Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog

Manhattan GMAT Flash Cards now available

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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

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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

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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.

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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!