3 Reasons You Need to Use Your Scratch Pad for Sentence Correction

It is incredibly common how many GMAT students have ZERO strategy when it comes to Sentence Correction. Most students just read (A) and try to see if something “sounds weird,” then continue on to (B), (C), (D), and (E), often reading and re-reading each of the 5 choices until they choose what “sounds right” to them, or which one they like the “best” out of the 5. This is NOT a time-efficient or accurate way of doing Sentence Correction! Let’s look at three “home truths” we need to digest in order to move our grammar skills from “okay” to “foolproof!”

High-scorers do not do SC on “feel.” It’s great if you read a sentence and you can sense something is “wrong” or “off” about it, but if you cannot pinpoint WHAT is wrong and WHY it is wrong, then you don’t know Sentence Correction as well as you think. Without writing down a GMAT reason, how do you know that the reason you are elimination Choice (A) is because of a GMAT error and not simply your own gut instinct?

If you don’t record your impressions, you can learn nothing from them. Let’s say you’re taking a full-length practice test. There are 41 questions in the Verbal section. That’s a LOT of questions!

Let’s say you missed Question #5 and it was a Sentence Correction. You go back to the problem a 2-3 hours after completing your practice test to review all your incorrect questions. You have some fuzzy memories of the specific question, but it’s been a few hours, and you did 36 questions after it, so of course you won’t recall it too distinctly.

You look at your scratch pad for this question and it looks like this:

A
B
C
D
E

What does this tell you about what you were thinking in your mind as you did the problem? Absolutely nothing. 😦

Therefore, you don’t really have anywhere to go. You can see you chose (D), but you don’t know why. How are you supposed to learn from the question? You read the official explanation, and some additional explanations from GMATPrep or Beat the GMAT, but they don’t tell you what YOU were thinking when you were working through the problem. Let’s say the correct answer was (E). You have no idea why you crossed it off. There is no record. So, how can you improve?

We don’t have Predictions for SC.  Sometimes students try to use symbols for their process of elimination. Symbols such as happy or sad faces and plus or minus signs are great tools to use for Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning answer choices, because we are comparing those answer choices to a pre-conceived idea, a prediction for what we think the correct answer will look like.

But, sadly, in SC we have no idea what the correct sentence is going to look like! Maybe it will look like (A). Maybe it will look completely different from (A).

Let’s say your scratch pad for our hypothetical Question #5 looked like this:

A ?
B –
C –
D +
E ?

This gives us a tiny bit more information about what we were thinking when we looked at each choice, but still not nearly enough. We aren’t thinking like the GMAT test-makers yet, because we aren’t “speaking” their language. They write answer choices to include these specific errors, so we need to be able to point out and name those specific errors. It’s the only way to achieve true Sentence Correction mastery. We have to think like the test-makers!

Now let’s say we DID try to apply our content knowledge of tested grammar/meaning errors to Question #5. Our scratch pad could reveal something like this:

A S/V
B Para
C Mod
D Wordy?
E Para?

Suddenly, we have a LOT of great questions to ask ourselves:

• In (A), (B), and (C) was there really a Subject-Verb, Parallelism, and Modification issue? Did I recognize these errors correctly? What markers told me this error was present? Or did I miss the “real” error, and simply got lucky in my elimination?
• In (D), was there a grammar or meaning error I could not spot that made this choice incorrect? If so, what was it, and why couldn’t I spot it? What were the markers that indicated it was being tested? If there was no grammar or meaning error, was the only issue with this sentence the wordiness, or was another “style” error present?
• In (E), the correct choice, why did I invent a Parallelism error when no Parallelism error was present? What were the markers that made me think it was testing this concept, and WHY was the Parallelism actually okay? What do I need to remember about Parallelism so I can be more careful and not invent future Parallelism errors?

You will not be able to do this type of self-analysis without the knowledge of what your thought process was as you were attempting the problem!

Just because you speak English, read English, and feel like you generally understand English, don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need to use strategy for GMAT Sentence Correction! It’s incredibly important for your growth and betterment, and my mission is to help you do it!

Should You Take a Practice Test the Day Before Your Test?

When setting up a Study Schedule with students, I like to leave an open slot the week before the exam, so we can decide as we get closer to your GMAT test whether you should do another “last minute” CAT. Why? Because in my experience there is no hard and fast rule. Some of my students just need a break the two days before the exam to mentally “rest up,” while others seem to enjoy re-taking a GMATPrep 3 or 4 two days before just to move the flow of “official” questions front-and-center.

So what should YOU do? Ultimately, see how you feel the week of, and make your own decision. If you’re feeling burnt out or worried it might make your anxious, definitely avoid it. There’s nothing you’re really going to be able to cram in the 48 hours before the test that’s going to make that great a difference to your score. So the only benefit to a CAT that close to your exam is if you think of it like a prolonged runner’s stretch.

If you were to take a practice test right before, then I’d do it ONLY to keep your pacing “in shape” and your brain in the GMAT-space, and I’d still NOT suggest doing it the day/night before your exam but rather two days before. If you do decide this is the way to go, I’d suggest a GMATPrep re-take and NOT any new practice tests (such as one from Veritas or MGMAT). There’s no point in taking a brand new practice test if you can’t properly examine the errors, and whatever score that is churned out by the private test prep company could likely unnerve your or undermine your confidence.

If you can take the CAT with a sense of “play” and “muscle-flexing” then go for it, if it seems like a horrible stress nightmare that will lead to sleepless nights, then definitely avoid.

5 Reasons I Should Be Your GMAT Tutor!

Picking a GMAT tutor can be stressful. Will I get along with this person? Will they REALLY be able to bring my score up? What if I don’t even know what my weaknesses are? Here’s five areas in which any good GMAT tutor should excel, and why I think I’m pretty gosh darn good at my job!

  • Knowledge. I was a classroom teacher and private tutor for Kaplan for 4+ years, so I know how larger testprep companies “think.” I’ve taken what I found valuable from Kaplan, Grockit, and the many other smaller companies I’ve worked with, and I specialize in designing a personalized approach for each student.
  • Flexibility. I tutored for 5+ years virtually via Skype with Grockit, and 4+ years with GMATRockstar, so I know how to make online tutoring fun and effective. I’m available days, nights, and weekends, and I am always in steady contact with students via email to monitor progress, answer homework questions, and pass on relevant blogs. I’m your personal cheerleader!
  • Resources. I have written thousands of test prep questions as a freelance content creator for companies such as Grockit, Veritas Prep, and Magoosh. I am constantly mocking new questions from the GMAT Official Guide and GMATPrep software so I can provide students with accurate, challenging homework material that closely aligns with GMAC product. I have PDF files of the most reputable GMAT material, and provide all students with these materials for free.
  • Preparation. I track all of my students’ progress, and create a targeted “game plan” for each student.  I own over 40+ GMAT books and know exactly what chapters and materials to recommend to students. I am also a regular contributor to Beat the GMAT and keep up to date with the latest updates and changes from GMAC.
  • Affordability. I only charge $150/hr, as opposed to the ridiculously high rates test prep giants charge, and there is no minimum number of hours.

How Much Should You Pay for a Good GMAT Score?

yelpCurrently, my rate is $150/hr for all of my GMAT tutoring, and the question I get the most often from students is, “how can you charge so much less?”

It’s important for GMAT students to consider WHAT they are paying for, exactly, when they hire a company or a tutor to help them with their GMAT prep.

If money is the most important thing to you, then you might as well pay $50/hour for a college freshman to give you algebra tips, but if you want someone who knows the GMAT inside and out (and loves the GMAT), you need to start looking at the $100+ range.

I spent almost a decade working for private test prep companies, as both a classroom teacher/in-person tutor (Kaplan) and a virtual tutor (Grockit), as well as consulting with firms such as Magoosh and Veritas Prep to help them write their curriculum.

Though I learned a great deal working for these companies, one thing many GMAT students don’t realize is that what they are paying and what kind of tutor they are getting is not necessarily directly proportional.

Larger companies often pay their tutors in the realm of $20/hr to start (Kaplan), while charging students somewhere between $150-$300/hr. Teachers and tutors receive minimal training (usually around just 20-30 hours) during which they simply memorize a set script with set strategies and problems, and teach the same course material and the same 50 questions or so over and over (and over and over) again.

These courses are rarely designed to benefit students, since we each learn material differently and have our different strengths and weaknesses. It’s a very “one size fits all” approach, and that is ultimately what jaded me the most about working for a test prep company.

As you embark on your GMAT studies, I encourage you to think about what you expect out of a GMAT classroom course or private GMAT tutor (it’s great when students say to me in a first session, “Here’s the score I want. What do I really need to do to get there?”).

GMAT tutoring is more expensive than ever! Here’s a round-up of current (as of 2016) pricing available online:

  • Kaplan offers three tutoring packages: $2649 for 15 hours, $3749 for 25 hours, or $4849 for 35 hours. That works out to $176/hr, $149/hr, or $138/hr.
  • Manhattan Prep offers a base price of $220/hr, and then a cheaper rate as you buy more hours. If you purchase 25 hours, the rate becomes $195/hr.
  • Veritas Prep also offers its tutoring in packages starting at $2940 for 14 hours. Rates go from $183/hr to $210/hr depending on the package.

The problem:

All of the tutors who work for these companies will teach you curriculum specific to their company and their company only.

If you only study with a Veritas Prep tutor, you might miss out on a specific chapter of a Manhattan Guide that has a superior way of explaining something. If you only study with Kaplan, you may never know how to effectively utilize online resources such as GMATClub or Beat the GMAT to supplement your homework.

You will be getting the exact same tutoring session as every other student.

So why do I charge only $150/hr?

  • I have no boss.
  • I “remix” the best GMAT strategies and materials I have absorbed in my 10+ years to make my own curriculum for each individual student (this is fun for me, I know I’m a nerd). 🙂
  • I believe a good GMAT score is (and should be) available to EVERYONE who can put in at least 10+ hours a week of studying.

So whether you decide to tutor with me or another tutor, make sure you get what you pay for. 

Happy studying! 🙂

GMAT Quant: Question of the Day!

Try Picking Numbers with the GMAT practice problem of the day!

Last year the price per share of Stock X increased by k percent and the earnings per share of Stock X increased by m percent, where k is greater than m. By what percent did the ratio of price per share to earnings per share increase, in terms of k and m?

A. k/m
B. (k – m)
C. [100 (k – m)]/ (100 + k)
D. [100 (k – m)]/(100 + m)
E. [100 (k – m)]/ (100 + k + m)


If the original price per share of Stock X = 100
Let’s say k = 20
New price per share = 120

Original earnings per share of Stock X = 100
Let’s say m = 5 (since k > m)
New earnings per share = 105

Old ratio of price/earnings = 100/100 = 1
New ratio of price/earnings = 120/105 = approx 1.14

The percent increase is approx 14%.

Plug in our numbers into the answer choices, and look for the choice that also yields 14%:

A. k/m = 20/5 = 4 too small

B. (k – m) = 20 – 5 = 15 too big

C. 100 (15) / 100 + 20 = 1500 / 120 = 12.5 too small

D. 100 (15) / 100 + 5 = 1500/105 = approx 14. CORRECT!

E. 100 (15) / 100 + 20 + 5 = 1500/125 = 12

The answer is (D).

Interpreting Evidence Correctly on the ACT and SAT

In all three types of ACT Science passages, you will need to be able to understand how evidence is presented and be asked to answer questions based on the evidence. These are a bit like Reading questions.

To interpret evidence correctly, you need to focus on the results. Draw logical conclusions based on the presented data, and actively read the information in the accompanying passage. It’s important to know the difference between direct and inverse variation.

To answer Interpreting Evidence questions correctly, ask yourself these 3 questions: – What is the evidence presented? – Whose position is supported by the evidence? – What does the evidence suggest?

Interpreting evidence for Data Representation and Research Summaries ends up requiring more Data Analysis skills, since data is a large component of those passages. For Conflicting Viewpoints, interpreting evidence is a matter of keeping the two theories (two scientists) straight. Watch this video for a strategy on how to do this!

This video describes how to answer “Inference” questions on the SAT and ACT Reading Test. You may wonder what this has to do with ACT Science, but sometimes interpreting evidence is a LOT less scientific than it sounds, and a LOT more like reading comprehension. Remember that you can only make an inference BASED on something directly stated. Incorrect answer choices are frequently “out of scope.”

 

Learnist Board of the Week: Destroy GMAT Reading Comp (once and for all)

Check out this new Learnboard with a step by step guide to conquering RC once and for all!

Step 1 — To start, here’s the mandatory books you’ll need to get:

  • GMAT Official Guide – 13th edition
  • GMAT Official Guide – Verbal review, 2nd edition

You’ll want to know the RC questions in this book backwards, forwards, and upside down.

Other books with lots of passages to practice:

  • Veritas Prep – Reading Comprehension Guide
  • Manhattan GMAT – RC Strategy Guide
  • Artistotle Prep – RC Grail

Step 2 — Read The Economist, or other high-quality publications!

The Economist is a weekly newspaper focusing on international politics and business news. Not only is its subject-matter right up GMAT’s alley, but its written in a more advanced vernacular than your average newspaper — a level matched by the GMAT RC.

As you read these articles, do the following:

  • Circle the topic
  • Underline any transition words
  • Write down the purpose of each paragraph
  • Write down the author’s point of view in your own words
  • Write down the Main Idea in your own words

Do all of this to build your RC skills — ALWAYS read with a pen in your hand, and always ask the million dollar question, “Why is the author saying this?”

Fun fact: You can use your Delta Skymiles for a free subscription. 3,200 miles gives you 51 issues!

For Steps 3 through 7, check out How to Destory GMAT Reading Comp (once and for all)!

 

Argument Essay sample + feedback

Looking for a sample Argument Essay with some expert feedback? Here’s a real essay from a fellow GMAT-student!

PROMPT:

The following paragraph recently appeared in an editorial printed in the opinion section of a local newspaper:

The recent surge in violence in the southern part of the city is a result of a shortage of police officers and an absence of leadership on the part of the city council. In order to rectify the burgeoning growth of crime that threatens the community, the city council must address this issue seriously. Instead of spending time on peripheral issues such as education quality, community vitality, and job opportunity, the city council must realize that the crime issue is serious and double the police force, even if this action requires budget cuts from other city programs.

With the allotted time remaining, discuss how well reasoned you find this argument.

ESSAY:

The argument claims that the recent surge in violence in the southern part of the city is a result of a shortage of police officers and an absence of leadership on the part of the city council and hence the city council must react seriously to the situation by doubling the police force even if doing so requires budget cuts from other city programs. The conclusion of the argument relies on assumptions for which there is no clear evidence. Hence the argument is weak or unconvincing and has several flaws.

First and most importantly, the argument readily assumes that the recent surge in violence in the southern part of the city is a result of a shortage of police officers. This statement is a stretch in a sense that it fails to establish that the shortage of police officers is the only reason for the recent surge in violence. Other factors such as poor economy, a lack of job opportunity and a declined in education quality can also result in a surge in violence. Take the US for example, its rate of violence crimes increases with that of the unemployment which is currently at 9.8%. Without establishing the root cause of the situation carefully, the argument may lead to corrective actions which will not produce the desired outcome.

Second the argument claims that the city council does not realize the seriousness of the recent surge in violence and therefore is not addressing the surge in violence seriously. This is again very weak and fails to prove that the city council is not addressing the surge in violence seriously enough. It could be a case whereby the city council is still working on the issue but there have been no concrete actions yet.

Finally, the argument claims that the city council should double the police force at the expenses of other issues such as education quality, community vitality and job opportunity to curb the recent surge in violence. This again is a far-fetch conclusion in that it did not explain how doubling the police force can help in curbing the recent surge in violence even if it true that indeed a shortage of police force is the cause of the surge in violence.

In summary, the argument is flawed and therefore unconvincing. It could be considerably strengthen if the author clearing mentioned all the relevant facts. In order to ascertain the root cause and subsequently the solution to a situation, it is essential to have full knowledge of all contributing factors and weigh them appropriately before arriving at the conclusion.

FEEDBACK:

This essay is absolutely on the right track. It has clear, forceful writing & a good grasp of the task at hand! Here’s the bullet-points where it could be fine-tuned:

– Style-wise, “hence” is used twice in the opening paragraph; it’s hard to come up with good transition words, but varying up your diction can be impressive to the reader

– For this thesis, the reader is going to look straight at the last sentence of the opening paragraph: “Hence the argument is weak or unconvincing and has several flaws.”

Look for a way to combine this with the previous sentence to make it strong and more stand-alone. The word “or” weakens this thesis – why not use “and”? Always aim for the strongest language possible when criticizing the argument.

-1st paragraph – the phrases “in a sense” and “may lead” are a bit wishy-washy; excellent logic is displayed here and the link between crime and unemployment is strong. It could be improved by a more specific example, such as a case where someone unemployed committed a crime.

-2nd paragraph – There’s not enough of a reason why the city council doesn’t realize. As in the first body paragraph, can it be related  to the real world? How do city councils function? How could they be unaware?

– 3rd paragraph – “far-fetched” should be written instead of “far-fetch”  – What would be even more powerful here would be to discuss how lack of quality education, community vitality and job opportunity can lead to an increase in violence that would overwhelm even a doubled police force

– Conclusion – It’s excellent, with a nice adding in of how it could be strengthened!

Make sure to leave 1-2 min. at the end to proofread your Argument essay – A couple grammatical errors are not massively important, but they do detract from the overall reader impression, so practice writing several essays until you can effectively manage your time!

3 Ways of Looking at “Profit” Questions on the GMAT

As someone who is about to shell out hundreds of dollars in MBA application fees, you know that money makes the GMAT-world go round. Profit is an essential concept for any aspiring MBA admissions applicant. The GMAT tests this concept in both Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions in three main ways. Let’s examine the need-to-know formulas with three GMAT practice questions.

1. A firm increases its revenues by 10% between 2008 and 2009. The firm’s costs increase by 8% during this same time. What is the firm’s percent increase in profits over this period, if profits are defined as revenues minus costs?

(1) The firm’s initial profit is $200,000.

(2) The firm’s initial revenues are 1.5 times its initial costs.

In this question from Grockit, we can start with our most basic Profit formula:

Profit = Revenue – Cost

Using Statement (1), we can say that 200,000 = R – C.
(1.1)r – (1.08)c = 200,000(1 + x), where x equals the amount of the increase. We still do not know R and C so we can’t find x. Insufficient.

Using Statement (2), 1.5c – c = p and (1.1)(1.5)c – (1.08)c = (1 + x)P. Here we can simplify.

.5c = p

.57c = (1 + x)p
Without continuing to solve, we can see that we can solve for x using substitution. .57c = (1 + x)(.5c), and dividing both sides by c will cancel out that variable and allow us to isolate x. Statement 2 is sufficient. Now to a more challenging question!

2. A store purchased 20 coats that each cost an equal amount and then sold each of the 20 coats at an equal price. What was the stores gross profit on the 20 coats?

(1) If the selling price per coat had been twice as much, the store’s gross profit on the 20 coats would have been $2400.

(2) If the selling price per coat had been $2 more, the store’s gross profit on the 20 coats would have been $440.

This GMAT Prep question asks about gross profit.

Gross Profit = Selling price – Cost

For the value Data Sufficiency question, we need to know the price of each coat and the selling price of each coat. From the given information, we can use our known formula to set us the equation: P = 20 (s – c). So either we’ll need a value for s and a value for c, or we’ll need the value of (s – c).

Statement (1) tells us that $2400 = (20(2s – c)) or 2400 = 40s – 20c. We can divide both sides by 20 and simplify it to: 120 = 2s – c. We still don’t know s and c. Insufficient.

Statement (2) tells us that 440 = 20(s + 2 – c). Let’s simplify: 440 = 20s + 40 – 20c. 400 = 20s – 20c. 400 = 20 (s – c). 20 = s – c. Sufficient. Even though we didn’t solve for s and c separately, we were able to find the value of (s – c). Sometimes DS will surprise you!

3. If the cost price of 20 articles is equal to the selling price of 25 articles, what is the % profit or loss made by the merchant?

A. 25% loss
B. 25% profit
C. 20% loss
D. 20% profit
E. 5% profit

Profit/Loss % = (Sales Price – Cost Price) / Cost Price x 100

The question asks about % profit or loss. It tells us that 20c = 25s, or 4c = 5s. So the ratio of the sales price to the cost price is 4/5.

Let’s simplify our Profit/Loss % formula by dividing each term by the cost price:

Profit/Loss % = (S/C – C/C) x 100

P/L% = (S/C – 1) x 100
We know that S/C = 4/5 for this problem. So we can plug in and solve:

P/L% = (4/5 – 1) x 100

P/L% = (-1/5) x 100

P/L% = -20%. The answer is a 20% loss.

Grammar Guide: the usage of “those”

Confused about how “those” works on the SAT, ACT, GRE, or GMAT? Let’s take a look at a question from Manhattan GMAT that uses this word!

Salt deposits and moisture threaten to destroy the Mohenjo-Daro excavation in Pakistan, the site of an ancient civilization that flourished at the same time as the civilizations in the Nile delta and the river valleys of Tigris and Euphrates.

A) that flourished at the same time as the civilizations
B) that had flourished at the same time as had the civilizations
C) that flourished at the same time those had
D) flourishing at the same time as those did
E) flourishing at the same time as those were

In general, “those” is the plural of “that.” It’s in a group called “determiners” along with “this”, “that”, “these”, “those,” “here” and there that are technically pronouns but often function more like adjectives.

For C, D, and E, “those” is meant to mean something like “the ones” and could be used as a pronoun to replace a plural antecedent if there was one in the sentence, and if the construction was parallel.

The correct answer is (A).