November 28, 2005

GMAT Volume Creeps Up

GMAT volume edged higher during the first ten months of 2005 when compared with the same period in 2004. Even domestic volume, which has been down slightly when compared to last year, moved ever so slightly into positive territory. Comparing the first ten months of 2004 to the first 10 months of 2005:

  • GMAT volume increased 3.02% internationally.
  • Outside the US,  testing volume increased 9.33%.
  • Inside the US, testing volume inched up 0.16%.

These numbers reveal a trend in GMAT volume, which hit bottom last year. Since GMAT volume is a strong indicator of application volume, you can also see where application numbers are going in the future: up. 

November 28, 2005 in GMAT | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 24, 2004

The definition of a Quant person

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this topic lately. I’ve come up with some ideas on what a quantitative personality means to a top Business School and why they emphasis a pretty good score in this area.

First of all, a Quant person is not necessarily a good math person. It is someone who can look at independent ideas and facts, look at a situation and be able to come up with a response in a step-by-step fashion. It also means looking at a situation and not respond in a typical fashion of, “what is the right answer?”, but rather, “I have a possible answer…. However, how could it be the wrong answer based on the facts given?”. In short, a quant person is not just a memorizer, although they might have a great memory and often do, but rather someone who reasons very well.

So when a quant person looks at a math problem with 2,3 or 4 various combinations of theories.. they don’t get confused, but rather pull the question apart and can see where one theory leads into the other and can merge and manipulate the combinations to get the final answer.

Let me summarize my points. A great Quant person is one who 1) Doesn’t jump to conclusions unnecessarily and make rash decisions 2) Can take various experiences and knowledge points to extrapolate a very good position and direction even though they haven’t had exposure to a particular situation. In other words, with few instructions, they will be able to perform and handle many possible situations well 3) Doesn’t answer with “can’t” until they’ve exhausted all possible knowledge, theories, and experiences before asking for help. Even then… a great Quant person will often realize exactly what pieces of information are missing and ask for them before a conclusion can be drawn.

With regard to Business Schools, it has become clear to me that great Quant scores are indicative of the people with the capacity to be great business people. They are looking for people who can handle the diversity of business challenges and great Quant people have what it takes. Of course, this isn’t the only characteristic they are looking for, but I think this is a good foundational quality to look for. It makes sense that you don’t want a math head only, but someone who can take their Quant ability and be a good to great communicator. It also makes sense that great Business School candidates are also decisive. I know a lot of great quantitative people who suffer from, “paralysis of analysis” where they don’t know when to say they have enough facts. They need to know when the rest is gut, intuition, experience and economic circumstances to take a calculated risk. Or as some would say, they ought to be able to “bet the farm” on a calculated initiative occasionally and have the courage to follow through.

With regard to the GMAT, a topic much on my mind these days, a good quant person understands the content (the formulas, geometry rules, work problems and etc…), but don’t just rely on their memory to be able to handle a problem even though they haven’t seen a particular combination of theories in one problem. They are able to proficiently take apart the problem into its’ constituent theories and manipulate them in any combination they run into. The idea of doing a lot of problems to see the various possibilities one might see on the test is therefore NOT the way to do well on the GMAT. However, doing a lot of problems should be a way to test ones ability to manipulate possibilities of questions. Do you see the difference? Therefore, each area of the GMAT are all dependent on ones ability to understand the rules first.. then be able to perform step by step reasoning of independent ideas to come up with a well reasoned answer.

The practical side to all of this is getting used to doing the problems as a great Quant person would.

My wife who graduated with an Electrical Engineering degree tells me that she feels like she didn’t learn anything in school. She would always tell me that she didn’t need to memorize every single formula because many of them were derivations of combinations of a core set of formula theories. She understands that her education taught her to be an incredible quantitative math person. She mentions that some other schools are well known for education emphasizing formula learning however and that those students generally didn’t do well in situations where they didn’t see the exact permutation of a problem before.

Glad I got that off my chest. If you want to do well on the GMAT, you MUST be able to do what a good quant person does. Having 20 different resources of GMAT problems just to see more problems is a vain approach to preparing for the GMAT and is frankly a big waste of time. One ought to have enough problems to go through with 4-5 resources like the Official Guide. If one requires more than that, then you’re relying too much on memory and you may need to get with a tutor or get personalized help to learn to handle the GMAT as a great quant person would.

Before you conclude in disagreement with me on these ideas, I suggest you take a hard serious look at the way you approach your GMAT studies and see why you are getting wrong answers. The bottom line is that, if you get a question wrong, there are only four reasons why. You don’t know enough content (rules, theories well enough), you were careless, you were tired and unfocused, or your process to handle weird permutations is not solid enough (this last one is the case for me right now). One final comment. I've noticed that if I get a questions wrong... it's not necessarily because I was "careless", but rather because my "process" in doing a problem is not solid enough. Thereofore, we ought not to look at a problem that we got wrong and just see that the fault was due to an overlooked fact, but perhaps our process of step-by-step problem solving was not solid enough or focused enough.

Well, back to my studies.

August 24, 2004 in GMAT | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2004

GMAT Season has started

The GMAT Prep Season
Not sure if you noticed, but it's the GMAT season kick off. Starting next week Monday, every major GMAT prep school is starting their rolling schedules of GMAT courses. As the courses run about 2 months long, another course won't come around till Mid-September for most schools. This goes for ManhattanGMAT and Veritas that I know of. Princeton has so many classes that they have a rolling monthly schedule. Princeton kicks off their class about the middle of every month. It's like a mind-meld. Why do they all start together? Must be some reason. I believe Veritas charges $50 extra if you register less than a week before the class starts. They meet twice a week for 3 hr sessions. Princeton does once a week for 3 hrs and I'm not sure what Manhattan does.

I'm not even going to mention or check out Kaplan. Years ago, 15 years ago to be exact, I used Kaplan to prepare for my MCAT. It's the parallel to GMAT for those wanting to go to Medical School. Back then, they had two forms of the class you could take. The self-guided one and the instructor taught one. Guess which one was cheaper?

The self guided one included one introductory class to describe the resources available and to pump everyone up. Then, you were given a list/index of prep sections for each category of the test. There were like 6-10 study prep guides for each category with 5 categories. Each prep guide included 1-2 audio cassette tapes and a 20-35 page booklet for each lesson. As you went through the material, you would check off each one that you went through. I think there were something like 65-70 lessons.

With all those people, as you entered the room, there would be this smell that would hit you as entered the room. Not bad like a gym, but it wasn't totally pleasant. I can still imagine the smell. This room had hardly any seating because the place was ALWAYS stinking full even though the place could hold 50-60 people. There were these desks with 1/2 walled study cubbies where if you looked up, you could only see peoples heads. There would be these testing room style tape players with 4 buttons on the front of the machine with headseats that cupped around your entire ear with vinyl covered cushion. The tape player was about the size of a shoe box but 1/2 as tall. The sound was in mono so you always had to turn it up to hear especially with those junky headsets and you could always sort of make out the voice of the person next to you. Over half the tape players were faulty in that sound would only come into one side of the earphone instead of splitting the incoming signal to both sides of the headset. It wasn't that bad, but I found myself every so often telling the person next to me to turn it down and I in turn occasionally got the same ask. So the routine of the booklet and tape was like this.... 1) Listen to a guy explain the key concepts of the lesson your on, he/she would tell you to stop the tape and do some practice exercises from the book and would remind you turn the tape back on when done. And so this went for about 2 hrs until done. 2) Then the latter half of the book was full of questions one would do for additional practice. 3) Return tape and booklet and get the next set.

Everyone I knew who was taking the test pretty seriously would go there at 7am to grab just that perfect spot (away from the entrance and foot traffic) and grab the study preps they wanted (The material was limited so if 4 or 5 people came before you, you had to skip around lessons) The booklets were made of white shiny glued cardboard bindings with brown recycled paper for the contents. It was real flimsy. Anyway, I hope your getting the picture. It wasn't pretty. It was cut throat to get the material you wanted and it was cut throat to even get a spot. If you didn't get a spot, there would be people in the hallways sitting down listening to a borrowed tape player trying to somehow study with people walking by. I was one of those people on occasion when I came in the afternoon. That's what I went through for 4 months in prepping for that test. Then I went back and did it again because I took the test twice.

You have to remember that this experience was not from a guy having come from a third world country or region of the world where he's telling you stories of the home country. Dude, this was Southern California, Orange County. Orange County is relatively a planned county. Nice trees, streets, no graffiti, clean, modern and with average housing costs much higher than the national average.

The other format was an instructor taught one, but many from there would still join us self-guided people because the instructors would tell them to grab some lesson material that they didn't have time to cover.

So, I hear Kaplan has improved since then. I haven't received any first hand accounts of what Kaplan is like now, but let me tell you. It's been 15 years and I still cringe when I think back over that experience. Ah! the good times. I'd appreciate reading your story about Kaplan or other training centers.

So as I sit hear studying, I remember those times and think.... I've got it easier now compared to then. So if you're in a tough or weird study situation where you can't seem to get alone or find a good place to study... just remember.... it could be worse. :)


July 7, 2004 in GMAT | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 06, 2004

Standardized Test Cheating

Ok, so here's something that's been bothering me for the last 3 days. I ran into a friend of mine who I've known for 18 years. He's an ESL teacher at a very prominent University. If I told you the name, you'd know it right off. Anyway, we chated and I told him I was taking the GMAT. He responded with, "what's the big deal?" I was surprised to hear such an insensitive response. Or so I thought at the time until I asked him what he meant by that. He told me how many of his ESL students all struggled in the past in prepping for the TOEFL right up until they took classes at Asian study prep mini-schools. In the Korean realm for example, they are called Haagwan's. He stated how much underhanded cheating of the tests was ongoing through these schools and other venues. This is both in the U.S. and International. For example, he knew of some students who shared with him how the schools actually paid some people to take the tests and report back as much as they could remember about the questions that were on the test. He went on to say how there are internet sites where people come back and say, "Hey I took the test" and then would go on to document every question they could remember in verbose detail. I wasn't surprised when he said how many students were glad such entities existed and that they felt that their costs for the prep were well worth it. DUH! Of course!

Well, in the computer field there is the Microsoft Certified System Engineer Certification (MCSE). Through my prep and through various people I've met in the computer industry, I came to find that these 6 tests for the Certification have web sites called "brain dumps" where they do the same cheating thing. I actually am an MCSE, but I studied for it. If you look up the term "brain dump" on the web, you'll see what I'm talking about. It appears to be a technical field term. I don't see it related really to anything GMAT. I did a search to see if I really could find such sites so easily. I honestly saw a couple that had the terms, GMAT and "brain dump" but nothing showed up on the actual web sites. Back in 1995 for example, I know Microsoft went on a rampage with "brain dump" sites and wiped out a lot of them that they could find. But let me tell you... I did a search just now and honestly found some. The trick was, some tried to conceal it by not including the answers. Which is weird. On some sites I just looked up, you would see "brain dump" logs of the Microsoft or Cisco tests and these "brain dump" web sites would say that they had GMAT stuff too, but when I clicked on them... there wasn't any info or an "under construction banner" would be all that you would see. If I had found any, I would have most certainly not been surprised, but alas... after spending about 10 minutes, I didn't find anything. With additional searches, I did find some good hits, but the web sites were in Chinese or Japanese or some other language that looked like hyroglyphics to me so I wasn't be able to tell you what the actual links did once I got there.

Anyway, this makes me crazy. I go through all this trouble to study my tail off and people out there shortcut the system. Again, can you believe people get paid to bring back the test questions?!!! Some of you probably already knew this. I actually thought such things existed, but I never dreamed how open a concept or thing it was for so many to do. Makes me think the TOEFL results are especially questionable in light of this. If you really did the work and earned your score... BRAVO!


July 6, 2004 in GMAT | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 02, 2004

GMAT Prep Tips

The following have been well received so I thought i'd make sure to share it with you here.

GMAT Utility
If you do questions where a computer is available, you might want to check this utility out. It's a computer clock mini-app that can be setup to count down from a certain time or count up. You can also have it do snap shots. So, every time you start a new question, you could click the Snap button and the program will record the time interval for each snap. Here's the link

As you progress, you can have the progam show you a tabular sheet that tracks exactly how long it took you to do each question. Moreover, you can export the results to excel if you so wish. This is a non-registered software. It's fully functional, you'll just get prompted every time you launch it to register and pay. You'll still be able to use all the functions even though you don't register indefinitely.

The second thing is a personal survey I performed informally and formally of what people did to get 700+ GMAT Scores.

I found about 19 people who scored 700+ and found quite a few similarities in their study habits and what books they chose to prepare with. Here is a summary of that analysis.

Books used (98% used the following)

1. Kaplan GMAT book

2. Princeton Review book "Cracking the GMAT" (2005 is now out.)

3. Official Guide for GMAT

4. Power Prep Tests (Take one before going through OG) OG and Power Prep questions overlap.

Book/Resources used (Majority used 2 or more of the following)

1. Kaplan 800 - Hard GMAT questions - more than a few argued that this had the hardest questions they found.

2. 800-score tests – A good resource for tests.

3. GMAT Plus – A good resource for tests.

4. DeltaCourse-primarily a combination, probability, permutation advanced study guide with plenty of sample questions to practice with.

5. Barron's - All said study guide part either sucked or was moderately helpful, but questions were useful.

6. 800 Score tests – A good resource for tests.

7. Verbal Workout for GMAT -Princeton

Books/Resources all said sucked.

1. Arco Master the GMAT CAT (A very rare few said they used it for additional questions)

2. Petersons

3. Kaplan's online quick bank-Questions there can be found in OG anyway - Don't think it's available any longer as well.

4. Kaplan’s in-person GMAT prep course – a few who did it said that it didn’t help.

Study tips that every single 700+ scorer mentioned.

1. Record all mistakes on wrong questions and revisit them no sooner than 5 days. If still getting them wrong, then zero in on the subset's and go for more help.

2. Always read the explanation in the book to see why you get it wrong and take enough time to really understand the concept.

3. Pick a date and register. Don't study then register. There was a tendency to not take prep time as seriously.

4. Quite a few went through OG questions more than once. Not all questions on the repeat though, Mainly verbal sections and Quant that were areas of weakness.

5. Wrote practice essays at least 20 times under timed conditions.

6. Visit the test center before the day of test. Many did so a week or two before.

7. Time spent by most averaged between 3 and 4 months.

8. All averaged 2-3 hrs per day and no less than 10-12 hrs on the weekends.

9. Took advantage of every break during the GMAT. Take a bathroom break, some washed their face to wake up, got fresh air.

10. Study in blocks. One person mentioned studying in 80 minute blocks without getting up to build stamina.

11. In addition to double-checking answers whenever possible, knowing idioms quite well made the number one significant difference for improving proficiency with Sentence Correction questions.

Interesting note:
The Official Guide for GMAT contains questions that are in the 550 to 650 difficulty range.


July 2, 2004 in GMAT | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 09, 2004

Study Material and Methods

I just finished going through some GMAT books and wanted to share a bit about what my experience has been.

Princeton Review 2004- I had the 2003 from a friend. I found that the only difference between the years was that Princeton added about 12-15 questions per sample GMAT test in each section. I did a pretty thorough spot check and the study guide sections of the books are EXACTLY the same. So I studied from 2003 and my wife borrowed the 2004 version from the library for the other questions. Really good book. The tips are amazing. Although, there is a bit too much emphasis on plugging in to solve. It doesn't always show you the concept behind the question to know why your plugging in vs really solving it. Weak on probability, combination, permutations, counting methods and factorial's. Essay prep guide is really good. The CD is really good. Although it's buggy and can freeze. Apparently, the problem has been ongoing for both the 2003 and 2004 version from what I've been reading on GMAT forums. Because I'm in IT, I figured out how to configure the application to run off of my hard drive as opposed to always expecting the CD when I run it and that helped the stability of the product a lot. Otherwise... really good book and CD. A must.

Kaplan 2004- Good. I liked the summary area of formulas they put together for you to see all the kinds of math problems you'll get. Problems are hard yeah, but I did see similar questions between Princeton and Kaplan. Hard to say which was harder. Everyone says Kaplan. ????

Barron 2003- SUCKS. From the get-go it had problems with it. For example, Question 4 in math had a major typo. Question had certain numbers, but the explanation showed you that the question had other numbers entirely. Quality Assurance sucks.... I dropped the book after a couple more sections of tests. I lost trust in the book.

Deltacourse-Math only. A must. No if ands or but's, you should get this. I hear Manhattan GMAT study guides may have similar info. I wouldn't doubt it.

GMAT Secrets-Found this ad for this 50 page Adobe Acrobat downloadable study guide. It was pretty much a repeat of the great tips from Princeton. There was one gold nugget I got out of it. It was that before you circle an answer, ask yourself, "Am I willing to bet $5.00 that this is the right answer?" Imagine the hurt of losing the $5 if you really do not get it right and it makes you double check your work.

My tracking of all questions and noting why I got them wrong has been an incredible help. It's completely changed me into an active studier rather than a passive one. See my other post about study tips and you'll learn what I mean. I'm so dumbfounded about the kind of progress I've been making and the growing confidence I have on certain types of questions. Still have problems with Data Sufficiency multiple variable problems where < or > is involved. I even find myself saying what kind of the problem is after having read the question. For example, I'll read a question like "A bag has 7 marbles with 3 red and 4 blue, what is the possibility that two randomly picked marbles are blue?" I'm automatically saying... COMBINATION problem and know the formula to use.

Still, it's not easy to stay focused on studies. I have to go to the book store or library sometimes to remove distractions and stay on track.


June 9, 2004 in GMAT | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 08, 2004

The GMAT Average Cheat

I wanted to mention something I remembered last week about GMAT scores. 5 months ago, I went to a ManhattanGMAT test prep. They marketed it as "GMAT Prep Bootcamp". It provided some good info. The last part however was wrapped up with sales and why you need our help kind of talks. I must admit, I really felt that I needed to really consider them. They took us through 2 verbal reading and 2 sentence correction questions and explained them to a point where I realized I might really need help. Although, going through the sample questions helped perk up my motivation to get going on my studies, there was something else they mentioned that shocked, angered and put me at a bit of ease regarding the state of GMAT score averages in the top Business Schools of our nation.

They are based out of New York where Ivy league and other top schools are. The mind blowing thing they mentioned was that quite a few schools actually use their services to help their students do better on the GMAT that have already been accepted. Maybe you guys/gals knew this, but this came as a shock to me.

Basically, they let people in and then pay ManhattanGMAT to bootcamp some of their students to retake the GMAT to up their schools overall average GMAT scores. So basically, this tells me that when schools report GMAT scores of their students, they are not reporting acceptance GMAT scores. Rather, they are submitting students average scores when they are already attending. They named schools like, Harvard and NYU. I don't think they would lie about this. I don't see a reason why they would. Now, I'm not attacking ManhattanGMAT at all. They really know their stuff. But what they mentioned just made me think that they are probably not the only GMAT prep school being used by the top Business Schools to up the published average.

Anyway, my point is that perhaps we ought not to kill ourselves and cause undo stress upon ourselves about GMAT scores as much as we previously thought. Don't get me wrong, I'm shooting for 700+. In every GMAT book I've seen there is always a significant section on managing stress. This is a highly emphasized topic by every professional consultant, GMAT book and GMAT test prep school. Perhaps knowing how schools cheat the published average will ease your tension a bit as it has mine. I'm studying for my GMAT now and I really don't need any sort of unnecessary stress.


June 8, 2004 in GMAT | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 24, 2004

Error Log and your GMAT prep

If you know Praetorian (thats me), you might have seen me talking about the importance of the error log. I cant help but feel that it is the single most important tool for doing well on tests like GMAT. If you are not eliminating your errors as you practice, you are wasting time and losing confidence. you will then tend to increase your prep time by a month just to feel good about the length of prep you had. Thats wrong. Maintain a discipline of identifying your errors at the end of each prep. day and write those down in your error log. No matter how boring this sounds, do it.This error log will be especially useful when you guys are in your final week of prep.

From experience, i can tell you that it is frustrating to decide what problems to go over and where to look for them. Enter the error log. Now is the time that you will feel rewarded for those boring nights when you sat down to record your errors and write explanations for yourself. I am confident that if you have covered every area that is tested on the GMAT thoroughly and if you maintained this discipline of updating and reviewing your error log everyday, your error log is probably the best prep material you can ever develop for yourself. No book, no guide, no software can ever replace notes that you have written for yourself based on your problem areas.

how you maintain your log is upto you? GMAT Club recently started offering personal forums as error logs. you can write notes , copy problems into the log etc. so you can consider that option. you need to committ to 100 posts on the forum and you are in.

Come back from the test center and come throw rocks at me if you didnt find the error log useful.

Just my advice, nothing scientific about it.


May 24, 2004 in GMAT | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack