If you are about to enter an MBA or a business graduate degree, it is very possible that you are looking for exercises and preparation guides for the admission exam. This, in many cases, will be the GMAT, although on certain occasions they could accept the GRE. Although each one has its peculiarities, both are competitive and equally valid when accepted. But, if you have already made the decision to take the GMAT, it is important that you know and become familiar with it. In order to know if the exercises with which you are practicing will help you prepare, or if you will just begin your search, keep in mind first that there are different sections, with their obstacles and defined characteristics, that you have to master. If this is your goal, we invite you to read this blog post that will help you determine which exercises you can prepare yourself with and which you shouldn’t spend your time on.
Before starting
The test measures your skills in critical reasoning and quantitative reasoning through four sections: Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Writing (AWA) & Integrated Reasoning (IR), the first two will feature exercise based on basic concepts that you learned in Your upper secondary education, many problems will remind you of topics you learned in high school or high school.
Returning to these concepts and practicing with exercises that reinforce your mastery is the first step to be able to advance strategically and, later, to solve more complex problems.
In the same way, check that your level of English is adequate: the GMAT is in English, so being proficient in the language will serve you both in the verbal and AWA section, as well as in IR and quant. Remember! Half of quant’s problems are Word Problems, and in Integrated Reasoning the exercises will be loaded with information. If you don’t feel ready in the language, prepare yourself in it first to continue.
Exam-type exercises
It is important to be able to master the theory and use it when solving problems. However, remember that the test measures both your ability to arrive at the correct answer, and to do it in the shortest possible time: the combination of effectiveness and efficiency. Once you are sure of your level of English and that you manage the concepts evaluated in the exam, be sure to review with challenging exercises that are varied in terms of difficulty, topic and format. It is not enough to repeat an exercise several times, but rather that the concept used in the problem has different approaches so that you can understand how to use it in different types of questions.
You should also practice with exercises in English, as this will be the only way to familiarize yourself with the format of the exercises.
Look at the following problem (obtained from the book “Baldor’s Algebra”):
The sum of the ages of A and B is 84 years, and B is 8 years younger than A. Find both ages.
As you can see, in the first place, the exercise is in Spanish: the learning that it will provide will only be the use of algebra, but it will not make it easier for you to acquire the ability to read English and translate the same text into algebra. Additionally, the exercise has no options, as will be the case in all GMAT exercises: there are strategies that involve taking advantage of the options that appear as a weapon in your favor. Studying with these types of exercises alone will be a time consuming, if not impossible, way to achieve competitive scores.
Strategic explanations
When you are practicing exercises that come in a book, look for explanations that allow you to develop useful skills and strategies to reach the level of efficiency necessary to solve the 30 problems in 60 minutes. Theory, while important, can be distracting if not handled with ingenuity and creativity. Using certain tools may allow you to solve problems much faster, such as visualization, using options, making valuable annotations, among others. Look at the following problem (taken from “Beginning and Intermediate Algebra” by Tyler Wallace, 2010):
Adam is 20 years younger than Brian. In two years Brian will be twice as old as Adam. How old are they now?
Age now | +2 |
Adam | |
Brian |
We use “Adam” and “Brian” for the persons. We use + 2to denote the change, because the second phrase is two years in the future
Age now | +2 |
Adam | x – 20 |
Brian | x |
Consider the “Now” part, Adam is 20 years younger than Brian. We are given information about Adam, not Brian. So Brian is x years now. To show Adam is 20 years younger we substract 20, Adam is x – 20.
[The problem considers 6 other intermediate steps]
Age now | |
Adam | 38 – 20 = 18 |
Brian | 38 |
The first column will help us answer the question. Replace the x’s with 38 and simplify. Adam is 18 and Brian is 38.
This problem is already in English, so it is close to the type of problems that you will find in the GMAT. However, notice how long the explanation is (we cut it 6 steps) to come up with a simple solution that could have been found with more efficient methods. In addition, it is again the case that you have no options. These types of problems can harm you, since it will be an inconvenience in itself to understand the explanation and could cause stress. In this way, it could be difficult to reach competitive scores.
Explanations related to what you learned
Another very important point to consider when preparing is that the way an American learned the concepts is different from the way of learning of a European, and an Asian. Similarly, a Latin American had a teaching-learning process different from that of other countries. Therefore, we recommend that when you study, you can access explanations in your native language and use the concepts in the way you learned them. Thus, you will not waste time trying to understand an explanation that does not include your heuristic processes or your particular knowledge.
A clear example is the “rule of 3”. Surely you have heard of it, and you use it even unconsciously in your day to day: if I earn $ 200 a day, my fortnight must be $ 3000; if a liter and a half of milk cost $ 30, the liter must cost $ 20… If a problem involves using this famous rule, it will be very easy for you to recognize it. In the United States, where most of the practice exercises are done, they do not use it as we do or name it frequently, but rather define it through the concept of proportions, they even call it “ratio”. Trying to understand how they solve problems using this rule can be tricky. Otherwise, if the explanation of the problem includes it, even in Spanish, you can improve your score a lot: you will recognize when the exercises use it and it will be clear to you how it is used.
Notice the difference in the following problems
Problem 1: (Obtained from GMAT Official Guide Quantitative Review)
The number of rooms at Hotel G is 10 less than twice the number of rooms at Hotel H. If the total number of rooms at Hotel G and Hotel H is 425, what is the number of rooms at Hotel G?
- 140
- 180
- 200
- 240
- 280
Answer: E
Explanation: Let G be the number of rooms in Hotel G and let H be the number of rooms in Hotel H. Expressed in symbols, the given information is the following system of equations:
G = 2H – 10
425 = G + H
Solving the second equation for H gives H = 425 – G. Then, substituting 425 – G for H in the first equation gives
G = 2 (425 – G) – 10
G = 850 – 2G – 10
G = 840 – 2G
3G = 840
G = 280
The correct answer is E
Problem 2: (Obtained from ScholasticaPrep)
On a roadtrip, John paid $ 300 for one hotel night and 10 liters of oil. He stayed on the same hotel two days more, and he only fueled 5 liters of oil. I have spent $ 375. Peter stayed with him 3 days, paying for his own hotel room. How much did he pay?
- 150
- 450
- 600
- 750
- 800
Answer: B
Explanation: Let’s call H the price of the hotel night and G the price of gasoline. The system of equations looks like this:
H + 10G = 300
2H + 5G = 375
Checking with the options, the hotel nights have to cost $ 50, $ 150, $ 200, $ 250 and $ 800/3 respectively (because the options denote 3 nights).
If we substitute, for example, $ 200 in the first equation, we would have G = 10. By introducing this value in the second equation, we get that H = $ 175! It is a contradiction. The answer is not C. Let’s try B. If we let H = $ 150, G must be $ 15. Substituting this value in the second equation, we would arrive at that H =
$ 150.
Since an equilibrium is reached where H = $ 150 and G = $ 15, then the answer is that each night costs $ 150 and 3 nights cost $ 450. That is the answer!
In this case, the problems are very similar. Which one did you find easier to understand? If the answer was the second, it is very likely that it is the focus of the question and its explanation in Spanish that helps you understand how to solve exam-type exercises. A focus on Spanish speakers, in your case, is ideal for achieving very competitive scores.
Routines and methods
In the case of certain types of questions, especially those in the verbal reasoning section, the strategies to answer correctly are routines that you must mechanize. This, complemented by an adequate understanding of the English language (mentioned above) and a vocabulary that is more advanced than usual. Examples of these routines are the use of argument diagrams, visualization, canceling possible answers, among others. The exercises with which you practice for this section you must make sure that they contain this type of strategy so that you learn to master them.
In general, the main thing that exercises should have is that they are written and designed by an expert in standardized tests rather than by a traditional academic. The latter will be more concerned with the proper method, the safe route, before strategies to solve the quick test and showing you the traps that test makers use. Those who will give you more insights are precisely the experts, who know how and what the exam is designed for, and who, especially, understand your Spanish-speaking profile. These experts, before telling you that it is a disadvantage, will turn your native language into one more weapon so that you can achieve higher and better scores.