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Journey to my MBA

Monday, July 19, 2004

GMAT progress

I've been reviewing OG these last days before the test. Focusing on Quant as this has continued to be a weak point for me. I'm making some progress. But I'm concerned because I'm still learning when I should be refining. For example, I ran into some probability questions as of late that tested a level of comprehension that showed me I didn't have the concepts as solid as I needed. The Ven diagram is just now starting to roam in my thoughts instead of trying to remember the formulas. One good source of division shortcuts that I found is Dr math where he lists things that help you to know right off if numbers are divisible by certain prime numbers. This may sound ignorant to you, but I didn't know that if I added the digits together in a number and the number is divisible by three then the original number is divisible by three as well. There are like 5-6 shortcuts like this I didn't know. I was never taught these in school. Here's the link

I've also found variable DS questions to be Hella hard. (i.e. is x>y, is x^2=y-1) type questions based on a few pieces of information. This last week, when guessing.. I saw the Joe bloggs theories that Princeton Review preaches to help a bit. If it seems like a Joe blogg would pick that answer, you are wrong in your choice kind of deal.

During breaks, I've been assessing my aptitude for the GMAT and realize just how many smart people are out there. I've been spending quite a bit of time on TestMagic and GMAT club trying to go through the question and explain my answers for those questions that don't seem easy off right off. That's been helpful. I've got like 30 or 40 posts on GMAT club now. And that took me hours and hours. I'm thinking that the guys with 2000 and 2500 posts are completely enveloped by these two web sites. But, they really know their stuff.

It's also hitting me more and more just how true the pressure thing is a big part of the GMAT. When I took the last GMATClub challenge, I bombed it, but to be honest, I wasn't trying that hard. I was really focusing more on pacing and resorting to guessing quite a bit. Going through the questions afterwards was VERY helpful. This showed me what I didn't quite have solid yet. I'm reviewing those question daily right now. That last GMATclub test though... oh boy... made Kaplan800 look easy. I think it was because of the pressure. How true that the GMAT tests ones ability to remain composed and not panic.

Coming from a college Biology background, I can see where this has been a bit of a liability for me. In Biology... it's all about memorization and understanding the big picture of interconnectivity. If I resort to memorizing how to do a question.. I hurt myself by not getting the concept and right now... it's a bit hard to discern where I'm saying.. ok got the concept, vs ok got how to do this kind of problem memorized. The only thing that's saving me from being memorization dependent is to ask myself, what would happen if I change the question this way or that. How then would the question change. For variable DS questions.. this is stinking hard to do. For probability, work, volume, geometry, etc type of problems, it's much easier to do.

Moreover, I run into problems that I still don't understand why they have to be solved a particular way and its really frustrating. I'll post it on GMATClub or Testmagic to ask why, but here's an example from Powerprep.

If a-4b=15 and 4a-b=15, then a-b=
a) 3
b) 4
c) 6
d) 15
e) 30

If you plug in by changing a-4b=15 to a=4b+15 and plugging that into 4a-b=15, you'll get a-b=9.
if you multiply one of the equations on both side by 4 and then subtract the two equations, you'll also get a-b=9. But if you realize that the two equation are equal because of 15 and then just equate the two, then you get 6. Why the heck don't the three methods get the same answer? URGHGHHH.

Thankfully, 9 wasn't an answer choice, but if it had been... I would have surely gotten the question wrong.

I'll try to slip in more verbal practice here and there as well though.

Quite frankly, I can see getting between 500-600 as a reality. I'm still studying my butt off for a 700, but when I see guys on GMATClub who know their stuff like I don't... I just don't feel like I'm in the same league. GMAC qualifies a 700 score as one that results from exceptional prep. and a 600-700 as one from a person with good prep.500-600 is average prep.

The reality here is my prep has been exceptional, but my results have been average.

Because of careless errors or not catching some verbage in a question and not being able recall quickly the concepts being tested in a question... I'm sincerely wondering if my age has become more a factor than I ever previously thought. I hope not.. but it seems to be part of it and that's terribly hard to accept. I wish I had done this years ago.

On a side note:
I recently found this statement that describes somewhat why I've gone to the lengths to collect and share the resources I have on my weblog. It goes something like this," One fire can light a thousand candles. Knowledge that is shared never decreases it."


Blogger PowerYogi said...

dave, how do you arrive at 9 as the answer if you do the multiplication by 4 thing:

a-4b=15 - (1)
4a-b=15 - (2)

(1)* 4 ==> 4a-16b=60 - (3)
(3)-(2)==> -16b+b = 60-15 ==> b=-3 - (4)
from (4) & (1) ==> a -(-3) = 15 ==> a = 3

a-b = 3 -(-3) => 6 !

from (1) : a = 15 + 4b - (5)
(5) & (2) : 60 + 16b -b = 15 => 15b = -45 => b = -3.
and as above, a = 3.

I think in this case there was just a simple calculation error on your part. Solved anyways the problem SHOULD and WILL give you the same answer. So, don't worry about figuring out which way a problem should be solved. all roads will lead to the same place, just go with the technique you are comfortable with.

4:48 PM  
Blogger PowerYogi said...

oops, one mistake. read above as :

from (4) & (1) => a-4(-3)=15 ==> a = 3;

4:56 PM  
Blogger Wakechick said...

Stay positive, Dave! I know where I screw up math problems is when I overthink them or try to get too fancy. Here's how I would solve your example. You have two variables and two equations, so I'd use algebra and simultanteously solve (I think that's the term) for both variables and then find out what a-b is.

Change the first equation to a=4b+15. Plug that into the 2nd equation.

4(4b+15)-b=15 Now I solve for b and get b=-3.
16b+60-b=15 15b=-45 b=-3
Plug that into the first equation.

a=4(-3)+15 Solve for a and get a=3.

Plugging in to a-b=? 3-(-3)= 6

This is similar to the first method you described, but a different result so you may have just made a minor math error. Just try to stay patient and check your work. I know it's difficult when you have to worry about pacing. Easier said than done, right :) Hang in there buddy!

5:01 PM  
Blogger Wakechick said...

PowerYogi and I, posting simultaneously. Great minds think alike, LOL

5:02 PM  
Blogger aregon23 said...

Sorry but the best way to solve this is *NOT* to find the values of A and B and then subtract one from the other.

What you need to look for is patterns.

For example
a - 4b = 15
4b - b = 15
5a - 5b = 30
5(a - b)= 5(6)

Therfore a-b = 6

No complex calculations where you make mistakes. Interestingly this is exactly similar to the problem I got in the actual GMAT, it went something like this:
a + 2b + 3c = 12 & 3a + 2b + c = 0, what is the value of a + b + c?

In which case, the method shown above will be the best. :)

5:29 PM  
Blogger aregon23 said...


I know this is a little late in the day and you might not want to be burdened by any extra information, but I think this is an important tool for verbal. It is called the "Pascal's triangle" Not sure if you are familiar with it, but in case you aren't it is a very simple triangle of numbers that you add up in less than a couple of seconds. It helps you calculate answers for all combination problems and all the probability problems where there are two outcomes and the probability of each is 1/2. Example coins.

Let me know if you want me send you an email with some links on this. Shouldn't take you more than a couple of mins to learn how to operate this triangle. After which you are the king of all the coin toss problems. :)

5:34 PM  
Blogger dreamer said...

Hey Dave,

keep going, success is just around the corner....
Aregon, could you please post the link for everyone's benefit...I haven't heard of Pascal's triangle please post that link. Thank you in advance.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Dave for MBA said...

Thanks everyone for the feedback and encouragement. Reading your guys support, lifted my spirits. And Aregon... yeah I'd like to see that triangle concept. Go ahead and e-mail me the links and I'll post them on my GMAT Resources side bar.


7:07 PM  
Blogger aregon23 said...

Here ya go! (Links explaining Pascal's triangle, only read the P & C part, ignore the binomial/fibonacchi etc.)

It is bloody easy to use, and MUST be used in case of any Probability problem with less than 7 throws of the coin, or any Combination problem with a small number < 8 items.

Let me know if you need any help with Math.

Here is another tip: To recognize multiples of -
2: Last digit is even
3: Sum of digits is a multiple of 3
4: Last 2 digits are a multiple of 4
5: Last digit is a 5 or a 0
6: Sum of digits is a multiple of 3 and last digit is even
9: Sum of digits is a multiple of 9
10: Last digit is 0
12: Sum of digits is a multiple of 3 and the last 2 digits are a multiple of 4.

P.S' Pascal's triangle is used in Quant not verbal as the typo in my first comment claimed, but I am sure you already figured that out. :)

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the best. I have my GMAT in the first week of August. So both of us are in the same boat.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi dave

this is aejaz from gmatclub. I think a 700 score is more about having a strict discipline of practice, error review and understanding core concepts, not just particular problems.

please keep taking our challenges and study hard on those mistakes. review them every single day. if you need any help, you are most welcome to ask any questions on gmatclub.

hang in there friend

12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Dave, different people have different weaknesses. Maybe you feel you're weak in Quant but for me mate...I kinda screw up big time in English. Sentence correction, Critical Reasoning and reading comprehension...simple mistakes and they all are repeated again and again. :-((

8:26 AM  

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