Category Archives: Nate Services

I provide a few services that are worth money. They are below.

Mission: GRE

My score: Writing 4.5, 81%ile, Verbal 164, 94%ile. Quantitative 161, 76%ile.

GRE Basics, Official Source

The GRE is made, administered, and scored by Educational Testing Services, ETS. ETS is the largest private nonprofit educational testing organization in the world and it is based in New Jersey with a Princeton address. GRE stands for Graduate Record Examinations.

Exam Structure and Prep Material

ETS provides a lot of prep material, click here. In my one week of preparation, I did not venture beyond their site and the free material they provide.

Is the GRE adaptive? That question is answered here on the ETS site.

When will I get my score?

Check the website for current information, but they showed me an “unofficial” quant / verbal score at the test center. I had to remember it if I wanted to know what it was. They said 10-15 days, I received my score with the writing score included on the 9th day after the test.

GRE Strategy by Section

  • Mark questions throughout each section. Better to mark too many, as in 5-7 of 20 rather than not mark any at all. Being able to return is a big advantage. If you finish with extra time, you want to be able to utilize the extra time productively by returning to marked questions.
  1. First 5 minutes: pick 3 examples and categorize them first thing.
  2. Ensure that you can support your argument before you start making it.
  3. 25 min remaining: start writing.
  4. 10-5 minutes remaining, you should be starting the closing paragraph.
  5. Time expiring: finish the closing paragraph and return to edit until time is up.
  • 30 minutes is enough time to write, but not time to make huge changes once you have started writing. Picking examples first is critical. It is easier to adjust your argument to your examples than it is to think of examples once you have decided on your argument.
  • Throughout the essay, glance at the prompt and ensure you are sticking to the specific subject and answering exactly what they ask. You should spend the whole time adding relevant support to your stance.
  • Practice-write essays while studying. Even though they aren’t scored it’s worth getting an idea of how long 30 minutes feels like when writing. To review, read the examples of 6 and maybe 5.5 scores along with the grader’s explanations. I found them informative.


  • On the vocabulary questions, the correct choices will be supported by the sentence around it. The sentence fill-in questions are good ones to return to because it is easy to err on just one of the three words and get the whole question wrong.
  • Reading comprehension that describes confusing locations or categories of items, make a map or diagram.
  • Reading comprehension that presents two sides of an argument, jot quick marker words of each side in a diagram to keep opposing sides separate and like sides together. Possibly jot a quick flow of the argument.


  • They give you a calculator on the GRE. Remember to use it! Complex response checking becomes much quicker!

GRE Time Strategy

The GRE being adaptive per section, your time strategy depends on which category you fall into: 1. below average, 2. average, 3. above average. If you are below average, the earlier sections, 2 and 3, will be more difficult. If you are above average, the later sections, 4 and 5, will be more difficult. On the more difficult sections, you should expect to skip (or guess quickly) some questions to return later if you have time. On the easy sections, you can proceed deliberately and be very careful to check your work because you will likely have extra time.

GRE Contrasted with GMAT (My Perception)

Because of indecision, I took the GRE followed by the GMAT 11 days later. I am therefore somewhat qualified to compare and contrast. They are both standardized tests, mostly multiple-choice, with writing sections. Now to contrast:

  • The GRE is not as time-intense. For this reason, I have listed a few more detailed note-taking strategies that take some more time. Unlike the GMAT, on the GRE there may be time to utilize more detailed notes.
  • GRE verbal is more focused on vocabulary, while GMAT heavier on grammar. On the GRE, honestly, they use many words I don’t know and I miss questions because of it. On the GMAT, some of the sentences to analyze are lengthy brain-twisters with just minute differences among the answers. They are difficult, but on the GMAT I rarely see words I don’t know.
  • The GRE verbal correct answers seem more straightforward. They are not necessarily easier but there are a lot fewer instances of selecting the “best” answer with multiple possibilities like on the GMAT.
  • The GRE math is more straightforward. I dare say “easier.”
  • They give you a basic calculator on the GRE, not on the GMAT.

GRE Study Diary 2020. Test Day = Monday, 3 February 2020

27 Jan, 7 days to test: registered for the test. Looked up location. Started notes right here on this post you’re looking at. Read a description and viewed samples of each question type.

28 Jan, 6 days to test: took un-timed practice test throughout the day. The essays seem pretty straightforward – stay on subject!

Score : Verbal 163, 93%ile. Quantitative 166, 89%ile.

Score data from ETS. Notice that 4% of testers ace the quantitative. Highest %ile is 96.

29 Jan, 5 days to test: None, applied to master’s programs.

30 Jan, 4 days to test: None, applied to master’s programs.

31 Jan, 3 days to test: took second practice test. Of note, I forgot that a calculator is provided so that certainly impacted my math score by wasting time. I ran out of time with 2 questions remaining. At this point, I suppose the lesson learned is use the calculator, do your best, and I’m as ready as I’m gonna be. Of course, I consider my essays perfect but the computer has no opinion on that.

Score: Verbal 160, 86%ile. Quantitative 161, 76%ile.

1 Feb, 2 days to test: None.

2 Feb, 1 day to test: Re-took just the math portion of test 1, this time with time and with the calculator that I forgot to use the first time. This time I got all 40 questions correct for a 170 (calculator helped but also helped to already have seen the questions).

3 Feb, Test Day

Ate a huge breakfast and I’m glad I did. There were 6 sections:

  1. Writing
  2. Verbal 1
  3. Quantitative 1
  4. Verbal 2
  5. Quantitative 2
  6. Verbal 3

Score: Writing 4.5, 81%ile, Verbal 164, 94%ile. Quantitative 161, 76%ile.

4.5 / 6 on writing – what?!?! My essays were better than that! That’s what I always said in English class anyway.

Overall, good enough I think. Pay attention to time on the second section of each test!! I think my strategy was good, especially focusing on food. You gotta get brain food during a test that long. The only strategy “mistake” I made I would say was starting the second math section a bit slow – or a bit too deliberately. I ran out of time and that is not good.

The second sections of each portion clearly indicated that I did well on the first – they were very difficult. On verbal 2 there were many vocabulary words I did not know and on which I was forced to guess. On math 2, I left 2 or 3 questions unfinished. Verbal 3 was considerably easier again and I finished it with 7 minutes remaining. It was enough time to review all of my answers and I did, I believe, correct one error I made so I was glad I returned to check.

Test Day List

  • ETS, What to Bring Test Day
  • Passport
  • Snacks:
    • Nutsbars
    • Bananas
    • Gatorade or juice.
  • Eat and coffee at 1 of many restaurants just east of test center.
  • Test center: Rua George Eastman Suite 98, Sao Paulo, BR 05690000
    • Close to estação Morumbi
    • ~1 hour from Bela Vista by Metro, 40 minutes by Uber.
  • Leave apartment at ~6:30 to arrive near test center ~7:45 in time for breakfast and coffee, test starts at 9.
  • Write down the codes of the schools you want to send the score to! If they do not allow you to reference it, you at least may be able to remember better.

GMAT Printable Strategy Sheet

For general GMAT prep information, click here.

Overall Strategies and Notes

  • Write out ‘A’ for each question with space for B, C, D, E, to use process of elimination explicitly. The small time commitment per question is worth the big time savings on difficult questions when you really need the visual aid to process of elimination.
  • Using a time strategy is important to keep on track. A simple time strategy is under the heading for each section below. Must be simple otherwise you are wasting time and energy calculating time.
  • Even though the GMAT is an adaptive test, do not try to evaluate your progress based on the difficulty of the questions you see. Don’t freak out if you see an easy question. There are unscored experimental questions interwoven so you may be seeing an easy experimental question. Just answer them right! (Princeton Review)

Strategies by Question Type

The specific categories of verbal questions are straight from the Kaplan GMAT 800 study book.

Verbal Reasoning, 36 questions 65 minutes

Time plan: arrive at question 15, 25, 36 at the 40, 20, 1 minute remaining marks.

  • Critical Reasoning, 7 types ~12 questions
    1. Numbers and Stats
    2. Surveys and Studies
    3. Scope Shifts
    4. Causation
    5. Alternative Explanations
    6. Explain / Paradox
    7. Odd Man Out

Critical reasoning questions appear on the LSAT as well. “LSAT recycle”

  • Reading Comprehension, 3 types ~12 questions
    1. Business
    2. Social Science
    3. Natural Science

Draw a quick horizontal line for each paragraph of a passage and jot a word or two describing the purpose of each paragraph. This helps organize the information and helps return for reference.

Common error: sometimes GMAT will ask for something that the passage “implied” or “can be inferred.” Sometimes I will ignore the correct answer because I believe I remember it being actually explicitly stated when actually it was only implied. If you think explicitly stated, it has good chance to be right answer, go back and check.

If you don’t understand an answer option at all, don’t pick it just because you can’t find the right answer and you assume you are stupid and don’t understand.

Sometimes correct answers will have a word that is not found in the passage and you have to make a small leap to the answer.

“React” means “take issue with” or “disagree.” Hence “reactionary” movement WRT revolutions et cetera.

Don’t get tired of searching because you can’t eliminate all wrong options. Find the right one!

  • Sentence Correction, 8 types ~12 questions
    1. Modifiers
    2. Idioms
      • “in contrast to” not “in contrast “with”
      • “sum lower than” not “sum less than”
    3. Parallelism
    4. Comparisons
      • Comparisons must be grammatically consistent.
      • Must be direct comparisons, apples to apples.
    5. Verb Tense
    6. Subject / Verb Agreement
    7. Pronouns
      • A pronoun cannot have multiple antecedents to possibly refer to.
    8. Expression

Sentence Correction Priorities

  1. Must be grammatically correct.
  2. Clarity, especially clarity of what pronouns / adjectives / modifiers refer to.
  3. Succinctness
  4. Active over passive
  5. Maintain meaning but sometimes the sentence must become more specific to be clear. More specific is not considered altered meaning and therefore okay.

Choice A is always the unchanged sentence. As soon as there is an error, eliminate A. Even if A is possible, the others are equal possibilities. Favor the better answer, not the unchanged answer.

You can select an answer with a generic noun in place of a pronoun if the sentence should have a noun. E.g. “Jessica” in place of “she.”

A semi-colon can only separate two phrases that can stand as independent and complete sentences. If semi-colon, then a period must work also.

Kaplan GMAT 800 page 161 question 27 says to change the wording because “are bringing” is “unnecessary,” and therefore change to just “bring.” It is grammatically correct but they alter why? Maybe to be more succinct? The top of page 176 says, ” an unnecessary alteration is always wrong.” These seem to contradict.

Be able to identify modifiers and participles.

If 3-4 of the options say almost the same thing, best to pick the most specific because it will likely be considered more clear. This sometimes appears to alter the meaning but more specific is not necessarily considered altered meaning.

Error: Pronoun – noun agreement. On question 65 I selected the pronoun “their” to refer to the country of Turkey. Incorrect.

Subjunctive: 1. Desire / wish, 2. “if” senetences, 3. “that …”

“fewer” and “number of” go with countable objects while “less than” and “amount of” go with non-quantifiable

Quantitative Reasoning (AKA Math), 31 questions 62 minutes

Time plan: arrive at question 12, 22, 31 at the 40, 20, 1 minute remaining marks.

Optimal time per question ~~ 1-3 minutes. Less than one minute, and you should check for a tricky question. More than 3 minutes and you should move on because you are likely doing it wrong. More than 4 minutes, emergency jettison! Cut your losses and move on.

Quantitative “Shortcuts”

These are not really shortcuts, but even though you could solve many of these types of problems by “figuring them out,” you get a higher score by maximizing your time by knowing the rules for these specific items. The following concepts are highly represented on the GMAT:

  • Permutations and Combinations, familiarity with the formulas and concepts is critical.
  • Double something squared is x4. Double something cubed is x8.
  • Remember that square root has a positive and negative result.
  • Any number squared is always positive.
  • For inequalities, the only time the sign flips is when you multiply (or divide of course) by a negative number.
  • Least common multiples, greatest common factors, and prime numbers.
  • Division remainders, and remainder tricks.
  • Sequences, arithmetic mean, median.
    • In any evenly-spaced sequence, mean = median = first + last term / 2.
    • Arithmetic mean = sum of sequence / number of terms. GMAT often refers to the sum of a sequence and requires you to recognize that it can be taken as a variable by itself ignoring its component sequence.
  • Absolute values


  • Straight Math ~8 questions?
  • Word Problems ~8 questions?
    • Pay attention to exactly what question is asking: part vs. part of whole, fraction remaining vs. time remaining at rate to finish, ratio vs. fraction.
    • Make a table sometimes for multiple quantities of multiple categories within a group.
    • Use very clear variables with lots of subscripts as required!
    • Common error: not separating first period cost (or any fixed value) from ongoing cost (or any repeated value).
  • Data Sufficiency ~15 questions?

Integrated Reasoning, 12 questions 30 minutes

(not part of main score, added to test ~2013)

Time plan: arrive at question 4, 8, 12 at the 20, 10, 1 minute remaining marks. Of note also, finish 6 at 15 minutes remaining. The halfway point is hard to ignore as you look at the clock ticking.

Analytical Writing Assessment, 1 question 30 minutes

(not part of main score)

Mission: Crush the GMAT

My score: Verbal 40, 90%ile. Quantitative 44, 49%ile. Total 690, 85%ile. Writing 6.0, 88%ile. IR 8, 92%ile.

Didn’t crush it, but did alright!

For printable strategy sheet, click here.

GMAT Basics, Official Sources

  • GMAC = Graduate Management Admissions Council. GMAC makes the GMAT and also advises business schools in utilizing the GMAT for their admissions process.
  • Pearson VUE is the Minnesota-based company that physically administers the GMAT, operates the testing centers.
  • GMAT = Graduate Management Admissions Test
  • both the GMAC and Pearson sites link to has many resources for test takers including registration and practice tests.

Exam Structure

Don’t take my word for it. Now that you know who administers the test and where they post information, go straight to the official source, is Official

According to the Princeton Review course book, the GMAT makers have never allowed outside companies to use actual past questions for practice. This tells me that my first source for practice questions is whatever is available on should be your first source! Fortunately they sell official practice exams and thousands of questions. Do their questions have good explanations? Don’t know yet. They also sell the “Official Guide” in electronic and print formats. also happens to be the cheapest.

I would take only official practice exams from The GMAT is so detailed it would be hard to reproduce without the official version. Also, there are 6 of them available and being computer-adaptive they are not the same every time. The most practice exams you could realistically take would be one per day and one per week is more realistic.

Prep Material I Used

  • official practice tests
  • Official Guides
  • Kaplan GMAT 800 9th Edition (2014)
  • Manhattan Prep video of first class available for free.
  • Princeton Review _____

Unofficial Prep Courses Reviewed

These courses are all unofficial. I did not review because it needs no review. is your official source. Only where it lacks should you seek further information.

Kaplan GMAT 800 was my favorite book. It is geared toward good test takers. They talk about “an 800 test taker” throughout the material and they give practice questions that are supposed to model the most difficult test questions. Their answer explanations are very good. I spent the first 3 weeks with this book. I read the answer explanations even if I got the example problem right because they give compressed ways of thinking and shortcuts that make you more efficient and make the material more familiar.

The Princeton Review spends a lot of time on very basic testing techniques. It even mentions “fairness” a few times. This to me is coddling test takers. Is there a right answer to each question? Do all test takers get the same test? Then the test is “fair,” move on.

According to Wikipedia, The Princeton Review is not associated with Princeton University.

One preparation technique I did not take advantage of is an in-person class. I heard this was effective for friends I talked to and I do believe this could be helpful together with self-study. It did not fit into my situation. I heard the Manhattan Prep is the best in-person class. Manhattan Prep is partnered with Kaplan according to Kaplan’s website. I watched the Manhattan Prep first class that they provide as a free video online. I can tell the class would have been waaay to slow for me. The first class has a good description of how the test is scored and especially how it relates to your time strategy.

EMPOWERgmat has a lot of online presence and I admit spent a lot of time looking at them because their reviews are good. I was close to buying the course then I read a Quora post that said they are heavy on marketing in the GMAT prep groups and reviews but light on actual GMAT prep. After I read this, their presence made sense. I do not know how they claim to have obtained 6 official practice exams when The Princeton Review says GMAC has never allowed this, but who cares? officially offers 6 practice exams for cheaper. I imagine it is not a coincidence that offers 6 exams and EMPOWERgmat claims to offer 6. I really do not know. I moved on.

There is a “Manhattan Review” that does GMAT test prep, not to be confused with Manhattan Prep. They are separate. I don’t know much about this Manhattan Review. It seems Manhattan Prep is the one you want.


I have heard people say, “I have to listen to music while I study,” or “I like to have the TV on while I study.” These translate to me to, “I prefer to listen to music and watch TV than to study.” Of course you prefer music and TV to studying, so do I. If you want to do well, study. Don’t listen to music or watch TV.

The GMAT as an Adaptive Test, Your Testing Rate, and Your Time Strategy

The GMAT is famous for being an “adaptive test.” There is a mountain of information out there about what this means, and it is mostly about how it complicates things and makes things more difficult. I would argue that although it is true that there are difficulties to an adaptive test, the main difference is with respect to time and rate. If you recognize this and use it to your advantage, you can implement an effective strategy and you can glean valuable information during the test with an awareness of your rate of answering.

Normal versus Adaptive

Normal tests test your ability to be correct on a fixed number of fixed questions, which means a fixed amount of test material. All tests have a time limit, but a normal test usually has a max time long enough to reasonably finish. If you are very good on a normal test, you can finish early and still know that you did your best. You can even get a perfect score. If your knowledge is complete and you do not make mistakes, you get a perfect score. Finishing early is common, but the speed is not scored. On an adaptive test, the test makers – GMAC in this case – can adjust the amount of time per question to adapt to each test taker by making the questions easier or more difficult based on your responses. Therefore, on an adaptive test like the GMAT, you process a variable amount of test material in what is designed to be a fixed amount of time – the max time. The test adjusts for you to finish with zero seconds remaining by adjusting the test material. Again, this contrasts with a normal test, where you process a fixed amount of material in less than a maximum time.

Information from Your Testing Rate

You can glean information from your testing rate. What I mean by this is, the GMAC test makers are good at their job. They know based on your responses how to give you a problem that takes you about 2 minutes to solve. Therefore, if you arrive at an answer in 10 seconds, be suspicious and check for a trick or something you missed. You are rarely correct in 10 seconds. If you think you see the answer in 10 seconds, invest another 10 seconds verifying yourself before answering and moving on. If you are reaching 3 or 4 minutes on a problem, you are likely doing it wrong and you should select among the answers you haven’t eliminated and move on. They say, “Nothing good happens after midnight!” Similarly, nothing good happens after 4 minutes on the GMAT. Move on. Time is scored just as much as being correct on the GMAT; use time wisely.

One Small Set of Time / Rate Testing Data

When I started timing myself, but I was not yet using my time as information, look at the first 15 practice questions I answered:

  1. Wrong in 4:20
  2. Right in 3:55
  3. Wrong in 0:10
  4. Wrong in 1:00
  5. Right in 2:00
  6. Wrong in 1:00
  7. Right in 2:40
  8. Wrong in 4:20
  9. Right in 2:40
  10. Wrong in 1:00
  11. Right in 1:20
  12. Right in 2:30
  13. Right in 0:55
  14. Right in 2:25
  15. Right in 2:20

I got 9 / 15 correct. Notice, all 6 of the wrong answers were under 1:00 or over 4:00. 7 / 9 of the right answers were in the range of 1:20 – 2:40. There is clearly a “sweet spot.” Is there some confirmation bias because I “quit” after 4 minutes? Possibly, but it is still the right strategy. Even if I could have been correct in 6-10 minutes, it is a risky waste of time.

Good Test Takers “Crippled” on Adaptive Tests

Good test takers know when to skip a question to return to it later. Good test takers use information from one question to answer other questions on the test. This is not possible on the GMAT because you cannot skip questions and return. This “cripples” good test takers theoretically. However, I would argue that you can get an “extra” advantage by being at least passively aware of your rate of testing. On a “normal” test, maybe you can take the test in the right order, skipping around as necessary. On the GMAT, you should take the test at the correct rate, recognizing a tricky question that didn’t take long enough and educated guessing at the onset of diminishing returns on complex problems.


Good test takers like to believe that standardized tests are entirely indicative of intelligence, “smartness,” and future success. There is some truth to this or they would not administer the test. However, there are a few nuggets of information that are WAAAYYY over-represented on the GMAT when compared to their actual value in real life. Similarly, if you have played Scrabble, you know that two-letter words are WAAAYYY over-represented in Scrabble compared to their actual use in real life. Just like knowing two-letter words in Scrabble, you must know the reliable “shortcuts” for GMAT questions. See the printable strategy sheet for a list. Even if you are “smart enough” to figure it out, you need the shortcut. You must get the answer in time. You must get the answer efficiently. Correct in 2 minutes is better than correct in 6 minutes.

Test Day Preparation

On an adaptive test, you must test under your personal optimal test conditions on test day. You must eat properly, have enough sleep, and take the test the right time of day to get your maximum score. If you are under less-than-optimal conditions, you will get a less-than-optimal score for you. The adaptive test does not test your brain’s grasp of knowledge or information. The adaptive test tests your brain’s meaningful output for a specific two-hour period of a specific day. You must maximize your brain’s output for the two hours by preparing properly.

Update June 2023: I learned about how diet affects brain function by listening to an interview of Mark Sisson, who talks about ketones, hunger management, and brain function a lot. I believe it is important when preparing for mental challenges to push through hunger without carbs, sugar, or any high-glycemic-index food. It’s important to learn to operate on ketones instead of insulin. Since listening to that interview, I experimented with my diet as I was writing challenging computer code during early-AM hours. I found I am most effective in the morning before eating any carbs and the slight distraction of dull morning hunger is far outweighed by the clarity of a mind not “partying” on sweet sweet sugar and carbs. Maybe I’m just a morning person, but I believe anybody with the discipline to take on a mental challenge first thing in the morning would be pleased with their brain’s output during that time of clarity and ketones.

A Standard Note Taking Strategy

The GMAT is adaptive and fluid, but the types of questions are very standardized. You should have a specific strategy for dealing with each type of problem including exactly what you will write down and how. The test is very heavy on organized efficient information processing, so keeping information organized is critical. Often the answer is obvious, but hidden among extraneous information. If you have the information organized, you can reach the answer fast, which is just as important as being correct.

You must stick to your note taking strategy. You will be tempted to try to answer a question that looks easy without writing down your standard quick notes. By the time you realize you cannot answer in your head, you have wasted time, which means you already lowered your score. Start each question off right with good quick notes. Process the GMAT efficiently with standardized note taking.

Notes make every piece of information you process valuable. Say for example you can only narrow down to two possibilities. As you frustrate yourself over the remaining two possible answers – forgetting which two answers are possible! – and decide to guess because of time, if you have taken good notes, then you know for certain which two answers to guess from and raise your odds of answering correctly in the minimum possible time, efficiently. Get credit for all of your work with good notes.

The GMAT is a Brain Race

The GMAT tests the speed at which you process information. To this extent, it is a race. However! We all know that racing leads to mistakes. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Disciplined speed is key. Efficiency is the name of the game. Easy question ≠ easy and easy question ≠ fast. Easy question = time for the next question = time for you to score points on higher-difficulty questions later, but you have to get it correct first.

Practice with a Timer, Always

Time is such an important factor on the GMAT, you should always practice with a timer. On each practice question, you should know whether you were right or wrong and you should know how long it took you. Whether you were right or wrong, you should be looking for ways to be right faster. Time is score. You can only improve your rate and efficiency if you know what your time is.

Critically, practicing with a timer is more fun.

Use GMAT Testing Material to Take the GMAT!

The GMAT quantitative test has a bunch of rate questions on it. Use testing rate in your GMAT testing strategy! Who ever said this stuff doesn’t have real-life applications?!?!

Practical Time / Rate Strategy

You want to “think like a test maker,” but at the end of the day, you are a test taker so you want to implement a practical strategy. My printable strategy page is here. As you can see, time is just a small portion and is very simple, but it is important and you should always be passively aware of the time.

Conclusion and Summary of GMAT Time

This looks like a lot of strategy, energy, and preparation time for a small advantage. However, the point is to implement a practical strategy to ensure you have the appropriate time on the test to demonstrate all the other studying and preparation you have done. Your time strategy is a tiny portion of each problem on the test, but it affects every problem on the test. Implement a simple time strategy to ensure you

  1. pace yourself on the test as a whole and
  2. watch for outliers on each question by having a passive awareness of the time.

GMAT Study Diary 2020. Test Day = Friday, 14 February 2020

4 Jan, 41 days to test: general search, exam format, course reviews

5 Jan, 40 days to test: 3 hours of critical reasoning and Reading comprehension practice from GMAT 800.

6 Jan, 39 days to test: None.

7 Jan, 37 days to test: 3 hours sentence correction intro and practice.

8 Jan, 36 days to test: 1 hour math basics from Princeton Review book and 2 hours sentence correction in Kaplan GMAT 800.

9 Jan, 35 days to test: 2 hours of sentence correction practice.

10 Jan, 34 days to test: first practice exam. Exam 1 purchased from

Score : Verbal 45, 99%ile. Quantitative 44, 52%ile. Total 710, 91%ile. IR 4, 40%ile

The Kaplan GMAT 800 book definitely improved my verbal score compared to what it would have been. I did not think it was possible for me to do better on verbal than on quantitative. This week will definitely be focused on the quantitative portion. Going to go through the quantitative section of Kaplan GMAT 800 this week.

11-12 Jan: None, weekend.

13 Jan, 31 days to test: reviewed the 10 math answers I missed from Friday with a fresh brain. I missed some silly ones but there are two I still do not understand.

14 Jan, 30 days to test: None, (increased font of book).

15 Jan, 29 days to test: 3 hours practice math problems, planned out test day and day prior to test.

16 Jan, 28 days to test: spent morning applying to a job. Watched Manhattan first class. It was mind-numbing-ly slow and I had to skip through it although it had some neat tips (see description under prep materials review).

17 Jan, 27 days to test: second practice exam. Exam 2 purchased from

Score : Verbal 42, 96%ile. Quantitative 43, 50%ile. Total 690, 86%ile. IR 7, 82%ile.

I scored lower on both sections but I feel better about it overall. Snack plan worked great, need a bigger breakfast. The verbal was more realistic for a normal day. I feel like I can repeat it and it is still a good score. I finished verbal with 7 minutes remaining, maybe should have slowed down. Verbal: keep re-reading verbal strategies to strengthen. The quantitative was lower by one point, but I knew it was a bad run. I wasted 10 minutes on problem #3 that should have been medium-difficulty. I did at least get it right. I had to educated-guess throughout the remainder of the test to catch up. Bad run, near the same score, so on track. Still need to improve quantitative. Quantitative: 1. Must improve on data sufficiency. 2. Must improve inequalities (>, <) I am uncomfortable with them for some reason, especially in combination with square roots (+/-) and absolute values. 3. Must stick to writing clear variables with subscripts! 4. Permutations / combinations with and without repeats.

Thinking back on the four days to study, I only really studied two of the days because Tuesday I reformatted my book, Thursday I spent the morning taking a test for a job application. Moving future practice tests to Saturday morning to get an extra study day and more quiet for test.

18 Jan, 26 days to test: some review of math.

19 Jan, 25 days to test: none, Sunday.

20 Jan, 24 days to test: geometry word problems from GMAT 800.

21 Jan, 23 days to test: 4 hours of math, fully reviewed all math problems missed on both practice tests with Aaron.

22 Jan, 22 days to test: full 5 hours+ of math, especially data sufficiency. Today began using “time per question” / “testing rate” as useful test taking strategy.

23 Jan, 21 days to test: 1 hour of quantitative practice, mostly data sufficiency, almost finished with GMAT 800 book. Printed strategy sheet to continuously review over the next 3 weeks.

24 Jan, 20 days to test: third practice test. I was very tired taking the test, 4 hours of sleep. Verbal dropped a little again, but it was a bad run with little or no practice. I can get back to where I started with a good run. The first run really was a great run that is verified. Math improved a lot and I finally felt comfortable. I am on the right track. More practice on specific points will improve math again for sure. The time strategy was critical and I executed it very well on this run. I quit on 3 or 4 of the math problems at just the moment of diminishing returns and finished all three sections comfortably with under a minute remaining. I felt like I used my time wisely. The next run should be over 710 or something went wrong. Integrated reasoning improved again just by being familiar with the question types. I have not practiced IR at all outside the tests.

Score : Verbal 41, 94%ile. Quantitative 47, 63%ile. Total 710, 91%ile. IR 8, 93%ile.

25 Jan – 9 Feb: took a detour and studied for the GRE. Took the GRE on 3 Feb then finished applications to engineering grad school.

10 Feb, 4 days to test: finished math portion of the GMAT 800 book. Completed the data sufficiency word problems.

11 Feb, 2 days to test: took practice test 4. The math is really tough to improve. Felt like it was a decent run on both.

Score : Verbal 42, 96%ile. Quantitative 44, 52%ile. Total 710, 91%ile. IR _, __%ile.

13 Feb, day before test: review notes and strategies in order to stick to the plan.

14 Feb, Test Day

My score: Verbal 40, 90%ile. Quantitative 44, 49%ile. Total 690, 85%ile. IR 8, 92%ile.

It felt like a bad verbal run and it was indeed my worst. To be honest, it felt like a good quant run but it was my worst! The integrated reasoning felt like a good run and it was tied for my best. IR is closely tied to paying attention I would say so I think that factored in. I’ll have a writing score, we’ll see in a few weeks!

What could I have done to improve my score? I would say an in-person math prep course would have been good. There are some tricks to the math that I could have picked up a lot of points on.

  • Passport
  • Snacks:
    • Nutsbars
    • Bananas
    • Gatorade or juice.
  • Eat and coffee at 1 of many restaurants just east of test center.
    • Rua Pequetita, 5 – Vila Olímpia, São Paulo – SP, 04552-060
  • Test center: Rua Helena, 260 – Vila Olímpia, São Paulo – SP, 04552-050, Brazil
    • Close to estação Vila Olímpia
    • ~1 hour from Bela Vista by Metro, 40 minutes by Uber.
  • Leave apartment at 5:45 to arrive near test center ~6:45 in time for breakfast and coffee, test starts at 8.

Why I Wrote This

It took time to write this. Was it worth it? Yes. Because:

  1. Organized my notes and solidified my strategy.
  2. I can send the link to help future test takers.
  3. The GMAT is testing strategy, not just math and English!

The Best Things in Life are Free

I spent a lot of time and energy preparing for the GMAT, but not a lot of money. Considering the amount of time I spent, I was willing to invest a lot of money to maximize the preparation value. However, I found that the best resources were also the cheapest.’s material is by far the least expensive and it is also the most representative of the real thing as the official source. Kaplan’s courses cost a lot of money, but the Kaplan GMAT 800 book gave me weeks of the best preparation I could ask for. I scrutinized every strategy they outlined in detail, at my own pace, and in a book that doesn’t have the distractions of a computer.

The Landlord’s Operating Manual

Introduction Video
Same introduction video on YouTube

Buy the manual here Amazon link.

I was interviewed on a [great] podcast. Check it out here.

The Landlord’s Operating Manual Photos

Nate’s Real Estate Investor Tools including evaluation spreadsheet


This books is unlike anything else you will come across in the real estate industry. There are thousands of books written on rental properties, but none of them outlines anything further than property acquisition and first principle property management. This book is truly an operator’s manual. The author gives you an in depth view into what running a successful residential real estate operation looks like. He lays out all the plans and even details most of the mistakes he made so you do not have to. This book is ideal for anyone who is interested in owning and operating residential real estate.

The Landlord’s Operating Manual Lives on Here

I clicked the big final “publish” button on 27 January 2020. The press is set. However, The Landlord’s Operating Manual is a living document so as suggestions come in from readers I will post them right here – organized by chapter for easy reference!

A1. Guiding Principles for Selecting a Property
  • Thanks to Mike Robinson of the Robinson Realtor Team (click here and call them for Central Ohio Real Estate!) for the first additive feedback. He agrees that water is critical when selecting a property but would like to have seen more about water inspection before purchasing a property. Look for grading away from the property. Look for a good sump pump and a back-up sump if possible that works in a power outage especially if the sump pump is critical to the basement being dry. Be sure your inspector gives you good details about water drainage and you pay attention to them. Categorize water issues into ones that are permanent (in a flood zone for example) and ones that could possibly be remedied (clogged downspouts for example). Can anybody suggest a link to a good detailed exterior water inspection list?

The Landlord’s Operating Manual Photos

Origin of the Manual

Helicopter Manual

The Building

Various Jobs and the Manual as Notes


The Manual Now

Section A

A2. Property Evaluation Spreadsheet


Section B

B1: The “Money Flow” Decision Chart

B5: By-Unit Spreadheet

Section C

C3: Paint Colors

C3: Paint Patch Straight-On
This is a satin sheen paint patch on a flat sheen-painted wall. Because the color match is so good, you almost cannot see it. This is accurate to real life. From this angle, the patch is nearly imperceptible. Flat sheen paint is truly patch-able.
Same Paint Patch with Glare
This is the same patch from the side with sun glaring off the wall – the worst possible angle. The patches are clearly visible. This is what patches look like with satin sheen.
C3: Painting Don’ts
I care about my wires. Spend the time to paint around them. Look at this! The cover is removed and you find a way to paint the hardware? Painter fired. I did fire him, never hired again.
Do not paint the outlet! Look at the paint inside the outlet receptacle on this one.
Painter fired! Remove the cover!
C3: The Structural Coat of Mud

This is the “structural coat.” Sanding and one more coat of mud will make this “almost perfect,” which is “good enough!”
C3. One Structural Coat, One Finish Coat

One structural coat and one finish coat of mud.
The white is primer paint that will be covered. The drywall patch is barely visible and looks good, but can still be located if looking for it because it is not absolutely perfect.
C3: Noxious Scum
This is not painting, this is cleaning. The lighter color is after wiping. The yellow scum is the result of ~6 years of smoking in a small space.
C4: Carpet and Floor

C4: Carpet not Flooring
This is me removing the flooring from my entire apartment. I do not know why I am smiling, but possibly because I was happy to be getting carpet back!
C5: Tub Shifted After Floor Install
Fail! When I leveled the tub, the tub shifted. I installed the floor out of order.
C6: Dead Bolts
I recommend this dead bolt with two cylinders.
C7: Boxwood Bushes!

Section D

D1: Gate versus Ball Valves
Old gate valves = bad!
Shiny new clean ball valves = good! Your plumber wants to see this on arrival!
D4: Internet Equipment
Internet networking equipment.
5. Wi-Fi hotspot.
D4: Internet Speed = Fast
900 Mbps is probably more than 10x as fast as your internet at home. Bragging rights!
D4: Network Diagram

Section E

E: Hang Towel Near Shower
Move towel to hook, take shower, return towel to rod to dry.
E1: Toilet

E1: Better than Wax

E1: Toilet Flange Hardware

E1: Toilet Siphoning

The weight secures the tube to the bottom to completely empty the water.

E2: Pedestal Sink
The Kohler Elliston pedestal sink in its simple glory.
E2: Flat Space
Usable space! The best pedestal sink ever!
E2: Cabinet Sink Gross
Nice. This almost looks new.
Ew! Gross!
E2: Bathroom Sink Strainer Drain
Strainer drain: look how shiny, beautifully simple, and clog-free!
E2: Vanity
Simple, clean, effective.
E3: Shower Faucet
Simple handle, simple faucet, disabled bath filling handle with overflow protection drain, and strainer drain. Should be universal and standard in rentals.
E3: Shower Valve

E3: Shower Head Piping
This is the brass threading piece for the shower head. The fit is a little loose on the pipe, but the brass solders well to the copper pipe.
I will cut the drywall better next time. Do my tenants care about the drywall? No. They care it is clean and it works. This is clean and it works 100% of the time.
E4: Schluter Edging


Section F

F1: Kitchen Sink

F3: Kitchen Shelving
No doors required! Beautiful simplicity and high-quality material.

The shelves are attached to the ceiling with galvanized steel floor flanges.
Copper pipe brackets prevent the shelves from wobbling.
F4: Tile Tired
I am making that face in order to keep my eyes open for the photo.
F5: Refrigerator

F6: Stove Top
This stove top is a game-changer. It is inexpensive, compact for counter space, and no oven means more useful space underneath.

Section G

G1: Tile Kit

G1: Multi-Tool Etc.

G2: Hardware Inventory

Web Design

Do you like this site? Do you want your own website? It’s easy–or it can be if somebody shows you how.

I will show you how to create a simple WordPress website. Post your business information, post your own ideas, have a customized e-mail address associated with your website. It costs less than $15 per year to maintain.

Professional web design companies will charge you hundreds of dollars to design a site for you. For $100, I will sit down with you and take 5 hours (a short day of work) to walk you through the process, and get you started as an independent operator of your own simple site.

Notice I didn’t use any fancy jargon here. Creating a website can be complicated and time consuming. The first step, however, is simple and very worth it. Take that first step!

Contact me,, with any questions, and we can set up a time to get you started!

Financial Tools

I have a monthly budget. This makes my life 1000% easier than people who don’t because I am financially ahead. I want you to be ahead also and your life to be easier. Here is a great spreadsheet:

Cash Flow and Potential Savings v1.2

Change the yellow boxes. Other boxes have formulas. Use this spreadsheet to identify financial changes, challenges, and opportunities with an upcoming life change. Enter your monthly income and expenses for your current situation, then enter the same information for the future and quickly see the changes. Finally, see how much you will save over time with a monthly savings allocation.