Saturday, January 29, 2011

Veritas Prep Class 6; Third practice CAT

Veritas Prep Class 6 (Geometry)

I never realised that Geometry could be challenging (all you need to do is know the formulae, right?), but it is. We'll see how I go with the homework. The class took 3 hours.

MGMAT Foundations of GMAT Math

I finally finished going through the MGMAT Foundations of GMAT Math book. As I said, it is SUPER basic, but I still found it a good refresh and, perhaps more importantly, a confidence booster (having only gotten 1 question wrong out of all the questions that I attempted). I didn't go through every drill, only those that I thought would actually be helpful in terms of practice. Finishing off the book took about 4 hours.

Third practice CAT: 660, but need to improve Quant and SC

Finally, I just sat my third practice CAT using the GMATPrep software from I gave the two essays a proper go, spending about 20 minutes on each. During the Quant and Verbal, I was getting very bogged down and was expecting a very poor score. I actually took a break in the middle of Verbal to wash my face because I was mentally struggling to even process the SC and RC passages. This has been the most challenging test to date.

However, to my surprise, I scored 660 (42Q (61st percentile) / 40V (89th percentile)). In other words, I combined my best results individually on Quant and Verbal to date (as I scored 40Q on my last CAT and 41V in my first CAT).

It is a long road ahead to get from mid 600s to the 700s, and my effort will have to increase significantly. However, I am encouraged by my progress to date. Critically, I need to really push it on Quant (61st percentile is not going to get me anywhere) and sentence correction (8 of my 12 incorrect answers were from sentence correction).

I still have to do Veritas Prep Class 5 (SC1) and 6 (Geometry) using the On Demand videos, and complete the homework.

Running tally to date:
  • 53 hours of prep work (including going through materials, doing practice questions, attending class, and checking answers and mistakes; does NOT include taking practice CAT exams) since 3 January 2011.
  • 3 CAT exams.
    • 620/40Q/35V, 05.01.11 [GMATSim1]
    • 610/33Q/41V, 12.01.11 [800Score1]
    • 660/42Q/40V, 29.01.11 [GMATPrep].

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Veritas Prep Class 5 (Sentence Correction 1); MGMAT Foundations of GMAT Math

Veritas Prep Class 5 (Sentence Correction 1)

Being a native speaker, it is actual quite foreign to "learn" about adverbs, gerunds, idioms and modifiers. I haven't received much formal instruction in English grammar (grammar is not really taught in school, not even in "English"), and so far I've been relying on how things sound in determining how to answer sentence correction questions.

I think that it'll be a challenge to go through the homework and I am really not keen on learning the formal rules of written English, especially as there are subtle differences between English English, American English and Australian English. I'll just have to focus on GMAT English (whatever that is).

I haven't done the class using On Demand, and I haven't done the homework - this will be my weekend homework.

MGMAT Foundations of GMAT Math

I scored pretty poorly in my second practice CAT and said here that I'd go through the Manhattan GMAT Foundations of GMAT Math book.

I spent about 5 hours going through it today, and so far I'm up to Chapter 6 (Factions Strategy). Only a few chapters left.

So far, the concepts covered have been SUPER basic, but I guess that is the point of the book. It is a good refresher for those, like me, who are particularly rusty. Too bad MGMAT doesn't run courses in my city!!

Plan over coming days, hopefully by Monday 31 January

  • Veritas Prep Class 6 (Geometry) is tomorrow.
  • Take third practice CAT already!! I said last Sunday that I'd do it but have procrastinated.
  • Veritas Prep Class 5 and 6 On Demand and homework.
  • Finish going through MGMAT Foundations of GMAT Math.

Running tally to date:

  • 45 hours of prep work (including going through materials, doing practice questions, attending class, and checking answers and mistakes; does NOT include taking practice CAT exams) since 3 January 2011.
  • 2 CAT exams.
    • 620/40Q/35V, 05.01.11 [GMATSim1]
    • 610/33Q/41V, 12.01.11 [800Score1].

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Veritas Prep Classes 3 and 4

Sitting through class vs. On Demand videos

This past week I sat through Classes 3 (Critical Reasoning) and 4 (Algebra) of Veritas Prep without having first gone through the lessons using the On Demand recorded videos. Now that I have gone through the On Demand videos for both classes (after the physical classes), I feel much more comfortable about the content. It took about 6 hours to sit through both classes and 5 hours to go through both On Demand videos.

This is in contrast to my experience with Classes 1 (Arguments) and 2 (Arithmetic) where I went through the On Demand videos BEFORE attending the classes. In those instances, I tended to switch off during various parts of the class, in part because I had already heard the lesson.

Going forward, I will attend the class first and then go through the On Demand video for reinforcement.

By the way, I think the On Demand videos are fantastic in that they allow you to go entirely at your own pace. A 3 hour class after a day at work is very difficult to get through and I am often more focused on when the lesson will end because I am both tired and hungry between 7pm - 10pm.

One disappointing thing that happened this week was that, after I switched from the Essentials package (which comprises 2 full weekend days of instruction) to the full Veritas Prep course (which comprises 14 classes over 7 weeks, each lasting 3 hours), something went wrong with my On Demand account and it said that I had to renew my subscription for $99 (as it had apparently expired). This is now fixed up, and in any case turned out to be a blessing in disguise because, as mentioned above, I am finding it much more helpful to sit the class before turning to the On Demand video.

Problem Questions

I found the problem questions in Class 3 (Critical Reasoning) reasonably challenging but, thankfully, got most of them correct. There are a couple of questions I'd like to run through in class next week (the first half-hour of every class is dedicated to going through homework questions from the week before). It took about 1 hour to go through the problem questions.

I have found that the "SWIMMER" technique, which is a proprietary Veritas Prep technique to attack Critical Reasoning questions, is only mildly useful. Probably the most useful aspect of it is that, in "Inference" questions, it teaches you to select the answer which "MUST BE TRUE" from the inferences drawn in the body of the question.

As for the problem questions in Class 4 (Algebra), I'll do these tomorrow (and will also try to fit in a practice CAT) and update the blog in due course.

Running tally to date:

  • 37 hours of prep work (including going through materials, doing practice questions, attending class, and checking answers and mistakes; does NOT include taking practice CAT exams) since 3 January 2011.
  • 2 CAT exams.
    • 620/40Q/35V, 05.01.11 [GMATSim1]
    • 610/33Q/41V, 12.01.11 [800Score1].

Friday, January 14, 2011

Veritas Prep Class 2; Second practice CAT results

Veritas Prep Class 2

Earlier tonight, I attended Class 2: Arithmetic. I noticed that in the 3 hour class, we only got up to the start of the bulk of the problem questions. The On Demand video covered a lot (but not all) of the problem questions.

Again, I wasn't blown away but it was a useful lesson. I think I should get more sleep before the day of the relevant class and/or smash a Red Bull before class, because I am finding it difficult to stay awake.

Reminder to self: Always do the On Demand class as well as the real class in case one covers more than the other.

One of the benefits of Veritas Prep is that you can retake the course (or take another course of equal or lesser value) within 6 months of starting for any reason whatsoever.

Practice CAT results

I took another practice CAT tonight, this time using the 800score test.

I got 610 (after inputting my raw results into the 800score website), so there has been no appreciable change to my previous score from last week (620).

However, interestingly, my Quant went crashing down from 40 to 33 (39th percentile) and my Verbal went all the way up from 35 to 41 (93rd percentile).

Seems like I have one on, one off. If I could only combine them into one day's performance!

In Quant, I only got 5 out of the first 10 questions right - so I got off to a very bad start. I also noticed that I had an input error (right answer written down; wrong answer clicked). I must admit that I felt that the maths was easier on this CAT, but obviously that was because I didn't grasp the concepts being tested. I also nearly ran out of time and spent nearly 7 MINUTES on one question - I didn't even realise I spent that long until I reviewed the results.

In Verbal, I actually read the questions properly this time (last time I skimmed), and I finished with about 20 minutes to go. I am pretty happy with the Verbal since I have not done any more classes or practice or reading of any kind in Verbal since my first attempt.

Unfortunately, I accidentally moved on to the Verbal without printing out or saving my Quant results (and, critically, the explanations of the errors that I made on the Quant questions). Oh well, chalk it up to experience!

Lessons learned / to do:

  • Go through maths fundamentals again - this time, use MGMAT Foundations. Clearly something is going wrong now. Perhaps 800score's tests are harder in Quant but they can't be that much harder. 
  • After 4 minutes, cut the losses and move on.
  • Do not start the practice CAT after an exhausting 3 hours of class, which came after an exhausting day at work. If I have to start it after work, do not start at midnight. 

Running tally to date:

  • 25 hours of prep work (including going through materials, doing practice questions, attending class, and checking answers and mistakes; does NOT include taking practice CAT exams) since 3 January 2011.
  • 2 CAT exams:
    • 620/40Q/35V, 05.01.11 [GMATSim1]
    • 610/33Q/41V, 12.01.11 [800Score1].

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Arithmetic - concepts are easy, questions are not so easy; How to track mistakes without wasting time on an error log


My plan for today was to go through the rest of the Veritas Prep On Demand Lesson 2: Arithmetic today. I did so, but it took a LONG time to go through all 100+ problem questions, look through the answers and understand why and how I went wrong. I've got a LOT to learn. I didn't understand a lot of the questions (even when I read the answer), so it will be interesting whether, and to what extent, I improve on this front. I spent about 5 hours on this.

A somewhat useful "trick"that I have used in data sufficiency is to follow the old AD/BCE method. If you do not know what this is, drop a comment and I'll explain.

Error log - approach

Instead of using a tedious error log to record every single question right/wrong, categorise the question etc, I have devised a simple method to track my mistakes so that I can attempt them again at a later stage.

  • Where I've answered the question incorrectly (or I was correct through dumb luck / a guess), I have tagged a post-it to the top of the page. It doesn't matter whether I got it wrong (or was lucky) because I was careless or miscalculated or did not understand the right approach to take. 
  • I then circle the relevant question in pencil (but don't bother doing so if there's only one question on the page, which is very common in the Veritas Prep course materials - I think they did that so you can, if you wish, do your working on the same page). 
  • If, after reading the answer, I still do not understand the methodology, I move the tag to the corner of the page. For these questions, I will try to bring it to the attention of my tutor in class.

For the OG questions, I'll use an OG error log that I downloaded from Beat The GMAT. Because the questions on this error log have already been categorised and subcategorised, and the official answers already recorded, it will be a very simple task for me of inputting my answers. This seems like an efficient use of my time, rather than laboriously inputting a whole bunch of data and making judgment calls about categorising questions myself. This will also be enough to give me an indication of what areas I should focus on in the later stages of my preparation. 


Unfortunately I didn't get to sit another practice CAT, which I planned to do tonight. But it's 3am and there's no way I'm staying up for another 3 hours. I'll do this the next opportunity I get. 

I have decided to upgrade to the full course for Veritas Prep, and tomorrow's lesson will cover Lesson 2, which will be a useful refresh of what I have completed over the course of the last few days. My plan is to do the classes through the On Demand service before the actual classes - we'll see how this goes, as maybe it is better to do it the other way around.

Running tally to date:

  • 22 hours of prep work (including going through materials, doing practice questions, attending class, and checking answers and mistakes; does NOT include taking practice CAT exams).
  • 1 CAT exam. (CAT 1: 620/40Q/35V).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Veritas Prep Class 1

Earlier tonight, I attended the first class of the Veritas Prep course as a trial student.

I have a mixed impression and I am not sure what to do next (whether to upgrade to the full package or whether to stay with the Essentials package).

  • On the one hand, the lesson pace was quite slow (but apparently it speeds up rapidly over the next couple of classes) and I felt myself drifting off at times. After all, it was 2 hours 40 minutes long (we finished early) with only a 5 minute break. However, I had already sat this class using the On Demand service, so maybe that is why I was not following everything.
  • On the other hand, I was struggling with some of the questions and I don't remember struggling with any of  them using the On Demand service. Maybe it was because I was paying 100% attention using the On Demand service, replaying those parts that I wanted to go over, and letting other parts play along where I was comfortable with the material. Maybe it was because I was tired from not enough sleep last night.
  • As a general matter, I wasn't tremendously impressed with the lecturer. He was good, clearly very bright, but has not dropped any pearls of wisdom so far. At this stage, I think I prefer whoever does the On Demand lesson. That may change during the course of the next couple of weeks.

I think, at the end of the day, I have to go back to the fact that upgrading to the full package will serve a couple of purposes:

  • It will create a definite time slot twice a week for me to prepare for GMAT.
  • I will be that much more determined to succeed having shelled out the additional $. I risk slipping back or falling into bad habits if I don't have a driver.

In the next post, I'll give another update of my preparation.

My plan for next couple of days is to:

  • Go through the rest of On Demand Lesson 2 ahead of Thursday's class.
  • Sit another practice CAT exam on Wednesday night.

Running tally to date:

  • 17 hours of prep work (including going through materials, doing practice questions, attending class, and checking answers and mistakes; does NOT include taking practice CAT exams).
  • 1 CAT exam. (CAT 1: 620/40Q/35V).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

So far, so good, but I need to pick it up

I signed up to the Veritas Prep "Essentials" course, which meets over two weekend days to cover the topics at a high level.

As mentioned here, in every package, you get access to the pre-recorded On Demand lessons that cover all of the material of the full blown course, as well as all of the course books. I am also locked in to go to the first in-class lesson of the full blown Veritas Prep course (consisiting of 42 hours of in-class instruction). I thought I would trial this out and, if I like it, will upgrade my course.

Anyway, here's what's been happening so far in terms of prep work:

  • Monday, 3 January 2011 to Wednesday, 5 January 2011: Class 0: "Maths Essentials" On Demand. ~9 hours to go through the three part lesson which was split into arithmetic essentials, algebra essentials and geometry essentials. Blasts from the past included: prime numbers, LCMs, quadratic equations and trapezoids! Although the concepts were basic and probably first taught in junior high school, I haven't used them in years (maybe over a decade). I also haven't done any maths work without a calculator in well over a decade. 
  • Wednesday, 5 January 2011: To establish my baseline and get a gauge of where I am at without preparation, I attempted the first of the 15 CAT exams that came with the Veritas Package (in this case, the GMAT Simulator). I took this test between 1am and 4am and scored 620 (40Q/35V). Clearly I am in need of practice. The big surprise was that I scored better in quant than verbal. ~3 hours to take the test, and ~1 hour to go through mistakes.
  • Thursday, 6 January 2011: Class 1: "Arguments" On Demand. ~2 hours to go through the lesson.
  • Friday, 7 January 2011: Class 2: Arithmetic On Demand. ~2 hours to go through most of the lesson but I have to do all of the problem questions.

Finally, I have sourced the Official Guide 12th Ed as well as the OG GMAT Verbal Review 2nd Ed, OG GMAT Quant Review 2nd Ed. These set of books are apparently essential to GMAT success as they cover actual questions that have been retired from previous exams. Apparently, the explanations in the Official Guide 12th Ed are a little light on so I have also sourced Manhattan GMAT's OG Companion. Rounding out the materials, I have also got a copy of Manhattan GMAT's Foundations of GMAT Math Supplement.

More on all of these materials as I progress through them.

In the next post, I'll review the Veritas Prep class that I will be attending this evening.

Running tally to date: 

  • 14 hours of prep work (including going through materials, doing practice questions, attending class, and checking answers and mistakes - does NOT include taking practice CAT exams).
  • 1 CAT exam. (CAT 1: 620/40Q/35V).

Why I chose Veritas Prep this time (but almost chose Manhattan GMAT last time)

While I was overseas during the holiday break, I signed up for a Veritas Prep course (I wanted to have the books at my door by the time I got back).

Making the decision between Veritas Prep and Manhattan GMAT (the two main companies in this space and, from all that I could tell, the two leaders in the industry by a long shot) was very difficult.

Both seemed to be established GMAT preparation services offering a very similar packages. As mentioned earlier, there aren't too many unbiased sources of information out there and, of course, even out of the "genuine" reviews, everyone has differences in opinion.

Two of the more useful forums, GMAT Club (stacked full of actual test takers and generally very useful) and Beat The GMAT (more of a commercial platform of some sort but offers discounts on the various preparation packages at no cost), have been somewhat infiltrated by fanboys and seeds (on the one hand) and haters and counterseeds (on the other hand).

This link provides a very good place to start for people's opinions of Veritas Prep, Manhattan GMAT and a host of other GMAT prep programs like Kaplan, Knewton and The Princeton Review.

In a nutshell, Veritas Prep and Manhattan GMAT both offer essentially two types of courses (I'm ignoring private tutoring - if you can afford that, you probably don't need to go to business school in the first place).

  1. The first type is in-class training. There are various types of in-class training courses, from essentials courses (high level) to full blown courses (weekly or bi-weekly depending on which one) to "boot camps" (all classes crammed into a week) and the like. Veritas Prep also gives you access to the full set of pre-recorded classes (and I assume Manhattan GMAT does the same) in case you miss a class or in case you just want to go over a certain class again. Although Veritas Prep advertises that this access lasts for 6 months, it looks like I have access for something like 1 year and 3 months (hey, I'm not complaining).
  2. The second type is online self-guided training. This is cheaper and you can either select "live" online classes where you log in at specified times (and, like a real class, these are live and interactive), or you can go for the pre-recorded classes only. The key difference in the pre-recorded classes is that the Veritas Prep classes are not technically classes since there is just an instructor going through the material and telling you to pause at certain times to answer questions in the workbook. The Manhattan GMAT classes are literally classes where you see people asking questions and instructors answering them. I don't think there's much difference. It might be useful to see what bothered other people and how those questions were answered. It might also be annoying though. In either type, you get the full set of written materials and access to practice exams.

Why did I ultimately sign up for Veritas Prep? At the end of the day, it came down to practicality - Veritas Prep offered in-class training in my city. I do not have enough self-discipline to learn the whole GMAT course by myself. Therefore, I knew that I had to enroll for some kind of class to force myself to get into gear. In other words, I didn't really have a choice. Having said that, the decision was only between Veritas Prep and Manhattan GMAT (having whittled it down to these two from the plethora of choices out there).

Manhattan GMAT reckons that Veritas Prep's rapid expansion (Veritas Prep started in 2002 out of Yale and already services 60 cities; Manhattan GMAT has been around for longer and does not service nearly as many) means one thing: it is either a "very impressive" feat or other things have been sacrificed, eg, quality of teaching and standards in hiring. I think that is Manhattan GMAT drinking too much hater-aide.

On a final note, a couple of years ago I signed up for free one hour lectures from both Vertias Prep and Manhattan GMAT. I think you can still do that now.

I also wasted a whole of time doing a meticulous comparison based on a thorough reading of their websites and any online review I could get a hold of.

The point of this story is that I remember coming out of that process thinking that Manhattan GMAT was slightly better and and more useful (especially after sitting both free classes), and proceeded to email them about their packages on offer. Also, there were no Veritas Prep classes in my city starting any time soon, so that may have factored into my thinking (ie, if there were no courses in my city, all I could compare were the materials on offer and what people said about the pre-recorded classes - on the basis of those alone, and my experience from the free lectures, I thought that Manhattan GMAT had the edge, but only slightly).

In the next post, I'll give a rundown of the preparation that I've done so far.

Monday, January 10, 2011


For a couple of years now, I've been wanting to sit the GMAT exam as part of my medium term plan to transition out of my current job. Unfortunately, I have never got around to preparing for the exam. Now, I'm determined to make it work. In the past year, three people that I know left their jobs and each started at prestigious Ivy League business schools in the US. Their success has been an encouraging factor, and, although I don't expect to achieve the same sky high GMAT scores as they each did, I'm confident that I can at least give it a decent stab.

I have started this page for the following reasons:

  • I want a record of what I have done, primarily for tracking purposes. I could log it all in a journal but then again I could lose the journal. I want to hold myself accountable for what I've done and for what I say I will do.
  • I read here that it is a good strategy to "put it out there", tell people, and make it easy for other sticky beaks to follow your progress. It worked very well for a friend of mine who wanted to stick with a training regime and I hope that I will have similar results.
  • In proscratinating and Googling various things about the GMAT exam and preparation courses, I couldn't find many unbiased sources of information. There are a lot of forums out there but they are full of, for lack of better phrases, fanboys and seeds (on the one hand) and haters and counterseeds (on the other hand). People seem to either love or hate the two main GMAT preparation companies out there, Veritas Prep or Manhattan GMAT, and there's a bunch of malicious rumours and gossip that goes back and forth. Hopefully my account will serve as both informative and unbiased.
  • Sometimes I find stuff (resources or what not) that I want to have a look at later and I am finding that I am losing the links because I am doing some of the preparation work at home and some at the office. I intend to throw stuff on here to serve the above two purposes, but also so that I can come back here to one place and click through.

In the next post, I'll outline why I chose the preparation course that I chose.