When looking at geometry problems on the GMAT, it’s important to take all graphs with a grain of salt (low fat, though). The graphs used on the GMAT are simply there to help visualize the problem at hand. No concerted effort is made for the graphs to be accurate or exact, and the graph should be evaluated based on what you know to be true, not on what you see or what the graph seems to imply. This all means that trusting your eyes on the GMAT is like trusting a car mechanic: you may have an honest mechanic or you may be getting taken for a ride!
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In Part I of Organizing Your Information, we talked about rate time distance problems. In this one, we’ll tackle the Grizzly Peak problem from the Veritas Prep Arithmetic homework. I can’t tell you how many questions have been asked about this one in office hours, or via email support.
It’s the first day of class, and students are volunteering what they think of the GMAT. The typical sentiment goes something like: “Tough!” “Tricky stuff, hard to get a grasp on the logic,” or “I like ___ but really have trouble with ___.” Some just have a knowing smile that says “yeah, it’s a clever exam, but I’ll be glad when it’s over.”
Some concepts on the GMAT are absolute, while others can be a little nebulous. For example, the fact that there are 37 quantitative questions and 41 verbal questions is uncontestable. However, not all issues are as cut and dry.
I’ve read a strategy guide that recommended spending extra time on the first 10 questions because they’re worth more. I’ve read other guides saying that all the questions are weighed equally. Of course none of these books are the Official Guide, but even when I put it down, you know I’ll be back. When studying for a known test like the GMAT, it’s important to know what to look for and what to avoid (and also to be literate).
I often have students who, in the first few weeks of the GMAT course, tell me they really can’t stand Data Sufficiency. They fall into a few different camps, but we’ll look at two primary ones.
First, we have our engineers and “number crunchers,” frustrated by Data Sufficiency because there’s no closure, so to speak, at the end. There’s truly something rewarding for a lot of us about grinding out a page of math and getting to an answer.
When looking at questions on the GMAT, it’s very easy to fall into the mentality that there is only one correct answer. If I’m searching for some number xyz multiplied by another number abc, I don’t necessarily know the answer, but I know there’s only one value that will correctly satisfy the equation. The entire concept of multiple choice is predicated on having only one correct answer (also on knowing the alphabet), so it seems counter-intuitive that two values could both be the correct answer.
So we all know the GMAT is a “hard” exam, but just how hard is it supposed to be? Less hard than climbing Mt. Everest? Well, it depends what type of climber you are. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about the GMAT and are hesitant about whether to even get started, let’s face a few home truths that will hopefully leave you feeling encouraged!
Did I just use “GMAT” and “fun” in the same sentence? While months of prepping for a standardized test may not sound like a weekend at Disneyworld, it doesn’t all have to be drudgery and disappointment. Here are some quick study ideas to make your GMAT sessions a little more entertaining.
In critical reasoning, several factors can give away a potential incorrect answer choice. If the question is asking you to strengthen or weaken the author’s argument, the correct choice must always provide new information that either reinforces the author’s main point or calls into question its validity. However, certain answer choices give the illusion of talking about the subject without really saying anything conclusive about it (what one of my former professors colorfully called hand waving).
While my personal preference is to use a Venn diagram when dealing with most Sets questions, there are some questions in which a double-matrix is necessary (and much more powerful than a wimpy Venn). This little guy will make even the scariest-looking Sets question into a simple set of rows and columns, and its ability to help us determine whether a statement is sufficient in DS is unmatched!
We tend to see a lot of plane geometry questions on the GMAT involving benches, walkways, or other additions being constructed “around” shapes. We’re usually given a few different parts (length, width, or radius) and then asked to find something like the new total area, the original perimeter, or the new length with the addition.
Of all the topics on the GMAT quant section, few get students as confused as the concept of combinatorics. The concept of going to the store and picking up one of four possible gifts for a niece is pretty straightforward (she generally likes Barbies© or My Little Pony© toys), but picking up two toys out of four for your twin nieces and then deciding which one gets which often deteriorates into an exercise of brute force combinatorics.
I don’t know about you, but when I see formulas for sets that look like P(A) + P(B) + P(C) – 2P(A n B) – 2P(A n C) – 2P(B n C) + 3P(A n B n C), it takes me a minute for my brain to recall exactly what all these signs and symbols mean.
Even if we’re die-hard GMAT-ers, we’re just not used to seeing that many sets questions on practice tests, so while we know n = intersection and u = union, these formulas are just not easy to recall or employ.
Quant questions on the GMAT occasionally ask us to find the length of the longest distance between two vertices in a rectangular solid. To solve these, usually we solve by (1) drawing the figure to visualize it, and (2) carefully applying the Pythagorean Theorem twice.
In a cube with a side length of 12 cm, A is the midpoint of an edge that lies on the base and B is the midpoint of a vertical edge. What is the greatest possible distance between A and B rounded to the nearest integer?
A quote often attributed to (2nd US President) John Adams states that “facts are stubborn things”. In everyday life, we are often confronted with various personal opinions or subjective viewpoints on everything from politics (more horses and bayonets or less?) to fashion (can you believe what Miley Cyrus wore last week) to love (you complete me). However everyone understands that personal opinions are, well, personal. They vary from one individual to another and two people can have completely different beliefs on the exact same issue.
The Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” may have more thrills than the GMAT, but the jaws of those deadly sea-predators are a great inspiration to look at one of the GMAT’s own mysterious creatures: circles. Since we miss Shark Week around here, we give you “Arc Week” today.
When it comes to circles, most of us are old pros at finding the area and circumference, and setting up basic ratios and proportions with the parts of a circle, but there are several lesser-known theorems involving the arcs of a circle that might be helpful to have up your sleeve for a GMAT rainy day!
There is one recurring question everyone has about the GMAT: what can I expect on “Game Day” and how well will practice tests prepare me for the real deal? This is a tough question; everyone trains and reacts differently. However, there’s one thing you should know: The GMAT Will Surprise You. It will surprise you because the test makers want to hit you with difficult and unexpected challenges; it’s the best way to prove you earned the score.
When studying for the GMAT, some questions will undoubtedly bring back fond memories of high school math classes, cramming for exams and wondering if that classmate you had a crush on even knew you existed (note: this may also remind you of Dawson’s Creek). Algebra and Geometry concepts evoke these feelings of nostalgia, because unless you’re an engineer or an architect (perhaps Art Vandelay?), you probably haven’t thought about the concepts in a decade or two.
We’ve looked at a lot of ways the GMAT can make Data Sufficiency questions more challenging (number properties, I’m talking to you!), but one type of DS question the GMAT likes to throw out there to really confuse unwary test-takers are value questions that ask about sums.
Say we had a question that asked, “what is the value of the sum of x and y?” Immediately, we have two possible ways that the statements could offer sufficiency: if they provided us with the ability to solve for x and y independently, and if they provided us with the ability to find the sum itself.
On the GMAT quantitative section, you have just over 2 minutes on average to answer each question in front of you. Sometimes, those two minutes go by in a flash and you feel like the question should take at least 4 minutes in order to even make a reasonable guess. Other times, you think you can solve the question in a matter of seconds, and wonder why anyone would take a full 2 minutes on a question that you can eyeball without putting pen to paper (or marker to dry erase board). Because the 2 minute benchmark is an average, not a maximum, figuring out how much time to spend on each question is a crucial part of doing well on this test.
When reading through Reading Comprehension texts, there are a few important concepts to keep in mind in order to be able to swiftly answer the upcoming questions. Every passage will have explicit information regarding the subject matter at hand, but some information will come from the author’s attitude and writing style. One of the most important things to do while reading a Reading Comprehension passage (other than staying awake) is determine the author’s tone.
We introduced the most common sense way of approaching a simple work rate problem last week in Part I. No setup was necessary. There was zero possibility for a calculation error, or a misconception.
The past perfect tense in a GMAT Sentence Correction question can subtly change the meaning of a sentence, making an answer choice incorrect, even if the verb agrees with its subject in number. The past perfect tense is often used to describe an action that was completed prior to another past action:
Just as all roads lead to Rome (well, all roads in Europe anyways), there are many ways to solve math questions on the GMAT. Any question can conceivably be solved in a variety of ways, but they must always be logical. No method is inherently superior to any other, so often it’s a question of which method will solve this particular problem in the most efficient way possible.
Combined work rate problems give many a headache at their mere mention. After all, you have to think in terms of that fourth dimension, “time” (cue the Twilight Zone theme). This alone puts it up there with Einsteinian Relativity in terms of difficulty. There are always three moving parts – time, work, and speed – and sometimes three or more machines or people working together.
Many GMAT students have likened themselves to Sherlock Holmes at one point or another while studying for this test. It is a natural comparison: you are a detective looking for clues in order to reach a conclusion that must be true. Unfortunately there’s no Dr. Watson to help guide your efforts, but you can inspire yourself from the super sleuth in your quest to solve the nefarious puzzles of Professor G. MoriArTy.
Welcome to the third and final installment of GMAT’s secrets revealed! We now know 2 things the GMAT testmakers don’t want you to know – one, they can do most quant problems entirely in their heads, and two, verbal complexity is intended to clarify, not confuse, a given situation. These insights are a critical part of the recognition that the GMAT is not actually as difficult as it is intimidating. It has a lot of tough-looking math and long, dense passages, but that’s mainly on the surface – deep down, unlocking GMAT reasoning is feasible for anyone.
We began last week with a quant trick demonstrating the 1st Thing GMAT Testmakers Don’t Want You to Know: they can do quant problems entirely in their heads! This was no doubt a carefully guarded secret, but now that it’s out there, it should take the intimidation factor of those difficult-looking quant problems down a notch or two.
As a GMAT instructor, I frequently find myself perusing the GMAT Official Guide, dare I say, “for fun”. The OG is a terrific indication of the types of questions you can expect to see on the GMAT, and the solution is usually a great method to get to the right answer. However, sometimes I find myself surprised at the official answer because I would solve the question in a completely different way and get to the answer in significantly less time than the OG method.
Studying for the GMAT in just one month is nobody’s idea of a party, but sometimes it can’t be avoided. If you’re locked in to your test date and need to make the best of a bad situation, wipe that perspiration off your brow and take a deep breath: it is possible to significantly improve your score in one month! In fact, depending on your latent test-taking, grammar, algebra, number properties, time management, and general cool-as-a-cucumber skills, you probably already have a LOT of the needed requirements found in a 700+ scoring GMAT test-taker. Here’s some quick tips to conquer content, strategy, and pacing in only 4 weeks.
As I discussed in my last entry on The Art of War and success on the GMAT, the makers of the GMAT have only a few ways to attack you in battle. They also have a few things that keep a figurative arm tied behind their back. These limitations are what you can, and should, exploit to your advantage. However, it may still not be clear who exactly you’re dealing with. And as you remember, knowing thy enemy (and thyself) is key to a great score.
Many concepts covered on the GMAT come up in every day conversation. One of the common mistakes frequently tested on the GMAT that people make mistakes with in colloquial speech is that lack of agreement between a subject and verb when the verb is placed before the subject (There’s a lot of reasons this happens…) People make this mistake regularly and no one really seems to notice it, but the GMAT thoroughly tests this type of mistake, so you likely will have had sufficient exposure to this scenario by test day.
When answering data sufficiency questions on the GMAT, the key is to successfully determine when you have sufficient information to make a decision with 100% certainty. I often equate data sufficiency with determining whether the competition is stealing from you. If you’re sure they are not, then everything is fine and you are competing in a fair and balanced environment. Similarly, if you have definitive proof that they are hijacking your million dollar idea (possibly for pet rocks or the duck commander), then you can pursue legal action to remedy the situation.
Each year, eager b-school hopefuls line up to take the GMAT, and each year many end up with a score below what they had been getting on their practice exams. What went wrong? Why the discrepancy? The answer is never easy to ascertain, but there are several questions you can ask yourself to try and figure out what happened. One of the most important ones is actually rather simple: did you practice for the test environment as well as for the questions themselves?
There is a lot of value in keeping things simple. Simplicity is a beautiful thing, especially when combined with functionality. Think of the designs Apple comes up with (or at least did when Steve Jobs ran the show): products were simple, sleek, stylish, and routinely worked flawlessly. The appeal and popularity of these machines is steeped in how effortlessly they perform their functions, combining reliable functionality and timeless elegance.
Two words that often get confused in the English language are effective and efficient. Many people use these words as if they are synonyms, when, in fact, they are two distinct notions that only sound like homonyms. In fact, the words effective and efficient complement each other perfectly. How does this affect the GMAT? While both words are usually used as compliments, their effect on the exam is very noticeable (see what I did there?)
Last week, I introduced the idea of timing on the GMAT. Today, we will look at the technique which helped me a lot in reducing my stress and improving my time management. Have a look, take away the main methodology and please feel free to adjust certain parts of it to suit your own purposes.
Hemingway wrote his prose in a manner which has come to be known as the “Iceberg Theory.” Influenced by his journalistic career, Hemingway believed that by omitting superfluous and extraneous matter, writing becomes more interesting. The minimalistic style of a Hemingway piece is a lesson all GMAT students can apply to their AWA writing: take out the fluff! Argument essays that receive scores of 6 typically are “fluff-free” zones – the paragraphs are organized and to the point, and they say what they mean to say.
GMAT students can now benefit from a new blog series featuring video tips from Veritas Prep’s own Director of Academic Programs, Brian Galvin. Last week, Brian helped us spot pronoun errors in Sentence Correction by ‘minding the gap.’ This week, we’ll learn about the adaptability and scoring of the GMAT.
Are you having a hard time writing a solid “6” AWA, or getting some disappointing feedback from instructors, tutors, or friends? The good thing about AWA, is that its easily improved. Going from an “average” 4 to a “perfect” 6 is achievable by just about anyone who can read, memorize, and practice.