Happy January 6, or as it is known to many, the day of the Epiphany…the twelfth day of Christmas. If your New Year’s Resolution includes getting serious about the GMAT and your b-school future, epiphanies are a great place to start.
The feast of the Epiphany, in Western Christianity, celebrates primarily the visitation of newborn Jesus Christ by the three kings, who famously bore gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And this is a mistake that many GMAT test-takers make when studying – they anticipate “knowledge” as “gifts,” asking questions like “what is the formula?” and “what is the rule?” But, really, what’s important about the Epiphany is not the gifts themselves, but the revelation (in the Christian tradition of the new Lord to the rest of the world). And for your GMAT study, the revelation/epiphany that comes with newfound (or newly-reviewed) knowledge is exponentially more important than is the knowledge itself. As you study for the GMAT, allow yourself to have epiphanies and not just “gifts.”
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Happy January 6, or as it is known to many, the day of the Epiphany…the twelfth day of Christmas. If your New Year’s Resolution includes getting serious about the GMAT and your b-school future, epiphanies are a great place to start.
This weekend, there is a high likelihood that you will unknowingly engage in one of the GMAT author’s greatest devices of trickery. Via Christmas shopping (9 days left… thank Heaven for Amazon Prime shipping) you may try to misdirect your gift recipient by bringing home a bag from a different store (He went to Lowe’s? I thought he went to Jared.) or wrapping a tiny gift in a larger box. Or you may wait on the shopping and watch the Tim Tebow vs. New England game, and in doing so watch Tebow’s option-style offense employ all kinds of misdirection tactics to open up running lanes.
However you view misdirection this weekend, bring some of that back to your GMAT studies and notice misdirection wherever it’s employed. Consider, for example, this question:
Watching the Republican Party presidential primary race take shape over the past six months, we can’t help but think of one of our favorite GMAT sentence correction lessons. Seemingly forever, Mitt Romney has been the lead horse in the race, but voters have never quite seemed to embrace him. One month it was Michele Bachmann who seemed to be a more popular alternative, the next it was Rick Perry. Then, Herman Cain uttered the phrase “9-9-9″ and became the next candidate to potentially overtake Romney, and now it’s New Gingrich’s turn. Before we finish writing this post, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman will probably get their turns, too.
There seems to be the pervasive feeling about Romney that, while many Republican voters like him, not many love him as their nominee. They keep one hand on the “Romney” lever in the election booth, but always have an eye out for someone who’s potentially better. If you’ve done enough Sentence Correction problems on the GMAT, this may sound familiar to you.
Matt Damon’s character in the poker-themed movie Rounders had a famous line: “If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker.” The same is often true of GMAT questions — on a difficult question, if you can’t spot the sucker choice, the most popular incorrect answer, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll pick it it yourself.
Learning to understand the GMAT’s popular “sucker choice” techniques can make you a much better test-taker. It can also be a much more enjoyable way to study — instead of seeing the traps as threats, you can learn to enjoy the process of outsmarting the GMAT authors. It’s also a great way to learn from your mistakes, noting after you’ve reviewed an error “I see where you tricked me,” a knowing insight into the test and not a criticism of yourself. The test is cleverly written, so embrace the insights you gain about it. Note a few things about trap answers on the GMAT:
It’s the day after Thanksgiving, so as you read this you are probably eating a leftover turkey sandwich and hoping that there’s still a slice of your favorite pie left when you get back to the fridge. Us, too – having slept off our turkey coma it’s time to make something of the leftovers…namely the problem posted here yesterday about Thanskgiving.
That problem involved what looks on the surface to be a messy, messy algorithm involving fractions and multiple exponents (with variables in them!). But a closer inspection reveals at least a few things to be thankful for – common GMAT-style exponent “tells” that allow you to get to work:
Happy Thanksgiving! Hopefully today you are enjoying good food and good company (and copious amounts of both). Even if you’re not in the United States, we hope you are eating well and enjoying the company the others!
Doing GMAT math may not be your ideal way to pass the time on a holiday, but if you’re reading this, then maybe it is your idea of fun! So, without further ado, let’s carve up the following GMAT like a Thanksgiving turkey:
In the well-known Thanksgiving equation below, M = the number of minutes after dinner until a person falls asleep, t = the ounces of turkey consumed by that person, s = the ounces of stuffing consumed by that person, c = the number of cocktails consumed by that person, v = the ounces of total vegetables consumed by that person, and K is a constant. Last year, Aunt Jane fell asleep exactly 17 minutes after dinner and she consumed 8 ounces of turkey, 6 ounces of stuffing, 5 cocktails, and 10 ounces of vegetables. This year Lauren is planning on eating 10 ounces of turkey, 6 ounces of stuffing, and 14 ounces of vegetables, while drinking 7 cocktails.
In case you missed it, today’s date is a rather fun one: 11/11/11. (It’s also a date that Europeans and Americans write the same way. No fretting over “Should the day or month come first?” here.) Next year we’ll have a 12/12/12, but then after that the “fun” dates will be few and far between. While we still have this fun date to enjoy — three prime numbers in a row! — let’s revisit a lesson from the past about how to quickly break down larger numbers and determine whether or not they’re prime.
Let’s look at 2011. Is it a prime number? You could spend at least a few minutes trying to answer this question if you’re not careful. But if you think strategically, it needn’t take that long, and you can likely complete your “prime test” even within the two-minutes-per-question time allotment that the GMAT would give you for a question that, as so many do, requires your knowledge of prime numbers and divisibility. Here’s how to get started:
It was the divorce that everyone — except perhaps Kris Humphries — saw coming on the day of the wedding. After a mere 72 days, Kim Kardashian and her New Jersey Net announced that they would end their brief experiment with the idea of matrimony. Whether you think it was a publicity stunt or a more heartfelt commitment that just didn’t work out, there’s something that you can take away from all of this.
Just as you should get married when you’re serious about the commitment (ahem, Kim and Kris), you should only adopt a GMAT prep strategy when you’re sure that it’s effective and it suits your learning style. It’s good to know what works for other people, but your learning style is unique to you, and your mileage may vary. So, choose a GMAT study strategy carefully and, once you’ve done that, commit to it with all of your heart.
The only way to successfully complete “Weaken” critical reasoning questions on the GMAT is to find alternate explanations for the conclusion.
Do you see a flaw in that sentence? You should – and you can, using the very conclusion proffered above. Finding alternate explanations isn’t the “only way” to successfully complete those questions; you could guess correctly, you could eliminate answer choices that are out of scope of the conclusion, you could identify the flaw in the argument and find an answer choice that exploits that flaw… But arguably the most effective way to solve these problems is to find an alternate explanation – like we just did in demonstrating alternative ways to solve these problems correctly.
It’s a time-honored tradition in the Veritas Prep office: Every Friday, your author is responsible for a GMAT Tip of the Week post. And every Friday morning, he gets a cup of coffee, check his email, opens the “add new blog post” link for this blog, and sits for a few minutes staring at the blank screen. And every Friday morning, another of this blog’s authors sits a row behind him, chuckling at the tradition and the visual of a blogger staring at an empty screen looking for inspiration. He’s laughing right now, in fact.
This scene is also quite common on the GMAT, as examinees often read a question, get to the end of the prompt, take a second to think “wow, that’s a tough question,” and then…sit, stunned or perplexed or deep-in-thought, waiting for that stroke of inspiration to guide them. And while another blog author sitting behind you isn’t laughing, somewhere a GMAT question author once laughed knowing that you’d approach the question this way, losing valuable time and breeding unwanted stress while you stare at the screen or at your noteboard. This, too, is a time-honored tradition.
As difficult an evening as last night was for New York Yankee fans, it wasn’t a picnic for Detroit Tigers fans either. En route to a 3-2, series clinching victory, Detroit watched an early 2-0 and then 3-0 lead evaporate, turning into 3-1 and then 3-2 with the bases loaded in the heart of the Yankee batting order. No doubt, Yankee fans endured a sleepless night thinking of what-could-have-been, but Tiger fans endured a lifetime of stress in the bottom halves of the late innings, as each pitch had the potential to be the backbreaker.
Adding to the gut-wrenching agony of what-looks-like-victory-but-might-soon-be-defeat was the Yankee mystique, playing sports’ most storied franchise in its own stadium with reminders of Yankee greatness and the defeat of would-be challengers past looming throughout The House That Looks A Lot Like The House That Ruth Built. Even in victory, Tiger fans had to taste defeat over and over again. One could say it was a lot like taking the GMAT…
The GMAT is a fascinating exam for its ability to take fairly common concepts (algebra, arithmetic, logic) and turn them into devilishly-clever problems that stump high percentages of college-educated adults. There are several familiar ways in which the GMAT does so:
- Forcing you to reverse-engineer a concept that you’ve always known from top-down
- Employing “complex” numbers or variables to disguise a problem that you’d ordinarily breeze through with smaller numbers
- Relying on your own mental inertia to distract you from the true matter at hand
- Creating problem setups that require your first 2-3 steps to feel “wrong”
In this week’s GMAT Tip, our instructor shows how thinking about the test as a whole can accelerate your understanding of its individual parts, and more importantly how that can help you study efficiently and effectively.
At Plymouth-Salem High School in the 1990s, a chemistry teacher by the name of Mr. Barnes was a divisive character. He may not have been anyone’s absolute favorite teacher (read: he never brought in candy, showed movies, or held class outside, the three cornerstones of favorite-high-school-teacherdom) but he was most certainly some students’ least and a beloved figure for others. He challenged students with rigorous standards and assertive discipline.
Many of us who are about to take the GMAT (or have already survived it) have had bad dreams about test day. This is totally natural! If you’ve prepared for the GMAT properly, then you have nothing to worry about, and you should learn to embrace this anxiety and use it to your advantage.
One of the best ways to do that is to use humor to your advantage. If you can laugh at yourself and about your jitters, you’re more likely to stay relaxed and perform up to your potential on test day. With that in mind, today we offer the Top Ten Ways to Know If the GMAT Didn’t Go Well for you:
As you study for the GMAT, you’re likely to begin by noticing all of those things that you used to know. Algebra rules, geometry formulas, calculation methods – at first glance the GMAT looks like a test of every math class you took before you turned 16. And when you were learning those things as an adolescent, you typically learned 2-3 formulas at a time, studied and practiced them Thursday night, took the test on Friday, then started over again. So your inclination when you see that the GMAT will require you to again use those rules/formulas/methods is likely to be that you should memorize them all again and drill some repetition.
Happy Labor Day weekend, readers! In honor of Labor Day, we offer this study tip (or series of tips) for those of you about to get to work on your GMAT studies. As you plot out your study plan, keep in mind that the GMAT is a test different from others you’ve taken. Cramming will not work and repetition leading to rote memory isn’t all that effective either. Remember, the GMAT is a test of how you think, so while you study pay attention to your thought process.
It’s not uncommon for GMAT test-takers to be “goal-oriented”. In fact, pre-MBAs are just even more likely to be goal-oriented than they are to use buzzwords like goal-oriented. For most of your life, mentors and superiors have told you to set goals and work to achieve them, so why should the GMAT be any different? But heed these words – for some of you reading this, a focus on your GMAT goal will be counterproductive, so you would be well-advised to consider, perhaps for the first time in your professional/academic life, a happy-go-luckier approach to achieving your goals. Here’s why:
The GMAT’s new Integrated Reasoning section won’t become an official part of the test until next June, so anyone who plans on being done with the GMAT before then doesn’t need to prepare for it. However, even if you don’t expect that you’ll need to get good at answering Integrated Reasoning questions, this new question type embodies all of the skills that the GMAT tries to test — your ability to understand relationships between ideas, recognize what information you need to answer a question, and evaluate information that comes in a variety of forms.
While these might seem like esoteric skills at first glance, if you spend enough time with the GMAT (like we do!), you will eventually realize that these are the skills that matter most, not the ability to memorize content. That’s why we have already spent months learning more about the new Integrated Reasoning section of the test, and it’s why — no matter when you plan on taking the test — you should start to familiarize with these skills now.
Based simply on the fact that you’re reading this, one can infer that you’re a decent reader. So why are you struggling with Reading Comprehension questions on the GMAT? GMAT Reading Comprehension is its own genre; remember, business schools are preparing you for management, so the type of reading they want to see is different from the kinds of reading one would undertake in medical or law school. Accordingly, the GMAT needs to assess the way that you read as a manager, and so it features passages and questions that will allow it to do so. Learning to read in a GMAT context will greatly improve your performance and efficiency.
These three strategies will be instrumental in that process:
GMAT Tip of the Week: Algebraic Repackaging (or, “How I Got Paid To Write About Last Night's Episode Of Jersey Shore”)
If you’re in the demographic group “young professionals between 21 and 35″ – and our market research suggests that you are – you’ve likely spent time today around the water cooler or coffee machine at work talking about last night’s season-premiere of Jersey Shore. Maybe you were entertained by JWoww’s admission that she packed nine cans of bronzer for her trip, or by Snooki’s new workout routine. Maybe you’ve watched the season preview trailer and can’t wait for Ronnie to deck the Situation, or you’re a hopeless romantic and want Ronnie and Sam to patch things up so that you can watch those two fight all over again. Maybe, like your humble author, you can’t even find words to describe the entity that is Deena.
Continuing our GMAT prep video series, today we break down a common type of ratio problem that you will often see in Data Sufficiency problems. As Brian says, many people are not comfortable working with ratios. Add in unknown variables, and intuition often goes out the window. But, if you look closely, often the problem does indeed give you enough information to solve the problem.
Fortunately, being grounded in basic Data Sufficiency strategy can help. Remember that there will be many instances in which you’ll be tempted to select answer choice E (insufficient information), but upon further inspection, you may realize that you do in fact have what you need. Watch the video to learn more:
Perhaps no GMAT item is as emblematic of the test as is a Data Sufficiency question. It’s an iconic question format, unique to the GMAT and true to the aims of this specific test: to reward those who show the higher-order reasoning skills that will lead to success in business.
True to their name, Data Sufficiency questions ask you to determine when you will have enough information (when is the data sufficient) to make a conclusive decision. In doing so, these questions can assess your ability to plan ahead for a task; to elicit an effective return-on-investment (remember, you can’t use both statements if one of them is, alone, sufficient), to find flaws with conventional wisdom, and to think flexibly.
Continuing our new GMAT prep video series, today we look at how statistics can easily mislead you in Critical Reasoning problems. As Brian says, people tend to make bad decisions when dealing with statistics. It is far too easy — either deliberately or not — to mislead others (or yourself) with statistics-based arguments. Any time statistics enter the picture, you want to be especially critical when evaluating an argument.
Today’s video analyzes a debate between two people, and tests whether or not you can find the identify the link in logic that would most weaken the argument presented. Pay attention to the arguments and any gaps that might be hiding in the logic!
GMAT scores are frustrating entities. If you’re like most students, you work hard to maximize your score, and once you have a score you feel is competitive you inevitably start to wonder whether it’s really “good enough.” Many a student has said something to the extent of “my dream goal is 700+ but I’d be happy with anything over 650″, then scored 680 and called her tutor to say “I’m so excited – I scored 680! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!! But I’m thinking of retaking it…”
On the other end of the spectrum, many a candidate has looked at the middle 80% range at his elite target school, seen that his 640 forms that lower border, and said “great – I’m in the range…no need to worry about the GMAT again!”
And then there’s that guy that everyone hates – the guy who scores 730 and goes on every GMAT forum and attends every free GMAT seminar declaring his intentions to the newbies in the room: “I have a 730 but it’s imperative to me to know which strategies will help me get to 770.”
There may not be a more aptly named question type on the GMAT than “Critical Reasoning,” a question type that rewards critical thinking in a major way. Students are successful by reading critically and economically, quickly noting flaws in logic and embracing their role within each question. Those who buy into the critical way of processing arguments can “click” with critical reasoning quite readily, quickly organizing information into actionable components and anticipating correct answers before even reading them.
Accordingly, we offer these three critical strategies for critical reasoning questions:
Continuing our new GMAT prep video series, today we take a look at some common traps that the GMAT sets in Sentence Correction problems. As Brian states at the start of the video, simple content knowledge is virtually everywhere these days. What separates great managers from good ones is not the ability to call up facts, but rather the ability to interpret information and make good decisions.
Today’s video takes a look at a Sentence Correction problem that preys on many test takers’ dogmatic search for idioms, leading many of them to make the wrong choice. This is a good example of the type of logic that can keep you from earning those last critical 50 points on the GMAT!
Of all the question types on the GMAT, a global exam for which the pool of test takers includes more than half of its examinees from outside the United States, Sentence Correction may seem the most arbitrary to prospective examinees. Math we get: nearly all MBA graduates will have to make decisions using numbers and nearly all MBA programs require coursework in areas like finance and accounting for which some baseline math skills are important. Similarly, reading comprehension is something that any school would want to ensure its students can do effectively, and the logic behind critical reasoning makes a lot of sense, too: schools and employers want people who can think logically and make reasoned decisions.
But English grammar? Why would schools like INSEAD and ESADE, located in countries where English is not an official language and attracting students from all corners of the globe, be concerned with English grammar subtleties? Especially when, as about 1/3 of the verbal section, sentence correction counts for about 17% of someone’s GMAT score. It’s probably nice to know that everyone can speak the same language, but 17% of someone’s entry value? Isn’t that overkill?
Admit it: You had at least a class or two in high school for which you thrived on partial credit – you wouldn’t get many answers right, but with participation points, “show your work” points, and partial credit for doing most of the steps correctly you could comfortably claim your B and get on with the more-important work of finding a date for the homecoming dance. So on a test like the GMAT, which is all-or-nothing with no potential for partial credit, the prospect of having to be 100% correct on any given problem is a little daunting.
Where the GMAT can make this even more difficult is by subtle wordplay that allows for you to do all the work correctly on a problem, but by missing or tweaking your read of just one word in the question coming up with a completely different incorrect answer. As such, attention to detail on the GMAT is crucial – you need to learn to spot those ever-critical words that, on a dime, can change the answer from B to D.
The Veritas Prep blog just added another weapon to its GMAT arsenal! This summer Veritas Prep will roll out a new series of video tips on this blog and on YouTube. We plan to explore all aspects of GMAT prep in the same witty, easy-to-understand way that we normally do on our blog. These video tips will provide a great way for you to get a quick explanation on something or to brush up on a key skill needed for GMAT success.
Our first video tip is actually a two-for-one affair: Brian Galvin, Veritas Prep’s Director of Academic Programs, shows you key relationships to remember when working with squares inscribed inside circles, and when tackling circles inscribed inside squares.
They say that good things come in threes, so if you’re reading this GMAT tip blog post you’re in luck! The GMAT is an act in three parts – an academic triathlon, if you will, and one that like a triathlon will test your abilities as well as your stamina. In many ways, the GMAT is analogous to an endurance-length triathlon, and at Veritas Prep we’re fortunate to have experts on both. As you attempt to be the Macca of the GMAT or do as well as Chrissie Wellington, here are some ways that the GMAT is much like an Ironman triathlon, and how you can use that knowledge to succeed. Breaking from our typical third-person journalistic voice, we offer the first-person voice of Director of Academic Programs / Ironman Brian Galvin:
It’s not uncommon for MBA candidates to take the GMAT more than once. It’s a difficult test, after all, and often students find that some of the “intangible” factors like pacing, test-day anxiety, etc. can detract from what felt like would be an optimal test-day experience. Other times, students underestimate the difficulty of the exam and fail to prepare as thoroughly as they likely should have; or they may simply have had great intentions of preparation but seen those plans evaporate as life got in the way, but they still choose to take the test just to see how it goes.
In any case, retaking the GMAT isn’t ideal – it does cost money and take time, after all – but it’s not a major cause for alarm. Schools do not look unfavorably on retakes; your 730 score is just as valid if it comes on your third attempt as it would be if it were your first time. So if you do need to retake the GMAT, know that you’re not alone and that you won’t be penalized.
As of press time for this article, most of the United States will be heading out early from work to partake in the unofficial beginning of summer, Memorial Day Weekend. As you read this on your smartphone in traffic on the LIE to the Hamptons or up I-75 to “Up North” Michigan, the entire summer is ahead of you. But if you’re planning to apply to business school this fall, you should heed the warning that you learned in your earlier scholastic days – time flies when you’re having fun, and the fall, like those objects in your rearview mirror, is probably closer than it appears.
Rest assured that you can still enjoy most of your summer even if you don’t plan on taking the GMAT until later in the fall. But even without dedicating much of the summer to studying, there are at least five habits you can add to your day-to-day lifestyle that will get you ready to hit the ground running when you do begin your GMAT preparation in earnest sometime soon:
Hello again readers, and happy May Twentieth! In honor of that 2 in 5/20 (the day before The End of the World, of course), today’s post is dual-purposed in two ways: We have a GMAT challenge question and a GMAT tip of the week, and the GMAT tip of the week is actually two in one. First, take a look at this challenge Critical Reasoning question:
A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article cited that the average GMAT score for 20 and 21-year olds is 575, while for 22 and 23 year olds it is only 539. Therefore, all potential business school applicants should be advised to take the GMAT while they’re younger so that they can expect a higher score.
As students approach their GMAT test dates, it becomes more and more important to them to be able to handle the AWA essays at the beginning of the test both efficiently and capably, earning a score of 5 or 6 without much effort. This can actually be fairly easy to do, most notably through the emphasis of each author on an essay that is well-organized and easy for the reader to process. Therefore, anyone looking to perform well on the AWA section should read the following paragraphs for steps that they can use to write a well-organized, high-scoring essay.
As someone reading this GMAT study blog, I hope that you’re cringing as you read this very sentence. Why? Because that sentence contained a classic GMAT sentence correction error — the modifier to begin the sentence “As someone reading this blog” should apply to you, the reader, and not to me, the author (as you may have noticed if you read regularly, I never re-read anything I’ve written. One take, like Jay-Z. My editors hate that.) (Yes, we do! — Ed.)
You know that the GMAT tests Modifiers in Sentence Correction. But the unasked question that you may want to ask is: Why? Why Modifiers and not the fact that you’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition? Why Modifiers and not something more obscure like “when assigning a possessive to someone whose name ends in ‘s,’ what is the rule for when you just put the apostrophe right after the ‘s’ (Russ’) and when you put another ‘s’ after the apostrophe (Russ’s)?”
Spring is here and Sunday is the Easter Holiday. In North America that means the tradition of the “Easter Egg Hunt.” Throughout the United States, adults will be hiding plastic eggs filled with candy, toys, and even money. Children will then race around trying to find the eggs hidden in the flower beds, in bushes, inside the mailbox — just about anywhere!
“Easter Egg” has another meaning as well, one that applies to the Analysis of an Argument task on the GMAT. This meaning of “Easter Egg” is from the computer programming world. An Easter Egg is something that a programmer intentionally hides in a program for others to find. This is where the Analysis of an Argument comes in; Easter Eggs are intentional flaws hidden in the Analysis of an Argument prompt for you to find.