Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pre and postnatal

17 days have past since my last post. I am going to write a brief update of my study progress into 2 sections: prenatal and postnatal.

In my last post, I was confused as to which exam, GMAT or GRE, I should take. After further consideration (thanks to valuable advices from aimingtomba, Lisa Rocks, Linda Abraham and Naveen), I decide to give GMAT another shot.

I resume studying MGMAT materials. I completed all of the 9 labs of the MGMAT. I like all of them, particularly the strategic speed guessing, split and resplitting and DS rephrasing.

As I mentioned in the 2 October post, I signed up for the Beat the GMAT’s 100k challenge. I am fortunate to win a free access to the Beat the GMAT Practice Questions. Thank you BTG! Everyday, in between baby nursing, I practice the GMAT questions on my iPad. Unfortunately I need to use my laptop to view the video explanation. I hope one day the video can be viewed on iPad.

I also win 30 day access to 1 interview from from Stacy Blackman Twitter Tuesday contest. Thanks Stacy!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Should I take GRE instead of GMAT?

I’ve never considered taking GRE ever before but now I am considering it. So how can this be happening?

Last night, when I was browsing through my target school’ website, I looked at the class statistics to check the 80% range of the GMAT score. I had done this before but somehow I just wanted to make sure again that night.

So, beneath the GMAT score, my target school also posts the GRE score. I was intrigued and started to think what if I take GRE instead of GMAT. I remember a friend who studied for both exams telling me that GRE is much easier than GMAT. She took GRE and did well in the exam. So, I googled GRE to research what subjects are tested and how GRE is different from GMAT.

My first impression was that the quant is not as hard as that of the GMAT. There is no DS for one thing but the verbal bothers me with its analogies and antonyms. This is absolutely an obstacle for non-native speakers like me. So the first doubt is whether I can study new vocabularies (something like 3,500 words) in less than 2 months if I still want to apply in R2.

The second doubt arises when I read several comments on the controversy of GRE vs GMAT. Jose Ferreira, the Founder and CEO of Knewton, clearly favors GMAT as can be read in Knewton’s blog ( He further said that giving GRE score when it’s clear you could just as easily have taken the GMAT could hurt your application. This comment really scares me.

Businessweek also relates the decision whether to take GMAT or GRE with post MBA plans. If planning to work for investment bank or consulting firm, the applicant should take the GMAT because recruiters from such places uses GMAT scores as a screening tool. A complete post can be read here

However, there are positive comments about GRE, such as Linda Abraham, President and Founder of in her post:

After reading these comments, I am somewhat torn between GRE and GMAT. Do you have any suggestion?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My GMAT study story so far [part 2]

Now there are plenty of GMAT prep courses available like Grockit, Knewton, GMATFix etc.

Grockit []
What I like the best about Grockit is that you can choose to study on your own or on a group of people. I first tried Grockit about a year ago and still join the free collaborative study group once in a while.

Grockit recently presents Comprehensive GMAT and MBA Admissions Course. The enrollment is free and the course meets every Wednesday and Saturday for 8 weeks. There are 2 sessions left which will be held this Saturday and next Wednesday.

Knewton []
I tried this prep course for free some time ago. I took the free test and it was quite reflective to my actual GMAT score. If I didn’t purchase the MGMAT Self Study Prep plus, I might have bought this course because I am particularly lured with its 50-point increase guarantee.

Here is a little more background on Knewton’s GMAT prep course:

* Live and interactive web-based classes
* One-on-one attention from world-class GMAT instructors
* 5 full-length CATs created by the architects of the actual GMAT
* Live office hours and 24/7 academic support from GMAT experts
* Hundreds of concept videos
* Flexible 1-year membership
* Guaranteed 50-point score increase

Students can also go to for a free GMAT Prep trial and diagnostic practice test.

GMATFix []
I’d like to say thank you so much to Patrick Siewe who had kindly given me free unrestricted access to all the GMATFix tools for over a month.

There are 3 basic tools in GMATFix and I like all of them:
1) GMATFix Solutions Engine. This is the most powerful tool available. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use the most this tool because of my workload. The features I like about the tool are its more than 600 video solutions, which provide step-by-step, easy-to-follow solving techniques and ability to customized drill according to selected topics. You can also mark or flag questions in case you want to return to those questions in the future or even make notes for each question. I am also impressed with the performance report. From the report, you can track your progress according to topic and difficulty.

2) OG Companion (11th and 12th). This book is to be used in conjunction with the OG. It provides very detailed solutions, solving and guessing strategies, and take-away lessons to the OG questions. Although it only covers the math section, it has over 500 pages! It organizes each question by difficulty, topic and sub topic. Very detailed indeed! The OG Companion also has an Advanced Speed Drills section for those already scoring high. I recommend this book, if you want to increase your quant score. Initially, the book was not available in hard copy. Now it does! Hopefully it will be available for download too.

3) SC Flash Lessons. These are meant to be studied in details and many times over, to master the concepts tested by the GMAT SC questions. There are 5 SC lessons: verbs, modifiers, idioms, pronouns and parallelism. You can buy them in bulk or individually. In each lesson, there are a number of sentences in which you have to fill in the blanks. After that, a box will pop out explaining the concept and why the sentence is correct. The concepts presented are those commonly found in OG SC questions. I hope there will be math Flash Lesson in the future.

GMATFix also offers private tutoring at $150/hour and from what I heard, it is worth the money.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My GMAT study story so far [part 1]

This is a long overdue post. I promised to post about Knewton and GMATFix in early September and failed to do so. This time I decide to share about my early experience with GMAT, how I end up with MGMAT materials and prep course and also about other available GMAT prep resources. Because of the length of the post, I will break it into 2 parts.

Most GMAT test takers post this topic after they nail the test. I’d like to do the same thing but I am not sure whether I will have the time by then. So here it is the half story so far.

When I was still new in the game, I thought that I could nail GMAT with few prep books. While this is proven to be effective for some people, it is not for me because apparently I have so many basic concepts to brush up.

Initially, I purchased Princeton Review Crack the GMAT without doing any research about the book or any other prep books. I did not even purchase the OG! I did not know OG at that time. If I could turn back time, I would not purchase this book because although the book is good for preliminary introduction to GMAT, it does not suit my needs.

Afterwards, I read so many posts about GMAT study and one of the suggestions were to set your GMAT test date because people tend to discipline themselves with a definite time set ahead. Again, this is proven not working with me. Only take the real test when you feel ready!

I only took a few-day annual leave and crammed for the test. I did not reschedule despite the fact that I scored 500 in GMAT Prep CAT (even with lots of pausing during the CAT). I scored 420 in the real GMAT test.

I was devastated. I realized I needed more time to study and began looking around for GMAT prep books. At that time, there were only several famous prep companies like Veritas, Kaplan, and MGMAT. I scoured BTG and GMAT Club’s websites and got the impression that MGMAT almost always received good review for its GMAT study guides, particularly SC. I decided to order all MGMAT strategy guides on line because they were not available in book stores.

After studying the books for over 6 months (on and off), I did not see significant improvement. So I decided to enroll to a GMAT prep course by a local company. The teacher was an MIT graduate who consistently scored above 700. He was great at explaining math materials but not so with verbal. I felt that I improved in the math section specially DS. However, halfway through the course, I was again pre-occupied with my works and so the study suffered. I was falling behind my homework and started not showing up in most of the remaining classes.

Sick of not being able to concentrate on my GMAT study, I asked for a 2-week leave in July and really studied seriously for the whole 2 weeks. I got 580 in the real test and so it was a 160-point improvement from the first real test.

After the second attempt, I decided to purchase the self study prep plus of the MGMAT. I was torn between Knewton and MGMAT since Knewton has a 50-point guarantee increase. I eventually choose MGMAT because I like its strategy guides.

The last CAT I took is MGMAT test in which I scored 630. That was the first time I actually broke the 600s level score. If I take any CAT again, I am not sure if I can gain the same score because I have not studied intensively for over a month.

So, here are a few of the lessons learnt during the course of my GMAT study:
1. Take GMAT Prep test ahead of your GMAT study. GMAT Prep test is the best indicator of what score you might get in the real test. From analyzing the result of your GMAT Prep test, you can map out your plan whether you need an extensive study schedule or a light one.
2. It is good to study regularly but it is more important to have a high-quality study. It doesn’t matter if you only has 15 minute a day as long as you get the most of your study.
3. Take GMAT test regularly to see whether you are improving but not every week. It is so true that we will not get so much improvement within 1-2 weeks. So instead of wasting your GMAT CATs and time, it is better to invest in improving your weak areas.
4. Learn to pace since the very beginning of your study.
5. Build stamina for the test is very important. I still remember how my head hurt so bad and my body ached when I first took the GMAT CAT. It was a disaster.

So that’s it for part 1. In part 2, I will share several of my experiences with other GMAT prep resources.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

After giving birth

I am a Chinese descent. Although our great-great grandparents migrated from China for so many years ago, our families still follow the Chinese culture to certain extent. The tradition of the month after giving birth is an example. So, for so many times, my mother told me that the month after giving birth, I should not go outside, wash my hair or do anything else that could allow “bad wind” into the body. In addition, I am not allowed to watch TV or working with my laptop. I said what? It’s already hard to bear with itchy scalps but no laptop? What am I going to do?

I don’t know whether I will be 100% obey to her instruction because I want to make the most of my maternity leave to GMAT study (and of course my baby). But, I hate to argue with her. So the week before my labor, I plan to focus on MGMAT labs and recording sessions as much as possible.

Right now, I am studying the 4th lab: RC – prove it. It mainly explains how to use headline lists and skeletal sketch to organize reading passage. Although these methods are covered in the MGMAT RC guide, the explanation in the lab complements that in the guide. I find the lab to be very useful to get more thorough understanding on how to use those methods. The recording session # 3 also covers the same topic. There are concept repetitions but I think it’s still worth it because it provides several examples of how to implement the methods in RC passages.

That’s it for now. It’s 12pm and I am going back to my lab.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wow, it’s October!

Time flies and it’s been 1 month and 1 day for not posting. Where have I been? What have I been doing? Why was no update?

I was so busy with tons of office works in September. I will be taking maternity leave starting next Monday as ordered by the doctor. Some parts of my works haven’t completed yet. I plan to work on them before my labor.

Needless to say, I am so way behind my GMAT study. I hope I will have time to study during my maternity leave. Can I juggle between baby and GMAT study? I have to!

So last month I signed up for the Beat the GMAT’s $100K challenge [] and only starting this week I have been able to participate in the game. The first drawing will be conducted on Sunday. I hope I can win something nice.  I also register in the GMAT Club 100K Celebration [] but did not actively participate in the game because participants were expected to post during the month of September when I hardly had the time to do anything else but office work. So my chance depends on that 1 point I got when I posted to register. Finger crossed!

On the last note, I want to compliment the founders of Beat the GMAT and GMAT Club for holding such big games for us. Thank you so much!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

GMAT study update: Number properties

This week, I did several sets of number properties problems from OG 12. Here is the result:

Number of problems: 23
% correct: 78%
The worse: exponents and roots (57%)
The best: odds & evens (100%), positive & negative (100%) and consecutive integers (100%)
Average time: 1 min 40 secs
The worse time: consecutive integers (2 mins 15 secs)
The best time: positive & negative (54 secs)

Number of problems: 20
% correct: 55%
The worse: Positives & negatives (33%) and consecutive integers (33%)
The best: odds & evens (80%)
Average time: 2 mins 33 secs
The worse time: consecutive integers (2 mins 59 secs)
The best time: exponents & roots (1 min 34 secs)
Almost all areas, except exponents & roots exceed 2 mins

PS and DS combined
% correct: 67%
The worse: divisibility and primes (58%)
The best: odds & evens (86%)
Average time: 2 mins 4 secs
The worse time: consecutive integers (2 mins 30 secs)
The best time: exponents & roots (1 min 27 secs)

From the statistics above, consecutive integers pop several times and my performance in DS is worse than PS. I tried to apply the CLA method when approaching a DS problem but it seems to take more time. Is it because it is new to me? Has anyone use the CLA method before? Can you share whether the method is working for you?

Action plan:
1. Reread strategy guide on consecutive integers
2. Analyze my errors and find out why I took more time to do a DS problem (refine DS strategy)

All this time, I only talk about MGMAT courses. Next posts I will write about Knewton and GMATFix, hopefully this week.

Monday, August 23, 2010

MGMAT online lab (DS - Yes/No testing)

Last night I studied the online lab (DS – Yes/No testing) until 1.30am. It was supposed to last for 1.5 hour but I took at least twice the time to complete because I wanted to really understand the concept and process. I really like the detail of the presentation: the 3-step method (CLA: criteria, list, answer), how to pick numbers through NPZ (negative, positive, zero) and FIZ (fraction, integer, zero) and how to implement the strategies in real GMAT questions. Hopefully, the strategy will help me to tackle DS Y/N question problems better. I will do some OG problems using this strategy tomorrow or the day after. We’ll see whether I can improve my timing and accuracy in this area.

Tonight, I plan to study session 3 of the class recording. The session covers SC- parallelism, RC – short passage and EIVC. Typically a recording session lasts for about 3 hours but generally I spend more than twice because I keep notes during the entire session and repeatedly pause the recording so I can catch up with the topics discussed. I will post what I like about this session later.

Now, I must get back to work. I have a meeting with a director to discuss presentation materials for a client’s update seminar in mid October, right before I take my maternity leave.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Behind schedule

Work has taking its toll on my GMAT study these past few weeks. My department is having some major changes. The first assignment was to prepare a strategy map. I’ve never done it before in my life, not even my bosses. At first, I did data mining to get information of what we had done and thought of what we want to be in the long run and how to get there. Then, I referred to numerous strategy books, mainly authored by Kaplan and consulted back and forth to one boss to the other. Exhausting yet exciting.

Because of the new responsibilities, the study time becomes limited. I struggle to find effective time slot but manage to get at least half an hour study time each day. I am in the third week of the MGMAT study planner. Tonight if I don’t watch the recording session or listen to the lab, I will be studying parallelism and doing some OG problems. I am so behind schedule. Clock is ticking; August is nearing to an end. Gosh…

Saturday, July 24, 2010

GMAT study update: MGMAT CAT

This morning I took MGMAT practice test and scored 630 (Q40, V36). This is the first time my practice test hits 600. I feel strange because I didn’t study verbal much these past 3 weeks. Is it partly because verbal questions in MGMAT test easier than the real test?

I spent roughly 2 hours evaluating the practice test according to Stacey’s posts ( and Those 2 hours does not include analyzing the questions. Am I being ineffective? How long do you analyze your practice test?

Contrary to the real test last month, my pacing in quant section was really bad. I had less than 8 minutes for the last 10 questions! I wanted to bang my head on the table. I know the rules yet I was so stubborn to stick on those difficult questions. On the other hand, my pacing in verbal section was good. This is also to the contrary to the real test.

At first I planned to evaluate each questions after evaluating the practice test. However, I was so tired that I went to bed and doze off immediately :)

On the work side, this month is not less hectic than any other month. Although most auditors are in low seasons, having fewer clients and more leaves, this is not happening to me. Fortunately I have been able to study regularly at least 1 hour each day. It turns out re-reading strategy guide is worthwhile. I find several key points that I missed during the first read. I write these points in my cards and review them every other day.

I also find MGMAT labs and recording sessions useful. For example, the diagramming lab, which runs for 46 minutes and has 46 slides, helps me to better understand the diagramming process in the CR guide. However, I am still not sure whether reading CR using the MGMAT way will improve my CR performance. Anyway, I will take another shot and see how it goes. If my performance is still not improving, I will use the Powerscore way instead.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I am pregnant. My belly is huge now and I am entering the third trimester. I can feel the baby moving under my skin. Just now the baby kicks! Strange or not, every time I study GMAT, the baby moves around :) I want to get the GMAT done before my labor. If not, it will be more difficult to find time to study. So baby, help mommy pass with flying score, okay ^_*