March 14, 2013
Last summer, the GMAT made the most major change to its format in 15 years by replacing one of the essays with the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section. Since then, GMAT test-takers have been wondering how IR impacts their b-school applications. As it turns out, business schools are wondering exactly the same thing.
In the IR section of the GMAT, test-takers evaluate data in graphs, spreadsheets, and charts, similar to the materials they will eventually see in business school. In theory, IR can better assess students’ ability to perform the tasks expected of them in business school and the work world. Nearly a year after the inclusion of IR, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), who administers the GMAT, and business schools nationwide are taking the first steps to determine what role IR should play in the admissions process.
Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported that business schools across the country are actively assessing the significance of IR performance on students’ eventual success in business school. While IR isn’t currently being given much weight in the admissions process, largely because many applicants took the GMAT before the test change and therefore do not have IR scores, business schools are analyzing IR data to get a better understanding of the role it will eventually play in admissions. Dan Poston, of the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, states, “We want to see how it [IR] plays out…We want to see how predictive it is of student’s success at school.”
GMAC has released some key data on the IR section, based upon results of the more than 123,000 test-takers who have taken the GMAT since IR was added to the test. GMAC reports that the distribution of scores is normal and without bias against any subgroup of test-takers. In short, these results suggest that IR has the potential to be a valid predictor of student success in b-school.
In addition to analyzing data from GMAC, some schools are directly studying the connection between IR and student performance. For instance, at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, a group of 60 second-year students will complete the IR portion of the GMAT. Their IR scores will then be compared to their success in core courses in order to determine whether IR performance positively correlates with b-school performance.
The obvious question for GMAT test-takers is how they should approach IR in order to put together the best application package possible. While IR may not play a major role in the admissions process for the next few years, a solid IR score can only help applicants. As Dawna Clarke of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business notes, “IR will help prospective students more than it will hurt them…If you are not ‘quant strong,’ but you have strong IR skills, then this test will help you shine.”
March 5, 2013
On Wednesday, February 27, 2013, the student loan ombudsman at the recently minted Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), Rohit Chopra, declared yet another systemwithin the U.S. economy ‘too big to fail.’ While Sen. Warren is grilling Ben Bernanke on what exactly the Federal Reserve is doing to remedy the unacceptable influence big banks wield on the health and state of our economy, the student loan debt market, comprised of public and private lenders, has shot past $1 trillion and continues its relentless climb.
Last year, students borrowed $117 billion from the federal government alone—our most inexpensive and forgiving education creditor. [Although, if our ever-competent and productive legislators [sic] fail to reach an agreement by July 1st of this year, interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans will be hiked to 6.8%.]But, is this any surprise? The cost of college is increasing at a rate of 8% per year, five times the current national rate. This tuition inflation rate translates to a doubling of tuition every nine years. Of course, tuition is nowhere near the entirety of the cost of higher education. In fact, an investigation by Business Insider estimates an average of $70,000 in additional costs above the tuition sticker price, and that is just an undergrad number.
Some are lucky enough to be able to cover the cost of undergraduate and graduate degrees, but more are unable to do so without incurring debt.As you look toward your MBA degree and the multi-faceted investment it involves, take the time to objectively evaluate where a graduate management degree from your targeted institution(s) have the potential to take you. Do not sell yourself short or the institution, but approach this analysis soberly. It may well be that you conclude that you need to set your sights higher and, therefore, incur even more cost in order to track your future in the direction it needs to go. If you have the drive and are willing to make the commitment to do what it takes to get into a top tier school, then go after it. If that does not make sense for your career path and goals, however, then get what you need at less cost.
The numbers surrounding student loan debt are terrifying, both macro and micro (I speak from experience here). But, just as a fledgling company needs investment to grow and prosper, so do individuals. If you decide to take the plunge, then go all in. Sign up for a GMAT class, take trips to universities, apply for scholarships and grants, accept loans if necessary. After all, where is the reward without the risk? Just be sure to do all of these things prudently and with a clear head. Do not be duped into a system that will not reward your risk.Defaults will hurt us all.
January 15, 2013
If you have not yet started reading www.PoetsandQunats.com and you are interested in pursuing a graduate management degree, then you need to start
right after you read this blog post. It was actually one of my Kaplan GMAT students who first turned me onto it and it has been a regular feature in my internet reading ever since.
How about the Wall Street Journal? Have you ever heard of that? I know, I know… absurd question. Here’s the problem, though: according to poetsandquants.com founder and regular contributor, John A. Byrne, WSJ is promulgating some unfortunate misinformation. As popular as I know P&Q is, Mr. Byrne’s article, titled “Silly News,” will reach a very small fraction of those who have read the WSJ article it is attacking.
In sum, the Journal makes a classic argumentative flaw; one that is tested profusely on the GMAT. It is called ‘representativeness.’ For those of you who have studied Critical Reasoning questions, specifically those CR questions within the argument family (aka, the assumption family), you may well have heard of this flaw.
We know that when we are presented with an argument on the GMAT, we will always be given two of the three component parts of an argument. We will always be given a conclusion and we will always be given evidence that presumably allows the author to reach that conclusion. What we will never be given is the author’s assumption(s). They are of course inherent in the argument, but we can only derive them by using the primary core competency tested by the GMAT: critical thinking. Incidentally, representativeness is such a common flaw, pattern recognition (another of the GMAT four core competencies) is all you’ll need after this and several other flaw types are on your radar.
Basically, if an argument uses statistical data as evidence to drive a conclusion, your immediate question should be, “Is the group studied representative of the group in the conclusion?” Think about size of the study, time duration of the study, who specifically was studied, and whether there might be any inherent biases in how the study was set up or conducted.
In the real life example provided by the exchange between WSJ and P&Q, John Byrne identifies a mismatch between the group in the study and the group in the conclusion. I want you to read both articles. In fact, I want you to read the WSJ article first and try to derive the critical question that weakens the argument. In other words, try to identify how John Byrne is going to attack it. This will be excellent practice for making predictions—a requisite skill for Critical Reasoning question success! Then, read the PoetsandQuants.com article. Finally, come back here and post your comments!!
December 18, 2012
The holidays are upon us, and with them come a flurry of seasonal activities: shopping trips, parties, and visits with family and friends. If you’re planning on taking your GMAT in January, you’re probably struggling with the challenge of fitting your studies into your holiday schedule. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of this busy time.
First, acknowledge your limitations. Because of your holiday obligations, you’ll probably need to scale back your GMAT study time. The holidays provide you with a great opportunity to recharge mentally and emotionally, so there’s nothing wrong with cutting back a little on your studies to give yourself some more personal time. You’ll be able to create a study schedule–and stick to it–if you’re realistic with yourself about how much time you’ll actually have for studying over the holidays.
Second, since you’ll have less time to study, plan out carefully what you’re going to study and when. A specific agenda for each study session will help guarantee that you use your productively. If you’re used to longer study sessions (two or three hours), but you’ll be studying for shorter periods during the holidays, limit your agenda to one key topic at a time. For instance, you might spend an hour reviewing just proportions, rather than two hours reviewing proportions, averages, and ratios. This is also a good time to give yourself short quizzes (5 to 10 questions at time); in an hour, you can complete a short quiz in 15 to 30 minutes, giving you an equal amount of time to use for review of the quiz. As always, though, be sure to balance your studying between Quant and Verbal. A good plan is alternating between the two every day, or depending on your individual strengths and weaknesses, spending two days on one, followed by one day on the other.
Finally, recognize that there are benefits to a mini-vacation from your studies. Taking time away from intense studying gives you time to digest the material. There’s a lot to learn for the GMAT, and all that material takes time to “settle in” to your brain. Slowing down for a little while allows you to master concepts and helps prevent burn out. So take advantage of the pleasures of the holidays: enjoy your time spent not studying, maximize the time you do spend studying, and rest assured that your brain will benefit from the holiday as well.
February 26, 2012
For the most part, GMAT math is high school math. This is a helpful mantra for many math-phobic test takers, who remind themselves (correctly!) that if they could do the math back when they were sixteen, they can do it today, too. But occasionally, the GMAT will throw something at you that you’ve never seen before, a weird symbol or other doohickey that looks like it came from outer space. Here is an example:
If x☼y = 4xy – x/y, for all x and for all y≠0, then….
Okay, what’s ☼? Certainly nothing you learned in school. It looks like a sun, or a bullet hole! But fortunately:
- Symbolism rule 1) The problem will always tell you what the symbols mean.
You aren’t expected to know ☼ at a glance. It’s defined for you. That first part of the sentence, the equation for x☼y, is that definition. This is tricky, because the equals sign in the definition is the same symbol in every algebraic equation. But in reality, the = in this problem doesn’t mean “equals.”
- Symbolism rule 2) An = in the definition of a symbol should be read as “is defined as.”
In other words, in ‘real’ math, ☼ is meaningless. So the GMAT testmaker has to give that symbol a definition. Paraphrasing the question above into English, we get the following: “When two numbers are connected by the ☼ sign, that operation is defined as four times the product of those two numbers, minus the first over the second.” Or perhaps more simply: “When two numbers are on either side of the ☼, we plug the first number into every x in the definition in the question stem and we plug the second number into every y in that definition.”
So if we see them complete version of the problem:
If x☼y = 4xy – x/y, for all x and for all y≠0, then 6☼3 equals
Then the problem, despite looking intimidating at first, turns out to be quite simple.
- Symbolism rule 3) The vast majority of symbolism problems test no math more complex than simple substitution.
We follow the instructions in the question stem, as we paraphrased them. If it’s easier for you to think of the ☼ as a process, than follow the rules for the process as you paraphrased them. If it’s easier to wrap your head around substitution, then substitute for x and y. The final math is the same either way:
6☼3 = 4*6*3 – 6/3 = 72 – 2 = 70
And on test-day, we get the points for a correct answer just like that.
Don’t let yourself get intimidated by strange symbols. These problems are testing your flexibility—your ability to understand new definitions and apply them. And as long as you remember the three rules of symbolism in this article, you’ll be able to answer any weird signs or operations that the GMAT throws at you.
Here is one more chance to try the same skills on a slightly tougher problem. Good luck!
For all numbers a and b, the operation && is defined by a&&b = (a + 2)(b – 3).
If 3&& x = –45, then x =
Analyze: What do the answer choices represent? The value of x when it is part of the operation described in the stem.
Outline the information in the stem. The operation shows what we do with two numbers, a and b.
The stem tells us that when we substitute 3 for a and x for b, the operation will equal –45.
Task: How do we use the operation in the stem to get a value for x? Just do the substitution and simplify, isolating x.
Replace a with 3 and b with x, and then solve for x.
(3 + 2)(x – 3) = –45
5(x – 3) = –45
x – 3 = –9
x = –6
That gives us (B) as the correct answer.
Confirm: Plug 3 in for a and –6 in for b in the operation and FOIL: (3 + 2)(–6 – 3) = (–18) – 9 – 12 – 6 = –45.
January 25, 2012
Setting goals is critical to achievement. Unless you know where you are going, getting there will be a little difficult. With all my students, one of the first action items we work on is setting a GMAT target score. Without a target your GMAT prep is directionless. Moreover, it will not be near as effective.
Yet, aiming at any old number just to have a number to aim at makes no sense either. In addition, taking aim at a number that does not align with your specific programmatic goals is almost worse than not aiming at anything at all.
So many of you out there have spent your lives in the 90+ percentiles. All through grade school and into college; in your extra-curriculars and at work—you are used to being at the top of the pack. But with the GMAT, you are now going head-to-head with a much more competitive set.
Basing current standardized test (i.e., GMAT) goals on past experience and self-perception is not reasonable. It is essential for you to align your target score with the institutions to which you are applying. When you set your target score at 750, then that absolutely MUST make sense.
A score of 750 represents the 98th percentile on the GMAT. It is 22 points higher than the most competitive GMAT institutional average out there, and a whopping 32 points higher than the average of the top ten most competitive institutional averages.
So, if you have set your target at 750 or somewhere similar, please ask yourself why. Why do you need to blow away the most competitive scores attained?
Take the time to compose a very good answer. Make sure your answer isn’t coming from a place of pride: “Because I want to beat everybody else.” Rather, align your answer with your goals: “Stanford has the best program in relation to my specific career interests. Stanford boasts a mean score of 728 for admitted applicants in 2010. Since my undergraduate GPA isn’t as high as I’d like it to be, my number of years and type of work experience might not shine as brightly as I need it to, and I don’t interview very well, then my GMAT score needs to be nearly perfect for my business school application to be competitive.”
December 19, 2011
For the vast majority of people out there, cheating on any test is simply not an option. Not so much because it isn’t possible, but because it isn’t ethical. In 2008, GMAC (the makers of the GMAT) was awarded a $2.3 million judgment against a website that charged would-be test-takers $30 for a peak at live GMAT questions. (This situation reminds me of my own recent troubles…) Here’s a quick summary of what happened to those folks that didn’t let scruples get in their way:
“GMAC said any students found to have used the Scoretop site will have their test scores canceled, the schools that received them will be notified, and the student will not be permitted to take the test again. Since most top B-schools require the GMAT, the students will have little chance of enrolling. “This is illegal,” said Judy Phair, GMAC’s vice-president for communications. “We have a hard drive, and we’re going to be analyzing it. If you used the site and paid your $30 to cheat, your scores will be canceled. They’re in big trouble.””
This isn’t the last time something like this happened either. At the end of 2009, GMAC won a court case in China against a similar website. This was the organization’s second legal victory in China and the result of one of many official complaints filed with the Chinese copyright office.
As one can imagine, the integrity of the GMAT is the top priority of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Illegal or otherwise surreptitious and unethical breaches of acceptable conduct will rightfully be met with stern and sweeping response. One result of the U.S.’s 2008 scandal was a FAQ posted on GMAC.org discussing the issue of cheating on their test. Here’s one Q&A worth reading immediately:
Q: How can students know what test prep material is legitimate and what’s fishy?
A: Any test preparation organization advertising “real GMAT items” is guilty of lying, stealing or both. In preparing to take the GMAT test, potential test takers should steer clear of these organizations as they can be harmful to their future. There are many reputable test preparation organizations available that do not make these claims.