Articles published in July 2012

4 Common Types of Data Sufficiency Traps

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If the GMAT were a sport, it would definitely be baseball, and not just because it’s three and a half hours long. In baseball, you might dominate the minor league by hitting fastballs, but once you reach the show you’ll have to hit some change-ups and curveballs too. Not only is the GMAT going to throw you some hard problems, but once you start to do well, the GMAT will throw you something different. That’s why learning the types of trap answers can help you from falling for them. Here’s four types of curveballs that you want to be mindful of on test day.

Dreams Scene

If you test it, they will come.

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Challenge Problem Showdown – July 30th, 2012

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challenge problem

We invite you to test your GMAT knowledge for a chance to win! Each week, we will post a new Challenge Problem for you to attempt. If you submit the correct answer, you will be entered into that week’s drawing for a free Manhattan GMAT Prep item. Tell your friends to get out their scrap paper and start solving!

Here is this week’s problem:

In the country of Celebria, the Q-score of a politician is computed from the following formula:
Q = 41ab2c3/d2, in which the variables a, b, c, and d represent various perceived attributes of the politician, all of which are measured with positive numbers. Mayor Flower’s Q-score is 150% higher than that of Councilor Plant; moreover, the values of a, b, and c are 60% higher, 40% higher, and 20% lower, respectively, for Mayor Flower than for Councilor Plant. By approximately what percent higher or lower than the value of for Councilor Plant is the corresponding value for Mayor Flower?

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Everything You Need To Know About Time Management (Part 2)

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - Everything You Need to Know About Time Management (Part 2) by Stacey KoprinceDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


This is the original version of a piece that has since been updated. See Stacey’s latest series on GMAT time management.


In the first part of this series, we discussed time positions (positive, negative, and neutral) and addressed our first three major considerations for timing:

(1) understanding the scoring (and what implications that has for timing)

(2) per-question timing and tracking your work

(3) reflecting on your results so that you can improve

If you haven’t already read the first part, do so now before you continue with this article. Today, we’re going to talk about our final three major timing strategies. Read more

Everything You Need To Know About Time Management (Part 1)

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - Everything You Need to Know About Time Management - Part 1Did you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


This is the original version of a piece that has since been updated. See Stacey’s latest tips on GMAT time management.


I haven’t picked too ambitious a title there, have I? Let’s see how we do!

First, just a note: these two articles are long and have a lot of detail. You aren’t going to be able to remember everything and start incorporating it right away; instead, you’re going to keep coming back to this article as you get further into your studies. Bookmark this right now so that you can find it again easily in the future.

Time management is obviously an essential GMAT skill, and one of the (many!) skills we need for this test is the ability to maintain an appropriate time position. Time position refers to the relationship between the test taker’s position on the test (the question number) and the time that has elapsed to get to that point in the section.

For example, if I’ve just finished Quant question #5 and 15 minutes have elapsed so far, am I ahead, behind, or on time? Use this chart to help you decide:

Positive ahead of time (3 minutes ahead)
Neutral on time (+/- 3 minutes)
Negative behind on time (>3 minutes behind)

I would be behind on time because, on Quant, we’re expected to average about 2 minutes per question. After 5 questions, only 10 minutes should have elapsed—so I am 5 minutes behind, putting me in a negative time position.

It’s more common to find ourselves in the negative position and that really hurts our scoring chances. If we run out of time before completing the section, we’re going to incur a huge penalty because either we’ll answer a bunch of questions incorrectly in a row (random guessing just to finish on time) or we’ll leave questions blank (and that incurs an even higher penalty than the first scenario).

It can also be very problematic to be too far in the positive position, though. If you’re answering many or most questions way too quickly, then you’re also likely making a lot of careless mistakes, and that will kill your score by the end of the test.

Ideally, we’d like to remain neutral throughout the test, which means that we stay within two to three minutes of the expected time. Sometimes, though, we’re going to get off track. So how do we remain neutral as much as possible? And when we do get into a positive or negative position, how do we get back on track? That’s what we’re going to discuss in this series.

(1) Understand How the Scoring Works

If you don’t understand how the scoring works, you’re probably going to mess up your timing.

(A) Everyone gets a lot of questions wrong, no matter the scoring level; that’s just how the test works. Pretend you’re playing tennis. You don’t expect to win every point, right? That’d be silly. You just want to win more points than your opponent (the computer)!

(B) Getting an easier question wrong hurts your score more than getting a harder question wrong. In fact, the easier the question, relative to your overall score at that point, the more damage to your score if you get the question wrong. (Note: it is still very possible to get the score you want even if you make mistakes on a few of the easier questions.)

(C) Missing three or four questions in a row hurts your score more, on a per-question basis, than getting the same number of questions wrong but having them interspersed with correct answers. In other words, the effective per-question penalty actually increases as you have more questions wrong in a row. This, of course, is exactly what happens to someone who maintains a negative time position on the test; even if you notice and try to catch up toward the end, you’re likely to end up with a string of wrong answers in a row.

(D) The largest penalty of all is reserved for not finishing the test—another possible consequence of maintaining a negative time position.

(2) Know Your Per-Question Time Constraints and Track Your Work

When practicing GMAT-format problems, ALWAYS keep track of the time for each question, whether you are doing one problem at a time or a set of problems at once. (Note: GMAT-format means questions that are in the same format as one of the official GMAT question types. If you are doing other type of problems—say, math drills—you do not need to time yourself.)

Save this chart somewhere (don’t worry, you don’t need to memorize it now!).

Question Type Average timing Min and Max
Quant 2 minutes 1 minute; 2.5 minutes
Sentence Correction 1 minute 15 seconds 30 seconds; 2 minutes
Critical Reasoning 2 minutes 1 minute; 2.5 minutes
Reading Comp: Reading 2 to 3 minutes 1.5 minutes; 3.5 minutes
Reading Comp General Questions 1 minute 30 seconds; 1 minute 30 seconds
Reading Comp Specific Questions 1.5 minutes 45 seconds; 2 minutes
Integrated Reasoning 2.5 minutes 1 minute; 3 minutes

So what does that all mean? If we want to finish the section on time, then we have to hit the average expected timing. At the same time, averages are only averages—you’re going to have some faster questions and some slower ones. The Min and Max numbers reflect a different consideration. First, I want to make sure that I’m generally spending enough time on questions that I don’t make a bunch of careless mistakes simply due to speed. On the flip side, if I’m spending more than about 30 seconds above the expected average, the chances are very good that the question is just too hard for me (and, if that’s the case, I’ve already spent too much time!).

Keep a time log that reflects the time spent on EVERY problem. (Note: if you have access to Manhattan Prep’s GMAT Navigator tracking program, use it to time yourself and keep track of all of your data.) If you make your own log, it might look like a rough version of this:

Q Type Source Benchmark Time Spent Time Position
DS OG12 #43 2 min 2 min 10 sec -10
SC OG12 #62 1 min 15 sec 1 min +15
RC reading OG 12 passage #3 3 min 3 min 43 sec -43

On the Data Sufficiency question, the test taker had a negative 10 second position; on the Sentence Correction question, the test taker had a positive 15 second position, and so on. Group the question types together (so, instead of mixing types as the above chart does, keep one log for Data Sufficiency questions, a separate log for Sentence Correction questions, and so on). Highlight questions on which you fell outside of the Min / Max time range.

If you use GMAT Navigator, note that the timing data will be saved for you automatically, but you’ll still have to keep track of which questions fall outside of the Min / Max time range. Click on the Review Your Answers link to view a list of the problems, and record the too fast and too slow problems in a log of your own (or simply count them up to get a sense of where you are too fast or too slow).

(3) Reflect on Your Results

The log will make you aware of your pacing on a single-problem level, and will force you to consider the time as you work through a practice problem. Aggregate the data to determine those question types that are generally costing you time (a significantly negative time position overall) and those that are buying you time (a significantly positive time position overall). If you’re using GMAT Navigator, you can see this aggregate data on the Statistics tab (in Table or Graph format).

Next, note whether you’re getting the negative position questions right or wrong (across the various categories—for example, Rate problems or Modifier SCs). For those that you’re answering correctly, ask yourself: how can I become more efficient when answering questions of this type? For those that you’re answering incorrectly, the initial question is simply: how can I get this wrong faster? (I’m getting it wrong anyway—so if I can get it wrong faster, then at least I won’t be hurting myself on other questions in the same section.)

How do you get things wrong faster? Well, I’m exaggerating a little bit here, but what I really mean is: do NOT spend extra time on these questions (wrong and slow) no matter what. You may be able to learn how to make a decent educated guess—and you should certainly try! Longer term, you may then decide to study that particular area/topic more closely in order to try to get better.

Also notice those questions that are buying you time (a significantly positive time position overall). First, make sure that you are not making many careless mistakes with these; working quickly is never a positive thing if you sacrifice a question that you were capable of answering correctly. You may actually need to slow down on some of these in order to minimize your careless mistakes.

If you do find areas that are both highly accurate and very efficient, excellent; these are your strengths and you should be very aware of those while taking the test. For instance, if you discover that you’re in a negative time position, you should still take your normal amount of time to answer any strength questions; don’t sacrifice the ones you can answer correctly! Instead, make a random guess on the next weakness question that you see in order to get yourself back to a neutral position.

Okay, that’s all for today, but you aren’t done yet! Click here for part 2, where we’ll discuss developing your 1 minute sense, using benchmarks to track your time throughout a test section, and what to do if you find yourself too far ahead or behind during the test. 📝


Can’t get enough of Stacey’s GMAT mastery? Attend the first session of one of her upcoming GMAT courses absolutely free, no strings attached. Seriously. 


stacey-koprinceStacey Koprince is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Montreal, Canada and Los Angeles, California. Stacey has been teaching the GMAT, GRE, and LSAT  for more than 15 years and is one of the most well-known instructors in the industry. Stacey loves to teach and is absolutely fascinated by standardized tests. Check out Stacey’s upcoming GMAT courses here.

Challenge Problem Showdown – July 23rd, 2012

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challenge problem

We invite you to test your GMAT knowledge for a chance to win! Each week, we will post a new Challenge Problem for you to attempt. If you submit the correct answer, you will be entered into that week’s drawing for a free Manhattan GMAT Prep item. Tell your friends to get out their scrap paper and start solving!

Here is this week’s problem:

X is a three-digit positive integer in which each digit is either 1 or 2. Y has the same digits as X, but in reverse order. What is the remainder when X is divided by 3?

(1) The hundreds digit of XY is 6.
(2) The tens digit of XY is 4.

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Are You Taking Too Many Practice GMATs?

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My GMAT students are often surprised when I advise them not to take a practice test.

practice gmatI don’t advise this for every student on every occasion; there are some legitimate uses for practice tests. In general though, I find that my students take too many practice tests at the expense of other more beneficial forms of study for a given circumstance.

Think of the GMAT like a Mozart sonata. Let’s say you are a pianist, and you want to learn the sonata. Would you begin by playing the whole piece from start to finish? No, instead you would work in small sections. You would identify the sections that are easy, and you would work on those sections just enough to maintain your ability. Mainly, you would be concerned with the difficult sections of the piece, which you would practice slowly and intently. Not until you had mastered those sections would you move on.

After you have put in all that practice time, you want to make sure that you can maintain your ability within the context of the larger piece. That’s when you want to play the whole piece: when you want to check to see whether your prior work is ingrained or whether you forget it when you are distracted by the other demands of the piece.

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Flaw Questions on GMAT Critical Reasoning

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gmat art

We’ve talked about various types of Assumption Family questions in the past (find the assumption, strengthen, weaken, and evaluate the conclusion), but we haven’t yet tackled a Flaw question. This is the least frequently tested of the 5 Assumption Family question types, so you can ignore this type if you aren’t looking for an extra-high score. If you do want an 85th+ percentile verbal score, though, then you have to make sure you know how to tackle Flaw questions.

If you haven’t yet, read this article before we try our GMATPrep problem. Then set your timer for 2 minutes and go!

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GMAT Lessons from Detective Shows

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When not providing insight into the fascinating world of the GMAT, I enjoy watching detective shows on television.  In many episodes, one of the detectives must delve into the mind of the perpetrator “ actually try to think as the perpetrator does.   In so doing, the seemingly random clues come together (often via a slow motion or black and white flashback scene) leading to an insight that breaks the case.

gmat detectiveI am going to advocate taking on this television detective mentality in approaching GMAT problems.  Perhaps there is a further parallel as the mind of the GMAT question writer may seem to be just as scary a place as the mind of a criminal. But the ability to think like a GMAT test writer can provide multiple benefits including enabling you to get more questions right and allowing you to have more confidence in your answers.

So let’s try think about three lessons we can take from our favorite crime dramas and apply to the GMAT.

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Challenge Problem Showdown – July 16th, 2012

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challenge problem

We invite you to test your GMAT knowledge for a chance to win! Each week, we will post a new Challenge Problem for you to attempt. If you submit the correct answer, you will be entered into that week’s drawing for a free Manhattan GMAT Prep item. Tell your friends to get out their scrap paper and start solving!

Here is this week’s problem:

A decade is defined as a complete set of consecutive nonnegative integers that have identical digits in identical places, except for their units digits, with the first decade consisting of the smallest integers that meet the criteria, the second decade consisting of the next smallest integers, etc. A decade in which the prime numbers contain the same set of units digits as do the prime numbers in the second decade is the

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The Most Important GMAT Question I Ever Studied

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gmat slothEvery Manhattan instructor is probably able to fondly recall the Official Guide book that they used to ace their GMAT. Or at least that’s what I would have used to say. Now I know that every Manhattan instructor is probably able to fondly recall the Official Guide book that he or she used to ace his or her GMAT. For me it was the school bus-yellow 11th edition that included the most important question I ever studied. If you have the 12th edition of the Official Guide, it’s question #124. The answer choices on this question began with the following split:

sloths hang from trees…

vs

the sloth hangs from trees…

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