Monday, 25 April 2011

Park life

All the people, so many people... :)  Okay, I'm not about to break into song, but I have spent the entire day down in the park getting mildly irradiated, watching people wander by and revising DS-type questions from the OG12.

Happy to say that I've flown through them, up to about 60 so far - luckily I've seen so many other questions since my last run-through of the book I'm actually having to think about the reasoning behind the answers instead of playing a game of 'lets remember what I said last time'.

Unfortunately, I can remember RC/SC sections fairly well and so when I come to revising these sections again I'll need lots of new source material and original questions to play with.

The thought of spending another $300 on the GMAT is somewhat sickening, especially finding myself out of contract and seeking work - perhaps I'll spend tomorrow chasing up potential jobs (as a lack of cash may indeed be as restrictive to future MBA plans as a deficient GMAT quant score)...  fingers crossed for tomorrow!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

References + more studies....

Well, I'm a month away from the Fulbright scholarship deadline and have just been pinged a note by the system that two out of three references are secured + submitted! :)  Next week I'll polish off the remaining essays I've previously worked up to a decent draft stage, leaving just the final reference to chase.  No sweat!

These last few days I've been hammering the quant questions available through the forums on - lots of fun (!).  Was stumped by one particular combination question that asked:

"There are three secretaries who work for four departments. If each of the four departments has one report to be typed out, and the reports are randomly assigned to a secretary, what is the probability that all three secretaries are assigned at least one report? "

What had me really stumped was that once I thought I had the answer, it was significantly different from the OA.  As the OA looked a bit dodgy, I thought I'd trawl google for suggested solutions and answers and was somewhat dismayed to find a number of different answers posted by various tutors and quant-proficient individuals.....

Being something of an excel geek, I then decided to check this out long-hand myself.... as I thought, the OA offered in the gmatclub download was wrong.  Nevermind, the combinatronics document is otherwise a good resource and my the learning experience has been enriched somewhat by having to prove why my thinking was right :) :) here's my final answer ......

Spoiler:  There are 3^4 (or 3*3*3*3) possible combinations = each option therefore is 1/81.

You then choose 1 of three secretaries (3C1) to receive two reports (4C2), and then work out the number of permutations to assign the remaining 2 reports to the 2 remaining secretaries (2P2).

3C1 * 4C2 * 2P2 = 36

Answer: = 36/81 = 4/9

Now it's time to cycle down to the lake, enjoy the sunshine and run through some DS problems.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Blown fuse

I've somehow blown the circuits in my mental 'maths-fusebox' and am now fudging even the simplest of calcs...  time to hit MGMAT's quant guide and start from the ground up :-/

Hopefully I'll get this text polished off in the next week and I can get attempt #2 booked into the diary before everyone descends on my flat for the royal wedding :) :)

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Keeping it up - the revenge of the GMAT :)

Broke my promise to myself on Thursday and ended up in the Fulbright library, running through MGMAT quant books :) :)  Since my score in the math section was almost the definition of 'average' I figured I'll really need to brush up on DS, properties of n! and so on before launching the bid for a spot at one of the top 5.

That said, 680 should be good enough for most business schools out there, so will proceed with applications for scholarships and other schools who are already a good fit, whilst plugging away at my math skills.

Talking of schools with good fits, I'm not sure about whether I should actually apply for LBS... the pros are that it:  is literally next door (so no relocation costs etc), can provide access to 'the City' for projects / internships and so on, is ranked #1 by the FT and comparatively highly in other publications this year.

The cons, on the other hand are: by being 'next door' there isn't the comparable expansion of perspectives and personal development that is offered by schools abroad,  funding is very difficult to come by for UK based MBA's - it will basically be a full bank loan at a rather painful rate, and having attended a lecture (+information evening) there I'm not yet onvinced it provides the teaching environment I'd be comfortable in.... I'm quite the proponent of the case method and find the standard lectures (such as those offered by most courses here in the UK) do not make full use of the opportunity to learn from other perspectives offered in the room.

Decisions decisions....

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Post-GMAT cooldown

Well, that wasn't so bad - albeit I fluffed up on the Maths... just how many data sufficiency questions can you ask on obsure powers of x??  Q40, V42 - overall 680.  

Whilst I'm quite happy to tackle Harvard with this, I might try a re-sit in a month or two just to see if I can bring that quant up a bit... or maybe just throw myself into some investment management studies in the meantime (as most of it's on the RC, I'll sit the IMC in the coming months and count it as useful prep)

oh and happy birthday to me.... will celebrate by not studying for the next 24hrs... lol


Edit: (20/04/11) -- Definately need improvement to Q45+ for HBS... resit is inevitable :)

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

GMAT studies (7) - one day to go

Well, I've been rattling through more online prep material (GMAT club has a good few online tests to try out, as well as an active discussion community) for the last few days and feeling faily relaxed  - I'm not expecting to get 800 (there's a lot more to life than being able to work out all the values of X in a formula that won't work in 10 seconds - great if you can do it, but I'm pretty sure that's why computers and junior analysts exist), but pretty confident that I can pull off a 700+

Some new free stuff to look out for: GMAT Club, Veritas, MBA toolkit and BeatTheGMAT apps for the iPhone.

Just spent the last few hours running through my final practice CAT, only had 20 seconds on my last math question (timing is getting there!!) and got a 730 for my efforts... okay mr test, I'm ready for you! ;)

Friday, 8 April 2011

GMAT studies (6)

Buoyed by a 730 on the last practice I took a look at the 'tougher' questions on - focusing on Manhattan GMAT and Kaplan's regular 'challenge' posts.

Oh my... if anyone can do these in 2 minutes, they deserve an 800.  I'd hope that these questions are not representative of potential 700+ level questions as they take me at least 10-15 minutes (if not longer).

5 days to go, 2 practice tests left....

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Fulbright Commission (2)

As posted earlier, I've spent the day down at the Fulbright Commission library to read up on various schools, to see what a good reference letter is supposed to look like (to give pointers to my referees) and to run through a number of practice questions from the vast collection of prep books they have over there :)

The number of silly mistakes being made on the quant section is still worrying me, mistakes that I hope not to repeat next week as the exam isn't the cheapest one I've sat.....  time will tell and there are still two practice tests to get through.

Also met two nice folk who were planning to take their undergraduate degrees in the US - one of them had been wait-listed for Harvard and both were looking seriously at the funding options available to them.  It's pretty amazing that despite the high headline figures often quoted for the top universities there are so many opportunities for having the course funded without knocking on the local bank manager's door (and probably being charged for the honour of doing so).

I saw a neat trick of simplification the other day - a combination question where you knew how many you choose (2) and you knew the number of combinations (15), just not the overall sample size

starting with: nC2 = 15

n! / 2! (n-2)! = 15    <<< the formula for nCr where r=2 and we know the result = 15

n * (n-1) * (n-2)!  /   2! (n-2)! = 15  <<< as n! = n*(n-1)*(n-2)*(n-3)....*(n-n)  or simply n*(n-1)*(n-2)!

(n^2 - n) / 2 = 15  <<< as we have (n-2)! on top and bottom, we can eliminate to leave n(n-1), which multiplies out to n squared minus n

n^2 - n = 30

n = 6

GMAT studies (5)

Two more practice tests, 680 and 700 respectively.... I'm feeling a little better about things as it's a clear improvement on the first one!  Still too slow on the maths though - really need to get the timing sorted out asap as I'd hate to miss out on a 700 just for being a little bit slow!

Off to the Fulbright library today - application is well underway, draft essays are starting to look good and references are starting to come in! :)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

GMAT studies (4)

Just finished the Kaplan online practice test and review seminar - overall I thought it was very good.

The best part is the handling of the test itself.  It runs pretty much as the GMATPrep software is presented - standard blue layout, question / answer formats as they are presented in the real thing - a good range of difficulties too. The advantage here is that you get a good breakdown of where you went wrong, how long each question took you (good to spot those questions that take 7 minutes where only 2 are available!) as well as answer explanations in a follow-up email. 

Of value, but less so (I found) is the interactive session a few days later with one of their instructors, in the company of several other students (also attending online) - which is a format representative of their online teaching environment and so useful for those contemplating this method of tuition. 

I found the session was well delivered, both technically (streamed online) and professionally, with a friendly instructor who (whilst obviously having done this many times before) really handled the session well, even when students (i.e. me) chip in with comments during the session.   

The only down-side is that relatively few pre-selected test questions are touched upon in this session, as the time allocated for the session is 90 minutes, the remaining portion of which runs through their standard explanation of the GMAT format which I've now seen a good few times at other events.

That said, I did spot a new way of analysing the question types, a way which would've saved me about 10 minutes on my answer-time (getting all the answers down in the time limit is now looking much more achievable). In summary, it's another great free opportunity to get a practice test under the belt.

Fulbright Commission

Having been investigating finance options for quite a while, I was delighted to discover the Fulbright Commission ( who have a range of resources available for students looking to study in the US, as well as various scholarships that one may apply for.

The aims of the organisation are to promote peace and understanding through cultural exchange, an ideal I'm fully supportive of having been actively involved with AIESEC in the past - who similarly promote cultural understanding through the exchange of students on work placements around the world. (a big 'HEY AIESEC' to anyone out there!)

That said, the situation in the US is rather attractive compared with that of the UK anyway, considering the availability of funding direct from US schools in the form of fellowships and loans.  Hopefully the UK will catch on to this idea quickly, as whilst we see tuition fees increasing for the undergraduate population we also see a reduced willingness from the banks to lend sufficient funds to students.

The deadlines for applications to the Commission are varied, depending on which of the schemes one applies to - though it is worth noting that key deadlines for 2012 intakes are swiftly approaching.

Good luck to anyone else out there applying for scholarships!!.

GMAT studies (3)

Another day and yet another practice CAT - pretty much the same performance on the maths (timed out yet again), though aced the verbal.  It's amazing the effect that time pressure has on performance, as looking back over the wrong/missed questions it's clear that most of them were actually 'easy' but were relying on the candidate to spot simple tricks...

Example sufficiency question:
What is a+b?
(1) (a^2-b^2) / (a-b) = 5
(2) (a+b)^2 = 25

answer = A. (a^2-b^2) simplifies to (a+b)(a-b), which divided by (a-b) leaves a+b=5   ... sufficient
(a+b)^2 = 25 means a+b= +5 or a+b= -5 ... insufficient