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The Listening section of the TOEFL can be one of the most difficult sections on the test. Of course, the best way to improve one’s listening is to practice over time. Most people find that watching television shows or movies in English or listening to songs in English are great ways to improve. If you are fortunate enough to have friends who are native speakers of English, or if you live in a country in which the predominant language is English, then you also have a great advantage.

The Listening section requires you to sort through lectures and conversations that are purposefully filled with distracting pauses and brief digressions such as “um” and “uh”. Although this section may be frustrating, you can conquer it by learning to find certain patterns.

There are two different kinds of speech to listen to in this section:

1.) Lectures

2.) Conversations

Lecture Analysis

This section will simulate an academic setting where a professor lectures to a group of students. In a similar fashion as the reading section, you are asked to answer questions based on the information provided. Although you cannot see the paragraphs in front of you, the speaker will provide an introduction, supporting reasons and examples, and some sort of conclusion.

Listen for the following:

1.) Topic – This should appear early in the lecture, after the greeting.

-Identify what the topic is.

-Figure out why the topic is being addressed

2.) Purpose – Soon after the topic is introduced, the purpose of the lecture will be stated.

3.) Examples – The majority of the lecture will be examples and details. Don’t try to write down or memorize every single one.

4.) Conclusion – Note any final points or summaries

Conversation Analysis

In this section, you will usually listen to conversations between two students. When listening to a conversation, pay attention to the following:

1.) Purpose – What do the people in the conversation hope to achieve? Why are they having this conversation?

2.) Details – What specific information is offered? How do these examples and details relate back to the purpose?

3.) Conclusion – Is there any resolution? Do the people achieve their purpose?

Use these tips when practicing with sample drills in TOEFL listening books or by listening to American news reports.

Posted on January 14, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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Our students have often times come to us for special advice on Critical Reasoning as they found it hard to improve their scores on it. Here are a few special tips:

  • There are additional real GMAT tests for sale on www.mba.com in pdf files. It is about $25 for 3 tests.Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension are the two areas that require inherent skill sets and knowledge. There are limited shortcuts. You need to find the best way you can read fast and comprehend accurately.
  • Locate a LSAT book and do the Critical Reasoning problems from there. They are harder than the GMAT. It will be a good practice. You need to read editorial columns of a top English newspaper on a daily basis to improve your Reading Comprehension.
  • Private tutoring will be helpful. We have seen our students improve over 1 month’s time.Visit our online recording library at manrev.webex.com and focus on watching the sessions on Critical Reasoning. You can have unlimited access beginning at US$150! We look forward to sharing with you our GMAT, MBA, and career success stories, experiences and advice!

Posted on December 10, 2007 by Manhattan Review

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So you know what the GMAT is all about, but you’re unsure exactly how answering all of those questions results in a final score that could make or break your chances for admission into business school. In this and following entries we will break down for you the system behind your score and how the test is administered to obtain that score.

Item Response Theory

Item Response Theory (IRT) is the system used by Computer-Adaptive Testing such as the GMAT CAT to determine which question is the “best” next question based on the demonstrated ability level of the test taker. It is a statistical model that relates the probability of a test-taker correctly answering a problem to characteristics of the problem and the test-taker’s true ability. It was first introduced in 1968.

The IRT model states that the probability of a correct response to item i for test-taker X is a function of ai, bi, and ci and test-taker X’s true ability. A person’s estimated true score is denoted as theta (). True score is the score a test-taker would receive on a perfectly reliable test. Since it is unavoidable for all tests to contain error, true scores are a theoretical concept; in an actual testing program, we will never know an individual’s true score. However, we can, compute an estimate of a test-taker’s true score and we can estimate the amount of error in that estimate.

P(ui=1 | ThetaXai, bi, ci) = ci + (1 - ci) / [1 + exp(-1.7 ai (ThetaXbi)]

The model typically involves three parameters –

ai defines the ability of the item to discriminate between individual test-takers,

b, is the difficulty of the item, and

ci is the probability that the test-taker would get the question right solely by guessing.

On the GMAT, this model is used to determine your final score, i.e., where you stand on the ability scale, or, what your Theta is. For example, in the graph below, the horizontal axis is the ability scale, ranging from very low (-3.0) to very high (+3.0). When ability follows the normal curve, 68% of the test-takers will have ability between -1 and +1; 95% will be between -2.0 and +2.0. The vertical axis is the probability of responding correctly to this item.


The ai parameter defines the slope of the curve at its inflection point. The curve would be flatter with a lower value of ai; steeper with a higher value. Thus aidenotes how well the item is able to discriminate between test-takers of slightly different ability (within a narrow effective range).

The bi parameter defines the location of the curve’s inflection point along the theta scale. Lower values of bi will shift the curve to the left; higher to the right. The bidoes not affect the shape of the curve.

The lower asymptote is at ci=.25. (An asymptote is a straight line or curve A to which another curve B (the one being studied) approaches closer and closer as one moves along it.) This is the probability of a correct response for test-takers with very little ability (e.g. = -2.0 or -2.6). The curve has an upper asymptote at 1.0; high ability test-takers are very likely to respond correctly.

We will continue with our analysis on the GMAT CAT scoring system tomorrow.

Posted on November 11, 2007 by Manhattan Review

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