Tuesday, April 21, 2009



Let me start be addressing a question asked by my mother in the last update. I haven’t spent all my money on books. I can still afford food...at least for now. Time for the post!

Nutrition is something that isn’t talked about much in regards to studying, but it is something I found can make a world of difference for me. I have always been fascinated with nutrition and how it affects my performance in a variety of the sports I am involved in. I never feel more of a boost or a flat feeling as when I am mountaineering. I typically consume between five and six thousand calories throughout the day and anything less than that and I can literally feel myself running out of energy.

Although sitting in a chair and studying is nowhere near as physically demanding, I think people are surprised at the amount of resources the human brain demands. I had heard a lot of tales about how we only use 10% of our brain at any time because any more than that and we would have to eat all day long just to get enough calories. It turns out that is not far off the mark. I took a number of nutrition classes at Auburn and learned that brain cells require twice as much glucose to operate than any other cell in the human body. Even when I brain cell appears that it isn’t doing much of anything, it is still metabolizing sugar as it produces the enzymes needed for the next time it is called upon. And having a lack of blood sugar can have measurable effect on memory and learning. I found this quote that discusses a couple studies on the subject

“Psychology professor Paul E. Gold has researched the stability of glucose levels in the brain. Working with Ewan C. McNay , they found that as rats went through a maze, concentrations of glucose declined in the animals' hippocampus , a key brain area involved in learning and memory – even more dramatically so in older brains…’The brain runs on glucose. Young rats can do a pretty good job of supplying all the glucose that a particular area of the brain needs until the task becomes difficult,’ explained McNay, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Yale University. ‘For an old rat given the same task, the brain glucose supply vanishes out the window. This correlates with a big deficit in performance. A lack of fuel affects the ability to think and remember.’”

So with all that information in mind, I have always tried to focus on having a breakfast that would give me a good jumpstart on the day, no matter what I have panned. Since not all sugars are the same, I don’t go the pop tart route. A typical breakfast for me is a multigrain bagel, a few wedges of fruit, a yogurt, a glass of OJ and a cup of green tea. Sometimes I toss in some eggs for a little boost of protein. I typically avoid sodas. I stopped drinking them a while back and it just kind of became a habit to drink juices and water over grabbing a soda.

I missed breakfast the other day and I realized just how big of a difference it makes for me. It took me a long time to get motivated and keep my concentration. And hey, if nothing else, it’s just a generally healthy habit overall.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Additional Materials


In addition to all the books I purchased, I scoured the internet in search of other resources that would be helpful. You might think some of them are ridiculous but I will explain why I am finding them helpful.

Simple Math Formulas: At one point I was a mathematics rock-star. I mastered calculus, derivatives, integrals, matrices, and could figure out the forces at any point on a suspension bridge with nothing but pencil and paper. The truth is though; I haven’t needed that knowledge for almost 6 years now. I thought it would be good to refresh on the basics. I decided I would make up a simple word document of formulas broken up into different sections such as fractions, geometric equations, and algebraic strategy. I had to laugh a bit when I was searching around for online for some of these things because I would be looking at a website seriously and there would be cartoon characters saying things like, “Don’t forget to show your work!” It is elementary but it has already been a help because:

1. Terminology – I know the different operations I have been doing for 18+ years simply by what they look like. It has been good to refresh myself on the terminology like Distributive Law, Difference of squares, Associative of Multiplication, etc. All very simple concepts but it’s always nice to know what they are called in case it comes up in a random question.

2. Speed – Reviewing the basics has already helped me cut down on my time per question. It’s not that I was having issues completing the problems, it’s just I occasionally had to sit back for a second and recall the proper procedure to figure out certain types of problems. I will admit, it took me a bit to remember how to work with variables as exponents. .

Flash Cards – I have found flashcards to be a very effective tool for me. I am a very visual learner, so having a quick and concise burst of information seems to be an ideal way for me to digest things. I am using the flash cards for everything and anything. I already have built a decent stack with grammar rules, math formulas, tips, key strategy points, and the “look for” type reminders. I plan to go though them every couple days and will be adding plenty more as I continue to study.

GMAT Prep – GMAT Prep is the free online software provided by the actual people that write the test. I haven’t even run the program yet but I have read that it is probably the closest simulation out there. I will be saving this one for when I get closer to the actual test date.

Spreadsheet – Through beatthegmat.com I was directed to a user who had created a spreadsheet to help them break down how they were performing. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot and now I am hooked. It’s a brilliant way to see where you are struggling, where you can save time, and how to attack the test on the big day. The spreadsheet has a number of sections including, time used (per every 5 questions), correct/incorrect, and if it was a careless error, conceptual error, or procedural error. Once again, I am early in my studying so I haven’t had a chance to fully utilize this but I am already finding it helpful.

Grammar notes and AWA help – There is a ton of resources out there to help with the sentence correction and AWA portion of the test. I searched around and found a number of sites that offered tips, templates, and topic lists to score a 5 or 6 on the AWA.

I am impressed if anyone out there has taken the time to read all this. None the less, I am enjoying it and my next post I am going to dive into something that not many people talk about in relation to the GMAT but I am a very strong believer in...nutrition.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Study Materials (purchased)


Figuring out what study materials I was going to invest in caused me some initial stress. I wanted to be sure I had a number of books from different publishers for perspective, but didn’t want to waste my money on subpar or unnecessary resources. Before I began collecting the materials, I wanted to figure out what exactly my study plan would be, as that would have a big impact on what exactly I needed. Also, with a target score of 740, I knew it would rule out some other books geared for people targeting 500-600 scores.

Here is the breakdown of my priorities when deciding what to buy:

AAmple practice problems. My study plan relies heavily on practicing problems. Since I am on a relatively rigorous 10 week program, I will be burning through problems and wanted to ensure that I have a fresh supply.

2. Representative problems. In addition to simply a large number of problems, I wanted to be sure that they were representative of what is currently being used on the GMAT. Working on outdated and irrelevant questions would do me no good in the long run.

3. Difficult problems. The GMAT is a computerized test that automatically adjusts for the test takers skill level. The more you answer correctly the more problems are drawn from the “difficult bin.” Once again, with a target score of 740 I have to plan for a majority of my questions being drawn from this pool. For that reason it was important for me to find materials that focused on presenting difficult questions.

4. Sentence Correction & Verbal Review. I am sure you have picked up on a good number of grammatical errors just in these first two posts. I believe the sentence correction portion is going to be the most challenging for me. I have already decided I will give this portion of my studies an additional week and quick review time everyday. I also decided that it would be a good idea for me to purchase some materials specifically targeted to this section.

With those priorities, I went on my favorite forums to do some research. I looked at recommendations from people that had already taken the test and cored very well. There is a myriad of people out there willing to discuss what worked for them and what is a waste of money. It’s great. Armed with all this knowledge, I hit up Amazon and settled on these books.

The Official Guide for GMAT Review 11th & 12th Editions – This one is pretty much a no brainer. In the original blog that got me going down this path, Eric states, “Official Guide is the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, and the Gita of GMAT prep.” I don’t know if having both editions is really necessary but I already had the 11th edition which I purchased about a year back out of curiosity. I bought the 12th edition simply for the fact that there will be more recent questions and I think that will be invaluable as I approach the test date.

Kaplan GMAT 2008 – This is the book I have already started on. I have found it is a relatively easy read and will give me a good starting point before turning to more difficult books. There is already a 2009 version of this book out but I feel that the 2008 isn’t too outdated. It comes with a CD ROM companion which I am excited to play around with. Since I haven’t gotten too deep into the book, I can’t say this for sure, but I had read from multiple people that the practice tests are abnormally difficult and can be a bit demoralizing. I will be sure to report back once I get deeper in.

Kaplan GMAT Advanced 2009-2010 Edition – This book’s tagline is “Intensive Prep for Top Students.” I am really excited about this book. I think it will give me some headaches but if I am going to hit my target, I need to have something that will frustrate me. I will be using this book as I near the completion of each section.

Sentence Correction GMAT Preparation Guide (Manhattan) – I have heard great things about this book, which is good since I think I will need all the help I can get in the section. I have found a couple good online resources which I will discuss in a later post but I think this book will be the root of my studying for this section.

The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review – I bought this one on a whim. I don’t like to say that, but it wasn’t too expensive and I thought it would give me an alternate point of view of strategies on the verbal section. I might have wasted my money but I will be sure to let you know.

I am pleased with my purchases and thank everyone that has written reviews on all the different books out there. I am going to take a day off from the blog but in my next post I will discuss the free and online resources I have collected.

Until then, take it sleazy.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Beginning


Welcome to my new blog I like to call “The GMAT Adventure!” I don’t know how many people will stumble across my postings, but I have read that blogging about the GMAT experience can be a great way to keep a focused, add a little bit of accountability, and blow off some related steam.

This is going to be my first time taking the test, and honestly, the first test I will have taken since graduating in 2006. Although I am going to call today “day 1” in my studies, I have already done a good amount of research. I want to thank Eric from BeatTheGMAT.com for his insightful blog that I happened to stumble across a while back. It was a great motivational tool for me to get the ball rolling on the whole process. I was pleased to see so many people out there on forums such as beatthegmat.com and testmagic.com that are happy to tell their success stories. Just hearing the advice and experiences of people who have spent a lot of time preparing for the tests gives me the right level of excitement to tackle what seems to be a very big endeavor.

After looking over the test format and taking a practice test a few months ago, I have set my target to be 740. I would like to score higher than that but I feel like 740 will be plenty challenging yet obtainable. I know you may be thinking that aspirations in the mid 90th percentile are quite ambitious, but there are a number of reasons for picking that number.

1. I do well on standardized tests. I can’t exactly pinpoint why, but it has always been that way. Coming out of high school I didn’t have what you would call an EXTREMELY impressive SAT score, but it was a great score with little to no studying. When I have sat down and studied for a standardized test I have always performed extremely well.

2. I have a strong mathematical background. Although I graduated with a business degree, I had 3 years of engineering prior to that. I found the math in my last year in engineering to be complex and challenging, but doable. Not since leaving engineering have I had many problems with anything math related (by no means am I not rusty right now though!).

3. Time is no concern. I do not plan on applying to business school for quite a while and have developed a study plan that will give me plenty of time to get it right.

Speaking of the study plan, I have decided on a 10 week plan. Reading through some blogs and taking a look at my base level, this seems like a pretty good amount of time to fully master the subjects while keeping from burning out and losing some retention. I have broken it up to a couple weeks per section and keeping my studying between 2 and 3 hours a day (a bit longer on days I take practice exams). I will most likely have to make some minor adjustments as I get going but I am confident that I have drawn out a good plan for myself. I will expand on the study plan a bit more in later posts.

I was going to begin discussing what study materials I have settled on and why, but I think I will save that for my next posting.

For now, please feel free to contact me with any questions and advice. I would love to hear some great success stories and tricks anyone may have. Also, if you find that I have failed to post in a while, give me some hell. The more people I have behind me the more enjoyable it will be to report back a great score in the end!

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