22 Jul 2018, 07:01
FROM Manhattan GMAT Blog: 4 Steps to Analyze Your GMAT Practice Tests (Part 1)
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How many GMAT practice tests have you taken so far? Are you satisfied—or frustrated—with your progress?

One of the biggest mistakes I see students make is also relatively easy to fix: they don’t learn what they should be learning from their practice tests. This is exactly what we’re going to talk about in this series.

Today, we’re going to talk about a global review of your GMAT practice tests: How did you do on executive reasoning and timing?

You Don’t Get Better While Taking a Practice Test
Wait, if you don’t get better while taking a practice test, then why are we starting here? Read on.

Have you ever done this? You take a test, but aren’t happy with your score, so a few days later (or even the next day!), you take another exam.

Bad move! First, your data from that first test already tells you what you need to know; your skills aren’t going to change radically in a week. Don’t waste 3 hours of valuable study time (not to mention, one of your limited GMAT practice tests!) in order to get the same data that you already have.

Alternatively, have you read online that someone out there took 14 GMAT practice tests in a 6-week period and swears by this method of studying because he then got a 760? If you do just what he did, you’ll get a 760 too!

Sadly, that’s unlikely to work either. Do you remember that one kid from your school, the one who was always excited when standardized test days came around? She was super annoying because she just did well on these tests “naturally” and she actually liked taking them. (Yes, that was me. Sorry.)

Here’s the thing: for people like me, sure, the brute force approach seems to work. But we are, in fact, extensively analyzing our own data; we just do so more quickly than most. Everyone needs to use this data to figure out how to get better.

You’re going to use your GMAT practice tests to:

(1) practice what you’ve already learned,

(2) provide data to help you build a roughly 2-3 week study plan prioritizing certain things based on what your analysis told you, and

(3) figure out how to get better at executive reasoning.

Go ahead and click that link now. I’ll wait.

Ready? Let’s go!

Use Your GMAT Practice Tests to Learn Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Within the first roughly 2 weeks of your study, take a practice test. (Seriously! Don’t put this off!) Also: the gap between practice test 1 and 2 will be on the longer side—say 6 to 8 weeks. After that, you’ll settle into a more regular cycle of about 2 to 3 weeks.

I’ll base my discussion on the metrics that are given in Manhattan Prep GMAT practice tests, but you can extrapolate to other tests that give you similar performance data.

You will likely need at least 60 minutes to do this analysis, not counting any time spent analyzing individual problems. If that sounds like a lot, split this into smaller tasks. Plan to spend 30 minutes each for your initial analysis of Quant and Verbal.

Where Should I Start?
I know you’ll want to look at your overall scores first. But don’t do what so many people do—immediately become demoralized because you think your score is too low.

Right now, your score is what it is—but this isn’t the real test. You’re going to use this to get better. That’s the real focus here.

So, let’s put those scores into some context. First, how confident can you be that they reflect your current ability level?

  • Did you run out of time in any section and either guess randomly to finish or just not finish the section at all?
    • If so, your score will be pushed down, so your actual ability level is likely higher than your score reflects. (But you do need to fix the timing problem.)
  • Conversely, did you use the pause button or otherwise use extra time to solve anything? Did you take much longer breaks than the real test would allow or look something up?
    • If so, your score may be artificially inflated. (This is why we recommend sticking strictly to test conditions when taking a practice exam.)
  • Did you take the exam after a long day at work when you were already pretty mentally fatigued?
    • If so, your performance might have dropped as a result.
Next, pull up the problem list for Quant or Verbal. The problem lists show each question, in order as you took the test, as well as various data points about those questions.

“Correct / Incorrect” Column
Any strings of 4+ questions wrong?

  • If so, look at time spent. Were you low on time and rushing?
  • Alternatively, were they really hard? Maybe you’d done well on the prior problems, so got a few really hard ones…and maybe you should have gotten these hard ones wrong.
  • Did you happen to get a string of things that you just didn’t know how to do at the time, but looking at them now, you think you can learn (at least some of) this?
The “I did well! And then I didn’t…” scenario

The first one or two in a string were really hard, so you spent extra time. You got them wrong (because…they’re hard). You knew you spent extra time, so you sped up on the next couple and made careless mistakes, getting those wrong as well.

If this happened to you, what do you think you should do to remedy the issue?

The “I didn’t study this yet and/or this is a weakness” scenario

You ran up against a little string of things that you haven’t studied yet—or maybe it was a mix of things you don’t like and things you haven’t studied yet.

What should you do about this?

For the first scenario, you probably need to train yourself to bail quickly on the stuff that’s too hard even when you spend extra time. Then, you won’t be behind on time when you get a question at a level you can handle, and so you’ll be able to get that one right next time.

For the second scenario, which of these things is a good opportunity for you to learn? Add a couple of things to your study plan for the coming week or two—but don’t add everything. There’s only so much you can do in a couple of weeks, so be choosy.

“Cumulative Time” vs. “Target Cumulative Time”
Go back up to the top of the Problem List. The Cumulative Time column tells you how much time you spent to that point in the section. The Target Cumulative Time column indicates how much time you’d want to have spent based on the timing averages we need to hit for the exam. Compare the two columns.

How closely did you stick to the expected timeframe? It’s completely normal to be off by +/- 2 minutes, and I’m actually not too concerned as long as you’re within about 3 minutes of the expected timeframe.

  • Are you 3+ minutes behind (too slow)? If so, where was that extra time spent? How well did you really do on those problems?
    • They should be all or mostly correct, since you chose to allocate extra time to them!
    • For the ones you’re getting wrong even with extra time, start cutting yourself off when faced with a  similar problem in future.
  • Are you 3+ minutes ahead (too fast)? If so, where are you picking up that time? How well did you do on those problems?
    • If you know you don’t know how to do a problem, it’s a great idea to guess fast.
    • If you were going quickly because you did know how to do it, though, and then made a careless mistake, you’ll want to remedy the overall timing problem so that you don’t make that kind of mistake next time.
Pause and Reflect
We’re about halfway through our analysis of the Problem List. What have you figured out so far? What are your hypotheses about what went well and what didn’t go as well? Are there any particular things you want to look out for to help confirm or deny those hypotheses as you continue analyzing?

Join us next time for part 2, where we’ll dive more deeply into a timing analysis of individual problems on GMAT practice tests. Image

Can’t get enough of Stacey’s GMAT mastery? Attend the first session of one of her upcoming GMAT courses absolutely free, no strings attached. Seriously.

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Stacey Koprince is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Montreal, Canada and Los Angeles, California. Stacey has been teaching the GMAT, GRE, and LSAT for more than 15 years and is one of the most well-known instructors in the industry. Stacey loves to teach and is absolutely fascinated by standardized tests. Check out Stacey’s upcoming GMAT courses here.

The post 4 Steps to Analyze Your GMAT Practice Tests (Part 1) appeared first on GMAT.
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Is GMAT Verbal Fair? (Part 1)  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Jul 2018, 10:01
FROM Manhattan GMAT Blog: Is GMAT Verbal Fair? (Part 1)
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GMAT Quant might be frustrating, but at least there are rules! Verbal, on the other hand… well, I’ve had some arguments with the GMAT over what the right answer to a GMAT Verbal problem should be. You probably have, too. Or, you’ve wondered what makes this Verbal answer choice “more right” than that Verbal answer choice. After a lot of years and a lot of GMAT Verbal problems, here are my thoughts.

Sentence Correction: Yup, It’s (Mostly) Fair
There are definitely clear rules for Sentence Correction: they’re the rules of English grammar. (Of course, people argue about grammar rules all the time. But the GMAT stays out of the really contentious debates, like the Oxford Comma issue.)

The GMAT is only 99% consistent in applying these rules to Sentence Correction problems. There are very few issues—most notably, pronoun ambiguity—where different GMAT Verbal problems sometimes disagree with each other. However, most Sentence Correction problems can be solved in multiple ways. If you can’t tell whether one piece of grammar is supposed to be right or wrong, just look for another error that seems more clear-cut.

Official GMAT explanations for Sentence Correction problems can be really frustrating. Here are some actual quotes from the Official Guide to the GMAT 2018:

  • Having been based on is wordy.
  • The sentence structure makes it unclear what almost all females describes.
  • The sequence of information in this sentence is confusing.
Wordy, unclear, confusing—aren’t those subjective judgments? What I think is confusing might be perfectly clear to you. However, this is a problem with the explanations, not the problems themselves.

For a clear and thorough explanation of the grammar rules used in each problem, check out GMAT Navigator alongside the Official Guide. You’ll learn that the right and wrong answers are based on predictable rules, even if the official explanations don’t go into detail about them.

Critical Reasoning: Fairer Than You’d Think!
There are a few things that make GMAT Critical Reasoning problems seem unfair. One simple issue is the way the questions are worded:

  • Which of the following, if true, most seriously undermines the researchers’ reasoning?
  • Which of the following hypotheses best accounts for the findings of the experiment?
  • Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the force of the evidence cited?
To me, those questions sound pretty similar to this one:

  • Which of the following would you most like to have for dessert: brownies, ice cream, pie, or crème brulee?
Okay, I’d most like the crème brulee—any dessert that involves a blowtorch is good in my book—but I still love brownies, ice cream, and pie!

Questions like this make it sound like you’re looking for the “best” answer out of a bunch of “pretty good” answers. That seems really unfair. However, that isn’t actually how Critical Reasoning works. There’s always one “right” answer and four “wrong” answers, even if that doesn’t seem obvious at first glance. To see why, let’s take a look at how GMAT Verbal problems are actually created.

A Little Trip to GMAT Verbal Land
Imagine that you’re the one writing the problems. The GMAC puts thousands of dollars into writing and testing each GMAT problem, so if you want to keep your job, the problems you write had better be “successful.”

In other words, strong GMAT Verbal test takers should get your problem right almost all of the time, and weak GMAT Verbal test takers should usually get it wrong. It shouldn’t be based on luck, or personal opinion: your problem should tell you something about a test taker’s overall skill level.

So, you’ve got a challenge. Your problem should be fair, because otherwise, people would get it right or wrong randomly, not based on how well they performed overall. But it also shouldn’t be super-obvious, since GMAT Verbal problems should be hard! What do you do?

What GMAT writers seem to do is create one right answer that follows all of the rules for the problem type, and four wrong answers that “break the rules.” But then, they dress the right answer up to look boring, confusing, poorly-written, or irrelevant. They dress up the wrong answers to look interesting, clear, well-written, and relevant. High scorers are people who cut through the distractions and eliminate anything that breaks the rules, no matter how nice it looks.

Back to Critical Reasoning
So, for the GMAT to work at all, Critical Reasoning has to have objective rules and it has to be fair. That doesn’t mean the rules need to be obvious! In fact, the less obvious they are, the better that is for the GMAT. In the next article, we’ll talk a bit about what the rules really are, why they seem so unfair, and what you can do about it—and we’ll take a look at Reading Comprehension, the most “unfair”-looking GMAT Verbal problem type of all. Image

Want more guidance from our GMAT gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. Check out our upcoming courses here.

[b]Chelsey CooleyImage
 is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington.
 [/b]Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GMAT prep offerings here.

The post Is GMAT Verbal Fair? (Part 1) appeared first on GMAT.
ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

_________________

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4 Steps to Analyze Your GMAT Practice Tests (Part 2)  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Jul 2018, 09:01
FROM Manhattan GMAT Blog: 4 Steps to Analyze Your GMAT Practice Tests (Part 2)
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Welcome back! If you haven’t already, start with Part 1 of this series, where we performed a global executive reasoning and timing review for your GMAT practice tests. Let’s continue with a deeper dive of the per-question timing data from your problem list. (And grab pen and paper to take note—this is going to be…geeky.)

Analyze Your Timing
Even if your cumulative time was fine, you might still exhibit a very common problem on GMAT practice tests: up and down timing. This is when you spend way too much time on some problems and then speed up on others to catch back up. Your overall timing works out, but you still have a serious timing imbalance on individual problems.

The tables below show the rough timing categories to watch out for, by problem type, along with some commentary afterward about how to use the tables. (Don’t start your analysis till you’ve read this whole section.)

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The definition of “Warning Track” is really just getting close to the Too Slow time. I pay attention to how often I come close to Too Slow without actually going over.

It’s fine to have some Warning Track questions—just be careful not to have so many that you’re causing yourself big headaches elsewhere.

Averages for Verbal questions vary by type, so for Verbal, I recommend analyzing one type at a time.

Image

Now. How to use all of the above?

Too Fast has a question mark after the Too (?) because there are two great reasons to have a really fast problem:

(1) You knew exactly what you were doing and you got it right—fast.

(2) You knew you didn’t know how to do it and you guessed—fast.

If either of those is the case, great: I did the right thing! However, if I miss something I knew how to do because I made a careless mistake—I have a timing problem. Or if I misread the problem because I was rushing through…ditto.

From now on, when I say Too Fast, I’m referring specifically to the not-good reasons. When you have a good reason to go fast, it’s not too fast.

Too Slow is too slow even if you got the problem right. When you take that much time, you just cause yourself problems elsewhere in the section.

Now, in your problem list, click on the Time column header. This will re-sort the questions from fastest to slowest (you can click it again to sort from slowest to fastest). Examine the problems by time, using the tables as a guide.

  • How many “too fast” questions did you think you were getting right but you missed? Or you did get right but got lucky? Or you missed but think you could have gotten right if you’d only had time to try it properly?
  • How many “too slow” questions did you miss? Look at the problems—at what point should you have cut yourself off and guessed?
  • Did you have any crazy-slow problems (e.g. a minute beyond the Too Slow time)? Even if you got it right, maybe you should have gotten it wrong much faster and spent that time elsewhere.
How Was Your Timing on Your GMAT Practice Tests?
If you have more than a couple of questions in the too fast or too slow categories (for the latter, regardless of whether they’re right or wrong), then you’ve got a timing problem on GMAT practice tests. For example, if you had 4 questions over 3m each, then you almost certainly missed other questions elsewhere simply due to speed—that extra time had to come from somewhere. And chances are it came from a too fast problem on which you made a mistake.

Alternatively, if there is even one that is very far over the too slow mark, you have a timing problem. If you have one Quant question on which you spent 4m30s, you might let yourself do this on more questions on the real test—and there goes your score. (By the way, the only potentially acceptable reason is: I was at the end of the section and knew I had extra time, so I used it. And my next question would be: what about saving that mental energy for the next section of the test? Image
)

For each section of the test, get a general sense of whether there is:

  • not much of a timing problem (e.g., only 1 or 2 questions in the too fast or too slow range—and not way too slow),
  • a small timing problem (e.g., 4-5 questions in the warning track range, or a couple of problems in the too slow category, plus a few too fast questions), or
  • a larger timing problem (e.g., >5 questions in the warning track range, or 3+ questions that are too slow or some that are way too slow, plus multiple too fast questions).
Note that I don’t specify above whether the warning track and too slow questions were answered correctly or incorrectly. It isn’t (necessarily) okay to spend too much time just because the question was answered correctly.

Next, what is that timing problem costing you on your GMAT practice tests? How many problems fit into the different categories? Approximately how much time total was spent on the “too slow” problems? How many “too fast” questions did that cost you or could it have cost you? Did it cost you any other problems? Examine all of the problems (even those done with normal time) to locate careless errors. How many of your careless errors occurred when you were rushing or just plain tired out because you’d spent too much mental effort elsewhere?

Finally, are there any patterns in terms of the content area? For example, perhaps 80% of the “too slow” Quant problems were PS Story problems or two of the “too slow” SC problems were Modifier problems. Next time, we’re going to talk about how to use the assessment reports to dive more into this data on your GMAT practice tests, but do try to get a high level sense of any patterns that jump out at you.

All of the above allows you to quantify just how bad any timing problems are. Now, I’m going to make a pronouncement that will wow you: You have a timing problem, don’t you?

Actually, we all have timing problems. The question is just what yours are and how significant they are. If you’re having trouble letting go on hard questions (and, really, aren’t we all?), learn how to make better decisions during the exam.

And one more thing: Take a look at part 1 of this article on Time Management. (It’s a 3-parter. You don’t have to look at all three parts now.)

Now we’re done looking at the problem lists. What have you learned about yourself? How do you think that should inform your studies for the next several weeks?

Join us next time, when we’ll analyze the detailed data given in the assessment reports. Image

Can’t get enough of Stacey’s GMAT mastery? Attend the first session of one of her upcoming GMAT courses absolutely free, no strings attached. Seriously.

Image
Stacey Koprince is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Montreal, Canada and Los Angeles, California. Stacey has been teaching the GMAT, GRE, and LSAT for more than 15 years and is one of the most well-known instructors in the industry. Stacey loves to teach and is absolutely fascinated by standardized tests. Check out Stacey’s upcoming GMAT courses here.

The post 4 Steps to Analyze Your GMAT Practice Tests (Part 2) appeared first on GMAT.
ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

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MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: Reapplicants Shouldn’t Reapply  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Jul 2018, 09:01
FROM Manhattan GMAT Blog: MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: Reapplicants Shouldn’t Reapply
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What have you been told about applying to business school? With the advent of chat rooms, blogs, and forums, armchair “experts” often unintentionally propagate MBA admissions myths, which can linger and undermine an applicant’s confidence. Some applicants are led to believe that schools want a specific “type” of candidate and expect certain GMAT scores and GPAs, for example. Others are led to believe that they need to know alumni from their target schools and/or get a letter of reference from the CEO of their firm in order to get in. In this series,mbaMission debunks these and other myths and strives to take the anxiety out of the admissions process.

You applied to business schools once and did not get in. It took a lot of effort and caused a lot of heartache. Now what do you do? You cannot apply to those schools again, can you? What would be the point? They already rejected you once, so they will definitely do the same thing next time, right? Not quite so.

Remember, MBA admissions committees are governed by self-interest. Simply put, the schools want the best candidates out there. If you are among the best candidates, why would any admissions director think, “Well, this is an outstanding candidate who can add something special to our school and has unique potential going forward, but he applied last year, so we’ll just forget about him.” Indeed, the reapplication process is not a practical joke or a disingenuous olive branch to those permanently on the outside. If the schools were not willing to admit reapplicants, they would not waste time and resources reviewing their applications.

Although many candidates fret about being reapplicants, some admissions officers actually see a reapplication as a positive—a new opportunity. Soojin Kwon, the managing director of full-time MBA admissions and student experience at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, told mbaMission, “They are certainly not ‘damaged goods.’ We have had many successful reapplicants join our program after they’ve spent a year strengthening their candidacies.”

Meanwhile, the Yale School of Management’s assistant dean and director of admissions, Bruce DelMonico, noted, “I can certainly bust [that] myth. Our admit rate for reapplicants is actually the same as it is for first-time applicants. It’s important, though, for reapplicants to explain to us how their candidacy has improved from the previous time they applied. Reapplicants need to make sure they enhance their application, rather than just resubmitting the same application.”

In short, reapplicants, you have no reason to believe that you only have one chance. Like any competitive MBA applicant, continue to strive and achieve; if things do not work out this time, they just might the next time. Image

ImagembaMission is the leader in MBA admissions consulting with a full-time and comprehensively trained staff of consultants, all with profound communications and MBA experience. mbaMission has helped thousands of candidates fulfill their dream of attending prominent MBA programs around the world. Take your first step toward a more successful MBA application experience with a free 30-minute consultation with one of mbaMission’s senior consultants. Click here to sign up today.

The post MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: Reapplicants Shouldn’t Reapply appeared first on GMAT.
ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

_________________

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The GMAT’s G-MASKs  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Jul 2018, 12:01
FROM Manhattan GMAT Blog: The GMAT’s G-MASKs
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You can and should murder me for that pun.

But first, a question. What is a simplified way of writing 3x + 3x  + 3x?

Tough question. You might not have seen something like that before. How are you supposed to know what to do?

Easier question. What is a nice, simplified way of writing x + x + x?

You probably got this one easily. x + x + x is just 3x.

Not even an issue, right? But what’s the difference between these two things, really? If I add three of the same number, the outcome should always be three times that number. 2 + 2 + 2 is 3(2) = 6. x + x + x = 3x.

So 3x + 3x  + 3x = 3(3x), which, using my exponent rules, equals 3x+1 (because 3(3x) can be written as 31(3x)).

This is an example of one of the GMAT’s favorite moves: making you think you don’t know how to do something because they’ve put something that looks weird onto a process that you know how to do.

I call these ‘GMAT masks.’ They’re disguises, nothing more. They are Batman’s cowl and Clark Kent’s glasses, except instead of hiding superheroes, they hide, y’know… math and stuff. They’re designed to blind you to rules you know and processes you can do.

Here’s another example I use in my classes.

Put a minute on the clock and try to simplify the following:

(x-y)/(√x + √y)

Maybe you were able to do this, in which case you probably were able to see through the GMAT’s disguise. But most students struggle to get through that.

Try another. Give yourself a minute to simplify:

(x² – y²)/(x+y)

How’d you do? A lot of people get this one in about 15 seconds (if you haven’t, brush up on your common quadratics forms! This is one of the GMAT’s favorites).

You might have recognized that the numerator could be simplified to (x+y)(x-y). Then the (x+y) canceled out of top and bottom, leaving you with just (x-y). But what about that first expression? The one you probably didn’t see how to simplify when given a minute?

Turns out, it’s the exact same problem.

Try it again. Specify what you did in the second, easier problem and try to replicate that same logic on the first.

Maybe you realize that (x-y), though it doesn’t appear in the most common form of a difference of squares, can be written as ((√x)² + (√y)²).

This makes it look much more like the standard form of a difference of squares! We can now write it as (√x + √y)*(√x – √y). And then the (√x + √y) cancels on top and bottom, leaving just (√x – √y).

How about:

(32x – 52x)/(3x + 5x)

Same logic. Different mask.

This is partly why I warn my students that it’s not enough to just memorize a flashcard. It’s one thing to know the most general appearance of formula, and another thing to be able to recognize that it should be used when it has a mask on.

What is x if x² = 430?

What is x if x² = 36?

If on the second you remembered to say ‘+/- 6’ but on the first you just said ‘415’ you fell for a GMAT mask. It’s like the least fun Halloween costume ever.

You’re used to solving the second equation, and you had ‘+/- 6’ drilled into you after all the times you forgot about it (and maybe you just did! Hey, don’t forget that on the GMAT, numbers can be negative unless specified otherwise). But 430 is weird. That’s a number we don’t deal with day-to-day, unless we happen to be God, and we’re counting all the stars for fun. So sometimes we let the appearance shake us.

This doesn’t just happen in GMAT Quant. The Verbal section is full of masks. Masks are the fluff in Sentence Correction that separate singular nouns from plural verbs. They’re the arguments in Critical Reasoning that seem to be about different topics but are all actually about rates and totals, or questions of causation, or sample biases. They’re in Reading Comp, because in all the myriad of topics in the passages they give you, they keep asking about the same stuff.

This is why on the GMAT, you have to review questions and specify the processes you used. Even on an easy question, you think you understand perfectly.

You know that 60/12 is 5. But why? How deep can you get with that? If you can explain to me why 60 is divisible by 12 in terms of prime numbers—which are the heart of divisibility—you’ll be much closer to being able to explain to me how (60 * 35) is divisible by 28. If you can explain that, you can explain how 60! is divisible by 115, even though those numbers look so much more disgusting. But really? it’s all the same mask.

60 is divisible by 12 because the prime factors of 12, 2*2*3, are also in the prime factorization of 60 (which are 2*2*3*5).

(60*35) is divisible by 28 because the prime factorization of 28, 2*2*7, is also in the prime factorization of 60*35 (which is (2*2*3*5*5*7).

60! is divisible by 115 because the prime factors of 115, (11*11*11*11*11), are also in the prime factorization of 60 (which is… well, it’s a very long list, but 60! = 1*2*3*4*5…*58*59*60, and 11 shows up 5 times in that product string, at 11, 22, 33, 44, and 55).

How do you get good at seeing through masks? You have to really pinpoint why you’re doing process—even on an easy question where it seems obvious—and work to understand questions and concepts at their deepest level, not just at a superficial familiarity. And when something looks just weird, run through your rolodex of commonly tested rules or formulas and see if you can’t spot which one seems to ‘line up’ best with the situation at hand. Perhaps you’ll realize what you have in front of you is just a regular old process trying to disguise itself.

Look past the masks, and you’ll often find the same old friends underneath. Superman’s glasses weren’t ever that effective a disguise, anyway. Image

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 is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York, NY.
 He has a B.A. in economics, philosophy, and mathematics and an M.S. in commerce, both from the University of Virginia. He enjoys writing, acting, Chipotle burritos, and teaching the GMAT. Check out Reed’s upcoming GMAT courses here.

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Take Ownership of Your Post-MBA Goals and Show Their Attainability  [#permalink]

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New post 13 Aug 2018, 12:01
FROM Manhattan GMAT Blog: Take Ownership of Your Post-MBA Goals and Show Their Attainability
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When admissions officers read your MBA application, they want to feel inspired by your personal statement; they want to know that you have a strong sense of purpose and will work energetically to attain your objectives. Thus, you must ensure that you are not presenting generic or shallow post-MBA goals. Although this problem is not industry-specific, it occurs most often with candidates who propose careers in investment banking or consulting but do not have a true understanding of what these positions entail.

For example, a candidate cannot merely state the following goal:

“In the short term, when I graduate from Wharton, I want to become an investment banking associate. After three years, I will be promoted to vice president, and then in the long term, I will become a managing director.”

This hypothetical candidate does not express any passion for his/her proposed course, does not show any understanding of the demands of the positions, and does not explain the value he/she could bring to the firm. To avoid these kinds of shortcomings, conduct this simple test when writing your personal statement: if you can easily substitute another job title into your career goals and the sentence still makes perfect sense (for example, “In the short term, when I graduate from Wharton, I want to become a consultant. After three years, I will be promoted to vice president, and then in the long term, I will become a managing director.”), you know you have a serious problem on your hands and need to put more work into your essay.

To effectively convey your post-MBA goals, you need to truly own them. This means personalizing them, determining and presenting why you expect to be a success in the proposed position, and explaining why an opportunity exists for you to contribute. For example, a former forestry engineer could make a strong argument for joining an environmental impact consulting firm. (Note: This candidate would still need to explain why he/she would want to join one.) Similarly, a financial analyst in the corporate finance department at Yahoo! could connect his/her goals to tech investment banking. Although the connection need not be so direct, especially for candidates seeking to change careers, relating your past experiences and/or your skills to your future path is still extremely important. This approach will add depth to your essay and ensure that the admissions committee takes you seriously.

While some candidates struggle to effectively convey their post-MBA goals, many also have difficulty defining their long-term goals. Although short-term goals should be relatively specific, long-term goals can be broad and ambitious. Regardless of what your short- and long-term aspirations actually are, what is most important is presenting a clear “cause and effect” relationship between them. The admissions committee will have difficulty buying into a long-term goal that lacks grounding. However, do not interpret this to mean that you must declare your interest in an industry and then assert that you will stay in it for your entire career. You can present any career path that excites you—again, as long as you also demonstrate a logical path to achieving your goals.

For example, many candidates discuss having ambitions in the field of management consulting. Could an individual with such aspirations justify any of the following long-term goals?

  • Climbing the ladder and becoming a partner in a consulting firm
  • Launching a boutique consulting firm
  • Leaving consulting to manage a nonprofit
  • Leaving consulting to buy a failing manufacturing firm and forge a “turnaround”
  • Entering the management ranks of a major corporation
The answer is yes! This candidate could justify any of these long-term goals (along with many others), as long as he/she connects them to experiences gained via his/her career as a consultant. With regard to your goals, do not feel constrained—just be sure to emphasize and illustrate that your career objectives are logical, achievable, and ambitious. Image

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A Memorizable List of GMAT Quant Content (Quantent)  [#permalink]

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New post 13 Aug 2018, 12:01
FROM Manhattan GMAT Blog: A Memorizable List of GMAT Quant Content (Quantent)
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Even though there’s no “new math” on GMAT Quant, there is still a ton of content to keep on our radar. And just like the tragic studying for a vocab test, we’ll have to learn 200 different things, even though the test is going to only ask us 31 of those things (because we don’t know which 31 things we’ll get asked on our test day).

How are we going to keep all that stuff in our brain at once? It takes most students at least a couple weeks to cycle through 200 different GMAT Quant problems, so by the time you’re doing the 200th problem, it’s usually been a few weeks since you’ve seen the content on the first 10 problems.

In order to take quicker laps around the GMAT Quant universe, you want to make some of your practice feel like you’re studying for a vocab test. We can take a lap through 200 vocab flashcards much more quickly than we can through 200 GMAT Quant problems.

Instead of having vocab flashcards with Word on one side and Definition on the other, we’ll have GMAT Quant flashcards that have Topic/Stimulus on one side, and First Move/First Thought on the other.

If Pavlov can get dogs to salivate in response to a bell, we can get ourselves to break a number down to primes in response to ‘divisibility language.’ But we’ll have to outdo Pavlov, or at least outdo his dogs, by learning way more than just one stimulus/response pairing. Are you all ready to outdo Pavlov’s certain-to-be-dead-by-now dogs?!

(Moment of silence: I hope in doggy heaven, every time the bell rings, you really do get a treat.)

In the rest of Part 1 (of this 2-part post), I’ll get you started with a baker’s dozen topics. Next month, we’ll finish off the list.

Your job: if you see anything you don’t already know with the ease/certainty of a famous actor’s name/face, then commit that fact to flashcard. Quiz yourself on those flashcards at least three times a week. Add your own flashcards as you review problems you’ve tried and see moves you wish you had made, or number properties you wish you would have inferred.

Let us know if you have any questions.

DIVISIBILITY on GMAT Quant
#1 Move: If we see x is divisible by y, x is a multiple of y, y is a factor of x, x/y is an integer, then we break these numbers down to primes.

Divisibility means “the numerator has at least the primes in the denominator.”

“x is divisible by 45” = x has at least 3 * 3 * 5 in it.

“x is not a multiple of 12” = x either has fewer than two 2’s or doesn’t have a 3, or both.

“36 is a factor of 8x” = 2*2*2*x2*2*3*3 = 2*2*2*x2*2*3*3 = 2x3*3 = x has at least 3*3 in it.

#2 Move: If we see a multiplication cluster + integer, then we think about the logic of multiples and ask, “What are both quantities divisible by?”

If we see 14x + 35, we think “both 14x and 35 are divisible by 7,” so 14x +35 is divisible by 7.

a multiple of 7 + a multiple of 7 = a multiple of 7

If we see 7! + 15, we think “both 7! and 15 are divisible by 5,” so 7! + 15 is divisible by 5.

STATISTICS on GMAT Quant
If we’re talking median,

  • arrange everything in ascending order
  • odd number of data points → median is the middle data point
  • even number of data points → median is the average of the two middle data points
If we’re talking average,

  • calculate sum (remember… Sum = Avg * # of things)
If we’re talking standard deviation,

  • we need to know how far each data point is from the average and how many data points there are
  • adding outlier data points (towards or beyond the current extremes) will increase SD
  • adding center data points (on or near the average) will decrease SD
ODDS/EVENS on GMAT Quant
#1 Thought: even * anything = even

#2 Thought: Remember or derive the E/O rules for addition/subtraction/multiplication

E +/- E = E       E * E = E

E +/- O = O     E * O = E

O +/- O = E     O * O = O

Usual #1 Move: Take anything with an even coefficient and translate that quantity into E.

3x + 4y is odd → 3x + E = O → 3x = O – E → 3x = O → x = O

Dealing with division facts: If we see “x/y is even,” we write, xy = Even, and then multiply y to the other side to get  x = Even (y). This tells us that x is even (we know nothing about y).

Useful Shortcut: If something has an even coefficient, we won’t learn whether that variable is even or odd. The even coefficient will “hide” which type it is.

POSITIVE/NEGATIVE on GMAT Quant
#1 Thought: Keep track of possible words with “pos, neg” or “+, -”

#1 Move: Use the pos/neg properties of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to eliminate possible words.

x+y > 0 (at least one positive … eliminate neg/neg)    

x+y

x-y > 0 (x > y  … eliminate neg/pos)

x-y

xy > 0 or x/y > 0 (same sign … must be pos/pos or neg/neg)

xy

Useful Shortcut: If something has an even exponent, we won’t learn whether that variable is positive or negative. The even exponent will “hide” which type it is.

DECIMALS on GMAT Quant
#1 Move: Clean it up by multiplying by a power of 10.

If we see 0.0045, we write  45 * 10-4

#2 Move: Line up the decimals, add zeros where necessary, then remove the decimal.

If we see 1.2/.03, we write 1.20/0.03 = 120/3 = 40.

UNITS DIGITS on GMAT Quant
#1 Move: Write out the pattern for that units digit. Example: What’s the units digit of 6345?

Write out the pattern for powers of 3 (the patterns are either a constant digit, a cycle of 2, or a cycle of 4).

3¹ ends in 3

3² ends in 9

3³ ends in 7

34 ends in 1

—————-

35 ends in 3

36 ends in 9

37 ends in 7

38 ends in 1

Since every power that’s a multiple of 4 will end in 1, 344 = ends in a 1.

So 345 = ends in a 3, so the units digit of 6345 is 3.

EXPONENTS/ROOTS on GMAT Quant
#1 Move: If any of the bases aren’t currently prime, break the bases down to primes.

If we see 14x * 10y * 85 = 2³² * 5z+1 * 74

Then our next move is: 2x 7x * 2y 5y * (2³)5 = 2³² * 5z+1 * 74

#2 Move: If the problem involves addition or subtraction, we need to factor something out.

If we see 2³² – 230

Then our next move is: 230 (2² – 1) =  230 (3).

INEQUALITIES on GMAT Quant
#1 Thought: Watch out for negatives! (When we multiply or divide by a negative, we have to flip the sign. We shouldn’t multiply or divide by variables unless we know their sign.)

#2 Thought: If it deals with exponents and inequalities, try fractions between 0 and 1, and maybe also fractions between -1 and 0 (numbers between 0 and 1 are the only numbers in the universe where x²

#3 Thought: If we have two inequalities, line up the inequality sign and add them to each other.

ALGEBRAIC STORY PROBLEMS on GMAT Quant
#1 Thought: Should I just backsolve, rather than translating the story into variables/equations and trying to solve that way?

#2 Thought: If I’m going to translate, let me do so carefully.

is (or any other verb) → “=”

of → “multiply”

percent →  /100

“There are” → the coefficient goes on the 2nd thing

(“There are 2/3 as many boys as girls” →  B = 2/3 G)

LINEAR ALGEBRA on GMAT Quant
#1 Thought: Am I solving for one variable or two (a “Combo”)?

We can solve systems of equations by substitution (isolate some variable or expression in one equation and then substitute the other side of the equation into the second equation).

Or we can solve systems of equations by elimination (stack the equations on top of each other, scale one or both of them up so that the coefficient of one of the variables is the same number, then add or subtract the two equations in order to eliminate the same-numbered variable).

Solving for a Combo, like “What is 3x + 2y?” means that instead of trying to get x = ___ , y = ____  and then plugging those values in for x and y, we should be trying to get 3x + 2y = _____.

TRAP AWARENESS on GMAT Quant
When the two DS statements show you a pair of equations with the same two variables, the answer is almost never C (we refer to that as “the C trap”).

Sometimes, it’s NOT solvable (the answer is E) because the two equations are actually the same equation, if we simplified or scaled them up/down.

What’s the value of x?

1) 3x + 2y = 40

2) 9x – 120 = -6y

(Answer: E)

Other times, it’s solvable with only one statement (the answer is A or B) because one of the statements gives us an equation that we could manipulate into showing us the value of the Combo we’re looking for.

What’s the value of 3x + 2y?

1) 9x – 120 = 6y

2) 5x + 4y = 12

(Answer: A)

More to come next month! Image

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ImagePatrick Tyrrell is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Los Angeles, California. He has a B.A. in philosophy, a 780 on the GMAT, and relentless enthusiasm for his work. In addition to teaching test prep since 2006, he’s also an avid songwriter/musician. Check out Patrick’s upcoming GMAT courses here!

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Critical Reasoning Assumption Questions – Let’s Play Jenga!  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Aug 2018, 06:01
FROM Manhattan GMAT Blog: Critical Reasoning Assumption Questions – Let’s Play Jenga!
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Some Critical Reasoning question types are pretty straightforward about what you’re being asked to do. On a Strengthen the Argument question, for example, many students naturally have a good sense of what they’re supposed to do even if they’ve never specifically studied the question type before.

Critical Reasoning Assumption questions are a bit less intuitive, but I’d like to show you a technique that makes them a lot easier to unscramble. Let’s try a GMATPrep question first: Set your timer for 2 minutes and give it a go.

Excavations of the Roman city of Sepphoris have uncovered numerous detailed mosaics depicting several readily identifiable animal species: a hare, a partridge, and various Mediterranean fish. Oddly, most of the species represented did not live in the Sepphoris region when these mosaics were created. Since identical motifs appear in mosaics found in other Roman cities, however, the mosaics of Sepphoris were very likely created by traveling artisans from some other part of the Roman Empire.

Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?

A) The Sepphoris mosaics are not composed exclusively of types of stones found naturally in the Sepphoris area.

B) There is no single region to which all the species depicted in the Sepphoris mosaics are native.

C) No motifs appear in the Sepphoris mosaics that do not also appear in the mosaics of some other Roman city.

D) All of the animal figures in the Sepphoris mosaics are readily identifiable as representations of known species.

E) There was not a common repertory of mosaic designs with which artisans who lived in various parts of the Roman Empire were familiar.

Step 1: Identify the Question (Read the Question First)
We’re being asked to find “an assumption on which the argument depends.” What that means is that one of the answer choices is secretly performing a keystone role in the argument, even though it’s not actually in the argument. (An assumption is an unstated premise that permits the argument to stand.) In other words, the right answer is something that the argument needs in order to have a chance of being valid.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument (What Was the Argument About?)
There are some mosaics in this ancient Roman city with pictures of animals, but most of those animals weren’t native to that region at the time (Premise 1). Other mosaics in other Roman cities show the same animals (Premise 2), so the mosaics were probably created by traveling artisans from other regions (Conclusion).

Before going any further, make sure you follow the intended logic of the argument. The author is claiming that since these mosaics included pictures of exotic animals from far away, the artists must have been from far away too.

Step 3: Pause and State the Goal (Brainstorm / Try to Predict the Right Answer)
For any Critical Reasoning questions that are part of what we call the “assumption family”—assumption, strengthen, weaken, or evaluate—you always want to try to kick the tires on the argument before looking at the answer choices. Looking at this argument, I’m not all that convinced yet. Just because the animals depicted were from far away doesn’t necessarily mean the artists had to be from far away too. Maybe the artists were locals who read about the exotic animals in a book, or heard about them through the grapevine.

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right (Go to the Answers and Use Process of Elimination)
Remember, we’re looking for something that would need to be true in order for the argument to have any chance of working—and the argument is that the artisans who made these mosaics were probably travelers from far away.

As we work from wrong to right, let’s just do a first pass and eliminate anything that’s clearly not needed by the argument. If anything sounds like it might be needed, then let’s hold onto it for now.

A) The Sepphoris mosaics are not composed exclusively of types of stones found naturally in the Sepphoris area. The mosaics are not made of all local stone. Maybe the mosaics were made elsewhere (not by locals) and then transported to the city? That would potentially impact who was making the mosaics, so let’s hold onto that.

B) There is no single region to which all the species depicted in the Sepphoris mosaics are native. The exotic animals depicted aren’t all from one region. Who cares? Eliminate.

C) No motifs appear in the Sepphoris mosaics that do not also appear in the mosaics of some other Roman city. All of these motifs in the Sepphoris mosaics also show up in some other mosaics in other cities. I’m not totally sure how that might affect our argument yet, so let’s hold onto it for now.

D) All of the animal figures in the Sepphoris mosaics are readily identifiable as representations of known species. We don’t need that to be true for the argument to work—they could have included pictures of dragons or unicorns too, but I don’t think that would affect the argument one way or another. Eliminate.

E) There was not a common repertory of mosaic designs with which artisans who lived in various parts of the Roman Empire were familiar. This relates to the idea we talked about that locals maybe knew about exotic animals from a book or something. Hold onto this.

Step 5: Use the Assumption Negation Technique (Play Jenga)
Okay, we’re down to 3 possible answers: A, C, and E. Now it’s time for a move that applies only to Critical Reasoning Assumption questions—don’t use this on any other Critical Reasoning question type. It’s called the assumption negation technique, but I like to think of it as playing Jenga.

You’ve played Jenga, right? You build a tower of little wooden blocks, and then you try to take out one block at a time without the tower falling down—when the tower falls down, game over.

That’s what we’re going to do here, except the argument is the Jenga tower, and the answer choices are the wooden blocks. What we’re going to do is negate one answer choice at a time (the equivalent of removing that block from our Jenga tower) and see if that destroys the argument (makes our tower fall down). If you pull out a block and the tower falls down, then the tower needed that block.

Similarly, if you negate an answer choice—reverse its meaning—and that makes the argument fall apart, then that means that the argument needed the original, unaltered version of that answer choice in order to stand. I know it’s a bit topsy-turvy, but trust me—it’ll make perfect sense once you see it in action.

You negate each answer choice by reversing the main verb or action in the sentence, usually by insertion or deletion of the word “no” or “not.” (Make sure you only negate each answer choice once—don’t insert ‘no’ in multiple places in one answer choice.)

Of our remaining three answers, we’re now looking for the one that, when negated, destroys the argument (makes our Jenga tower fall down).

A) The Sepphoris mosaics are not composed exclusively of types of stones found naturally in the Sepphoris area. If the mosaics are made of all local stone, we still don’t necessarily know who made them—local artisans or traveling artisans. Our Jenga tower is still standing.

B) There is no single region to which all the species depicted in the Sepphoris mosaics are native.

C) No (Some) motifs appear in the Sepphoris mosaics that do not also appear in the mosaics of some other Roman city. Notice I only eliminated the first ‘no’ (replacing it with the word ‘some’), but not the second. The negated version of this answer means that there are some motifs that are unique to the Sepphoris mosaics. I suppose that slightly undercuts the idea of traveling artisans, but it doesn’t make it impossible—maybe traveling artisans came in, made the mosaics, and included a little custom Sepphoris symbol for the local clientele. It’s a bit of a stretch, but it works. Our Jenga tower wobbled a little, but it’s still standing.

 D) All of the animal figures in the Sepphoris mosaics are readily identifiable as representations of known species.

E) There was not a common repertory of mosaic designs with which artisans who lived in various parts of the Roman Empire were familiar. If there was a common repertory of designs that artisans from all over knew about, and if those designs included a variety of exotic animals from various regions outside of Sepphoris, then the whole argument just fell apart. It didn’t have to be traveling artisans who made the mosaics; it easily could have been locals who simply knew the common designs even if they had never seen those animals in person. Our Jenga tower just fell over, and E is the right answer.

So, to recap: Only use assumption negation on Critical Reasoning Assumption questions, and do it only after you’ve eliminated the obviously incorrect answers. It’s easier to knock out a couple first, as we did here, and then negate the remaining choices, rather than negate all five answer choices on every problem. Once you get used to the process, the right answer will start to jump off the screen at you, and you’ll be far more confident about Critical Reasoning Assumption questions. Image

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MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: I Should Quit My Job to Study for the   [#permalink]

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New post 03 Sep 2018, 20:01
FROM Manhattan GMAT Blog: MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: I Should Quit My Job to Study for the GMAT
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What have you been told about applying to business school? With the advent of chat rooms, blogs, and forums, armchair “experts” often unintentionally propagate MBA admissions myths, which can linger and undermine an applicant’s confidence. Some applicants are led to believe that schools want a specific “type” of candidate and expect certain GMAT scores and GPAs, for example. Others are led to believe that they need to know alumni from their target schools and/or get a letter of reference from the CEO of their firm in order to get in. In this series,mbaMission debunks these and other myths and strives to take the anxiety out of the admissions process.

The GMAT is the sole piece of data that is truly consistent from one candidate to another. Therefore, many MBA applicants get carried away and place undue emphasis on it, when the test is only one of several important aspects of an application. In extreme cases, some applicants consider quitting their jobs to focus on the GMAT full time—not a great idea!

Why is it not ideal to quit your job to improve your GMAT score? Quite simply, it sends the message that you cannot manage what many other MBA candidates can manage quite well. In your application, you will need to account for any time off; if you honestly note that you quit your job to study for the GMAT, you will place yourself at a relative disadvantage to others who have proved that they can manage work, study, and possibly volunteer work simultaneously. By taking time off, you will send the unintended message that you cannot achieve what many do unless you have an uneven playing field. This is not the message you want to send your target academic institution, which wants to be sure that you can handle the academic course load, a job hunt, community commitments, and more.

Regardless of the admissions committees’ perceptions of taking time off, we believe a calm and methodical approach is your best bet. By furthering your career as you study, you will have a sense of balance in your life. On test day, you will have a far better chance of keeping a level head, ensuring that you will do your best—which, of course, was the point in the first place. Image

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Big GMAT Skills: Pinpointing Comparisons and Relationships  [#permalink]

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New post 03 Sep 2018, 20:01
FROM Manhattan GMAT Blog: Big GMAT Skills: Pinpointing Comparisons and Relationships
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Welcome to the latest installment of the Big GMAT Skills series, which I am hoping to use to lay out some of the biggest GMAT skills you can start using to get that score you want. Check out the other parts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), and keep them in mind as you read, as those GMAT skills are still going to be applicable here, just as what’s here is applicable in those articles as well.

Let’s pretend I’m making a fruit tart.

I lay out my ingredients and, dang it, I realize that I have more oranges but fewer apples than the recipe calls for. I’ll have to go to the store to get some apples, and that’s annoying, because I have to walk, and it’s 91 degrees and humid today, so I’ll start to sweat, probably, and man, do I even want to make this fruit tart anymore?

Question: do I have more apples or oranges?

Your first instinct may have been to say ‘oranges.’ Which sentence lends support for that answer?

“I have more oranges but fewer apples than the recipe calls for.”

Read that sentence again, though, very closely, and very literally.

Where does it say I have more oranges than apples? The phrase ‘more oranges’ is in there, but what, specifically, exactly, is being compared?

I am told I have more oranges than I need and fewer apples than I need. That’s not the same thing as having more oranges than apples. It’s very possible the recipe called for 2 oranges, of which I have 4, and 12 apples, of which I have 8. I have more apples than oranges, but I have fewer apples than the recipe calls for. From that story alone, you don’t know which fruit I have more of.

“You tricked me!” No, I didn’t.

You took what was there and made a completely unsupported inference, one similar to the situation that was given you but not actually what is known to be true. (This little riddle is inspired by a wrong answer choice on a Critical Reasoning problem in the 2018 OG. Take a look at CR numbers 635 to 640, see if you can find which wrong answer choice ‘A’ makes this same mistake in comparison*.)

Comparisons are a huge deal on the GMAT. They are rife in Critical Reasoning, and are one of the five most important things to note in Reading Comp. They are also an entire category of Sentence Correction question.

For example:

“Unlike watching a movie, a novel forces a person to see the events unfold in his or her imagination, and not on an actual screen.”

What’s compared? Forget for a second that you know exactly what this sentence is supposed to mean. What is literally compared?

‘Watching a movie’ and ‘a novel.’ Can you compare watching a movie and a book? You can compare a movie to a novel, and you can compare watching a movie to reading a novel, but you probably shouldn’t compare watching a movie (an action a person does) to a book (a bounded stack of papers with words on them). These are totally different things.

Other elements in Sentence Correction can also be likened to a ‘comparison.’ Parallel structure is, ultimately, making sure parts of a sentence that are joined by a conjunction are the ‘same type’ of thing. When you check parallelism, you’re scanning for relationships between parts of a sentence. Pronouns and subject/verbs are about agreement as well.

How about Quant?

Well, what is a percent, anyway?

A percent—and its cousin, the ratio—are relative values that make comparisons between two quantities. But we want to make sure we interpret that comparison correctly.

What do you think is the most common mistake people make on a setup like this?

“The price of a sweater at a store was 24% lower at the end of the year than at the beginning. If at the end of the year the price was 190 dollars, what was the price at the beginning?”

The most common mistake is setting this situation up to solve, and it is usually a mistake of understanding the comparison. Which of the following is the correct set up, where ‘X’ is the price of the sweater at the start of the year?

A) 1.24(190) = X

B) 1.24(X) = 190

C) .76(X) = 190

D) .76(190) = X

Each of these equations tells some sort of comparison story using similar values, but they give different scenarios.

The correct set up is answer C. A 24% decrease (.76) of the original price (X) is (=) the price at the end of the year (190).

The most common mistake would probably be answer A. What would the ‘English’ comparison of answer ‘A’ be?

‘A’ would be a 24% increase of the year’s end price is the original price. Which might at first seem like the same situation, but it’s not. An x% change in one direction is not ‘undone’ by an x% change in the opposite direction.

One of the first things I tell my students to note when a percent or fraction shows up is to specify what that percent is relevant to. That is: specify the comparison.

A lot of Quant questions are tricky because they give multiple comparisons. Part of the game is keeping track of which comparisons describe which quantities.

Here’s a DS question:

If 25

1) (x-1) is a multiple of 5

2) (x+1) has only one unique prime factor

I’ll tell you the answer first. It’s E.

If you chose any other answer, I’d wager I know your mistake. Either you don’t know what is meant by ‘unique prime factor,’ or you attributed a given comparison to the wrong value. The first mistake is definitional: just know that a number that has only one unique prime factor can be written as prime number raised to an exponent (e.g. 8 = 2^3, so 8 has a one unique prime factor of 2. 12 = (2^2)*3, so 12 has two unique prime factors, 2 and 3).

If that wasn’t your mistake (especially if you said statement 1 was sufficient) see if you can spot what comparison mistake someone might make here.

The most common mistake on statement 1 would be something like:

“Okay, well, if x-1 is a multiple of 5, that would be 26-1=25, or 31-1=30, but 25 is too small, so it has to be 31.”

Do you see the problem?

25 is too small for the number x, but not for the number ‘x-1.’

If you said statement 2 was sufficient, you did something similar. The only values that fit would be x = 26, since 26+1 = 27 = (3^3), and x= 31, because 31+1 = 32 = (2^5). You might have thought ’32 is too big.’ But 32 is too big for x, not for ‘x+1.’

(Also note, if you chose D, your two statements would have been sufficient for different answers, and that is never allowed in DS).

Keep relationships and comparisons specified to the things they compare—don’t let the comparison ‘bleed.’

Further, many times in Quant, it’s useful to just think “Which number would be bigger?” This can lead to some high-awareness movesthat can often help you narrow down answers, often to the correct one!

When it comes to comparisons, the best thing you can do is notice when a comparison is happening, and then specify what that comparison is actually comparing, and isolate that comparison from bleeding into unsupported inferences or restrictions. Make sure it says what it ‘feels like’ it says, and make sure you don’t misapply that comparison to something else in the problem or passage.

*The answer that inspired this was wrong answer A on number 636. The answer seems to imply that I know for sure that Malvernia produces more natural gas than oil… but the comparisons in the passage are only ever about how we have vs. how much we need. We never compare the quantities of oil and gas to each other. Image

Want some more GMAT tips from Reed? Attend the first session of one of his upcoming GMAT courses absolutely free, no strings attached. Seriously.

Reed ArnoldImage
 is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York, NY.
 He has a B.A. in economics, philosophy, and mathematics and an M.S. in commerce, both from the University of Virginia. He enjoys writing, acting, Chipotle burritos, and teaching the GMAT. Check out Reed’s upcoming GMAT courses here.

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GMAT Data Sufficiency: What Does Insufficient Really Mean?  [#permalink]

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New post 18 Oct 2018, 06:00
FROM Manhattan GMAT Blog: GMAT Data Sufficiency: What Does Insufficient Really Mean?
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When you first learn GMAT Data Sufficiency, it seems fairly straightforward. Your task is to determine whether each statement gives you enough information to answer the question. So you look at the question, look at the statement, and think Yes, I can answer the question—sufficient or No, I can’t answer the question—insufficient.

As we get into it, though, we all realize that GMAT Data Sufficiency questions can be quite tricky. We find ourselves regularly looking at answer choices and thinking Oh, I didn’t see that way of doing it; how was I supposed to think of that? Fortunately, there are some concrete steps to improve your decisions on these tricky problems.

One of those steps is to realize that we have a language problem. When we say, “I can’t answer the question with this information,” we tend to process that as INSUFFICIENT, but that statement can actually mean two things. Sometimes it means “I can’t figure out an answer” and sometimes it means “I can’t answer it because there are multiple possible answers.” Those are very different!

In the first meaning, “I can’t figure out an answer,” it’s often a complex problem with multiple constraints. It might be one of those in which x has to be a multiple of one thing and have a certain remainder and meet some other requirement. You try out a couple numbers and nothing fits, so you say “I can’t figure out an answer,” but be careful! That does not all mean the statement is insufficient. You may not be able to figure out an answer, but somebody could!

The key thing is that insufficient means multiple possible answers. If the question is “What is x?” and the statement is “x = y + 2,” you might say, “I can’t figure out what x is,” but you’re really meaning that in the second way. There are multiple possible answers for x. It could be that x = 4 and y = 2 or x = 6 and y = 4 or so on and so on. That’s insufficient.

But back on the first meaning, when it’s just so complicated you can’t even come up with one, then you certainly haven’t found multiple answers! You’re actually closer to sufficient than you are to insufficient. All those constraints are making it hard for you to find a value that works, so it’s really unlikely that you could find two values that work, and you always need multiple answers to be insufficient.

What should you do then on GMAT Data Sufficiency? Drop the language of “I can’t figure it out.” Instead, focus on proving insufficient. If you find multiple possible answers, great, it’s proven. And if you can’t find multiple possible answers, whether you only find one possible answer or no possible answers at all, you guess sufficient. So, you end up with my favorite GMAT Data Sufficiency mantra: “Prove insufficient, guess sufficient.” Image

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 is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Virginia Beach, VA.
 He holds a B.A. in mathematics and a Master of Divinity from Covenant Seminary. James has taught and tutored everything from calculus to chess, and his 780 GMAT score allows him to share his love of teaching and standardized tests with MPrep students. You can check out James’s upcoming GMAT courses here.

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Why Was My Official GMAT Score Lower than My Practice Test Scores?  [#permalink]

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New post 13 Nov 2018, 10:00
FROM Manhattan GMAT Blog: Why Was My Official GMAT Score Lower than My Practice Test Scores?
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Hopefully, once you’ve done a couple of GMAT practice tests, nothing will surprise you on test day. That includes your official GMAT score. But what does it mean if your official GMAT score doesn’t measure up to your practice tests? Keep reading, and we’ll troubleshoot.

First, don’t panic.
It’s fine to take the GMAT twice. It’s fine to take the GMAT three times! If you do better next time, your schools will see that as a positive. If you do worse, you can just cancel your score, and nobody will be the wiser.

Why did this happen?
There are three broad reasons to score lower on test day than on your practice tests. Here they are:

  • You had bad luck.
  • Something made your practice tests easier.
  • Something made your official test harder.
Let’s address these one by one.

Can bad luck hurt your official GMAT score?
According to the GMAC, the standard error of your official GMAT score is 30-40 points.

Here’s what that means. If you could take the GMAT an infinite number of times, your average score would perfectly reflect your GMAT skills. Sometimes you’d get lucky and see questions that just happened to click for you; sometimes you’d get unlucky and see that one question you were totally dreading. On average, the good luck would balance out the bad luck, and you’d get exactly the score you deserved.

Standard error measures how much a single official GMAT score can be affected by random luck. Since the standard error is 30-40 points, your score on any particular GMAT might be as much as 40 points higher or lower than your actual skill level.

So, you scored a 560. Your actual skill level might be 560. Or it might be as low as 520—and you were just incredibly lucky on test day. Or it could be as high as 600, and you were really unlucky. The downside is that there’s not necessarily any way to tell. After all, to find your “real” GMAT score, you’d have to take the test an infinite number of times.

Did something make your practice tests easier?
Look back on the practice tests you scored well on. Is it possible that something inflated your score?

Some third-party practice tests just aren’t that accurate. Unfortunately, a lot of the information out there regarding practice test accuracy is anecdotal and contradictory. If you haven’t done so already, take an official GMAC practice test from mba.com. If the score is closer to your official GMAT score, you might have your answer: your practice tests scored you incorrectly. You might want to keep using those tests for practice, but you should take the scores with a grain of salt.

Here are some other factors that could have come into play:

  • Did you take extra breaks, or longer breaks, while taking your practice tests?
  • Did you take your practice tests in a more comfortable environment than the testing center?
  • Did you eat or drink while taking your practice tests (not just during your breaks)?
  • Did you skip one or more of the sections?  
  • Did you take your practice tests at a different time of day, or on a different day of the week?
  • Did you do anything during or before your practice tests that you couldn’t do on test day?
If something here seems right to you, explore it further. First, as you keep studying, start taking your practice tests under more “official” conditions. (Now that you’ve taken the GMAT once, you know exactly what those are!)

Second, if you did something on this list in order to compensate for a weakness, address that weakness! For instance, if you took an extra break because you felt fatigued halfway through the test, practice doing long problem sets without taking breaks, particularly when you’re already tired.

Did something make your official test harder?
The number-one reason to score lower on test day is anxiety. Test anxiety makes everything harder, and it’s more likely to show up on test day than during a practice test. The good news is, now that you’ve experienced it, you know exactly what you need to fix.

Another factor related to anxiety is what I’ll call “taking the test too seriously.” On practice tests, it’s relatively easy to make yourself guess, try new strategies, and use the “back-of-the-napkin” approach to problems. But on test day, you might suddenly feel like you have to answer every question: after all, it’s test day, so it’s time to get serious! Right?

Wrong. Unfortunately, guessing is a big part of why you were scoring so well on practice tests. Read this article about guessing and this one about back-of-the-napkin math, and commit to treating your next official test a little more like your practice tests.

Here are a few other things to think about:

  • Did you sleep well the night before the test?
  • Were you hungry? Too warm or too cold? Sick? Stressed? Feeling scared or pessimistic?  
  • Did you go into the test feeling burned out?
  • What did you do in the week before your test? Did you try to cram in a bunch of new material? Or did you relax and review what you knew?
The first step to a better second GMAT is figuring out why the first one didn’t go well. The second step is doing something about it, then taking the test a second time and crushing it! For what it’s worth, most of my students score higher on their second attempt. By the way—did you already take our GMAT course? If you’re a former MPrep GMAT student who’s taken three of our practice tests, and you weren’t happy with your official GMAT score, contact Student Services at gmat@manhattanprep.com—an instructor will meet with you for free and go over the next steps. Image

Want more guidance from our GMAT gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. Check out our upcoming courses here.

[b]Chelsey CooleyImage
 is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington.
 [/b]Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GMAT prep offerings here.

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ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

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