The post How to Turn GMAT Word Problems into Equations appeared first on GMAT.

]]>*Did you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! **Check out our upcoming courses here**.*

**GMAT word problems, like the ones from the Official Guide to the GMAT, usually come with explanations. A lot of those explanations start by turning the word problem into equations. Starting with the equations can make an explanation easy to understand: if the equations match up to what the problem says, then the explanation makes sense. **

Unfortunately, it can also make an explanation look like a magic trick. When you had to *do* the problem, how on earth were you supposed to think of the right equation? What makes an equation the right one, anyways?

In simplest terms, an equation is just two pieces of math with an equals sign in between them.

5*x + *10*y *= 500

In GMAT word problems, those two pieces of math have to match up with something in the real world. In fact, they both have to match up with the *same* real-world thing. The two sides of the equation have to talk about the exact same thing in two different ways.

For example, suppose that a school play makes a total revenue of $500. You can express the revenue using the number 500.

Another way to express the revenue is to split it up by ticket types. For instance, if the only types of tickets sold were children’s tickets and adult tickets, then this is also a good way to express the revenue:

*revenue from children’s tickets *+ *revenue from adult tickets*

We now have two ways of describing the exact same thing, so we can create a good equation:

*revenue from children’s tickets *+* revenue from adult tickets *= 500

Depending on what information the problem gives you, this probably isn’t a very useful equation. Most GMAT equations are more complex. For instance, the problem might tell you that *x* children’s tickets were sold, and that each one cost $5. *y* adult tickets were also sold at $10 each. That gives you another way of writing out the total revenue:

5*x* + 10*y*

Because 5*x* + 10*y* describes the same thing (total revenue) as the number 500, this is a good equation:

5*x* + 10*y* = 500

This might seem basic. And it is! But it’s often the most basic things that are the toughest to really understand. When you write an easy equation, it might just seem obvious, and you can’t really explain why you wrote what you wrote. That makes it hard to handle much tougher equations that do require a lot of thought and explanation.

Let’s create an equation from some more complicated text.

Jordan planned to fold exactly 10 paper roses per day between now and his mother’s birthday in order to complete her birthday gift. Instead, he only folded an average of 7 roses per day until the very last day, when he had to fold 43 roses in one day to finish the gift. How many roses did Jordan fold in total?

In order to create an equation, we’ll have to find two different ways of talking about the same value. In this case, the number of roses that Jordan folded would be a good value to work with: it’s right there in the question.

One way to talk about the total number of roses is by looking at Jordan’s original plan. If he planned to fold 10 roses per day, then one way to write the total number of roses is:

10(days)

Now, let’s find another way to describe the total number of roses. When Jordan actually started folding roses, he did one thing until the last day, and then did something different on the very last day. That gives us a good way to divide up the number of roses:

*roses folded before the last day *+ *roses folded on the last day*

On the last day, he folded 43 roses. Before the last day, he folded 7 roses per day, or a total of 7(days – 1) roses. So, here’s a second way to write about the total number of roses:

7(days – 1) + 43

Since we now have two ways of talking about the total number of roses, we can put an equals sign between them and create an equation.

10*d* = 7(*d* – 1) + 43

If you solve that equation, you’ll find the number of days Jordan spent on the project, which will let you calculate the number of roses. (It’s 120).

Let’s do one more. This time, you’ll need two equations.

Marisha recently completed a 300-mile road trip at an average speed of 50 mph. For the first part of the trip, she drove at a speed of 40 mph. For the second part of the trip, she drove at a speed of 70 mph. How many hours of the trip were spent driving at 70 mph?

We could start by finding two different ways to talk about the total distance, or two different ways to talk about the total time. (We can’t start with the speed, because you can’t just do arithmetic with speeds—going 40 mph and then 70 mph isn’t the same thing as going 110 mph!)

We already know one way to express the total distance: 300 miles.

Another way to express the distance would involve splitting the trip into two parts:

*distance of the first part + distance of the second part*

We don’t know exactly how long the two parts of the trip were, though, so we’ll need to find a way to describe them in terms of what we *do* know.

If Marisha drove at 40 mph for the first part of the trip, then the total distance she covered was as follows:

(40 mph)(hours for first part of trip)

And if she drove at 70 mph for the second part of the trip, the distance she covered was as follows:

(70 mph)(hours for second part of trip)

So another way of writing the total distance is like this:

(40 mph)(hours for first part of trip) + (70 mph)(hours for second part of trip)

We now have two different ways of writing the total distance, so we have an equation!

(40 mph)(hours for first part of trip) + (70 mph)(hours for second part of trip) = 300

However, we aren’t quite finished. We have *two* variables, so we’ll need a second equation. That’s where the total time comes in. One way to express the total time is by just giving the number of hours: 6 hours. The other way is by splitting it up into two parts:

hours for first part of trip + hours for second part of trip = 6

Now we have a system of equations! It looks like this:

40x + 70y = 300

x + y = 6

The first equation gives two ways of talking about the total distance of the trip. The second equation gives two ways of talking about the total time of the trip. By combining them, it’s possible to solve. (The answer to the question is 2 hours.)

Try reframing how you think about equations in GMAT word problems. The right equation is always right for a reason—because both sides of the equation talk about the same real-world quantity. You don’t have to come up with that equation instantly, either. It’s okay to build an equation up from smaller pieces, just like we did here.

*Want more guidance from our GMAT gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. **Check out our upcoming courses here**.*

**Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington.** *Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. **Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.*

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]]>The post MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: The Open Waitlist is Not a Flood! appeared first on GMAT.

]]>*What have you been told about applying to business school? With the advent of chat rooms, blogs, and forums, armchair “experts” often unintentionally propagate MBA admissions myths, which can linger and undermine an applicant’s confidence. Some applicants are led to believe that schools want a specific “type” of candidate and expect certain GMAT scores and GPAs, for example. Others are led to believe that they need to know alumni from their target schools and/or get a letter of reference from the CEO of their firm in order to get in. In this series, **mbaMission** debunks these and other myths and strives to take the anxiety out of the admissions process.*

Have you heard the following admissions myth?

*When a school that has placed you on its open waitlist says that it wants no more information from you, this is some kind of “test,” and you should supply additional materials anyway.*

As we have discussed in the past, this is patently not true. Similarly, when programs tell their waitlisted candidates they are open to *important* additional communication, such applicants should *not *interpret this to mean *constant* communication. The difference is significant.

As is the case with any open waitlist situation, before you do *anything*, carefully read the waitlist letter you received from the admissions office. Frequently, this will include an FAQ sheet or a hyperlink to one. If the school permits candidates to submit additional information but offers no guidance with respect to quantity, this does not mean that you should start flooding the committee with novel information and materials. If you have another potential recommender who can send a letter that highlights a new aspect of your profile, you can consider having him/her send one in, but you should not start a lobbying campaign with countless alumni and colleagues writing on your behalf.

Similarly, you could send the school an update email monthly, every six weeks, or even every two months—the key is not frequency or volume but materiality. If you have something important to tell the admissions committee that can help shape its perspective on your candidacy (e.g., a new project, a promotion, a new grade, an improved GMAT score, a campus visit), then you should share it. If you do not have such meaningful information to share, then a contrived letter with no real content will not help you. Just because you know others are sending letters, do not feel compelled to send empty correspondences for fear that your fellow candidates might be showing more interest. They just might be identifying themselves negatively via their open waitlist approach.

Take a step back and imagine that you are on the admissions committee; you have one candidate who keeps you up to date with a few thoughtful correspondences and another who bombards you with empty updates, emails, and recommendations that do not offer anything substantive. Which candidate would you choose if a place opened up in your class? When you are on the open waitlist, your goal is to remain in the good graces of the admissions committee. Remember, the committee members already deem you a strong enough candidate to take a place in their class, so be patient and prudent, as challenging as that may be.

*mbaMission offers even more interview advice in our FREE**Interview Primers***,*** which are available for 17 top-ranked business schools.*

*mbaMission** is the leader in MBA admissions consulting with a full-time and comprehensively trained staff of consultants**, all with profound communications and MBA experience. mbaMission has helped thousands of candidates fulfill their dream of attending prominent MBA programs around the world. Take your first step toward a more successful MBA application experience with a free 30-minute consultation with one of mbaMission’s senior consultants. **Click here to sign up today.*

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]]>The post Wharton Team-Based Discussion 2018: What to Expect and How to Prepare appeared first on GMAT.

]]>*Each week, we are featuring a series of MBA admissions tips from our exclusive admissions consulting partner, **mbaMission**.*

**The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania sends out Round 2 interview invitations on February 8, and once again, the school is using its Wharton team-based discussion format rather than a traditional admissions interview to evaluate its candidates. Understandably, Wharton applicants get anxious about this atypical interview, because the approach creates a very different dynamic from what one usually encounters in a one-on-one meeting—and with other applicants also in the room, one cannot help but feel less in control of the content and direction of the conversation. Yet despite the uncertainty, here are a few things that interviewees can expect:**

- You will need to arrive at the Wharton team-based discussion with an idea—a response to a challenge that will be presented in your interview invitation.
- Having the best idea is much less important than how you interact with others in the group and communicate your thoughts. So while you should prepare an idea ahead of time, that is only part of what you will be evaluated on.
- Your peers will have prepared their ideas as well. Chances are that ideas will be raised that you know little or nothing about. Do not worry! The admissions committee members are not measuring your topical expertise. Instead, they want to see how you add to the collective output of the team.
- After the Wharton team-based discussion, you will have a short one-on-one session with someone representing Wharton’s admissions team. More than likely, you will be asked to reflect on how the team-based discussion went for you; this will require self-awareness on your part.

To give candidates the opportunity to undergo a realistic test run before experiencing the actual event, we created our **Wharton Team-Based Discussion Simulation**. Via this simulation, applicants participate anonymously with three to five other MBA candidates in an online conversation, which is moderated by two of our experienced Senior Consultants familiar with Wharton’s format and approach. All participants then receive feedback on their performance, with special focus on their interpersonal skills and communication abilities. The simulation builds confidence by highlighting your role in a team, examining how you communicate your ideas to—and within—a group of (equally talented) peers, and discovering how you react when you are thrown “in the deep end” and have to swim. Our Wharton Team-Based Discussion Simulation allows you to test the experience so you are ready for the real thing!

The 2018 Wharton Team-Based Discussion Simulation Round 2 schedule is as follows:

**Group A: Monday, February 12 at 9:00 p.m. ET****Group B: Tuesday, February 13 at 9:00 p.m. ET****Group C: Wednesday, February 14 at 6:00 p.m. ET****Group D: Thursday, February 15 at 6:00 p.m. ET****Group E: Friday, February 16 at 3:00 p.m. ET****Group F: Saturday, February 17 at 11:00 a.m. ET****Group G: Sunday, February 18 at 11:00 a.m. ET****Group H: Sunday, February 18 at 2:00 p.m. ET****Group I: Monday, February 19 at 6:00 p.m. ET****Group J: Tuesday, February 20 at 6:00 p.m. ET****Group K: Tuesday, February 20 at 9:00 p.m. ET**

*To learn more or sign up for a session, visit our**Wharton Team-Based Discussion Simulation page**.*

*mbaMission** is the leader in MBA admissions consulting with a full-time and comprehensively trained staff of consultants**, all with profound communications and MBA experience. mbaMission has helped thousands of candidates fulfill their dream of attending prominent MBA programs around the world. Take your first step toward a more successful MBA application experience with a free 30-minute consultation with one of mbaMission’s senior consultants. **Click here to sign up today.*

The post Wharton Team-Based Discussion 2018: What to Expect and How to Prepare appeared first on GMAT.

]]>The post What Learning to Play the Piano Can Teach You about Studying for the GMAT appeared first on GMAT.

]]>*Did you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! **Check out our upcoming courses here**.*

**Before I was a GMAT teacher, I was a piano teacher. At my first job out of college, I would go house to house giving piano lessons to kids. The most important lesson I had for them was always the same: practice slowly, correctly, and in small, manageable pieces.**

In the GMAT courses I teach now, I ask my students to take practice tests throughout the course. Some students improve 50 points, or even more, in a given 3-week period. Other students may not improve at all. I generally ask the latter group how they are doing their homework. Are they doing it slowly? Are they doing it correctly? Are they doing it in small pieces?

Back to music for a minute. Let’s say you’re a piano student learning Bach’s Invention No. 8. Unless you are Claudio Arrau, you won’t just sit down at the piano and play the whole thing perfectly the first time. Instead, you will learn just the first line of music, note by note (manageable pieces!); in fact, if you’re a hack at piano like me, you will probably spend an entire day just learning that first line.

That’s not even the worst of it—if you make a mistake, you can’t just keep powering through, because that would mean reinforcing the mistake! Instead, you have to stop what you’re doing immediately and correct the mistake before it becomes learned behavior (practice correctly!). It’s not just which keys to play that you’re worried about, by the way: it’s also which fingers you’re using, how loudly or softly you’re playing, and a number of other considerations.

In order to attend to the piece of music with this level of detail, you can’t just start off playing at performance speed (practice slowly!); when I was learning piano, I would routinely learn pieces at half the speed at which they were intended to be played.

There is, however, one silver lining in all of this. If you really do practice like this, it’s actually pretty easy to put everything together in the end. If you can play a piece perfectly when you play it slowly, then speeding up is a relatively minor (no pun intended) task.

Now consider the GMAT. Let’s say that you are at the beginning of studying for the GMAT. One thing you certainly do NOT want to do is try to learn every single topic on your first day. Instead, you want to focus on, say, percents (manageable pieces!). Better yet, don’t just focus on percents, focus on percent increases and decreases. You grab your Manhattan Prep “Fractions, Decimals, and Percents” Strategy Guide, you read the “Percents” chapter, and you pay special attention to the section covering percent increases and decreases.

Then, you get your Official Guide to the GMAT and you find some problems with percents in them. Do NOT do these problems with a timer! If you do, you’re setting yourself up for either failure (when you run out of time) or a useless study session (if you can already do the problem under a time constraint, then why bother studying that problem at all?). Instead, give yourself unlimited time to do the problem (practice slowly!).

As you’re going through the problem, it’s okay to make mistakes! Just try to notice when you do. If you are struggling with a certain step, especially if it relates to the topic you are trying to study (percent increases and decreases), it’s totally okay to refer back to your Strategy Guide so that you learn to do the problem the right way; avoid making a mistake and then continuing to work (practice correctly!). When you have the answer, remember that you’re not finished yet—try to refine your technique so that you work as efficiently as possible. Use the answer explanations in your book, or in our Navigator system if you’re a Manhattan Prep student, to help you.

This may sound like a lot of work, but remember that there’s a silver lining to studying for the GMAT. Go back to that same Official Guide problem a week later, and get your stopwatch out this time. If you’ve really practiced correctly, speeding up will be easy, and that is the payoff.

If you approach the piano assuming that you’ll be able to sit down and immediately play a full-length piece of music at concert tempo, you may be in for a bit of a shock. Similarly, if you approach studying for the GMAT assuming that you’ll be able to do a couple practice tests and watch your combined score improve to a 700, then you have some bad news coming your way (unless you are the Claudio Arrau of the GMAT). But remember, anybody can learn to play the piano if they approach their practice sessions the right way: slowly, correctly, and in manageable pieces. The GMAT is really no different.

*Want more guidance from our GMAT gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. **Check out our upcoming courses here**.*

**Ryan Jacobs is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in San Francisco, California.** He has an MBA from UC San Diego, a 780 on the GMAT, and years of GMAT teaching experience. His other interests include music, photography, and hockey. Check out Ryan’s upcoming GMAT prep offerings here.

The post What Learning to Play the Piano Can Teach You about Studying for the GMAT appeared first on GMAT.

]]>The post Big GMAT Skills: Reading Specifically and Objectively appeared first on GMAT.

]]>*Guess what? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free—we’re not kidding! **Check out our upcoming courses here**.*

**Why do I have to take the GMAT? Who cares about the Pythagorean theorem? Or perfect grammar? Why do we need to know the rules of exponents? Or what the prime factors of a number tell us? Or how to read a passage about science we’ll never study?**

These are common complaints one hears as an instructor for a test specifically designed to *keep some people from achieving their goals*.

And I get it. But one thing to remember as you prepare for the test is that all this material is, mostly, used as a tool to test other cognitive skills. That is, the formula for the area of a circle is not used to make sure you can calculate the area of a circle.

So this is the first post in a series about these “Big GMAT Skills,” those that underlie large swaths of the test.

To kick it off, we’re going to talk about reading specifically and objectively—a skill from which one could argue all other big GMAT skills come. To wit, if you ‘misread’ a problem or a passage on the GMAT, it won’t matter *what* you do next. You are—just like your love life according to the *Friends* theme song—D.O.A.

I’m a writer and actor, so I spend a lot of time dealing with dialogue. Dialogue is an interesting art—for starters, perfect grammar is absolutely detested, because “nobody talks like that.” But what’s most interesting about dialogue to me is how often what you’re saying isn’t *really* what you’re saying.

Here’s a simple little exchange from a script I read recently. In this example, a cancer patient is smoking with his friend:

She: I can’t believe you still smoke.

He: It’s not lung cancer.

This isn’t the most complicated example, but it serves my purpose. What these characters are saying is not the words they are saying. What these people are (I think) really saying is:

She: Isn’t smoking dangerous for someone as sick as you? Should we be doing this?

He: Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.

She isn’t saying—or she isn’t *just* saying—what her words literally mean: “It is surprising to me that you smoke,” and he isn’t literally responding, “Lung cancer is not the kind of cancer I have.” There’s meaning *beneath* the language.

This noticing ‘what’s being said that’s not actually said’ is an incredibly useful communication tool for humans. We take in all kinds of subjective context to understand ‘what people mean’ and what lies *beneath* the language. The problem is, though, we’re so good at this that sometimes we forget to just *recognize what the words say*.

The GMAT wants you to be able to strip yourself of subjectivity and even, in a way, context, and just recognize *what do these words right in front of you really say?* Specificity of thought is paramount here.

For instance, here’s how this skill might be tested on Sentence Correction. Do you find anything wrong with the following sentence?

“The problem that companies in the tech industry are facing, from the small startups to the largest corporate giants, is staying relevant in a market flooded with ever more impressive technology.”

Seems fine, right? But read it very, very specifically (and strip out some ‘fluff’):

“The problem that companies… are facing…is staying relevant.”

Still seem okay?

**Be more literal**. Don’t contextualize, don’t *interpret* the meaning, *what is the meaning? *Is “staying relevant” a “problem?” Because that’s what that language objectively states.

As it turns out, this sentence literally means the *exact opposite* of what we know it’s *trying* to say. And how do we know what it’s trying to say, then? Because we’re intelligent humans and we know that nobody would say ‘staying relevant’ is a ‘problem’ for a company. The problem is that these companies are *struggling* to stay relevant, so our brain fills that in when it’s not explicitly written. But on the GMAT, don’t do that. Read sentences for *what the words say*. If a computer were to read that sentence, the interpretation it would have to make is that staying relevant is a problem, because it lacks all the subjective contextualizations humans have. All it has is the logic of grammar, and that grammar tells the computer that “staying relevant = problem.”

This skill obviously shows up frequently in Reading Comp and Critical Reasoning. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked a student several times in a row, “What does that sentence say, in your own words?” And they’ll get close—they’ll ‘get the gist’—but they’ll miss a crucially important idea because they aren’t reading specifically.

For instance, a student recently was working on a CR problem. The passage states, “Demand for electricity has been increasing by 1.5 percent a year, and there simply is no more space to build additional power plants to meet future demand increases,” and one of the answers says, “Existing power plants do not have the capacity to handle all of the projected increase in demand for electricity.”

My student crossed off that answer because it ‘said the same thing’ as the passage: “We can’t get more electricity.” And perhaps that is ‘the gist’ of both sentences. But the first says there’s no space for *new* power plants. The second says there’s no way we can ramp up production in *existing* power plants. Related ideas—but not the same. Read *carefully* and specify what’s said. This is not to say you have to notice every nitty gritty detail in a Reading Comp passage, but you do need to be specific on what its Big Ideas are.

However, this is not just a skill for Verbal. Reading specifically is crucial for Quant questions as well. You have to be clear and specific about what value a ‘percent’ is relative to. You have to parse out the specific ‘rules’ of a weird function problem. You have to answer the specific question that was asked. Don’t choose a value for ‘x’ when the question asked for ‘y.’ Don’t choose the average when it asked for a median. Don’t do a 20% decrease of one thing when the question talks about a 20% increase of another. All of this requires a careful, accurate reading of the specific words on the screen.

Reading specifically and objectively will require something else of you: to strip yourself of bias. But we’ll save that for our next post on big GMAT skills.

*Want some more GMAT tips from Reed? Attend the first session of one of his **upcoming GMAT courses **absolutely free, no strings attached. Seriously.*

**Reed Arnold is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York, NY.** He has a B.A. in economics, philosophy, and mathematics and an M.S. in commerce, both from the University of Virginia. He enjoys writing, acting, Chipotle burritos, and teaching the GMAT. Check out Reed’s upcoming GMAT courses here.

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]]>The post Mission Admission: Waitlist Strategies for MBA Applicants appeared first on GMAT.

]]>*Mission Admission is a series of MBA admissions tips from our exclusive admissions consulting partner, **mbaMission**.*

Within the next several months, many candidates will receive a response from MBA admissions committees that can sometimes be far more frustrating than a rejection: “You have been placed on our waitlist.” What should you do when your status is uncertain?

The first and most important thing is to *listen to the admissions committee*. If the committee tells you not to send follow-up material of any sort, then do *not* yield to temptation and send material that you think will bolster your case. If you misguidedly choose to do so after being specifically instructed not to, you will most definitely identify yourself in a negative way—not the type of message you want to send to the group that will decide your fate.

Does this rule have any exceptions? Yes, actually. If you know a current student or an alumnus/alumna who can tactfully, diplomatically, and independently work on your behalf, you can have this third party write a letter to or otherwise contact the admissions committee in support of your candidacy. But again, this is acceptable only if this individual truly understands the delicate nature of the interaction. If you have no such person on your side, you will have to wait patiently, as difficult as that may be.

Conversely, if the school *encourages *applicants to provide updates on their progress, the situation changes. In the previous scenario, the frustration candidates experience derives from a sense of helplessness. But in this scenario, candidates tend to lament the lack of time in which to have accomplished anything significant, often thinking, “What can I offer the MBA admissions committee as an update? I submitted my application only three months ago!”

First and foremost, if you have worked to target any weaknesses in your candidacy—for example, by retaking the GMAT and increasing your score, or by taking a supplemental math class and earning an A grade—the admissions committee will certainly want to hear about this. Further, if you have any concrete news regarding promotions or the assumption of additional responsibilities in the community sphere, be sure to update the admissions committee on this news as well.

Even if you do not have these sorts of quantifiable accomplishments to report, you should still have some news to share. If you have undertaken any additional networking or have completed a class visit since you submitted your application, you can discuss your continued (or increased) interest; when you are on a waitlist, the admissions committee wants to know that you are passionately committed to the school. If you have not been promoted, you could creatively reflect on a new project that you have started and identify the professional skills/exposure that this project is providing or has provided (for example, managing people off-site for the first time or executing with greater independence). Finally, the personal realm is not off-limits, so feel free to discuss any personal accomplishments—for example, anything from advancing in the study of a language, to visiting a new country, to completing a marathon.

With some thought and creativity, you should be able to draft a concise but powerful letter that conveys your continued professional and personal growth while expressing your sincere and growing interest in the school—all of which will fulfill your goal of increasing your chances of gaining admission.

*mbaMission** is the leader in MBA admissions consulting with a full-time and comprehensively trained staff of consultants**, all with profound communications and MBA experience. mbaMission has helped thousands of candidates fulfill their dream of attending prominent MBA programs around the world. Take your first step toward a more successful MBA application experience with a free 30-minute consultation with one of mbaMission’s senior consultants. **Click here to sign up today.*

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]]>The post Know the GMAT Code: Work Backwards on Problem Solving Problems (Part 1) appeared first on GMAT.

]]>*Guess what? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free—we’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.*

Do you know how to work backwards on Problem Solving problems? More important, do you know *when* to work backwards—and when not to? To get a really high score on this test, you’ve got to Know the Code in order to get through the questions efficiently.

I’ve got two Problem Solving problems for you to try from the GMATPrep® free question set. On one, working backwards is a great option. On the other…not so much. If you think you already know this strategy, test out your skills by trying both Problem Solving problems and articulating (out loud, so you know that you really know it!) how to know where you can work backwards and where you shouldn’t try.

If you don’t already know how to work backwards, just go ahead and try both problems however you’d like and then we’ll learn all about this strategy.

Ready? Set your timer for 4 minutes and…Go!

“*If (2* ^{x}*)(2

“(A) (1, 2)

“(B) (2, 1)

“(C) (1, 1)

“(D) (2, 2)

“(E) (1, 3)”

If *x*^{2} = 2*y*^{3} and 2*y* = 4, what is the value of *x*^{2} + *y* ?

“(A) –14

“(B) –2

“(C) 3

“(D) 6

“(E) 18”

Okay, what do you think? Don’t just keep reading. Take a stand now—even if you’re not sure, just guess. (That goes for your actual answers and what you think re: when to work backwards.) Making yourself take a guess invests you more in the outcome—and helps you to better retain what you’re about to learn.

Let’s do this!

We’re going to do the first one first. Glance at the problem. Problem Solving. Exponents. Glance at the answers…pairs? Is this like coordinate plane or something?

Read. No, it’s not actually geometry—it’s just writing the *x* and *y* answers this way. Jot down the given equations.

Note that I didn’t repeat the parentheses in the equations when I jotted this down because I’m confident that I won’t make a mistake by removing them. (Though I could make a different mistake!) If you aren’t confident about that, then keep using the parentheses.

All right, let’s think about what we’ve got here.

Variables in the exponents. I can solve algebraically by getting the bases on each side to be equal and then dropping the bases and setting the exponents equal to each other. Anything else?

Glance at those answers again. There’s something pretty awesome about them.

First, the answers actually give you the possible values for the only two variables in this problem, *x* and *y*. This is the classic sign that you can work backwards, if you want to: The answer choices give you the actual value for at least one discrete variable in the problem.

But, in this case, it gets even better! In order to work backwards, you *have* to have that first criterion (actual value for one discrete variable), but there are additional criteria that make the problem easier to do this way. First, the values should be “nice” numbers—they’re not too hard to plug back into the problem. In this case, the possibilities are 1, 2, and 3…as nice as it gets.

Second, tell me what the possible values for *x* are.

Check it out! Although there are 5 answer choices, there are only 2 distinct possibilities for *x*: 1 or 2. Just try them both and you’ll be done in about 1 minute.

2^{1}2* ^{y}* = 8

2* ^{y}* = 4

*y* = 2

For the first equation, when *x* = 1, *y* = 2, which matches answer (A). Is that actually the correct answer?

Try the numbers in the second equation to see. If they work, answer (A) is correct. If they don’t, then *x* must equal 2, and you’ll have to plug into one of the two equations to find out what *y* equals.

9* ^{x}*3

9^{1}3^{2} = 81

9×9 = 81 CORRECT!

The pairing (1, 2) does work for the second equation, so the correct answer is (A).

You can of course also solve this problem algebraically, and the algebra is not super hard on this one. But given that you only have to try a *maximum* of two numbers—and that those two numbers are 1 and 2—working backwards should still be a serious consideration.

Since I told you at the beginning that only one problem could be done by working backwards, you now know that you can’t use this technique for the second one. Why? Use what you’ve learned so far to articulate the answer to my question, then join me next time, when we’ll dive into the full solution!

(1) If the answers give you possible values for (at least) one discrete variable in the problem, then you can work backwards. Should you? If the numbers are also “nice” numbers for the problem, then you should seriously consider it.

(2) Practice working backwards enough that you learn how to spot other signs that working backwards is a great strategy for a particular problem. In this case, the paired answers meant that we had to try only 2 (really easy) numbers—doesn’t get a lot better than that. Even if you felt fine doing this one algebraically, that *lesson* is a great lesson to learn so that you know how to spot this characteristic on harder Problem Solving problems in future.

(3) Turn that knowledge into Know the Code flash cards:

**Can’t get enough of Stacey’s GMAT mastery? Attend the first session of one of her upcoming GMAT courses absolutely free, no strings attached. Seriously.**

**Stacey Koprince is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Montreal, Canada and Los Angeles, California.** Stacey has been teaching the GMAT, GRE, and LSAT for more than 15 years and is one of the most well-known instructors in the industry. Stacey loves to teach and is absolutely fascinated by standardized tests. Check out Stacey’s upcoming GMAT courses here.

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]]>The post Does the GMAT Really Just Test Your Test-Taking Skills? appeared first on GMAT.

]]>*Did you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! **Check out our upcoming courses here**.*

**There are a lot of things the GMAT can’t measure. It can’t measure your intelligence, your value as a person, or your ability to succeed. But is it really ***just* about your test-taking skills? And if you’ve always done poorly on tests, are you doomed to GMAT failure?

The first time I really studied for a standardized test, I resented having to learn the “tricks.” By “tricks,” I mean things like plugging in the answer choices or picking the most “boring” answer on a Verbal problem. In my mind, the test wasn’t rewarding me for being good at math or good at English. It was just rewarding me for memorizing a bunch of silly, useless test-taking tricks that I’d never use anywhere else. And that didn’t seem right to me.

Now that I’ve been teaching standardized tests for close to a decade, I think about them a lot differently. I now think that the GMAT *does* do a very good job of measuring certain test-taking skills. If you reduce those skills to “silly, useless tricks,” you’re selling yourself and your learning short.

My mistake, when I started studying, was to think that admissions committees cared about whether I was great at math and English. Sure, the schools you’re applying to would like you to be comfortable with numbers and with formal, written English. That’s one reason that you need a basic level of math and verbal skill to succeed on the GMAT.

However, the content on the GMAT doesn’t go beyond a high-school level. That means that just about everyone who’s applying to business school, even those of us who hate math or grammar, can learn all of the math and grammar that the GMAT asks for. (And if you’re struggling to get started, why not check out Foundations of GMAT Math and Foundations of GMAT Verbal?) In that sense, the GMAT is a fair test: it doesn’t expect you to understand concepts, like quantum physics, that ordinary people can’t wrap their heads around.

When I resented having to learn “test-taking tricks,” I mistakenly thought that the test *really* wanted to evaluate my math and English skills, but the “tricks” were muddling everything up. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The tricks *are* the test, and succeeding on the “tricks” means developing test-taking skills that matter in business school.

Take estimation, for instance. Every time you estimate the answer to a Quant problem, you’re demonstrating two skills. First, you’re demonstrating that you know* how* to estimate. We aren’t born with that ability. But the ability to estimate is vastly more useful in life (and in business school) than the ability to, say, algebraically solve for the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle. Second, you’re demonstrating that you know *when* to estimate, and when you really need an exact answer. That kind of high-level decision-making—*how precise of an answer do I really need?*—is a hallmark of people who are great at solving problems in general, not just on the GMAT.

Or think about time management. A lot of people will make GMAT time management sound like a trick: “you’ll get a higher score if you take more time on the first ten questions.” “You should never skip more than three questions in a row.” However, the reality is that there isn’t just one simple trick to managing your time on the GMAT. Good time management requires strong executive reasoning skills. Someone who successfully manages their time on the GMAT is someone who can make difficult decisions, with limited information, while under stress, even though the consequences of those decisions aren’t immediately obvious. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of person who would succeed in business school?

Sure, the GMAT isn’t really about math or English. But that doesn’t mean it’s just about how good you are at taking tests. It’s really about a whole constellation of skills, some of which you already have, and some of which you’ll need to develop. They include:

- Stress management
- Resource management
- Executive reasoning
- Humility
- Self-reflection
- Patience
- Creative problem-solving

There are dozens of other life skills that will help you on the GMAT. (And the GMAT, in turn, will help you develop many of these skills!) We’re not talking about tricks like “always guess C” or “pick the shortest answer choice” here—we’re talking about test-taking skills that will actually serve you well in business school and beyond. So take some time to cultivate them, and don’t get too bogged down in learning more and more GMAT content. Once you’ve studied the basics, it’s really more about what you do with your knowledge than about how much you know.

*Want more guidance from our GMAT gurus? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free! We’re not kidding. **Check out our upcoming courses here**.*

**Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington.** *Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. **Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GMAT prep offerings here.*

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]]>The post MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: I Must Have Botched the Interview appeared first on GMAT.

]]>*What have you been told about applying to business school? With the advent of chat rooms, blogs, and forums, armchair “experts” often unintentionally propagate MBA admissions myths, which can linger and undermine an applicant’s confidence. Some applicants are led to believe that schools want a specific “type” of candidate and expect certain GMAT scores and GPAs, for example. Others are led to believe that they need to know alumni from their target schools and/or get a letter of reference from the CEO of their firm in order to get in. In this series,**mbaMission **debunks these and other myths and strives to take the anxiety out of the admissions process.*

**Maybe you are among the unlucky applicants who were/are on the outside looking in this year, shaking your head trying to understand why you did not get into an MBA program. As you look back and assess where you went wrong, you may narrow your focus and re-examine your interviews. After all, you were invited to interview but were rejected thereafter, so there must be a cause-and-effect relationship, right? Your rejection must mean that everything was at stake during those 30 to 60 minutes and that your interviewer just did not feel that you are of the caliber preferred by your target school, right? ***Wrong.*

Bruce DelMonico, the Yale School of Management (SOM) assistant dean for admissions, explained to mbaMission that the school uses a “consensus decision-making model [in which] we all need to agree on an outcome for an applicant [to be accepted].” Each file is read multiple times. With the need for a consensus, we can safely conclude that the committee is not waiting on the interview as *the* determinant. There is no post-interview snap judgment but rather serious thought and reflection by the admissions officers.

Although we have discussed this topic before, it is worth repeating that no simple formula exists for MBA admissions and that the evaluation process is thorough and not instinctive/reactive. Yes, a disastrous interview can certainly hurt you—but if you felt positively about your interview, you should not worry that you botched it and that this was *the* determinant of the admissions committee’s decision.

*mbaMission offers even more interview advice in our FREE**Interview Primers***,*** which are available for 17 top-ranked business schools.*

*mbaMission**Click here to sign up today.*

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]]>*Check out our upcoming courses here**.*

**The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, so it makes sense that to beat it, you might need to think like a computer, right? It really is true, but maybe not in the way that you would expect. You might think that a computer is really smart and could solve lots of problems on the GMAT. Actually, the problems on the GMAT require a fair amount of creativity and critical thinking that would be hard for a computer. For solving problems, you need your own human brain.**

But here’s where a computer *would* excel on the GMAT: the computer can’t get flustered and will always make completely rational decisions. That’s the part of computer thinking you want to emulate.

If you’ve been studying the GMAT for a while, you’ve probably heard that the GMAT is a test of executive reasoning. It may look like a math test or a grammar test, but it’s really a decision-making test. Can you follow the proper process for each question type? Can you let go of a challenging problem and invest your time in problems you’re more likely to get right? Can you choose to skip problems when you’re behind on time?

In many ways, these are all fairly straightforward decisions with clear answers, but it’s hard to execute them under pressure. This is when the computer brain excels and you want to train your brain to function the same way.

Let’s say you’re in the middle of the test and you’re struggling. You know you’ve missed four questions in a row and then a crazy, convoluted exponents question pops up. You remember your instructor saying that if you don’t understand a problem or you don’t have a plan or you know it would take a really long time, it’s not worth doing. But you’ve already gotten 4 in row wrong!! Surely you can’t miss ANOTHER one, so you dive in and try to work it out. Three minutes later, you have to give up, even more frustrated and discouraged.

That’s your human brain at work, unwilling to give in to five in a row wrong and irrationally hoping against hope that you’ll be able to pull this one out. But the computer doesn’t care, the computer is totally rational about it. The computer brain says, “Right now at this time, I’m looking at a question that I’m not likely to get right, so the best thing to do is to let it go and save my time for another problem.”

And the computer is totally right here, as you can see looking in from the outside. Rationally, there is little chance of getting this question right, so all you gain by trying it is frustration and the loss of two to three minutes spent working it out. The computer knows that’s not a good bet, so it just takes a guess and goes on to the next problem.

And that’s just one example. For another, the computer brain doesn’t care that you studied rates last week and really SHOULD know how to do this rates problem in front of you. It only cares what you DO know how to do right now. And if right now, you don’t know how to do the rates problem in front of you, it’s time for a guess. The computer brain takes the guess and feels good about it.

There are more, of course, but that’s enough for this post! The more you can simplify your GMAT decision-making to concrete rules and then apply those rules rigorously without getting caught up in the emotion and stress of the moment, the better off you will be. Happy computer thinking!

*Want some more amazing GMAT tips from James? Attend the first session of one of his **upcoming GMAT courses** absolutely free, no strings attached. Seriously.*

**James Brock is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Virginia Beach, VA.** He holds a B.A. in mathematics and a Master of Divinity from Covenant Seminary. James has taught and tutored everything from calculus to chess, and his 780 GMAT score allows him to share his love of teaching and standardized tests with MPrep students. You can check out James’s upcoming GMAT courses here.

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