Post A Day for 30 Days

by Christopher Paul on October 11, 2006

I’ve been inspired by app a day blogger/coder Dana Hanna a.k.a the Software Jedi and will write one post a day for 30 days starting tomorrow.  I could count this day and this post as one but I won’t cheap out like that.

I’ve written about how I want to write more.  I’ve also talked about how I want to get into a good business school and writing skills are a part of that.  So I thought that I could use the post-a-day program as a way to help me prepare for the day I take the GMAT and make me a better writer in the process.

The GMAT is made up of three sections: essay, English/verbal, and math.  The math is pretty straight forward.  They give you a few different types of problems from calc, geometry, and algebra and gauge how well you are at those objective questions.  Like most multiple choice questions, its just as much a matter of picking out the obviously wrong answers as it is knowing how to get the right ones.

The verbal section is also multiple choice.  It, too, can be whittled down to what are the wrong ones and what could be the right ones with the foundations you should have to help figure the answer out from there.

The essay portion – which comes first I’m told – is still done on a computer just like the adaptive multiple choice questions.  But the grading is very subjective and also weighed by the computer with grammar and spelling going into that curve.  A person must construct an argument well in addition to the sentence structure to get a good score.  And its this part of the test for which I need practice.

Like I said earlier, multiple choice is half knowing how to get the right answer and half knowing what the obvious wrong answers are. It gives me an advantage over the 20 to 25% chance one normally has in getting a question correct.  If you can eliminate half of the four possibilities, you’ve increased the likelihood of getting the question correct considerably: to 50%.  Still not great when you are taking a test like this but 50% chance is better than a 25% chance.  Hell, a 33% chance is better than what you are handed.

And I’m confident that once I reach that 50% mark, I can learn how to get the correct answer 80% of the time (or better).  Its just a matter of understanding why the answer is the way it is and categorizing it into a question type so it can be identified later when the actual test is taken.

Of the multiple choice sections, the math test will be the hardest for me.  I struggled to get understand even the basic algebra when I was in high school and only understood calculus my senior of high school when most kids were at AP calc or, at the least, calc 2.  In college, I did almost as bad and only begun to master the advanced calc 2 concepts in my senior year when it was my only hard course (the easy courses being law, computer programming, database design and management, and operational management (Statistics 3).  Re-learning those fundamentals will be my biggest challenge.

The other day, I stopped into a book store and looked at their test prep books.  While they didn’t have the one I wanted, I looked at the advanced version and did a few practice questions.  If I was confident in myself, I would have gotten 3 out of 4 correct.  Because I doubted myself, I only got 2 right – not great – but if I can get 75% of the hard ones correct without practicing much, I can get even more correct with my studies.  On the math section, however, I got only one correct answer if I was confident in my choice.  Because I wasn’t, I got no right answer.

So the lesson here is: be confident and practice.  I’ve been reading prep books and will soon begin the practice problems included in the “regular” version.  When I’m done with it, I’ll buy the advanced book and revisit those questions.  And as long as I keep writing, I’ll get my practice for the essay part and, hopefully, do very well on the GMAT.  The goal is to reach for 750 but to accept a 700 or better.  650 is a good score too and I’ll be happy with it but won’t feel like I reached my full potential otherwise.

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