Articles published in October 2013

Analyzing Your Practice Tests, Part 4

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Welcome to part 4 of the article series on analyzing your GRE practice tests. As we discussed in the first, second, and third parts of this series, we’re basing the discussion on the metrics that are given in Manhattan Prep tests, but you can extrapolate to other tests that give you similar performance data. If you haven’t already read those, do so before you continue with this final part.gre weak link

In the first part, we discussed how to assess the data provided in the “question list”—the list that shows the questions you received and how you performed on each one. In the second and third parts, we analyzed the data in our Assessment Reports.

Today, we’ll do a final bit of analysis that will help us study all of these weaknesses that we’ve been uncovering.

Getting Started

You can do the following analysis on the one test that you just took, but I generally recommend running the Assessment Reports on your last 2 or 3 tests for this last step. Do this if you have other tests that you have taken in the past 6 weeks or so.

Two notes before we begin:

(1) When I refer to “percent correct” below, everything is relative to your own performance. If you answer 60% correctly but other categories are at 50%, then this category falls into “I get these right.” If you answer 60% correctly but other categories are at 70%, then this category falls into “I get these wrong.”

(2) The “too fast” and “too slow” designations are based on the timing benchmarks I gave you in the first part of this article series.

You generally want to place question types and topic areas into one of the following five groups.

Group 1. I get these right roughly within the expected timeframe

These are your strengths.

Definition: Your percent correct is at the higher end of your range* and your average time is neither way too fast nor way too slow.

Going forward, these areas are not high on your priority list, but there may still be things you can learn: faster ways to do the problem; ways to make educated guesses (so that you can use the thought process on harder problems of the same type); how to quickly recognize future problems of the same type.

Make sure that you actually knew what you were doing for each problem and didn’t just get lucky! Finally, you may want to move on to more advanced material in these areas. Read more

Analyzing Your Practice Tests, Part 3

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gre analysisWelcome to part 3 of the article series on analyzing your GRE practice tests. As we discussed in the first and second parts of this series, we’re basing the discussion on the metrics that are given in Manhattan Prep tests, but you can extrapolate to other tests that give you similar performance data. If you haven’t already read those, do so before you continue with this third part.

In the first part, we discussed how to assess the data provided in the “question list”—the list that shows the questions you received and how you performed on each one. In the second part, we began analyzing the data in our Assessment Reports. We’re going to continue with that task today.

Last time, we covered the first of five Assessment Reports that you can generate in the testing system. Today, we’ll cover the final four reports.

Quantitative by Question Format and Difficulty

The second report shows your quant performance by Question Format and Difficulty. You will already have some ideas about your performance from your initial analysis; now, you’re seeing whether this data confirms what you already suspect and whether you can pick up any additional nuance from this more detailed report.

In general, performance drops as questions get harder, so you would expect to have the highest accuracy on the Easier problems, dropping to your lowest accuracy on the Devilish problems. Check to see whether this trend holds or whether the data is surprising.

gre practice test data 1

Our pretend student generally followed this expected trend for Quant and QC questions: as the questions got harder, her average performance dropped. (We should really give her a name. Let’s call her… how about Cathy?) On the other hand, Cathy missed a couple of easier DI questions even though she answered harder DI questions correctly. Hmm! Maybe she made some careless mistakes on something she did know how to do, or maybe the questions tested something that she didn’t know but that she could learn without too much trouble. She’ll need to dig into the individual questions to find out, but it certainly looks like there’s a good opportunity here for her to pick up some points.

Do you see the one data point that really jumps out here? Cathy spent 8.5 minutes on a single DI question! Except for that, her DI timing was right on target. She needs to make sure she’s got a mechanism in place to cut herself off so that she NEVER takes anywhere near that much time on a single question again!

Other than that, this data tells us that what we already hypothesized earlier is likely on target.

(Note: there is also a “medium-low” difficulty category, but Cathy happened not to get any math questions in that group.)

Verbal by Question Format and Difficulty

Now do the same thing for verbal! (Note: some people prefer to do all of the quant analysis and then do all of the verbal analysis; feel free to do the analysis in whatever order makes the most sense to you.) Read more

Analyzing Your Practice Tests, Part 2

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gre practice

Welcome to part 2 of the process for analyzing your GRE practice tests. As we discussed in the first part of this series, we’re basing the discussion on the metrics that are given in Manhattan Prep tests, but you can extrapolate to other tests that give you similar performance data.

Last time, we discussed how to assess the data provided in the “question list”—the list that shows the questions you received and how you performed on each one. This week, we’re going to interpret the analysis given in the Assessment Reports.

When you log into your Manhattan Prep student center, you’ll be on the Exam Page. Click the link titled “Generate Assessment Reports.” Make sure all of the reports are checked and then choose your most recent (single) test. Finally, click “Generate.”

Assessment Summary

The first report produced is the Assessment Summary; this report summarizes your performance across accuracy, timing, and difficulty level.

The top half of the report shows the six main question types on the GRE. Take a look at this fictional example (you may need to zoom in to see the details below):

gre practice tests diagram 1

First, examine the three quant types (the first three rows). It’s important to look at the three categories of data (accuracy, timing, difficulty) collectively.

On Quant questions, the student has a decent percent correct but she’s rushing and the average difficulty level on correct answers is the lowest of the three categories. She might be able to improve her time by slowing down a little on these kinds of questions (and making fewer mistakes).

The student seems to be struggling a bit more on Quantitative Comparison (QC). This type is her lowest percent correct but she’s spending about the right amount of time (so that lower percent correct is not due to rushing). The difficulty levels are a little higher, so it’s logical that the percent correct would be a little lower—but she’s still struggling a bit more with QC.

It’s a bit surprising that incorrect QCs are slightly faster than correct QCs, given that the average difficulty level of incorrect QCs is so much higher than the average difficulty level of correct QCs. In general, harder questions should take longer. Either this student did a great job of recognizing that a question was too hard and appropriately cut herself off, or she rushed a bit too much and possibly cost herself some points. She would have to look at the individual questions to figure out why. Read more

Analyzing Your Practice Tests, Part 1

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measure your brain

The purpose of taking a practice test is two-fold:

(1) You’re testing yourself to see whether you’ve learned what you have been trying to learn.

(2) You’re diagnosing your strengths and weaknesses so that you can build a study plan going forward.

These articles are based on the Manhattan Prep tests, but you can extrapolate to other tests that give you similar performance data.

It takes about 60 minutes to do this analysis, not counting any time spent analyzing individual problems! Feel free to do this in stages spread out over an entire day or even several days. If your brain starts feeling tired and you realize that you’re just reading and not actually analyzing any longer, take a break. I’ve already split this article into four separate parts for you, so you can use those as your natural break points.

Getting Started

Here’s what I do when I review a student’s test (or tests)!

First, naturally, I look at the score. I also check whether the student did the essays (if she didn’t, I assume the score is a little inflated) and I ask the student whether she used the pause button, took extra time or longer breaks, or did anything else that wouldn’t be allowed under official testing guidelines. All of this gives me an idea of whether the student’s score might be a bit inflated.

Ask yourself these same questions!

Problem Lists

Next, take a look at the problem lists for the quant and verbal sections; the problem lists show each question, in order as it was given during the test, as well as various data about those questions, including whether you answered correctly or incorrectly, how hard the question was, and how much time you spent. Read more

The Math Beast Challenge Problem of the Week – October 28, 2013

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Math BeastEach week, we post a new GRE Challenge Problem for you to attempt. If you submit the correct answer, you will be entered into that week’s drawing for two free Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides.

If x is a positive integer and the first nonzero digit in the decimal expansion of  is in the hundredths place, what is the value of x?

 

Submit your pick over on our Challenge Problem page.

Turn Up the Volume & Get Ready to Study with Manhattan Prep

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Music can do a lot for us, but the word is still out on whether it can enhance our ability to stay focused and sharpen our memories during long study sessions. On the one hand, we have a report from the University of Toronto suggesting that fast and loud background music can hinder our performance on reading comprehension. On the other, there’s the recent
Music to help you study research from the digital music service, Spotify, and Clinical Psychologist Dr. Emma Gray, which proclaims that pop hits from artists like Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, and Miley Cyrus can actually enhance our cognitive abilities.

“Music has a positive effect on the mind, and listening to the right type of music can actually improve studying and learning,” says Dr. Gray. She even suggests that students who listen to music while studying can perform better than those who do not.

We also cannot leave out the so-called “Mozart Effect,” which alleges that listening to classical music provides short-term enhancement of mental tasks, like memorization. We’ve heard students swear by this tactic, while others say that silence is golden.
Read more

The Math Beast Challenge Problem of the Week – October 21, 2013

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Math BeastEach week, we post a new GRE Challenge Problem for you to attempt. If you submit the correct answer, you will be entered into that week’s drawing for two free Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides.

The outer figure above is a rectangle with four rounded corners of radius equal to 2.  The inner figure is a circle.

gre challenge

 

Submit your pick over on our Challenge Problem page.

Free GRE Events This Week: October 21- October 27

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Here are the free GRE events we’re holding this week (All times local unless otherwise specified):

free

10/22/13– Los Angeles, CA- Free Trial Class– 6:30PM – 9:30PM

10/22/13– New York, NY- Free Trial Class- 6:30PM – 9:30PM

Looking for more free events? Check out our Free Events Listing Page.

The Math Beast Challenge Problem of the Week – October 14, 2013

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Math BeastEach week, we post a new GRE Challenge Problem for you to attempt. If you submit the correct answer, you will be entered into that week’s drawing for two free Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides.

 

Xander, Yolanda, and Zelda each have at least one hat. Zelda has more hats than Yolanda, who has more than Xander. Together, the total number of hats the three people have is 12. If Zelda has no more than 5 hats more than Xander, which of the following could be the number of hats that Yolanda has?

 

See the answer choices and submit your pick over on our Challenge Problem page.

The GMAT vs. the GRE for Business School

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Many business schools now accept either the GRE or the GMAT, so students now have a decision to make: which test should you take? We’ve written on the topic before but this discussion deserves an update now that some changes to the GMAT are gaining more traction.
GMAT vs GRE Business SchoolBoth tests made some significant changes in the past couple of years. These changes were designed to make the test results more attractive to their customers—not you, but the business schools.

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 some admissions officers admit that they do think about this (strictly off the record, of course). Other admissions officers, though, have said this doesn’t matter to them at all.

Recently, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Bain & Co, a well-respected management consulting firm, is considering using Integrated Reasoning scores in its hiring process. Most banks and consulting firms already ask for the “regular” GMAT score when recruiting MBA candidates (and sometimes they even ask for your SAT scores!). If these companies begin to require IR, then someone who took the GRE could find themselves at a disadvantage during the hiring process—or even scrambling to take the GMAT during the second year of b-school while going through recruiting. Yikes!

So this question of whether to take the GMAT or the GRE has become a much more complicated calculus of a decision. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but here are some guidelines to consider as you figure out the right decision for you.

Your Performance

Do you actually exhibit a markedly different performance level on the two exams? Most people have pretty similar results.

To figure this out, you’re going to take two practice tests (one of each). Before you do that, learn about the different question formats on both exams.

GMAT

Quant: about half of the questions are your standard multiple choice. The other half are a weird type called Data Sufficiency. You’ll definitely want to learn how those work before you take a practice test (your next task).

Verbal: if you’ve ever taken a standardized test before, then you’ll be very familiar with Reading Comprehension questions. Critical Reasoning questions are similar, but much shorter, and the questions are more argument-based (how to strengthen or weaken a conclusion, for example). Sentence Correction questions require knowledge of grammar and meaning. You don’t need to study that yet, but you should just learn how the question type works.

In a nutshell, you’ll be given a sentence with a portion underlined. The first answer, (A), will repeat whatever was underlined. The other 4 answers will offer different variations for that underlined text. Only one is correct!

Essay: you don’t need to prep for this before your first practice test.

Integrated Reasoning: these questions combine math and verbal topics in four new question formats that you probably won’t have seen before. You’ll definitely want to investigate those a bit before your practice test, just to see how each one works. Here are some example problems: Read more