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### How To Get Better at the GMAT (or Anything Else)

Imagine two students sit down to study GMAT questions together. The first takes out 100 addition questions and gets all of them right. The other takes out 100 of the most-difficult, 800-level GMAT questions one can find, and gets all of them wrong. Who benefits more from this type of studying? It’s an absurd thought experiment since it’s fairly obvious that neither of these students is benefitting much from their study method. But over my years of teaching the GMAT, I’ve seen far too many students who fit too closely into one of these two camps. Students who are great at quant but not at verbal, yet spend all of their time doing quant questions because they are “more fun”. Other students are determined to score 750 and spend all of their time and effort doing as many 700-800 level questions as they can find, not seeing an improvement, and thinking that the solution is to see more 700-800 level questions. This isn’t some profound discovery, but too many students miss this critical point:

You get better at the GMAT by identifying a weakness, learning a better/faster method to attack that weakness, and practicing that method until it becomes habit. Repeat.

Note that this doesn’t mean that you have to do 50 rate questions and by question 50, you’ll be a master at determining the train schedule between two different towns. Nor do you need to do every question in every GMAT-related book you can get your hands on. If you’ve been to a Manhattan class, you’ve seen first-hand that our instructors’ goal is not to do as many questions as we can cram into a class. There are some topics in class where we only look at 4-5 questions, but we spend an hour breaking down the methods, key words, traps, and wrong answer choices that will be similar to the methods, key words, traps, and wrong answer choices that students will one day see on the real test. The goal is never to see why Answer Choice E is a trap answer. It’s to see why Answer Choice E fits into a certain category of trap answers and learn how to avoid that category of trap answers come test day.

So how does this relate to your own studying? Let’s talk about what a productive 1-hour study session might look like by examining what many of my own study sessions looked like while I was studying for my GMAT.

### Another Way To Solve Median & Mean Questions

This is the second of a series of posts that offer alternate ways to solve certain GMAT problems (check out the first here: . Just like last time, if you like the method, steal it! And if you don’t, I promise not to lose any sleep. There’s a lot of ways to solve most questions on the GMAT and the best way will always be the way that works best for you. So without further ado, let’s check out a GMATPrep question and see how fast you can solve:

Last month 15 homes were sold in Town X. The average (arithmetic mean) sale price of the homes was $150,000 and the median sale price was$130,000. Which of the following statements must be true?

I. At least one of the homes was sold for more than $165,000. II. At least one of the homes was sold for more than$130,000 and less than $150,000. III. At least one of the homes was sold for less than$130,000.

(A) I only

(B) II only

(C) III only

(D) I and II

(E) I and III

First things first, if you answered this question using algebra, you’re in great company. Another one of our instructors, Stacey Koprince, has a great write up on the algebra in this question, and it’s definitely worth a read-through right here. But a lot of questions on the GMAT, including this one, can be solved by thinking of extremely simple scenarios, rather than the algebra that determines all of them.

The first thing I noticed on this question is that this is one of those awful questions where there’s a whole lot of wiggle room with the information that they give you. What was the cheapest house? What was the cost of the third most expensive house? Were any of the houses all the same price? If the second cheapest house is half as expensive as the most expensive, how does that affect the cost of the other houses? It’s easy to get lost when you start to think about how little you know in this scenario.

But before I jump around and start picking values out of thin air, the most important part of this problem are the (few) things that MUST be true. In this case, there are two: the 15 house prices have a mean of $150,000 and a median of$130,000. And on my paper, I would write out a few slots to represent the house prices like this: (note- I wouldn’t write out all 15 slots. Just the first few, the last few, and, since this is a median problem, one in the middle.)

 ____ ____ … ____ … ____ ____ 1 2 7 14 15

Again, there are two things that they tell me here, but I want to start with the most restrictive element in this problem. There are lots of different ways to get a mean of $150,000, but in order to get a median of$130,000, I would need at least one house to cost EXACTLY $130,000. So I add that to my chart (ignoring the$ sign and extra zeroes):

### 4 Kinds of Questions to Review

What’s the difference between a real GMAT and a practice one? On the real GMAT, you’re finished after three and a half hours, give or take. But while you are preparing for the GMAT, finishing a practice test is much different than being finished with it. As I’ve written about before, practice tests are great assessment tools but not necessarily great learning tools. Practice tests tell you what you would likely score on the real GMAT if you answered 37 quant and 41 verbal questions with the same level of aptitude that you had on the questions you just saw. But if you want to see your GMAT score improve, you’re going to have to spend some time reviewing what you did, how you did it, and how you could do it better. To help you on that quest to get better, here are four kinds of questions that you can use to help improve your score.

1)  Questions You Got Wrong