The calendar has turned over to December, but that doesn’t mean that you should forget the lessons of the Thanksgiving holiday that just passed. While spending time with my family, I was able to pause and reflect on all the things that I’m thankful for. That’s an exercise that always leaves me feeling fortunate because I take the focus off of my little struggles and appreciate the big picture. In that spirit I’ve done some thinking about the tests that I teach in order to give you that same perspective. So, without further ado, here are five things to be thankful for about your test.
- The GMAT adapts to you- The computer-adaptive nature of this test means that after the first few questions, you’ll be facing questions designed to be right at your level. Sure, that means that you’re going to be challenged over the vast majority of your section, but at the same time who really wants to deal with questions that are way too easy or way too hard for you?
- The answer is in there somewhere- No matter how difficult a question seems, rest assured that one of those five choices is the correct answer. That opens up the possibilities of working backwards and checking your answer which can make your life easier.
- Your ear is your best friend- Sentence correction can be challenging for non-grammarians, but don’t despair. That instinct that something just sounds wrong comes from years of hearing and speaking English, and it’s often enough to point you toward the right answer.
- You don’t have to know any of this- If you spot a reading comprehension passage about some Norweigan filmmaker that you couldn’t care less about, don’t worry. You don’t need to know about her. Reading comprehension passages are all about understanding the information that’s presented, not about coming into the test with a whole bunch of knowledge.
- You’ve got another chance- Even if you don’t kill the GMAT the first time around, you can take it again. Since almost all business schools accept your highest score, one bad result won’t doom you. That’s not to say that you should go in unprepared, but if you’re able to reduce the amount of pressure you’re facing, you’re more likely to score your best!
Be thankful and happy studying!
It’s still late in the evening on Halloween night on the West Coast and yes, I’m still at work cranking out material to help you on your way to test success, but that doesn’t mean you need to be working. In fact, rest and taking breaks are a necessary and healthy part of a good study plan.
I realize that I’m speaking to a minority here. Most of you struggle to find the time or motivation to sit down and studying, and the thought of over-studying is a laughable proposition. But a few of you– whether due to parental pressure or relentless internal drive– have forsaken a social life until that test day rolls around.
I admire your drive, but I question your approach. Anxiety is the enemy of good performance and if you’re constantly studying or thinking you should be studying, anxiety will be your ever-present companion. A study schedule can help.
A study schedule (at any level of ambition) allows you to make your own choices about how much you want to study and how you want to fit that in your schedule. The flip side to that is that a study schedule allows you to set aside free time to go to a Halloween party with friends or watch your favorite NBA team’s opener on TV or blissfully do nothing at all for an evening. And you can do all those things guilt-free!
A study schedule tells you when to study, but also when not to study and the freedom from anxiety and guilt will make the study sessions you do have so much more productive. Consider sitting down this week to formalize your schedule, but not now. For now, enjoy what’s left of the night.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t understand people who don’t understand exponent rules. Sure, there are rules, and sure rules can easily be confused or forgotten, but these rules are just so common sense. In fact, they make so much sense that you could completely forget that they ever existed and get along just fine.
Let’s not worry about the rule here. Let’s just consider what exponents are. Three raised to the seventh power just means 3*3*3*3*3*3*3. What does squaring something mean? It means multiplying something by itself. So, if we have three times itself seven times, and then seven more threes added to that string of multiplication. That gets us fourteen threes, or three to the fourteenth power.
Let’s take another example.
Again, don’t worry about remembering the rules. What does this really mean?
Simple canceling will get rid of three pairs of fours, leaving us with two, or four squared.
Let’s be honest: if you’re going to be successful on your test, you’re going to have these exponent rules memorized by the time that test day rolls around. But, that’s really due primarily to the fact that you will have used the rules so many times in practice that a comfort level will develop, NOT because you locked yourself in your room and memorized rules.
And the comforting fact remains, as long as you understand the most basic idea of exponents, even if you blank out on test day, you should always be able to figure out exponent problems.
My wife recently showed me a problem that one of her AP Statistics students was really struggling with. She told me it was a very difficult problem and she needed help. Here is what she gave me:
“There are 22 guests to be seated at a party. There is one 12-seat circular table, and one 10-seat circular table. Jan and Marcia cannot be seated next to each other (drama). If the seats are assigned randomly, what are the chances that the seating assignment will be successful?”
I came into this problem guns blazing. Well, the number of possible ways to choose 12 people out of 22 is this, and we multiply that by 12! and 9! because those are the number of different ways we can arrange people within the tables and then we have to discount that total by the odds that the two of them are sitting at the 12 person table and also the odds if they’re sitting at that 10 person table…
If you’re still following that analysis, you’ve fallen for the trick. By convincing myself that this was in fact a difficult problem, I followed the analysis that would be required if this was a difficult problem. But it isn’t.
This is what happens when you lose track of your most basic methods. I should have started with the idea that this is a probability problem. What do you need to solve a probability problem? Desired outcomes over total outcomes. Within that framework, what do I know? I know that wherever Jan sits, there will be 21 other seats that Marcia could occupy. That makes my number of total outcomes 21. There will be two seats that are undesired outcomes: Marcia sitting in the seat to Jan’s right, and Marcia sitting in the seat on Jan’s left. Subtracting those two from the total we get 19 desired outcomes. I now have both pieces I need to solve a probability problem, so the correct answer is 19/21.
There’s the treat. A fairly simple question that can be answered in under a minute. Don’t let a seemingly complex problem take you out of your process, and you’ll get the treat of a much better score.