Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Reviewing practice problems

Let's directly dig into the content.

OG, the official GMAT Preparation material, has close to 1400 problems and even if you buy all the versions the total # problems without overlap will come close to 2500 problems. Lets just say 500 problems from each section and you have got ten topics in each section so that brings us down to 50 problems for each topic. That is the maximum number of problems available for each topic and most of them are easy only one third of them are difficult, and you can solve close to 70% of the problems easily, so how can you get the maximum benefit from such a limited number of problems. When I was initially preparing for GMAT my review would be to cross check the answer, find what went wrong and then redo it (most problems in mind - Yeah! This was just a simple mistake). You wouldn't care to redo/review the correct ones. It will be like that because mistakes would be careless ones, techniques or concepts. You would not bother about careless mistakes and techniques and worry only about concepts. With very few problems at hand, how can we improve the quality of learning. The only way available is reviewing.

GMAT is all about quality and not quantity, so solving more number of problems won't guarantee us an increase in score. To get better quality we should review effectively.

Quant problem - find the easiest possible method - there is always a simpler way. E.g. Inequalities problems can be solved in algebraic approach or through trial and error. Similar manner for some geometry problems. Search through forums, get familiarized with different approaches and learn the one which gives you highest accuracy in shortest time. Take notes, prepare flash cards and review them daily.

SC problem - identify every error available in every answer choice. Verify the errors, the best way to remember concepts. Search for every error explanation in strategy guides or in forums, look for expert replies [saves lot of time]. Even if there are two to three errors in a single choice you get close to 10 mistakes to learn from a single problem. You miss so many information when you don't review.

CR problem - think of an alternative answer. Most of the GMAT CR questions imitate real world scenarios - they give a plan and ask us to find the one which most strengthens/supports/weakens ? You can always think of such options in real world scenarios. If you have a hard time doing those - try to find what each answer choice does to the question, some might be irrelevant, some be doing the opposite, find those and cross check them, again make use of the forums.

RC problems are quite different in this aspect. While there are ways to review the problem effectively, I haven't followed a concrete approach to review RC problems, it has been easy for me ever since I started following Ron's approach to solve RCs. You can sort of zoom out and zoom in to search for answers and find them easily.

In the end, its all about reviewing effectively, even though you have only close to 50 problems per topic, you get innumerable methods, approaches and ways to learn from a single problem, which is equivalent to solving many problems. And by the way check this link for GMAT Instructor Ron's take on how to review the problems effectively.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

GMAT Study plan

Once done with the diagnostic test, you might have got more than you expected or too disappointed with the results.

"So what plan should I go for ? A 3 month,  2 month or 1 month intense study plan ?".
"Where should I start ? What books should I have ?S"

If these are the thought lingering in your mind right now, then its time to go for a study plan. There are many study plans available in the forums 3 months, 2 months, 1 months, but I have always believed that following a strict plan wouldn't make good use of your time. You are already cracking 50 in quant so why would spend half the time solving inequalities or you might be too comfortable with RC, you are an avid reader, you shouldn't spend much time on RC as well with that plan. So the best plan is to devise it yourself.
  • Start off analyzing the GMAT Prep mock test 1 - diagnostic test which you had taken - GMAT Expert, Stacey Koprince's way of analyzing practice tests part1 and part2
  • Breakdown the #Qns right/wrong topic wise - topic wise in the sense not just PS, DS or RC, it should be inequalities, Bold face in CR likewise do for all questions.
  • Categorize the wrong answers into three types -
    • Careless mistakes - you knew how to solve, yet you made a dumb mistake.
    • Technique - you knew the concept, but you need "how to do these problems" guide.
    • Concept - you had been staring at the monitor for the entire time taken to answer the question.
  • If you have MGMAT mocks, all these things becomes easier with the report generation tool, which will be of immense help and saves a lot of time with all the analysis stuff. [For anybody having other mocks, try to get a hand at MGMAT mocks as well. It will save a lot of time. You get the 6 mocks with any one of the strategy guides]
  • Start with the strategy guides and work on weak topics - one or more topics in one section a day, till you learn the concept.
  • Solve related OG problems. Say you learn inequalities, solve all related problems in OG. Also solve the related problems in the mock tests.
  • Time your problems.
  • Take ample time to review.
  • Post the questions in forums. You will find expert solutions for every problem. Take notes or shortcuts or prepare flash cards.
  • All these will take almost 2 to 3 hours for one topic. Try to finish one section a day if possible or if you have more weak topics then take more time between your mocks and try to cover the weak areas. Its not necessary that you should take one mock every week or 10 days once. So far you have got something to improve, you can work on them.
Take another mock [Third party mocks such MGMAT, Veritas, Knewton], check on the improvement part and start over with analysis and all things mentioned above. With 1 test you won't get much topics to learn, but once you had taken two or three tests you will have solved atleast one problem in each topic and a consolidated data/report will give you a fair idea of your weak areas.

Once you complete 2 or 3 mock tests [other test prep mocks], take a GMATPrep mock test 1 again. Taking GMATPrep mock in the middle is very important as none of the other test prep company mocks are close to GMATPrep, so their diagnosis might go wrong. In short, your diagnosis of weak areas in both GMATPrep and other mocks should be in sync. Different prep company uses different style and none comes as close to GMAT particularly the verbal section. So its better to be cautious and not rely completely on other test prep companies for the entire preparation period. Don't save GMAT Prep tests for last minute. After all the tests are useful only to improve your testing experience (stamina, endurance) and to know your weak areas.

Proceed with studying, if you know your weak areas, you don't need to take tests. Keep on improving. And once you feel you have covered all the grey areas, take the another GMATPrep. If you are close to your target score and to your test date, then stop learning new topics and work on reviewing the concepts/strategies/techniques learnt so far.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Choosing the study Materials

GMAT Preparation either involves extensive study materials or very few depending on your target score. If you are opting for self prep, then you should have these materials.

Must have materials
OG 12/OG 13. You can always supplement it with OG quant/verbal review and GMATPrep pack 1. You can get these here. There is no GMAT Preparation without OG.

Quant Study materials:
Foundations of GMAT Math by MGMAT/Kaplan GMAT Math foundations - one among these if you are too weak in quant say scoring in the 30s have trouble with basics

MGMAT - strategy guides/Veritas/Kaplan -  one among these to improve from mid 30s to mid 40s. MGMAT tops the list.

To go beyond 48 both GMATClub tests and MGMAT's Advanced GMAT Quant are quite good.

Verbal Study materials:
CR - Powerscore CR - if you are having trouble identifying the question types, otherwise go for MGMAT CR. Don't get bogged too much with powerscore strategies.You will start segregating answer choices based on rules rather than on reasons, say for ex. you face a CR answer choice to any question you think about the probable answer choice types, then read the choice and instead of analyzing directly with the question you will try to fit the choice into one of the categories such as shell game answer, opposite answer etc. This is detrimental to your CR performance. CR problems should be solved intuitively and not in a rule based manner. Stick to powerscore for starters and then you can switch to MGMAT CR.

SC - MGMAT SC is a must, you can supplement it with Aristotle SC or GMATClub's Ultimate Grammar book, both are quite good but none can beat MGMAT SC.

RC - RC comes with practice, you have to devise your own strategy, some might find it comfortable to take notes, some don't even take notes, many people skim through the passages. Veritas RC guidebook is quite good, but as far as I have seen Ron's videos are the best.

If you are scoring in the mid 20s and need to improve your score to 35+, then its probably the right time to check out Thursday's with Ron videos - the best free videos one can get for non native english speakers.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

First step - Starting your GMAT Preparation

Probably everyone looking over this post would have a fair idea about what GMAT is all about. If not then have a look at this. If GMAT is your god as of now, then Official Guides are the bible. OG guides are released by GMAC, the same people who creates the test. You can get these here. Everyone who prepares for GMAT should have it for your preparation, every other material you can get in the market are the ones with which you can supplement your preparation.

How to start off ?
Which topics can I study now ?
So many topics are there in book ... I am confused ...
Should I start solving problems already ?

If these are your thoughts, then you have come to the right place. Start off with the concepts available in OG. OG does a good part in reviewing the basics, if you find the concepts to be too difficult to grasp, then you should understand that your math is rusty and you need to review the basics. Few suggestions to learn the basic math. The order or priority is directly proportional to the quality of the book.

1.Foundations of GMAT Math by MGMAT
2.Kaplan GMAT Math foundations
3.NOVA GMAT prep course

Coming to the verbal part, you see a question something similar to this

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the view that it would not be advisable to try to eradicate agricultural pests that go through a caterpillar stage by spraying croplands with the enzyme mentioned above?

and feel "Ehhhh !!! What is it ? What am I supposed to do ? Come again ...", scratching your head

You shouldn't face a similar situation. You need to have a fair idea of what is asked and how to solve each type of question. What you need to look for is
What type of question it is ?
What is SC ?
What you are supposed to do when you see an SC question ?
What is a CR ?
What are you supposed to do when you face a CR question.

Your initial knowledge should be limited to that. Your only choice is OG, do not go for any other materials right away. Start reviewing whatever concepts given in the OG. You probably need improvement in all the three sections, but need not bother, you have just started your preparation and you have not even solved any problems as well. So reviewing basic stuffs should take you close to 2 or 3 days. So far I haven't said anything about solving problems, there is a reason behind it. You need to know where you stand, you need a baseline estimate of what potential you have.

There are few reasons behind, why you should also have gone through the basics. Your baseline test shouldn't be a wasted one, as in you shouldn't get stuck and waste time in finding out how to solve a Critical Reasoning problem or what to do for a Data Sufficiency problem. Also you shouldn't have solved all or most of the problems in OG and then take a test, you would have wasted a sufficient amount of problems.

Now you can go for the test, you should take the GMAT Prep test 1. Take the test with strict official condition. The GMAT tests not only your problem solving skills but also how you react under pressure/strain. You should have good stamina to sit for 3.5 hours. Skipping AWA or IR is of no use as you will solve verbal question an hour earlier which will inflate your scores. Its better to start off with GMAT Prep tests rather than other tests, because only GMAT Prep is the best available test to estimate how much you will score in the actual test. Majority or even none of the test prep company materials are not as close as GMAT Prep in imitating the GMAT style of questions. So the sooner you gauge yourself, the better you can prepare.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Registering for the GMAT at

Firstly to download GMATPrep or to fix an appointment, you need to register yourself here

The name with which you are registering cannot be updated once you are through with the registration, so be careful with that.

Use the exact name available in proper ID acceptable by GMAC. For indians, its the passport. Click here to the list of acceptable ID Proofs.

Your names in passport and as given in the GMAT registration when put up in order should both match.

Follow this order to register yourself for GMAT

Surname: XXX
Given Names : AAA BBB

First Name: AAA
Middle Name: BBB
Last Name: XXX

You can either use middle name or give it as first name as well. The point is if you put up both the names in order it should be like this

Passport Name: AAA BBB XXX
Registration: AAA BBB XXX

The intention of the post is to be cautious while registering. I found the mistake two days before my first GMAT appointment and had it corrected with the help of GMAT Customer Care and luckily avoided the last minute panic. Though I was very tensed whether there would still be any problem at the test center.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Intro to GMAT

What is GMAT?

GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test. It is required by almost all MBA programs. More than 1,900 MBA programs use GMAT as a part of the application process. See the full listing here

What is tested on the GMAT?

Writing ability, knowledge of Basic Math (Arithmetic, Algebra, Word Problems, Geometry) and just a bit of intermediate Math (Statistics, Probability, Combinations/Permutations), and knowledge of grammar principles, logical reasoning, reading, and analytical skills.

What does the GMAT test consist of? What is the Format of the GMAT?

GMAT consists of 4 sections and lasts 3 and a half hours (not including the optional breaks).
Part 1: AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment) Section - 30 minutes - 1 essays 30 minutes.
Part 2: IR (Integrated Reasoning) Section - 30 minutes - 12 questions
Optional 8 minute break
Part 3: Quantitative Section - 75 minutes - 37 questions
Optional 8 minute break
Part 3: Verbal Section - 75 minutes - 41 questions.

How does the GMAT Test work?
GMAT is a CAT test - a computer adaptive test. As the name says, its adapts the difficulty level of the questions with every response of yours. It starts at a medium difficulty and increases question difficulty as long as you answer the questions correctly. Once a question is missed, the difficulty decreases. This methodology allows GMAT to hone exactly on your performance. The GMAT score range is between 200 and 800. Very few people get 200 or 800, the majority, however falls between 400 and 600. The average score is about 550. GMAT Scores are valid for 5 years. To get a better understanding of how the exam is scored check here.

For more detailed information you can check it out here.