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GMAT Starter Pack

Getting ready to prep for the GMAT?

Read through our Knewton GMAT Starter Pack for advice from our teachers about month-bymonth study plans, acing the AWA, and making the most of your time on test day. Well also throw in a super-tough GMAT Verbal question to test your skills. In the Knewton GMAT online course, we cover all the techniques you need to do your best on test dayfrom the building blocks of GMAT grammar and math rules to the strategies that 700-level scorers need to master. To keep your GMAT momentum going, well follow up by sending you strategy tips for every section of the exam. Stay tuned, and happy studying!

Heres a guide to get you started.

Tip #1: Should I study Quant and Verbal at the same time?

Dave Ingber Lead Knewton GMAT Teacher B.A. Harvard

We get this question a lot from Knewton students, and theres a very simple answer: Yes. While studying Verbal and Quant separately might lead to high section scores in the short term, in the long term this strategy is much less effective. If mastering the GMAT were as simple as memorizing groups of facts, like memorizing all the U.S. states and then all the Canadian provinces, it would make sense to plan your studies sequentially. However, memorization is not a big part of the GMAT (except for certain handyto-know items like idioms and common squares). Its much more important to build all your test-taking skills in combination. Studying for the GMAT is like working your musclesif you do a month of chin ups, and then a month of sit ups, the rippling shoulders and biceps you built up after the first month will have faded away by end of the second month. In GMAT terms, your Quant skills might be chiseled and strong on test day, but you wont have the same endurance on the Verbal section that you had at the end of your training a month earlier. Thats why most GMAT classes (like ours) are structured to develop your Quant and Verbal knowledge in tandem: one lesson covers Sentence Correction AND Quant strategy, the next lesson covers number properties AND Reading Comprehension, and so on. This ensures that you build a steady foundation for each section of the testand it prevents the burnout you might feel from immersing yourself in GMAT verbal questions for an entire month! If youre studying on your own, you should structure your preparation the same way. Vary your work with Quant and Verbal exercises, and use your drills for each question type to give you a break from all the others. That way, your GMAT muscles will be strong and evenly developed when exam day comes along.

How Knewton helps: We create a study plan for youso you only have to worry about the learning part. Our classes cover all the concepts you need to succeed on the GMAT, in a sequence thats been proven successful time and time again.

Tip #2: How long should I spend studying for the GMAT?

Jonathan Bethune Knewton GMAT Verbal Teacher B.S. New York University

This is another big question from students trying to plan their study schedule, application cycle, and GMAT test date. The short answer, of course, is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. That said, at Knewton we generally recommend a prep period of around three months. It gives you enough time to build a solid foundation in every key area of GMAT study, but not so much time that youve burned out by the time exam day rolls around. If a 3-month study schedule is something youre considering, here are some guidelines and tips for spending your time wisely: Week 1: Take a diagnostic practice test to see where you stand overall. Learn the basic parameters of each section including scoring and question types. Weeks 24: Do as many practice problems as possible for each section and read explanations for any wrong answers. The goal is not just to see whether you are better at Verbal or Quant, but specifically which sections (Critical Reasoning, Sentence Correction) and which question types (strengthening arguments, usage of idioms) are the most difficult for you. Weeks 48: Now that you have a lot of practice questions under your belt, you want to focus on the bigger ideas behind them. If Sentence Correction is killing you, work through a good guide to essential GMAT grammar rules. If Data Sufficiency algebra is your weak spot, then crack open a math textbook and brush up on your fundamentals. During this middle phase you should keep doing practice problems for every sectionnot just the ones you struggle with!but the real goal should be mastering the content. Weeks 912: For the last month, focus on strategy. We recommend doing this last because strategies are what you will want to have in your head if you ever get stuck on the content of a question. Try plugging in numbers on the Problem Solving section. Work on sketching quick outlines for passages in RC. Practice negating assumptions in CR. These methods dont involve mastery of any GMAT material, but they can save you serious time once you have them down. In addition to strategy work, review any math or grammar content that still feels foggy during this period, and be sure to take one more practice test before the last week. Final Week: The final week before the GMAT is best spent working on your timing strategies. Complete entire sections of the GMAT and time yourself so that you have a sense of how long you should spend on each question type. Dont try to learn complex new math concepts or test-taking strategies during this period; instead, prepare yourself mentally and emotionally by getting more sleep and maintaining healthy eating habits. Shorten your study sessions and 2

reduce your stress, but make time to review the essentials. As you study, be sure to remember: Consistency and routine are your friends. Try to study at the same time each day, and be sure to pace yourself. Studying every other night for between 45 minutes and two hours will allow for much more long-term retention of content than weekly cram-fests and all-nighters. Try to cover each section every time you study. We definitely do not recommend spending a month solely on verbal and then a month on math (see previous tip!). Follow up Critical Reasoning lessons with Data Sufficiency questions to keep everything fresh in your mind. Focus on your weaknesses. While you certainly shouldnt neglect math for verbal or vice versa, you may focus more on one section if you find that you lose considerably more points in that area. Work repetition into your schedule. This will ensure whatever you learn at the start of the three months is still in your head at the end. Dont overemphasize practice tests. Full-length practice tests are an important part of any GMAT prep regimen, but its important not to overdo. One full test every other week is more than enough. Three tests over the course of three months is also a sensible structure. Dont panic if you get a bad score on a practice test, nor celebrate too much if you get a good score on one. Whatever scores you find yourself getting, focus more on the questions you miss than on the actual score. The point of taking practice tests is to improve, not to predict the future.

How Knewton helps: Three months is enough time to complete the Knewton course, should you choose to invest in it. The course will provide you with pacing practice and a consistent structureboth keys to successful GMAT prep. Each class will build upon your Quant and Verbal skills until you feel totally prepared for the test Youll get exactly the guidance you need from your teachers and TAs Our adaptive learning platform tracks your weaknesses for you and recommends what to study next, so you can focus solely on improving

Plus, if after 3 months you still feel unprepared, youll still have 9 more months left in your Knewton membership to review, do practice problems, and attend more classes.

Tip #3: The Top 10 GMAT Time Savers

Kyle Hausmann Knewton GMAT Teacher B.A. Harvard University

Time management is key to conquering the GMAT; after all, test takers only have an average of two minutes to spend on each question. But saving time isnt just about answering the hard questions in less timeits also about answering easier questions faster. Every second you save is an extra second to use on a hard problem later on. And believe it or not, there are easy ways to save time on many types of questions, without sacrificing accuracy.

Knewtons Top 10 Time Management Tips

10. Dont untangle complicated language unless you have to. If you come upon a few lines in a reading passage that are all tied up, dont waste time untying them. Just get the gist and keep reading. If a question asks about those lines, you can always go back and figure out what is going on then; but if no question deals with them, untangling would have been a waste of time. Like all the time savers in this list, the idea is to keep movingand to go back only if you absolutely have to. 9. Look at the verb. When a Reading Comprehension question asks for the primary/main purpose of a question, that purpose is often expressed by infinitives in the answer choices. For example, possible answers might include, to explain a complicated scientific concept, to suggest a new application of a scientific theory, and to advocate for a new application of a scientific theory. Before considering the complete answer choice, try to eliminate choices just by looking at the verbs. Verbs like encourage, argue, suggest, support, advocate, etc. represent a strong agenda on the authors part. If the passage is only presenting information, you can immediately eliminate choices with those verbs. A choice with a verb like summarize or report could be the correct choice. 8. Learn keyboard shortcuts. If you dont know what CTRL-X means, learn! Some particularly important shortcuts to know: Copy by pressing CONTROL and C (CTRL-C) at the same time; paste by pressing CTRL-V. CTRL-X cuts. CTRL-Z is undo, and CTRL-Y is redo. If you are used to using keyboard shortcuts, note that not all of them will work. (I like to use CTRL-Up/Down Arrow to jump between paragraphs, but that wont work on the GMAT.) So whether you are used to using the keyboard in this way or not, download the official GMAT practice test at and practice keyboard shortcuts as you write your AWA essays. Youll definitely be moving things around in your essay. These shortcuts can help you do that faster, leaving more time to hone your diction and develop your ideas. 7. Guess and move on! Sometimes you just dont know the answer. Or you know you would get it if you spent five minutes on the problem, but five minutes is too long. Staring at a problem you arent solving is a huge waste of time. If youve been working (really working) on 4

a problem for 3 minutes, stop and ask yourself if you will be done in 30 seconds. If the answer is no, guess and move on. And if you have been staring at a question for 60-90 seconds and still dont know what to do, the same is true: Its time to guess and move on. 6. Zoom out from reading comprehension passages. If a question asks about the occipital lobe, try literally drawing back the focus of your eyes to see the whole passage, registering each place the phrase occipital lobe appears. This is a skill that can be improved with practice. RC passages can take up a lot of time if you have to read through them again and againthis skill can help you find what you need without rereading. 5. Compare answer choices. Answer choices are often grouped together. Look at what makes the choices similar and what makes them different. So, if on a sentence correction question, two choices begin with its and three begin with their, you have a 2/3 split. The antecedent of the pronoun will either be singular or plural, and once you know which one is correct, you can eliminate the incorrect choices right away. 4. Pick a strategy. Sometimes there will be multiple ways to solve a problem. You might be able to tell that testing cases will get you to the right answer, with a little work. So will solving algebraically, although that doesnt seem super quick either. Rather than wasting time debating the relative efficiency, just pick a strategy and stick to it. 3. Dont solve! This one is obvious but often overlooked. Data Sufficiency problems ask you to say when you have enough information to answer the question in the prompt, not to actually compute the answer. Sometimes you need to work all the way to a solution, but often, all you need to know is how to get the solution and whether you could do so with the information provided. In these cases, actually solving is a waste of valuable time. 2. Be confident. If you know the right answer, stick with it. Often on, say, a Problem Solving question, youll need to figure out the right answer before you even get to the choices. Dont waste time second-guessing yourself when you see a different answer that looks appealing; you studied for this, you did the question properly. Select your answer and proceed to the next question. 1. Know your s#!&. This one is on the obvious side, but too important to leave off the list. The most important thing you can do to prepare for the GMAT is to understand all the concepts tested and to be familiar with all the question types. There is no magic formulathe best strategy is to spend a lot of time beforehand practicing and familiarizing yourself with the various concepts and question formats.

How Knewton helps: Knewtons course is built to make sure you incorporate these tips into your everyday practice (in other words: youll know your s#!& on test day). With practice, strategies like comparing answer choices can become second nature, and youll cruise through hard problems without wasting a second.

Tip #4: Acing the AWA

Cailey Hall Knewton GMAT Teacher and Resident Essay Expert B.A. Princeton University

Scoring a 6 on the AWA will cement your writing ability in the minds of admissions committeesand ultimately give you a leg up in the admissions process. With just a bit of practice, you can learn the strategies necessary to ace your GMAT essays. Here is an example of a GMAT essay that earned the score of 6. Take a few moments to read it over. Below well break down exactly how and why the piece was able to earn this score. Essay Prompt: When someone achieves greatness in any field such as the arts, science, politics, or business that persons achievements are more important than any of his or her personal faults. Student response:
When individuals attain greatness, their achievements are more important than their personal faults. While historians should not whitewash the personal foibles of great individuals, the impact that these mortals have had in their fields should tower over any personality defects. To focus on the personal weaknesses of great individuals is to miss the importance of their achievements. The course of human history is decorated with individuals able to rise above their peers and reach the zenith in their fields. These individuals are often the subject of intense scrutiny from contemporaneous skeptics and later historians. But no one can lead an exemplary private life all the time; no human being is able to withstand such surveillance and historical scrutiny without personal faults coming to light. Great individuals are no exception. However, it is misguided to focus on their personal faults rather than their achievements. To do so is to miss the importance of their work, without which our culture would be worse off. For example, Abraham Lincoln was arguably one of the greatest Presidents the United States has ever had. He managed to bring the country through a substantial revolution and to end slavery despite powerful economic and social forces working against him day and night. However, Lincoln was not a saint. He was moody and prone to depressive funks that disrupted his family life and slowly eroded his marriage. These personal faults did not reduce his success as a President. While we do not have to ignore questions about whether he was a depressive, we also should not consider them an important part of his political heritage. In contrast, many people criticize Lincolns decision to suspend the right of habeas corpus. This (presumed) failing is not personal in nature, but relates directly to Lincolns work in his field. Criticisms of this sort are entirely relevant, whereas personal criticisms are not. Another example of a great individual dogged by criticism of his personal conduct is Albert Einstein. Einstein developed a number of the most important theories in modern physics, including an explanation of the photoelectric effect, an explanation of Brownian motion, special and general relativity, and Bose-Einstein quantum statistics. Each one of these theories would 6

have been considered a great lifes work for a scientist; for one man to contribute this much is remarkable. However, Einstein also had life-long problems with infidelity. The fact that he cheated on his wife is in no way relevant to his accomplishments in the field of physics, and indeed most references to Einstein properly ignore it. To focus attention on the faults of his personal life is to obscure the impact he made on history. Great individuals have personal faults, as all human beings do. Yet it is incorrect to assert that these faults detract from those individuals accomplishments. We are better able to appreciate the gravity of great accomplishments when we are not burying our heads in the sand, in search of personal failings.

Explanation: The essay above earned a 6 because it takes all five steps necessary for a perfect score on the AWA (well go through each one by one): 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Start with a strong thesis Keep things organized Follow up with concrete examples Avoid repetition Write well!

The thesis is extremely clear and concise. There is no ambiguity about how the author feels about the issue; she simply states her opinions with confidence and clarity. This section tests how well we can present a position on an issue effectively and persuasivelyand this author passes with flying colors. The piece is also very well organized via the suggested intro-body-body-body-conclusion template. While the author does deviate slightly from the model by giving two examples rather than three, her first body paragraph strengthens the essay by lending heft and specificity to her position. Her two examples are very strong. President Lincoln is an ideal case study of a leader whose greatness should not be obscured by his domestic doldrums (however interesting they may be to learn about). The same can be said with Einstein; his infidelities went with him to the grave, while his work will live forever. Additionally, the conclusion is substantial and does an excellent job of summing up the essay without sounding too much like the introduction. It is easy to recycle many clauses from the intro in the conclusion, but this author does a great job of restating the thesis without sounding overly redundant. Lastly, this essay is extremely well written. The grammar and syntax are practically flawless; the author sounds knowledgeable but not pedantic. Keep these steps in mind as you write your GMAT essay and you should have little trouble earning a score that is reflective of your overall b-school portfolio.

How Knewton helps: Well walk you through these tips and all the techniques you need to write AWA essays that are clear, cogent, and well-structured.

Extra Challenge Question: GMAT Critical Reasoning

Now that youve read through just a few of our GMAT tips, try out this tricky Critical Reasoning question. Over 67.6% of Knewton students miss it on the first try, so its a great way to see where you stand. If you get it wrong, dont worryyou have plenty of time to hone your skills. Question: A newborn kangaroo, or joey, is born after a short gestation period of only 39 days. At this stage, the joeys hind limbs are not well developed, but its forelimbs are well developed, so that it can climb from the cloaca into its mothers pouch for further development. The recent discovery that ancient marsupial lions were also born with only their forelimbs developed supports the hypothesis that newborn marsupial lions must also have needed to climb into their mothers pouches. The argument in this passage relies on which of the following assumptions? [A] All animals that are born after a short gestation period are born with some parts of their bodies underdeveloped. [B] Well developed forelimbs would have been more advantageous to ancient marsupial lions than well developed hind limbs would have been. [C] If the newborn marsupial lion did not climb into its mothers pouch, then paleontologists would be able to find evidence of this fact. [D] Newborn marsupial lions that crawled into their mothers pouches could not have done so had they not had only their forelimbs developed at birth. [E] Newborn marsupial lions would not have had only their forelimbs developed if this development were of no use to the marsupial lions.

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Answer/Explanation: Want to see how you did? Check out a video explanation to this problemand our other Challenge Discussion Questionson the Knewton Blog: