New England GMAT

GMAT Strategy 101

C: 919 358 5076

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GMAT Quantitative Section Strategy


I hear from plenty of students who have taken the GMAT after investing time in inferior resources or, worse, giving a pile of money to a test company, only to get a sub-par GMAT result.  Here I will describe the resources I feel can be relied upon, the strategies I like, and my own approach. 


Anybody can write a GMAT guide and plenty do.  The best of those guides have some real questions from a company sending in 'spies' to take the exams and remember questions.  The rest of the questions in the guide will be fake questions written in an attempt to imitate real-GMAT style.  The worst of those guides have loads of fake questions that bear little resemblance to the real exams, along with some so-so test taking tips and long-winded reviews.


It is important to realize that it would take at least twice as long to read every GMAT review guide on the market as it will to finish your MBA.  We will use real GMAT questions as our primary resource, supplemented by resources carefully chosen by me from the many resources marketed for this exam.  It is my hope to limit the amount of reading and review students must undertake by figuring out, via working problems, what knowledge students are actually missing. 


To prepare you for the GMAT’s quantitative section, we will solve the problems in:

- The two CATs (Computer Adaptive Tests, like the GMAT itself!) available free on

- The quantitative problems in the 12th Edition of the Official Guide to the GMAT, and the Official Quantitative Workbook for the GMAT, about a third of the problems in which are not in the 12th Edition Official Guide

-The 9 old paper GMATs


We will also read, or at least summarize and discuss, the material in the pithy 99 page math review in the Princeton Review guide, supplementing where necessary with material from the good but overly long Manhattan GMAT books.  By solving real problems we will quickly figure out what material you have forgotten, or have never seen.  I will then give you that material as quickly as possible.  Stuff you already know we won’t need to look at. 


I am aware of multiple ways to explain all mathematical issues tested on the GMAT, and by working one-on-one we will always be able to find a way to look at a particular piece of mathematics that ‘clicks’ with you.  You will reach the point where every quantitative question you can be asked reduces to something you are already comfortable with.


I will give you several skills not to my knowledge taught in existing preparatory materials, including:

-The ability to answer many data sufficiency questions by recognizing such questions reduce to asking whether two lines intersect at a single point, are two copies of the same line, or are two parallel lines.  This simple strategy, applied while watching out for several pitfalls which I will communicate to you, will let you solve many data sufficiency problems with a glance. 

- The ability to do mental arithmetic quickly.  This ability contributes substantially to my own success on standardized exams by enabling me to dispose of many questions very quickly so that I have time to mull over, and check, anything that is tricky or (worse!) suspiciously easy.  If the sun is shining and I've gotten enough sleep, I can multiply 3-digit numbers by 3-digit numbers in about 15 seconds.  Even on a bad day I can multiply two-digit numbers by two-digit numbers in about 5.  This is something I have trained myself to do by employing various simple tricks and not by any means an innate skill.  I can show you these tricks and while you may not want to spend the time to be able to compute as fast as me or faster,

- The ability to instantly check addition and multiplication  using a method that predates both calculators and sliderules and that is much faster than simply doing subtraction or division to check your answer.

 -The ability to quickly do long division, test for whether numbers are prime, find least common multiples of two numbers, and much more.  Essentially, there are for most sections of the GMAT tricks that I am aware of by virtue of being a physicist who did his undergrad in math, and which are not taught, for whatever reason, by the big test companies.  Once the tool fits your hands you will find these tricks are sledge hammers compared to commonly taught methods that are limited and frangible.

Why isn't this stuff taught more widely?  Well, many professional GMAT tutors are not aware of it, and many of those who are think that you can not handle it. 

With my help, you can.

And, just as you do not need to be able to build a hammer in order to pound something with one, you don't need to understand exactly where all of the machinery I will give you comes from in order to pound GMAT quantitative section with it.

C: 919 358 5076



GMAT Verbal Section Strategy


To prepare you for the GMAT’s verbal section, we will solve problems from:

 - The 2 official GMAT Computer Adaptive Tests, available free at MBA.COM

- The problems in the GMAT 12th Edition Official Guide

- The problems in the  GMAT Official Verbal Workbook

We will also read, or summarize and discuss, material from:

- The Princeton Review’s Verbal workbook

-An extremely readable grammar book, ‘Woe is I’

- As necessary, supplementary material from the good but overly long Manhattan GMAT materials

You should also read your favorite authors and get re-accustomed to exegesis.  We are very used to searching for a kernel of information, and ignoring the rest, when we read things online.  For the GMAT we must return to carefully reading.


The GMAT does not explicitly test your vocabulary, but it also helps a little to look up any words whose definitions you don't recall, as you don't want to bump into words you don't know on GMAT reading passages.


While my explanations of how to solve quantitative problems will usually be better than what is available in the Official Guide and in the various test companies’ books, it is critical to look at GMAC’s explanations of its answers to its own verbal section questions.  We must learn the rules of grammar GMAC cares about, ignore the grammar rules it ignores, and ignore the nuances it ignores when posing reading comprehension questions. 


GMAT Writing Section Strategy

I am happy to help with the writing section of the GMAT by having you write essays in response to real GMAT prompts.  I will read your essays and then give you feedback on your work.  It is important to demonstrate command of the language, to avoid making errors, to reason correctly, and to be able to do all of these things quickly.  These skills are best mastered via drill, though certainly having a general GMAT-essay-generating-template is a good idea.  If you look at the sample-essays that get maximum points on the GMAT writing section, you do not find James Joyce nor even Adam Smith, just well-reasoned, conventional writing with no salient errors.


Anxiety Control and General Test-Taking


(Please do realize that if you struggle with any sort of a learning disability or any other medical problem that might affect your performance on your exam, you should apply as soon as possible to GMAC for extra time for your exam.  I do have experience working with students with learning disabilities and other medical issues preparing for the GMAT.)

There are structural weaknesses in the exam which I can teach you to exploit, and heuristics I can teach you to give you good odds when guessing.  This material is valuable and has its place.  But, ultimately, my goal is to teach you to solve problems quickly and cleanly via robust methods that are not easily defeated by slight differences in what you prepared for and what you see on test day.  Applying these methods to the GMAT is in fact overkill, much like using a cannon to sink a (mean?) rubber duck. This is superior to walking in thinking you are going to, say, solve problems just by plugging in numbers - certainly a sometimes-useful trick! - and finding that the GMAC, aware of that method, has written plenty of questions where it does not work very well.  Overkill, within reason, is useful.


During much of your GMAT preparation, YOU NEED NOT DUPLICATE REAL TEST CIRCUMSTANCES.  In the early stages we are just trying to figure out what you don’t yet know, or don’t recall.  You should at first work problems in the most relaxed and comfortable situation you can create.  When you find something you can’t seem to do, just circle it and move on.  When you meet with me I’ll show you the background underneath such problems and teach you to solve them generically.  Eventually you will find that all GMAT problems are either things you've seen before and just needed to be reminded of, or things you can easily learn. 

If you relax and just solve what problems you can and bring the rest to me, and also review, either via reading or discussion, relevant material, once you have solved many problems you should take the 2 exams on MBA.COM under real, or worse-than-real, circumstances.  That will give you an excellent gauge of how you will do on the real exam.  If you’re not yet doing as well as you’d like we return to a low-stress review of the exam, which we then test again once you’re ready.  I think that you will find that, if you put the hours in and keep your wits about you, the GMAT is nothing you need to fear.

C: 919 358 5076