So you’ve been told over and over that guessing is an important part of the GMAT. But knowing you’re supposed to guess and knowing when you’re supposed to guess are two very different things. Here are a few guidelines for how to decide when to guess.
But first, know that there are two kinds of guesses: random guesses and educated guesses. Both have their place on the GMAT. Random guesses are best for the questions that are so tough, that you don’t even know where to get started. Educated guesses, on the other hand, are useful when you’ve made at least some progress, but aren’t going to get all the way to an answer in time.
Here are a few different scenarios that should end in a guess.
Scenario 1: I’ve read the question twice, and I have no idea what it’s asking.
This one is pretty straightforward. Don’t worry about whether the question is objectively easy or difficult. If it’s too hard for you, it’s not worth doing. In fact, it’s so not worth doing that it’s not even worth your time narrowing down answer choices to make an educated guess. In fact, if it’s that difficult, it may even be better for you to get it wrong!
To make the most of your random guesses, you should use the same answer choice every time. The difference is slight, but it does up your odds of getting some of these random guess right.
Scenario 2: I had a plan, but I hit a wall.
Often, when this happens, you haven’t yet spent 2 minutes on the problem. So why guess? Maybe now you have a better plan for how to get to the answer. I know this is hard to hear, but don’t do it! To stay on pace for the entire section, you have to stay disciplined and that means that you only have one chance to get each question right.
The good news is that no 1 question you get wrong will kill your score. But, 1 question can really hurt your score if you spend too long on it! Once you realize that your plan didn’t work, it’s time to make an educated guess. You’ve already spent more than a minute on this question (hopefully not more than 2!), and you probably have some sense of which answers are more likely to be right. Take another 15 seconds (no more!) and make your best educated guess.
Scenario 3: I got an answer, but it doesn’t match any of the answer choices.
This is another painful one, but it’s an almost identical situation to Scenario 2. It means you either made a calculation error somewhere along the way, or you set the problem up incorrectly to begin with. In an untimed setting, both of these problems would have the same solution: go back over your work and find the mistake. On the GMAT, however, that process is too time-consuming. Plus, even once you find your mistake, you still have to redo all the work!
Once again, though it might hurt, it’s still in your best interest to let the question go. If you can narrow down the answer choices, great (though don’t spend longer than 15 or 20 seconds doing so). If not, don’t worry about it. Just make a random guess and vow to be more careful on the next one (and all the rest after that!).
Scenario 4: I checked my pacing chart and I’m more than 2 minutes behind.
Pacing problems are best dealt with early. If you’re more than 2 minutes behind, don’t wait until another 5 questions have passed and you realize you’re 5 minutes behind. At this point, you want to find a question in the next 5 that you can guess randomly on. The quicker you can identify a good candidate to skip, the more time you can make up.
This is another scenario where random guessing is best. Educated guessing takes time, and we’re trying to save as much time as possible. Look for questions that take a long time to read, or that deal with topics you’re not as strong in, but most importantly, just make the decision and pick up the time.
Remember, this test is not like high school exams; it’s not designed to have every question answered. This test is about consistency on questions you know how to do. Knowing when to get out of a question is one of the most fundamental parts of a good score. The better you are at limiting time spent on really difficult questions, the more time you have to answer questions you know how to do.
Do you promote positive social change? Do you work for a non-profit? Manhattan Prep is offering special full tuition scholarships for up to 16 individuals per year (4 per quarter) who will be selected as part of Manhattan GMAT’s Social Venture Scholars program. SVS program provides selected scholars with free admission into one of Manhattan GMAT’s live online Complete Courses (a $1290 value).
These competitive scholarships are offered to individuals who (1) currently work full-time in an organization that promotes positive social change, (2) plan to use their MBA to work in a public, not-for-profit, or other venture with a social-change oriented mission, and (3) demonstrate clear financial need. The Social Venture Scholars will all enroll in a special online preparation course taught by two of Manhattan GMAT’s expert instructors within one year of winning the scholarship.
The deadline is fast approaching: March 28, 2014!
Manhattan GMAT’s Live Online Spring P2 Course is a comprehensive GMAT course designed specifically for high-achieving, international students looking to earn an MBA from a top business school. Taught by famed GMAT instructor, Ron Purewal, our Live Online Spring P2 Course will be hosted in the early morning (5:30AM-8:30AM PDT) from Silicon Valley, California.
We’re inviting students from all around the world to join, with the hope that this unique time will fit more conveniently into international students’ schedules. The course aims to teach mastery of GMAT content and the test-taking skills and strategies that are necessary to conquering every question type with confidence.
The Live Online Spring P2 Course with Ron Purewal begins April 16th, 2014 and includes:
• 54 hours of class time & coaching – at a time specifically selected to best support international GMAT test-takers.
• Strategy Guides that equip you for the entire GMAT: math and verbal theory, problem solving techniques, essential formulae, and hundreds of examples
• Every Official Guide for GMAT Review (that’s over 1400 real GMAT problems!)
• Foundational math and verbal primers—including books, question banks, and online workshops to help you review
• Full Integrated Reasoning training, plus an online bank of questions for additional practice
• Six full-length Computer Adaptive Practice Tests, designed in-house by our veteran instructors to simulate the GMAT’s uniquely adaptive format
• Detailed practice dashboards that show you how you’re performing (including stats on accuracy, speed, and difficulty level) across every specialized math and verbal topic
• On Demand Class Recordings so you can review course concepts anytime
• eBook downloads of every Manhattan GMAT Strategy Guide, accessible on your iPad, Nook, smartphone, or other compatible mobile device
• Challenge problems, interactive labs, essay grading software, and dozens of additional resources
Space is limited and filling quickly, so be sure to register for Ron Purewal’s upcoming Live Online GMAT Course at this special international time before it’s too late.
Not sure if this class is right for you? Attend the first session for free and try it out before signing up for the complete program.
Are you ready for the 2014–2015 MBA application season?
Join Manhattan Prep, mbaMission, and Poets & Quants for a free, five-part webinar series to help you prepare!
Three leaders in the MBA admissions space—Poets & Quants, mbaMission and Manhattan Prep—are banding together to ensure that you will be ready for the 2014–2015 MBA admissions season. Together, we are launching a free, five-part webinar series entitled “Five Steps to Business School Acceptance”! In each of the first four sessions, a senior consultant from mbaMission will address and explain a different significant admissions issue, while Poets & Quants’ John Byrne serves as host, moderating any questions and answers. Then, an expert from Manhattan Prep will present a challenging GMAT issue, offering insight, advice and more. The fifth and final session consists of a discussion panel with current admissions officers, sharing their thoughts and answering questions about the upcoming admissions season.
We hope you will join us for this special series. Please sign up for each session separately via the links below—space is limited.
Session 1: March 19, 2014 – Watch the recording of our first session here to see what all of the buzz is about!
Session 2: April 2, 2014 – Click Here to watch the recording of Choosing the Right B-School and Advanced Quant
Session 3: April 16, 2014 – Click Here to watch the recording of What Can I Do with My MBA? and Getting the Most Out of Your Practice GMAT Exams
Session 4: April 30, 2014 – Click Here to watch the recording of the Essay Writing Workshop and Advanced Sentence Correction
Session 5: May 14, 2014 – Questions and Answers with MBA Admissions Officers
Do you have questions for our GMAT and MBA admissions experts? Ask them in the comments below, and we will do our best to answer them in the Q&A sessions following each presentation, or reach out to use on social using the hashtag #fivesteps.
Your performance on Integrated Reasoning (IR) can affect the part of the test you really care about: the Quant and the Verbal. Follow the below 3 Keys to Success and you’ll be sitting pretty on test day.
Key #1: Minimize Brain Power Expended
Too many students have made this mistake already: they don’t study (or barely study) for IR, then kill their mental stamina during this section. When quant and verbal roll around, they’re mentally exhausted and what was already a hard test becomes impossible.
Your IR score does not directly impact your Quant and Verbal scores, but you’ll always have to do the IR section before you get to quant and verbal. In order to avoid an adverse outcome, you want to make sure that you can get a “good enough” score on IR without doing too much.
What’s a good-enough score? As of March 2014, the general consensus is to aim for a 4 or higher on IR; if you’re planning to apply to a top-10 school, aim for a 5 or higher. (The top score on IR is an 8.)
NOTE to future readers! The advice in the previous paragraph will likely change over time, so if you are reading this a year or two from now, check our blog for more recent advice.
Do not put your IR study off until the last minute. At least 6 weeks before the test, start to learn about the four types of IR problems: Multi-Source Reasoning (MSR), Table Analysis, Graphical Interpretation, and Two-Part Analysis.
(1) the strategies needed to answer each question type
(2) the one or two question types you like the least
I’ll recommend one of our own products to help you with this: our IR Interact lessons. You’ll learn everything you need to know via a very engaging series of interactive videos, and best of all, it’s completely free (as I’m writing this right now—no promises for future!).
Key #2: Know When to Guess
Next, do you generally like quant or verbal better? How do you feel about fractions, percents, and statistics, the math topics the most commonly tested on IR? Do you like those topics more or less than you like critical reasoning problems? Do you like pulling data from tables and manipulating it to conclude something? Interpreting graphical information? Or do you prefer synthesizing material from two or three primarily text-based sources?
Decide what topics you like least and combine that information with the one or two question types you like least. For instance, let’s say that you dislike fraction and percent topics the most. You also hate graphs and you aren’t too thrilled about tables either.
We are happy to announce that the latest version of our free GMAT app, Pocket GMAT Flashcards, is now available for download via the App store! New updates include:
- Back-end and usability fixes
- Content overhaul
- Updated for iOS7
- Shiny new icon
Containing over 350 GMAT quant flash cards, Pocket GMAT uses an adaptive algorithm developed by Manhattan Prep instructors to help you target cards you most need help with. Allowing you to strengthen your GMAT quantitative skills anywhere and at any time, the Pocket GMAT app is an indispensable tool for iPhone users.
The app also now works better on iOS6 devices and we have fixed issues with scrolling and swiping, so overall navigation is smoother. We’ve also fixed content errata and made the images look better.
Manhattan Prep has teamed up with Learningpod to make Pocket GMAT free for everyone! In addition to the adaptive algorithm, there is also a sequential practice mode that lets you flip through the cards however you want. You also have the ability to enter a Target Date to keep you on pace and track your progress. The flash cards are organized into “KeyRings” by topic and include algebra, number properties, word problems, geometry, fractions, decimals, and percents.
We hope the new updates improve your studying experience, and if you’re as excited as we are about the revisions, please let us know in the review section of the App store. We use your feedback to make our study tools the best they can possibly be!
You’ve heard a million times that you’re supposed to create Official Guide (OG) problem sets in order to practice for the test. But how do you actually do so in a way that will help you get the most out of your study?
Fear not! This article is coming to your rescue.
Initially, when you’re studying a new topic or problem type, you won’t do sets of problems; instead, you’ll just try one problem at a time. As you gain experience, though, you’re going to want to do 3 problems in a row, or 5, or 10.
Because the real test will never give you just one problem!
The GMAT will give you many questions in a row and they’ll be all jumbled up—an SC, then a couple of CRs, then back to another SC (that tests different grammar rules than the first one), and so on.
You want to practice two things:
(1) Jumping around among question types and topics
(2) Managing your timing and mental energy among a group of questions
When do I start doing problem sets?
You’re going to use problem sets to test your skills, so you’ve got to develop some of those skills first. If you’re using our Strategy Guides to study, then at the end of one chapter, you’ll do only two or three OG problems to make sure that you understood the material in the chapter.
Later, though, when you finish the Guide, do a set of problems that mix topics (and question types) from that entire book. Make sure you can distinguish between the similar-but-not-quite-the-same topics in that book, and also practice your skills on both problem solving and data sufficiency. As you finish subsequent Guides, your sets can include problems from everything you’ve done so far. Keep mixing it up!
How do I make the sets?
You’ll need to balance three things when you create a problem set:
(1) Number of problems. Initially, start out with about 3 to 5 problems. As you gain experience and add topics, you’ll increase the size of the sets—we’ll talk more about this a little later.
(2) Type of problem and content.
(a) For quant, always do a mix of Problem Solving (PS) and Data Sufficiency (DS). For verbal, mix at least two of the three types; you can include all three types in larger sets.
(b) Do not do a set of 3 or more questions all from the same chapter or content area—for example, don’t do 3 exponents questions in a row. You know exactly what you’re about to get and the real test will never be this nice to you.
(3) Difficulty level.
(a) Include a mix of easier, medium, and harder questions in your set. For all types except Reading Comprehension, the OG places problems in roughly increasing order of difficulty. On average, aroblem 3 is easier than a problem 50, which is easier than a problem 102. (This does not mean that problem 5 is necessarily harder than problem 3. In general, higher question numbers represent harder questions, but the increase is not linear from problem to problem.)
(b) Note: your personal strengths and weaknesses will affect how you perceive the problems—you might think a lower-numbered problem is hard or a higher-numbered problem is easy. They are… for you! Expect that kind of outcome sometimes.
Next, calculate how much time to give yourself to do the problem set.
(This is a guest post from our friends at mbaMission)
Round 1 MBA application deadlines are not until late September or early October, and although that may seem far away, those submission dates actually come around a lot sooner than you think. How can that be? Well, many candidates start working on their applications in May (which, by the way, is only two months from now!), when the schools start releasing their essay questions. However, the well-prepared applicant starts taking steps now (or even started long ago) to make sure that he/she has the strongest application possible when those deadlines arrive. You may not realize it, but you can take advantage of a variety of short-term wins that could help you improve your candidacy for next year. Let’s take a look at just a few of the steps you can take…
1. Visit Schools: Visiting schools is a smart move for you as a potential consumer of a $100K+ education (not including living expenses and lost salary during your two years of study). It is also a smart move for you as an applicant, because traveling to a school serves as a strong indicator that you truly do want to attend that target program. Sure, some schools’ admissions offices state that the class visit is not overly important (notably, Harvard Business School), but most programs appreciate the gesture, because it demonstrates your level of interest and shows that you are not just selecting the school on the basis of rankings—you have “kicked the tires” and decided to proceed.
Many applicants will not think about making a class visit until too late. Class visit programs typically wrap up in April/May and do not open up until after Round 1 applications are due. So, if you have not yet visited your target school, your time is running out, and this might prevent you from learning more about the program and making an important positive impression. Schedule a visit now!
2. Take a Class: Was your GPA an afterthought when you were in college? Did you bomb some tough math classes or management classes? Did you do really well academically but take no classes that indicate your management aptitude? Did the Quant side of the GMAT not go as planned for you? The admissions committee needs to know that you can manage a rigorous analytical curriculum, so you must provide them with evidence that you are capable of doing so. If you do not yet have that evidence, consider taking one—or preferably two—of the following classes: calculus, statistics, economics, finance or accounting. You should do everything you can to earn an A in the class(es) to demonstrate that you have the intellectual horsepower to succeed in your first year. Remember that applications are due in October and that you will need to spend significant time after work perfecting them—and this process starts in May! So, your best move is to find a class that starts soon. Begin looking for options now! (Note: You do not need to go to Harvard to take these classes. Any accredited university will do!)