GMAT Tip of the Week: Opening Day

For Major League Baseball fans, this week marks Opening Day, the dawn of a new season and the unofficial beginning of spring. For GMAT test-takers, Opening Day of the new Integrated Reasoning section is two months away…and sadly most GMAT examinees don’t quite see that Opening Day with as much hope and promise as baseball fans have for their opener. But the two Opening Days have some direct similarities, and understanding those similarities can help you to see the IR Opening Day with much more promise and excitement.

If you saw any of the MLB Opening Day on ESPN yesterday, you likely watched MVP / Cy Young winner Justin Verlander throw an 8-inning, 2-hit gem. And if you listened to the commentary by Orel Hershiser and Terry Francona, they cited two things that make Verlander such an incredible pitcher:

-He’s very versatile, with the ability to throw several pitches masterfully
-He gets stronger as the game goes on, throwing some of his fastest pitches in the later innings

Those qualities will be essential for those taking the Integrated Reasoning section on Opening Day in June and beyond. To succeed on the IR section and the GMAT as a whole, you need to:

-Be versatile
-Stay strong throughout the exam

So let’s discuss those qualities.

BE VERSATILE

The Integrated Reasoning question types will require you to use combinations of skills and abilities. Many questions will come in the form of “which of the following conclusions can be drawn from the (chart/graph/email thread/etc.)?”. This means that you will need to use your Critical Reasoning abilities, determining which conclusions “MUST BE TRUE” (to which the answer is “yes, this conclusion can be drawn”) and which just “MIGHT BE TRUE” (in which case that conclusion cannot be drawn). But many of these questions will involve math, meaning that you will need to perform some mental calculations in order to determine that conclusion. For example, a portion of the prompt on a Multi-Source Reasoning question might include:

REALTOR, TALKING TO THE SELLERS OF A HOME: Based on my experience, I expect that you can counter at a price of $345,000, and still end up agreeing on a price that is no lower than 10% below your asking price.

And the question might ask whether the following conclusion can be drawn from that information:

CONCLUSION: The sellers’ initial asking price is greater than $380,000.

Here you need to be versatile, using mathematical skills to determine the maximum asking price. If $345k is “no less than 10% below”, then $345,000 > Asking Price – 10%(Asking Price). And here’s where versatility can be extremely helpful – if you don’t want to do that math, you can also set the line at $380,000. 10% of $380,000 is $38,000, which means that any price less than $342,000 would be more than 10% off of an asking price of $380,000 or above. But because $345,000 is therefore in the range of “no less than 10% off of a price greater than $380,000″ and “no less than 10% off of a price slightly less than $380,000″, the conclusion COULD BE TRUE but does not HAVE TO BE TRUE.

In other words, here is where the math is essential to finding that range (yes, an asking price over $380,000 is possible), but you cannot simply turn off your logical reasoning abilities either. The math is only part of the question. IR will require you to be Verlanderly Versatile.

GET STRONGER AS THE TEST GOES ON

The other important characteristic on the Next-Generation GMAT will be your ability to stay strong throughout the test. Many examinees will find that the IR section takes some effort and may drain a little mental stamina more so than writing another AWA essay would. So a huge facet of the IR section will be stamina/effort management. As made popular in the book Moneyball, in baseball a batter who can simply wear down a starting pitcher by making him throw more balls in the first few innings is potentially more valuable than a batter with a higher batting average. Part of the game of baseball is wearing down an ace like Verlander so that you get to play against a weaker opponent. The GMAT has this potential with you – you can be Verlander for the first two hours of the test, but if you come back down to average too soon your score will suffer.

For that reason, you must practice the new-format GMAT (the GMAT Prep tests at www.mba.com have been updated to include the IR section) multiple times before you take the official test, and you should study in long sessions from time to time to ensure that you build the type of stamina that will last you through the test.

And it will also be important to manage your energy on the IR section (and the AWA section). Grinding through lengthy calculations when you could have gotten away with an estimate will sap your time and energy. Spending >3 minutes on any one of the 12 prompts will likely force you to rush through too many subsequent questions and wear down your stamina and confidence. Remember that your ultimate goal is the 200-800 score that only comes from the quant and verbal sections. Perform well on the IR section, but recognize that a “good” IR score that keeps you fresh for the quant/verbal sections is better for your MBA candidacy than a “great” IR score that wears you down and drops your performance later in that day. Yesterday, manager Jim Leyland pulled a still-strong Justin Verlander after 8 innings of a masterpiece, going to the closer (and nearly losing the game in the process) even though Verlander could have finished the game off. Why? Because it was *only* Opening Day, and Verlander needs to be fresh for nearly 40 more starts this summer. Wearing him down when he had already done more than his job just bore too much risk for the bigger picture. Similarly, you should manage your own “pitch count” on the IR section. Do your job, but recognize that you don’t want your IR experience to come at the expense of the bigger picture.

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