Articles published in March 2009

Don’t Let The GMAT Get You Down


The GMAT, like many things in life, is a stressful experience. We arrive and we’re handed a bunch of legal information that we have to read and sign. We have to empty our pockets and put everything in a locker, evoking feelings similar to going through airport security. A digital photo and a digital fingerprint or palm scan are taken. Every time we enter or leave the testing room, the digital fingerprint or palm scan is repeated. Oh, and then, the outcome of the next four hours could have a major impact on the success (or not…) of our business school applications.

It’s no wonder that, by the time the exam begins, we’re seriously jittery. But is there really anything we can do about that?

Carrie Shuchart, ManhattanGMAT instructor extraordinaire, thinks so and she recently wrote the article “Managing GMAT Stress: 7 Useful Tips” to share her great strategies with us (click on the title to read the article).

You may also be interested in this older article, “Stress Management,” which discusses some physical relaxation techniques that can help to reduce stress.

7 Tips for Managing GMAT Stress


It’s an oft-quoted fact that the most common fear in this country is of public speaking. There you are, standing in front of a crowd, palms sweating, heart racing, voice cracking and every visible part of your body shaking. No wonder more Americans fear this scenario than fear flying, spiders, or (my personal phobia) snakes. The conventional wisdom for battling stage fright is to imagine your audience in their underwear…or better yet, naked.

Unfortunately for GMAT test-takers with anxiety, hardly any relief comes from imagining Jane, who is running at a rate of five miles/hour from the east, and Dick, who is walking at a rate of three miles/hour from the west, in their skivvies. So how do you battle those test-day butterflies (and the sleepless nights that proceed them)? Why, with the following seven steps!

Read more

12th Edition of the Official Guide for GMAT Review


GMAC has publicly released the long awaited 12th Edition of the Official Guide for GMAT Review! The beloved big orange 11th Edition is being replaced by the same-size maroon 12th Edition.

Here at Manhattan GMAT, we heartily recommend all GMAC materials for students. Indeed, students receive all of the Official Guides when they sign up for any course. So the relevant question for most students is really, “If I already own the 11th Edition, should I run out (or go online) and get a new copy of the 12th Edition?”

And the answer is a decided “Yes, with reservations.”

First of all, if you own the 11th Edition, you already own 67% of the 12th Edition. Of the 907 problems, 607 are repeated from the 11th Edition. Indeed, the entire Diagnostic Text is identical. So you’re looking at 300 new problems.

Second, it is not the case that these 300 new problems break any substantial new ground in terms of question formats or tested material. They don’t. Often, they actually are substituted in place of VERY similar problems in the 11th edition that tested the exact same concepts.

Third, you might even have seen some of these 300 problems before, as some of them were already public via GMAC’s GMAT Focus tests.

All of that said, we always advocate that there’s nothing like the real thing. So if you don’t own the 11th edition, we’d say without hesitation that you should order the 12th edition ASAP (Note: All GMAC materials can be applied for book credit for any MGMAT course). The 12th edition does have a body of new data sufficiency questions (as DS questions are included in a higher proportion than was the case in the 11th). And even if you do own the 11th edition, 300 real GMAT problems for $36.95 (or less) is a pretty outstanding value.

For those of you of a statistical bent, we have posted a VERY thorough analysis of the differences between the 11th and 12th Editions here, right down to the granular problem level. We are very particular about our GMAT prep materials here at MGMAT. 🙂

Manhattan GMAT Flash Cards now available


Here at Manhattan GMAT, we’ve had a long and involved history with flash cards, or at least the idea of them.

On one hand, many students seemed to enjoy and benefit from practicing with flash cards. Indeed several of our Instructors have recommended using flash cards to their tutoring students for years.

However, the same Instructors recommended that the student construct his/her own flash cards, in order to facilitate both learning and prioritization. There was a concern that providing our own flash cards might channel students down the wrong paths, toward memorization as opposed to learning problem-solving techniques. Also, students would naturally think that whatever was on the flash cards was what they should know – we feared that providing flash cards might even wind up wasting students’ time on topics that weren’t useful for the individual.

So we decided to be both more and less ambitious with our brand new GMAT Flash Cards, which are now available for free. These Flash Cards are intended to give each student a tool to keep his/her GMAT ‘muscles’ sharp. They also can be very useful to give a student at the beginning of his or her studies a broad sense of some of the topics that the GMAT will test. Last, we did our best to make the Flash Cards less about rote memorization, and more about thinking and applying certain principles. The problems are generally not calculation-intensive; our goal was to make each card pass “the Subway Test” – a student should be able to complete the Flash Card while just looking at the card on the subway, without pen and paper.

The MGMAT Flash Cards are NOT exhaustive in terms of topics. Indeed, there aren’t even any Flash Cards for Critical Reasoning or Reading Comprehension, as those content areas don’t readily lend themselves to the format. Please do regard the MGMAT Flash Cards as a potentially useful supplementary or introductory tool, but not as a replacement for real studying! And if you find them helpful, you should seriously consider making your own flash cards consisting of problems you didn’t get right the 1st time or concepts you struggle with. It may be labor-intensive, but that’s the kind of individual work that’s virtually guaranteed to pay off.

Happy studying!

How the GMAT is like tennis


That must be a typo, right? The GMAT isn’t anything like tennis. I don’t need to know the Pythagorean Theorem to play tennis. And when I take the GMAT, I’m not even allowed to stand up, let alone run around the room. So what is the title of this post talking about?

When I take the GMAT, I pretend that I’m playing tennis. I do not pretend that I’m taking a final exam.

When I was in college, I did as much work as I could on every problem to try to make sure that I got everything right. I could afford to spend that time because college exams didn’t have the kinds of time constraints that we have on standardized tests. I didn’t have to make any “tradeoff” decisions between problems. I also expected to be able to answer every question (or almost every question) correctly, and the professors expected that those students who had studied adequately would also be able to answer all or most of the questions.

But the GMAT doesn’t work that way. The more time I spend on the current problem, the less time I’m going to have on the remaining problems in this section, and there’s a penalty if I don’t finish or get a lot wrong in a row. Further, because of the way the test is scored, I am not going to get all or even almost all of the questions right. In fact, except at the highest and lowest scoring levels, people only get about 60% of the questions right – even for a 700!

So, rather than think of the GMAT as a school test, I think of it as a tennis match. Here’s how the two are similar:

* GT = GMAT Translation

In a tennis match, my goal is to win the last point, because that means I’ll also win the match. (GMAT Translation: I have to put myself into the best position to “win the last point” – though I won’t necessarily get that last question right. I might get it wrong. I just need to make sure I give myself a shot at getting it right.)

Now, I don’t want to imply that I should rush through the middle of the test just to make sure I can answer that last one. Clearly, if I lose too many points in the middle of the tennis match, well, that will be the end of the match right there. (GT: I need to move steadily through the test and address each question for an appropriate amount of time. I need to give myself a decent shot at every question.)

At the same time, I remember that I’m going to win some points and I’m going to lose some points. Hopefully, I win a few more than I lose, but I’m definitely not going to win all of the points. (GT: I’m going to get a lot of questions wrong… but I can still win the match!)

When my opponent takes control of the point and starts running me side to side, tiring me out (GT: I get a question that’s too hard for me), I make a strategic choice. I give myself one last shot to try to hit a winner (GT: I make an educated guess). If my opponent wins the point, I applaud (“Nice shot!”), forget about that point, and gear up for the next one. (GT: I let it go. I don’t want to get bogged down thinking about that one question because then I’m going to be too distracted to concentrate on the next one. Instead, I remind myself that I don’t need to win every point in order to win the match.)

If you’ve been struggling with timing, switch up your mindset and “play tennis” with the GMAT on your next practice test. This could be just the thing to help you get past the “I must get everything right” mindset!

Another iron law of studying for the GMAT


On our forums, there’s been a recent spate of posts in which well-meaning users have posted official problems from GMATPrep—usually sentence correction problems—and then questioned or decried the construction of the correct answer choices.

“Is X really allowed? Isn’t it supposed to be Y?”

Some of these posters have actually gone to the trouble of looking up the disputed constructions in sundry reference works, including dictionaries and style guides, to try to find ammunition with which to attack the officially correct answer.

Never forget the following iron law:
On official problems, CORRECT ANSWERS ARE CORRECT, in every possible way.

This fact may sound obvious, but many students don’t realize its full consequences: namely, that every grammatical construction found in a correct answer to an official SC problem is officially valid, that every idiomatic expression in such an answer is correct, and that every word choice in such an answer is appropriate.
ALL of them.

This is an inviolable fact. Remember that the GMAT is a dictatorship, a consensus of one: only GMAC ultimately makes the decisions about which grammatical and idiomatic constructions are acceptable and which aren’t. We’re all playing on GMAC’s playground, and GMAC makes the rules.

What this means for you, the student, is that it’s a complete waste of time for you to question any official answer to a problem published by GMAC. Indeed, the only appropriate response to a correct answer that you find surprising, illogical, or “ugly” is this:
“Wow, that’s unusual. I guess I’ll have to recalibrate the way I think about that, because now I know I can do _____.”
Again, this is the ONLY way to respond to surprising constructions, solutions, and so on in officially correct answers. If you respond by questioning or doubting the validity of such answers, or, worse yet, actively trying to dispute that validity, then you are at best sidelining your studies with needless detours, and at worst confusing yourself.

On official problems, correct answers are correct.
That’s it.

There may be answers that you don’t like—I, for one, have been positively disgusted by a few of the officially correct SC answers I’ve seen—but you’ve got to learn to play by GMAC’s rules.