May 14, 2013
During my time as a GMAT instructor for Kaplan Test Prep, I have had the great pleasure to work with a select few individuals who display such foresight and reason as they stare down the barrel of their future that I hold a special place of respect and admiration for them. Taken individually, they comprise a highly diverse group, but the one thing all have in common is that they are fresh out of undergrad and studying for the GMAT.
I know what happens after undergraduate commencement: life. The vast majority of my aspirant MBAs are 3-5 years into their professional lives by the time they start positioning themselves for b-school. As the reality of the GMAT sets in, these individuals are soon overwhelmed and questioning how they might be able to pull off GMAT study in addition to all of the other things that were already too much to juggle effectively. Many discover that they simply cannot make it all happen. Balls and batons must be sacrificed for the show to go on, so the GMAT and b-school take a backseat to work and life. Maybe later, maybe next year.
The GMAT is the big obstacle for most people interested in attending business school. They already have their undergraduate GPA; they have long-since established relationships with those who will write letters of recommendation; work experience is exactly what they’ve been building since they last left university life; essays must be written, sure, but the source material from which content will be derived has already been lived through. What must be started from scratch, strived for, and completed successfully is the Graduate Management Admission Test.
The GMAT demands time and hard work. I tell all of my students that the best way to frame GMAT prep is to treat it as a part-time job. Set up a schedule and make it the rule, not the exception. The problem for so many GMAT students is that they are already on full-time-plus work schedules and often have partners—even children—that need these would-be GMATers involved in their lives. Furthermore, with respect to timing GMAT prep, all will agree that no aspect of their professional lives has helped prepare them for a test that is valid only to predict academic success.
Now, let’s pan back to the determined clairvoyants I love so much…
GMAT scores are valid for a full 5 years after Test Day. Closing out undergrad marks a time when the brain is fully engaged in student/study-mode and the responsibility payload is never going to lessen. The decision to tackle the GMAT now with the expressed intention of holding the score in your pocket until needed is a tremendous revelation indeed. Even for those that are well beyond their bachelor’s but nonetheless can see a window of relative downtime in the summer, taking on the GMAT before it is required can be a huge boon not only to your score, but also your general well-being.
Summer time is a wondrous time. Vacations, warm weather, long daylight hours… so much of the season is a recipe for joy. But, can you see how The Long Game unfolds? Do you have the dedication, commitment, and discipline to play it? If so, the rewards will be tremendous.
The key to many GMAT coordinate geometry questions is to remember that coordinate geometry is just another way of expressing the possible solutions to a two variable equation. Each point on the line in a coordinate plane corresponds to a solution for the equation of that line.
The base equation for a line is y = mx + b, where b is the y intercept, or the point at which the line crosses the y-axis, and m is the slope, or the steepness of the line. More specifically, the slope of a line is the change in the y coordinates divided by the change in the x coordinates between any two points on the line.
While understanding the basic format for an equation of a line can be very useful on the GMAT quantitative section, you will encounter GMAT problems in which it is faster and easier to think of the problem in algebraic terms. In such cases you should think of the equation as an algorithm that will produce the y value given any x value. This is the reason that the x values are sometimes referred to as inputs and the y values as outputs.
For example, if your answer choices are solution sets and you are asked to determine which option is on the line given in the y = mx + b form, rather than graphing the line and trying to determine which point falls on it, which is especially difficult as you will not have graph paper, you can plug each x value into the equation and determine which one produces the appropriate y value.
On test day, the key is to remember that coordinate geometry is just a way of expressing algebraic concepts visually. Thus, we can often treat these problems as algebra rather than as geometry. To see this in action, try the problem below.
In the xy-coordinate system, if (m, n) and (m 1 2, n 1 k) are two points on the line
with the equation x 5 2y 1 5, then k 5
Step 1: Analyze the Question
For any question involving the equation of a line, a good
place to start is the slope-intercept form of the line,
y = mx 1 b. Remember that if you have two points on a
line, you can derive the entire equation, and if you have an
equation of the line, you can calculate any points on that
Step 2: State the Task
We are solving for k, which is the amount by which the
y-coordinate increases when the x-coordinate increases
Step 3: Approach Strategically
The slope of a line is the ratio between the change in y and
the change in x. In other words, every time the x-coordinate
increases by 1, the y-coordinate increases by the amount
of the slope.
The equation of the line in the question stem is defined as
x = 2y + 5. We must isolate y to have slope-intercept form:
So the slope of this line is 1/2 . This means that for every
change of +1 in the x direction, there is a change of + 1/2
in the y direction. Then we know that, because there is an
increase in 2 units in the x direction when moving from
m to m + 2, there must be a change of 1 unit in the y
direction when moving from n to n + k. So k = 1.
Since there are variables that eventually cancel (m and n
are not part of the answers), we can Pick Numbers. Let’s
say that you choose the y-coordinate of the point (m, n) to
be 0 to allow for easier calculations. Using the equation
we’re given to relate x- and y-coordinates, we can calculate
So (m, n) is the point (5, 0).
Now we’ll plug our values of m and n into the next point:
(m + 2, n + k). That yields (7, k). All we have to do is plug
an x-coordinate of 7 into the equation to solve for k, the
Piecing together the time to study for the GMAT can be challenging. In today’s blog, I’m going to talk about three students (whose names I’m changing to protect their identities). Each had a major obstacle to studying, and each overcame it in a different way. I hope these students’ examples can help some of you reach your GMAT and MBA goals.
Case Study 1: Vincent, the Entrepreneur
The Challenge: Vincent was a busy man when I was tutoring him. His schedule was very flexible—his main source of income was a business that he started and ran himself—but he was distracted at all hours by emails and phone calls related to his work.
The Solution: Vincent needed a time and place where he could study in peace.
Because of his flexible work schedule, it was easier for Vincent to find time than it is for some other students. He dedicated a daily block of time to studying, and had the discipline to stick with it—though as his tutor, I was standing by ready to make sure he stuck with it if he got distracted!
Vincent had a harder time finding the space he needed to study. Local coffee shops were noisy, and didn’t have reliable internet connections for his CATs. But fortunately, there was a quiet study space regularly available in the local public library. Not only did that let him work in peace, but it also forced him to turn off his cell phone and disconnect from the world.
Ultimately, Vincent got a 700—though he didn’t quite reach his goal, he significantly improved his score, posting a result that combined with his entrepreneurial experience to make a top-tier-worthy application.
Case Study 2: Brandon, the Financier
The Challenge: Brandon had a lot of things to cope with. He was a long time out of college, so his writing and grammar skills were rusty (especially since he was a non-native, though fluent, speaker of English). Moreover, though he worked with numbers quite a bit in his job at a bank,the GMAT quantitative section proved challenging since he seldom had to do algebra, let alone geometry or probability.
Brandon had a relatively easy work schedule and a strong work ethic, and he was able to make consistent, steady progress across the board. But after 4 weeks and 60 points of improvement, he was exhausted and burnt out.
The Solution: Brandon and I sat down to start working on his applications.
This was something that had to get done, so it was a good use of time—but for Brandon, it was also a welcome relief from the constant effort of GMAT studying, especially when rusty fundamentals meant nothing was coming easily Working on the applications boosted his confidence, since seeing awesome application essays reminded him that he was a strong candidate already, and his test score was just the final piece of the puzzle. And finally, writing application essays with questions like “What are your goals at business school?” restored his focus on why he was studying for the test in the first place!
After spending a few days writing and revising application material, Brandon was ready and energized to get back to GMAT studying—and his practice test scores kept rising.
Case Study 3: Sally, the Management Consultant
The Challenge: Sally was working as a consultant while taking my class. She worked 70-80 hours/week during her busy periods and 50 hours/week at slower times. She spent most of her work week away from home. And perhaps most frustrating of all, Sally’s subordinates were studying for the GMAT on every train ride to and from their work site. She wanted to study with them, but didn’t think she’d be able maintain the respect necessary to manage them—especially since some of them were outscoring her on practice tests!
The result: Sally decided not to take the test.
I realize this might not seem like an inspiring outcome, but it’s actually quite brilliant. The GMAT is not something that fits everyone’s schedule at any given time—it’s a major commitment. Forcing yourself to take a test you’re not ready for is just going to put a mediocre score on your record for the next five years. And more importantly, there is more than one path to success. Sally’s hard work has earned her a raise to a pay grade normally reserved for MBA’s! She’s hoping that with a few more years of such progress, she’ll be able to achieve her long-term career goals through an executive MBA program, which will be a better fit for her busy, hardworking lifestyle. I look forward to helping her again when that time comes.
For those of you who recently received your undergraduate degree, you may already know that you want to go to business school and get your MBA some day but are not sure exactly when. If this is the case, you may be unsure of the best plan for taking the GMAT.
GMAT scores are good for five years. If you expect to go to business school further than five years in the future, you can’t take the GMAT yet. However, if you plan to start within this time frame, you will do yourself a favor by taking the GMAT sooner rather than later.
First, you are still used to studying for school. While this may not seem like a big deal after 16 years of education, just a few years in the workforce and away from academia can make it difficult to jump back into studying. Additionally, as you move up in your career and your responsibilities increase, you will have more and more difficulty finding the time you need to prepare properly for the GMAT .
Additionally, the GMAT quantitative section focuses on topics that many students have not studied since high school. The further away you get from those math classes, the more difficulty you will have reviewing and relearning those topics. This is true of the sentence correction portion of the test as well, but to a lesser extent, as you will continue to use grammar on a daily basis in a way you do not use math.
Finally, the business school application process can be extremely stressful. You will be struggling to find the time to research schools, write compelling essays, manage people writing recommendations, and complete applications. Having the GMAT in the rear view mirror can significantly lighten your load and free up valuable time to engage in meaningful interactions with admissions officers and students at the schools you are researching. This can not only increase the likelihood that you are accepted but also help ensure that the school you choose is a good cultural fit.
Thus, if you are unsure if you should take the GMAT now, your best bet is to just go ahead and sign up for it. Give yourself a few months to study, and you will be able to improve in the most efficient manner possible.
In your GMAT preparation you have probably learned to tackle critical reasoning assumption questions by identifying the conclusion of the argument, followed by the evidence and then looking for the missing link between these, which will be the central assumption. However, you have also probably encountered GMAT problems in which you either cannot figure out what the assumption is before you go to the answer choices or the assumption you found is not listed as an option. When this happens you want to be ready with a backup strategy.
The standard backup strategy for assumption questions – and do keep in mind this should not be used as a primary strategy, since it is more time consuming than the usual approach – is the denial test.
The denial test is based on the idea that the assumption is something that must be true in order to link the evidence to the conclusion. Another way to think about this is that if the assumption were not true, the evidence would no longer lead to the conclusion; that is, the argument would fall apart.
Therefore, as long as you have identified both the conclusion and evidence you can apply the denial test by negating each answer choice. Once you negate the option, see if the argument can still be true, even though the answer choice is false. If the argument cannot be true once the choice has been negated, you have found your assumption
For example, in the argument “poisons are harmful, therefore chemical X is harmful,” the conclusion is “chemical X is harmful” and the evidence is “poisons are harmful.” If an answer choice for the assumption said “chemical X is a poison,” we would negate this by making it “chemical X is not a poison.” If we know that chemical X is not a poison, then knowing that poisons are harmful tells us nothing about chemical X and the argument falls apart. Thus, we have found our assumption.
By using this strategy on GMAT test day when you get stuck on an assumption question you will be able to find the right answer without either guessing or using a method that is not working for you on that problem. Give it a try on the question below.
Politician: It is important for members of the State Assembly to remember that Governor Norman’s proposed new state thruway was part of her platform during her landslide re – election campaign last year. This means that if the thruway plan is defeated, its opponents will have much to answer for in next November’s State Assembly elections.
The politician’s argument relies upon which of the following assumptions?
|o||A.||Many of those who voted for Governor Norman oppose the thruway proposal.|
|o||B.||The thruway proposal is likely to be defeated by the State Assembly.|
|o||C.||Many of those who voted for Governor Norman supported the thruway proposal.|
|o||D.||Everyone who voted for Governor Norman last year will vote in the State Assembly elections.|
|o||E.||Those members of the State Assembly who oppose the thruway proposal do not have valid reasons for opposing it.|
The question stem asks us to identify an assumption. Read the stimulus and find the evidence and conclusion. How do they differ? The assumption holds the evidence and conclusion together despite their apparent differences.
When the Governor won by a landslide, her platform included a thruway proposal. Based on this evidence, the politician concludes that if the thruway plan is shot down in the State Assembly, those responsible for its defeat will be in big trouble come election time.
The author assumes that the Governor won because her platform included a thruway proposal. But for all we know, the Governor may have won despite, not because of, the proposal. If the November threat to thruway opponents is real, it must be true that many of those who contributed to the landslide also support the project.
Choice (C) is a perfect replica of the paraphrase above. If, in fact, many who voted for Norman support the thruway, then the politician’s conclusion is surely reasonable — opponents of the thruway may be in hot water with the voters, at least over this issue.
Choice (A) is the exact denial of correct Choice (C). The fact that many of Norman’s supporters oppose the thruway would substantially weaken the politician’s argument.
Choice (B) goes beyond the scope of the argument by assessing the thruway proposal’s chances. The argument is based on the hypothetical “If it is defeated . . .” So even if it is not likely to be defeated, the threat may still be real should the defeat actually occur. The word if ensures that the chance of defeat plays no role in the validity of the argument.
Choice (D) is also not necessary to the argument. Even if not everyone who voted for the Governor last year votes in the State Assembly elections, enough of them may vote to cause trouble for thruway opponents — if those voters support the project.
Choice (E) is irrelevant to the argument. No matter what reasons the members of the State Assembly have for opposing the thruway, the Governor’s voters may not forgive them for a thruway defeat. Nothing regarding the validity of the opposition is required here.
The answer is C
I’ve been studying for the GMAT for some time now, and I’m fighting an uphill battle. My score increases a little bit each week, but I’m still not hitting my goal. Recently, I started to feel defeated, so I decided to take a break. I closed my books and took some time to rest my mind. As a result, I had to change my test date to the end of May. I also decided that if I don’t get the score I want, I will go ahead and study the new Integrative Reasoning section of the test and retake the GMAT again in August. I was so gung-ho in the beginning, I think I may have psyched myself out. I’m sure many test-takers have had this happen. I am writing this to let you know, you’re not alone.
My hiatus has allowed me to re-charge and re-focus. I’m getting back to my studies this week feeling confident and renewed. My fellow blogger, Eli Meyer, recently wrote that “the GMAT is a marathon, not a sprint.” He was talking about the experience of taking the test, but that assessment is just as true of GMAT prep. It is a long process, and we have to keep ourselves motivated. Time away worked for me.
What do you do to stay motivated and refreshed during the long process of studying for the GMAT?
I was having a conversation with my students this past Monday evening, checking in on how prep is progressing for them. That class marked the close of the first third of their course and perhaps the first quarter of their prep schedule—a good time for anyone to take stock of where you’re at and how well it’s going.
Invariably, everyone who preps for the GMAT comes to the same realization: I need more time than I’d anticipated. We walk into this test with the well-earned self-perception that we are smart, quick on the uptake, and just need a little grease on some old gears so we can score a 700+. Yeah…
Once you begin really taking your prep seriously and learning what the GMAT is all about, you very quickly realize that your initial surface scratch has revealed a massive and intricate world for which you need a map, some tools, and a good bit of time to navigate. The more you study, the more you come to understand that you deserve that time and those resources. It becomes a point of principal: if I gave myself the chance to really do this right, then I really could manage to hit a very solid score.
Sadly, all the other stuff we have going on in our lives doesn’t seem to care we have chosen embark on such a significant and demanding journey. Work, family, friends, and the unexpected keep demanding (and sometimes stealing) our time. Days might pass and all the while you are thinking of how you really ought to be studying for the GMAT. You’ll feel guilty about it. Then, you will finally get back on the GMAT wagon and you’ll wonder just how many hours you squandered away that you could really use right about now.
Even after you’ve whipped yourself into a disciplined study schedule, that nagging sense of time constraint will never go away. Your Test Day will loom on the horizon, drawing ever closer, and you’ll pine for just one more week so you can study just a little more.
The GMAT is definitely NOT a test for which you can cram. You need 100-120 hours over the course of 2-3 months of regular, progressive study to set yourself up to attain the score you deserve. If you think you can conquer the GMAT in a month, well, I promise that thought will evaporate by the end of the first week.
Respect the test.
Over the past few years, I have done a great deal of soul-searching to find my passion. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to pursue a career in marketing and focus on the digital/social media space. Social media is my passion. I am continuously amazed at the new and innovative ideas that are evolving every day. My idea of relaxation is tweeting or reading case studies. Sounds like fun right? Haha! After some further research on positions and titles in the digital space, I realized that getting an MBA would be the next step that I needed to make a career change.
Why do I mention all this? Well, as I have begun studying for the GMAT, there have been times when I felt discouraged. I didn’t score well on my first CAT and I am having problems understand some of the question types. Thoughts of inadequacy started to creep into my head every time I would get an answer wrong. As Seth Godin would say, I was letting my lizard brain take control. I was officially in dangerous territory.
I decided to take a break and attend some events during Social Media Week recently and BOOM…I was reminded why I had started to take this test in the first place. The excitement I felt at the various events during Social Media Week 2012, learning new ideas and networking with others that shared my passion for social media, reenergized me. This experience gave me the strength to beat down the thoughts of inadequacy that began to cloud my brain and disrupt my concentration. It reminded me that the GMAT is just part of the hard road I will have to travel to reach my ultimate goal. I decided that I needed to put in place some reminders so when I started to feel a bit discouraged, I could remind myself why giving up was not an option.
On the inside of my Kaplan course book, I wrote ‘This book is the property of Candice E. Batts, MBA’. I also set up Google reminders that send me a daily email with my favorite inspirational quote and the top 4 reasons why I am studying so hard every day. This strategy has helped me stay more focused and determined to push through the difficult periods.
I know that the GMAT can get you down some days, but always remind yourself why you have decided to take this step. Allow your passion for the future to ignite your GMAT success. Tell that lizard brain to back off, there’s a new sheriff in town!
Back in December, I had my own Test Day. With all my time recently focused on the GMAT, I was a little concerned that the LSAT would be a little tough, but a few practice tests told me that I still remembered my stuff from when I taught prospective law students many years ago. In the days leading up to the test, I didn’t worry about it too much. This was a mistake.
It wasn’t that I needed to study more. The GMAT and the LSAT overlap significantly (good news for those of you considering joint JD/MBA programs!), and one of the advantages of working for Kaplan is that I get to study test-prep every day with my students. I knew the material backwards and forwards.
The problem was one of scheduling. Unlike the GMAT, which has tests every day, the LSAT is four times a year—at 8:30 a.m. And while working with students every night may be useful for learning to answer questions, teaching till 10pm isn’t conducive to functioning early morning!
So, I ended up waking up at 6:30 a.m. to travel to the testing site in central Boston, even though my alarm had been set to wake me at 9:30 a.m. every day the week before. Not only was I bleary, but the schedule shift messed up my stomach! I planned a big hearty breakfast, but wasn’t able to get even half of it down.
I did get a little time to wake up on the ride to the testing center. And when I cracked the booklet and looked at the first problem, a surge of adrenaline gave me tunnel vision, an experience I’m sure my GMAT students all shared. I tore through the first two sections, and I was feeling great. But halfway through the third section, I crashed. Despite years of looking at test-materials, I just couldn’t focus—the letters were swimming before my eyes. I barely made it through, and when I got to check my answers on my official score report a month later, I learned that I had gotten more problems wrong on that one section than I did on the other three sections combined.
Lucky for me, the LSAT lets your bring food into the testing center, and during the 15-minute break I gorged myself on dried fruit and caffeinated soda, waking me up for the remainder of the test. I’m not sure how well I would have done on the GMAT. Being forced to rush to the locker to wolf down a granola bar would have been stressful, at the very least. But despite all of that, I’m glad this happened; it gave me a valuable lesson to share with all of you.
First, manage your schedule. Morning people should sign up for morning test slots, and night people should aim for afternoon testing. But if your schedule forces you to take a test at a ‘bad’ time for you, plan ahead. If you do get stuck with an a.m. test, make sure you’re getting up early every day for a week beforehand to shift your schedule; conversely, try sleeping late for several days before a 4 o’clock test if you know you normally get tired at 6. Also, eat a filling pre-test meal. I didn’t get enough food, and what I did eat (a Pop Tart) was filled with the kind of sugars that give you a spike of energy before sending you crashing down. I did get one thing right, at least: coffee. I had my daily cuppa joe, but I resisted the urge to down two or three more to wake me up. Overcaffeination is dangerous, a sure way to make sure you can’t sit through the test.
I hope all of you can learn from my hardships. Remember, test preparation isn’t just about studying. You need to actually prepare to take a test. Going in focused, awake, and energized can give you a huge advantage over other test-takers, so plan accordingly for test day success!
I spend a lot of time teaching. By virtue of this profession, I spend a lot of time fielding questions. I actually thrive on questions. Questions tell me many things. Each of the following line items begins, “If my students are asking questions, it means…”
- They’re engaged.
- Class rapport is healthy.
- We’ve created a learning environment.
- This is a concept I need to spend more time on right now.
- This is a concept I need to revisit and work into subsequent lessons.
- I am asking sufficient/appropriate questions.
- My delivery is off and I need to adjust.
- They care.
- They are learning.
- I am doing my job.
Make no mistake, I truly do love questions. Which is why I hate the statement that precedes so many of the questions I love: “This is a dumb question…”
No! It’s not! Let me ask you this—in your previous history as a student, each time a classmate of yours requested clarification on something or tested out an idea, would you always glower at them and think to yourself, “Oh, c’mon! Really? You really just asked that? That is such a dumb question, and it is clear that you are a dumb person. I do not respect you and I will hate you forever. Dummy.”
At its base, I think that is why people refrain from participating in class, i.e., they fear being judged by others. Why else would one feel the need to preface their inquiry in such a way? It’s a defensive move. Perhaps they feel by saying this, the class will infer that they are in fact not dumb. Rather, they are obviously very smart since they can see the banality and elementary quality of their question.
That kind of an outlook simply has no place in your study regimen, GMAT or otherwise. In fact, some out there say such an outlook has no place in your professional life either. Wanna do well on the GMAT? Ask all your questions.