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How to Switch from the GRE to the GMAT

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3-26-CrossRoadsLately, we’ve been talking about how to decide which test to take. What if you decide to switch from the GRE to the GMAT? That’s what we’ll tackle today! (Next time, we’ll talk about what to do if you want to switch from the GMAT to the GRE.)

How do I study?

The overall way that you want to study doesn’t actually change that much; rather, you’ll just need to change what you are studying, as discussed later in this article.

First, you’ll need to determine whether the way that you’ve already been studying is actually the optimal way. If not, then you’ll need to make some changes, regardless of whether you stick with the GRE or switch to the GMAT.

The GRE and the GMAT are both executive reasoning tests; that is, the test makers want to know how you think and make decisions. You of course need to know content (certain facts, rules, formulas) in order to do well on either test, but that level of study is not enough; you also need to lift yourself to a second level of understanding that allows you to think your way through these sometimes bizarrely-worded problems as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Follow the two links I put in the last paragraph. Take some time to just think about the concepts presented there. Has this been your approach to studying so far? If so, great. Keep thinking and working in that way.

If not, however, recognize that you’re going to need to start studying with this new mindset, regardless of whether you take the GRE or the GMAT.

What are my strengths and weaknesses?

Any time you’re developing or revising a study plan, you’ll want to put together a solid analysis of your strengths and weaknesses.

If you have been studying for the GRE for a while, then you should have some practice CAT data. (If not, or if it has been more than 6 weeks since you last took a CAT, then you’ll need to take one to get the data. Make sure to take the test under official conditions, including the essays, length of breaks, and so on.)

Analyze your most recent two CATs (this link tells you how to analyze Manhattan Prep CATs). If you haven’t taken MPrep CATs, you can still read through that link to get an idea of how you want to analyze your data from another test. Your goal is to split all question types and content into one of three buckets:

Bucket 1: Strengths. I’ll still study and practice these but not as heavily as other areas.

Bucket 2: Low-hanging Fruit: These are my easiest opportunities for improvement. Careless mistakes. Things that I get wrong fast. Things that I get right but just a little too slowly.

Bucket 3: Weaknesses. These are areas that I’ll ignore until I’ve worked out my Bucket 2 issues. Things that I’m likely to get wrong even if I give myself unlimited time. Things that I get right but way too slowly. Things that use up way too much mental energy, even if I get them right.

Your primary focus until your next practice test will be working a lot to improve Bucket 2, while maintaining Bucket 1 skills and getting Bucket 3 questions wrong fast (yes, seriously!).

[Aside: there are certain things that will stay in Bucket 3 forever. I’m terrible at combinatorics and I’m pretty bad at 3D geometry. That’s been true since my very first practice GRE, more than 10 years ago! When I see these, I’ll give it a look in case the problem is very similar to one that I do remember how to do, but otherwise, I pick my favorite letter and move on.]

Okay, now that you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, you need to familiarize yourself with the differences between the GRE and the GMAT.

What new things do I have to learn?

The Essays and Integrated Reasoning

You won’t care as much about one difference, so let’s get it out of the way. At the beginning of the GRE, you write two essays. The GMAT also asks you to write an essay but in place of the second essay you’ll have to do the Integrated Reasoning section, a multiple-choice section that mixes quant and verbal skills.

This section is different enough from the others that you will have to study how to answer these questions and how to manage your time during the section. At the time of this publication (in March 2015), schools aren’t using IR scores much, so this section is less important, though this could change in the future.

Quant

Next, for the quant section of the test, you’re going to need to learn about one different question type contained on the GMAT: Data Sufficiency (DS).

The GMAT dives more deeply into number properties, story problems, and some algebra concepts, so you may need to get GMAT books for these topics versus continuing to use your GRE books.

The timing on the two tests is also quite different, so you’ll have to learn how to handle 37 questions in 75 minutes on the GMAT, or about 2 minutes per question on average.

Verbal

Most of your new efforts on verbal will be geared towards the grammar question type, Sentence Correction (SC). You’ll definitely need to get some materials that teach you the grammar and meaning issues that are tested on SC.

Again, if you are already using Manhattan Prep materials, you can use what you already have for Reading Comprehension (RC), but you will need to get new materials for Critical Reasoning (CR). The CR question types on the GRE are also tested on the GMAT, but the GMAT contains additional CR question types that don’t appear on the GRE.

Again, the timing will be different on the GMAT. You’ll need to answer 41 verbal questions in 75 minutes, spending about 1 minute 20 seconds on SC, 2 minutes on CR, and about 6 to 8 minutes total for RC passages and questions.

How do I make a study plan?

We’ve already talked about part of the process (analyzing your strengths and weaknesses). You may decide to take a class or work with a tutor, in which case your teacher will give you specific assignments . If not, you’ll need to develop your own study plan.

Takeaways for switching from GRE to GMAT

(1) Make sure that you’re going into your studies with the right overall mindset (executive reasoning!) and that you know how to lift yourself to the “second level” of study.

(2) Begin your studies by concentrating on the aspects that are new to you: the different question types and topics that are tested on the GMAT. Once you build those skills up to a competent level, you’ll review all aspects and question types.

Should I take the GRE or the GMAT?

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GMAT or GREMost business schools now accept both the GRE and the GMAT, so which one should you take? I’ve written on the topic before but it’s been nearly a year and I’ve got some updates.

The conventional wisdom has been that the math is easier on the GRE. Though many schools do accept the GRE, rumors abound that students who take this test are at a bit of a disadvantage because they are expected to do better on the (easier) quant section. Anecdotally, we have heard a few admissions officers admit that they do think about this (strictly off the record, of course). Most admissions officers, though, have said this doesn’t matter to them at all, including several officers at the top 10 schools.

So we’ve come up with a series of decisions to help you make this choice. The first three questions are “deal-breakers”—that is, a certain answer will point you definitively to a specific test (the GMAT, as it happens). The fourth question is…murkier. We’ll address that in a little bit.

#1: Do all of “your” schools accept the GRE?

This one is obvious. All business schools (that ask for a standardized test score) accept the GMAT. Most—but not all—accept the GRE. If you want to apply to any schools that require the GMAT, such as London Business School MBA (at the time of this publication), then you’ll be taking the GMAT.

#2: Do any of “your” schools prefer the GMAT?

Most schools that accept both tests don’t express a preference between the two. Some schools, though, do say that the prefer the GMAT. They publish this preference right on their web site, so go look up all of your schools and see what they say about the GMAT / GRE requirement for admissions.

As of the date of this article, Columbia, Haas (Berkeley) and Anderson (UCLA) all state that they prefer the GMAT, even though they do accept the GRE. If you want to apply to one of these schools, I recommend that you take the GMAT. (Note: these aren’t the only three schools that prefer the GMAT; I just picked out the three most well-known ones that do. You still need to research your schools!)

#3: Do you want to go into banking or management consulting after b-school?

The major banks and consulting firms ask for GMAT scores when you apply. (Some of them even ask for undergraduate GPA and SAT scores. I think that data is irrelevant after someone has a b-school GPA and GMAT scores but I’m not the one making the hiring decisions!)
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Want a Better GRE Score? Go to Sleep!

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2-12-Sleep-GREThis is going to be a short post. It will also possibly have the biggest impact on your study of anything you do all day (or all month!).

When people ramp up to study for the GRE, they typically find the time to study by cutting down on other activities—no more Thursday night happy hour with the gang or Sunday brunch with the family until the test is over.

There are two activities, though, that you should never cut—and, unfortunately, I talk to students every day who do cut these two activities. I hear this so much that I abandoned what I was going to cover today and wrote this instead. We’re not going to cover any problems or discuss specific test strategies in this article. We’re going to discuss something infinitely more important!

#1: You must get a full night’s sleep

Period. Never cut your sleep in order to study for this test. NEVER.

Your brain does not work as well when trying to function on less sleep than it needs. You know this already. Think back to those times that you pulled an all-nighter to study for a final or get a client presentation out the door. You may have felt as though you were flying high in the moment, adrenaline coursing through your veins. Afterwards, though, your brain felt fuzzy and slow. Worse, you don’t really have great memories of exactly what you did—maybe you did okay on the test that morning, but afterwards, it was as though you’d never studied the material at all.

There are two broad (and very negative) symptoms of this mental fatigue that you need to avoid when studying for the GRE (and doing other mentally-taxing things in life). First, when you are mentally fatigued, you can’t function as well as normal in the moment. You’re going to make more careless mistakes and you’re just going to think more slowly and painfully than usual.
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Square Roots and the GRE

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gmat square root

Have you ever gotten a GRE question wrong because you thought you were supposed to take a square root and get two different numbers but the answer key said only the positive root counted? Alternatively, have you ever gotten one wrong because you took the square root and wrote down just the positive root but the answer key said that, this time, both the positive and the negative root counted? What’s going on here?

There are a couple of rules we need to keep straight in terms of how standardized tests (including the GRE) deal with square roots. The Official Guide does detail these rules, but enough students have found the explanation confusing – and have complained to us about it – that we decided to write an article to clear everything up.

Doesn’t the OG say that we’re only supposed to take the positive root?

Sometimes this is true – but not always. This is where the confusion arises. Here’s a quote from the OG 2nd edition, page 212:

“All positive numbers have two square roots, one positive and one negative.”

Hmm. Okay, so that makes it seem like we always should take two roots, not just the positive one. Later in the same paragraph, though, the book says:

“The symbol √n is used to denote the nonnegative square root of the nonnegative number n.”

Translation: when there’s a square root symbol given with an actual number underneath it – not a variable – then we should take only the positive root. This is confusing because, although they’re not talking about variables, they use the letter n in the example. In this instance, even though they use the letter n, they define n as a “nonnegative number” – that is, they have already removed the possibility that n could be negative, so n is not really a variable.

If I ask you for the value of √9, then the answer is 3, but not -3. That leads us to our first rule.

Rule #1: √9 = 3 only, not -3

If the problem gives you an actual number below that square root symbol, then take only the positive root.

Note that there are no variables in that rule. Let’s insert one: √9 = x. What is x? In this case, x = 3, because whenever we take the square root of an actual number, we take only the positive root; the rule doesn’t change.

Okay, what if I change the problem to this: √x = 3. Now what is x? In this case, x = 9, but not -9. How do we know? Try plugging the actual number back into the problem. √9 does equal 3. What does √-9 equal? Nothing – we’re not allowed to have negative signs underneath square root signs, so √-9 doesn’t work.

Just as an aside, if the test did want us to take the negative root of some positive number under a square root sign, they’d give us this: -√9. First, we’d take the square root of 9 to get 3 and then that negative sign would still be hanging out there. Voilà! We have -3.

What else does the OG say?

Here’s the second source of confusion on this topic in the OG. On the same page of the book (212), right after the quotes that I gave up above, we have a table showing various rules and examples, and these rules seem to support the idea that we should always take the positive root and only the positive root. Note something very important though: the table is introduced with the text “where a > 0 and b > 0.” In other words, everything in the table is only true when we already know that the numbers are positive! In that case, of course we only want to take the positive values!

What if we don’t already know that the numbers in question are positive? That brings us to our second and third rules.

Rule #2: x2 = 9 means x = 3, x = -3

How are things different in this example? We no longer have a square root sign – here, we’re dealing with an exponent. If we square the number 3, we get 9. If we square the number -3, we also get 9. Therefore, both numbers are possible values for x, because both make the equation true.

Mathematically, we would say that x = 3 or x = -3. If you’re doing a Quantitative Comparison problem, think of it this way: either one is a possible value for x, so both have to be considered possible values when comparing Quantity A to Quantity B.

Rule #3: √(x)2 = 3 means x = 3, x = -3

Okay, we’re back to our square root sign, but we also have an exponent this time! Now what? Do we take only the positive root, because we have a square root sign? Or do we take both positive and negative roots, because we have an exponent?

First, solve for the value of x: square both sides of √(x)2 = 3 to get x2 = 9. Take the square root to get x = 3, x = -3 (as in our rule #2).

If you’re not sure that rule #2 (take both roots) should apply, try plugging the two numbers into the given equation, √x2 = 3, and see whether they make the equation true. If we plug 3 into the equation √x2 = 3, we get: √(3)2 = 3. Is this true? Yes: √(3)2 = √9 and that does indeed equal 3.

Now, try plugging -3 into the equation: √(-3)2= 3. We have a negative under the square root sign, but we also have parentheses with an exponent. Follow the order of operations: square the number first to get √9. No more negative number under the exponent! Finishing off the problem, we get √9 and once again that does equal 3, so -3 is also a possible value for x. The variable x could equal 3 or -3.

How am I going to remember all that?

Notice something: the first example has either a real number or a plain variable (no exponent) under the square root sign. In both circumstances, we solve only for the positive value of the root, not the negative one.

The second and third examples both include an exponent. Our second rule doesn’t include any square root symbol at all – if we have only exponents, no roots at all, then we can have both positive and negative roots. Our third rule does have a square root symbol, but it also has an exponent. In cases like this, we have to check the math just as we did in the above example. First, we solve for both solutions and then we plug both back into the original equation. Any answer that “works,” or gives us a “true” equation, is a valid possible solution.

Takeaways for Square Roots:

 

(1) If there is an actual number shown under a square root sign, then take only the positive root.

(2) If, on the other hand, there are variables and exponents involved, be careful. If you have only exponents and no square root sign, then take both roots. If you have both an exponent and a square root sign, you’ll have to do the math to see, but there’s still a good chance that both the positive and negative roots will be valid.

(3) If you’re not sure whether to include the negative root, try plugging it back into the original to see whether it produces a “true” answer (such as √(-3)2 = 3) or an “invalid” situation (such as √-9, which doesn’t equal any real number).

* The text excerpted above from The Official Guide to the GRE 2nd Edition is copyright ETS. The short excerpts are quoted under fair-use statutes for scholarly or journalistic work; use of these excerpts does not imply endorsement of this article by ETS.

Analyzing Your GRE Practice Tests, Part 4

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Did 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.


Welcome to part 4 of the article series on analyzing your GRE practice tests. As we discussed in the first, second, and third parts of this series, we’re basing the discussion on the metrics that are given in Manhattan Prep tests, but you can extrapolate to other tests that give you similar performance data. If you haven’t already read those, do so before you continue with this final part. Read more

Analyzing Your GRE Practice Tests, Part 3

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gre analysisDid 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.


Welcome to part 3 of the article series on analyzing your GRE practice tests. As we discussed in the first and second parts of this series, we’re basing the discussion on the metrics that are given in Manhattan Prep tests, but you can extrapolate to other tests that give you similar performance data. If you haven’t already read those, do so before you continue with this third part. Read more

Analyzing Your GRE Practice Tests, Part 2

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gre practice

Did 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.


Welcome to part 2 of the process for analyzing your GRE practice tests. As we discussed in the first part of this series, we’re basing the discussion on the metrics that are given in Manhattan Prep tests, but you can extrapolate to other tests that give you similar performance data.

Last time, we discussed how to assess the data provided in the “question list”—the list that shows the questions you received and how you performed on each one. This week, we’re going to interpret the analysis given in the Assessment Reports. Read more

Analyzing Your GRE Practice Tests, Part 1

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You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free. Crazy, right? Check out our upcoming courses here.


measure your brain

The purpose of taking practice tests is two-fold:

(1) You’re testing yourself to see whether you’ve learned what you have been trying to learn.

(2) You’re diagnosing your strengths and weaknesses so that you can build a study plan going forward. Read more

The GMAT vs. the GRE for Business School

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Many business schools now accept either the GRE or the GMAT, so students now have a decision to make: which test should you take? We’ve written on the topic before but this discussion deserves an update now that some changes to the GMAT are gaining more traction.
GMAT vs GRE Business SchoolBoth tests made some significant changes in the past couple of years. These changes were designed to make the test results more attractive to their customers—not you, but the business schools.

The conventional wisdom has been that the math is easier on the GRE. Though many schools do accept the GRE, rumors abound that students who take this test are at a bit of a disadvantage because they are expected to do better on the (easier) quant section. Anecdotally, we have heard some admissions officers admit that they do think about this (strictly off the record, of course). Other admissions officers, though, have said this doesn’t matter to them at all.

Recently, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Bain & Co, a well-respected management consulting firm, is considering using Integrated Reasoning scores in its hiring process. Most banks and consulting firms already ask for the “regular” GMAT score when recruiting MBA candidates (and sometimes they even ask for your SAT scores!). If these companies begin to require IR, then someone who took the GRE could find themselves at a disadvantage during the hiring process—or even scrambling to take the GMAT during the second year of b-school while going through recruiting. Yikes!

So this question of whether to take the GMAT or the GRE has become a much more complicated calculus of a decision. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but here are some guidelines to consider as you figure out the right decision for you.

Your Performance

Do you actually exhibit a markedly different performance level on the two exams? Most people have pretty similar results.

To figure this out, you’re going to take two practice tests (one of each). Before you do that, learn about the different question formats on both exams.

GMAT

Quant: about half of the questions are your standard multiple choice. The other half are a weird type called Data Sufficiency. You’ll definitely want to learn how those work before you take a practice test (your next task).

Verbal: if you’ve ever taken a standardized test before, then you’ll be very familiar with Reading Comprehension questions. Critical Reasoning questions are similar, but much shorter, and the questions are more argument-based (how to strengthen or weaken a conclusion, for example). Sentence Correction questions require knowledge of grammar and meaning. You don’t need to study that yet, but you should just learn how the question type works.

In a nutshell, you’ll be given a sentence with a portion underlined. The first answer, (A), will repeat whatever was underlined. The other 4 answers will offer different variations for that underlined text. Only one is correct!

Essay: you don’t need to prep for this before your first practice test.

Integrated Reasoning: these questions combine math and verbal topics in four new question formats that you probably won’t have seen before. You’ll definitely want to investigate those a bit before your practice test, just to see how each one works. Here are some example problems: Read more

Story Problems: Make Them Real

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gmat story problemsI’ve been on a story problem kick lately. People have a love / hate relationship with these. On the one hand, it’s a story! It should be easier than “pure” math! We should be able to figure it out!

On the other hand, we have to figure out what they’re talking about, and then we have to translate the words into math, and then we have to come up with an approach. That’s where story problems start to go off the rails.

You know what I mean, right? Those ones where you think it’ll be fine, and then you’re a minute or two in and you realize that everything you’ve written down so far doesn’t make sense, but you’re sure that you can set it up, so you try again, and you get an answer but it’s not in the answer choices, and now you’ve crossed the 3-minute mark…argh!

So let’s talk about how to make story problems REAL. They’re no longer going to be abstract math problems. You’re riding Train X as it approaches Train Y. You’re the store manager figuring out how many hours to give Sue so that she’ll still make the same amount of money now that her hourly wage has gone up.

Note: I’ve used GMAT problems in this article because the makers of the GRE don’t allow us to re-publish their problems. I’d rather work from actual problems written by standardized test-writers, just to show you how well this technique does work on real problems. I’ve chosen two problems that could just as easily be seen on the GRE.

Try this GMATPrep® problem:

* ” Six machines, each working at the same constant rate, together can complete a certain job in 12 days. How many additional machines, each working at the same constant rate, will be needed to complete the job in 8 days?

“(A) 2

“(B) 3

“(C) 4

“(D) 6

“(E) 8”

Yuck. A work problem.

Except… here’s the cool thing. The vast majority of rate and work problems have awesome shortcuts. This is so true that, nowadays, if I look at a rate or work problem and the only solution idea I have is that old, annoying RTD (or RTW) chart… I’m probably going to skip the problem entirely. It’s not worth my time or mental energy.

This problem is no exception—in fact, this one is an amazing example of a complicated problem with a 20-second solution. Seriously—20 seconds!

You own a factory now (lucky you!). Your factory has 6 machines in it. At the beginning of the first day, you turn on all 6 machines and they start pumping out their widgets. After 12 continuous days of this, the machines have produced all of the widgets you need, so you turn them off again.

Let’s say that, on day 1, you turned them all on, but then you turned them off at the end of that day. What proportion of the job did your machines finish that day? They did 1/12 of the job.

Now, here’s a key turning point. Most people will then try to figure out how much work one machine does on one day. (Many people will make the mistake of thinking that one machine does 1/12 of the job in one day.) But don’t go in that direction in the first place! If you were really the factory owner, you wouldn’t start writing equations at this point. You’d figure out what you need by testing some scenarios. Read more