Articles published in How To Study

Everything you need to know about the New Official Guides, Part 4

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I’ve just finished trying all of the new verbal OG problems. (If you haven’t yet read my earlier installments, start here.) This installment includes my summary of All Things Verbal as well as lists of the new problems by book and question type.

Also, we’re hard at work writing new solutions to add to our GMAT Navigator program, so if you have access to Navigator, you can start to check for new solutions there in—best guess—July.

What’s new in Verbal?

Now that I’ve seen everything, I’ve been able to spot some trends across all of the added and dropped questions. For example, across both The Official Guide for GMAT® Review (aka the big book) and The Official Guide for GMAT® Verbal Review (aka verbal-only or the verbal supplement), 6 science passages were added (out of 11 new passages total), while only 3 were dropped. In addition, 3 social science passages were added (compared to 5 dropped) and 2 business passages were added (compared to 2 dropped).

So, in the books at least, there’s a slight shift towards science. It’s unclear whether this signals an actual change in emphasis on the test, though; these may just be the best retired passages that they wanted to use.

For Critical Reasoning, the same total number of questions were added and dropped. The differential (added minus dropped) for Strengthen questions was +8. Further, 6 of the 22 total new Strengthen questions are fill in the blank (FitB) format, and no new FiTB’s were introduced that were not Strengthen questions.

The differential for Weaken questions was -8 and for Inference questions, it was -4. I’m not entirely sure what to make of the drop in Weaken. I’ve been hearing from students that they’ve been seeing a lot of Strengthen / Weaken on the real test and not many (CR) Inference questions. The Strengthen jump and the small Inference drop seems to go along with that, but not the larger Weaken drop. (This is why I’m always skeptical about drawing broader conclusions based on changes in the books.)

As I mentioned in my first report on Sentence Correction (part 2 of this series), it is difficult to compare categories here because one SC can (and usually does) cross multiple topics. The trends I reported before still hold after my review of the Verbal supplement: meaning and sentence structure are increasingly important, and parallelism and comparisons are just as important as they’ve always been.

Ready for the problem lists?

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New Edition of GMAT Advanced Quant: Study the Hardest Quant Questions

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GMAT Advanced Quant Now AvailableI am super excited to announce a new edition of our GMAT Advanced Quant Strategy Guide! We worked hard on this book all of last year (yes, it takes a long time make a book!) and we hope that you find it to be a valuable addition to your GMAT preparation.

What is the Advanced Quant guide?

We created the Advanced Quant (AQ) guide a few years ago for people who want to get a top score (50 or 51) on the quant section of the GMAT.

Here’s the interesting thing: it doesn’t teach you a bunch of really hard math concepts. We teach all of those concepts in our five regular strategy guides (Algebra, Geometry, Word Problems, Number Properties, and Fractions, Decimals, & Percents). Instead, the AQ guide teaches you the next level of GMAT study: how to think your way through really hard quant problems.

What’s new in this edition?

A bunch of things! First, there are more than 50 brand-new, extremely hard problems. We actually removed some old ones that we thought were a bit too easy and replaced them with harder problems.

But that’s not all. Since the entire point of this book is how to solve better, we’ve updated some solutions to existing problems because we’ve discovered an even more efficient or effective way to solve.

We’ve also introduced a new organization method for working your way systematically through any quant problem. We’ve added or expanded lessons on test-taking strategies, such as testing cases on both problem solving and data sufficiency problems.

One student, who has already used the old version of AQ, asked whether we would provide a list indicating which questions are the new ones. I told him no. Not because I’m lazy or I don’t care, but because you don’t need such a list! If you’ve already tried the first edition and want to try this one, too, just start going through the book. If you hit a problem you remember, feel free to skip it. (Although maybe this is a chance to see if you really do remember what to do…and remember that we may offer an updated solution that you haven’t seen before.) If you hit a problem you don’t remember, then it doesn’t matter whether it’s old or new. It’s new to you right at this moment!

Who should use the AQ Strategy Guide?

First, you should have mastered most (if not all) of the material in our five main quant Strategy Guides. As I mentioned earlier, we do not actually teach you that math in this guide. We assume that you already know it.

As a general rule, we recommend that people avoid using this book until they’ve gotten to a score of at least 47 on a practice CAT. (Seriously. We say so right in the first chapter of the book!) I might let that slide a bit for certain students, but someone scoring below 45 likely does not have the underlying content knowledge needed to make the best use of the Advanced Quant lessons.

Note that, from an admissions standpoint, you may not necessarily need to score higher than 47. The scoring scale tops out at 51, so 47 is already quite high. Do a little research to see what you may need for the specific schools to which you plan to apply.

All right, that’s all I’ve got for you today. I’d love to hear what you think about the book. Which problem is your favorite? And which one do you think is the absolute hardest, most evil thing we could have given you? Let us know in the comments!

Check out our store to learn more about the new GMAT Advanced Quant Strategy Guide.

GMAT Problem Solving Strategy: Test Cases

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3-19-TestCasesIf you’re going to do a great job on the GMAT, then you’ve got to know how to Test Cases. This strategy will help you on countless quant problems.

This technique is especially useful for Data Sufficiency problems, but you can also use it on some Problem Solving problems, like the GMATPrep® problem below. Give yourself about 2 minutes. Go!

* “For which of the following functions f is f(x) = f(1 – x) for all x?

(A) f(x) = 1 – x
(B) f(x) = 1 – x2
(C) f(x) = x2 – (1 – x)2
(D) f(x) = x2(1 – x)2
(E)  f(x) = x / (1 – x)”

 

Testing Cases is mostly what it sounds like: you will test various possible scenarios in order to narrow down the answer choices until you get to the one right answer. What’s the common characteristic that signals you can use this technique on problem solving?

The most common language will be something like “Which of the following must be true?” (or “could be true”).

The above problem doesn’t have that language, but it does have a variation: you need to find the answer choice for which the given equation is true “for all x,” which is the equivalent of asking for which answer choice the given equation is always, or must be, true.
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How to Switch from the GRE to the GMAT

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GRE_TO_GMATLately, we’ve been talking about how to decide which test to take, as well as what to do if . What if you decide to switch from the GRE to the GMAT? That’s what we’ll tackle today! (We have also talked about what to do if you want to switch from the GMAT to the GRE.)

How do I study?

The overall way that you want to study doesn’t actually change that much; rather, you’ll just need to change what you are studying, as discussed later in this article.

First, you’ll need to determine whether the way that you’ve already been studying is actually the optimal way. If not, then you’ll need to make some changes, regardless of whether you stick with the GRE or switch to the GMAT.

The GRE and the GMAT are both executive reasoning tests; that is, the test makers want to know how you think and make decisions. You of course need to know content (certain facts, rules, formulas) in order to do well on either test, but that level of study is not enough; you also need to lift yourself to a second level of understanding that allows you to think your way through these sometimes bizarrely-worded problems as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Follow the two links I put in the last paragraph. Take some time to just think about the concepts presented there. Has this been your approach to studying so far? If so, great. Keep thinking and working in that way.

If not, however, recognize that you’re going to need to start studying with this new mindset, regardless of whether you take the GRE or the GMAT.

What are my strengths and weaknesses?

Any time you’re developing or revising a study plan, you’ll want to put together a solid analysis of your strengths and weaknesses.

If you have been studying for the GRE for a while, then you should have some practice CAT data. (If not, or if it has been more than 6 weeks since you last took a CAT, then you’ll need to take one to get the data. Make sure to take the test under official conditions, including the essays, length of breaks, and so on.)

Analyze your most recent two CATs (this link tells you how to analyze Manhattan Prep CATs). If you haven’t taken MPrep CATs, you can still read through that link to get an idea of how you want to analyze your data from another test. Your goal is to split all question types and content into one of three buckets:

Bucket 1: Strengths. I’ll still study and practice these but not as heavily as other areas.

Bucket 2: Low-hanging Fruit: These are my easiest opportunities for improvement. Careless mistakes. Things that I get wrong fast. Things that I get right but just a little too slowly.

Bucket 3: Weaknesses. These are areas that I’ll ignore until I’ve worked out my Bucket 2 issues. Things that I’m likely to get wrong even if I give myself unlimited time. Things that I get right but way too slowly. Things that use up way too much mental energy, even if I get them right.

Your primary focus until your next practice test will be working a lot to improve Bucket 2, while maintaining Bucket 1 skills and getting Bucket 3 questions wrong fast (yes, seriously!).

[Aside: there are certain things that will stay in Bucket 3 forever. I’m terrible at combinatorics and I’m pretty bad at 3D geometry. That’s been true since my very first practice GRE, more than 10 years ago! When I see these, I’ll give it a look in case the problem is very similar to one that I do remember how to do, but otherwise, I pick my favorite letter and move on.]

Okay, now that you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, you need to familiarize yourself with the differences between the GRE and the GMAT.

What new things do I have to learn?

The Essays and Integrated Reasoning

You won’t care as much about one difference, so let’s get it out of the way. At the beginning of the GRE, you write two essays. The GMAT also asks you to write an essay but in place of the second essay you’ll have to do the Integrated Reasoning section, a multiple-choice section that mixes quant and verbal skills.

This section is different enough from the others that you will have to study how to answer these questions and how to manage your time during the section. At the time of this publication (in March 2015), schools aren’t using IR scores much, so this section is less important, though this could change in the future.

Quant

Next, for the quant section of the test, you’re going to need to learn about one different question type contained on the GMAT: Data Sufficiency (DS).

The GMAT dives more deeply into number properties, story problems, and some algebra concepts, so you may need to get GMAT books for these topics versus continuing to use your GRE books.

The timing on the two tests is also quite different, so you’ll have to learn how to handle 37 questions in 75 minutes on the GMAT, or about 2 minutes per question on average.

Verbal

Most of your new efforts on verbal will be geared towards the grammar question type, Sentence Correction (SC). You’ll definitely need to get some materials that teach you the grammar and meaning issues that are tested on SC.

Again, if you are already using Manhattan Prep materials, you can use what you already have for Reading Comprehension (RC), but you will need to get new materials for Critical Reasoning (CR). The CR question types on the GRE are also tested on the GMAT, but the GMAT contains additional CR question types that don’t appear on the GRE.

Again, the timing will be different on the GMAT. You’ll need to answer 41 verbal questions in 75 minutes, spending about 1 minute 20 seconds on SC, 2 minutes on CR, and about 6 to 8 minutes total for RC passages and questions.

How do I make a study plan?

We’ve already talked about part of the process (analyzing your strengths and weaknesses). You may decide to take a class or work with a tutor, in which case your teacher will give you specific assignments . If not, you’ll need to develop your own study plan.

Takeaways for switching from GRE to GMAT

(1) Make sure that you’re going into your studies with the right overall mindset (executive reasoning!) and that you know how to lift yourself to the “second level” of study.

(2) Begin your studies by concentrating on the aspects that are new to you: the different question types and topics that are tested on the GMAT. Once you build those skills up to a competent level, you’ll review all aspects and question types.

How to Switch from the GMAT to the GRE

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2015-03-12_1126Lately, we’ve been talking about how to decide which test to take, as well as what to do if you decide to stick with the GMAT. What if you decide to switch from the GMAT to the GRE? That’s what we’ll tackle today! (Next time, we’ll talk about what to do if you want to switch from the GRE to the GMAT.)

How do I study?

The overall way that you want to study doesn’t actually change that much; rather, you’ll just need to change what you are studying, as discussed later in this article.

First, you’ll need to determine whether the way that you’ve already been studying is actually the optimal way. If not, then you’ll need to make some changes, regardless of whether you stick with the GMAT or switch to the GRE.

The GMAT and the GRE are both executive reasoning tests; that is, the test makers want to know how you think and make decisions. You of course need to know content (certain facts, rules, formulas) in order to do well on either test, but that level of study is not enough; you also need to lift yourself to a second level of understanding that allows you to think your way through these sometimes bizarrely-worded problems as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Follow the two links I put in the last paragraph. Take some time to just think about the concepts presented there. Has this been your approach to studying so far? If so, great. Keep thinking and working in that way.

If not, however, recognize that you’re going to need to start studying with this new mindset, regardless of whether you take the GMAT or the GRE.

What are my strengths and weaknesses?

Any time you’re developing or revising a study plan, you’ll want to put together a solid analysis of your strengths and weaknesses.

If you have been studying for the GMAT for a while, then you should have some practice CAT data. (If not, or if it has been more than 6 weeks since you last took a CAT, then you’ll need to take one to get the data. Make sure to take the test under official conditions, including the essay and IR sections, length of breaks, and so on.)
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When Your High School Algebra is Wrong: How the GMAT Breaks Systems of Equations Rules

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2-17-HighSchool-2If you have two equations, you can solve for two variables.

This rule is a cornerstone of algebra. It’s how we solve for values when we’re given a relationship between two unknowns:

If I can buy 2 kumquats and 3 rutabagas for $16, and 3 kumquats and 1 rutabaga for $9, how much does 1 kumquat cost?

We set up two equations:

2k + 4r = 16

3k + r = 9

Then we can use either substitution or elimination to solve. (Try it out yourself; answer* below).

On the GMAT, you’ll be using the “2 equations à 2 variables” rule to solve for a lot of word problems like the one above, especially in Problem Solving. Be careful, though! On the GMAT this rule doesn’t always apply, especially in Data Sufficiency. Here are some sneaky exceptions to the rule…

2 Equations aren’t always 2 equations
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Tackling Max/Min Statistics on the GMAT (part 3)

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2-12-MinMaxP3

Welcome to our third and final installment dedicated to those pesky maximize / minimize quant problems. If you haven’t yet reviewed the earlier installments, start with part 1 and work your way back up to this post.

I’d originally intended to do just a two-part series, but I found another GMATPrep® problem (from the free tests) covering this topic, so here you go:

“A set of 15 different integers has a median of 25 and a range of 25. What is the greatest possible integer that could be in this set?

“(A) 32

“(B) 37

“(C) 40

“(D) 43

“(E) 50”

Here’s the general process for answering quant questions—a process designed to make sure that you understand what’s going on and come up with the best plan before you dive in and solve:

gmat1

Fifteen integers…that’s a little annoying because I don’t literally want to draw 15 blanks for 15 numbers. How can I shortcut this while still making sure that I’m not missing anything or causing myself to make a careless mistake?

Hmm. I could just work backwards: start from the answers and see what works. In this case, I’d want to start with answer (E), 50, since the problem asks for the greatest possible integer.
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Tackling Max/Min Statistics on the GMAT (Part 2)

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minLast time, we discussed two GMATPrep® problems that simultaneously tested statistics and the concept of maximizing or minimizing a value. The GMAT could ask you to maximize or minimize just about anything, so the latter skill crosses many topics. Learn how to handle the nuances on these statistics problems and you’ll learn how to handle any max/min problem they might throw at you.

Feel comfortable with the two problems from the first part of this article? Then let’s kick it up a notch! The problem below was written by us (Manhattan Prep) and it’s complicated—possibly harder than anything you’ll see on the real GMAT. This problem, then, is for those who are looking for a really high quant score—or who subscribe to the philosophy that mastery includes trying stuff that’s harder than what you might see on the real test, so that you’re ready for anything.

Ready? Here you go:

“Both the average (arithmetic mean) and the median of a set of 7 numbers equal 20. If the smallest number in the set is 5 less than half the largest number, what is the largest possible number in the set?

“(A) 40

“(B) 38

“(C) 33

“(D) 32

“(E) 30”

 

Out of the letters A through E, which one is your favorite?

You may be thinking, “Huh? What a weird question. I don’t have a favorite.”

I don’t have one in the real world either, but I do for the GMAT, and you should, too. When you get stuck, you’re going to need to be able to let go, guess, and move on. If you haven’t been able to narrow down the answers at all, then you’ll have to make a random guess—in which case, you want to have your favorite letter ready to go.

If you have to think about what your favorite letter is, then you don’t have one yet. Pick it right now.

I’m serious. I’m not going to continue until you pick your favorite letter. Got it?

From now on, when you realize that you’re lost and you need to let go, pick your favorite letter immediately and move on. Don’t even think about it.
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Break Your “Good” GMAT Study Habits! What Learning Science Can Teach Us About Effective GMAT Studying

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2-6-HabitsDistractions are bad. Routine, concentration, and hard work are good. These all seem like common-sense rules for studying, right? Surprisingly (for many people, at least), learning science tells us that these “good habits” may actually be hurting your learning process!

When you were in college, your study process probably looked something like this: for a given class, you’d attend a lecture each week, do the readings (or at least most of them), and maybe turn in an assignment or problem set. Then, at the end of the semester, you’d spend a week furiously cramming all of that information to prepare for the test.

Since this is the way you’ve always studied, it’s probably how you’re approaching the GMAT, too. But I have bad news: this is not an effective approach for the GMAT!

Taking notes then cramming the night before the test is beneficial for tests that ask you to recite knowledge: “what were the major consequences of the Hawley-Smoot tariff” or “explain Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.” You can hold a lot of facts  -for a brief time – in your short-term memory when cramming. You memorize facts, you spit them out for the test… and then, if you’re like me, you find that you’ve forgotten half of what you memorized by the next semester.

Why the GMAT is Different

The GMAT doesn’t reward this style of studying because it’s not simply a test of facts or knowledge. The GMAT requires you to know a lot of rules, of course, but the main thing that it’s testing is your ability to apply those concepts to new problems, to adapt familiar patterns, and to use strategic decision-making. You’ll never see the same problem twice.

Shallow memorization is not nearly enough. You need deep conceptual understanding.

In How We Learn*, science writer Benedict Carey outlines decades of research about how this kind of learning happens. Many of the findings go against what you probably thought were “good” study habits.
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Round 3 Application Deadlines for the Top 25 B-Schools

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The round three deadlines for business schools are right around the corner! Are you still working to hit your target GMAT score? Use the chart below to check the deadlines for the top 25 business schools, and evaluate whether you have enough time to prep and retake the official exam.

Looking for some guidance to maximize your study time? Our upcoming February GMAT Boot Camps are designed to prep you in just two weeks. Be prepared for intensive in-class work paired with hours of one-on-one coaching that will get you ready for the exam quickly, without sacrificing content knowledge.

We’re running a special promotion for our February Boot Camps only. Get $500 off with code CAMP500—but hurry, this promotion is only valid this month! There are still a few spots left in our upcoming boot camps (New York City and Live Online). Check out the full schedule and see all that’s included!

School Round 3 Deadline
Harvard University April 6, 2015
Stanford University April 1, 2015
University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) March 26, 2015
University of Chicago (Booth) April 7, 2015
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) N/A
Northwestern University (Kellogg) April 1, 2015
University of California–Berkeley (Haas) March 11, 2015
Columbia University April 15, 2015
Dartmouth College (Tuck) April 1, 2015
New York University (Stern) March 15, 2015
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor (Ross) March 23, 2015
University of Virginia (Darden) April 1, 2015
Yale University April 23, 2015
Duke University (Fuqua) March 19, 2015
University of Texas–Austin (McCombs) March 24, 2015
University of California–Los Angeles (Anderson) April 15, 2015
Cornell University (Johnson) March 11, 2015
Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper) March 15, 2015
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flager) March 13, 2015
Emory University (Goizueta) March 13, 2015
Indiana University–Bloomington (Kelley) March 01, 2015
Washington University in St. Louis (Olin) February 15, 2015 (Next: April 1)
Georgetown University (McDonough) April 1, 2015
University of Notre Dame (Mendoza) February 23, 2015
University of Washington (Foster) March 15, 2015