Tag Archives: GMAT

Intuition and Common Sense on Geometry DS Questions

“Who cares?”  That should be the operative question on your mind as you tackle Data Sufficiency problems.

Here’s what I mean:  Suppose I ask you the question “What is x?”  I then give you a statement that says “2,346.456 x + 87,234 = 912,347π”.  Is the statement sufficient?

“Yes,” you’d say (hopefully!).

“But do you know what x is?” I’d respond back.

And what would you say?  Yup, you got it:  “Who cares?!”

All we care about is the ability to find x.  We don’t care what x actually is.  Because the statement gives us a simple linear equation with only one variable, we have the ability to find the value of that variable, and that’s all that matters.

This seems a pretty elementary point in and of itself, but it’s one that many students often forget when out in the field tackling tough DS problems.  Specifically on Geometry DS problems, the temptation can be to plug numbers into formulas and tackle the problem as if it were a PS question.  But often times, this is completely unnecessary and a tremendous waste of time.  Many times, you can solve Geometry DS problems intuitively using common sense and simple logic.  But it all hinges on the ability to identify exactly what information you need.

Let’s take a look at the following official DS problem:

A circular tub has a band painted around its circumference, as shown above.  What is the surface area of this painted band?

(1)  x = 0.5

(2)  The height of the tub is 1 meter

Stop!  Don’t write any formulas!  It’s great if you know the formula for the volume of a right circular cylinder, and that might come in handy on PS problems and maybe a more intricate DS problem.  But let’s take a moment to think about what information is really necessary here.  We want to know what the surface area of that band is.  Ask yourself:  What’s keeping us from knowing that?  What’s missing?

Well, we can’t very well know the surface area if we don’t know how wide the cylinder is.  What determines how wide it is?  Radius!  And if we know radius, we also know circumference.  But is that enough?  Nope.  We also don’t know how high x is.  So the two missing pieces of info can be boiled down to:  “x = ?  and r = ?”

This makes perfect sense when you think about it.  How can you know the surface area of something if you don’t know its dimensions?  In this case, the two dimensions are the circumference around the cylinder (which can be determined by radius) and the height of the band, and we need both to get the surface area.

Now that we’ve figured out intuitively what information we need, let’s look at the statements:

Statement (1) gives us the value of x.  Great…nothing about the radius, though.  Insufficient.

Statement (2) gives us the height of the entire cylinder.  Great…nothing about either the radius or the value of x.  Insufficient.

Statements (1) and (2) together give us the height of the entire cylinder and the value of x.  Awesome….where’s the value of the radius?  Still nowhere to be found.  Answer:  E.

We didn’t write down a single equation, and yet we still got out of the problem quickly and with the correct answer.

Now, try your intuitive skills on this other official DS geometry problem.  Remember, try to do it without equations!  Use your common sense!  And post your step-by-step intuitive solutions in the comments!

The inside of a rectangular carton is 48 centimeters long, 32 centimeters wide, and 15 centimeters high.  The carton is filled to capacity with k identical cylindrical cans of fruit that stand upright in rows and columns, as indicated in the figure above.  If the cans are 15 centimeters high what is the value of k?

(1) Each of the cans has a radius of 4 centimeters.

(2) Six of the cans fit exactly along the length of the carton.

MBA News Roundup: 2011 Application Trends, Fewer Women at Stanford, LSBF Offers Post-Graduate Job Guarantee

Welcome to another installment of Knewton’s MBA News Roundup! This week, check out articles on the latest application trends reported by GMAC, waning female enrollment at Stanford, and LSBF’s get-a-job-or-your-money-back guarantee

GMAC reports a slow-down in 2011 applicants, despite historically increased volume of applications in times of economic downturn.
The 2011 class profile is lighter on women and consultants, and more favorable towards minorities and engineering and math undergrads.
In response to the challenging UK job market, the London School of Business and Finance will begin issuing $4,000 refunds to students who haven’t found jobs 6 months after graduation.
HBS’s Allston campus is constructing a $100 million dorm and classroom building for its executive education program on the banks of the Charles River.
Dean Judy Olian pushes self-sufficiency to save money and improve planning.

MBA Admission Tip: Know Your Audience

This weekly MBA admissions tip comes to us from our friends at Clear Admit. For more expert MBA admissions advice, check out their blog.

As Round One deadlines approach,  applicants are coming to understand that applying to business school is an incredibly demanding process. In addition to taking the GMAT, assembling academic transcripts and providing recommendation letters, candidates are required to draft multiple essays, job descriptions, lists of activities and more.

With the obvious incentive to save time where ever possible, it’s understandable that many applicants simply cut and paste content from an existing resume and write about their work in the manner that comes most naturally. However, in doing so, countless candidates each year assemble their materials without ever asking a fundamental question:

Who will read my application?

While the answer to this question may vary from school to school, one thing is certain: It is unlikely that the person reading your file will have an intimate level of familiarity with your specific industry or job function. This being the case, if you use industry-specific jargon or assume prior knowledge of your field on the part of the admissions officer, you undoubtedly will lose your reader.

It’s also important to keep the big picture in mind; many applicants become so mired in the details of their own work and role that they fail to provide sufficient context for a company outsider to understand the importance of one’s efforts to the department or organization as a whole. The solution is to write about your experiences in a way that the average person will understand. While this is easier said than done, it underlines the importance of sharing your materials with an unbiased adviser (ideally not a work colleague or family member) to make sure that you aren’t off base with some of your assumptions.

To learn more about who will actually read your essays at the various schools, or to inquire about our application editing services, simply contact Clear Admit with your CV/resume and sign up for a free initial assessment.

Knewton Releases New GMAT Premium Live Course

After releasing our GMAT course in a high-definition, on-demand format in April 2011, we here at Knewton Academics were pleasantly surprised at just how much the GMAT community enjoyed the results. Inspired by the success of that course as a 24/7 complete prep option, we decided to take things one step further and overhaul our live course to provide students the most personalized, comprehensive GMAT course we could imagine.

The result is the most exciting prep option on the market today: a blended GMAT prep course. Rather than choose fixed dates each week to make progress, Knewton students can log in for live lessons whenever it’s convenient, tackling the course entirely at their own pace. Rather than repeating one-size-fits-all quant and verbal lessons over and over again, our teachers can deliver live GMAT instruction that is constantly evolving to meet students’ needs.

The advantages of our new GMAT Premium Live blended course are many:

Traditional GMAT Prep (our old live membership):

  • Access to our Complete Prep course on demand.
  • Live classes 2 days per week.
  • Ability to repeat sessions or learn from different instructors by switching into another section.
  • Live Office Hours session once per week.





Knewton GMAT Premium Live (our new live membership):

  • Access to our Complete Prep course on demand.
  • Unlimited access to live classes 6 days per week (24 hours/week of live class).
  • Five types of live online classes, each specifically tailored to a distinct student need and featuring additional questions not available in our Complete Prep course.
  • Schedules and classes that adapt to students’ requests, resulting in less repetition of lessons and questions over the course of a student’s membership period.
  • Ability to ask instructors for help on almost any Knewton GMAT question, including all core lessons, homework problems, practice quizzes and extra focus lessons.
  • Ability to attend only the classes that will help students in on the subjects they need to master for that GMAT score boost.

With this new and improved live course, Knewton’s GMAT faculty will tackle fresh batches of practice problems every day, helping students gain experience with more GMAT material than ever before. If you’re half as excited about mastering the GMAT as we are, you’ll understand how refreshing it is to teach a course that isn’t a fixed walk-through, but a daily dialogue over modifiers, number properties, necessary assumptions, special right triangles, and every other challenging GMAT topic you can think of.

If you’re a current live GMAT student, your membership will automatically be upgraded to the new course offerings. If not, definitely take a closer look at our new live course features. With all these tools at your disposal, our guaranteed 50-point score increase has never been easier to attain.

11 GMAT Secrets I Learned at the GMAT Test Prep Summit

This week, I attended the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) GMAT Test Prep Summit, an event for representatives of the test preparation industry. Here is what I learned:

1)      The Graduate Management Admission Council’s Vice President of Research and Development, Dr. Lawrence Rudner, is an awesome guy. He spoke for hours about the math behind the GMAT’s adaptive test format, and was able make this rather dry topic accessible and entertaining. He was funny, avuncular in all the right ways, and he let me borrow his I-Phone charger.

2)      Over half of those who take the GMAT are not United States citizens, so the GMAT is careful about eliminating cultural references that might confuse international students. For example, you will never see a question about “skimmed milk” on the GMAT, because in India, milk with no or little fat is usually called “toned milk.”  This concern is also why one will never see a question that references the Kardashians, Nickelback, or Dancing With the Stars. Sometimes I wish life was more like the GMAT.

3)      A 13th Edition of the Official Guide will be available by April 2012, and this guide will allow students to access questions from the new Integrated Reasoning section which will appear on the GMAT in June 2012.

4)      The Integrated Reasoning section will replace the Analysis of an Issue Essay (which is great, because I always hated that thing!). The new section will contain 12 prompts and as yet undetermined number of questions based on each prompt. Some of the prompts will consist of spreadsheets, tables, and graphs, and an on-screen calculator will be available.

5)      The on-screen calculator will NOT be available for the Quant section. Sorry!

6)      GMAC has yet to determine the scoring system for the Integrated Reasoning section.

7)      The Quant and Verbal sections, as well as the Analysis of an Argument essay, will remain unchanged.

8)      There are “retired” paper GMATs available for purchase. You can get them as downloadable PDFs here.

9)      Conference attendees ask fewer questions when they realize that there is an open-bar  awaiting them.

10)   There is another Sean Murphy who teaches GMAT for another New York-based test preparation company.

11)   In the New York City test preparation community, Knewton instructor Adam Sticklor is legendary.

MBA Admissions Tip: The Optional Essay

This post comes to us from our friends at Clear Admit. For more expert MBA admissions advice, check out their blog.

We realize that the questions of whether to answer an optional essay and, if so, what to say, are ones that loom large for many b-school applicants at this time of year. While we’ve been offering a great deal of school-specific essay advice over the past few months, we wanted to take some time to suggest a few considerations that applicants might want to take into account when making this call.

Is it relevant?
Perhaps this goes without saying, but the only information worth sharing in an optional essay is that which will make a material difference in your candidacy. Whether you wish to comment on an exciting leadership role you’ve just taken on or explain that you were overextended extracurricularly during that one bad semester in college, make sure to think carefully about whether this information will affect and enhance the reader’s perception of your business school candidacy.


Was it requested?
Most schools do request that applicants use an optional essay to address certain issues, such as a failing grade in a degree program or the absence of a letter of recommendation from one’s current direct supervisor. In spite of the technically optional nature of the question, it’s very important to follow directions and provide this information if a school requests it.

Also along the lines of what information is requested, it’s wise to think carefully about a school’s other essay questions before deciding to use an optional essay or provide additional information, as each of these topics affords applicants a chance to introduce the information about their background and interests that they consider to be most important. Your objective should be to provide as complete a picture of your candidacy as possible within the framework of a school’s required essays (as these are a good indication of what a given program is most interested in hearing about) and to only introduce information in an optional essay that you could not have covered elsewhere without sacrificing something more essential.

Is it constructive?
Once you’ve decided that a detail is relevant to your candidacy and merits mentioning in an optional essay, the next step is to think carefully about the way this information might be perceived and make sure that the impact it makes on your chances of admission is a positive one. For instance, an essay that simply alerts the adcom to a serious medical condition might help its author stand out from other applicants, but could also leave the reader wondering whether this person could handle the demands of a rigorous academic program. On the other hand, a few details about this applicant’s strategies for achieving success in spite of some kind of disability and commitment to supporting others with a chronic illness or impairment might make him or her seem like a very valuable addition to the business school community.

Is it concise?
It’s always a good idea to keep in mind that by answering an optional essay, you are creating extra work for the person reading your file. While this should not dissuade you from addressing a topic that you have deemed important based on the considerations above, it’s very important that you demonstrate good judgment by limiting your comments to the most relevant information and keeping your response as direct and concise as possible.

We hope that these general guidelines have helped to clear up some confusion and shed some light on the optional essay issue. For more tailored feedback on your personal situation, feel free to send your resume or CV to info@clearadmit.com for a free initial consultation.

The AWA Isn’t That Important… So Can I Blow It Off?

I want to take a moment to address some common confusion about the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) portion of the GMAT exam.  As many of you inveterate students know, the AWA portion involves two essays, and you get a maximum of 30 minutes for each essay.  And no, you don’t get 45 minutes for the second essay if the first only takes you 15 minutes.  As I like to say:  “There are no rollover minutes.  This is Verizon, not AT&T!”  Also, the essays are always the first section of the exam, although the ordering of the essays may vary.

But many of you also probably know that the essay portion is not nearly as consequential as the multiple-choice portions.  The essays are not part of your 800 composite score and are instead scored on a separate scale out of 6.0 in decrements of 0.5.  Generally, admissions committees use the essay scores to judge whether or not you actually wrote your application essays to the school.  If you write a fantastic admissions essay filled with prose worthy of a Pulitzer but get a 2.0 AWA score, the admissions committee’s going to be suspicious.

But in the end, your composite score out of 800 weighs much more heavily on the committee’s collective mind.  It’s easy, then, to come up with arguments for blowing off the essay and focusing the bulk of your attention on the multiple-choice sections.  But is this really wise?

One time, a student told me that he was going to take the GMAT a second time.  The first time he took the test, he didn’t achieve his desired composite score.  But he got a perfect 6.0 on the AWA.  So in his mind, this justified the following strategy:  “I’m going to completely skip the essays the next time I take the test.  It’s not important anyway.”

Several students have suggested similar strategies to me, and I understood where they were coming from.  Skipping the essays outright makes the test shorter and allows you to conserve some mental energy for the multiple-choice sections.  But consider the following scenario:  You’re on the admissions committee of a prestigious business school.  You’re reviewing an applicant, and you see that he got a 6.0 AWA on the GMAT on his first try, but got a 0.0 the second time.  You don’t like the sight of the 0.0, and although you recognize that the applicant has the capability to score a 6.0, it’s readily apparent (at least in your mind) that the applicant feels cocky or lax enough to blow a whole section of the test off and just assume that it won’t matter.

Now, it may be true that some individual committees won’t care as much.  But are you willing to take that risk?  What if you’re applying to a competitive school that requires you to present every advantage you can?  Allowing a 0.0 to show up on your transcript doesn’t seem very prudent.

Besides, does the one hour of essay-writing really drain you of so much energy that it makes a statistically significant difference on your performance for the rest of the test?  You might assume the answer is yes.  But it’s a pretty tenuous generalization.  If you took the GMAT hundreds of times with the AWA and hundreds of times without, maybe we’d have some statistical data to go on.  But as is, assuming the AWA will take away your mojo so much that your score will drop by a significant margin is unfounded speculation at best.

Another thing to keep in mind:  some students actually like the essays, because they allow you to shake off initial nerves.  You get the least important part of the test out of the way first, and by the time you’re done, you’ve settled into a groove and gotten used to your surroundings.  For some students, this allows them to transition into the multiple-choice sections more relaxed and clear-minded.  This might be the case for you too.

So all in all, you might in theory be able to get away with blowing off the essays.  But all things considered, it’s not a risk worth taking, and a poor or nonexistent AWA score will not look good to admissions committees.  The essays are the least consequential part of the test, so investing just a little bit of time and energy in them should not have a great effect on your composite score.


How to Get in the Zone for the GMAT

As a GMAT teacher and tutor, I am often asked about the best way to “get into the zone” to take the exam. After all, no one can sit for a 3.5 hour exam and not occasionally space out or lose focus. There is one very simple answer to this question: do prep tests!  Prepping for the GMAT (or for any standardized test) is much more like training for a sporting event than studying for a traditional exam. Your mastery of the GMAT concepts is a necessary condition of your success, but it is not sufficient. You must also be able to apply those concepts in a timed scenario and be able to concentrate throughout the exam. The best way to accomplish this goal is to train yourself by consistently taking prep tests.

There are, however, some limitations to this approach.  There are not an infinite number of GMAT CATs available. Knewton gives you six, and there are two free CATs available from GMAC. But these might not be enough to really get your mind ready for the exam, and you do not want to waste CATs before you have begun to master the concepts. So what other ways can you train yourself to improve your concentration?

You can try reading a rather uninteresting book for 3.5 hours (no J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer, or, if you share my taste, Elmore Leonard and Gary Shteyngart).  Go see a Shakespeare or Sophocles play and pay attention the whole time.  If you need help with Critical Reasoning or Reading Comprehension, you can do Logical Reasoning or Reading Comprehension sections from old LSATs. There is a near endless supply of them (over fifty available prep tests).

It is also important to take the exam at your optimal time: for example, I am not at all a morning person, so I took the exam in the afternoon (one of the advantages of a computerized test is that you have the freedom to schedule it whenever you want). Make sure you are eating healthily and getting a decent amount of exercise, but you might want to put off any intense dieting or Thai kickboxing training until after the exam. If you are a coffee drinker, have a cup or two, and you can stash an iced coffee in your locker to have during the break.  If you are not a coffee drinker, don’t start the morning of the exam.

Train your mind to concentrate and find what else helps you to stay focused. This way, you’ll be able perform at your peak and get the best GMAT score possible. Next time, I’ll blog about what NOT to do to get in the zone for the GMAT.

MBA Admissions Tip: Off-Campus Information Sessions

This post comes to us from our friends at Clear Admit.. For more expert MBA admissions advice, check out their blog.

For all those applicants who have recently opened a calendar to plot out the next few months only to realize they can’t possibly fit in campus visits on top of full time jobs and essay writing, never fear!  It’s true that traveling to a school’s campus is the ideal way to learn about their MBA program, but visiting is often not a viable option for applicants who are located remotely or unsure of their level of interest in a given school.  The good news is that business schools might very well come to them.  Many b-schools are getting ready to hit the road and embark on worldwide tours to dispense information and recruit qualified applicants.  Such events offer a great opportunity for interested students to meet with admissions staff (and sometimes current students and/or alumni), learn about the program and ask specific questions.

Some of the top schools are already on the road, so we recommend looking into the travel schedules for programs of interest and planning accordingly. Keeping in mind that these schedules are updated and amended throughout the fall, here are some of the top programs’ itineraries for the months ahead:

Berkeley / Haas:

Chicago Booth:


Duke / Fuqua:


Northwestern / Kellogg:

Michigan / Ross:

MIT / Sloan:

Stanford GSB:

NYU / Stern:

Dartmouth / Tuck:

UCLA / Anderson:

UNC / Kenan Flagler:

UVA / Darden:

U Penn / Wharton:

Yale SOM:





MBA News Roundup: Record-Breaking Debt Projected for MBA Class of 2013, Family Business Programs on the Rise, Online MBA Salary Gaps

Welcome to another installment of Knewton’s MBA News Roundup! This week, check out articles on how much the Class of 2013 has to borrow to pay for their MBAs (over $100 million!),  the proliferation of family business programs at top b-schools, and how much earning potential students sacrifice to get their MBAs online.

1. This Incoming MBA Class Is Racking Up More Than $100 Million In Debt

The b-school Class of 2013 is on track to accumulate 100 million in debt for their MBAs, with Wharton students leading the borrowing frenzy.

Study of Chicago Booth grads shows the earning disparity between men and women is almost nonexistent immediately post-grad, but increases steadily to almost 40% over 10-15 years.3. Ready, Set, B-School: Final Preparations
The final installment in Bloomberg’s b-school prep series covers tips for networking, recruiting, and prioritizing career goals.4. The Family That Goes To School Together…Executive-education programs for navigating the unique problems of family-run businesses are becoming increasingly popular at top b-schools.

5. The Online MBA Salary Blues

Online MBA students can expect about half the salary increase their full-time counterparts will be receiving after graduation, according to these Bloomberg projections.