Archives For Strategy

Here’s a fairly straightforward GMATPrep question that I’ve seen many-a-student answer incorrectly. See if you can answer the question without writing anything down:

Of the 3,600 employees of Company X, 1/3 are clerical. If the clerical staff were to be reduced by 1/3, what percent of the total number of the remaining employees would then be clerical?

 

A)  25%

B)  22.2%

C) 20%

D) 12.5%

E)  11.1%

Classic GMAT question. Straightforward. Easy to understand. Simple to equate” 1/3 of 3,600 is 1,200 and 1/3 of that is 400. So we’d only have 800 remaining clerical staff and 800/3600 = 2/9, answer B. And like so(oooooooo) many other GMAT questions, we’d have answered incorrectly.

If have some paper in front of you, try to solve the question again by writing down each step along the way. Maybe even include what each of those numbers that you write down mean in the context of the question. Don’t cheat- see if you answer the question differently when you’re forced to write down more than just a simple computation or two.

Here’s what I wrote down first on my scrap paper:
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September is the greatest month of the year. At some point in the not-so-distant future, my AC-unit will be able to finally power off after five straight months of keeping me inside, away from the Texas heat and the West Nile carrying mosquitos that the heat brought with it. But more importantly, September means that football is finally back. So with that in mind, here’s four lessons from the college football season for those of you who need help rationalizing your Saturday afternoon absence from your GMAT study place.

1)  Schedule the Cupcake Sections Early

GMAT footballOregon hasn’t been spending the last three months preparing to face Arkansas State. And when September 1 rolls around, Oregon would prefer to pull its starters sometime early in the second half. A loss to an early season opponents would definitely hurt their BCS chances, but if the Ducks play half-decent football at the start of the season, they can focus on playing their best once Pac-12 teams start traveling to Eugene in late September.

For you, walking away from the test with a 2 on your AWA or IR section could be a bad thing when it comes time to apply to business school. But running up the score on your AWA won’t help your 200-800 score and you don’t want to exhaust your brain during the first hour of your test. But if you’ve thoroughly prepared for the quant and verbal sections of the test, and have watched some tape (such as our IR recordings or AWA labs) on what you need to do for the two warmup sections, you’ll do just fine early and can focus on playing your best once the quant section shows up on your screen.

2) Focus on One Question at a Time

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Invariably when I ask a student what about their strengths and weaknesses related to the GMAT, his list focuses on topics or question types.

  • I struggle with the quant section.
  • Sentence correction is my best verbal question type.
  • I hate data sufficiency.
  • I’m good at rate problems, but I can’t figure out probability.
  • Etc.

Now, the ability to generate this sort of inventory is important. You should generally devote more study time to those topics and question types where you are weaker. But along with this topic-based inventory, other aspects of your personality and approach will impact your GMAT experience. Understanding these underlying tendencies in yourself can be invaluable to improving your GMAT performance.

gmat mental aspect

In each of the four cases below consider which statement sounds more like you.

1) To solve a challenging problem
A. Give me a formula. Give me an algorithm. As long as I know an approach I can crank through the math and get the problem done.
B. I like the chance to get creative. Drawing diagrams and recognizing patterns is what I do best.

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When not providing insight into the fascinating world of the GMAT, I enjoy watching detective shows on television.  In many episodes, one of the detectives must delve into the mind of the perpetrator “ actually try to think as the perpetrator does.   In so doing, the seemingly random clues come together (often via a slow motion or black and white flashback scene) leading to an insight that breaks the case.

gmat detectiveI am going to advocate taking on this television detective mentality in approaching GMAT problems.  Perhaps there is a further parallel as the mind of the GMAT question writer may seem to be just as scary a place as the mind of a criminal. But the ability to think like a GMAT test writer can provide multiple benefits including enabling you to get more questions right and allowing you to have more confidence in your answers.

So let’s try think about three lessons we can take from our favorite crime dramas and apply to the GMAT.

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When do you leave the house without directions? Or perhaps the more modern reference, is when do you start on your way without plugging in your destination into a GPS device? I expect the answer for most of you is when I know where I am going.

GMAT directions

Conversely, when you have no idea when you are going, your solution is most likely not to get in your car (or on your bike or public transit) and just start randomly driving around hoping you run into your desired destination. Ideally, you probably look up where you are going and plan out a route. Alternatively, you might know a nearby destination and start heading there (e.g. I know the bike store is near that place I get coffee). Finally, on occasion you may just head to an area where you expect to find a type of business (e.g. Gas stations are usually close to freeway entrances).

Now, all this talk about directions has been fun, but let’s bring the analogy around to GMAT quant problems. Sometimes when you see a GMAT problem, you may understand what the question is asking and see the path to the solution. In these cases, dive right in. Start driving and you are likely to reach your destination because you know “ or at least have a good sense “ of where you are going. Continue Reading…

errorWhen I make an error, I get excited. Seriously “ you should be excited when you make errors, too. I know that I’m about to learn something and get better, and that’s definitely worth getting excited!

Errors can come in several different forms: careless errors, content errors, and technique errors. We’re going to discuss something critical today: how to learn from your errors so that you don’t continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. First, let’s define these different error types.
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What’s the optimal way to spend your last 14 days before the real test? There are two levels to this discussion: what and how to review, and building a game plan. We’ll discuss the latter topic in this article. Once you’ve read this article, you may want to check out How To Review.

What is a Game Plan?

In the last two weeks before your test, your focus needs to shift from trying to learn new things to acknowledging that your skills are what they are. They’re not going to change an enormous amount in the last two weeks; you can tweak some things, but now is not the time to change major strategies across an entire question type. Further, it would be a mistake to spend your last two weeks entirely focused on your weaknesses; if you do that, then you won’t be prepared to excel on your strengths.

Your Game Plan will help you to make certain decisions quickly during the test. When is it a good idea to spend an extra 20 or 30 seconds on a problem? When should you decide to make an educated guess? When should you cut yourself off completely, guess immediately, and move on? What should you do if you find yourself ahead or behind on your timing? (We’ll discuss the answers to these questions later in the article.) Continue Reading…

by Jonathan McEuen, guest blogger

Jonathan McEueun is a Manhattan GMAT grad who is off to Wharton this fall. We asked him to share his application process with us. What follows is Part 3 of 5 posts in a series about his experiences. You can read Part 2 here.

Don’t Get Lost Before The First Step

The big question of How should I prepare for this test? quickly becomes a set of much more detailed, specific questions:  Do I enroll in a course? Should I buy books and study on my own?  What if I need to take the test multiple times?  All this tends to become a little overwhelming.

I tried to calm down and bring myself back to the first question.  I knew I needed structure and guidance.  I again turned to friends for recommendations.  It was word of mouth that Continue Reading…