Articles published in February 2014

GMAT Quant: Reflect before you Work


gmat-quantStop! Before you dive in and start calculating on a math problem, reflect for a moment. How can you set up the work to minimize the number of annoying calculations?

Try the below Percent problem from the free question set that comes with your GMATPrep® software. The problem itself isn’t super hard but the calculations can become time-consuming. If you find the problem easy, don’t dismiss it. Instead, ask yourself: how can you get to the answer with an absolute minimum of annoying calculations?



Number of Votes

Percent of Votes for Candidate P

Percent of Votes for Candidate Q






















* ” The table above shows the results of a recent school board election in which the candidate with the higher total number of votes from the five districts was declared the winner. Which district had the greatest number of votes for the winner?

“(A) 1

“(B) 2

“(C) 3

“(D) 4

“(E) 5”


Ugh. We have to figure out what they’re talking about in the first place!

The first sentence of the problem describes the table. It shows 5 different districts with a number of votes, a percentage of votes for one candidate and a percentage of votes for a different candidate.

Hmm. So there were two candidates, P and Q, and the one who won the election received the most votes overall. The problem doesn’t say who that was. I could calculate that from the given data, but I’m not going to do so now! I’m only going to do that if I have to.

Let’s see. The problem then asks which district had the greatest number of votes for the winner. Ugh. I am going to have to figure out whether P or Q won. Let your annoyance guide you: is there a way to tell who won without actually calculating all the votes?

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MBA Rankings by Access MBA


mba-access-mba-rankingsThere’s hardly anything more talked about in the MBA world than rankings. They generate hype, debate, sometimes even controversy, and are one of the important criteria on which prospective MBA candidates base their school selection.

Academia has a vested interest in rankings, which serve to determine the popularity and appeal of particular business schools. The media, on the other hand, are highly motivated to play an important role in the rankings, and their stamp of approval for various institutions and programs has made them key players in the MBA world.

Each one of the reputable rankings contains an enormous amount of useful information that can guide you towards the right B-schools. Having doubts whether you would be able to pay back your student loans? Just check the ROI of the ranked schools in your preferred region of study. Not sure if prospective employers prefer a certain school over its competitors? Check the corporate recruiters’ statistics that indicate the most desired MBA degrees.

Once you start to research potential MBA programs, you can find respected sources on literally every topic relating to business education. These include but are not limited to classic rankings, statistical data, and interpretative articles on current affairs in the business education world. However, keep in mind that your MBA program selection should not only be based on these factors. Take into consideration the specifics of your own profile, application package and post-graduation expectations. Meeting an Admissions Director to get first-hand information about the personality of their B-school and how it matches with your own is always a good idea. Organizations such as Access MBA provide that opportunity during their One-to-One MBA events (soon to take place in New York, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver).
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What do you want to get wrong on the GMAT?


gmat-test-prepRight now, you might be thinking, “Wait, what? I don’t actively want to get stuff wrong!”

In fact, yes, you do. Let me take you on what might seem like a tangent for a moment.

Would you agree that one of the marks of a strong business person is the ability to tell the difference between good opportunities and bad ones? And the ability to capitalize on those good opportunities while letting the bad ones go?

Yes, of course—that’s a basic definition of business. What does that have to do with the GMAT?

The GMAT is a test of your business skills. They don’t really care how great you are with geometry or whether you know every obscure grammar rule in the book. They care whether you can distinguish between good and bad opportunities and whether you can drop the bad ones without a backward glance.

If you want to maximize your score on the GMAT, then you will have a short-list of topics that you want to get wrong fast on the test. My top three in math are combinatorics, 3-D geometry, and anything with roman numerals.

How do you decide what your categories should be? Let’s talk.

But I don’t really want to get stuff wrong… that’s just a metaphor, right?

No, it’s not a metaphor. I really want you to plan how and what you’re going to get wrong! If you haven’t already, read my post about what the GMAT really tests. (You can go ahead and read it right now; I’ll wait.)

In a nutshell, the GMAT is set up to force us to get some of the questions wrong. No matter what you can do, they’ll just give you something harder.

Ultimately, they want to see whether you have the makings of a good business person. One way to test that is to force you into a situation where your choice is between spending extra time and mental energy on something that’s too hard—likely causing yourself to run out of time and energy before the test is over—and cutting yourself off when appropriate.

How do I cut myself off?

First of all, put yourself in this mindset:

You’re at the office, working on a group project.

A colleague of yours is the project manager.

The manager annoys you because he (or she) keeps assigning too many tasks, some of which are not all that important.

Sometimes, you’re rolling your eyes when your colleague tosses a certain piece of work at you; you’re thinking, “Seriously, the client meeting is in 3 days. This is NOT the best use of our remaining time.”

Got that? Okay, now during the test, put yourself in that mindset. The test itself is your annoying colleague. When he drops a roman numeral question in your lap, or a 4-line sentence correction with every last word underlined, you’re already rolling your eyes and thinking, “Are you serious? Come on.”

Here’s the key step: let yourself get just a little annoyed—but with the test, not yourself. You’re not feeling badly that you don’t like the problem; you don’t feel as though you’re falling short. No way! Instead, your colleague is trying to get you to do something that is clearly a waste of time. Roll your eyes. To appease your colleague, figure out whether there’s enough here for you to make an educated guess. Then pick something and move on to more important tasks.

How do I know when to cut myself off?

Quick: name your top three annoyances in quant. Now do the same in verbal. Here’s another one of mine: an RC detail EXCEPT question on a really technical topic with very long answer choices. (In other words, I have to find the four wrong answers in order to find the one right answer… and the topic area is very long and annoying.)

That’s your starting point: you already know you dread these areas. Back this up with data: make sure that these really are the worst ones for you. “Worst” is defined as “I rarely get these right and even when I do, I still use too much time and brain energy.”

Next, check to see how commonly tested the particular topic or question type is. You can’t afford to blow off algebra—that’s too broad a topic. You can, though, blow off sequences.

For some topics, you do want to try to be able to answer lower-level questions. For instance, if one of my students just hates polygons (triangles, squares, rectangles), he has my blessing to blow off harder questions—the ones that combine shapes, for example, or that move into the 3-D arena. He does need to learn the more basic formulas, though, so that he isn’t missing too many lower-level questions.

Your particular mix of pet peeves will almost certainly change over time. Initially, I had some other things at the top of my list, such as weighted averages. Then, I discovered a much better way to do those problems, so 3-D geometry took its place.

Some topics, though, will always be weaknesses. I’ve never liked combinatorics and doubt I ever will. That’s perfectly fine, particularly when the topic is not that commonly tested anyway!

Sound off in the comments below: what areas do you hate the most? Your new strategy is to get those wrong fast and redirect that time and mental energy elsewhere!

4 Steps to Get the Most out of your CATs (part 2)


Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - 4 Steps to Get the Most Out of Your CATs (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.

Last week, we talked about the first two elements of getting the most out of your CATs.

#1: How NOT to use your practice CATs

#2: How to analyze your strengths and weaknesses with respect to timing

This week, we’re going to dive even further into strengths and weaknesses using the Assessment Reports.

#3: Run the reports.

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4 Steps to Get the Most Out of Your CATs (Part 1)


Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - 4 Steps to Get the Most Out of Your CATs 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 series has since been updated. You can read the updated version here!

How many GMAT practice tests (CATs) have you taken so far? Are you satisfied—or frustrated—with your progress?

One of the biggest mistakes I see students make is also relatively easy to fix: they don’t learn what they should be learning from their practice tests. This is exactly what we’re going to talk about today. Read more

Andrew Yang: “Smart People Should Build Things” Excerpt 6


Below is an excerpt from Andrew Yang‘s new book, Smart People Should Build Things: How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America, which comes out in February 2014. Andrew was named Managing Director of Manhattan GMAT in 2006, Chief Executive Officer in 2007, and President in 2010. He left Manhattan GMAT in 2010 to start Venture for America, where he now serves as Founder and CEO. 

smart peopleThe Qualities We Need.  

A friend told me about a young Princeton graduate she knew named Cole. Cole studied mathematics and went to work for a hedge fund directly out of school. He’s now making well into six figures at the age of twenty-four. That’s his whole story to date.

That’s success and the American way. And yet how excited are you about Cole’s trajectory? Think about it for a second. I’ll admit that I’m not too psyched about it, even though I have friends at hedge funds who are very intelligent, stand-up guys and even philanthropists, and I know that hedge funds are positive in that they provide diversified investment opportunities to large pools of capital.

My lack of enthusiasm comes down to a few things. If Cole successfully analyzes an opportunity for the hedge fund and it invests slightly more effectively, that will be a win for the fund’s managers and its investors. But there will very likely be an equivalent loss on the other side of the investment (whoever sold it to them makes out slightly less well for having undervalued the asset). It’s not clear what the macroeconomic benefit is, unless you either favor the hedge fund’s investors over others or have a very abstract view toward capital markets working efficiently.

Cole is almost certainly very smart. But what has he done to merit his almost immediately elevated stature in life? He’s never hazarded anything. He hasn’t demonstrated any outstanding character or virtue, unless you consider studying math and being really smart intrinsically virtuous. He’s never had to go against the grain or go out on a limb. His rewards seem a little bit exaggerated for his accomplishments.
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Advanced Critical Reasoning, Part 3: Strike a P.O.S.E.


gmat-Advanced-Critical-ReasoningMy last two articles (part 1 and part 2) gave you some advanced tools to analyze deductive reasoning. Now it’s time to dive into the wonderful world of inductive reasoning, which appears much more often, especially in the following GMAT question types:

• Assumption
• Strengthen
• Weaken
• Evaluate
• Fill in the blank
• Identify the role
• Identify the overall reasoning
• Identify the conclusion
• Mimic the reasoning (sometimes)

According to Wikipedia:

“Inductive reasoning (as opposed to deductive reasoning) is reasoning in which the premises seek to supply strong evidence for (not absolute proof of) the truth of the conclusion. While the conclusion of a deductive argument is supposed to be certain, the truth of an inductive argument is supposed to be probable, based upon the evidence given.”

Therefore, in inductive arguments, conclusions are a matter of opinion, some more strongly supported than others.

Beyond the basics: P.O.S.E.

First, from class and your own study, you should be able to DECONSTRUCT arguments–in other words, identify the background, conclusion, premises, counterpoint, and counter premises of all inductive arguments. Our books cover that skill thoroughly if you need more work.

Next, you should learn to categorize each conclusion by type.

Fortunately, the GMAT uses only a few basic argument patterns, with similar assumptions and a limited number of ways to strengthen or weaken those assumptions. If you can spot and name those patterns, you’re well on your way to drastically improving your CR score.
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3 Steps to Better Geometry


GMAT-geometryA couple of months ago, we talked about what to do when a geometry problem pops up on the screen. Do you remember the basic steps? Try to implement them on the below GMATPrep® problem from the free tests.

* ”In the xy-plane, what is the y-intercept of line L?

“(1) The slope of line L is 3 times its y-intercept
“(2) The x-intercept of line L is – 1/3”

My title (3 Steps to Better Geometry) is doing double-duty. First, here’s the general 3-step process for any quant problem, geometry included:

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 12.13.43 PM

All geometry problems also have three standard strategies that fit into that process.

First, pick up your pen and start drawing! If they give you a diagram, redraw it on your scrap paper. If they don’t (as in the above problem), draw yourself a diagram anyway. This is part of your Glance-Read-Jot step.

Second, identify the “wanted” element and mark this element on your diagram. You’ll do this as part of the Glance-Read-Jot step, but do it last so that it leads you into the Reflect-Organize stage. Where am I trying to go? How can I get there?

Third, start Working! Infer from the given information. Geometry on the GMAT can be a bit like the proofs that we learned to do in high school. You’re given a couple of pieces of info to start and you have to figure out the 4 or 5 steps that will get you over to the answer, or what you’re trying to “prove.”

Let’s dive into this problem. They’re talking about a coordinate plane, so you know the first step: draw a coordinate plane on your scrap paper. The question indicates that there’s a line L, but you don’t know anything else about it, so you can’t actually draw it. You do know, though, that they want to know the y-intercept. What does that mean?

They want to know where line L crosses the y-axis. What are the possibilities?

Infinite, really. The line could slant up or down or it could be horizontal. In any of those cases, it could cross anywhere. In fact, the line could even be vertical, in which case it would either be right on the y-axis or it wouldn’t cross the y-axis at all. Hmm.
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My last article discussed the difference between inductive and deductive arguments. Today’s article will focus mostly on the rules of deductive arguments. I promise to nerd out on inductive reasoning in later articles.

Here’s a quick quiz on the difference between inductive and deductive logic: //

To review: In a deductively “valid” argument, if all the premises are true, the conclusion must also be true, with 100% certainty. Luckily, on the GMAT, we should usually act as if the premises of an argument are true, especially when the question specifies, “the statements above are true.”

Deductive reasoning shows up most often on inference (aka “draw a conclusion”) questions and “mimic the reasoning” questions, but it often appears on other types of questions, and even on reading comprehension!

On inference questions, the correct answer will usually be deductively valid (or very very strong, inductively). An incorrect answer will be deductively invalid, with some significant probability that it could be false.

What follows are most of the formal rules of deductive reasoning (from a stack of logic textbooks I have on my shelf), with examples from the GMAT. For shorthand, I’ll label the arguments with a “P” for premise and a “C” for conclusion:

P) premise
P) premise
C) conclusion

Remember: these are not the same kind of conclusions (opinions) you’ll see on strengthen and weaken questions. Deductive conclusions are deductively “valid” facts that you can derive with 100% certainty from given premises.

EASY STUFF: Simplification/conjunction (“and” statements)

This is kind of a “duh” conclusion, but here goes: If two things are linked with an “and,” then you know each of them exist. Conversely, if two things exist, you can link them with an “and.”


P) A and B
C) Therefore, A


P) A
P) B
C) Therefore, A and B

P) Bill is tall and was born in Texas.
P) Bill rides a motorcycle.
C) Therefore, Bill was born in Texas (simplification).
C) Therefore, at least one tall person named Bill was born in Texas and rides a motorcycle (conjunction).

CAUTION: Fallacies ahead!!

Don’t confuse “and” with “or.” (More about this later.) More importantly, don’t confuse “and” with causality, condition, or representativeness. Bill’s tallness probably has nothing to do with Texas, so keep an eye out for wrong answers that say, “Bill is tall because he was born in Texas” or “Most people from Texas ride motorcycles.”

MEDIUM STUFF: Disjunctive syllogism (“or” statements)

With “or” statements, if one thing is missing, the other must be true.

Valid conclusions:

P) A or B
P) not B (shorthand: ~B)
C) Therefore, A

P) We will go to the truck rally or to a Shakespeare play
P) We won’t go to the Shakespeare play.
C) Therefore, we will go to the truck rally.

CAUTION: Fallacies ahead!!

Unlike in the real world, “or” statements do not always imply mutual exclusivity, unless the argument explicitly says so. For example, in the above arguments, A and B might both be true; we might go to a play and go to the movies. Yes, really. A wrong answer might say “We went to a play, so we won’t go to the movies.” This error is called “affirming the disjunct.”


P) A or B
P) B
C) Not A

GMAT example:

To see this in action, check out your The Official Guide for GMAT Review 13th Edition, by GMAC®*, question 41. This argument opens with an implied “or” statement:

“Installing scrubbers in smokestacks and switching to cleaner-burning fuel are the two methods available to Northern Power…”

The author here incorrectly assumes that by using one method, Northern Power can’t use both methods at the same time. Question 51 does the same thing; discuss it in the comments below?

TOUGH STUFF: Fun with conditional statements

This is important! Keep a sharp eye out for statements that can be expressed conditionally and practice diagramming them. Look for key words such as “if,” “when,” “only,” and “require.”

I use the symbol “–>” to express an if/then relationship, and a “~” to express the word “not.” Use single letters or abbreviations to stand in for your elements.
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Andrew Yang: “Smart People Should Build Things” Excerpt 5


Below is an excerpt from Andrew Yang‘s new book, Smart People Should Build Things: How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America, which comes out in February 2014. Andrew was named Managing Director of Manhattan GMAT in 2006, Chief Executive Officer in 2007, and President in 2010. He left Manhattan GMAT in 2010 to start Venture for America, where he now serves as Founder and CEO. 

smart peopleEntrepreneurship Isn’t About Creativity.  

There is a common and persistent belief out there that entrepreneurship is about creativity, that it’s about having a great idea. But it’s not, really. Entrepreneurship isn’t about creativity. It’s about organization building—which, in turn, is about people.

I sometimes compare starting a business to having a child. You have a moment of profound inspiration, followed by months of thankless hard work and waking up in the middle of the night. People focus way too much on the inspiration, but, like conception, having a good idea isn’t much of an accomplishment. You need the action and follow-through, which involves the right people, know-how, money, resources, and years of hard work.

I learned this the hard way. Here’s a list of things you can reasonably do on the side as you’re working a full-time job to explore an idea for a great new business:

1. Research your idea (figure out the market, talk to prospective customers about what they would like, see who your competitors are, and so forth).

2. Undertake legal incorporation and trademark protection (the latter when necessary; most companies don’t need a trademark at first).

3. Claim a web URL and build a website or have it built; get company e-mail accounts.

4. Get a bank account and credit card (you’ll generally have to use personal credit at first).

5. Initiate a Facebook page, a blog, and a Twitter account if appropriate.

6. Develop branding (e.g., get a logo designed, print business cards).

7. Talk it up to your network; try to find interested parties as cofounders, staff, investors, and advisers.

8. Build financial projections and draft a business plan (if necessary).

9. Engage in personal financial planning (e.g., cut back on expenses, budget for startup costs, and so on.)

10. Create a mock prototype and presentation for potential investors or customers.

If all of this sounds like a lot of work to do before you’ve even really gotten started, you’re right. Getting this stuff done while holding down a job would be a significant commitment. You might not have time to hang out with friends and family and do the things people like to do when they’re not at work.  It is doable, though; I’ve seen it done or done it myself.

You’re just getting started. There’s a big jump in difficulty when it comes to the next things:

1. Raise money. In my experience, fledgling entrepreneurs focus way too much on the money—you can get most things done and figure out a lot without spending much. That said, most businesses require money to launch and get off the ground. For example, the average restaurant costs about $275,000 in construction and startup costs.  Finding initial funds is the primary barrier most entrepreneurs face. Many people don’t have three or six months’ worth of savings to free themselves up to do months of unpaid legwork.

2. Develop the product. Product development is a significant endeavor. Even if you’re hiring someone to build your product, managing them to specifications is a huge task in itself. You can expect vendors to take twice as long and cost twice as much as you’ve planned for. Think of the last home improvement project you paid a contractor for; most experiences are like that. Depending on the product, you may need to travel to find the right ingredients, partners, and suppliers. This phase might require raising additional money as well. In some cases, you might want to patent your product, which will involve a patent search and thousands of dollars in patent attorney fees.
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