Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog

What NOT to do when studying for the GMAT

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Top Five GMAT Study Mistakes
by Carrie Shuchart, Manhattan GMAT Instructor

Having observed thousands of GMAT test-takers over the years, we at ManhattanGMAT have identified five common study mistakes that students make while studying for the GMAT.

Mistake #1: Believing that more is more

A common misperception is that the only way to truly master the GMAT is to see every problem in existence. And given the number of GMAT guides available at your local bookstore, there is plenty of material out there. Of course, you do want to see a variety of problems, so that you know which concepts are tested, and how. However, simply exposing yourself to all sorts of problems is not enough; you have to actually study the problems, and this may mean doing fewer problems. You are not done with a problem when you get it right. You should spend twice as long reviewing a problem as you spend doing it, whether or not you got it correct. (I’m serious on that one.) As a part of your review, ask yourself whether you identified the topics being tested. Did you do answer the question in the most efficient way? Was there another approach you could have taken? Does the problem or any of the concepts remind you of other problems you’ve seen? The goal is to find a lesson in each question and be able to apply those lessons to the next group of problems you do.

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Mental Discipline for the GMAT

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Almost all students undertaking a prep program for the GMAT, or for any other standardized test, understand the importance of the test itself. Far fewer, however, understand the importance, or the magnitude, of the mental adjustments required for success on the test.

The following “attitude adjustments” are discussed in detail by our instructors over the course of our nine-session program, but they bear repeating here as well.

1. PRACTICE ISN’T GAME DAY
In other words, studying for a test is not the same thing as taking that test.

On test day, your sole goal is to answer as many questions as possible correctly, within the desired time frame; this much is quite obvious. However, many GMAT students make the mistake of extending this same mentality to studying for the test, practicing primarily by solving problem after problem after problem and rarely, if ever, returning for a formal review.

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Carrol Chang is moving to D.C.!

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Carrol Chang, one of our most beloved New York Instructors, is moving to Washington D.C.! After interning at the Obama campaign, Carrol decided to become one of the awesome people joining the government to help the country get things done right!

New York’s loss is D.C.’s gain. Now, Carrol’s going to be teaching classes in our nation’s capital, starting next Wednesday! As you can see, Carrol doesn’t waste any time.

Have fun down there Carrol! 🙂

When do I take the GMAT?

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Many people who are considering applying to Business School in the future want to know when they should take the GMAT.

The first thing to know is that your GMAT Score is good for 5 years.  This means that you should feel free to prepare for the GMAT and take it when you have some time, NOT right before you’re gearing up to apply.  Indeed, many people would be very well-served taking the test during their senior year in college, as they’re still in an academic, test-taking mode at this point (and still vaguely remember, say, the formula for the area of a trapezoid).

At this point, you’re likely reading this blog posting thinking “Great, where were you 4 years ago when I was still in college?”  Don’t worry about it, as the average GMAT test-taker is in his or her mid-to-late 20s (70% from 22 -30).

The general principle is that you are best served taking the test when you have the bandwidth to fit it into your schedule.  Ideally, you’ll have your GMAT Score established before you gear up to complete your applications.  Indeed, your score may even change which MBA programs you apply to (for better or worse).  When app deadlines roll around, you’ll want to be worrying about honing your essays and arranging school visits – the last thing you want to have in mind at that point is getting a higher GMAT Score.

Another reason to take the GMAT early is that, if you’re determined to get a certain goal score, you’ll have a much better chance of doing so if you give yourself a runway.  The correlation between time spent studying and one’s score is consistently positive – the average person spends 2 – 3 months preparing for the GMAT.  Indeed, the average score increase for someone who takes the test a 2nd time is 31 points (according to data from GMAC).  As you can only take the GMAT once per month, you’d like to give yourself time for multiple tries if necessary before any deadline creeps up.

Now you may be thinking, “Wait a minute, I can take this test more than once?”  That’s right, Business Schools take your best score, not your average score.  So there’s really not much of a disincentive to take the GMAT multiple times, aside from your time (and the $250 per sitting it will cost you).  This has its limits though – Harvard Business School, for example, told us that by the 5th try, they tend to discount your score a little bit.  So try and get your best score possible within your 1st four tries or so.

Bottom line – wait until you have some time on your hands, but generally the sooner you prepare and get your test score out of the way, the better off you’ll be (unless you’re not going to apply within the next 5 years, and then you really have better things to be reading than this blog!).

Starting to Prep

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Hi, all, and welcome to my inaugural post on the MGMAT blog. I’m really excited to join Andrew in talking about All Things GMAT. 🙂

As we gear up for the fall 2009 admissions frenzy (for admission in 2010), a lot of people have been asking how they should plan their GMAT prep. So I thought I’d post some ideas about how to get started. People prep in a variety of ways but there are three big categories in general: self study, private tutoring, and classes.

There is no one right way to prep, but there are some things to keep in mind while you decide which path is the best one for you.

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Pricing News

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Effective March 1st, 2009, Manhattan GMAT Course Prices are going to increase $50 – $100 to $1,490 in all locations (with a couple of exceptions that will be explained below). Our online course will also increase in price, to $1,090.

This is not a move we make lightly. At MGMAT, we always try to provide the best value possible to our students; this is the 1st price increase we’ve had in over two years for much the same reason.

In those same two years, we have dedicated ourselves to providing the best, most complete GMAT prep course possible. We’ve added many things to our course during this period, including:

1. Updated 3rd Edition Strategy Guides and Curriculum. We spent hundreds of hours improving and updating our curricular materials to reflect lessons from the classroom as well as recent developments with the GMAT itself.
2. Improved Post-Exam Assessment. Students now can consult with a senior Instructor after they take their GMAT to debrief and plan next steps. Hopefully, this isn’t necessary! But we know that sometimes it’s exceedingly helpful to students to have guidance for a second shot; the average increase for a 2nd-time test-taker is 31 points (from GMAC data, not just among our students) for a reason.
3. Our Test Simulation Booklet. We added this to make sure that our students could practice using the same sort of laminated booklet and marker that they’ll have to use on test day. It’s been a hit with students.
4. Manual Stopwatches. We’ve provided an online stopwatch for practice for years. However, some of our students reported that they sometimes found themselves practicing away from a computer, so we’ve now added stopwatches with lap functions to the set of materials that each student receives.
5. Essay Rating Software. We now provide our course students access to the same essay-grading software that GMAC itself uses.

We have made many other improvements large and small during this same period (e.g. we revised our online labs, etc.). We have internalized the cost of these improvements over the past 2 years, and are only now modifying our pricing to reflect some of our increased costs.

Again, this isn’t something we like to do. Still, we do take some comfort in the fact that we are yet providing what we feel is the best GMAT prep course available at a price that remains competitive with the market rate (e.g. Kaplan) while still maintaining our industry-leading Instructor compensation ($100+/hour).

If you’re reading this and were considering signing up for a course in the next few months, try to get in before March 1st. 🙂

(Our pricing is somewhat lower in Los Angeles and Austin due to pre-existing commitments we’ve made. So if you’re in one of these two areas, you not only get sunshine, you get a bargain on your GMAT course!)

SixFigureStart Free Coaching Call

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Our friends at SixFigureStart, a career coaching firm, will be holding a free coaching teleclass this coming Friday, December 19th, from 12 noon – 12:45 p.m. EST. The topic, apropos for the time, will be “How to Effectively Handle a Job Layoff & Move Forward.”

SixFigureStart co-founders Connie Thanasoulis and Caroline Ceniza-Levine will co-lead:

If You’ve Been Laid Off, What To Do Next
If You Haven’t Been Laid Off, How To Recession-Proof Your Current Job
Dial-in: 712 775 7100

Participant code: 151675# (you must hit the pound key)

*The call is free but long-distance charges apply depending on where you are calling from.

Hope this is either helpful or you can ignore it!

3rd Edition Strategy Guides – 1 month out

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Our 3rd Edition Strategy Guides have been out for about a month now, and the feedback has been tremendously positive. Most of the feedback has centered on the obvious additions (e.g. advanced chapters of math content, new idiom list), which have been welcome to many students.

At the same time, we’re very conscious of the balance of giving students all the resources they would need without overwhelming them. It held us back from adding certain esoteric topics that we thought would be more trouble to students than they’d be worth on the test.

Right now we’re also working on a couple more math guides (one as a Math Refresher, one for very Advanced Math Topics), and are considering how best to add them to the curriculum without swamping students.

I’m sure someone reading this is thinking “I want the stuff MGMAT decided not to print!” To which I’d respond in my best GMAT Teacher Voice, “Think depth, not breadth. You’re much better off knowing 100 problems/topics in your bones rather than kind of knowing 500.”

To this end, one change we’re already considering for the next printing of the 3rd Edition Strategy Guides is to move all Advanced Content and accompanying In Action problems to the back of each book, as opposed to the end of each chapter. This physical separation may help keep students from knocking themselves out too early on.

Also, we plan on fixing some of the typos sharp-eyed students have found. 🙂

What Business School Admissions Officers are Saying

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ManhattanGMAT was fortunate enough to host several Admissions Officers from top business school programs earlier this month in our New York center.  The panel featured:

NYU STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS Heather Daly, Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions

THE WHARTON SCHOOL Ainsley Parker, Associate Director in the Office of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid

KELLOGG SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT Yhana Chavis, Associate Director of Admissions

The panel discussion lasted close to 2 hours.  A few points that emerged:

Highest GMAT: All the schools reiterated that they take your highest GMAT score “ they do not average your scores. (It must be a single GMAT score from one test administration, though “ they don’t do a Franken-score, as Ms. Daly from Stern put it, of your best math and best verbal subscores from different tests.)

More than Once is Fine: In response to the question how many GMATs is OK, and how many is too many? Ms. Parker from Wharton said that they worry when you get into double digits. But otherwise, no one gave a specific number that’s too many. In fact, taking it more than once can demonstrate persistence, as Ms. Chavis from Kellogg said. The issue on the high end is judgment (e.g., if you take the test a dozen times, then you are not showing good judgment about where you can realistically improve your chances of admission).  At another panel, admissions officers from Kellogg & Harvard said 5 to 6 was getting to be too many. Short answer: taking it more than once is fine, as we’ve always said, and don’t worry unless you’re really climbing the charts in terms of number of times.

Effects of Economic Crisis: Schools are seeing increases in applications to varying degrees. There was some report of fluff applications (i.e., applications that do not convincingly explain why you are applying to that school in particular or even business school in general), though not universally. The representatives agreed that so far, the people who are getting in would have gotten in in other years, and the people who are being rejected would have been rejected in other years. In response to a question about financial aid (i.e., will it be available), the representatives said that they don’t know yet how this issue will play out exactly, but that their

Third Round Futility: Ms. Parker from Wharton actively discouraged students from applying in the 3rd round. Last year, they had over 600 applications in the third round, and they accepted fewer than 10. (Do the math: that’s less than a 2% acceptance rate.)

Much more was said at the Panel, as each representative went over her individual institution’s approach to candidates.   If you missed it, we’ll host another one before too long!

Accepted.com telethon Nov. 19th

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If you are applying for Round 2 or later for Fall 2009 (or thereafter) and have questions about applying, we’ve got some good news: our friends at Accepted.com are holding a telethon during which you can talk to an admissions consultant for FREE.

Go to the telethon page on Accepted.com for more info and to sign up. You’ll submit a resume and fill out a questionnaire in order to make your conversation more specific and productive. Sign up now, as the slots will likely fill up before the 19th!