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Posts Tagged ‘Test Tips

Business-like approach to GMAT math

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Nathan Burke is a Math Content Developer at Knewton, specializing in GMAT prep.

The GMAT quantitative section is different from most math tests. You don’t usually see Data Sufficiency questions outside the GMAT, for one thing. They’re tricky, and mastering them requires a high level of familiarity. The good news is that the answer choices are the same for every question, and precise calculations are often unnecessary.

Then there are the word problems. All that text takes a long time to read. With 37 questions to do within a scant 75-minute period, you have an average of about two minutes to answer each question. It can be nerve-racking to spend almost half of this precious time just parsing out questions that are essentially prose versions of a company’s balance sheet.

photo by stuartpilbrow

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Written by Knewton

November 4, 2009 at 11:58 PM

Attitude problems

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Emily Holleman is a Content Developer at Knewton, helping students with their LSAT preparation.

If you read my friend Chris Black’s great post on passage wording last week, you already know how important language is on the LSAT. However, it’s especially important to pay attention to language use when you’re asked about an author’s attitude.

Attitude questions—you know, those pesky ones that pretty much ask you how the author feels about something—may be the trickiest questions on the Reading Comp section. If only those authors would just come out and say how they felt about the topic (I think that Yeats’ poetry is crap)! Luckily for us, these attitudes do come across loud and clear, as long as you know what types of language to look for.

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Written by Knewton

October 26, 2009 at 2:36 PM

Train Your Body for the GMAT

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When you’re preparing for the GMAT, you naturally want to take practice tests and study diligently. But peak performance doesn’t just depend on your knowledge and skills. It depends on your entire state of being: your digestive system, your muscles, your emotions. If all of your bodily systems are taken care of, you’ll be ready for peak functioning on test day.

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Written by Knewton

October 13, 2009 at 2:39 PM

September 2009 LSAT Survey

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Compiled by Brad McIlquham, Knewton’s Director of Curriculum.

This past Saturday, September 25th, more than 45,000 aspiring law students across the world took the LSAT. Many of these test-takers spent more than two months preparing. Before they got down to their well-earned celebrating, we asked Knewton students to fill us in on how they felt about their performance. Here’s what they said.


  • Two thirds of Knewton students felt they did as well as or better than they expected on the test.
  • Almost half of the students surveyed (46.7%) felt the Logical Reasoning section was the most challenging of the three. The rest were split evenly over whether the Analytical Reasoning or Reading Comprehension sections were the hardest (26.7% each).
  • 60% of our students felt that Logical Reasoning was their main strength going into the test, while just over a quarter felt best prepared for the Analytical Reasoning section.
  • 84.6% of students were happy with the amount of preparation they put into their LSAT studies, while the remaining 15.4% felt only adequately prepared or unsatisfied with the amount of prep they completed.

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Written by Knewton

September 28, 2009 at 6:49 PM

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GMAT test day, minute by minute

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SarlinAlex Sarlin is the GMAT Verbal Lead at Knewton, where he helps students on the Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension sections of the test. He shares his insights from test day, here. For the record, he scored a 770 on the test.

In reality, test day is not that different from any other day of preparation—test-takers must be attentive, focused, and fully prepared to bring their A-game. But for many test-takers, the term “test day” brings a variety of symptoms: cold sweats, night terrors, the shakes, and so on. Knowing the nitty-gritty of what to expect when you get to the testing center can help relieve some of that unnecessary anxiety. Here’s Knewton’s minute-to-minute breakdown of a typical testing experience.

1. Arrive early, but don’t plan on studying at the testing center. 30 minutes before liftoff.

Show up to the test center 30 minutes before the official time, as the GMAC suggests. Although this may mean waking up even earlier than expected, avoiding any feeling of being rushed is priceless. However, many testing centers don’t allow studying in the waiting room, so don’t plan on getting there early and reviewing notes. Use the time before the test to relax and focus on the task at hand.

2. Locker Room. 10 minutes before liftoff.

After presenting your identification and test reservation, you may be given a key to a locker, into which you must put everything on your person other than your identification itself. This includes pens, paper, books, cell phones, house keys, lucky rabbit’s feet… everything. All you are allowed to bring in is your identification and the locker key itself. Think of this as a cleansing ritual, or a locker room warm-up. Although some centers may be more lax than others, in no circumstances expect to carry anything into the testing room.

3. Entering the Testing Room.2 minutes before liftoff

The testing room will be a room filled with computers. It will be shut off from the rest of the testing center and under constant video monitoring. You may feel like the subject of some strange scientific experiment entering this room, but fear not. No shocks will be administered, and you will be far too wrapped up in your computer screen to notice the cameras or the half-lidded gaze of the proctors. Also note that you will be not only starting the test on a different schedule than other test-takers, but that it is likely that the others in the room may be taking different tests altogether. Whispering or passing notes is neither an option nor a temptation; this is not high school.

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Written by Knewton

September 18, 2009 at 1:11 PM

On the Subtleties of GMAT Guessing

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nateNate Burke is a Content Developer at Knewton, specializing in question creation for the Quantitative section of Knewton’s GMAT prep course.

“The best way to win at Russian Roulette is to not play at all. Or you could just have the other guy go first and then run away quickly.” –Unknown

In the heyday of paper-based tests, the cure-all for the common ill of “getting stuck” on a question was simple: Skip the question and simply move on.  The rationale behind this strategy was that work done for other questions on the test might illuminate simple key concepts that were overshadowed by things like early-morning drowsiness, test anxiety, tip-of-the-tongue syndrome, etc, etc,.

Things have changed. The GMAT, like many other standardized tests, is administered on a computer. Though the question formats have remained roughly the same, the switch to computer-based-testing has rendered the “skip the question” strategy obsolete. On a computer-based-test, it is impossible to skip a question. The best that a time-constrained student with a total conceptual block can do is to guess and hope for the best outcome of what is essentially a game of Russian roulette with a 5-chambered revolver.

An ideal strategy for “getting stuck” within the context of a computer-based test is thus constrained to the narrow confines of the maximum time allotted per question. Consider that at the beginning of this time interval, WITHOUT EVEN HAVING READ THE QUESTION, a test-taker has already been granted a 20% chance of answering correctly by guessing randomly. This fact alone has consequences. If the student is still at a random-guess level of confidence at the end of the 2-3 minute maximum-time-per-question-interval, then all that the student has accomplished on this question was to lower his or her score. Every second that passes without progress lowers the score incrementally (and that’s not even accounting for the added adverse effects of things like stress-induced second-guessing, etc. etc.).

What is a student to do then, should he “get stuck?” If the path to the correct answer is obscured and overgrown, how does one trim the hedges?

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Written by Knewton

August 31, 2009 at 2:40 PM

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Jumping to Conclusions

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EmilyEmily Holleman is a Content Developer at Knewton, helping students with their LSAT preparation.

As the name suggests, the Logical Reasoning section of the LSAT tests your ability to digest and understand different forms of reasoning. For this very reason, the majority of LR prompts are presented as arguments. The ability to quickly and easily identify (or “jump to”) conclusions will allow you to deconstruct the argument and improve your score.  Of course, since this is the LSAT we’re talking about, these conclusions are often presented in confusing or distracting ways. Fortunately, you can usually locate the main idea of an argument by keeping your eye out for certain key words and phrases.

Here are some common words and phrases that introduce the conclusion of an LR argument:

  • Thus/therefore/so/hence
  • It appears that/it follows that/it is clear that/there is evidence that/it must be true that

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Written by Knewton

August 27, 2009 at 6:16 PM