The Veritas Prep Question Bank offers unique insights in to the habits of GMAT test-takers; while students from around the world answer free GMAT practice questions, the Question Bank tracks patterns in the answers that the world selects, and in this series we’ll highlight valuable lessons that you can learn from the statistical analysis of how people choose their answers.
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Statistics-based GMAT questions can be tricky, particularly for those who haven’t been formally trained in stats or for those whose knowledge of statistics is more incomplete than they realize. One concept for which many students have blind spots is that of the median, so let’s take a moment to identify and explain a few of these common knowledge gaps.
One of the most fascinating parts of being a GMAT instructor is getting to watch successful adults relive the math they did as kids. In many cases, an instructor can actually see that concept or point in time when the student stopped trying to really understand the math and just started relying on that combination of memorization and partial credit to get their Bs in math and search for a career path that would include no more of it. How many students decided at some point in junior high or high school that they just weren’t a “math person”?
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – Juliet / William Shakespeare
Carlos Danger is Anthony Weiner. And a creep by any other name would be just as creepy. This week the New York mayoral candidate, notorious for tweeting his last name all across the internet, put his campaign into his fake last name by doing the same thing under an alias. And in doing so, he taught many of you who aspire to live under his intended jurisdiction – as students at NYU-Stern or Columbia, or as bankers or marketers or hip-hop moguls after graduation – a valuable lesson about the GMAT:
A common question we get from students who have just completed our free GMAT practice goes something like this: “I just got a score of X, but I see that I got Y questions right and Z questions wrong… How can my score be so low/high?” Embedded in this question is a bit of a lack of understanding of how a computer-adaptive test (CAT) works. Let’s dig in…
“You can learn a lot more from a few seconds of pain than from a few hours of glory.”
We all want to breeze through our GMAT homework getting every question right in under two minutes, but absolutely no one does that. And if you’re in a GMAT class, do you really want to get every answer right the first time? Sure, that might mean that “you’re great”, but in reality what it probably means is that the class is going through problems that are too easy. The beauty of mistakes – and the reason that Veritas Prep classes emphasize “Learning by Doing” with challenge-level problems throughout – is that they’re the best learning opportunities out there. Every time you make a mistake, you’re adding another lesson to the pile and finding a new hole to plug. Every mistake you make in practice is a chance to make sure you learn to avoid that mistake for when it really matters.
Ah, summertime. Perhaps you’re spending this first-weekend-of-July at the Jersey Shore, or perhaps you have plans to watch baseball. Either way, there’s a good chance you’ll run into an MVP comparison, and if you do you’re helping your GMAT verbal score more than you’ll ever know. Because the key to Sentence Correction success is the MVP comparison.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Stanford professor Walter Mischel conducted one of the most famous social experiments of all time. Known as the “Marshmallow Test,” the experiment worked like this:
A child was brought into a room and a marshmallow was placed in front of that child. The experimenter told the child that he would return in 15 minutes, and if the child did not eat the marshmallow before his return, then that child would be given two marshmallows.
Let’s say you were in the market for some new technology, and let’s say your friend introduced you to a guy who sold used, refurbished gadgets at a huge discount. And let’s say he gave you this choice – you could buy:
A) An iPhone 5 for $50
B) A digital camera for $40
R. Kelly. Jermaine Dupri. Mariah Carey. The Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC). What do they all have in common?
It’s the remix.
All four artists above are masters of the remix, taking the same song and making it different and, in most cases, better by simply changing a few things around. To the casual observer the end result may be entirely different (hey R. Kelly – is there even a non-remixed version of “Ignition”? It almost doesn’t matter with the remix being that good…), but to those who seek to understand the art of either music or the GMAT, it’s extremely helpful to recognize the way that these artists ply their trade. To get a feel for it, let’s look at two almost-identical-but-beautifully-remixed problems from the Official Guide for GMAT Review:
There are many memorable things happening this Memorial Day weekend, but perhaps none is as exciting as the much-anticipated return of Arrested Development, the cult classic sitcom re-premiering on Netflix on Sunday. Panned by the masses in large part because it’s humor was “too smart,” Arrested Development can provide some useful intelligence to aid in your own GMAT development. So if the GMAT has you down this beginning-of-summer weekend, there’s no need to hide in your Aztec tomb, join a blue man group for moral support, or hide your lack of GMAT confidence behind cutoff shorts. We don’t think you’re a chicken (coo-coo-ca-cha!). Arrested Development is here to teach you an important lesson – and this time it’s not J. Walter Weatherman, but instead the former President of the Bluth Company, Gob.
If GMAT tutoring sessions sometimes look like George (or Oscar) Bluth prison meetings from Arrested Development – two people across the table from each other speaking intelligently – the “no touching” recurring theme is embedded in this exchange:
Step one: Student begins to work on problem, places scratch paper directly underneath problem covering answer choices.
Step two: Instructor slaps the note paper away and yells “no touching (the answer choices)”
By now you’ve seen the YouTube video, the autotunes, the reenactments… Charles Ramsey’s 911 call took the world by storm this week, hoisting him to pop culture sensation status reminiscent of our old friend Antoine Dodson.
And at the same time as he was saving three kidnap victims, Charles Ramsey may also have been saving your GMAT verbal score.
For GMAT instructors and number enthusiasts, yesterday was a banner day – on April 25, 4/25, both the month and the day (4 and 25) were perfect squares (2-squared and 5-squared). And with that in mind, let’s take a look at some properties of squares that can help you better solve exponent questions on the GMAT.
The sports news story du jour is an amazing one – 14 year old Tianlang Guan spent yesterday not doing math homework (like you presumably are) or household chores like a normal 14-year old on a Thursday. He spent it shooting an incredibly impressive round at the Masters, arguably the world’s most prestigious golf tournament. His score of 73 beat the defending champion by two strokes and kept him in the hunt for another day. And it should also have taught you a lesson about the GMAT:
It’s the first week of the Major League Baseball season, a sure sign of springtime and a massive celebration in most MLB cities as fans begin the season with new hope and a spirit of outdoor community. And if you’re watching, it can provide you with valuable insight to your forthcoming GMAT appointment. Because like most elite pitchers, the GMAT has a nasty curveball.
It’s the last Friday in March, and all good things must come to an end, including Hip Hop Month in the GMAT Tip of the Week space. But if you’ve been reading along with us all month, hopefully your iPod or car stereo has become your best study partner. While you’re driving home from work and the Kanye/Good Music track “Clique” comes on, you might hear Jay Z’s verse and immediately start thinking about sequence problems:
As Hip Hop Month rolls on in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, we’re reminded that small nuances in the ways that GMAT questions are structured can have big consequences for test-takers. So who would be a more fitting man to teach that lesson – what’s small can have big consequences – than Biggie Smalls?
As loyal readers of this space will know, if it’s a Friday in March that means it’s Hip Hop Month for GMAT tips, and the US government sequester will not slow us down! Although it may inspire us. As the government careens toward desperate austerity measures, frugality is in the air, both in Washington and on your radio. Which is good news – let’s pop some tags and talk about how going to the Thrift Shop, Macklemore style, can help you crush GMAT Data Sufficiency.
It’s Oscar weekend here in Los Angeles, and that can only mean one thing:
The winner is…your GMAT verbal score.
How can this year’s Academy Awards improve your performance on GMAT Sentence Correction? Let’s look at the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture, Argo. The title alone, Argo, brings up two important points about GMAT Sentence Correction:
In a Valentine’s Day surprise yesterday, the standard Thursday Veritas Prep staff meeting was crashed by a lovable intruder. Cookie Monster – yes, the one-track-minded carnivore from Sesame Street – barreled into the meeting with a singing telegram for our Director of Admissions Consulting and Worldwide GMAT Instructor of the Year, Travis Morgan. Bearing a message of love and his standard message of “me want cookie”, he also reminded the GMAT staff of why Cookie Monster would fail miserably at the GMAT:
As we’ve reached the midpoint between buzzing over Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” intro over the weekend and Valentine’s Day next week, love is in the air. Which is a good thing in most respects, but can be a dangerous one on the GMAT. You might well say that one of the most common mistakes that test-takers make on verbal questions is “love at first sight”.
If you’re like many this weekend, you’ll do some gambling on the Super Bowl. Whether it’s a squares pool at a Super Bowl party, some prop bets in Vegas, or a mayoral contest between the chief executives of Baltimore and San Francisco (Rice-a-Roni against some DVDs of The Wire?), you’ll have opportunities to either win or lose based on probability. So here’s a tip that can help you on both football bets and the GMAT:
If you’re a regular reader of this corner of the Veritas Prep blog, you should know that we like to take Friday mornings to identify something newsworthy and relate it to the GMAT. But this week, the trivial-enough-to-blog news cycle has seemed to take a break. Manti Te’o is old news, the NFL playoffs are in their bye week before the Super Bowl… When the world takes a break, what’s a GMAT blogger to do?
One of the more-dreaded types of GMAT Problem Solving questions is the “must be true” question with three statements; these questions often look like:
If 20x = 49y, which of the following must be true?
I. x > y
II. x2 > y2
III. x/7 is an integer
For many GMAT test-takers, one of the most challenging tasks on the exam is that of weeding through the clutter on Sentence Correction questions to arrive at an actionable decision point. So many Sentence Correction questions involve a lot of dense language and not-altogether-enjoyable subject matter, and as a result students spend a lot of time spinning their wheels trying to even get going.
Many test-takers lament the very presence of Sentence Correction questions, feeling overwhelmed as they study grammar rules and still overwhelmed as they look at practice questions and cannot determine where to start. Sentence Correction can be daunting – the English language is far from binary in its usage (“I before E except after C”…and even that has a bunch of extra caveats), and the questions themselves are specifically designed to make finding your Decision Points difficult.
Baby, it’s cold outside. Pretty much no matter where you are while you read this, it’s cold right now (even here in Los Angeles), and whether it’s by blankets, Starbucks holiday drinks, or thermal underwear, you’re probably hoping to warm up. Which is actually good advice for the GMAT, too, just in a slightly different way.
As Twitter has confirmed, the real winner in this week’s U.S. Elections was Nate Silver, the statistician behind fivethirtyeight.com and the prognosticator who called nearly every national race correctly, save for one senate race in North Dakota. Famously, he predicted each state’s presidential race correctly and he’s risen to prominence with a role on the New York Times and with his new book “The Signal and the Noise.” So with Nate Silver taking statistical analysis to heights that Moneyball only hoped to, it’s only fitting that we close this week by summoning our inner Silver and taking a statistical dive at GMAT questions.
Polling isn’t new, nor is statistical analysis. So why is Nate Silver so much more successful than others when it comes to using statistics to project outcomes? If we understood completely, we’d be writing a different article for a lot more money on a more-heavily-trafficked blog, but the layman’s answer is largely that he takes time to determine which statistics are most relevant to the outcome, and focuses his energy on those. And that’s what you should do when you analyze your GMAT practice tests and consume information about the GMAT – cut to the most meaningful statistics and focus your energy there.
So it is upon us. The much-anticipated final Jobs Report before the 2012 Presidential Election has been released, and its results will fuel debates all weekend and can have a significant impact on your GMAT verbal score if you pay attention to the arguments that surround it.
Here’s what happened – the American economy added 171,000 new jobs, beating economists’ predictions by a healthy margin (good news?) but the unemployment rate ticked up a tenth of a point from last month’s figure (bad news?). And in full GMAT Critical Reasoning mode, pundits and political representatives immediately began using those statistics to draw unsupported conclusions. Check out these Critical Reasoning style Weaken questions you could make from today’s arguments:
Happy Halloween Weekend, readers (and, yes, we do find it odd that for this generation Halloween now spans several days and seems to have more relevance for 20-somethings than does pretty much any other holiday, but we’re not complaining).
As you put the final touches on your Halloween costume for the weekend – our ever-on-the-pulse-of-costume-popularity coworker, Jason (2010 – Antoine Dodson; 2011- Angry Birds. Every year he’s ahead of the curve on “most popular costume”) is going as Gangam Style – it’s not a bad time to keep your eyes one one of the next hallmarks of the fall-winter calendar, Round Two Application Deadlines. And here’s where the two coincide:
There’s a lot you can learn about your GMAT preparation everywhere you look… even in the cutthroat world of American politics. Yes, even watching two Harvard grads snarl at each other can help you become a better GMAT student and, ultimately, a higher score on the exam.
If you watched the U.S. Presidential Debate this week, you hopefully saw a lot of similarities between you and the candidates:
Within hours of the Detroit Tigers’ blown Game 4 lead against the Oakland A’s, ensuring a fifth and decisive game of the American League Divisional Series, devastated (and exhausted) Detroiters started watching their Facebook and Twitter feeds fill with an internet meme that would prove prophetic:
Justin Verlander the Game Five pitcher, with the slogan “Everybody Chill Out…I Got This”
And “got this” he did, pitching a complete and dominant game, shutting out the A’s and seemingly inspiring run support from what had been dead bats all series. And in doing so, Verlander showed you how to raise your game for the GMAT. He made it known loud and clear – not necessarily from his words but from his actions, demeanor, and commitment, that he was finishing the job no matter what — he wouldn’t hand the ball off to a relief pitcher if there were any way to avoid it.
It’s Friday, so if you’re in the GMAT’s general demographic range (20-something, college grad, young professional) there’s a good chance you’ll hit a bar tonight. And there you may have a chance to witness (or experience) an age-old phenomenon that just may help you avoid a common pitfall on the GMAT:
If you’re like many GMAT test-takers trying to bump up against that “glass ceiling” of 700, you may be frustrated that you keep studying and drilling math concepts and problems but you’re still not improving on Data Sufficiency questions. Does that sound like you?
If so, there’s a reason. While Data Sufficiency both involves math and appears on the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GMAT, it’s not simply a math question. It’s a logic puzzle that hinges on math concepts, and your ability to embrace that subtle difference might just be the difference between reaching your goal score and falling short. For example, consider a few Data Sufficiency questions that employ Geometry principles – as Geometry tends to be among the topics for which students study the most “stuff”.
If the political convention season had one theme in its most-talked-about speeches, it was essentially this: interviewing presidents. Last week, Clint Eastwood owned the Twittersphere with his interview of an invisible Barack Obama, who responded to those questions with exactly zero words (largely because he wasn’t actually there).
And in this past Wednesday’s most-Tweeted-about speech of the DNC, Bill Clinton talked about a question that he’s frequently asked in interviews, and one of his signature lines of the night was his one-word response: Arithmetic.
If Clint Eastwood went ahead and made anyone’s day last night, it was probably Jon Stewart’s or Stephen Colbert’s, as the legendary film star stole the show at last night’s GOP convention and launched himself to the top of social media trend charts. It can be debated whether Eastwood’s unique speech hit or missed the mark; whether those that invited him were pleased or disappointed with his performance; or whether Saturday Night Live’s forthcoming impression will be one for the ages.
But what cannot be debated is this – by spending some time holding a conversation with an empty chair, Clint Eastwood taught you an important GMAT test-day lesson:
With this week’s Lance Armstrong news and this blog’s history of rolling cycling news into GMAT tip posts, it’s only natural that today’s GMAT tip will involve that news. We’ll reserve judgment on the Armstrong case, specifically, but let’s use the situation to talk about GMAT Critical Reasoning and the way that it often uses statistics in arguments to assess your ability to think critically.
Consider an argument such as:
A test to denote the presence of a particular performance enhancing drug is known to be accurate in 95% of its cases. A certain athlete’s sample has tested positive for the presence of that drug. Therefore, by virtue of this test, we can conclude that it is far more likely than not that the athlete used that drug.
One of this weekend’s most popular barroom debates will be this: Is Usain Bolt the greatest sprinter of all time? The greatest Olympian of all time? The Muhammad Ali for this generation?
If you missed it, Usain Bolt tacked on another gold medal last night, winning the 200 meters in 19.32 seconds having eased up to celebrate in the waning meters. While this on-the-run celebration certainly cost him an Olympic record (19.30) and potentially even a world record (19.19), it didn’t cost him the race as he remained ahead of teammate Yohan Blake en route to the win. In doing so, Bolt laid claim with his back-to-back 100 AND 200 meter titles to his place as the Ali-esque Greatest of All Time. And, inadvertently, he may have helped you better understand how to perform on the GMAT with regard to pacing, as the 200 meter dash provides a nice parallel to how you should pace yourself on the GMAT.