In the first part of this series, we talked about how to analyze your strengths and weaknesses and in which categories of “low hanging fruit” to concentrate your studies.
We left off talking about timing; let’s talk about how to make better decisions as you take the test. Read more
Most second-round deadlines are in early January, so around now, a lot of people are asking me how to eke out the last 30 to 80 points they need to reach their goal.
Let’s talk about what to do to try to lift your score that last bit in the final 2 months of your study.
Is this article for me?
Stacey told Business Insider that there are only two circumstances in which a prospective b-school student would spurn the GMAT for the GRE: Read more
I have some very exciting news to announce.
For the past several months, we have engaged Dr. Lawrence Rudner, former Chief Psychometrician of the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC, the makers of the GMAT®), to review our practice tests. Dr. Rudner is one of the world’s leading experts in item response theory, the testing principle on which the GMAT is based. He is the definitive authority on the GMAT examination.
And here’s what he has to say about Manhattan Prep’s practice exams:
“I conducted an extensive examination of student data for all of the Manhattan Prep test questions and I was very impressed. I can attest to the fact that very high percentages of Quant and Verbal items have excellent psychometric properties. I can further attest that Manhattan Prep’s GMAT practice exams do an excellent job of predicting a student’s score on the actual GMAT examination. Manhattan Prep’s GMAT practice exams can help you accurately gauge when you’re ready to achieve your goal score on the real test.”
In short, our tests do “an excellent job of predicting” your score on the real GMAT. That’s great news!
I am particularly excited about the fact that our CATs were so strong that Dr. Rudner offered his endorsement without requiring us to change a single thing. Going into the review, we had thought that we would be given a required list of changes before he could give his seal of approval.
I do have to add a caveat: nothing is perfect and not everyone scores on the real test exactly what they scored on our test (or any practice test). No standardized test is that precise, including the real GMAT. There are also other factors that can negatively affect certain students, such as anxiety (you know your practice tests don’t really count) or mental fatigue (don’t study for 6 hours the day before the real exam!).
Caveat over. In general, you can trust our exams to help you know when you’re ready to get in there and take the real thing. I already felt that way before, but now I can say it with conviction, because Dr. Rudner has confirmed the accuracy of our exams.
I have to give a shout-out to all of our instructors who have worked so diligently on our exams over the years—you know who you are. We literally would not be having this conversation right now if not for your hard work and dedication to making our materials the best. Thank you for your love of teaching and your complete fascination with the GMAT. I’m proud to call you colleagues and friends.
And back to our students: Go forth and study! You can beat this test!
If 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.
Lately, 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.)
So you’ve taken the test and you aren’t entirely happy with your score. How do you decide whether to re-take the test?
It might be the case that your score is close to what you wanted, but not quite all the way there. Alternatively, you may be trying to decide whether to stick with the GMAT or switch to the GRE (and, if so, I recommend you follow that link I just inserted).
If you already know that you do want to stick with the GMAT, read on.
Should I re-take?
There are two main reasons someone might want to go for a higher score. The most common is that you think a better score will improve your chances of getting into business school or of obtaining certain internships once in school. Some people also feel that achieving a certain score is a personal goal and they want to meet that challenge.
If you’re trying to gauge whether a better score will make a big difference, start researching. What’s the average or median score for last year’s incoming class at your preferred schools? (Look at whatever data the school publishes—different schools might publish data in different forms.) Are you in range? Are you strong? If you are already above the average or median at that school, then adding 30 points might not make as big a difference as, say, earning a promotion at work.
Check GPA statistics as well. You have a little leeway for your GMAT score to be lower if your GPA is higher than the average for admitted students; if your GPA is lower, however, then it would be better to have an above-average GMAT. (Also, all of this just means that you have a chance, not that you’ll definitely get in. These are only two of many parts to your application!)
Most business schools now accept both the GMAT and the GRE, so which one should you take? I’ve written on the topic before but it’s been nearly a year and I’ve got some updates.
The conventional wisdom has been that the math is easier on the GRE. Though many schools do accept the GRE, rumors abound that students who take this test are at a bit of a disadvantage because they are expected to do better on the (easier) quant section. Anecdotally, we have heard a few admissions officers admit that they do think about this (strictly off the record, of course). Most admissions officers, though, have said this doesn’t matter to them at all, including several officers at the top 10 schools.
So we’ve come up with a series of decisions to help you make this choice. The first three questions are “deal-breakers”—that is, a certain answer will point you definitively to a specific test (the GMAT, as it happens). The fourth question is…murkier. We’ll address that in a little bit.
#1: Do all of “your” schools accept the GRE?
This one is obvious. All business schools (that ask for a standardized test score) accept the GMAT. Most—but not all—accept the GRE. If you want to apply to any schools that require the GMAT, such as London Business School MBA (at the time of this publication), then you’ll be taking the GMAT.
#2: Do any of “your” schools prefer the GMAT?
Most schools that accept both tests don’t express a preference between the two. Some schools, though, do say that the prefer the test. They publish this preference right on their web site, so go look up all of your schools and see what they say about the GMAT / GRE requirement for admissions.
As of the date of this article, Columbia, Haas (Berkeley) and Anderson (UCLA) all state that they prefer the GMAT, even though they do accept the GRE. If you want to apply to one of these schools, I recommend that you take the GMAT. (Note: these aren’t the only three schools that prefer the GMAT; I just picked out the three most well-known ones that do. You still need to research your schools!)
#3: Do you want to go into banking or management consulting after b-school?
The major banks and consulting firms ask for GMAT scores when you apply. (Some of them even ask for undergraduate GPA and SAT scores. I think that data is irrelevant after someone has a b-school GPA and GMAT scores but I’m not the one making the hiring decisions!)
Distractions 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.