Featured Video Play Icon
Posted on
24
Mar 2020

Stupid Mistakes – How to Avoid Them on the GMAT

Stupid Mistakes On The GMAT

Hi guys. Welcome back to Apex GMAT’s channel. It’s Mike here and today I want to talk about stupid mistakes and let’s start how just with nomenclature. The idea of a stupid mistake is something that we really don’t like here. We don’t like the word dumb. We don’t like the word stupid because even if you’re saying it in a “haha” joking way and you’ve got high self-esteem and a lot of intellectual rigor you’re suddenly putting yourself down. You’re also drawing away attention from the core reasons for these errors.

Careless Mistakes

So we like to call them careless mistakes or careless errors and this allows them to be addressed to be solvable. If you’ve done a stupid mistake either you’re stupid, hopefully not, or you’ve done something foolish. What you’re doing is offloading the responsibility for that error to it being unavoidable. I was not functioning well so I did it rather than addressing the root cause. This is not that you made an error but that there’s a step before the error was made where you failed to catch the error. That step can be before or after the actual processing error was made. Most often it’s sourced from a lack of attentiveness. You’ve missed a detail because you haven’t read closely enough or you crossed your wires through what they call labeling error. Where you’ve called one thing by the wrong name and stored it incorrectly in your head.

Difficulty of Addressing Careless Mistakes

Careless errors are notoriously difficult to address, but the first step is recognizing what they are. They’re processing errors that require your attention and this is something very different than any intellectual failing. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, everybody makes careless errors. Frankly the more rapidly you think the more sort of cycles your brain goes through in a given second or minute the more likely you are to make a careless error. So what differentiates people who make many versus those who make few? Infact the people who make fewer careless errors make just as many as those who make more except they tend to catch them.

How to Work On Them

There are heuristics that we can work on both to preempt careless errors but also to recognize them. Numerically for example you often catch a careless error by noticing that the number doesn’t sound right. If I tell you that it is 150 degrees out. Fahrenheit or Celsius you know that that number doesn’t sound right because it’s anchored to a reality. A lot of times when we’re doing math on the GMAT or in life we don’t have a good anchor for those numbers so the idea of a reasonable or unreasonable number doesn’t get to go through that cognitive filter. So anchoring whether it’s to temperature or money or number of pumpkins in a field, gives us this added check in order to catch a careless error when we make it.

Pivot Questions

Similarly, when we’re reading a word problem or we’re looking at a verbal problem a lot of times using pivot questions to prioritize and understand and really call out what it is we’re trying to do allows us to be both sensitized when we do make the inevitable error but often get in front of many of the errors that we might otherwise make.

Once again, I want to emphasize that careless errors are not intellectual errors. It has nothing to do with being smart or knowing your stuff and so the moment you write off a dumb or stupid error as oh I need to study that again or I forgot that but I’ll remember it next time you’ve already missed your opportunity to improve. So thanks for watching this video guys check out more below. Remember careless errors are both inevitable and solvable. So looking forward to catching you next time and continue prepping.

If you enjoyed this video you can watch: GMAT Scoring Plateaus

Read more
Featured Video Play Icon
Posted on
25
Nov 2019

The GMAT Is Not A Standard Standardized Test

The GMAT Is Not A Standard Standardized Test

A question that we get here a lot, especially from our international clients, is about standardized testing in general. As Americans ourselves and any Americans that might be watching you’re pretty familiar with them in fact in some countries they even call them American tests. They’re so heavily associated with us. For everyone else they’re saying what the hell is this? It’s something that I’ve never seen before, let me freak out about it. There’s really no need to freak out, there’s some commonalities among standardized tests but I think if anything the important thing for you to get about this is that the GMAT is not a standard standardized test. That was clever. Thank you, I do what I can.

Not having an experience with standardized tests is not at all a disadvantage for the GMAT and in fact, it could be an advantage, the case that having too much experience of standardized tests is going to lead you down the wrong path for what you should be doing for the GMAT itself. If you’re an American, the way you prepped for the SAT or ACT or similar test is really going to do your great disservice when you try and approach the GMAT because there are loads of vocabulary lists to memorize, there’s no formulas and everything else, and the GMAT is a lot harder.

 

Computer Adaptive Test

Also, it might technically be a standardized test, but it’s a much more apt name to call it what it is which is: a computer adaptive test. That actually has a much, much greater effect on how you prepare. Computer Adaptive Test, James, what does that mean? Let’s talk about that. Computer adaptive test, I’d say first the biggest difference between a standard standardized tests and the GMAT is in some standard tests you typically can go in whatever order you’d like, within a section, right, within one section you can start with question 1 or with question 10. You can skip through it and you should when doing those other tests. Those are very important strategies but that’s not the case on the GMAT.

Tell them about the GMAT, Mike, lay it on them. Okay, computer adaptive test is a lot what it sounds like, computer: it’s on the computer. Adaptive: it changes according to your response, more on that in a moment, and Test: because it’s testing. It is a test, that’s right, in case you didn’t know. It is a test, but you’re testing my patience. I am? Well thank you. The main difference I think from this is that you have to go one question at a time, you do not get the skip, you do not get the chance to go back and look at them, and the reason for this is because the computer adaptive test basis what it’s going to give you on how you have performed on previous questions.

 

How It Works

By in large the rule is, you got the last question right, they’re going to give you one that’s a bit more difficult. A little higher. You get a question wrong, one that’s a little less difficult, and eventually they bounce around until they get to where you’re at and they’re actually pretty good at it. They’re very good at and just so you know if you’re sitting there thinking like how evil is this that this test is going to adapt itself to become my worst nightmare. Well it’s this evil, it’s going to make it so that you’re always going to feel off your footing. When you come out of a great exam, that is a great performance on the exam, you’re going to be like what the heck did I just look at I didn’t feel comfortable at all through that entire thing.

 

Shooters Amnesia

Which brings up a point that I like to reiterate in my classes. You’re going to be surprised by this but it’s a sports metaphor, and that is from question to question you need to have shooters amnesia. Now just briefly indulge me because I love Kobe, doesn’t matter what your opinion is on him. The basketball player not the massaged Japanese beef. We’re vegetarians here at Apex, we believe all lives are valuable. We’re vegetarians… is news to me. The best thing for a basketball player to do is to shoot the ball and it doesn’t matter if he missed the last shot or made the last shot that has no bearing on whether or not he will make or miss the next shot, so they just forget it completely. If you are constantly thinking about all the shots that you’ve missed it’s going to affect your performance.

 

Be Process Orientated, Outcome Agnostic

Sure and if you do it right and this is this is really a deep thing even though it’s not may become seem so deep, if you’re doing it right you shoot the ball, you shoot the puck, you do whatever it is you can do, you throw the dart, and you don’t need to look at the result because once your action is over, whatever the result was is what it’s going to be either you shot it well or not. Yeah. Be Process Oriented, Outcome Agnostic. First of all, excellent, excellent phrase! That was: Process Oriented, Outcome Agnostic, for those of you who missed it the first time.

I think an another great aspect of this is that when you start to think about whether or not you’ve got the question right or wrong you are wasting energy. Yeah, really distracting your attention to something that you can’t change and we all do this we all do this. I wish Jaymes wasn’t my coworker but I can’t reflect on that I just have to move forward …  There’s nothing you can do about it… and deal with the train wreck yeah that’s sitting next to me. Day by day. Day by day.

 

Unused Test Strategies in the GMAT

Just for those of you who are familiar with standardized tests something else to keep in mind, a strategy that you can use not very often on some of the like the SAT of ACT, but a strategy that you might have adopted during your education for standardized tests is using answer choices from one question to help you answer other questions. Can’t do that. That will never apply on the GMAT, ever, so there’s absolutely no reason to carry any of your thought process, any information from one question to the next on the regular quantum verbal sections. Oh the last two answers have been C’s, the third one must be a C or must not be a C. They call that a gambler’s fallacy, look it up, Wikipedia’s got a great thing on it.

Every question is like the first question. Wow, you make it sound so sweet. Well then your entire test and your entire obligation to the test is one question, it’s not this huge three-hour test. The math section the quant section is thirty-one single question tests anything that happened before and after, doesn’t matter.

 

How Is The GMAT Different From Other Standardized Tests?

Just to change your frame of mind about this evil test. The fact that it is adapting itself to be difficult for you, this is actually what allows the GMAT to have so few questions. Traditional standardized tests have to have scores of questions, hundreds of questions sometimes. That’s because they have to give weaker students the chance to show that they’re capable, and they have to provide difficult questions for stronger students to show that they’re capable, and they have to give both the weak students and the strong students the same questions.

 

The GMAT: A Customized Test

The GMAT can skip a lot of that process and streamline it and customize the test for you. The test itself is going to be customized for you which is again supporting our strategy. The preparation that you choose needs to be customized for you.

The adaptive test is vital for the GMAT’s very challenging job of differentiating among high performers. Make no mistake other tests you’ve taken whether standardized tests in the States, other exams in just about any country’s academic system has you up against your entire cohort for your age or your school. The GMAT is self-selecting. Meaning that the pool of people that you’re competing against and the percentile within that cohort is much more challenging. All the success you’ve had for better or for worse is a function of what you’ve done.

If the tasks before you, and this happens a lot in school, good school, bad school, doesn’t matter. If the task before you is, do as we’ve shown you, then the moment you’re in a place like the GMAT puts you on. Right, something new, something unexpected. Yes, something that’s not really new, right, but it’s in a new packaging, it’s wrapped up in a different way, and it’s a puzzle. New presentation, what we call perspective shift. The moment you’re off your footing then all of a sudden you’re very unpracticed. Yeah, you’re prepared for a specific path and not for being able to choose the right path. Unless you’re preparing with Apex of course. Of Course! You’re prepared for that. And preparing to prepare is very good preparation. It’s also similar to other standardized tests the GMAT doesn’t really test how good of a student you are.

 

Are You An Excellent Student, Test Taker or Both?

Absolutely. I can tell you this because well, I’m an excellent test taker, I’m not an excellent student. My sister, my younger sister she’s an excellent student, terrible test taker. So I’m not trying to say this to stress you out about something. I’m saying that just because you are a good student doesn’t necessarily mean that you will succeed unless you prepare adequately. Yeah and there are very different skills, that’s not to say that we don’t have plenty of 4.0 s that just wreck the GMAT. Wreck! Wreck in a good way. Wreck, yeah, like just yeah destroy, render it innocuous. Destroy in a good way. Yeah these are good things! Did I go to vocab-y there? No, I think it might be just to American centric.

If you enjoyed: The GMAT Is Not A Standard Standardized test, watch our Cost of GMAT Prep.

 

Read more
Featured Video Play Icon
Posted on
12
Feb 2019

If you’re doing math on the GMAT, watch this.

I want to discuss one of the core tenents of Apex’s quantitative philosophy on the GMAT. “If you’re doing math, you’re doing something wrong.” Meaning, if you find yourself doing math, that’s a signal from the exam that you’re using a sub-optimal solution path. By math I don’t mean any calculation whatsoever, but any calculations that aren’t reasonable — that don’t come out easily, neatly and cleanly, once you’re well practiced with mental math. So it’s not that we’ll never do a calculation, but every calculation we do should be deliberate and smooth.

The Most Overused Solution Path

Let’s go a little deeper into this, because it’s a really important concept. Many, many people preparing for the GMAT spend way too much time worrying about the math. Being freaked out about the math and on the exam doing the math. The applied mathematical solution path is the most over used solution path on the quantitative side of the GMAT. Particularity among engineers, and with people who do a lot of self-prepping. They look to the back of the book or look to previous experience as students and get caught up in the idea that their answer needs to be precise. This gets in the way of using our estimation solution path or other higher solution paths, which can get us to the correct answer much more quickly.

The GMAT isn’t Testing Your Math Skills

How do we know that math is not what the GMAT wants us to do? It’s quite simple. If the GMAT was the referendum on how well you can do mental math, then the scores would reflect your ability to do so. MBA programs at top business schools would be filled with people with extraordinary, almost savant like mental math abilities. We know this isn’t the case.

Actually, as we improve on our mental math, we get diminishing returns with it. So we see a lot of clients getting up to the 70th, 80th, or 90th percent level even, on the quantitative side of things. Then, all of a sudden they plateau; they can’t get any higher. The reason is they are so focused on the math. They are missing the bigger logical reasoning picture or the structure of quantitative problems that doesn’t rely on doing math that allows both quick and accurate solutions.

Key Things to Avoid

While math has its place, we want to be sure that we’re not putting it on a pedestal. And that when we’re performing computations, we’re doing so with great deliberation, intentionality, and that we have a good reason for doing any computation we’re doing. If you find yourself diving into the equation or doing a lot of processing, stop. Say “Wait a minute, there must be a better way to do this.”

Another option is that sometimes you make a basic error early on and that leads to ugly numbers and math. But you should never, never, never be multiplying decimals out to the fourth decimal. That sort of math is the true trigger, the true signal, that there’s a better way to solve the problem. When you’re self prepping, this is what you want to look for.

So by the time you get to the exam, you’re not catching yourself doing math, but you’ve already incorporated it into your process, the fact that math shouldn’t be your default.

So, remember, guys, if you’re doing math, you’re doing something wrong and you can take this one to the bank.

Read more
Featured Video Play Icon
Posted on
12
Feb 2019

Six Things That GMAT Preppers Get Wrong

I’m Mike Diamond Head Instructor for Apex GMAT, here to talk about the top six things GMAT preppers get wrong.

1. Thinking That a Correct Answer Means You’re Done With the Problem

When you arrive at a correct answer, that should mark the beginning of your preparation, not the end of it. There are almost always better solution paths that are more time efficient. They work better with the way your brain engages the problem, or they will add understanding either to the content or more importantly to the underlying structure of the examination.

So, when you arrive at a correct answer look for alternative solution paths, and for shortcuts, give yourself the latitude to explore. Moreover, try to identify what permitted you get to get the problem correct in the first place. A lot of times, people focus much more on the problems they get wrong; on what they’re doing wrong than on what they’re doing right. And, what you’re doing right can often inform those problems where you are struggling. So, remember, once you arrive at the correct answer, that’s your starting point.

2. Overusing Practice Tests

Practice exams are a crucial part of GMAT preparation, but they’re often misused and overused. Most people use a practice exam to see how they’re doing, but being focused on your score is absolutely the wrong way to approach the GMAT.

Rather, you want to be focused on your process and if your process is tight, if your process is correct. Then, the score is going to take care of itself. Practice tests are best used for a number of reasons, none of which have to do with your score.

They can be used to calibrate your timing decisions. They can be used to identify weak points in your conceptual understanding. Finally, they can be used to identify where you DSM, default solving mechanism, back into old time consuming and unconstructive solution pathways. So, the next time you have an urge to do a test remember that this is going to rob you of two to three hours of valuable prep time. When you’re doing a practice test, you’re not learning, you’re doing.

3. Caring About Your Score

I know it’s counter-intuitive, you want that 700-plus score. It’s all you think about; it haunts your dreams. And yet caring about your score is the quickest way to a test anxiety problem and it’s actually entirely unconstructive. Rather, you need to focus entirely on your process and let the score handle itself.

Imagine you’re running a race and you’re running as fast as you can. Whether you’re a super fit marathon runner or a couch potato, you can only run as fast as you can. And the time on that race is going to reflect that. So don’t sweat the score, sweat your fitness! Understand what things you can do to improve your GMAT fitness and the score will take care of itself.

4. Studying Under a Time Constraint

Time trials are really important as you mature in your GMAT progress. But at the start, you want to focus on the mastery of skills in an un-timed environment. Only once you’ve achieved mastery try to do them ever more quickly.

By focusing on the time before you have the underlying process conquered you end up rushing yourself in a way that exacerbates your mistakes rather than allows you to correct them. So, as you’re prepping, focus on total mastery and understanding first and then begin putting them under time pressure.

5. Low-yield Self-prep

Most people spend entirely too much time preparing from the GMAT. They do so because they’re not getting enough out of their prep time.

Does this sound familiar? Okay, I’m going to do a group of 10 questions, maybe on a timer for 20 minutes. Afterwards I’m going to look in the back of the book. When I get the problem right I’m going to say, “yeah, I never have to deal with this problem again.” When I get it wrong in going to go a little bit further and normally I’m going to find something that I knew but I sort of forgot. I’ll say, “You know what I won’t forget that, I’m going to get that right next time.”

But it doesn’t happen that way does it? That’s a very low yielding strategy. Instead, you need to become responsible and accountable for your learning and Apex shows you the way to do so by not just being reactive to problems but proactively creating problems of your own.

6. Doing the Math

We have a saying around here and you may have heard it on some of our materials or online videos. If you’re doing math, then you’re doing something wrong. Most of the GMAT quantitative section requires little to no processing and if you’re scribbling tons of stuff on paper, it means you’re missing the bigger picture. So, remember, if you’re doing math there’s always a better way!

Enjoyed “Six things that GMAT preppers get wrong?”, find more videos here.

Read more