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Posted on
30
Apr 2020

Why A 4.0 Does Not Equal GMAT Success

You’ve always been a high achiever, always excelled at school, at extracurriculars, and in your profession. 4.0 GPA, valedictorian, top of your department, and yet the GMAT put you on your ass. This is surprisingly much more common than you might think. The big secret is that no one talks about getting help.

1. Everyone Is Asking for Help

For many professionals, this is the first time in their academic or a professional career where they’ve needed to ask for help or engage a tutor. If you are at one of these top consulting finance banking firms you don’t want to ask around say: “Oh I need help with this.” That shows weakness. One of the big secrets is if you’re in a noteworthy profession everyone is asking for help, but no one is talking about it.

The GMAT is designed like many other psychometric exams. Unlike the SAT where everyone, including their brother and sister, is taking it, the GMAT is taken by a self-selected cohort. They tend to be strong achievers coming from the best schools and/or the best professional firms in banking and finance.

2. What is the GMAT Testing?

The GMAT needs a way to differentiate among a lot of very smart, very high achieving individuals. The way it does this is by testing your creative and your critical thinking skills. They want to see how flexible you are with the base knowledge that was instilled in you in elementary, middle, and high school. They are not testing whether or not you can multiply fractions or parse a sentence, but rather how well you can manipulate things on the fly.

To some extent, you can prepare and be familiar with the most common types of problems. Ultimately, as an adaptive exam, the GMAT will put you in a place where you’re uncomfortable. Where you’re not sure what’s going on with the problem. And it is this navigation that people who have done well at school tend to not do as well with. Let’s explore why.

  • Why a 4.0 does NOT Equal GMAT Success?

School (for better or worse) is a reactive environment. You’re given information and expected to spit it back or manipulate it a little bit and spit it back. But there are guardrails up there – kind of like bowling with those balloon tubes. It’s very hard to get too off-center because there’s always a teacher or element of feedback or grade, that redirects you towards what you are supposed to be doing. Consequently, you are rewarded for following directions and are also robbed of the experience of failing heavily or not doing what’s asked. As such, you don’t get the experience of solving problems when you are significantly lost. And this is what the GMAT is testing.

So, often high achievers in academic environments tend to struggle because their study skills tend to level off somewhere around mid-600s on the GMAT. Whereas those students, who maybe weren’t as strong, went their own way or tended to be more creative, more artsy, tend to react to the GMAT like a fish in water. All of a sudden, the things that didn’t allow them to succeed academically, now become tremendous assets.

  • What To Do About It

So, first things first, don’t worry. This is an opportunity to capture new skills and grow as an individual. At a deeper level what I would suggest you internalize is the idea that what you’ve been doing for success up until now no longer works. That is a scary prospect. Especially when the carrot has always been a few feet in front of your face and you’ve consistently caught the carrot.

So, this represents psychologically and emotionally, a major shift in how you need to deal with achievement. This is highly uncomfortable for a lot of people. It requires a lot of hard work. The opiates that you’ve been using in terms of solution paths that have always worked for you, all of the sudden are like an addiction that you need to break.

  • Unlearn Old Habits

The hardest part of our job as GMAT instructors isn’t so much showing you the new things that you need to do or teaching you new ways of doing things. Rather, in helping you dehabituate, unlearn those things that have become so embedded that they are natural. The upside of this is that when someone does so they become much more flexible intellectually. And are that much more prepared to really excel and take to heart the things they learn in business school and professionally and beyond.

If you have always been an achiever and have been stopped in your tracks by the GMAT, don’t worry, give us a call. Let us learn a bit about you and speak to exactly what it is that you might be doing that’s working against you and also what you might adjust in order to excel rapidly. That is really the silver lining here. If you are really good at achieving or working within frameworks, once you adopt a new framework, the acceleration of GMAT success often happens rapidly. To the extent that we can call this a profile, this profile is one of our favorites to work with because we tend to get really, really strong results. Most of the time, over 700.

Wishing you guys the best of luck. Give us a call. Hope you’ve enjoyed this article and we look forward to speaking with you soon.

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Posted on
16
Apr 2020

Combinatorics GMAT Problem: Movie Night

Today we’ve got a fairly straightforward combinatorics GMAT problem.

John is hosting a movie night where he will show 4 different movies from among the top 12 movies of the year. He will show the movies in the order in which they are chosen. How many unique movie nights can John throw? 

A. 8
B. 60
C. 495
D. 11,880
E. 154,440

If you’ve been self-prepping in a rigorous, let me review the rules sort of way. You’ll pick up that there’s orders combinations here and you might be inclined to really dive in and say “What’s my combinations formula?” “What’s my permutation formula?” “How do I know which is which?” And then plug in numbers.

While that will get you there, understand that most GMAT combinatorics problems are more about being familiar with combinatorics than any really heavy-duty math. That is because the GMAT cohort (the number of people who are taking the GMAT) are generally more familiar with Algebra or Geometry.

1. Combinatorics & The GMAT

Combinatorics, by virtue of being less known, is considered more valuable. It is scored more highly than problems of similar complexity in Algebra or Geometry. So you’re really being rewarded just for knowing basic combinatorics and in fact, most permutation/combination problems fall into this basic category. The good news here is that you can use your reasoning to solve this problem without being burdened by formal combinatorics formulas.

2. Solving The Problem

Let’s take a look at this problem. John’s having a movie night. We need to ask ourselves a series of pivot questions. How many different movies can John show first?

Well, there are 12 movies, he could show any of the 12. Leaving 11 movies to be shown second, any of 11. 10, 9. So the answer is 12x11x10x9 or 11,880. But even this math is a lot to do. Notice that by walking it through as a story, as a narrative, we don’t need to cancel out the 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. We don’t need to worry about division or anything else. We just know that there are 4 movies and each time, each step we take, there’s one less movie available. Here we have this product 12 times 11 times 10 times 9, but we don’t really want to be forced to process this. Hence, we can look for features that allow us to skip doing that heavy math.

3. Transforming The Numbers

We’ve got this really neat triangular shape in the answer choices where each answer has a different number of digits in it. 12, 11, 10, 9, we can look at and say on average each one’s about 10. The 9 and the 12 sort of compensate, but overall we’re going to have something that’s close to 10 times 10 times 10 times 10.

That is our answer should be somewhere around 10,000 or possibly a little more because we have an 11 and a 12 offset only by a 9. So what we’re looking for is something in that just above 10,000 range this prevents us from doing the math and very rapidly lets us look at those four movies, those numbers 12 11 10 9 and zero in on that 11 880 number.

4. Combinatorics GMAT Problem Form 

Try it again with a similar number. Notice that you can’t do this with a hundred different movies selecting 17 of them. The math, the numbers would be too cumbersome.

The GMAT is really restricted here and you should restrict yourself to ones that are reasonable to keep processed in your head without doing heavy-duty math. Similarly, notice how this one clusters around ten, it doesn’t have to cluster around ten, but when you’re rewriting this problem think about that clustering and think about how your knowledge of common powers or how other identities can help you rapidly get to an answer because the GMAT will present you with numbers that have a neat clean way to jump from your understanding directly to the answer without all that messy math in between.

This is Mike for Apex GMAT with your problem of the day.

If you enjoyed this combinatorics GMAT problem, try more GMAT practice problems:  Remainder Number Theory 

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Posted on
26
Mar 2020

How COVID-19 Is Affecting The GMAT And Its Test Takers

Mike here with a special update video about how COVID-19 is impacting the GMAT testing world. I wanted to share some big news with you guys from the GMAC, the makers of the GMAT, about a substitute exam that they will be using and that you should be able to take from home starting in the middle of April 2020.

1. General Inquiries

So, first off, a lot of people are finding themselves in uncertainty about their application process and about their GMAT preparation. To be sure, we have been getting a lot of calls about people wanting to make the best use of their time while they are furloughed from work, or while they are working from home and have a bit more flexibility and to be sure it’s an opportune time to bite off this task which for most people is really hard to fit into their existing professional and personal lives.

Additionally, we have a lot of inquiries about what’s going to happen with admissions. We can’t speak for any particular schools, however, we expect that the window of the virus crisis is such that it won’t meaningfully impact applications for Fall of 2021. That is that by the time your first round comes around in September or October, you are going to be able to get in, take the GMAT as normal and be able to apply and go to other events.

That of course is the hope and this is an emerging phenomenon and emerging circumstance on the world stage without much precedence. So of course things are bound to change and we promise to keep you updated through the entirety of this crisis.

2. The New Exam

The new exam that the GMAC is rolling out will be taken from home and they are planning on rolling it out sometime in the middle of April. It will have three of the four GMAT sections, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative and Verbal. So you will be able to get your score out of 800 with Quant and Verbal as well as your score for the Integrated Reasoning. The only section that will be missing is the writing section which I say is the least important of the entire GMAT from an admissions standpoint. The exam will be priced at a lower price point; they have not announced what that price point is but certainly at some discount to the normal $250 that’s charged.

3. Test Considerations

There are also some strategic considerations that come with this exam and some things we don’t yet know. For example, it is unclear as to whether you will get to choose the order of the sections when you take the exam or if it will be predetermined. Additionally, because the GMAC is likely using a different problem bank than they use for the actual GMAT, this makes some subtle time allocation and strategic guessing decisions change compared to the normal GMAT and I will be talking about that in another video.

If You Need Any Help Give Us A Call

I know that this is a stressful time for everyone who has business school and GMAT plans that have been disrupted. So if you need any help or need any advice, please feel free to visit our website. You can contact us directly through there by chat, phone, or email.

From our entire family, we wish you health and safety in this difficult time and we’ll look forward to keeping you updated as soon as we have new information. Thanks so much and stay safe.

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