This week’s GMAT Tip of the Week comes from David Newland, a Veritas Prep GMAT prep instructor based in Boston.
There is a show on ABC on Monday nights that — in my opinion — has almost no redeeming qualities. However, this show does demonstrate a very important facet of data sufficiency. The show is called “The Bachelor” and it features one unmarried man, the bachelor, who claims to be tired of being single and looking to get married. The process of selecting a bride is conducted like a game show. Dozens of women are brought out and the bachelor slowly sifts through them eliminating them or keeping them around by giving them a rose. At the end the bachelor proposes to the chosen woman and they live happily ever after…that is until a few months later — surprise, surprise — we learn that the relationship did not work out. What could have gone wrong? Isn’t this the way all successful relationships begin — on a game show?
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This week’s GMAT Tip of the Week comes from David Newland, a Veritas Prep GMAT prep instructor based in Boston.
Back in February, the entire sporting world succumbed to (Jeremy) Linsanity. But, alas, the GMAT world was months away from the perfect Lin-guistic technique, using “Lin” as a Lintroductory term for “Integrated Reasoning.” So it was with great fanfare this week that Jeremy Lin leaped right back to the top of the news wire, signing with the Houston Rockets and not only creating an opportunity for a fantastic pun with Lintegrated Reasoning, but demonstrating — to the dismay of the world MBA capital, New York City – how to think strategically on Integrated Reasoning questions.
Many IR questions will involve the use of not just math, but “strategic math.” The Houston Rockets’ offer sheet to Lin – a sheet that could have been matched by the Knicks – wasn’t entirely noteworthy in its size. $25 million over 3 years isn’t at all an unconscionable contract for a starting point guard, and Lin is a special case in his marketability. Overseas broadcast rights, jersey sales, ticket sales – Lin has the potential to recoup that investment quickly.
On the GMAT, Critical Reasoning problems often ask you to strengthen a conclusion, weaken a conclusion, or determine an assumption necessary for the conclusion to hold true. In any of these cases, it is of prime importance that you know exactly what the conclusion is saying; otherwise, it can be easy for your answer choice to miss the mark.
It’s therefore important to ensure that you correctly identify the conclusion of the argument, and to make doing so a priority. There are four clues to determine the conclusion of a Critical Reasoning argument, any of which should help you determine which statement is the argument’s conclusion:
1) Conclusion language such as “thus” or “therefore”
2) A call for action, such as “they must…” or “we should…”
Now that Integrated Reasoning is here to stay on the GMAT, it’s time to, as Outkast would say, “hush that fuss” about how to avoid IR for your fall application or why IR is a new behemoth worthy of fear. As we’ve mentioned many times in this space, IR isn’t as “new” as the hype would suggest. And to conquer it, it’s probably best to heed some other advice from Outkast and specifically from Andre 3000 (not his SAT score) in the song “Roses”:
If you’ve spent more than ten minutes researching the GMAT, you probably know that it’s a computer-adaptive test (CAT). As the name suggests, the GMAT is administered via computer, and it adapts to you based on how you do on each question. By “adapts,” we mean that it decides what question to show you next based on how you’ve done on your previous questions. At any given point in the exam, the test has a best guess as to your ability level, and it keeps serving questions to try to get an even more accurate read on you.
A more simplistic way to phrase that last statement would be: “Get a question right, and the next question gets harder.” But what’s “harder” to one person may not be for another person. The GMAT has a humongous (that’s the technical term) bank of questions, and each one is effective teasing out differences among test takers around a certain ability level. A given question might be too basic to tease out the difference between 700- and 750-level test takers, while another might be too advanced to tell apart 580- and 630-level test takers. When we say that a question is “easier” or “harder” than the last, that’s what we mean.
Today Veritas Prep GMAT prep instructor extraordinaire David Newland provides some insights on overcoming anxiety on test day. Read on… This is really interesting advice that can significantly improve your performance and help you reach your maximum potential on the GMAT!
For the last 15 years a wave of laughter has swept across one of the largest countries in the world. Why are so many people in India laughing? Is it because they have just spoken to some American and are amazed at the crazy way that most Americans speak “English”? No. The laughter is coming from “laughing clubs” where people practice “laughter yoga.” Now maybe those of you who have not heard of laughter yoga are laughing a bit at the whole concept… That would be music to the ears of Dr. Kataria the founder of laughter yoga.
Repeatedly in this space, you’ve read the theme “Think Like the Testmaker,” an important mantra for success on the GMAT. Also important – knowing precisely what that means, and what it doesn’t. The Veritas Prep emphasis on “Think Like the Testmaker”:
- DOES NOT mean that you somehow need to play mindreader, that GMAT questions are subjective and if you don’t share the testmaker’s opinion or style you’ll get questions wrong. GMAT questions are binary – there are four incorrect answers and one correct answer every time. Even if a question asks you to select “the best” answer, you’re really trying to select “the correct” answer. The other four will be fatally flawed.
If you’re reading this post in preparation for the GMAT, you are in luck:
You’re taking the Integrated Reasoning section.
After a few months of handwringing over whether to rush to take the “old” GMAT or to instead take the “new” GMAT, those taking the test after today have just one choice: take the GMAT. Which happens to include Integrated Reasoning. Queme los barcos.
With just over a week to go until the debut of the Integrated Reasoning section, “Integrated Reasoning” Google searches are up just about as much as Facebook stock is down. With that in mind, let’s discuss the Graphics Interpretation question type through the lens of the stock market to show you how the creators of the GMAT will use your mind’s natural tendencies against you.
Do you have an iPhone? If so, pull up the “Stocks” app and look at the graph at the bottom of the page. What you see will look something like this:
Sun Tzu is famous for saying, in The Art of War, “know thy enemy, know thy self” (a loose translation, but that’s the famous quotation that has lasted centuries). And while at Veritas Prep we hesitate to call the authors of the GMAT “thy enemy,” we still advocate that you learn to Think Like the Testmaker, much as Sun Tzu would advise, and to think about how well the testmaker knows yourself.
Know this about “thy enemy” — the makers of the GMAT will admit that theirs is a test of “higher order thinking”, of your ability to think critically, solve problems efficiently, and otherwise demonstrate not merely that you have knowledge but that when you do have knowledge you can leverage it to greater gain. For this reason, the test is obligated to use tricks, shortcuts, and partial knowledge against you if that’s all you bring to the table on harder questions; at some point in the 500s/600s, the test has to determine not just “who studied” but “who can really think and problem solve”. And for that reason, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Read that sentence from the title again (please…in honor of Mothers Day we should certainly mind our Ps and Qs!): Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. Does that make any sense?
Not at all, but grammarians have to admit that *grammatically* it’s not a flawed sentence, in that it proceeds with Adjective, Adjective, Plural Noun, Plural Verb, Adverb. This sentence, coined by Noam Chomsky in his 1957 book Syntactic Structures, shows the necessity in language of not merely grammatical correctness, but logical meaning as well. And as you’ll note, this concept of “logical meaning” is one that has become increasingly common in these GMAT-themed blog circles of late, and one that has traditionally appeared on this blog in years past. Consider another, more GMAT-relevant sentence:
On the GMAT, Data Sufficiency questions can be tricky. But perhaps most frustrating about Data Sufficiency questions are those that somehow trick you when, upon further review, they gave you absolutely everything you needed. When you look back at them, you can’t believe that you got them wrong – but you should also notice patterns in why you did. One common way that an in-hindsight-pretty-straightforward question can be extremely challenging involves the “hiding” of pertinent information in the question stem itself, where the testmakers know that you’re apt to read quickly in your haste to get to the statements. Consider the question:
If xy < 0, is x/y > z?
(1) xyz < 0
(2) x > yz
As you study for the GMAT, it is important that you recognize that the GMAT is not a test of memory or knowledge, but rather of higher-order thinking, problem solving, and true understanding. If you’ve begun studying at the memorization/knowledge level, you may already be appalled at the title of this post (“Being! It’s wrong…it’s wrong!”). But that title – which employs correct usage of “being” – should indicate a better way of studying for a reasoning-based test. In this post, we’ll explain how.
First things first: Dr. Lawrence Rudner is considered by most to be the guru of the GMAT. He oversees the administration of the GMAT for the Graduate Management Admissions Council, shaping the scoring algorithm and the direction of question creation and implementation. So as you aspire to “Think Like the Testmaker” to fully understand the GMAT and how to succeed on it, in a way you’re hoping to think as much like Dr. Rudner as possible. Hopefully you learned in high school and college that the topics most favored by your professor were the most likely to appear on the exam; similarly, on the GMAT, if you can understand how questions are written and what they are trying to assess, you can become a much more effective studier and examinee.
If you’re like many of us at Veritas Prep Headquarters in Los Angeles, you spend an undue amount of time driving, and driving in heavy traffic. But if you find that you’re spending too much time driving and that you need to spend more time studying for the GMAT, you’re in luck! Driving and the GMAT go hand in hand, in a way, and there are two major ways that you can use your drive time to become a better GMAT test taker:
1) Driving lets you use a lot of mental, GMAT-style math
2) Driving is a metaphor for GMAT reasoning
Let’s start with mental math. You should know that the GMAT tests a lot of Number Properties, Divisibility and Factors, Rate Problems, and calculations that are done much quicker without doing problems fully by hand. And you should also notice that, while you’re driving, you’re absolutely bombarded with numbers in that GMAT style. So even if you’re just driving from Santa Monica to San Diego for the weekend, you can sharpen your mental math skills by nothing things like:
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.
Welcome to the final day of Hip Hop Month here in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, where like any good radio station we’re letting our listeners have a say through the request line. Sean in Wayne, Michigan requested an old-school cut that should have a tremendous impact on your GMAT study regimen and test-day strategy. So we’re going to take you back to 1999 with a study message from Sporty Thievz.
Like you as a GMAT test-taker, Sporty Thievz found themselves chasing a big career jump (they weren’t getting much airplay; you want to get an elite MBA) and being held down by a powerful, acronymed entity (GMAC for you, TLC for them) that seemingly wrote all the rules. TLC had taken a shot at Sporty Thievz types with their hit single “No Scrubs,” decrying the low-on-cash, high-on-themselves types of wannabes. The overarching message – “don’t have a car so you’re walking”; “if you live at home with your mama”; “wanna get with me with no money” – was “impress me, then we’ll talk”. Which, if you think about it, is exactly the GMAT’s message to you:
Welcome back to Hip Hop Month in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, where this week we’re taking it old school with a GMAT Quant lesson courtesy of the much-karaoked (and poorly Weird Al Yankoviced as you’ll see below) Young MC:
This here’s a post for all the students
Trying to finish the quant section with wit and prudence
But waste a lot of time ’cause they’re overzealous
Question’s too abstract is what they tell us
More quant section, another tough question
Full of classic GMAT misdirection
You need to post a score of which schools will approve
So don’t just stand there, bust a move
We’re back with another GMAT Tip of the week for Hip Hop Month – with a side note that an eye for the number line should show you that this looks to be a Hip Hop month for the ages with five Fridays! (You could probably check a calendar, too, but knowing that today is the 9th, that gives us 16, 23, and 30 as Fridays to follow before the calendar flips to another month and another theme.)
This week, let’s talk about GMAT difficulty, and especially quantitative problem difficulty. Search online and you’ll probably find quite a few “GMAT-style” quant questions in forums and on blogs that are simply diabolical, requiring a dozen steps and some obscure mathematical knowledge. In most cases, those questions really aren’t GMAT-style. Check the harder questions in the Official Guide for GMAT Review or the GMAT Prep practice tests, and you’ll find that they tend to resemble this Lil Wayne lyric:
Paper chasing, tell that paper “look I’m right behind ya”
If it’s March, it must be Hip Hop Month in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, where this week we’re going to skate to one song and one song only.
What can Jay and Ye teach you about your GMAT study and test day strategy? Let’s call their message “Scholars in Paris” (perhaps their mission is to attend HEC or INSEAD, or to just take an international spring break trip from Kellogg, Booth, Stern, or Columbia in their hometowns). And let’s have Kanye deliver the first lesson with one of his lyrics from that song:
As the political primary season nears ever closer to Super Tuesday, all eyes are on the race between Mitt Romney and his field of challengers. In the interest of fair time, we planned in this space for thematic GMAT Tip posts for each of them (an “exponent rules of 9 to the 9 to the 9″ for Herman Cain; something completely unsearchable by Google so that our Santorum post wouldn’t tarnish our brand; and a post in honor of that third guy… can’t remember his name. Oh, right. Rick Perry). But as Romney nears ever closer to the nomination and holds the Harvard Business School MBA relevant to this space, anyway, we’re prepared to declare him the presumptive winner, at least of our choice for the subject of this post. How can you use Mitt Romney’s style to achieve Mitt Romney’s level of business school acceptance success?
If you have not yet encountered the term “intended meaning” in your GMAT study, you are free -and encouraged – to skip this post! But if you have, this point is worth learning. While many GMAT books and websites – including the Official Guide for GMAT Review in some of its solutions – provide as rationale for eliminating answer choices that they “distort the intended meaning” of the sentence, beware that the concept of “intended meaning” is dangerous if you use it to solve problems. Consider, as evidence, the following answer choices from an official GMAT problem:
Like high school seniors across the country, we at Veritas Prep are already well within our countdown-to-June period as we anxiously await the unveiling of the GMAT’s new Integrated Reasoning (IR) section (less than four months to go! Seniors/GMAT enthusiasts whoooo!) If you’re similarly-minded and thinking about the IR section already, the following should help you set your mathematical mind to the right frequency. Remember this: while the numbers in many IR problems might be large and specific, the math is all relative.
In today’s GMAT Tip of the Week, New England-based blogger and former Tom Brady classmate David Newland explains why New York is Not Sufficient…on the GMAT or in the Super Bowl.
New York is Not Sufficient…on the GMAT or in the Super Bowl
I am writing this from New England — Vermont to be precise — so maybe you think that I am a bit biased as far as the Super Bowl goes. But I KNOW that I am biased when it comes to my LOVE for Data Sufficiency. That love is pure and ever-lasting.
So while I may not be able to convince you that the New York Giants are not sufficient to win the Super Bowl on February 5th, I bet that I can give you a quick memory device to think about for Data Sufficiency.
Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome back to the GMAT Tip of the Week! We here on the editorial team would describe ourselves and our roles primarily as “teachers,” and what do teachers do? They teach. And your author plans to spend the weekend teaching, but as a break from teaching Algebra and Data Sufficiency, this weekend he’ll be teaching a 5-year old to ski. And what both of them learn can teach you to be a better GMAT test taker.
There are a few pillars of ski instruction, most notably:
As you’ve probably already seen this morning, last night the President ba-rocked the Apollo, singing a few bars from Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” in front of the soulful reverend himself and complicating the next “2012 Presidential Election” category clue to be aired on Jeopardy. “Let’s Stay Together” – is it “what is Barack Obama’s campaign song?” or “what is something Newt Gingrich has never said to a wife?”. Ba-dump-bump.
To break through the average-difficulty GMAT problems and succeed on those upper-level separate-the-700s-from-the-Sixers items, you need to accept that the harder problems offer a unique challenge. They aren’t typically concerned with more obscure information in the way that Jeopardy-style trivia questions get harder the more obscure the information is. Instead, they challenge you to think more critically about the same fundamental skills that you have mastered in the middle-range problems to even get to that top-shelf point.
The key to success on hard GMAT problems is to accept this quirky challenge — think differently and critically.
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.”
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”