Tag Archives: GMAT Prep

Guest Post: An Optimistic Approach to GMAT Math

Winston Churchill said: “The pessimist see difficulty in every opportunity.  The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”  While the words of the good prime minister have much wider implications, consider  how this phrase might reframe …

Winston Churchill said: “The pessimist see difficulty in every opportunity.  The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”  While the words of the good prime minister have much wider implications, consider  how this phrase might reframe one’s approach to GMAT math.

I realize many folks come to the GMAT having bid mathematics a fond (or not-so-fond) farewell way back in high school.  Now, a college degree later, one has to re-acquaint one’s self with such topics as solving for x and angles in a triangle; some topics, such as combinations (nCr) might be entirely new — even more daunting for our would-be GMAT taker. If one is facing the long uphill climb toward mastery on GMAT math, how does one view this onerous task optimistically?

I realize that every practice question you get wrong can be discouraging.   Mathematics can be a demanding task-master. For any particular math problem, there may be, say, twenty different mathematical facts, from easy to hard, that you need to know to solve a problem, and if you know nineteen of those twenty, you get the problem incorrect.  In school math, there might have been partial credit, but on the GMAT, if you choose an incorrect answer for almost-correct work, you get zilch for that.

In fact, if in your mathematical reasoning, you overlook a frequently overlooked mathematical step, then you can bet your bottom dollar that the GMAT test-writer will have an incorrect answer choice corresponding to this frequently overlooked step — that’s Test Writing 101!  Given the low success rate of a beginning GMAT-studier, rusty at math, how can one maintain the vital engagement necessary for progress without becoming jaded or discouraged?  Of course, part of the answer is the emotional maturity and security not to take personally the initial lack of success.

There’s a wonderful story about Thomas Edison.  He and his team were trying to develop a commercially viable light bulb, and the problem was finding the right material for the filament.  They tried a plethora of different possible materials, and each one melted or burnt out as soon as the current passed through.

Finally, the Edison’s foreman, utterly exhausted and frustrated, came to complain to the great inventor: “We should give up!  We’ve tried a thousand ways with no success!  We’re wasting our time!”  Edison immediately responded, “A waste of time?  Nonsense!  We now know a thousand ways that it doesn’t work!”  While that kind of optimism may sound over-the-top to the point of lunacy, it is precisely this level of indefatigable perseverance that brought about the light bulb, the archetypal symbol of a good idea.

You see, every math problem you get wrong is an opportunity to learn and grow.  You have to be disciplined about studying solutions and taking explicit notes about the mistakes you made and ideas you overlooked.  The mark of an excellent student is: never making the same mistake twice.

While striving for that ideal takes discipline, the promise of holding to that standard is: every problem you get wrong represents a mistake from which you are determined to learn.  Thus, say, for 200 questions you get wrong, you would have learned “200 ways it doesn’t work”, and by extension, understand 200 mistake that you will not repeat in the future.

In some cases, it may be a matter of knowing a formula, although generally it’s minimally helpful to memorize formulas, and considerably important to remember arguments and logical interconnections.   In some topics, especially in GMAT probability questions, how one frames the problem is very important, more important than any of the individual solution techniques.   For each math question one gets wrong, one has to study the solutions at multiple levels of analysis.

This approach takes energy and discipline.   It takes an Edison-like optimism in the face of frustration.   Very challenging, but if you want climb into the higher reaches of the GMAT score percentiles, then one attains extraordinary results only by making an extraordinary effort.  Not everyone can do this, but those who are able to able to turn every challenge, every difficulty, into an opportunity for learning & growth, will have reason to be optimistic about the GMAT as well as about their careers in the modern business world.

This post was written by Mike McGarry, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep. For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog.

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Guest Post: Reviewing the 3 Main GMAT Prep Options

Hopefully you know the GMAT is a very important test, especially for those aiming for Top 10, and especially Top 5, business schools. Although, as a side note, it’s less important than most people assume …

studying for the GMAT Hopefully you know the GMAT is a very important test, especially for those aiming for Top 10, and especially Top 5, business schools.

Although, as a side note, it’s less important than most people assume ”“ you don’t need a 770 to go to Harvard and the GMAT really is just one of about 5 key elements to the application.  But, this blog post is about GMAT prep options, so I’ll stick to that.

There are fundamentally three ways to study for the GMAT:

1)      Study on your own

2)      Take a GMAT prep class

3)      Work with a private tutor

The GMAT assesses core math, reading comprehension, writing, and analytical skills, yet it also has unique features and quirks.  So, you’ll do much better if you put in the time to properly prepare for the particular problem types which the test writers love to use year after year.   You can perform extremely well on the GMAT by choosing any option above, but folks in specific situations may fare better choosing one option over another.

Studying on your own is a good option when”¦

1.       You can score at least in the mid 500s (which is an average score) when taking a practice test “cold.”  And, you are at least about average in all of the sections. You also aren’t obsessed with scoring well above 700 by the time you take your official GMAT.

The GMAT will make you remember the rules of triangles, how to factor equations, how to read critically, and many other skills you may not have used since college.  If you can comfortable score about average right off the bat on a practice test, you’ll probably be able to score well above average after studying on your own for a few months.

2.       You have a lot of time.

Let’s just say it takes 35-50 hours of studying for most people to reach their full natural ability on the GMAT.  Well, if you don’t have too stressful of a job, and you have 6 months until you plan on taking the GMAT, you’re in a better position to figure things out on your own.

3.       You are naturally an independent worker.

You prefer working on projects by yourself.  You didn’t mind classes in college where the professor didn’t explain things very well, or at all.  You are a natural at digging in and figuring things out.

4.       You are naturally very structured and organized with your time.

To properly study for the GMAT, you need to develop a plan of attack and stick with it.  Each week, you need to devote 3-4 hours to studying for it.  You need to ensure you methodically review each of the sections and then do and review practice problems.  If you have trouble structuring your time or aren’t generally very organized, you’ll find it hard to study on your own.

5.       You are not rich.

A good test prep class will cost you $500 to $1,500 per hour.  Private tutoring tends to cost ”“ and I’m not joking – $25 to $250 per hour.  Obviously, self-study costs much less ”“ perhaps $25 for the Official Guide to the GMAT, $30 for some additional practice tests, and $50 for a supplemental bank of practice questions.

With this in mind, let’s review the two other GMAT prep options available to you.

So, when would someone take a GMAT Prep Class?

It’s not quite as simple as taking the inverse of the above five points, but it’s close.  A GMAT prep class is a good option for someone who:

  1. Scored below average when taking a practice GMAT cold ”“ this means they are missing a few (perhaps not too many) core skills that will be tested on the GMAT, and a prep class can provide a reasonably priced review of those skills.
  2. Has at least as much time as it takes to work through the prep class.  Most classes meet once per week for a few hours for 8 weeks or so.
  3. Benefits from having a teacher explain key concepts.  You won’t get truly customized instruction from a prep class teacher ”“ after all there are 10-30 other people in the room ”“ but you will have somebody explaining the material.
  4. Needs the structure that the prep class naturally provides.  You’ll show up each week at a given time, review new content, and be assigned practice problems to complete.
  5. Is willing to spend some money to do well on the GMAT.  Some prep classes are expensive, but it’s a reasonable middle ground between self-study and private tutoring.

OK, so who should hire a private GMAT tutor?

If you’ve read through this blog post so far and don’t feel like you fit in one of the above categories, then a private GMAT tutor might work for you.  Specifically, a private GMAT tutor works well for folks who:

Scored either well below or well above average on an initial practice GMAT, taken cold.  If you are well below average, the prep class might not be enough instruction to get your skills up.  If you are well above average, you might already know most of the stuff taught in the prep class.   After all, a prep class has to make sure it is covering concepts that the average person in the class needs to be taught.  So, if you aren’t somewhere close to average, a prep class is probably not for you.

  1. A side note ”“ if you are trying to score above 700 on the GMAT, then you’ll encounter some pretty difficult questions.  Many people find that a tutor can quickly reveal the core concepts at play in these seemingly difficult questions, oftentimes in cases where self-study or a prep class simply would have failed.  So, if you’re dedicated to trying to break 700, a tutor starts to become a better option.
  2. You may not have much time because you’re literally taking the GMAT in 4 weeks.  Or, you may be taking it in 3 months, but you work 80 hours a week, leaving little free time to prep.  If you don’t have much time, a private tutor is the most efficient way to fill in the gaps in your knowledge base.  A tutor can quickly assess your situation, and focus on the areas in which you need help in a laser-like manner.
  3. If you don’t mind listening to someone else explain something (vs. desiring the satisfaction of having figured it out completely on your own), a private GMAT tutor will work well for you.
  4. When it comes to being organized and structured with your time, almost anyone can benefit from a private GMAT tutor.  Why?  If you aren’t naturally organized, the tutor can help you develop and stick to a plan.  If you are, you can use the tutor to answer specific questions or review questions you had trouble with while following your own plan.
  5. Unfortunately, a good GMAT tutor can be expensive.  With some research, you can find a good tutor for between $50 to $100 per hour.   But, if your score improves from 630 to 700, and you ultimately get into a Top 5 business school, the $1,000 to $2,000 you might spend end up being very well worth it.

Have I missed any other major ways to study for the GMAT, or any other key considerations? What are your thoughts?

***

Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, a boutique provider of customized, 1-1 GMAT tutoring, as well tutoring for most other standardized tests.  He also has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

 

 

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New GMAT Resource from Magoosh…and it’s Free!

Our friends at Magoosh, masters of online GMAT test prep, have just released their newest eBook, and this one’s on Integrated Reasoning. The revamped GMAT, which includes a section on Integrated Reasoning, will launch in …

Our friends at Magoosh, masters of online GMAT test prep, have just released their newest eBook, and this one’s on Integrated Reasoning. The revamped GMAT, which includes a section on Integrated Reasoning, will launch in June, so get a head start on your studies and take advantage of this great–and gratis—resource.

Magoosh eBook GMAT Integrated ReasoningMagoosh’s Complete Guide to GMAT Integrated Reasoning features an overview of the section as a whole, including scoring; overviews and strategies of/for each question type; practice questions; and recommendations for conquering this new section.

 

Click here to download the eBook.

 

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SBC Scoop: When Are Great GMAT Scores Not Quite Good Enough?

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client. Our client Tariq had a tough decision to make. He had sorted out his options …

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

Our client Tariq had a tough decision to make. He had sorted out his options and felt strongly that Chicago Booth’s MBA program was the perfect fit. He loved the classes, the focus and the city, and could easily picture himself there. Unfortunately, his first attempt at the GMAT had yielded a 690, with a low quant score. Though Tariq and his consultant agreed that this was a nice first attempt, and possibly good enough for many schools, they knew that while this score made it into the range where 80% of Booth’s students landed, he was still somewhat below the average score.

The rest of Tariq’s application was strong and interesting, but added to the dilemma. After a strong undergraduate career at Amherst, where he compiled a 3.6 GPA, he returned to his native Turkey to work in arts management. Tariq transformed this experience into an essay and application that made his desire to bridge the gap between the liberal arts and business worlds clear and interesting. His consultant had few worries about his application outside of the GMAT score, and they discussed what to do. Since Tariq’s application was lacking in more day-to-day quantitative experience, and his first choice was a program with one of the highest average scores, they agreed that he should go ahead and retake the test.

Tariq’s consultant pointed him to Booth’s messaging regarding the GMAT, which he found reassuring. His school “looks favorably” on taking the test more than once. We see this fairly often as MBA programs consider working hard and improving your score as evidence of persistence. Tariq focused on doing the best he could to impress the admissions committee. Though it was too late for Round 1, he had enough time to work through an online class and retake the test before Round 2. His hard work and focus paid off with a thirty point bump in his score, a solid 720 with an even break between quant and verbal. Tariq and his consultant agreed that if Booth had not been on the top of his list, or if he had been further away from the average score, it may not have been worth it at all to retake, but in his case the costs were outweighed by the benefits.

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GMAT Hacks: Mental Math

Aside from manipulating the GMAT’s favorite numbers (72, 64, etc.), one of the calculations you’ll do most often when working through GMAT problems is dividing and multiplying by five. It’s common in the real world, too. As …

Aside from manipulating the GMAT’s favorite numbers (72, 64, etc.), one of the calculations you’ll do most often when working through GMAT problems is dividing and multiplying by five. It’s common in the real world, too. As with most common calculations, there’s a better way to do them than long division or traditional multiplication.

For both division and multiplication, the key concept here is that 5 is simply 10 divided by 2. So, anywhere you see a 5 in an equation, you can substitute (10/2). You won’t always want to do that, but in some cases, I guarantee you that working with 10s and 2s is preferable to working with 5s.

Using that trick, consider multiplying 36 and 5. (If you automatically know that, work through the example with a less common number, like 47.) Using the trick outlined above, 36(5) = 36(10/2). You now have two options: you can multiply 36 and 10 and then divide by 2, or divide 36 by 2 and then multiply by 10. Either way, both steps are quite simple.

This is an excerpt from a longer article by Jeff Sackmann, originally published at GMAT Hacks.  Jeff has created several valuable GMAT-preparation resources, including Total GMAT Math and Total GMAT Verbal.

Interested in reading more? Click HERE to see more test prep advice.

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GMAT Hacks: Write Your Own GMAT Practice Questions

It’s often said that the only way to really learn something is to teach it; when it comes to GMAT quant problems, you could say the only way to really learn something is to create it. To …

It’s often said that the only way to really learn something is to teach it; when it comes to GMAT quant problems, you could say the only way to really learn something is to create it.

To get started writing your own variations on GMAT questions, take a problem (preferably from The Official Guide) that you’re not 100% comfortable with. Then start asking yourself “what if?”  What if x was negative? What if there were four coins instead of three? What if you added two or subtracted two from one of the numbers?

How you change the question will differ in every single example. It’s a test of imagination nearly as much as a test of knowledge. But if you generate, say, 10 new GMAT questions, you’re much closer to being inside the head of the testmaker. By extension, you’re that much more prepared for what the GMAT will throw at you when you take the real thing.

This is an excerpt from a longer article by Jeff Sackmann, originally published at GMAT Hacks.  Jeff has created several valuable GMAT-preparation resources, including Total GMAT Math and Total GMAT Verbal.

Interested in reading more? Click HERE to see more test prep advice.

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