Below is part 2 of a 2 part interview with David Mahler, Stacey Koprince, and Liz Moliski. Learn what part of the books was hardest to write, what part was our interviewee’s favorite, and how a student should work their way through the books. Part 1 is here.
What was it like to finally finish the books? What was the final “rush” to beat the deadline like?
Stacey Koprince: I was lucky in that I received the research relatively early on for my book, so I was done in advance of the eventual deadline. I say the “eventual” deadline, because the first deadline I was given didn’t end up being the final deadline. Because some of the other books were delayed, all of the deadlines were pushed back several times, so I finished on time. I’ll admit, though, that I might’ve missed the original deadline if it hadn’t been moved back. : )
For the quant books, though, I would sometimes receive part of the galleys (the files that needed to be proofed) one day and need to give my edits the next day or the day after. Towards the end, we were all working to turn things around so quickly that I would often only be given a chapter at a time, and by the time I was done with it (an hour or two later), the next chapter would be ready to edit.
Liz Moliski: Thanks to the heatmap, we were pretty close to finishing on time with Roadmap. The last couple of weeks were very busy, with copy flying back and forth between me and Liz K., and then there was a hurricane in NYC during the last few days! Wow! It was exciting. I was so glad to be done! IR was tougher. We had to write most of the book before GMAC had released a lot of problems and so there was a lot of frantic last minute work.
David Mahler: It was an enormously satisfying feeling. One of the best things about a large project is the increasingly crystallized sense of how things are going to turn out. Every guide complete made the process fell that much closer to completion. It was great to have those kinds of milestones along the way to keep us motivated and rewarded.
What part/section of the new 5th edition books are you most proud of?
Liz Moliski: Why, the parts that I worked on of course! ;-)
David Mahler: We’ve traditionally tried to talk about not only all the content tested, but all the variations in the ways questions are asked. That’s unfortunately an impossible task, and ends up confusing the overall picture for our students. These guides are streamlined; they’re designed to emphasize to our students the material that they absolutely have to understand in order to tackle more and more difficult questions.
Was there a part/section of the 5th edition books you really struggled with?
Stacey Koprince: What didn’t I struggle with! Whenever we produce any teaching material – books, articles, test questions – we’re always obsessed with making it as good as can be. The material itself needs to be clear, easy to understand and simultaneously comprehensive and concise. We also need to make sure that it really works on actual GMAT questions. For any GMAT questions we write, we also need to make sure that they are what we call “GMAT-like,” meaning they mimic official GMAT questions. The best compliment I can receive is having someone believe that a question I wrote is actually an official question. So we’re constantly agonizing over whether we’ve hit all of our own standards.
Liz Moliski: Getting the quant IR examples just right was tough for me. There just weren’t very many sample problems to look at and I knew that students would need good examples.
How much student feedback do you incorporate when you’re coming up with a new edition of books?
Stacey Koprince: Everything I write is with the students in mind. When we’re coming up with ideas, a lot of those ideas are driven by discussions we’ve had with students in class or in the forums in terms of what they struggle with, what kinds of explanations do and don’t work, what kinds of solution methods are easier vs. harder to use, and so on.
Liz Moliski: A lot! I read every piece of student feedback for over a year and categorized everything into a big spreadsheet before we made any changes and sent summaries to Chris so we could figure out what students needed us to do.
David Mahler: It’s always important to find that right balance between what students want and what students need. We always listen when students say that a particular section is confusing. The whole point is to make sure we’re describing things in a way that makes sense to our students.
There are so many books, it seems! Where should a student start when attacking the 5th edition?
Stacey Koprince: There is a lot of material! If someone’s in a class, she or he can follow the syllabus, but everyone should also think carefully about strengths and weaknesses before diving in. Plan to spend more time in your weaker areas, of course, and don’t hesitate to move more quickly through an area of strength. You don’t have to do every last problem in every last problem set – if you already get the material, then move on to harder material in the same area or move on to another area entirely.
Liz Moliski: Start with GMAT Roadmap – there is a reason why it is numbered as Guide 0. ;-)
David Mahler: The GMAT Roadmap is a wonderful addition. It can be very helpful if a student is getting lost in details and needs a look at the bigger picture. Other than that it’s important not to get too lost in the details of any chapter. Do practice problems at the end to really get a sense of how well you know the topic. And always make sure that you’re doing problems from the OG – knowing the content is one thing, and knowing how they test it is another.
Is there anything else about these new books we should know/people would find interesting?
Liz Moliski: All of the people on the covers are actual MGMAT Instructors and staffers!
David Mahler: Our books are definitely not made of people.