While it’s certainly not the score you care about most, the Analytical Writing Assessment can bring with it some stress and even despair. Why? For one, it comes first on the test, and for two it’s the only section that isn’t multiple choice. The answer isn’t already in front of you, but rather you have to create it yourself. And like this blog post (author’s note – I’m attending a conference with the folks from the Graduate Management Admissions Council and have a dinner in an hour with some of our partners in the industry before the conference, so I have 30 minutes to write something intelligible here), the AWA can lead directly to that panic you’ve likely felt on blue book exams and the night before book reports: writer’s block.
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Do some of your best ideas come while you’re driving, running, taking a shower or just about to fall asleep? Have you ever spent what felt like an eternity reading a solution over and over again to no avail, only to revisit that problem a few days later and know how to do it almost so intuitively that just feels easy?
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, and amidst all of the memorial articles and TV specials and conspiracy theories, you’ll undoubtedly see that email forward that details the eerie similarities between the two presidents assassinated almost 100 years apart, Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln:
If you’ve been following the strangest story to hit the NFL since Manti Te’o did, you’ve probably noticed that Richie Incognito is nowhere near incognito. There’s nothing subtle or understated about the guy. He’s Rob Ford in a different jersey. But there’s something about that name…
On a timed test like the GMAT, test-takers often fall victim to a simple fact about the way the English language works: we read from left to right.
Why is that? We’re often in such a hurry to make a decision on each answer choice that we make our decisions within the first 5-10 words of a choice without being patient and hearing the whole thing out. A savvy question creator – and rest assured that the GMAT is written by several of those – will use this against you, embedding something early in an answer choice and baiting you into a bad decision.
Some stories are best told in the first person, so forgive me for the break from journalistic standards. As a longtime GMAT instructor – 10th anniversary coming up next month actually – I most empathize with my students when I’m preparing for any big event of my own, usually running and triathlon races. The months of grinding preparation, the sleepless night before the event, that helpless “if I’m not ready by now I guess I’ll never be ready, so here goes nothing” last week before the big day… I get to feel what my students feel leading up to their GMAT, and symbiotically I can both learn more about that experience and benefit from the advice I’ve always given about the GMAT.
Have you ever finished a GMAT problem, read the explanation (or listened to your instructor give it), and thought “well how was I supposed to know ___________?!”?
If so, you’re not alone. Many test-takers become frustrated when the key to a tricky question falls outside the normal realm of math. How was I supposed to know to estimate? How was I supposed to know to flip the diagram over to notice that side AB could also be the base of this triangle? How was I supposed to know that the word “production” next to “costs” was going to be so important?
With the Major League Baseball playoffs on many minds, and the beginning of the NBA and NHL seasons on others, you’ll hear a lot in the news these days about trends in a “best of 7” series, in which a team needs to win four games to advance to the next round.
“Only x% (a very small percentage) of teams have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win”
“Only one team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win”
“If a team takes a 2-0 lead there’s a (very high) chance that they win the series”
America has been buzzing for weeks about the last season of Breaking Bad, and the echo effect has taken hold even after this past Sunday’s finale as thousands rush to catch up on Netflix or DVD to get into the hype.
But regardless of where you are in the series, it’s important that you hear this one Breaking Bad spoiler:
We all have a laundry list of answers to the question “what makes Data Sufficiency difficult?” — it’s a unique question type; the math skills involved can be quite tricky; subtle phrasing and precision-in-wording can make huge differences; the situations are often abstract and difficult to conceptualize. But what about a better question – “what makes Data Sufficiency easier?” There are actually quite a few examples of this, and many relate to the Veritas Prep mindset “Think Like the Testmaker”. We can even break it down to one word:
Earlier this week, in creating a blog post for our friends at Poets & Quants, we wanted to punctuate the Data Sufficiency lesson in the post with a fairly-basic sample problem that would have these four characteristics:
Heading into this weekend’s giant Alabama vs. Texas A&M game, college football fans are probably as sick of hearing about Johnny Manziel as aspiring MBAs are of studying for the GMAT. But both, at least to some degree, are necessary evils – Manziel represents the best chance that football fans have of seeing someone other than Alabama playing for the national championship, and the GMAT is essential to a well-rounded MBA application. And there’s an overlap between the two – Manziel’s playing style can help you learn to beat the daunting GMAT the same way that he’s the only recent QB to beat that daunting Alabama defense. Here’s how summoning your inner Johnny Football can help you become Johnny (or Jenny) GMAT:
What do Mountain Dew, Tough Mudder, and Data Sufficiency have in common? Maybe they’re your plans for this weekend, but more universally they all lend themselves to the mentality, lifestyle, and even spelling of the eXXtreme!! And while we could fill this space with extreme-to-the-max tips about Mountain Dew (please don’t drink it for breakfast, high school students) and Tough Mudder (bring your wallet…their marketing is as extreme as the event itself), it’s more helpful to show you how taking it to the extreme can help you succeed on logic-based quant questions.
So it’s Labor Day weekend, and hopefully you’ll celebrate by relaxing. But wait – Harvard’s admissions deadline is only about two weeks away, and Stanford’s is soon to follow, and within the next six weeks most top 20 programs will begin reviewing Round One applications.
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.
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