Should You Look at Fit or Prestige When Deciding Which Business School to Attend?

scottbloomdecisionsFor the fortunate, one of the most challenging decisions MBA applicants make this time of year is which business school to attend. Receiving an offer of admission to only one school is always great news, but when an applicant is greeted with multiple offers, the joy of admission often quickly turns to the paradox of choice. Indecision often occurs when admits are confronted with choosing between more prestigious MBA programs and those that represent a better personal or professional fit for them.

For some, the choice may be an obvious one – “Of course you should matriculate to the more prestigious program!” Others, however, would immediately choose to attend the program that better aligns with their development goals. Let’s explore some of the reasons why an admit might lean one way or the other.

Choosing Fit?
Think about the core reasons that initially drove your interest in pursuing a graduate business education. Was it to improve your analytical or problem solving skills? Was it to break into a new industry or climb the corporate ladder in your current line of work? Go back to these core desires and remember the real reasons why you are seeking an MBA. If these factors are important to you,then the school with a better fit might be best for you.

Now, this focus on fit can sometimes be forgotten in the face of rankings, which are difficult to overlook. And complicating this decision even further, many admits tend to solicit the advice of under-informed friends and family when trying to decide which MBA program to attend, so well-known programs with great brands that may not be the best fit for a candidate’s development goals are often recommended over somewhat less prestigious programs.

Choosing Prestige?
The goal for many candidates is to go to the most well-known and highly-ranked MBA program possible, so when it comes time to make a decision, it is all about which school has the best brand. Generally, the more reputed programs do tend to offer a better lifetime value and return on investment (ROI). This is because these programs often offer broader alumni networks with better long-term career considerations, particularly for those interested in global career opportunities. However, in many instances, an overall highly-ranked program may be weaker in specific industry and functional areas than lower ranked programs.

The answer to this debate is a difficult one. Admits should take both factors into consideration but strive to pursue the most highly-reputed program – not in absolute terms, but instead in terms of which best address their development needs and post-MBA goals.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You read more articles by him here.

3 Practical Life Lessons I Learned From My MBA

ProfessorDuring the last day of any MBA course, your professor will most likely say something along the lines of, “Years from now, if you can use one thing from my class, it would be…” Now I won’t be able to enumerate every single lesson I learned over my time at business school, but these lessons have become part of my mental toolkit, and always come to mind when I evaluate business odds or manage ambiguous human factors.

Here are three of the most useful life lessons that I became very aware of during my time in business school:

1) Build a buffer of time into your day
From my Operations Management course, I learned that in the manufacturing process, buffer zones or “slack time” are critical in ensuring that a delay in one part of production cannot easily cripple the whole chain. This concept has proven to be helpful now in managing day-to-day activities – rather than filling every hour of the day with minute tasks, it is more productive to identify key priorities and create some free time around them. This time can then be used to absorb tasks that unexpectedly take longer than you thought they would, or to spend as additional time for personal interests. Planning out the day like this can greatly reduce your stress and allow new ideas to ferment, making for a more productive and fulfilling life, long-term.

2) You can negotiate for more than you think
From my Negotiations course, I recall that I learned the most common error people make in their dealings is to take too many points as given or fixed and not even bother to try and negotiate them. Thus, they miss out on the potential to further benefit their own organization as well as the party they are negotiating with.

Being more aware of this tendency will encourage you to try negotiating for things you may not have tried for before, which will help open up more business opportunities and deepen your relationships with the people you work with. In addition, it is important to understand that the motivation of the person you are negotiating with is not always exactly the same as that of the unit he is representing, as this will help in the way you approach the conversation.

3) The creative process cannot be forced
In one of my Strategy classes, we discussed the creative process of Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega, best known for her 1987 hit “Luka,” which raised awareness for domestic violence. In this case study, the singer was encountering writer’s block as she was creating her new album and found that to do her best work, she couldn’t be forced to grind it out in the recording studio as many musical artists do – living life and drawing inspiration and stimulation from everyday encounters was the best way to go.

I have found this lesson to be very applicable as I help guide MBA candidates through their business school applications. Applicants tend to maintain their better balance in their lives by continuing with their exercise, hobbies, and vacations, even as they prepare for the GMAT and the business school application process as a whole. Living full, normal lives will keep you refreshed and inspired to work at your peak performance level, and to deliver your best work possible.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

SAT Tip of the Week: Making Waves with Pablo

SAT Tip of the Week (4)Welcome back to Hip Hop Month in the SAT Tip of the Week space, where we’re all set to download Kanye’s new album “Life of Pablo” – even a month later – but can’t quite remember what it’s called. Wasn’t it Swish at one point? Maybe Waves? Importantly, if your (beautiful, dark, twisted) Fantasy is to enjoy Graduation because you’re on your way to (early, not late) Registration at the school of your dreams, take an SAT lesson from the College Dropout himself:

The right word usually isn’t the obvious one.

For Kanye, that’s the title of the album: after plenty of debate and deliberation (and beef with Wiz Khalifa), he dropped the “obvious” one-word titles and went with a title that took just about everyone by surprise. He had to dig a little, and whether he’s comparing himself to Pablo Picasso as an artist or Pablo Escobar as a larger-than-life figure, he found some meaning that’s not obvious on the surface but makes sense when you dig a little deeper. And that’s the SAT lesson.

For you, that of course means that when you’re looking at Vocabulary in Context questions on the SAT Reading Section, you’ll be tempted to make a single-word answer. For example, consider this problem from the Official SAT Study Guide:

As used in line 19, “capture” is closest in meaning to:

(A) Control
(B) Record
(C) Secure
(D) Absorb

Likely the most obvious synonym for “capture” in that list is “secure” – if you were to capture a butterfly, for example, you’d secure it in a net or a jar (poke holes, please). But your job isn’t to find the best synonym for “capture” but instead to determine which word would best fit in its place in line 19. And that’s where the Kanye lesson comes in: you have to go back to the passage and the wording around line 19 to find the deeper meaning. Starting a bit above that line, you have the context:

Because these waves are involved in ocean mixing and thus the transfer of heat, understanding them is crucial to global climate modeling, says Tom Peacock, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most models fail to take internal waves into account. “If we want to have more and more accurate climate models, we have to be able to capture processes like this,” Peacock says.

With that context in mind, steal another lesson from Kanye West: who does Kanye love the most? Not Kim or North… but himself. And that’s where the “do it yourself” strategy comes in. Remove the word “capture” – before you even look at the answer choices – and think about what word you’d personally put there. You know that the researchers want to better understand those processes, so they want to observe/study/record them. That’s what makes B, “record,” correct.

The problem really has little to do with the word “capture” given in the problem, and everything to do with the context around it. The key is to not be so concerned with the word in the question itself, but rather to treat it as a blank and determine what type of meaning that blank needs to convey. Then you can go to the answer choices, and like Kanye (who used to love this passage about Waves, but now maybe not) you may find deeper meaning and a more-surprising word or phrase to decide upon.

Are you trying to decide whether to take the SAT or the ACT? Register for our upcoming free online SAT vs. ACT Workshop to gain a better understanding of each test and decide which one is right for you. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

Breaking Down Changes in the New Official GMAT Practice Tests: Unit Conversions in Shapes

QuadrilateralRecently, GMAC released two more official practice tests. Though the GMAT is not going to test completely new concepts – if the test changed from year to year, it wouldn’t really be standardized – we can get a sense of what types of questions are more likely to be emphasized by noting how official materials change over time. I thought it might be interesting to take these practice tests and break down down any conspicuous trends I detected.

In the Quant section of the first new test, there was one type of question that I’d rarely encountered in the past, but saw multiple times within a span of 20 problems. It involves unit conversions in two or three-dimensional shapes.

Like many GMAT topics, this concept isn’t difficult so much as it is tricky, lending itself to careless mistakes if we work too fast. If I were to draw a line that was one foot long, and I asked you how many inches it was, you wouldn’t have to think very hard to recognize that it would be 12 inches.

But what if I drew a box that had an area of 1 square foot, and I asked you how many square inches it was? If you’re on autopilot, you might think that’s easy. It’s 12 square inches. And you better believe that on the GMAT, that would be a trap answer. To see why it’s wrong, consider a picture of our square:

 

 

 

 

 

We see that each side is 1 foot in length. If each side is 1 foot in length, we can convert each side to 12 inches in length. Now we have the following:

DG blog pic 2

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly, the area of this shape isn’t 12 square inches, it’s 144 square inches: 12 inches * 12 inches = 144 inches^2.

Another way to think about it is to put the unit conversion into equation form. We know that 1 foot = 12 inches, so if we wanted the unit conversion from feet^2 to inches^2, we’d have to square both sides of the equation in order to have the appropriate units. Now (1 foot)^2 = (12 inches)^2, or 1 foot^2 = 144 inches^2.  So converting from square feet to square inches requires multiplying by a factor of 144, not 12.

Let’s see this concept in action. (I’m using an older official question to illustrate – I don’t want to rob anyone of the joy of encountering the recently released questions with a fresh pair of eyes.)

If a rectangular room measures 10 meters by 6 meters by 4 meters, what is the volume of the room in cubic centimeters? (1 meter = 100 centimeters)

A) 24,000
B) 240,000
C) 2,400,000
D) 24,000,000
E) 240,000,000

First, we can find the volume of the room by multiplying the dimensions together: 10*6*4 = 240 cubic meters. Now we want to avoid the trap of thinking, “Okay, 100 centimeters is 1 meter, so 240 cubic meters is 240*100 = 24,000 cubic centimeters.”  Remember, the conversion ratio we’re given is for converting meters to centimeters – if we’re dealing with 240 cubic meters, or 240 meters^3, and we want to find the volume in cubic centimeters, we’ll need to adjust our conversion ratio accordingly.

If 1 meter = 100 centimeters, then (1 meter)^3 = (100 centimeters)^3, and 1 meter^3 = 1,000,000 centimeters^3. [100 = 10^2 and (10^2)^3 = 10^6, or 1,000,000.] So if 1 cubic meter = 1,000,000 cubic centimeters, then 240 cubic meters = 240*1,000,000 cubic centimeters, or 240,000,000 cubic centimeters, and our answer is E.

Alternatively, we can do all of our conversions when we’re given the initial dimensions. 10 meters = 1000 centimeters. 6 meters = 600 centimeters. 4 meters  = 400 centimeters. 1000 cm * 600 cm * 400 cm = 240,000,000 cm^3. (Notice that when we multiply 1000*600*400, we can simply count the zeroes. There are 7 total, so we know there will be 7 zeroes in the correct answer, E.)

Takeaway: Make sure you’re able to do unit conversions fluently, and that if you’re dealing with two or three-dimensional space, that you adjust your conversion ratios accordingly. If you’re dealing with a two-dimensional shape, you’ll need to square your initial ratio. If you’re dealing with a three-dimensional shape, you’ll need to cube your initial ratio. The GMAT is just as much about learning what traps to avoid as it is about relearning the elementary math that we’ve long forgotten.

*GMATPrep question courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can find more articles written by him here.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: An Innovative Use of the Slope of a Line on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomLet’s continue our discussion on coordinate geometry today.

The concept of slope is extremely important on the GMAT – it is not sufficient to just know how to calculate it using (y2 – y1)/(x2 – x1).

In simple terms, the slope of a line specifies the units by which the y-coordinate changes and the direction in which it changes with each 1 unit increase in the x-coordinate. If the slope (m) is positive, the y-coordinate changes in the same direction as the x-coordinate. If m is negative, however, the y-coordinate changes in the opposite direction.

For example, if the slope of a line is 2, it means that every time the x-coordinate increases by 1 unit, the y-coordinate increases by 2 units. So if the point (3, 5) lies on a line with a slope of 2, the point (4, 7) will also lie on it. Here, when the x-coordinate increases from 3 to 4, the y-coordinate increases from 5 to 7 (by an increase of 2 units). Similarly,  the point (2, 3) will also lie on this same line – if the x-coordinate decreases by 1 unit (from 3 to 2), the y-coordinate will decrease by 2 units (from 5 to 3). Since the slope is positive, the direction of change of the x-coordinate will be the same as the direction of change of the y-coordinate.

Now, if we have a line where the slope is -2 and the point (3, 5) lies on it, when the x-coordinate increases by 1 unit, the y-coordinate DECREASES by 2 units – the point (4, 3) will also lie on this line. Similarly, if the x-coordinate decreases by 1 unit, the y-coordinate will increase by 2 units. So, for example, the point (2, 7) will also lie on this line.

This understanding of the concept of slope can be very helpful, as we will see in this GMAT question:

Line L and line K have slopes -2 and 1/2 respectively. If line L and line K intersect at (6,8), what is the distance between the x-intercept of line L and the y-intercept of line K? 

(A) 5
(B) 10
(C) 5√(5)
(D) 15
(E) 10√(5)

Method 1: The Traditional Approach
Traditionally, one would solve this question like this:

The equation of a line with slope m and constant c is given as y = mx + c. Therefore, the equations of lines L and K would be:

Line L: y = (-2)x + a
and
Line K: y = (1/2)x + b

As both these lines pass through (6,8), we would substitute x=6 and y=8 to get the values of a and b.

Line L: 8 = (-2)*6 + a
a = 20

Line K: 8 = (1/2)*6 + b
b = 5

Thus, the equations of the 2 lines become:

Line L: y = (-2)x + 20
and
Line K: y = (1/2)x + 5

The x-intercept of a line is given by the point where y = 0. So, the x-intercept of line L is given by:

0 = (-2)x + 20
x = 10

This means line L intersects the x-axis at the point (10, 0).

Similarly, the y-intercept of a line is given by the point where x = 0. So, y-intercept of line K is given by:

y = (1/2)*0 + 5
y = 5

This means that line K intersects the y-axis at the point (0, 5).

Looking back at our original question, the distance between these two points is given by √((10 – 0)^2 + (0 – 5)^2) = 5√(5). Therefore, our answer is C.

Method 2: Using the Slope Concept
Although the using the traditional method is effective, we can answer this question much quicker using the concept we discussed above.

Line L has a slope of -2, which means that for every 1 unit the x-coordinate increases, the y-coordinate decreases by 2. Line L also passes through the point (6, 8). We know the line must intersect the x-axis at y = 0, which is a decrease of 8 y-coordinates from the given point (6,8). If y increases by 8, according to our slope concept, x will increase by 4 to give 6 + 4 = 10. So the x-intercept of line L is at (10, 0).

Line K has slope of 1/2 and also passes through (6, 8). We know the this line must intersect the y-axis at x = 0, which is a decrease of 6 x-coordinates from the given point (6,8). This means y will decrease by 1/2 of that (6*1/2 = 3) and will become 8 – 3 = 5. So the y-intercept of line K is at (0, 5).

The distance between the two points can now be found using the Pythagorean Theorem – √(10^2 + 5^2) = 5√(5), therefore our answer is, again, C.

Using the slope concept makes solving this question much less tedious and saves us a lot of precious time. That is the advantage of using holistic approaches over the more traditional approaches in tackling GMAT questions.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

How International MBA Applicants Should Talk About Their Home Countries in Their Essays

Europeean MBA ProgramsInternational MBA candidates often struggle to find the right balance in discussing their home countries in their business school application essays.

Neglecting to discuss your home country completely could result in a lack of proper context for your achievements and challenges. Too often, applicants miss the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the pool of similarly accomplished applicants by not being personal enough in sharing stories regarding the family values that influenced their drive and motivation. Painting a vivid picture of your home country in your MBA application will allow the Admissions Committee to understand your personal qualities on a deeper level.

Executed perfectly, explaining where you have come from will turn you into the candidate that everyone in Admissions roots for.  For example, a candidate from a war-torn country would do well to describe striking images of the devastation they faced and complement this with the use of some numbers, appealing to both the Admissions Committee’s emotional and logical perspectives. Establishing this foundation would make his or her essay describing the motivation to pursue an MBA to go back and home and improve the lives of his or her countrymen feel more real.

On the other hand, using too much space and too many statistics could make your essay sound like an economic report or a college-level reaction paper – losing its focus and personal touch. Writing in this way will definitely not help you stand out from the typical applicant from your country. Just like in a blockbuster action movie, the country should serve as a colorful backdrop to the hero’s (applicant’s) story of struggles and triumphs, with most of the writing surrounding the hero’s compelling character development. Make sure you are the hero of your own story – the level of detail you mention about your home country should serve a clear purpose by linking directly back to your own experiences, goals and well-substantiated passion.

It is also essential to set up the proper economic or cultural context in cases where the past schools you attended or companies you joined are not as well-known to those outside of your home country. Mentioning selectivity figures, industry rank, market share, and highlighting complexity of roles becomes important here and will allow the Admissions Committee to appreciate the scale of your achievements. It will also allow them to use this information to evaluate how fast your career has progressed and how your leadership potential stacks up against other applicants.

Finally, it is important to be careful to avoid sounding too critical or too proud of your home country. Being too critical could be perceived as ungrateful, pessimistic, or even arrogant. On the other hand, you also do not want come across as being too sure that your ways are superior to those of other nations, as you want to display open-mindedness and a genuine interest to learn from others.

Keep these tips in mind as you write your business school application essays and you’ll be sure to strike the right balance with the Admissions Committee.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

How Does Citizenship Factor Into Your MBA Candidacy?

Passport Number 2MBA programs around the world are currently experiencing a renaissance in terms of the geographic makeup of their student bodies. With the world seemingly shrinking in so many other aspects, it should come as no surprise that business schools are coming to represent a global melting pot of sorts. As MBA programs seek to construct classes of students that better represent this changing global paradigm, the weight of evaluating candidates in a global way has grown in importance.

Many business school applicants are beginning to understand how important this is as well, and are actively embracing dual citizenship and other displays of multicultural experiences. So, how exactly does citizenship factor into your MBA candidacy? Let’s explore a few considerations.

Overall, citizenship is much less important to Admissions Committees than the experiences that are native to your cultural upbringing. True diversity is represented through these experiences and less so through the designation on your passport.

Unfortunately, many applicants suffer from the misguided belief that their citizenship is the only title of importance when considering cultural diversity. Thus, members of over-represented groups often pursue dual citizenships under the belief that it will set them apart from their peers. I would caution against this approach – your life experiences and where the majority of them have occurred will play a bigger factor in your application than citizenship in a country you have not been as active in. (Now, if you have conducted material business or experienced personally impactful moments in other countries, this will certainly be valued within your application package. It will not, however, erase the fact that you are a member of an over-represented group.)

So if Admissions Committees do not factor citizenship into their decisions, how can having citizenship benefit you? Citizenship does, in fact, factor prominently into financial aid and funding plans for your graduate school education. In many countries, there are restrictions on access to scholarships and other funding measures based on one’s citizenship, so the ability to secure citizenship in the region in which you are planning to attend business school can be advantageous for financial reasons.

In addition, citizenship can also factor into your ability to secure employment post-graduation. Many countries will limit immediate and long-term employment opportunities for non-citizens. This means if you are considered an international student by the school that you intend to attend, it extremely important to understand the restrictions of that school’s nation. These work restrictions have become increasingly difficult for international students, so the power of multiple citizenships has certainly increased in recent years.

Keep these factors in mind as you plan out your strategy for applying to MBA programs around the world.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can find more of his articles here.

How to Get Off a Business School’s Waitlist if You Already Have a Strong Application

SAT/ACTThe business school waitlist is, for most applicants, a confusing place to be. Many MBA candidates go into the application process aware of where their profile lands in relation to other candidates – especially when it comes to the publically available data points such as GPA and GMAT scores – so when these candidates land on the waitlist, although they are disappointed, they at least have a general idea on what they should do to address holes in their application in the future.

In a strange twist, the more complete a candidate’s profile appears on paper, the harder it is to develop a strategy to get off the waitlist. This oddity exists because without an obviously low GMAT score, shaky GPA, or unimpressive work experience, it can be challenging to put those waitlist updates to work.

Most programs will encourage waitlisted candidates to submit application updates to the Admissions Office or to a specific waitlist manager, so the more proactive a candidate is with sharing these updates, the better their chances of eventual admission. It may be sometimes difficult to identify these problem areas, but looking critically at every aspect of your submitted application is a good place to start.

Let’s explore a few issues that are common in the type of profiles referenced above:

Fit
Are you sure you effectively showcased your fit with the program? With admission into top programs becoming increasingly more difficult, it is critical to show a wild enthusiasm for the program you are applying to. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker, but if the Admissions Committee does not feel your eagerness to join their student community, it can make your application feel pretty ordinary. Sharing a minor update that clarify your fit can address concerns in this area for admissions.

Interest
Have you expressed a strong enough interest in your target program? I know this question may seem fairly obvious, considering you submitted an application, but Admissions Committees are looking for candidates that really showcase a strong attention to their particular program both on paper and in person. Connecting with current students and even alumni of relevant clubs on campus while on the waitlist can be a strong sign of interest, especially if you are able to secure a letter of support from one of those students or alumni.

Career Goals
Were the career goals you communicated clear and achievable? Maybe even more importantly, were you effectively able to share how this particular program would be able to help you reach these goals? A major element of how Admissions Committees will review your career goals is based on the belief that their program will be able to help you succeed in the future. If your goals are not clearly articulated or feel unrealistic, then this could be the source of your waitlist placement. Providing the Admissions Office with updates that showcase your progression towards your career goals, along with a re-clarification of these goals if necessary, is a good approach to proactively getting off of the waitlist.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can find more of his articles here.

SAT Tip of the Week: 2 Phones

SAT Tip of the Week (3)Welcome back to Hip Hop Month in the SAT Tip of the Week space, where we’re firm believers in the art of telecommunications. As Kevin Gates has been informing the world the last couple months, it’s important to have two phones (and maybe two more) to get the job (or various jobs) done. Which jobs is he talking about?  The SAT Math Sections of course!

When tackling the SAT Math Sections, you need to have “two phones,” or multiple strategies.  Some are “the plug” – plugging in answer choices, or at least using them as assets – and some are “the load” – just rolling up your sleeves and doing a load of math to grind out the answer. And of course you should always have other strategies (two more phones, and then even more phones, as the chorus goes): picking your own numbers, using process of elimination, guessing intelligently, etc.

So, let’s talk about some of the “phones” you’ll want at your disposal on the SAT Math Sections.

“The Plug”
Notice that KG leads with “The Plug” before “The Load” – of course everyone on test day should be ready to do some algebra and arithmetic, but the savviest of test-takers are very ready to use the answer choices to their advantage, and look for every opportunity to save time by doing so. Consider the problem:

Jack is now 14 years older than Bill. If in 10 years Jack will be twice as old as Bill, how old is Jack?

(A) 14
(B) 16
(C) 18
(D) 28

Here you could set up the algebra, or you could go to “the plug” and plug in the answer choices to see which one fits the setup. Since Jack is 14 years older than Bill, that means that Bill would be (for each answer choice):

(A) 0
(B) 2
(C) 4
(D) 14

Now look to see which pairing, when each is increased by 10, would have one double the other:

24 and 10 (no)
26 and 12 (no)
28 and 14 (yes), so C is the correct answer.

Here you could go to the “load” and slog through some algebra, but seeing that you can just plug in the answer choices allows you to turn your mind off for a few seconds and answer the question that way.

“The Load”
Often, you’ll see that there isn’t a shortcut available for an SAT problem or that the math itself is straightforward enough that you should just do it. That’s why it pays to have a second “phone” – each is going to be valuable in different circumstances. For example, consider the problem:

If 5x + 6 = 10, what is the value of 10x + 3?

(A) 4
(B) 9
(C) 11
(D) 20

Here, you’d do just as much work going from the answers to the problem (you’d have to take each answer, then set that equal to 10x + 3, then solve for x…) so you might as well load up on algebra and do it the straightforward way:

5x + 6 = 10
5x = 4
x = 4/5

So take that and put it in the new equation:

10(4/5) + 3 = 8 + 3 = 11, so C is our correct answer.

More than 2 Phones?
As Kevin Gates is careful to note, often 2 strategies (or phones) just aren’t enough. And for those looking to score above 700 on the SAT Math Sections, you’ll almost certainly want to have more tools in your toolkit. Another involves picking your own numbers to test the algebra. Consider the problem:

The expression (5x – 2)/(x + 3) is equivalent to which of the following?

(A) (5 – 2)/3
(B) 5 – (2/3)
(C) 5 – 2/(x + 3)
(D) 5 – 17/(x + 3)

Here, you’ll be glad you have another phone in your pocket. Since the given expression and the right answer have to be equivalent regardless of the value of x, you can pick your own value of x and see which answer matches. Rather than go through an ugly load of algebra, you can pick an x that makes the math clean (try x = -2, for example, since all the denominators are x + 3; if x = -2, then you’ve set the denominators to 1 and made the arithmetic really simple):

If that’s true, then the given expression becomes (5(-2) – 2)/(-2 + 3), which ends up at -12. Clearly A and B don’t match, so you can then plug in to the answer choices. For D, the correct answer, you’ll see a fit:

5 – 17(/-2 + 3) = 5 – 17 = -12, which matches the given expression, so D is right. And by using another strategy, you were able to skip some ugly algebra and save time for other problems where you need to have time for “the load” of algebra.

So remember, on the SAT Math section, you always have more than 2 phones – and that’s essential if you want to be an SAT baller. While you’re hustling on the SAT Math grind, remember those multiple “phones” in your toolkit, and your score will be the next thing that’s ring, ring, ring.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

Use These 2 Kobe Bryant Strategies to Address Failures in Your MBA Essays

kobeBasketball superstar Kobe Bryant ended his 20-year NBA career last Wednesday, and many fans of the sport are using this time to reflect on, and learn from, his past highlights. Kobe’s career can be used for more than advice pertaining to basketball – we’ve imagined how he might have used his past accomplishments and failures to answer some common MBA application essay questions.

In this entry, we will discuss the ideal way Kobe could use the Failure Essay if he were to apply to business school. A staple of many MBA essay requirements and interviews, this prompt asks the applicant to relate a story of personal or professional failure that impacted his or her life. In answering this question, an applicant needs to demonstrate genuine reflection and self-awareness, while also showcasing leadership potential. Let’s examine how Kobe might answer a question like this:

Address the “Elephant in the Room”
In Kobe’s case, instead of mentioning missed shots, bad plays, or lost games as failures, it would be best to instead identify the failure to maintain a longer-term partnership with fellow superstar Shaquille O’Neal as his major failure. Aside from being an interesting topic – with rich layers and dimensions – this “failure” would help Kobe address concerns about his ability to collaborate with peers. As with all MBA essays, we want the Failure Essay to be interesting, relatable and vivid. Sharing specific details such as an argument that escalated, or personal thoughts from both superstars’ perspectives, will make for a powerful read for the Admissions Committee.

For example, Kobe could identify the double-edged sword of his incredible competitiveness and obsessive work ethic at that stage in his career, and contrast this compassionately with Shaq’s fun-loving personality and the physical challenges he faced due to his unique size, mobility, and the focus of opponents to wear him out. Displaying a high-level perspective and understanding will show the maturity and honesty that can serve him well post-MBA.

Lesson: Using an interesting situation, or identifying an “elephant in the room” in your profile, will serve the dual purpose of both addressing a red flag in your application, and displaying your self-awareness and personal development, all of which the Admissions Committee will want to see.

Show What You Learned
After setting up the context of the failure, Kobe can then highlight how he put the lessons he learned from this failure to good use. He can cite how this failure taught him to better manage relationships with teammates who shared some of Shaq’s qualities, such as the immensely talented Pau Gasol, the fun-loving Lamar Odom, and the physically dominant but oft-injured Andrew Bynum. Kobe can also share how learning from his previous experience with Shaq helped him build better relationships with his teammates overall and leverage their unique personalities to lead the Lakers to two more NBA championships.

Providing specific details as to how he built these bonds through sharing interests and communicating better with his team (whether through bonding over family activities, or by brushing up on his Spanish) would provide real insight into his world and allow the Admissions Committee to relate to him and appreciate his growth. Displaying his ability to lead and collaborate with talented peers would also prove that there is more to Kobe than just his basketball skills, and that he is ready to succeed in his future business ventures and social causes.

Lesson: Choose to discuss qualities or realizations that relate to your failure and would be transferable to future endeavors, rather than limited to a single situation. You can identify how your failure taught you to channel your inherent traits and use specific tools and techniques to proactively address potential problems. Show how you learned to leverage your personal qualities and background to collaborate towards common goals so that the Admissions Committee can conclude that the failure you experienced has helped put you in a better position for future success.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

Coordinate Geometry: Solving GMAT Problems With Lines Crossing Either the X-Axis or the Y-Axis

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday let’s learn about the cases in which lines on the XY plane cross, or do not cross, the x- or y-axis. Students often struggle with questions such as this:

Does the line with equation ax+by = c, where a,b and c are real constants, cross the x-axis?

What concepts will you use here? How will you find whether or not a line crosses the x-axis? What conditions should it meet? Think about this a little before you move ahead.

We know that most lines on the XY plane cross the x-axis as well as the y-axis. Even if it looks like a given line doesn’t cross either of these axes, eventually, it will if it has a slope other than 0 or infinity.

QWQW pic 1

 

 

 

 

 

Note that by definition, a line extends infinitely in both directions – it has no end points (otherwise it would be a line “segment”). We cannot depict a line extending infinitely, which is why we will only show a small section of it. Ideally, a line on the XY plane should be shown with arrowheads to depict that it extends infinitely on both sides, but we often omit them for our convenience. For instance, if we try to extend the example line above, we see that it does, in fact, cross the x-axis:

QWQW pic 2

 

 

 

 

 

So what kind of lines do not cross either the x-axis or the y-xis? We know that the equation of a line on the XY plane is given by ax + by  + c = 0. We also know that if we want to find the slope of a line, we can use the equation y = (-a/b)x – c/b, where the slope of the line is -a/b.

A line with a slope of 0 is parallel to the x-axis. For the slope (i.e. -a/b) to be 0, a must equal 0. So if a = 0, the line will not cross the x-axis – it is parallel to the x-axis. The equation of the line, in this case, will become y = k. In all other cases, a line will cross the x-axis at some point.

Similarly, it might appear that a line doesn’t cross the y-axis but it does at some point if its slope is anything other than infinity. A line with a slope of infinity is parallel to the y-axis. For -a/b to be infinity, b must equal 0. So if b = 0, the line will not cross the y-axis. The equation of the line in this case will become x = k. In all other cases, a line will cross the y-axis at some point.

Now, we can easily solve this official question:

Does the line with equation ax+by = c, where a, b and c are real constants, cross the x-axis?

Statement 1: b not equal to 0

Statement 2: ab > 0

As we discussed earlier, all lines cross the x-axis except lines which have a slope of 0, i.e. a = 0.

Statement 1: b not equal to 0

This tells statement us that b is not 0 – which means the line is not parallel to y-axis – but it doesn’t tell us whether or not a is 0, so we don’t know whether the line is parallel to the x-axis or crosses it. Therefore, this statement alone is not sufficient.

Statement 2: ab>0

If ab > 0, it means that neither a nor b is 0 (since any number times 0 will equal 0). This means the line is parallel to neither x-axis nor the y-xis, and therefore must cross the x-axis. This statement alone is sufficient and our answer is B.

Hopefully this has helped clear up some coordinate geometry concepts today.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Death, Taxes, and the GMAT Items You Know For Certain

GMAT Tip of the WeekHere on April 15, it’s a good occasion to remember the Benjamin Franklin quote: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Franklin, of course, never took the GMAT (which didn’t become a thing until a little ways after his own death, which he accurately predicted above). But if he did, he’d have plenty to add to that quote.

On the GMAT, several things are certain. Here’s a list of items you will certainly see on the GMAT, as you attempt to raise your score and therefore your potential income, thereby raising your future tax bills in Franklin’s honor:

Integrated Reasoning
You will struggle with pacing on the Integrated Reasoning section. 12 prompts in 30 minutes (with multiple problems per prompt) is an extremely aggressive pace and very few people finish comfortably. Be willing to guess on a problem that you know could sap your time: not only will that help you finish the section and protect your score, it will also help save your stamina and energy for the all-important Quant Section to follow.

Word Problems
On the Quantitative Section, you will certainly see at least one Work/Rate problem, one Weighted Average problem, and one Min/Max problem. This is good news! Word problems reward repetition and preparation – if you’ve put in the work, there should be no surprises.

Level of Difficulty
If you’re scoring above average on either the Quant or Verbal sections, you will see at least one problem markedly below your ability level. Because each section contains several unscored, experimental problems, and those problems are delivered randomly, probability dictates that every 700+ scorer will see at least one problem designed for the 200-500 crowd (and probably more than that). Do not try to read in to your performance based on the difficulty level of any one problem! It’s easy to fear that such a problem was delivered to you because you’re struggling, but the much more logical explanation is that it was either random or difficult-but-sneakily-so, so stay confident and move on.

Data Sufficiency
You will see at least one Data Sufficiency problem that seems way too easy to be true. And it’s probably not true: make sure that you think critically any time the testmaker is directly baiting you into a particular answer.

Sentence Correction
You will have to pick an answer that you don’t like, that doesn’t catch the ear the way you’d write or say it. Make sure that you prioritize the major errors that you know you can routinely catch and correct, and not let the GMAT bait you into a decision you’re just not qualified to make.

Reading Comprehension

You will see a passage that takes you a few re-reads to even get your mind to process it. Remember to be question-driven and not passage-driven – get enough out of the passage to know where to look when they ask you a specific question, but don’t worry about becoming a subject-matter expert on the topic. GMAT passages are designed to be difficult to read (particularly toward the end of a long test), so know that your competitive advantage is that you’ll be more efficient than your competition.

Critical Reasoning
You will have the opportunity to make quick work of several Critical Reasoning problems if you notice the tiny gaps in logic that each argument provides, and if you’re able to notice the subtle-but-significant words that make conclusions extra specific (and therefore harder to prove).

Few things are certain in life, but as you approach the GMAT there are plenty of certainties that you can prepare for so that you eliminate surprises and proceed throughout your test day confidently. On this Tax Day, take inventory of the things you know to be certain about the GMAT so that your test day isn’t so taxing.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

Will Involvement in a Failed Company Hurt Your Chances of Being Accepted to Business School?

Letter of RecommendationIdeally, business school applicants would all be able to fill their admissions essays with great work stories showcasing contributions to their company’s success. Creating breakthrough products, transforming the company through original innovations, leading entry into a new market, generating record profits, and other similar accomplishments would all look great on an MBA application.

In reality, however, work circumstances and probabilities do not always play out perfectly – products can miss, campaigns can fail, companies can collapse, civil wars can break out, and global economic crises can ensue no matter how brilliant and dedicated an employee or entrepreneur is.

How, then, does an MBA applicant who went through these failures present himself or herself to be qualified for an MBA? Or how can a seemingly “ordinary” applicant elevate himself or herself from the pool of other applicants who may have more impressive success stories to tell? If this sounds like your predicament, showcase these three attributes to really make your application stand out:

Big-Picture Lessons
Recessions, industry down-cycles, and political crises can all contribute greatly to the failure of a company. However, there is a silver lining – not only do these circumstances provide the environmental context that removes blame from the applicant, but they also offer an interesting backdrop to highlight learning experiences that would make for rich classroom discussions.

If you experienced a business failure due to reasons like this, identifying the major lessons you learned will help display a high-level awareness of world events and their business impact, a quality that can be used to strengthen future leadership potential. At the company level, witnessing the impact of lost profits and jobs can provide you with firsthand experience of its effect on employee morale, corporate culture, and the real human concerns affected by difficult business decisions.

Personal Skills Gained
When struggling companies are forced to cut costs, this often results in the remaining employees handling more tasks, putting in more hours, and taking on bigger responsibilities, and all amidst a tense work environment. As such, employees lower on the corporate ladder may be able to have more involvement in reevaluating the whole business model, product lines, or distribution channels, and become part of the decision as to whether their firm should pull-out or stay in the market.

This accelerated exposure – usually reserved for very senior levels – can be a very difficult experience, however it can also be a good source of learning and growth in terms of skills, knowledge, and maturity. Explaining your business’ failure by showcasing the skills you gained from it can show the admissions committee that you know how to make the most of a difficult position and learn from your work environment.

Character Displayed
A family business may fail at an heir’s turn or a start-up may fall victim to a recession, but these “failures” may also be an opportunity to highlight character traits such as resilience and resourcefulness. Creating new opportunities or adjusting to a totally new environment will show adaptability and determination, which are strong qualities for a future global leader that admissions committees will pick up on. Even if the failed enterprise is directly attributable to you, displaying the honest self-awareness and accountability to identify areas for personal development – including how a particular MBA program will help correct these flaws – can create a compelling and authentic application that will help you stand out as a candidate.

So, will your involvement in a failed business completely ruin your chances of admission to business school? No! Explain the failure of the venture through the aforementioned traits, and the admissions committee will be able to see how a bad situation led to the development of a great MBA candidate.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

Is an EMBA or PTMBA Right for You?

Part Time or Full Time MBAMany candidates struggle with deciding on which MBA format is a better fit for their career development needs. This decision can become even more complicated when factoring in choosing between part-time learning options like an Executive MBA (EMBA) program or a Part-Time MBA (PTMBA) program.

Both of these will allow you to simultaneously continue your professional career while pursuing your MBA, however, these programs generally attract different types of students and offer somewhat different benefits than traditional MBAs.

Work Experience
The “E” in EMBA says it all – applicants to this program are typically more senior in their organization and with more lengthy work experience than their full-time and part-time MBA counterparts, so in general, there is a significant age and experience difference between the three program types. Coupled with the seniority EMBA classmates and the quality of the interactions, this makes EMBA programs a big draw for many older applicants.

Cost
The cost of an EMBA can be significantly less expensive than a PTMBA. Part of this stems from the fact that most applicants will have the tab picked up by their employer. Now this is common as well for many PTMBA students but more common for EMBAs. The reduced price tag can be a big draw for those paying out of pocket for their MBA.

Resources
Schools pull out all the stops to support EMBA programs, which makes sense given the hefty price tag. These programs will offer the best professors, learning spaces, dining halls, and materials. Which is contrary to the PTMBA program which generally offers similar resources as their FT counter parts.

Network
The network you will build in an executive program also will be different. With part time programs the student community is fairly transient given the students are splitting their time between work and school. The residential component of the EMBA program allows students to be more realistic about dedicating their efforts to the program for the days they are on campus. This better allows students to bond and get to know their fellow classmates given this additional time for greater interaction. Also, this network is obviously of people who are very senior in their organization, which makes for great collaborative opportunities outside of the classroom.

As always research is the key so go beyond secondary research and connect with current students and admission officers to get a feel for what program best addresses your development needs.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can find more of his articles here.

SAT Tip of the Week: Reading Like Rihanna Means Less “Work”

SAT Tip of the Week (2)As we return to Hip Hop Month in the SAT Tip of the Week space, let’s turn out attention to Reading. And who better to teach Reading than RiRi herself? Ironically, her current hit “Work” provides probably the best example of how to reduce the amount you have to work on SAT Reading passages.

Quick: get the song “Work” stuck in your head (or get it playing on your phone). What’s the most notable thing about the lyrics she’s singing? For most of the chorus, she’s not even singing them. “Work work work work work” becomes “Wu wu wu wu wu.” She’s going through the motions and ignoring most of the words, glossing them over (almost like she herself is thinking “let’s just get past this and get to the Drake part”). She’ll fully articulate “work” and “dirt” the first time or two she says it, but then she’ll play the “you already know what I’m saying so let’s just get through it with as little effort as possible” part.

Oddly enough, that’s how you should approach Reading on the SAT. It’s just too much work to try to process every single word, so like Rihanna you’ll want to skim through portions that aren’t essential to your understanding and then lock in when it’s truly important. Rihanna’s genius on “Work” is that she rises to the occasion when she has to deliver, but she’s comfortable glossing over what doesn’t matter. Here’s how you can read like Riri.

Focus when:
1) You see transition/structural words like “however” and “therefore.” These words signal what the author is doing. “However” (or conversely, but, on the other hand…) tells you that the direction of the argument is changing. What comes after that is going to refute what came before it, and that’s usually where an argument or thesis takes shape (for example, an old theory seemed true, BUT new research shows that it has flaws). “Therefore” (or thus, consequently, etc.) typically shows what the author’s point is (whether it’s the main point of the passage or just of that paragraph). And “also” (or furthermore, moreover, additionally) means that the author is adding more evidence for a point. Those signals are good places to focus, because that’s where the author is telling you what she’s trying to accomplish with the sentences around it.

2) You see topic sentences. Not all SAT passages are well-organized, but when they are you’ll generally see topic sentences at the beginning or end of a paragraph and of the passage. These help you to determine the content and direction of what you’re reading.

3) There is italicized text at the top of the passage. This section is crucial – many SAT passages are excerpts from larger articles/chapters/books, and they can start quite abruptly without context. The italicized portions give you that context and allow you to have a feel for what you’re about to read so that it doesn’t come out of nowhere.

Ultimately your goal in reading the passage is to take 1-2 minutes to identify the author’s general point (why did she pick up the pen?) and to have a good feel for where you’d return to find answers (for example, the first paragraph or two may be about the initial theory for why something happens, the middle portion of the passage is about the research that disproved it, and the end talks about what new research the author proposes). If you can come away with a good understanding of “the author is advocating for X, and I know where to go if they ask me about Y” you’ve done your job with little work and you have plenty of time to focus on the questions.

Skim when:
1) The passage gets into dense details. These can be confusing or just labor-intensive, taking time to read, but details are only important if a question asks about them. Every passage will contain several details that don’t have questions about them, so save your time and energy and only focus on the major themes during your first read.

2) You’ve identified the purpose of a paragraph or section, and just want to make sure that the author doesn’t change gears. This is Rihanna’s “Work” at its finest…it’s not that she’s skipping the word “work” entirely, but that she’s saving her energy to get to “what’s new” in the verses.  She addresses each word, but casually, and that’s how you should skim. If you know what the author is doing, let your eyes run over each word but only lock in when you see that something is changing. If the author, for example, is listing 3-4 examples, you can skim that. But when the author says “however, there are exceptions” that means that something has changed. What was true isn’t always true, and that’s new information that’s probably important.

Remember, the Riri Reading method doesn’t mean that you’re skipping words entirely – it’s just that you can selectively choose which words/sentences are worthy of effort. Reading an entire passage is a lot of work (work, work, work, work), but if you’re choosy about where you expend that energy and time, you can save way more than FourFive Seconds per passage and be on your way to your dream school. Just remember to bring an Umbrella.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

How to Prepare for College-Level Writing

writing essayI’ve written previously on how to make the transition to college writing once you’re already in college, and that’s important. What’s also important is using your time in high school to prepare yourself early for the rigors of college writing.

I know that when you’re in high school, college can seem light-years away. It’s hard to see how your high school assignments will really help you be a better student in college, but trust me, they can. If you use your time in high school right, especially in regards to writing, you can get a strong head start towards producing college-quality work.

Here are 3 tips that you can start using right away to prepare for your future college writing:

1) Create your own topics on assignments.
Or at the very least, alter the prompts given to you. Often times, papers in college will either have no prompt or will have very generic prompts – you have to be creative enough to come up with your own question and then have enough evidence to answer it.

In high school, paper topics are often clearly delineated, and students just go along with what their teacher says. While this might be easy to do, it won’t help you down the road. By practicing going out of your way to confect unique topics that you can explore in depth, you won’t be intimidated when the only instruction your college professor gives you is, “Go write a paper on the book we just read!” (Just be sure to clear this creative topic change with your teacher before submitting your paper!)

2) Ask your high school teachers for feedback, even if you did well on an assignment.
Many high school students just look at the grade on their essays and then move on with their lives. However, knowing that you got an A or a B doesn’t let you know how you can continue to improve your writing. By looking at your teacher’s feedback, you’ll start to see your strengths and weaknesses in writing and be able to raise the quality of your work. What’s more, you can go above and beyond by meeting with your teacher to ask for ways that your writing could better fit college-level writing. After all, your teachers have gone through college already and it’s their job to get your ready for the rigors of the next phase of your academic journey.

3) Focus on argument, not exposition.
In high school, you can sometimes get by with writing a paper focused on who did what, what an idea means, or what techniques someone used. This is exposition (or description) and it is only one part of writing. Good college papers make arguments – they don’t just explain what a character did or what an author’s idea is. So, even if a high school assignment asks you only a simple question, it’s good practice to go above and beyond to make a more complex argument. This mode of thinking will prepare you for the rigorous analysis you must do in college.

I know it can be tempting to just skate by on high school assignments. However, there are certain ways you can use your time in high school to solidly prepare yourself for college writing, and doing this will be well worth your time. Even if this requires more ingenuity and diligence from you now, it will set you up for abundant future success in college and beyond.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Be Tolerant Towards Pronoun Ambiguity on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe encounter many different types of pronoun errors on the GMAT Verbal Section. Some of the most common errors include:

Using a pronoun without an antecedent. For example, the sentence, “Although Jack is very rich, he makes poor use of it,” is incorrect because “it” has no antecedent. The antecedent should instead be “money” or “wealth.”

Error in matching the pronoun to its antecedent in number and gender. For example, the sentence, “Pack away the unused packets, and save it for the next game,” is incorrect because the antecedent of “it” is referring to “unused packets,” which is plural.

Using a nominative/objective case pronoun when the antecedent is possessive. For example, the sentence, “The client called the lawyer’s office, but he did not answer,” is incorrect because the antecedent of “he” should be referring to “lawyer,” but it appears only in the possessive case. Official GMAT questions will not give you this rule as the only decision point between two options.

But note that the rules governing pronoun ambiguity are not as strict as other rules! Pronoun ambiguity should be the last decision point for eliminating an option after we have taken care of SV agreements, tenses, modifiers, parallelism etc.

Every sentence that has two nouns before a pronoun does not fall under the “pronoun ambiguity error” category. If the pronoun agrees with two nouns in number and gender, and both nouns could be the antecedent of the pronoun, then there is a possibility of pronoun ambiguity. But in other cases, logic can dictate that only one of the nouns can really perform (or receive) an action, and so it is logically clear to which noun the pronoun refers.

For example, “Take the bag out of the car and get it fixed.”

What needs to get fixed? The bag or the car? Either is possible. Here we have a pronoun ambiguity, but it is highly unlikely you will see something like this on the GMAT.

A special mention should be made here about the role nouns play in the sentence. Often, a pronoun which acts as the subject of a clause refers to the noun which acts as a subject of the previous clause. In such sentences, you will often find that the antecedent is unambiguous. Similarly, if the pronoun acts as the direct object of a clause, it could refer to the direct object of the  previous clause. If the pronoun and its antecedent play parallel roles, a lot of clarity is added to the sentence. But it is not necessary that the pronoun and its antecedent will play parallel roles.

Let’s look at a different example, “The car needs to be taken out of the driveway and its brakes need to get fixed.”

Here, obviously the antecedent of “its” must be the car since only it has brakes, not the driveway. Besides, the car is the subject of the previous clause and “its” refers to the subject. Hence, this sentence would be acceptable.

A good rule of thumb would be to look at the options. If no options sort out the pronoun issue by replacing it with the relevant noun, just forget about pronoun ambiguity. If there are options that clarify the pronoun issue by replacing it with the relevant noun, consider all other grammatical issues first and then finally zero in on pronoun ambiguity.

Let’s take a quick look at some official GMAT questions involving pronouns now:

Congress is debating a bill requiring certain employers provide workers with unpaid leave so as to care for sick or newborn children. 

(A) provide workers with unpaid leave so as to 
(B) to provide workers with unpaid leave so as to 
(C) provide workers with unpaid leave in order that they 
(D) to provide workers with unpaid leave so that they can 
(E) provide workers with unpaid leave and 

The answer is (D). Why? The correct sentence would use “to provide” (not “provide”) and “so that” (not “so as to”), and should read, “Congress is debating a bill requiring certain employers to provide workers with unpaid leave so that they can care for sick or newborn children.” In this sentence, “they” logically refers to “workers.” Even though “they” could refer to employers, too, after you sort out the rest of the errors, you are left with (D) only, hence answer must be (D).

Let’s look at another question:

While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they are potentially devastating for homeowners, whose equity – in many cases representing a life’s savings – can plunge or even disappear.

(A) they are potentially devastating for homeowners, whose
(B) they can potentially devastate homeowners in that their
(C) for homeowners they are potentially devastating, because their
(D) for homeowners, it is potentially devastating in that their
(E) it can potentially devastate homeowners, whose

The correct answer is (A). The correct sentence should read, “While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they are potentially devastating for homeowners, whose equity – in many cases representing a life’s savings – can plunge or even disappear.” The pronoun “they” logically refers to “depressed property values.” Both the pronoun and its antecedent serve as subjects in their respective clauses, so the pronoun antecedent is quite clear.

One more question:

Although Napoleon’s army entered Russia with far more supplies than they had in their previous campaigns, it had provisions for only twenty-four days. 

(A) they had in their previous campaigns 
(B) their previous campaigns had had 
(C) they had for any previous campaign 
(D) in their previous campaigns 
(E) for any previous campaign

The correct answer is (E). The correct sentence should read, “Although Napoleon’s army entered Russia with far more supplies than for any previous campaign, it had provisions for only twenty-four days.”

The pronoun “it” logically refers to “Napolean’s army” and not Russia. Both the pronoun and its antecedent serve as subjects in their respective clauses, so the pronoun antecedent is quite clear. Note that the pronoun and its antecedent are a part of the non-underlined portion of the sentence so we don’t need to worry about the usage here but it strengthens our understanding of pronoun ambiguity.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Ernie Els, The Masters, and the First Ten GMAT Questions

GMAT Tip of the WeekAt this weekend’s The Masters golf tournament, the most notable piece of news isn’t the leaderboard, but rather the guy least likely to get near it. Ernie Els set a record with a nine-stroke, quintuple bogey on his first hole of the tournament, effectively ending his tournament minutes after he began it. And in doing so, he also provided you with some insight into the “First Ten Questions” myth that concerns so many GMAT test-takers.

With 18 holes each day for 4 days (Quick mental math! 18×4 is the same as 9×8 – halve the first number and double the second to make it a calculation you know well – so that’s 72 holes), any one hole shouldn’t matter. So why was Els’ first hole such a catastrophe?

It forces him to be nearly perfect the rest of the tournament, because he’s playing at such a disadvantage.

Meanwhile, Day 1 leader Jordan Spieth shot par (“average”) his first few holes and Rory McElroy, in second place at the end of the day, bogeyed (one stroke worse than average) a total of four holes on day one. The leaders were far from perfect themselves – another important lesson for the GMAT – but by avoiding a disastrous start, they allowed themselves plenty of opportunities to make up for mistakes.

And that brings us to the GMAT. Everyone makes mistakes on the GMAT, and that often happens regardless of difficulty level. So if you’re shooting for a top score and you miss half of the first ten questions, you have a few problems to contend with.

For starters, you have to “get hot” here soon and go on a run of correct answers. Secondly, you now have a lot fewer problems available to go on that hot streak (there are only 27 more Quant or 31 more Verbal questions after the first ten). And finally, the scoring/delivery algorithm doesn’t see you as “elite” yet so the questions are going to be a little easier and less “valuable,” meaning that you’ll need to “get hot” both to prove to the computer that you belong at the top level and then to demonstrate that you can stay there.

That’s the Ernie Els problem – regardless of how good you are, you’re probably going to make mistakes, so when you force yourself to be nearly perfect on the “easier” problems you end up with a tricky standard to live up to. Even if you really should be scoring at the 700-level, you don’t have a 100% probability of answering every 500-level problem correctly. That may well be in the 90%+ range, and maybe your likelihood at the 600 level is 75 or 80%. Getting 7, 8, 9 problems right in a row is a tall order as you dig your way out of that hole.

So the first 10 problems ARE important, but not because they have that much more power over the rest of the test – it’s because the more of them you miss, the more unrealistically perfect you have to be. The key is to “not blow it” on the first 10, rather than to “do everything you can to get them all right,” which is the mindset that holds back plenty of test-takers.

Again take the Masters: the leaderboard on Thursday night is never that close to the leaderboard on Sunday evening. Very often it’s someone who starts well, but is a few strokes off the lead the first few days, who wins. The GMAT is similar: a lot can happen from questions 11 through 37 (or 41), so by no means can you celebrate victory a quarter of the way through. Your goal shouldn’t be to be perfect, but rather to get off to a good start. Getting  7 questions right and having sufficient time to complete the rest of the section is much, much better than getting 9 right but forcing yourself to rush later on.

Essentially, as Ernie Els and thousands of GMAT test-takers have learned the hard way, you won’t win it in the first quarter, but you can certainly lose it there.  As you budget your time for the first 10 questions of each section, take a few extra seconds to double-check your work and make sure you’re not making egregious mistakes, but don’t over-invest at the expense of the critical problems to come.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

Use This Tip to Avoid Critical Reasoning Traps on the GMAT

GMAT TrapsWhen you’ve been teaching test prep for a while you begin to be able to anticipate the types of questions that will give your students fits. The reason isn’t necessarily because these questions are unusually hard in a conventional sense, but because embedded within these problems is a form of misdirection that is nearly impossible to resist. It’s often worthwhile to dissect these problems in greater detail to reveal some deeper truths about how the test works.

Here is a problem I knew I’d be asked about often the moment I saw it:

W, X, Y, and Z represent distinct digits such that WX * YZ = 1995. What is the value of W?

  1. X is a prime number
  2. Z is not a prime number

The first instinct for most students I work with is, “I’m told nothing about W in either statement. There have to be many possibilities, so each statement alone is not sufficient.” When this thought occurs to you during the test, it’s important to resist it. By this, I don’t mean that you should simply assume that you’re wrong – there likely will be times when your first instincts are correct. Instead, what I mean is that you should take a bit more time to prove your assumptions to yourself. If there really are many workable scenarios, it won’t take much time to find them.

First, whenever there is an unusually large number and we’re dealing with multiplication, we want to take the prime factorization of that large number so that we can work with that figure’s basic building blocks and make it more manageable. In this case, the prime factorization of 1995 is 3 * 5 * 7 * 19. (First we see that five is a factor of 1995 because 1995 = 5*399. Next, we see that 3 is a factor of 399, because the digits of 399 sum to a multiple of 3. Now we have 5 * 3 * 133. Last, we know that 133 = 7 * 19, because if there are twenty 7’s in 140, there must be nineteen 7’s in 133.)

Now we can use these building blocks to form two-digit numbers that multiply to 1995. Here is a list of two-digit numbers we can assemble from those prime factors:

3 * 5 = 15

3 * 7 = 21

3 * 19 = 57

5 * 7 = 35

5 * 19 = 95

These are our candidates for WX and YZ. There aren’t many possibilities for multiplying two of these two-digit numbers and still getting a product of 1995. In fact, there are only two: 95*21 = 1995 and 35*57 = 1995. But we’re told that each digit must be unique, so 35*57 can’t work, as two of our variables would equal 5. This means that we know, before we even look at the statements, that our two two-digit numbers are 95 and 21 – we just need to know which is which.

It’s possible that WX = 95 and YZ = 21, or WX = 21 and YZ = 95. That’s it. What at first appeared to be a very open-ended question actually has very few workable solutions. Now that we’ve established our sample space of possibilities, let’s examine the statements:

Statement 1: If we know X is prime, we know that WX cannot be 21, as X would be 1 in this scenario and 1 is not a prime number. This means that WX has to be 95, and thus we know for a fact that W = 9. This statement alone is sufficient to answer the question.

Statement 2: If we know that Z is not prime, we know that YZ cannot be 95, as Z would be 5 in this scenario and 5 is, of course, prime. Thus, YZ is 21 and WX is 95, and again, we know for a fact that W is 9, so this statement alone is also sufficient.

The answer is D, either statement alone is sufficient to answer the question, a result very much at odds with most test-taker’s initial instincts.

Takeaway: the GMAT is engineered to wrong-foot test-takers, using our instincts against us.  Rather than simply assuming our instincts are wrong – they won’t always be – we want to be methodical about proving our intuitions one way or another by confirming them in some instances, refuting them in others. By being thorough and methodical, we reduce the odds that we’ll step into one of the traps the question-writer has set for us and increase the odds that we’ll answer the question correctly.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can find more articles by him, here.

SAT Tip of the Week: Hotline Bling Is an SAT Thing

SAT Tip of the Week (1)It’s Hip Hop Month in the “SAT Tip of the Week” space, where you’ll learn that that Drake is a university in Iowa (where The Motto is, of course, Veritas) as well as a rapper from Toronto, and that the Common app is a great way to prepare for your Future. So let’s start with Drake, because even if your SAT score started at the bottom, now you’re here. If you’re reading this…it’s NOT too late.

It’s been hard to go anywhere over the last year without hearing Drake’s recent hit “Hotline Bling” (which was not only a monster #1 hit but also a Super Bowl commercial), so there’s a fair chance that as you drive to go take the SAT you’ll get Hotline Bling stuck in your head. And that’s exactly what you want.

Why?

Because, as the song goes, when you hear that Hotline Bling, that can only mean one thing. And there are several “Hotline Blings” on the SAT; recognizing them can save you plenty of time and dramatically raise your accuracy.

Hotline Bling: SAT Math
Positive vs. Negative
For example, on the Math sections, you might see a statement like x > 0 or y < 0. Hotline bling! Greater than zero or less than zero as definitions in an SAT Math problem can only mean one thing: you’d better check the sign of your answer (positive vs. negative) because greater than 0 means positive and less than 0 means negative, and putting those definitions in problems is a huge signal that positive/negative matters.

The expression is equivalent to…
Whenever you see the words “expression” and “equivalent” in an SAT Math problem – usually “The expression (given expression) is equivalent to which of the following?” or “Which of the following is equivalent to the expression shown above?” – that’s a Hotline Bling. That can only mean one thing: you’re going to have to use the answer choices.

Either you’ll try to make the given expression look more like the answer choices (for example, if the answer choices don’t have parentheses or a denominator, you’ll need to work on the given expression to get rid of the parentheses and denominator) or you’ll be able to pick your own numbers. Consider the following example, which appears courtesy the Official SAT Study Guide:

The expression (5x-2)/(x+3) is equivalent to which of the following?
A) (5-2)/3
B) 5 – (2/3)
C) 5 – (x)/(x+3)
D) 5 – (17)/(x+3)

Notice that you HAVE TO use the answer choices here. Without them, you don’t know what to start doing with the given expression. And even with them, it may seem difficult to get a 5 all alone away from the fraction (like answer choices B, C, and D).

That can only mean one thing: this is a great problem on which to try picking your own numbers. If you were to say, for example, that x = -2 (making your math easy by setting the whole denominator of the original equation equal to 1), you’d know that you have [5(-2) – 2]/(-2+3). That means that you have -12 as the value of the given expression when x = -2, so now you can test the answer choices. Clearly A and B do not work, so then check C and D. C then equals 4 while D = -12, so only choice D spits out the right answer when numbers are involved.

Hotline Bling to the rescue – the words “equivalent” and “expression” can only mean one thing…you’d better get the answer choices involved, and there’s a high likelihood that this is a pick your own numbers problem.

Hotline Bling: SAT Writing
Singular vs. Plural
Whenever the answer choices for a Writing problem include the singular and plural form of the same pronoun or verb (“it” vs. “they”; “is” vs. “are”) that can only mean one thing: you need to find the subject and match it up singular or plural.

Homophones
Whenever the answer choices include multiple words that sound the same (they’re / their / there; it’s / its; you’re / your / yore), that can only mean one thing: the test is checking whether you know which version of the word means what. The apostrophe in those words is for a contraction (they are / it is / you are), so if you’re not trying to form a contraction, eliminate it. These problems should be quick, free points.

Addition/Subtraction
Whenever a question asks whether the author should add or delete a sentence, that can only mean one thing: it’s not a matter of personal preference, but a matter of understanding what the author is trying to accomplish. In these cases, you must read the context of that paragraph and determine what the author’s purpose is, then gauge whether adding or deleting anything would be true to that purpose. These questions aren’t about style at all – they’re about the author’s intent, so you have to read a wider scope of information to make sure you know what that purpose is.

Hotline Bling: SAT Reading
Vocab-in-context
Whenever a question begins with, “As used in line…” (e.g. “As used in line 68, ‘hold’ most nearly means…”) that can only mean one thing: you have to understand the meaning of the sentence that the line number points you to, and not just rely on your knowledge of the word itself. These questions always include multiple answer choices that could mean the same thing as that word itself, but only one that you’d actually use in that sentence. So when you see those questions, don’t try to answer them on answer choices alone; instead, think about what word you’d use in that sentence and find a word that closely matches yours.

Ultimately, Hotline Bling on the SAT is all about recognizing knee-jerk reactions: if “___” appears, that can only mean one thing, so you know exactly what to do next. The list above isn’t a list of all SAT Hotline Blings, but a good start. As you study for the SAT, pay attention to all those Hotline Blings that tell you the one thing you should do next, and soon enough, you’ll be thinking, “Ever since I left the city you…” as you think about your high school friends and foes from far away in a dorm room at your dream school.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

Are There Set Rules for Answering GMAT Sentence Correction Questions?

SAT WorryThe other day I was working with a tutoring student on Sentence Correction when she expressed some understandable frustration: when we did Quantitative questions together, she said, she felt like she could rely on ironclad rules that never varied (the rules for exponents don’t change depending on the context of the problem, for example), but when we did Sentence Correction, the relevant rules at play in a given question seemed less obvious.

Was there a way, she wondered, to view Sentence Correction with the same unwavering consistency with which we view Quantitative questions? While I understand her frustration, the answer is, alas, an unqualified “no.” English is far too complex for us to boil down Sentence Correction to a series of stimulus-response reflexes. Context and logic always matter.

To see why we can’t go on autopilot during Sentence Correction questions, consider the following problem:

Not only did the systematic clearing of forests in the United States create farmland (especially in the Northeast) and gave consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but it also caused erosion and very quickly deforested whole regions. 

A) Not only did the systematic clearing of forests in the United States create farmland (especially in the Northeast) and gave consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but it also

B) Not only did the systematic clearing of forests in the United States create farmland (especially in the Northeast), which gave consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but also

C) The systematic clearing of forests in the United States, creating farmland (especially in the Northeast) and giving consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but also

D) The systematic clearing of forests in the United States created farmland (especially in the Northeast) and gave consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but it also

E) The systematic clearing of forests in the United States not only created farmland (especially in the Northeast), giving consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but it

If you fully absorbed the class discussion about the importance of parallel construction, you probably noticed an indelible parallel marker here: “not only.” Okay, you think. Any time I see not only x, I know but also y should show up later in the sentence.

This isn’t wrong, per se, but the construction “not only/but also” is only applicable in certain circumstances. So before we jump to the erroneous conclusion that this is the construction that is called for in this sentence, let’s examine its underlying logic in more detail.

Take the simple example, “On the way to work, I not only got stuck in traffic, but also….” Think about your expectations for what should come next in this sentence – getting stuck in traffic was the first unfortunate thing to happen to this hapless subject, and we’re expecting a second unfortunate event in the latter part of the sentence. Not only/but also is appropriate when we’re talking about similar things.

Now consider the construction. “On the way to work, I got stuck in traffic, but…” Now our expectations are markedly different – the second half of the sentence is going to contrast with the first. We’re expecting something different.

Let’s go back to our GMAT sentence. We’re comparing the consequences of the clearing of forests. First, the clearing “created farmland and gave consumers inexpensive houses” (good things). However, it also “caused erosion and deforested the region” (bad things). Because we’re comparing two very different consequences, the construction “not only/but also” – which is used to compare similar things – is inappropriate. Now we can safely eliminate answers A, B and E.

That leaves us with C and D. First, let’s examine C. Notice there’s a participial modifier in the middle of the sentence set off by commas, and a sentence should still be logical if we remove these modifiers. We would then be left with, “The systematic clearing of forests in the United States, but also caused erosion and very quickly deforested whole regions.” This clearly doesn’t work – the initial subject (the systematic clearing) has no verb, so C is wrong. This leaves us with answer choice D, which is the correct answer.

Takeaway: though noticing common constructions on Sentence Correction problems can be helpful, we can never go on autopilot. Ultimately, context, logic, and meaning will always come into play. Before you select any answer, always ask yourself if the sentence is logically coherent before you select it. If you want to ace the GMAT, turning off your brain is not an option.

*GMATPrep question courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can read more articles by him here.

Improve Your Speed on the ACT Math Section Using Math Fluidity

stopwatch-620Speed is key on the Math Section of the ACT – you have only 60 minutes to complete 60 questions. However, this doesn’t mean you should spend one minute on each question, as not every question on in this section is created equal. Many questions (particularly Questions 1-30) are problems that you can solve in under one minute. In fact, you should aim to solve Questions 1-30 in less than 30 minutes – around 25 minutes is the goal.

That’s because some of the later questions, particularly the questions from Questions 40-60, will require more than a minute. Basically, you want to put aside extra time for the tricky questions at end of the section by completing the easier, earlier questions as quickly as possible. If you do Questions 1-30 in 25 minutes, then you have 35 minutes to do Questions 31-60.

One way to improve your speed on the Math Section is to develop what I call “math fluidity.” That means recognizing how common patterns, formulas and special rules can help you solve any particular problem. To illustrate, take a look at the following triangle problem:

Triangle ABC (below) is an equilateral triangle with side of length 4. What is the area of triangle ABC?

ACT Triangle 1

 

 

 

The first step to any geometry problem is writing down what relevant common formula you’ll need to solve the problem; i.e. whenever I’m asked the area of a triangle, at the top of my work space I’ll write:

A = (b*h)/2

Having the formula in front of you will be helpful because right away, it’s clear that although we have some information, we don’t have all the information we need to solve this problem – we have the base of the triangle (4), but not the height. Since the height of an equilateral triangle always goes from one angle to the opposite side, where it forms two 90-degree angles, drawing the height of an equilateral triangle creates two identical triangles, as shown below:

ACT Triangle 2

 

 

 

Many students would now conclude that they need the Pythagorean theorem to solve for the height (that line bisecting the equilateral triangle). This is where math fluidity comes in. Although you could use the Pythagorean theorem, it’s much faster to instead recognize what type of triangle you are dealing with.

Whenever you split an equilateral triangle in half, you create two 30-60-90 triangles. These are also called “special right triangles” because they always follow the rule that the shortest side is always “x,” the side opposite the 60-degree angle is always x√3, and the hypotenuse is always 2x. See the triangle below:

ACT Triangle 3

 

 

 

So, rather than spend any time solving for the height of the our triangle by using the Pythagorean Theorem, recognize that because the hypotenuse is 4 and the base is 2 (of either of the smaller triangles), and because the triangle is a right triangle, the height must be 2√3. Therefore, the area of the larger triangle is  (2√3)(4)(1/2), which equals 4√3.

Instantly recognizing that the two smaller triangles are 30-60-90 triangles only saves a little bit of time – if you can regularly shave off 20 seconds on question after question by recognizing special rules or how best to apply formulas, you’ll accrue saved time that can later be spent on harder math questions. Speaking of which, math fluidity also applies to tricky questions – similar to what we previously saw, recognition will break down hard questions into easier, faster steps.

So, let’s take a look at a more difficult question. Note, this next example is especially relevant for students shooting for 99th percentile or perfect scores. Although many students can solve the following question if given enough time, few students can solve it quickly enough to get it correct on the ACT. Here’s the problem:

In triangle ABC below, angle BAE measures 30 degrees. What is the value of angle AED minus angle ABE?

A) 30ACT Triangle 4
B) 60
C) 90
D) 120
E) 150

 

Although there are several ways to solve this problem, math fluidity will help with whatever approach you choose. As I mentioned earlier, it is always best to start by writing down a relevant formula, as it will include what information you have and what information you need. In this case, I’m looking for AED-ABE. Because I’ve also been given the measure of angle BAE, I’ll write down:

BAE = 30 and BAE + ABE = AED

Here’s where math fluidity comes in; the second formula is based off a theorem that you probably learned (and then forgot!) in your geometry class. I do recommend (re)memorizing it for the ACT as follows: a measure of an exterior angle of a triangle is equal to the sum of the measures of the two non-adjacent interior angles.

ACT Triangle 5Are you drawing a blank? If so, take a moment to think about why that statement is true. If the smaller two angles of a right-angle triangle, as shown at left, are 40 and 50, then if we extend a line as shown to form the adjacent exterior angle x, then x + 50 = 180, so x = 130.

 

Also, 40 + 50 + 90 = 180, since the sum of interior angles of a triangle always add up to 180. So, if x + 50 = 180, and  40 + 50 + 90 = 180, then x+ 50 = 40 + 50 + 90.

Removing the 50 from both sides, we can conclude that x = 40 + 90, or x (the adjacent  exterior angle of one interior angle) is equal to the sum of the other two interior angles.

Now, returning to our original problem:

If BAE = 30 and BAE + ABE = AED, then:

30 + ABE = AED

AED – ABE = 30

Therefore, our answer is A, 30.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

3 Things to Avoid During Your MBA Admissions Interview

MBA AdmissionsWould people like working with you? Can you communicate like an organization’s leader? When you interview for that coveted slot in your dream MBA program, these are some of the many areas you will be evaluated on. Chances are, at this stage you already know that you need to exemplify your ability to be on time, personable, and familiar with the details of your application.

Effectively communicating your personal highlights and your fit with the school will help you stand out favorably from the pool of other well-qualified applicants, but as you focus on presenting how exceptional you are, it can also be easy to fall for one of the popular pitfalls of the business school interview. Being cognizant of the details below will help you present yourself to your interviewer as a potential future leader who would be perfect for their school:

1) Steer Clear From an “Us vs. Them” Mentality
In day-to-day conversations with your coworkers, it can be easy to get used to generalizing negatively about other units in the organization. For example, referring to upper management as “out of touch” may feel true to you and your division. However, during your MBA interviews, you need to be more politically correct and sensitive – the way a CEO with the goal of uniting and inspiring the whole organization would carefully choose his or her words and delivery.

During practice interviews, applicants often fall into this trap when they explain examples of failures or challenging situations, as the language and tone used can give off the impression of a deeply-fostered “solo” mentality. Practicing with a sensitive listener will help call this out, allowing you to avoid this very common pitfall.

2) Hold Off On Generalizations
Related to the above, you must avoid tagging groups of people with a generalized label, whether it is by job functions, race, gender or nationality. While it may be funny for Dilbert to declare, “Marketing is only legal because it doesn’t work most of the time,” this sort of language should obviously be a no-no for you.

Likewise, highlighting an accomplishment educating the “backwards” people in one of your international offices by teaching them the “American Way” does not help in showing open-mindedness, and may actually concern your interviewer on your readiness to work with classmates from all over the world, or your potential to be a future global leader.

How then do you relate an accomplishment leading low-skilled blue-collar workers to align processes at the factory level with new technologies? You can still communicate the scale and context of this challenge without offending sensibilities – imagine describing one of them like you would describe a favorite uncle, doing so in an objective manner that would show both your appreciation and fondness at the same time.

3) End on a Positive Note
At the end of the interview, you are given the opportunity to ask questions. This is a great time to personally connect with your interviewer. Avoid showing doubts about your intention to push through with accepting an eventual offer to join the program (no matter how reasonable it is), or asking administrative details – these can always be addressed outside of the interview with better research and by connecting with the admissions office. Instead, engage the interviewer to talk about his fond memories with the school, evoking positive feelings that he would also have a good chance of associating with your particular interview.

By avoiding these three pitfalls, you’ll be sure to leave a great impression with your interviewer and bring yourself one step closer to gaining acceptance at your dream school.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Using a Venn Diagram vs. a Double Set Matrix on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomCritics may have given a rotten rating to the recently released “Batman v. Superman” movie, but we sure can use it to learn a valuable GMAT lesson. A difficult decision point for GMAT test takers is picking the probable winner between Venn diagrams and Double Set Matrices for complicated sets questions. If that is true for you too, then the onscreen rivalry between Batman and Superman will help you remember this trick:

Venn diagrams are like Superman – all powerful. They can help you solve almost all questions involving either 2 or 3 overlapping sets. But then, there are some situations in which double set matrix method (aka Batman with his amazing weaponry) might be easier to use. It is possible to solve these questions using Venn diagrams, too, but it is more convenient to solve them using a Double Set Matrix.

We have discussed solving three overlapping sets using Venn diagrams here.

Today, we will look at the case in which using a Double Set Matrix is easier than using a Venn diagram – in instances where we have two sets of variables, such as English/Math and Middle School/High School, or Cake/Ice cream and Boys/Girls, etc.

Eventually, we will solve our question again using a Venn diagram, for those who like to use a single method for all similar questions. First, take a look at our question:

A business school event invites all of its graduate and undergraduate students to attend. Of the students who attend, male graduate students outnumber male undergraduates by a ratio of 7 to 2, and females constitute 70% of the group. If undergraduate students make up 1/6 of the group, which of the following CANNOT represent the number of female graduate students at the event?

(A) 18
(B) 27
(C) 36
(D) 72
(E) 180

To solve this problem using a Double Set Matrix, first jot down one set of variables as the row headings and the other as the column headings, as well as a row and column for “totals.” Now all you need to do is add in the information line by line as you read through the question.

“…male graduate students outnumber male undergraduates by a ratio of 7 to 2…
QWQW graph 1

 

 

“…females constitute 70% of the group.

Female students make up 70% of the group, which implies that male students (total of 9x) make up 30% of the group.

9x = (30/100)*Total Students

Total Students = 30x

Since 9x is the total number of male students while 30x is the total number of all students, the total number of female students must be 30x – 9x = 21x.

QWQW graph 2

 

 

If undergraduate students make up 1/6 of the group…

Undergrad students make 1/6 of the group, i.e. (1/6)*30x = 5x

If the total number of undergrad students is 5x and the number of male undergrad students is 2x, the number of female undergrad students must be 5x – 2x = 3x.

This implies that the number of graduate females must be 18x, since the total number of females is 21x.

QWQW graph 3

 

 

Therefore, the number of graduate females must be a multiple of 18. 27 is the only answer choice that is not a multiple of 18, so it cannot be the number of graduate females – therefore, our answer must be B.

Now, here is how Superman can rescue us in this question. An analysis similar to the one above will give us a Venn diagram which looks like this:

qwqw pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, we will get the same answer: the number of graduate females must be a multiple of 18. We know 27 is not a multiple of 18, so it cannot be the number of graduate females and therefore, our answer is still B.

Hopefully, next time you come across an overlapping sets question, you will know exactly who your superhero is!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

How to Successfully Use Your College Weekends

roomateWeekends in college – stereotypically the time for football games, Frisbee on the green, and massive parties – are not always so glamorous. While it is true that these things do happen with regularity on the weekends, they don’t tell the whole story. In fact, with how much work college students have, a significant part of many students’ weekends is often spent in the library.

This presents itself as a bit of a dilemma – you want to go do fun things with your friends, but you also don’t want to be behind on schoolwork for the upcoming week. There is both a pressure to do work and a pressure to be social. Luckily, balancing college life is not too hard, and learning to do so can reap great benefits. All you have to keep in mind are the concepts of moderation and planning, and your weekends will end up being both productive and fun.

So what do I mean by moderation? Moderation is two-fold. One part is doing things in small chunks, rather than reserving huge blocks of time for doing just one thing. Breaking up your work into manageable chunks to do on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday is a good step towards making sure you don’t get overwhelmed. Doing this reminds you that the amount of work you have is rarely as bad as you think it is, especially when you consider that all 24 hours of the weekend are available for productivity since there obviously aren’t any classes.

Lots of people have fun on Friday and Saturday and leave all their work for Sunday, but this can result in a difficult end to your weekend, where your marginal productivity greatly decreases as the day goes on. The best path forward is to split up your time and try to ensure that you do things in manageable bursts, not long grind sessions.

The other aspect of moderation is thinking about the weekend as a time where you can both have some fun and do some work, instead of thinking of it in the extreme as only one or the other.  Many college students either say that they’re going to have the most crazy party weekend ever or they will have to be holed up in their rooms all weekend to study for their 3 midterms the following week.

In reality, most weekends can fall somewhere in between. All it takes is shift in mindset to one that thinks in moderate and not extreme terms. If I say that I’m going to have a pretty good weekend because the last week of work was challenging, that still leaves open the possibility that I’ll be able to do a little bit of work this weekend without feeling like I’m sacrificing all my fun. Self-talk is important in how we shape our perceptions, and the same is true with thinking about how we should spend our weekends.

Planning, the other important concept in balancing one’s weekend, is exactly what it sounds like, and while some students enjoy the weekend because it is less structured than their school week, planning out your time is actually quite useful. If you make a plan that includes all you have to do and all you want to do, you’ll be able to physically see that you can balance having fun and doing work. When you have a general idea of what you are doing and when you will be doing it, you are more likely to actually get yourself to do it.

It’s true that random plans with friends always come up on the weekend, but when you have a plan of how you want to spend your time you will be able to make a smart choice as to whether it would be responsible of you to follow through with this spontaneous plan (often times it is). I definitely believe that having fun during the weekend (and the week) is important, but I also mean to convey that having a plan, albeit a flexible one, puts you in a position to succeed.

Weekends are great respite from the daily grind of the school week. In order to make the weekend fun and keep up with work, it’s important to learn how to wisely balance work and play.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

GMAT Tip of the Week: Don’t Be the April Fool with Trap Answers!

GMAT Tip of the WeekToday, people across the world are viewing news stories and emails with a skeptical eye, on guard to ensure that they don’t get April fooled. Your company just released a press release about a new initiative that would dramatically change your workload? Don’t react just yet…it could be an April Fool’s joke.

But in case your goal is to leave that job for the greener pastures of business school, anyway, keep that April Fool’s Day spirit with you throughout your GMAT preparation. Read skeptically and beware of the way too tempting, way too easy answer.

First let’s talk about how the GMAT “fools” you. At Veritas Prep we’ve spent years teaching people to “Think Like the Testmaker,” and the only pushback we’ve ever gotten while talking with the testmakers themselves has been, “Hey! We’re not deliberately trying to fool people.”

So what are they trying to do? They’re trying to reward critical thinkers, and by doing so, there need to be traps there for those not thinking as critically. And that’s an important way to look at trap answers – the trap isn’t set in a “gotcha” fashion to be cruel, but rather to reward the test-taker who sees the too-good-to-be-true answer as an invitation to dig a little deeper and think a little more critically. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and one examinee’s trap answer is another examinee’s opportunity to showcase the reasoning skills that business schools crave.

With that in mind, consider an example, and try not to get April fooled:

What is the greatest prime factor of 12!11! + 11!10! ?

(A) 2
(B) 7
(C) 11
(D) 19
(E) 23

If you’re like many – more than half of respondents in the Veritas Prep Question Bank – you went straight for the April Fool’s answer. And what’s even more worrisome is that most of those test-takers who choose trap answer C don’t spend very long on this problem. They see that 11 appears in both additive terms, see it in the answer choice, and pick it quickly. But that’s exactly how the GMAT fools you – the trap answers are there for those who don’t dig deeper and think critically. If 11 were such an obvious answer, why are 19 and 23 (numbers greater than any value listed in the expanded versions of those factorials 12*11*10*9…) even choices? Who are they fooling with those?

If you get an answer quickly it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re wrong, but it should at least raise the question, “Am I going for the fool’s answer here?”. And that should encourage you to put some work in. Here, the operative verb even appears in the question stem – you have to factor the addition into multiplication, since factors are all about multiplication/division and not addition/subtraction. When you factor out the common 11!:

11!(12! + 10!)

Then factor out the common 10! (12! is 12*11*10*9*8… so it can be expressed as 12*11*10!):

11!10!(12*11 + 1)

You end up with 11!*10!(133). And that’s where you can check 19 and 23 and see if they’re factors of that giant multiplication problem. And since 133 = 19*7, 19 is the largest prime factor and D is, in fact, the correct answer.

So what’s the lesson? When an answer comes a little too quickly to you or seems a little too obvious, take some time to make sure you’re not going for the trap answer.

Consider this – there are only four real reasons that you’ll see an easy problem in the middle of the GMAT:

1) It’s easy. The test is adaptive and you’re not doing very well so they’re lobbing you softballs. But don’t fear! This is only one of four reasons so it’s probably not this!

2) Statistically it’s fairly difficult, but it’s just easy to you because it’s something you studied well for, or for which you had a great junior high teacher. You’re just that good.

3) It’s not easy – you’re just falling for the trap answer.

4) It’s easy but it’s experimental. The GMAT has several problems in each section called “pretest items” that do not count towards your final score. These appear for research purposes (they’re checking to ensure that it’s a valid, bias-free problem and to gauge its difficulty), and they appear at random, so even a 780 scorer will likely see a handful of below-average difficulty problems.

Look back at that list and consider which are the most important. If it’s #1, you’re in trouble and probably cancelling your score or retaking the test anyway. And for #4 it doesn’t matter – that item doesn’t count. So really, the distinction that ultimately matters for your business school future is whether a problem like the example above fits #2 or #3.

If you find an answer a lot more quickly than you think you should, use some of that extra time to make sure you haven’t fallen for the trap. Engage those critical thinking skills that the GMAT is, after all, testing, and make sure that you’re not being duped while your competition is being rewarded. Avoid being the April Fool, and in a not-too-distant September you’ll be starting classes at a great school.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

How to Maximize Your MBA Application Essay in 2 Simple Steps

writing essaySo much to share and so little space to use – this is often the case for MBA application essays. Transforming all the unique details of who you are as a candidate into a flowing personal and reflective essay is essential to stand out as an authentic and engaging personality to the Admissions Committee. A great business school essay will be able to present a multi-dimensional candidate without coming off like an unrelated checklist of highlights.

With the limited space you’re given to write these application essays, it can be quite a challenge to fit in all of the key character traits, substantiated and vivid career highlights, fit with the target MBA program, achievable career goals, and passions outside work that you want to demonstrate to the Admissions Committee. How can you ensure that you maximize the word limits you are given while still creating something that flows naturally and is easy to read? Follow these two guidelines:

1) Do not repeat details
The most common way applicants tend to break down the task of working on multiple essays is to complete them one at a time – after finishing one essay, they review it and then start off on another one. The problem with this writing process is that details from one essay often end up being repeated in another, such as background information on the company a candidate worked for or the candidate’s role within a particular organization. These sentences and phrases, usually in the introduction of each essay or as an added description along the body of the essay, not only waste precious space, but also negatively affect the flow and readability of your essay as a whole.

Keep in mind that each essay you write for the same school is part of a single application package, like chapters of a very short book. In order to create the best applciation possible, you must review your complete set of essays in one sitting to ensure that they complement each other well and provide a multi-dimensional personal profile with the right tone for the particular school you are applying to.

2) Use different settings
Just as a Tom Cruise kept viewers engaged during the Mission Impossible series by showcasing his superhuman physical stunts in various locations such as an opera house in Vienna, a power plant in Morocco and a train station in London, among others, an MBA applicant’s essay would be much more captivating if the candidate’s personal qualities were highlighted through different contexts.

This does not necessarily mean you need to use various geographic locations as the backdrop of your essays (not all of us are as free to travel the globe as Tom Cruise), but rather, to choose to highlight defining moments from your life across various work situations, extra-curricular activities, passions and stories.

By default, most applicants are a bit bias in choosing to use examples from their current work situations, as this is where they spend the majority of their time and where their most recent experiences have occurred. Thus, without careful thought, applicants often end up answering many or most of their essay questions with examples pertaining to only their most recent employment. However, this wastes the opportunity to show the admissions committee your diverse experiences and interests.

Before writing your essays, it is essential to carve out the time to take an inventory of experiences you’d like to highlight and outline your whole set of essays. Afterwards, identify for each essay the settings you can use to display a particular talking point. Doing this saves you time, and puts forth a richly textured personal application.

Following these two steps ensures that you’ll make the most of the limited  essay space you are given so that your overall MBA application package stands out from the competition.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

Don’t Obsess Over GMAT and GPA Numbers on Your MBA Application!

08fba0fEach year, the majority of anxiety for business school applicants tends to revolve around their GMAT and GPA numbers. Without fail, candidates drive themselves crazy wondering whether their GMAT score or GPA is high enough to gain admission to their target MBA program.

These MBA data points are, of course, just as important an aspect of the decision making process as any of the others, but many candidates obsess over the raw numbers in a disproportionate manner. No matter how many times an admissions officer speaks out publicly about the importance of the non-data elements of the application process the message often falls on deaf ears.

Admissions Committees generally want to know who you are as a person. If numbers were truly the only factor taken into consideration with MBA applications, then most top schools would have classes filled with students who have +700 GMAT scores and +3.5 GPAs, but this is not the case – just a quick look at the class profile of any top business school will confirm this.

What is far less common is the rare candidate who can connect their own personal story with the values and culture of their target program. Candidates oven undervalue how truly unique they are because the time spent undergoing the business school self-assessment process is often limited.

Now, letting admissions know who you are does not mean just talking about your job. Dive deeper and share aspects and anecdotes of your unique story that have defined your life up until this point. Tying such a narrative to your personal and professional hopes and dreams can be particularly powerful, and can truly help an applicant stand out against the competition way more than a +700 GMAT score can.

An applicant’s story – and being able to connect that personal narrative with a particular school’s values – is even more important for candidates whose GMAT and GPA are less competitive when considering school-specific averages. This personal approach is effective for all candidates, but is a necessity for candidates who may have obvious data-related red flags in their profile. By being authentic and creating a holistic application package, an applicant can convince the Admissions Committee that their low GMAT or GPA will not affect their academic experience (or the experiences of their peers) on campus or in career options in the future.

Avoid the mistake that many candidates fall victim to every year of obsessing over scores and understand that your numbers do not define you – the greater focus you put in sharing the “real” you in your application process, the better your chances of admission will be.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can find more of his articles here.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Write a Perfect Essay on the New SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullOn the old SAT, the essay questions were often vague philosophical prompts asking you to develop and support your position on the topic. This opened itself up to all sorts of shenanigans by students, like blatantly lying about personal examples (I’m guilty…) or using examples from classic novels to show off their smarts.

On the new SAT, the format of the essay is different. Now the SAT is about analyzing how an author develops her argument and convinces readers of her point. This difference means that the same old strategies won’t cut it anymore. Luckily, there’s an effective way to make the new essay as formulaic as the old essay, giving students a useful framework that they can always use, regardless of the prompt

First, here are the directions for the essay. The top of the page will read something like:

As you read the passage below, consider how (the author) uses

  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

After the article, the instructions for the essay will be:

Write an essay in which you explain how (the author) builds an argument to persuade his/her audience that (author’s argument is true). In your essay, analyze how (the author) uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his/her argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with (the author’s) claims, but rather explain how (the author) builds an argument to persuade his/her audience.

At first glance, these directions might seem vague. “Evidence,” “reasoning,” and “stylistic or persuasive elements” are sometimes too broad to conceive an essay out of. Here’s where my strategy comes in.

On every essay, I like to have three go-to techniques that I always look for when reading the article and can use in my essay. These three are pathos, logos, and ethos – modes of persuasion that are present in practically all argumentative writing, these three techniques are easy to apply to an SAT essay. Plus, analyzing how the author uses these intellectual terms will show your grader that you have a high-level command of rhetorical analysis, and set you up for a classic five-paragraph essay. Let’s break down these techniques further:

Pathos is an appeal to emotion. Authors use pathos to draw readers into their pieces and connect them with the story. You can often find examples of pathos in anecdotes, calls to action, or appeals to a common purpose.

Logos is an appeal to logic.  Authors use logos to make their pieces more intellectually persuasive and consistent. You can often find examples of logos in the use of data, statistics, or research. You can also find logos in trains of reasoning: if x happens, then y will also happen, because of factor z (or something akin to that).

Ethos is an appeal to ethics, character, or credibility. Authors use ethos to add authority or legitimacy to their arguments. This can be done by demonstrating that the author is qualified to make the argument he or she is making. It can also be done by citing experts or authority figures who let the reader know that the author’s claims are backed up by sound evidence or opinion. As such, ethos is often present in quotes from experts or citations of authority figures.

These three techniques – pathos, logos and ethos – are specific and complex enough to let you write a sophisticated new SAT essay, as well as broad enough to allow you to find and analyze them in any article the SAT essay throws at you. This combination of factors creates a structure of analyzing how the author uses pathos, logos and ethos to build his or her argument that is a great way to approach the new SAT essay.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

Answer ACT Reading Questions By Matching the Author’s Tone to the Answer Choices

ReflectingOne of the best ways to attack the Reading Section on the ACT is to look for reasons to eliminate answer choices. In other words, rather than try to find evidence for each answer choice to determine whether or not it is correct, you can identify reasons as to why you can eliminate answer choices because they are incorrect.

In this post, I’ll be covering one easy trick you can use to eliminate at least one answer choice on a surprisingly high number of questions in the ACT Reading Section – matching the author’s tone to the choices. Quickly read the following excerpt:

Russian author Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, perhaps better known as Leo Tolstoy, is largely considered the most prolific Russian novelist in history. Most famous for his two long novels War and Peace, which he penned in 1869, and Anna Karenina, which he wrote in 1877, Tolstoy was a master of realistic fiction. While not the beginning of his literary career, his rise to prominence began when he accounted his experiences in the Crimean War with Sevastopol Sketches, his first acclaimed work. Soon after, between 1855 and 1858, he published a self-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, recounting through fictional characters his own childhood with a sentimentality he later rebuffed as poor writing. Toward the end of his life, Tolstoy became more of a moral thinker and social reformer, transitioning from poplar novelist to evangelical essayist.

Even after a quick read-through, you should be able to describe the author’s tone. (And if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, now is the time to start!) That is, you should be able to ask yourself, “Is the author’s tone laudatory? Is it critical? Is it neutral? Is it persuasive?” and so on. In short, you should have a general sense of whether or not the author has a positive, negative, or neutral stance towards their subject, and you should also have a sense of the degree – i.e. is the author strongly critical, or do they just have some reservations?

Now, go ahead and write down what you think the author’s tone is in the above excerpt.

In this case, the author’s tone is laudatory, as the author calls Tolstoy “prolific” and  a “master of realistic fiction.” So, keep in mind that descriptive terms – adjectives, descriptive phrases, and the like – will clue you in on what the author’s tone is.

Now that we’ve identified the author’s tone, take a look at the following question*:

According to the passage, it could be concluded that the novel War and Peace was:

(A) The first of Leo Tolstoy’s works to be published.
(B) Leo Tolstoy’s last novel of any cultural or literary significance.
(C) Written by Leo Tolstoy after he wrote his self-autobiographical trilogy.
(D) Written by Leo Tolstoy using inspirations from his experience in the Crimean War.

Without rereading the passage, I can immediately eliminate one of the answer choices. Why?  Because it is distinctly different than the author’s tone. The author is praising Tolstoy, so answer choice B, which comes off as critical (Saying that the book is Tolstoy’s last novel of any cultural or literary significance is pretty dang snarky!), couldn’t be the correct answer.

Let’s use this strategy again on a few more questions. First, read the following excerpt and identify the author’s tone:

“A handicapped child represents a qualitative different, unique type of development… If a blind child or a deaf child achieves the same level of development as a normal child, then the child with a defect achieves this in another way, by another course, by another means; and, for the pedagogue, it is particularly important to know the uniqueness of the course along which he must lead the child. This uniqueness transforms the minus of a handicap into the plus of compensation.”

That such radical adaptions could occur demanded, Luria thought, a new view of the brain, a sense of it not as programmed and static, but rather as dynamic and active, a supremely efficient adaptive system geared for evolution and change, ceaselessly adapting to the needs of the organism – its need, above all, to construct a coherent self and world, whatever defects or disorders of brain functions befell it. That the brain is minutely differentiated is clear: there are hundreds of tiny areas crucial for every aspect of perception and behavior. The miracle is how they all cooperate, are integrated together, in the creation of a self.

In this passage, the author’s tone is positive. The author uses the words  “dynamic,” “active” and “miracle,” and cites another author (in the first paragraph) who uses the word “unique.” Thus, these descriptive phrases allow me to conclude that the author takes a positive tone towards his or her subjects of handicaps and the brain.

Now, let’s take a look at some questions. The goal of this exercise is simply to notice what answer choices we can eliminate (not what the correct answers are) without rereading by simply noticing which tones of the answer choices does not match the tone of the author.

The author’s main purpose in the second paragraph is to show:

(A) how he has come to think differently about the brain.
(B) why sickness often causes a contraction of life.
(C) when he had made new discoveries about the brain.
(D) which of his subjects helped him redefine the term “norm.”

With just a quick look at this question, I can immediately eliminate answer choice B. This option takes a negative tone towards sickness, which is clearly out of line with the author’s tone.

Simple enough! Let’s try another question:

The quotation in the first paragraph is used in this passage to support the idea that:

(A) children with handicaps should be studied in the same way as children defined by physicians as “normal.”
(B) deficits need to demonstrate intactness in order to be judged acceptable.
(C) neural or sensory mishap occurs in children as well as adults.
(D) development of children with handicaps may proceed in positive yet quite distinctive ways.

Once again, you will notice that the tone of one of the answer choices stands out as distinctly different from the author’s tone: answer choice B is unusually harsh in tone (judging a deficit “acceptable” comes off as rather cold, if not outright inhumane), so I can make the decision, even without rereading the quote, to eliminate B.

The more adept you get at noting the author’s tone, the more naturally this strategy will come to you. So, next time you do a practice reading section, try incorporating this strategy into your studies.

*Note that I can use the matching tone strategy on these questions because they all reference the purpose of the author (namely, they begin with the phrases “according to the passage,” “the author’s main purpose,” “the quotation is used in this passage to support,” etc.). However, if the questions had asked about a different point of view than the author’s, I wouldn’t be able to use this strategy.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

What MBA Class Size is Best for You?

In ClassThere are many different characteristics that can factor into selecting the right business school for you. From school reputation, recruiting, and alumni network to teaching style and professors, MBA programs come in all shapes and sizes. One aspect that is often overlooked in the business school search process is class size – not to be confused with the size of individual classes within a school or by the size of the entire student body.

Why is this so important?  The class size of your MBA factors into many aspects of your business school experience and will continue to influence your career many years after matriculation. MBA programs like the Tuck School at Dartmouth or the Johnson School at Cornell boast tight knit cultures that offer small class sizes. By contrast, programs such as Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School and the Wharton School at Penn boast large class sizes with deep alumni networks.

So what type of environment is right for you? Only you can say, but consider the following:

Personality
What setting do you thrive in? For some, a bigger class size would be too overwhelming, while others might thrive in this setting but feel intimidated by the intimacy of a smaller class size. The decision to pursue an MBA is an intensely personal one, as is the type of program you choose, so be sure to reflect on your preferences to ensure the class size of the program you choose will mesh well with your unique personality.

Career
How will the class size of your target program impact your future career options? With a larger student body often comes more resources and access to a wider breadth of recruiters, however, such large a large student population also brings the risk of potentially finding yourself “lost” in the crowd of your classmates. Do some research and ensure the programs and recruiters necessary to support your career development align with the type of class you are looking to join.

Network
Are you more inclined to build small, closer relationships or broadly connect with many? Bigger programs can allow you to better address both of these options, while smaller programs may restrict your ability to accomplish the latter.

However, it is important to note that the culture of a school’s student community may play a more important factor than even overall class size. For example, Northwestern’s Kellogg School (a program with large class sizes) has historically been known to have very collaborative students, which counteracts the stereotypes commonly associated with programs of its size. This just goes to show that an MBA program can’t always be judged on its size.

As always, research is the key go beyond common stereotypes associated with programs of all sizes and make an informed decision as you construct your target school list or make a matriculation decision.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can find more of his articles here.

Updated GMAT Score Cancellation and Reinstatement Policies: What This Means For You

GMAT Cancel ScoresGMAC has updated its score cancelation and reinstatement policies for GMAT test-takers. A full description of these changes is included in GMAC’s recently published blog article, but here are some highlights and guidance on what this means for future GMAT test-takers:

What is Changing?
If you took the GMAT and felt like you needed more time to decide whether or not to cancel your score, then you’ll be happy with GMAC’s new policy. Test-takers now have 5 years to reinstate their scores and 3 days to cancel them. Before this, test-takers had to be much more rushed in making their decisions, with only 60 days to reinstate their scores, and a mere 2 minutes to cancel them.

The cost of these actions is also much more forgiving: it is now only $50 to reinstate your score (compared to the previous $100 fee), however you will have to pay a fee of $25 to cancel your score if you choose to do so after leaving the test center.

What is NOT Changing?
GMAC has kept several of its cancelation and reinstatement policies intact. For example, it is still true that if you choose to cancel your score, no one but you will know about it. There is also still no fee to cancel your score at the test center, and the period you must wait to retake the GMAT is still 16 days.

Why Does This Matter?
Why do we even care about this change in the GMAC’s policies? Well for one, it allows for much more flexibility in the test-taking process, as test-takers

who choose to cancel their scores now have much more time to prepare for their next test administration. (No more scrambling to prepare for a retest in 16 days!) However, it is still important to remember that the GMAT retest policy still applies, in that you cannot take the GMAT more than 5 times in 12 months, so it is important to build a “buffer” into your prep schedule. If you test too close to an MBA application deadline, you won’t have time to retest.

These changes in policy also just go to show us that nothing in life is free (except canceling at the test center). If you want the convenience and luxury of having extra time to make your decisions, you’d better be ready to pay up for it. To minimize this cost, test-takers should have a target GMAT score in mind as well as a plan going into the test, and then actually stick to that plan upon receiving a final score. Think of this like buying an airline ticket – many airlines will let you hold a ticket for free, but it can cost an additional fee to hold it for up to a week. The same idea applies here. Additional time isn’t going to change your score and it shouldn’t impact what score you’re willing to accept, so have a game plan going into test day and stick to it to avoid unnecessary fees.

It is also worth noting that most business schools will still accept a candidate’s highest GMAT score (after all, it is in the school’s best interests to report having students with high average GMAT scores), so if you take the GMAT and score moderately higher than you did the last time you took the test, it may not be necessary to actually cancel your lower score. Talk to the schools to which you’re applying to understand the programs’ policies, but don’t overthink it. Unless there’s a significant gap between your old and new score (+100 points), or you achieved an extremely low score one of the times you took the test (below 500 points), save your money and keep all of your scores.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

By Joanna Graham

How to Choose the Right College Curriculum for You

student reseachIn many high school students’ college search processes, the most important factors they look for in schools are things like housing, location, size and student body. While all these factors may be important, students often miss one huge aspect of college – school itself! Sounds obvious, right? But sometimes it can be easy to forge that college is still school, and that school will actually take up the majority of your college time.

So, to make sure you make the best college choice for you, it’s important to also look at academic aspects of a school, like their curriculum requirements – by this, I mean general education requirements, distribution requirements, major requirements, language requirements, study abroad programs, and a host of other things. Since school is going to take up so much of your time, it’s important that you spend this time in a curricular environment that you like and that challenges you to grow academically.

There are three general forms that a college’s curriculum can take: let’s call them moderate, strict, and open.

Moderate
Most colleges around the country have moderately structured curriculums. At these schools, students are required to take a few courses in a variety of different fields (often referred to as “General Education” or “GE” courses) while also completing a major. Usually, you will have freedom in which course you choose to take in these required fields – for example, students might have to take 2 humanities classes, 2 science classes, 2 social sciences classes and 2 math classes in order to graduate, but the specific classes the students take within these fields is up to them.

Many students will choose to fulfill these requirements early on in their first couple of years at school, and then use their remaining time as upperclassmen to take electives and complete their major.

Strict
Schools with strict curriculums have a set of classes that all students must take – these colleges believe that there are certain classes that are valuable to everyone and feel that creating a common “core” of classes is valuable to the student body as a whole. Unlike moderate curriculums, strict curriculums will usually be very specific with which individual classes you are required to take. Schools like Columbia University and University of Chicago have well-known core curriculums that are a hallmark of the academic experience at these schools. This type of curriculum is helpful for students who like structure and want to know exactly what they are getting in to.

Open
My personal favorite is the open curriculum, which allows students a great degree of freedom in choosing their classes. There are no “GE’s” or distribution requirements, and there are rarely any specific class requirements at all. Admittedly, very few schools have this type of curriculum, but if you’re the type of student who likes taking on the responsibility of designing their own education, an open curriculum might be right for you. Colleges like Brown, Grinnell and Amherst are well known for their curricular freedom. At times, the freedom in an open curriculum can be daunting, but when it is used well, this type of curriculum can be incredibly freeing for students who like to explore all their passions.

Now that you’re familiar with the general types of curriculum options, it’s time to start researching! Figure out what academics style best suits you as a student, and then go out and find colleges that match that. Each type of curriculum has its advantages and disadvantages, so make sure the one at your school will work for your needs and help you grow into a stronger student.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

What Makes GMAT Quant Questions So Hard?

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe know that the essentials of the GMAT Quant section are pretty simple: advanced topics such as derivatives, complex numbers, matrices and trigonometry are not included, while fundamentals we all learned from our high school math books are included. So it would be natural to think that the GMAT Quant section should not pose much of a problem for most test-takers (especially for engineering students, who have actually covered far more advanced math during their past studies).

Hence, it often comes as a shock when many test-takers, including engineering students, receive a dismal Quant score on the first practice test they take. Of course, with practice, they usually wise up to the treachery of the GMAT, but until then, the Quant section is responsible for many a nightmare!

Today, let’s see what kind of treachery we are talking about – problems like this make some people laugh out loud and others pull at their hair!

Is the product pqr divisible by 12?
Statement 1: p is a multiple of 3
Statement 2: q is a multiple of 4

This seems like an easy C (Statements 1 and 2 together are sufficient, but alone are not sufficient), doesn’t it? P is a multiple of 3 and q is a multiple of 4, so together, p*q would be a multiple of 3*4 = 12. If p * q is already a multiple of 12, then obviously it would seem that p*q*r would be a multiple of 12, too.

But here is the catch – where is it mentioned that r must be an integer? Just because p and q are integers (multiples of 3 and 4 respectively), it does not imply that r must also be an integer.

If r is an integer, then sure, p*q*r will be divisible by 12. Imagine, however, that p = 3, q = 4 and r = 1/12. Now the product p*q*r = 3*4*(1/12) = 1. 1 is not divisible by 12, so in this case, pqr is not divisible by 12. Hence, both statements together are not sufficient to answer the question, and our answer is in fact E!

This question is very basic, but it still tricks us because we want to assume that p, q and r are clean integer values.

Along these same lines, let’s try the another one:

If 10^a * 3^b * 5^c = 450^n, what is the value of c?
Statement 1: a is 1.
Statement 2:  b is 2.

The first thing most of us will do here is split 450 into its prime factors:

450 = 2 * 3^2 * 5^2

450^n = 2^n * 3^2n * 5^2n

And do the same thing with the left side of the equation:

10^a * 3^b * 5^c = 2^a * 3^b * 5^(a+c)

Bringing the given equation back, we get:

2^a * 3^b * 5^(a+c) = 2^n * 3^2n * 5^2n

Statement 1: a is 1.

Equating the power of 2 on both sides, we see that a = n = 1.

a + c = 2n (equating the power of 5 on both sides)

1 + c = 2

c = 1

Statement 2:  b is 2.

Equating the power of 3 on both sides, we see that b = 2n = 2, so n = 1.

If n = 1, a = 1 by equating the powers of 2 on both sides.

a + c = 2n (equating the power of 5 on both sides)

1 + c = 2

c = 1

So it seems that both statements are separately sufficient. But hold on – again, the variables here don’t need to be cleanly fitting integers. The variables could pan out the way discussed in our first problem, or very differently.

Say, n = 1. When Statement 1 gives you that a = 1, you get 10^1 * 3^b * 5^c = 450^1.

3^b * 5^c = 45

Now note that value of c depends on the value of b, which needn’t be 2.

If b  = 3, then 3^3 * 5^c = 45.

5^c = 45/27

C will take a non-integer value here.

c = .3174

The question does not mention that all variables are integers, therefore there are infinite values that c can take depending on the values of b. Similarly, we can see that Statement 2 alone is also not sufficient. Using both statements together, you will get:

2^a * 3^b * 5^(a+c) = 450^n

2^1 * 3^2 * 5^(1 + c) = 450^n

5^(1 + c) = 450^n/18

By now, you’ve probably realized that depending on the value of n, c can take infinite different values. If n = 1, c = 1. If n = 2, c = 4.8. And so on… We don’t need to actually find these values – it is enough to know that different values of n will give different values of c.

With this in mind, we can see that both statements together are not sufficient, and therefore our answer must be E.

Hopefully, in future, this sneaky trick will not get you!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

Take the 2016 MBA Applicant Survey and Win $500!

AIGACSince 2009, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) has regularly conducted a large survey to study trends among business school applicants. The results are shared with AIGAC member consultants and with MBA programs to help them better anticipate the needs of those who will soon apply to business school. Over the past few years, there have even been changes made to some business schools’ applications as a result of AIGAC survey findings!

This online survey should take just a few minutes to complete. We would love to receive as many responses as possible before the survey closes in early April – and we would like to see one of our readers win the $500 cash prize!

Simply click here to begin the survey.

More about the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants: AIGAC promotes high ethical standards and professional development among graduate admissions consultants, increases public understanding of graduate admissions consulting, and enhances channels of communication with complementary organizations and entities.

Thanks in advance for your participation, and good luck with the drawing!

Haven’t applied to business school yet? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 to speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

GMAT Tip of the Week: Verbal Is About The Beat, Not The Lyrics

GMAT Tip of the WeekOn our final Friday of Hip Hop Month here in the “GMAT Tip of the Week” space, let’s take a moment to appreciate the unsung (or at least non-singing) heroes of hip hop. Did you like Snoop and Tupac in the early 90s, or Eminem in the late 90s? They spit the rhymes, but what you likely enjoy most through your Beats By Dre are Dr. Dre’s classic beats.

A fan of Jay-Z and Cam’ron in the early 2000s? There’s no H to the Izzo or Heart of the City without Kanye West’s beats behind them. More recently, Kane Beatz and DJ Khaled have been the masterminds behind those bangers that you know as Drake, Lil’ Wayne, or Nicki Minaj hits.

So, ok The Game wouldn’t get far without Kanye behind him, and 50 Cent would be in da club cleaning the bathrooms without that classic beat by Dre. But what does this have to do with your GMAT score?

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a GMAT examinee is to see the question for its subject matter (“it’s about crime rates” or “it’s about antihistamines”) and not for its structure (“it’s a wordplay difference” or “that’s classic generalization”). The subject matter is the lyrics that tend to get the glory, but the standardized-format structure is the beat. Even though you may find the lyrics “Go Shorty, it’s your birthday…” in your head, that’s not at all what you like about that song. It’s the epic beat. The same is true for GMAT verbal questions: what makes them tick, and what you should keep your focus on, is the structure behind that content.

Consider two examples, which may look entirely different but are actually the exact same question:

Example #1: The city of Goshorn has a substantial problem with its budgeting process for public works projects. Last year’s Sullivan Park expansion ran nearly 50% over budget, for example, and the city has gone from running an annual budget surplus for nearly two decades straight to now facing prohibitive budget deficits.

Which of the following, if true, most strengthens the argument that Goshorn has a substantial problem with its budgeting process?

(A) The Sullivan Park expansion project featured the smallest cost-above-budget percentage of all Goshorn’s public works projects.
(B) Goshorn’s budgeting process for public works has not been updated in nearly 20 years.
(C) A new hiking and jogging trail in Goshorn cost more than twice as much to construct as did a similar project completed just ten years earlier.
(D) Goshorn’s revenue from property taxes has decreased markedly since the height of the real estate boom five years earlier.
(E) The city of Goshorn does not receive any federal or state funding for its public works projects, although several nearby cities do.

————————————————————
Example #2: The introduction of a new drug into the marketplace should be contingent upon our having a good understanding of its social impact. However, the social impact of the newly marketed antihistamine is far from clear. It is obvious, then, that there should be a general reduction in the pace of bringing to the marketplace new drugs that are now being created.

Which one of the following, if true, most strengthens the argument?

(A) The social impact of the new antihistamine is much better understood than that of most new drugs being tested.
(B) The social impact of some of the new drugs being tested is poorly understood.
(C) The economic success of some drugs is inversely proportional to how well we understand their social impact.
(D) The new antihistamine is chemically similar to some of the new drugs being tested.
(E) The new antihistamine should be next on the market only if most new drugs being tested should be on the market also.

In each case, exactly one example is provided as evidence that there is an overall, general problem going on. In the first, that example is Sullivan Park, a project that ran over budget, leading to the conclusion that “the city has a substantial problem with its budgeting process.” In the second, exactly one new antihistamine is known to be poorly understood, leading to the conclusion that there should be a “general reduction” in the pace of bringing drugs to market (since, as the argument states, drugs should be well understood before they’re brought to the marketplace).

This is classic generalization, a common theme in Critical Reasoning problems. One example is given and a much broader conclusion is drawn, which is a flawed argument because you just don’t know whether that example is an outlier or the norm. In each of these two problems, your job is to strengthen the argument, so you want to employ the “Strengthen a Generalization Error” strategy – you want to find evidence in the answer choice that the single piece of evidence is indicative of the majority of data points.

With the first example, Answer Choice A does that by showing that Sullivan Park was actually the best-budgeted project (the smallest cost-above-budget percentage). If that poorly-budgeted project is the best, then all the other projects must be worse, and THEN you have a substantial problem overall. In the second example, again Choice A serves the exact same purpose: if the one antihistamine we know about is better understood than most, then most drugs are less-understood, meaning that the majority of drugs are poorly understood. And if that’s the case, then yes, we can draw that general conclusion.

The overall lesson?

GMAT verbal problems can be about anything under the sun: elections in fake countries, the heights of trees in the Galapagos, warranty claims on heavy duty trucks, the visibility of particles breaking off from comets…but that’s not what the test is about. Focus on the beats, and not the lyrics. And the common Critical Reasoning beats are:

1) Generalization
Like you saw here, if a general/universal conclusion is drawn from one data point, you want to either show that that data point is indicative of most/all (Strengthen) or that it’s an outlier (Weaken).

2) Correlation/Causation
Just because two things occur together (For example, “It’s dark so it must be nighttime.”) does not mean that one causes the other (What about an eclipse, or the fact that your hotel room has blackout shades?).

3) Clever Wordplay
This is the most common type of logical error in Critical Reasoning, in which one premise uses a closely-related term (for example “arrests”) to the term that another premise and/or the conclusion uses (“crimes committed”). When you identify that those two things are close but not quite the same, then your job is clear: find an answer choice that links them together (in a Strengthen question) or one that shows that they’re clearly not the same thing (Weaken).

4) Statistics and Data Flaws
When statistics are used in Critical Reasoning problems, look to make sure that the proper type of statistic is used (does an absolute number make sense, or should it be a percentage?) and that the statistic directly relates to the conclusion (much like the “Clever Wordplay” strategy).

Most importantly, recognize that the content of these problems is more or less a necessary evil: the problems have to be about something, but that’s not what they’re really testing. They’re testing your understanding of the underlying logic and structure. So in honor of all the great DJs that have gotten your shoulders shaking and toes tapping over the years, remember that to beat the GMAT, you’ll have to do it with the beats.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

7 Tips to Make the Most of Your College Office Hours

ProfessorEvery college orientation I ever attended strongly emphasized the importance of attending office hours in building relationships with professors, allowing students to explore subject material in greater depth, and laying groundwork for strong letters of recommendation in the future. Even so, most college students I know either glean very little from office hours or do not attend them at all.

Office hours were by far the best and most useful parts of my college classes, but it took me most of my undergraduate career to start making the most of them. Here’s what I learned:

1) Just go. Individual attention from professors is rare and valuable, especially in large classes (like the ones I take at UC Berkeley, which sometimes hold hundreds of students.) Often, office hours is the only one-on-one time you’ll ever get.

2) Be sure you’ve done the reading and are caught up on the class. It is both embarrassing for you and impolite towards your professor to use his or her extra time to make up for work you should have already done. Make a good impression by showing that you take his or her class seriously.

3) Don’t be scared. Professors are often more relaxed and approachable in office hours than they are during classtime. Many enjoy working with undergraduates, or prefer more individual interaction with students over the more impersonal environment of the classroom. (Also, if you haven’t had much experience with it before, it is useful and important to learn to be comfortable interacting with superiors and authority figures. Office hours are a great way to do that.)

4) Have some questions prepared in advance. Don’t feel limited to only talking about the class; professors are often a great source of career planning advice, information about your field of interest, and tips about what other classes you might find interesting.

5) Be interested in the answers you get. Office hours allow you to learn about a field from the experts themselves. Take advantage of your access to them – and strike a better rapport with your professor – by taking a real interest in the insights your professor offers (or at least making a sincere effort to).

6) Be honest about how well you’re doing in the class. If you’re struggling to understand a concept in your class and have made an honest effort to do so, it’s perfectly fine to admit it. Your professor can help, and will appreciate your honest; he or she wants you to learn their material just as much as you want to pass the class.

7) Stay open-minded. Office hours aren’t just a networking opportunity. Networking for networking’s sake has its advantages sometimes, but your experience in office hours will be more productive and meaningful (and your letter of recommendation, if you get one, will be better) if you really get to know the person you’re talking to.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

SAT Tip of the Week: The Importance of Knowing What Will Be On the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullNow that the SAT has changed, students all over the country are spending their time making sure they keep up with the new content and questions that might now be on the test. Learning about new content is valuable – clearly, you have to know the subjects being tested in order to do well. But in the scramble to brush up on trigonometry and America’s founding documents, students seem to be forgetting another big change on the test: its format.

The new SAT is structured differently than the old SAT in terms of section length, order, scoring, and instructions. To do your best on this exam, it is imperative that you come into test day knowing exactly what it is going to look like. If you walk in thinking it will be like the SAT last year, you will be in for a shock.

The main reason it’s so important to know the structure and form of the test is that people get better scores when they can focus all their attention on the actual questions, rather than the instructions. For me at least, being nervous that I’m doing something wrong or not knowing what will come next on the test would only hurt my score.

So, it is well worth every student’s time to use a day of studying to familiarize themselves with the instructions, structure, and types of questions that will be on the SAT. Pop onto the College Board’s website or get your hands on an official practice test and read over all the directions on the test, down to the last word. True, much of this will be tedious and unnecessary, but you don’t want any surprises on test day. Reading through the new SAT will yield some important information about what the new test looks like. A sampling of important changes is below:

  • There are now only 4 main sections on the SAT: Reading, Writing and Language, No-Calculator Math, and Calculator Math. These sections are all longer than 25 minutes, whereas the old test had sections that were all shorter than 25 minutes.
  • There is no penalty for answering incorrectly. This means that when you are bubbling in your answer sheet, you should definitely guess on all questions to which you don’t know the answer.
  • Some questions will require you to analyze an article and a chart in tandem. So don’t freak out when you see a graph on the reading section!
  • The new essay, which is optional and 50 minutes long, asks you to analyze an author’s argument rather than craft an opinion of your own. If you aren’t careful to understand what the essay is asking for, your resulting work won’t yield a high score.

When I just took the March SAT, I witnessed firsthand the negative consequences of not being familiar with the new test. As the essay started, a student sitting to my right raised her hand and tried to ask the proctor a question about the essay. He wasn’t allowed to answer, and the student remained confused about what to do. While I hope that the student ended up scoring well on her test, I advise you to not make the same mistake she did.

Study up and make sure nothing about the structure about the new SAT catches you off guard, and you will be set on your way to a good score. If you are comfortable with the way the test operates and how it will look on test day, the peace of mind that you’ll have is one little advantage that you’ll have over all the other students who didn’t put the time in to prepare.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

Breaking Down the 2017 U.S. News Ranking of Top Business Schools: Part 2

US News College Rankings

Make sure you check out Part 1 of this article before you begin reading more of our thoughts on the recently released U.S. News and World Report‘s 2017 ranking of Best Business Schools. Now let’s take a deeper look at some of the surprises this year’s rankings presented:

 

Ranking surprises 
We were quite surprised to see Columbia (#10) come behind Tuck and Yale this year (ranked #8 and #9 respectively). Columbia has a very high yield of admitted applicants who choose to attend the school, and it has been working hard to foster a more collaborative culture. However, Tuck’s employment statistics and remarkably high percentage of graduates receiving a signing bonus (87%!) play well to the U.S. News methodology. We shouldn’t sell Tuck short, though, as other intangibles at Tuck not included in this ranking — such as student satisfaction, alumni network, and tight-knit culture — also rate among the highest of any MBA program.

Yale snagged Dean Ted Snyder from Chicago Booth back in 2011 after he presided over its precipitous rise in the rankings. His magic potion seems to be working at Yale as well, and we’ve dubbed him the “Rankings Whisperer.” He thoroughly understands the drivers of rankings and pushes all levers to the max to improve the standings of his schools. Yale has begun to move away from its ties to the social and nonprofit sectors, driving up average starting salaries and recruitment percentages, but perhaps distancing the program from its roots.

University of Virginia’s Darden School always seems to be the sleeper success story, and this year is no exception. With its best placement in more than a decade, Darden came in at #11. Darden’s reputation amongst peer schools and recruiters is not as strong as most other programs ranked in the top 15, but it has a very strong starting salary/bonus and other statistics.

Be wary of average salary numbers
The U.S. News ranking incorporates average salary plus signing bonus in its rankings, which in theory, is not a bad thing. After all, many applicants desire to gain an MBA, at least in part, to improve their salary potential. However, we recommend that you look at salaries just like the rankings themselves—by using the numbers in a broader context. After all, the difference in average salary and bonus between Harvard (ranked #1 overall) and Cornell (ranked #14 overall), is less than $5,000 per year.

If you analyze the data industry-by-industry (as we have), you’ll find that there’s little difference in salaries coming out of the top 10 to 15 programs. The biggest difference is the percentage of graduates who are able to land positions in highly selective industries, such as private equity. But here’s the rub: most of these highly selective industries are looking for extremely qualified candidates who have pre-MBA experience that fits their needs. So even if you manage to squeeze into Harvard or Stanford, if you don’t have the pre-MBA experience that these firms are looking for, then you’re going to have a tough time getting an interview, much less landing a job, in the highest paying private equity or venture capital positions.

Also, some roles, such as in investment banking, do not have as high of base salaries or signing bonuses, but a high percentage of your income will come from performance-based quarterly and annual bonuses. Other roles simply pay less, such as marketing and product management, but remain very attractive to a significant number of MBA graduates. Schools with a higher percentage of graduates taking these roles, such as Kellogg, can have lower overall salary averages, when their graduates make as much or more than peers within their chosen industry. None of this information can be captured in the U.S. News ranking.

Bottom line: Are you likely to make more money coming out of a program ranked #5 than ranked #20? Yes. But should you let this number dictate your decision between #7 and #12? Not necessarily. There are many other factors to consider, such as whether your target companies, industries, and so forth.

A holistic approach
We’ve provided a bit of context and analysis around this year’s ranking, and we encourage you to use these lists as merely a starting point in your research process. We encourage you to take advantage of our Veritas Prep Essential Guide to Top Business Schools to assist in your process, as it’s now available for free on our website!

In addition, if you’re interested in finding out your chances of admission to the top schools, you can sign up for a free profile evaluation to explore your individual strengths and weaknesses. Veritas Prep has worked with thousands of successful applicants to the top business schools, and we look forward to assisting you on your own journey!

Travis Morgan is the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep and earned his MBA with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He served in the Kellogg Student Admissions Office, Alumni Admissions Organization and Diversity & Inclusion Council, among several other posts. Travis joined Veritas Prep as an admissions consultant and GMAT instructor, and he was named Worldwide Instructor of the Year in 2011. 

New GMAT Undergraduate Pricing Initiative

featured_money@wdd2xIn an effort to attract more undergraduate test takers, GMAC is rolling out a tiered pricing structure for students who register for the GMAT before June 1, 2016 and complete the test by December 31, 2016.

While targeted undergrad outreach efforts and undergrad discounts on the GMAT aren’t new to GMAC, the scale and diversity in pricing is. (GMAC piloted discounting test registration fees a few years ago on select U.S. undergrad campuses as part of a partnership program with select test prep companies and universities.) But like any good sale, is the deal too good to be true?  Let’s take a closer look at the offers (and fine print):

Both options feature discounted registration fees, but limited score report options and more expensive additional score reports (ASRs). ASRs are currently $28 per report.

Option 1: $150 registration fee, No initial score reports (ASR: $50 each)

Option 2: $200 registration fee, 2 initial score reports (ASR: $50 each)

Option 3: $250 registration fee, 5 initial score reports (ASR: $28 each)**

**Current GMAT pricing

Keep in mind that the average GMAT test taker submits 2.7 score reports with their business school applications so GMAC is hoping to recover some of those initial cost savings down the road, but yes, that $50 ASR fee can create a little sticker shock.

So is there an upside to any of these options?

For students who aren’t thinking about grad school anytime soon and, more importantly, have time to prepare for the GMAT (think second-semester Seniors or students with a lighter course load), Option 1 does have a few merits. Because these students don’t have grad school or specific programs on their radar, the lack of score reports isn’t an issue. And since scores are good for five years, it gives students a chance to bank a good score early while not shelling out the full $250.

This is the population that GMAC is targeting with this promotion because the reality is most students will end up sending score reports to multiple programs. However, if the cost of an ASR increases down the road, at least this locks in a lower test fee and possibly a competitive ASR fee.

Students who are applying to a graduate program now (think Juniors or Seniors looking at a pre-work-experience programs) should definitely consider Option 2. Since these students already know which program they’re aiming for, the two free score reports at the test center are a bargain (and ultimately save the student $50).

What isn’t mentioned on the website but should be considered is the current GMAT registration fee of $250. This fee hasn’t changed in over a decade, and while GMAC hasn’t made any announcements about a price hike, it’s unreasonable to think that it’ll remain $250 forever. The odds of the fees increasing in the next  5- 10 years? Hard to say, but there’s likely some merit in locking in a lower priced test.

When you examine Option 3, or the current GMAT standard, you should also look at the GMAT’s primary competitor, the GRE, which is a more widely recognized brand at the undergrad level. ETS just increased GRE fees in the U.S. from $160 to $205 in January of 2016 (ETS does offer a reduced fee certificate to undergrads who meet certain criteria which reduces the cost by 50%). So by offering a variety of pricing options, GMAC is making the GMAT more financially competitive with the GRE.

Regardless of whether you take the GMAT or GRE, Veritas Prep is committed to helping you prepare to do your best on test day. You can find additional information about the GMAC tiered pricing here and information on Veritas Prep’s GMAT prep offerings here.  We also encourage students to sign up for one of our free online GMAT seminars, and to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

By Joanna Graham