How to Go From a 48 to 51 in GMAT Quant – Part VI

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday’s post the next part in our “How to Go From 48 to 51 in Quant” series. Again, we will learn a technique that can be employed by the test-taker at an advanced stage of preparation – requiring one to understand the situations in which one can use this simplifying technique.

(Before you continue reading, be sure to check out parts I, II, III, IV, and V of this series.)

We all love to use the plug-in method on GMAT Quant questions. We have an equation given, and if the answer choices are the possible values of x, we just plug in these values to find the one that satisfies the equation.

But what if the answer choices are all complicated values? What if it seems that five times the calculation (in the worst case) will be far more time consuming than actually solving the given equation? Then one is torn between using the favorite plug-in method and using algebra. Let’s take an example to review the methods we can use to solve the question and learn how to simplify the plug-in process by approximating the five available options:

If |4x−4|=|2x+30|, which of the following could be a value of x?

(A) –35/3
(B) −21/2
(C) −13/3
(D) 11/5 
(E) 47/5

This question is an ideal candidate for the “plug-in” method. Here, you have the absolute value equation with the potential values of x given in the answer choices. The problem is that the values of x given are fractional. Of course, if we do plan to solve the equation rather than “plug-in”, we can still solve it using our holistic approach rather than pure algebra. Let’s take a look at that now, and later we will discuss the trick to making the answer choices easier for us to plug in.

Method 1:
|4x – 4| = |2x + 30|

4 * |x – 1| = 2 * |x + 15|

2 * |x – 1| = |x + 15|

This is how we rephrase the equation in our words: twice the distance of x from 1 should be equal to the distance of x from -15.

——————(-15) —————————————————(0)——(1)——————

There are two ways to find the value of x:

Case 1: x could be between -15 and 1 such that the distance between them is split in the ratio 2:1.

or

Case 2: x could be to the right of 1 such that the distance between x and -15 is twice the distance between x and 1.

Let’s examine both of these cases in further detail:

Case 1: The distance from -15 to 1 is of 16 units – this can be split into 3 sections of 16/3 units each. So, the distance of x from 1 should be 16/3, which would make the distance of x from -15 two times 16/3, i.e. 32/3.

So, x should be at a point 16/3 away from 1 toward the left.

x = 1 – 16/3 = -13/3

This is one of our answer choices and, hence, the correct answer. Normally, we would just move on to the next question at this point, but had we not found -13/3 in the answer options, we would have moved on to Case 2:

Case 2: The distance between -15 and 1 is 16 units. x should be an additional 16 units to the right of 1, so the distance between x and 1 is 16 and the distance between x and -15 is two times 16, i.e. 32. This means that x should be 16 units to the right of 1, i.e. x = 17. If you would not have found -13/3 in the answer choices, then you would have found 17.

Now let’s move on to see how we can make the plug-in method work for us in this case by examining each answer choice we are given:

Method 2:
|4x – 4| = |2x + 30|

2 * |x – 1| = |x + 15|

(A) -35/3

It is difficult to solve for x = -35/3 to see if both sides match. Instead, let’s solve for the closest integer, -12.

2 * |-12 – 1| = |-12 + 15|

On the left-hand side, you will get 26, but on the right-hand side, you will get 3.

These values are far away from each other, so x cannot be -35/3.  As the value of x approaches the point where the equation holds – i.e. where the two sides are equal to each other – the gap between the value of the two sides keeps reducing. With such a huge gap between the value of the two sides in this case, it is unlikely that a small adjustment of -35/3 from -12 will bring the two sides to be equal.

(B) -21/2

For this answer choice, let’s solve for the nearest integer, x = -10.

2 * |-10 – 1| = |-10 + 15|

On the left-hand side, you will get 22; on the right-hand side, you will get 5.

Once again, these values are far away from each other and, hence, x will not be -21/2.

(C) -13/3

For this answer choice, let’s solve for x = -4.

2 * |-4 -1| = |-4 + 15|

On the left-hand side, you will get 10; on the right-hand side, you will get 11.

Here, there is a possibility that x can equal -13/3, as the two sides are so close to one another – plug in the actual value of -13/3 and you will see that the left-hand side of the equation does, in fact, equal the right-hand side. Therefore, C is the correct answer.

Basically, we approximated the answer choices we were given and shortlisted the one that gave us very close values. We checked for that and found that it is the answer.

We can also solve this question using pure algebra (taking positive and negative signs of absolute values) but in my opinion, the holistic Method 1 is almost always better than that. Out of the two methods discussed above, you can pick the one you like better, but note that Method 2 does have limited applications – only if you are given the actual values of x, can you use it. Method 1 is far more generic for absolute value 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!

What to Do When You Find a Weighted Average Question In the Verbal Section of the GMAT

No MathWeighted averages show up everywhere on the GMAT. Most test-takers are prepared to see them on the Quantitative Section, but they’ll show up on the Integrated Reasoning and Verbal Sections, as well.  Because it is such an exam staple, we want to make sure that we have a thorough, intuitive understanding of the concept.

In class, I’ll typically start with a simple example. Say you have two solutions, A and B. A is 10% salt and B is 20% salt. If we combine these two solutions to get a composite solution that is 14% salt, do we have more A or B in this composite solution? Most students eventually see that we’ll have more of solution A, but it doesn’t always feel instinctive. If we had had equal quantities of both solutions, the combined solution would have been 15% salt – equidistant from 10% and 20%. So, if there is 14% salt, the average skews closer to A than B, and thus, there must be more of solution A.

I’ll then give another example. Say that there is an intergalactic party in which both humans and aliens are present. The humans, on average, are 6 feet tall. The aliens, on average, are 100 feet tall. If the average height at the party is 99 feet, who is dominating the party? It isn’t so hard to see that this party is packed with aliens and that the few humans present would likely spend the evening cowering in some distant corner of the room. The upshot is that it’s easier to feel the intuition behind a weighted average question when the numbers are extreme.

Take this tough Critical Reasoning argument for example:

To be considered for inclusion in the Barbizon Film Festival, a film must belong either to the category of drama or of comedy. Dramas always receive more submissions but have a lower acceptance rate than comedy. All of the films are either foreign or domestic. This year, the overall acceptance rate for domestic films was significantly higher than that for foreign films. Within each category, drama and comedy, however, the acceptance rate for domestic films was the same as that for foreign films.

From the cited facts it can be properly concluded that

(A) significantly fewer foreign films than domestic films were accepted.
(B) a higher proportion of the foreign than of the domestic films submitted were submitted as dramas.
(C) the rate of acceptance of foreign films submitted was the same for drama as it was for comedies.
(D) the majority of the domestic films submitted were submitted as comedies.
(E) the majority of the foreign films submitted were submitted as dramas.

Okay. We know that dramas had a lower acceptance rate than comedies, and we know that the overall acceptance rate for domestic films was significantly higher than the acceptance rate for foreign films. So, let’s assign some easy numbers to try and get a handle on this information:

Say that the acceptance rate for dramas was 1% and the acceptance rate for comedies was 99%.

We’ll also say that the acceptance rate for domestic films was 98% and the acceptance rate for foreign films was 2%.

The acceptance rate within both domestic and foreign films is a weighted average of comedies and dramas. If only dramas were submitted, clearly the acceptance rate would be 1%. If only comedies were submitted, the acceptance rate would be 99%. If equal amounts of both were submitted, the acceptance rate would be 50%.

What do our numbers tell us? Well, if the acceptance rate for domestic films was 98%, then almost all of these films must have been comedies, and if the acceptance rate for foreign films was 2%, then nearly all of these films must have been dramas. So, domestic films were weighted towards comedies and foreign films were weighted towards drama. (An unfair stereotype, perhaps, but this is GMAC’s question, not mine.)

We can see that answer choice A is out, as we only have information regarding rates of acceptance, not absolute numbers. C is also out, as it violates a crucial premise of the question stem – we know that the acceptance rate for dramas is lower than for comedies, irrespective of whether we’re talking about foreign or domestic films.

That leaves us with answer choices B, D and E. So now what?

Let’s pick another round of values, but see if we can invalidate two of the three remaining options.

What if the acceptance rate for domestic films was 3% and the acceptance rate for foreign films was still 2%? (We’ll keep the acceptance rate for dramas at 1% and the acceptance rate for comedies at 99%.) Now domestic films would be mostly dramas, so option D is out – the majority of domestic films would not be comedies, as this  answer choice states.

Similarly, what if the acceptance rate for domestic films was 98% and the rate for foreign films was 97%? Now the foreign films would be mostly comedies, so option E is also out – the majority of foreign films would not be dramas, as this answer choice states.

Because the acceptance rate is lower for dramas than it is for comedies, and foreign films have a lower acceptance rate than do domestic films, the foreign films must be weighted more heavily towards dramas than domestic films are. This analysis is perfectly captured in option B, which is, in fact, the correct answer.

Takeaway: certain concepts, such as weighted averages, are such exam staples that will appear in both Quant and Verbal questions. If you see one of these examples in the Verbal Section, assigning extreme values to the information you are given can help you get a handle on the underlying logic being tested.

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.

The Challenges of Obtaining an International Work Visa Post-MBA

MBA Admissions ConsultantFor many international students, the joy of graduating from a top MBA program in the United States can quickly turn into the pain of figuring out how to stay in the country. Like many other nations, the U.S. has a stringent and cumbersome work visa process for graduating MBAs that makes it difficult for international students to take full advantage of their new degrees.

After completing an MBA in the United States under the F-1 student visa, international students must leave the country within 60 days. At this point, students interested in remaining in the country must secure sponsorship from an employer via the H-1B visa – this visa will allow the recipient to work in the U.S. for up to three years, with the option for potential renewal of an additional three years.

Despite the rise of international students in U.S. MBA programs, however, the amount of distributed work visas has remained unchanged, even in the face of this growth.

In recent years, this process has become even more difficult, with less companies willing to offer international MBAs the highly coveted work visa, and an increasingly stringent lottery system. This past year, the aforementioned lottery allotted just 85,000 H-1B work visas for an estimated 230,000 applicants. This frustrating end to a business school student’s time in the states can be a major contrast to the optimistic beginning of their MBA journey.

Given these challenges, it is critical for international students to understand the likelihood of being able to secure employer sponsorship following business school. This is particularly important, given that these students may be returning to home economies that are not as robust as that of the U.S., resulting in lower salaries and a reduced return on investment on their MBA degrees.

The discussion on this issue has elevated to the political sphere, with conversations surrounding whether or not the work visa system should be overhauled. This will likely be a hot button topic for many years to come, and hopefully, the resolution balances the needs of international students with the U.S. economy.

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 read more articles by him here.

How to Survive Studying Abroad (From Someone Who Has Done It Three Times!)

Passport Number 2Studying abroad was one of the best decisions of my undergraduate career. I was fortunate enough to get to spend a summer at the University of Cambridge drinking tea and touring castles; to go “abroad” to Washington, DC, almost 2,500 miles away from my home university, where I attended research seminars and interned at a foreign policy think tank.

I was also able to finish my final undergraduate semester here at the University of Geneva, where I spend my free time touring Europe and watching diplomats at the UN work through the biggest political issues of our time.

I wouldn’t trade my study abroad experiences for anything. I’ve met incredible people, seen incredible places, and gotten to know both the world and myself better.

I’ll also be the first to admit that studying abroad isn’t always wonderful. Spending months in an unfamiliar place can be scary and isolating. Leaving your community behind means spending a lot of time alone, perhaps more than you’re used to.

At the same time, being thrown into a new community means spending more time socializing with strangers as you settle in (a frightening thing for introverts like me.) Separation from friends and loved ones means being cut off from your support system, and makes it harder to deal with tough days or homesickness. New cultures often come with culture shock, new academic systems and teaching philosophies often come with frustration and misunderstandings, and new languages often come with miscommunications and embarrassing moments.

That’s not even to mention the problem of logistics – I’ve gotten lost, nearly missed trains and flights (almost always due to public transportation mishaps), confused currencies, misplaced important documents, been pick-pocketed, and mixed up visa paperwork more times than I’d like to admit. Studying abroad opens up worlds of opportunity, but is rarely easy.

Three study abroad programs in, I’ve figured out the pattern. Students spend the months leading up to their study abroad programs building up beautiful, romantic ideals of the place they’re headed. Midterms and finals at your home university make the idea of a distant, unfamiliar place an appealing one.

The first week of the program feeds this dream (Tourist pictures! Sightseeing!), but as the novelty wears off and the dream fades, the isolation and culture shock start to sink in. For many students, navigating unfamiliar food, buildings, weather, and people becomes exhausting, and these students retreat to their rooms, where they end up squandering their limited time abroad trying to lessen their homesickness by spending weekends and evenings in. I’ve never seen more Netflixing, Skyping, or junk-food snacking than I did in my dorm buildings in Cambridge, DC, and Geneva (I’ve fallen into the same trap a few times myself).

The trick, it turns out, is an easy one: remind yourself how cool and special it is to be able to spend a whole semester in another part of the world, and remind yourself how few people get that opportunity. Remember that you can always return to more familiar environments after your program, and that a few months isn’t a very long time.

Embrace the differences between people and places as part of what makes the world such an interesting and beautiful place, and remind yourself that improving your understanding of communities different from your own makes you a more tolerant, understanding person. Keep in mind that the cultural and travel skills you’re picking up are increasingly valuable life tools in our globalizing world, and know that you’ll never look at your own culture and community quite the same way again – you’ll be more aware of the mannerisms, attitudes, habits, and other attributes that make you and your community who you are, because you’ll understand how few people in the world are like you in those ways.

Whether studying abroad is fun and exciting or whether it’s frustrating and frightening is to a great extent dependent on your attitude while you’re there — but the great thing is that either way, it is enriching, special, and completely worth it.

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.

How to Discuss Individual Work Experience in Your MBA Applications in 4 Steps

Successful ApplicantAccomplished individual contributors in highly specialized fields – whether from finance, science, or technology fields – often face the challenge of sharing the scale of their responsibilities and the impact of their accomplishments. In this entry, I’ll share four tips on how MBA candidates in these situations can maximize their backgrounds while writing their application essays:

Pause…
Out of habit, your first essay draft will likely be littered with jargons (industry terms that only few would actually understand). Often, the examples you choose to showcase – whether it’s leveraging a sophisticated financial instrument or introducing an advanced manufacturing process – are even more advanced and complicated than you realize, so that even those with a basic level of knowledge regarding your work will probably not comprehend the scope of your activities. Thus, remind yourself that you are not writing a paper for peer review or for your immediate superior, but instead, you are communicating to people without your level of expertise.

Share What Got You There
How can you communicate your expert abilities if the limited space you are given for your essays does not allow you to take non-industry readers through the minute details of your work experience? One way to do this is to show how rare it is for someone to get to your role. Highlighting selectivity and how qualified you are is a good way to show your career progress and accomplishments.

In this way, your story can flow naturally from academic performance, to previous successes at work, and, finally, to why you were entrusted with such a challenging role – saving on word space while still tying in the personal and professional components of your application profile at the same time.

Use Analogies
Often, I find that applicants attempt to answer essay prompts that ask for examples of accomplishments and failures with stories involving the most complex, technical issues they have dealt with. This is understandable, as these examples are probably the most memorable and impressive in the applicants’ professional lives. However, the limited essay space also poses a problem, as as one’s essay must then be divided into setting up the situation, the action the applicant took, the results achieved, and the lessons learned.

One quick and effective way to handle this issue is to use analogies (quotations from leaders in your field could also be used) to describe the situation and demonstrate its complexity, probability of success, or scale of impact. This will make it easier for the Admissions Committee to understand the challenges you faced and complement your general description – think of this the same way you would make friends and family members at a dinner party understand what you have been up to.

Highlight the Impact
Lastly, validate the importance of your work by relating it to impact, both at the qualitative level, and in terms of quantifiable numbers (if possible). Use examples of personal stories and paint vivid pictures to touch the emotions of your audience (the Admissions Committee) and help them appreciate the impact of your work. Numbers such as profitability, processing time saved, or potential customers impacted are also helpful to substantiate the context of your role.

Following these tips can help you show yourself not only as just a brilliant individual contributor, but as someone with the ability to communicate like a future senior leader, making your unique profile stand out and be appreciated.

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.

Help! 100% of the GMAT Sentence Correction Question is Underlined!

MBA Interview QuestionsImagine, you are plugging along in your Verbal Section on the GMAT, and then it pops up – the dreaded Sentence Correction question where every single word is underlined. The golden strategy for Sentence Correction is typically to evaluate decision points, as in determining what two or three spots in the sentence are evaluated in the answer choices. Consider a question where not all of the sentence is underlined:

A recent research study of worldwide cellular penetration finds that there are now one mobile phone for every two people, more than twice as many than there were in 2005.

(A) there are now one mobile phone for every two people, more than twice as many than there were
(B) there is now one mobile phone for every two people, more than twice as many than there were
(C) there is now one mobile phone for every two people, more than twice as many as there were
(D) every two people now have one mobile phone, more than twice as many than there were
(E) every two people now has one mobile phone, more than twice as many as there were

The first step we take is to cut away the junk, getting to the core of the Sentence Correction question – by ignoring “of worldwide cellular penetration,” we uncover that the subject of the sentence, “a study finds that,” makes it clear with the usage of “that” that the second portion of the sentence it set up to be a new clause with its own subject/verb relationship. This is the first decision point.

We should also know that there “is,” not “are,” one phone, which definitely puts answer choice A out of the running. Another decision point is our comparison phrase – it should be “twice as many as,” not “twice as many than,” which eliminates options B and D. Quickly, with these decision points, we are down to two remaining answers. E seems to inference that two people share one mobile phone (seems a little tough logistically, right?) aka, an illogical structure to the sentence. That leaves us with the correct answer, C.

Easy enough, right? But what do we do if everything is, indeed, underlined?

Our strategy is not going to be all that different, but instead, we will need to focus more on decision points from the answer choices and then use process of elimination when it is not entirely apparent what needs adjusting within the question sentence itself. Take a similar example (but one that is completely underlined):

Unlike cellular phones and personal computers, there is a difficulty on the part of many people to adapt to other modern technologies.

(A) Unlike cellular phones and personal computers, there is a difficulty on the part of many people to adapt to other modern technologies.
(B) Unlike cellular phones and personal computers, which many people are comfortable using, they have difficulty adapting to other modern technologies.
(C) Unlike cellular phones and personal computers, other modern technologies bring out a difficulty for many people to adapt to them.
(D) Many people, though comfortable using cellular phones and personal computers, have difficulty adapting to other modern technologies.
(E) Many people have a difficulty in adapting to other modern technologies, while they are comfortable using cellular phones and personal computers.

Looking at our answer choices, a clear decision point is “unlike” versus “many.” “Unlike” ends up comparing people to cellular phones and personal computers, and while Apple’s Siri can be pretty wise, there are (at least, for now) huge differences between people and those technologies. “Unlike” doesn’t work, and now we’ve have quickly narrowed it down to two answer choices: D and E. “Difficulty in adapting” gives us another decision choice in option E, leaving us with D as the correct answer.

When coming across completely underlined Sentence Correction questions, the first course of action is to not freak out. Stick with the strategy, and the correct answer will come easier than you think.

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 Ashley Triscuit, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston.

SAT Tip of the Week: 6 Strategies You Learn in High School That Will Help You Prepare for the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullIf you’re anything like me, the SAT might seem irrelevant to your high school classes. I know the College Board says that the SAT tests the same skills you learn in high school, but let’s be real – it never feels that way. High school essays have different questions than SAT essays, high school math questions are much more detailed, and high school science content barely shows up on the SAT.

However, even with these and other differences, you shouldn’t totally divorce high school from the SAT. There is some important overlap between the two, and it’s important to use every resource you can to improve your SAT performance. Here are some solid strategies that will help you best use your time in high school to prepare for the SAT:

1) Build good vocabulary habits. The new SAT has done away with the notoriously obscure vocabulary questions the old SAT was known for, but there are still vocab words in context. When reading challenging texts for English class, be sure to look up words you don’t know and practice using them in appropriate ways to prepare for this type of vocab usage on test day.

2) Learn math content basics. It is true that SAT math does not align perfectly with high school math, but hey, numbers are numbers! Focusing in on high school math, especially on what you learned during your first few years of high school, can be a good way to establish basic comfort with a lot of the skills the SAT will test you on. Even if SAT-specific strategies are the most useful in answering SAT math questions, knowing how to do quick calculations and having a familiarity with important formulas will serve you well on this exam, especially with regards to time.

3) Recognize grammar rules. Many high school English curricula place a strong emphasis on grammar in writing, but lots of students tend to dismiss it as boring. Don’t be one of these students! Having a basic understanding of grammar rules is key to being confident on the SAT Writing and Language section. Even if you don’t remember all the exact rules and exact names of the things you learned in class, by paying attention, you will be more likely to spot mistakes and know how to correct them.

4) Get practice writing essays. The old SAT essay had almost nothing to do with anything you would write for high school, but the new SAT essay (the one that matters now) has some overlap with high-school-style assignments.

The new essay is all about argument analysis – a skill that many Social Studies and English classes in high school try to hone. If you practice these skills in class and work with your teachers to improve your writing ability, you will be more comfortable writing the SAT essay. Merely the act of writing itself tends to improve your overall writing ability, so think of all your high school assignments as making your writing clearer and stronger for the SAT down the road.

5) Develop good test-taking habits. The SAT is a standardized test, unlike many tests you will take in school. However, a test is a test, and there are mental strategies you can develop that will help you no matter what kind of test you’re taking, and a big one is discipline.

Tests are long and can be boring, so the more practice you have taking tests, the more you’ll be able to effectively deal with the feeling of just wanting to give up. Also, you can use the act of taking high school tests to practice things like bubbling in answers, getting better at timing, and knowing how to utilize multiple choice questions to your advantage.

6) Take the pressure off your SAT score. Practically everyone will agree that how you perform in high school is more reflective of your academic merit than how you fare on one exam some Saturday morning. Even so, the SAT is weighted pretty heavily in college admissions, so it’s a good idea to do as well as you can. The better you perform in high school, though, the less pressure you will have to do as well on the SAT.

Without the intense pressure to do incredibly well, many students find that they end up performing better on the SAT, since they are more relaxed and confident when taking the test. Therefore, living up to your potential in high school is a win-win situation: if you do well in high school, you’re likely to do better on the SAT, and even if you don’t do well on the SAT, you’ll have your good grades to fall back on.

The SAT and your high school classes may have more in common than you think. To achieve your best results on the SAT, it’s important that you apply the lessons you learn and the skills you acquire in high school to your preparation for the test.

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

How to Choose the Right Hobbies for Your Business School Application

Extracurricular-ActivitiesHow relevant are your hobbies and interests to your MBA applications? You may wonder how outside activities in sports, arts, or other areas can impact your application, and think these are nothing more than trivial bits of additional information that are totally separate from your professional experiences. However, choosing the right ones to highlight and using them appropriately can help present you in a multi-dimensional way that strengthens your overall profile.

First, choose activities that would complement your current work profile. For example, someone working in Finance, whose roles and accomplishments are in an individual capacity, would be better off choosing to highlight their contributions to a club soccer team, rather than their exploits playing the piano.  This is to display the applicant’s ability to get along with peers and show teamwork and leadership skills.

Contrary to some misconceptions, you don’t have to be the star player of every activity you are involved in – showing humility and the ability to work well with others in different roles is just as important as being a leader, especially if you are targeting schools that are known to encourage a collaborative environment.

You may also want to consider choosing to participate in an activity that would be unexpected from the stereotype of people in your field. For instance, a compliance officer could share that he or she is also a part-time stand-up comedian. Aside from making such an applicant’s profile more interesting, this hobby also shows them in a different dimension, and expands the qualities that would be typically associated with a compliance officer – in this case, portraying this applicant as not only an executive who is methodical, diligent, and responsible, but also as an entertainer who is funny, dynamic and engaging.

Share stories of the activities you were involved with growing up to demonstrate values that are consistent with the values you highlight for your work experiences, or that you use to define your character strengths. To illustrate, you may tell a story of how hours and hours of practice for gymnastics enabled you to develop and appreciate the value of hard work, or how the same resilience you displayed to fully recover from a serious knee injury that cut short your career as a tennis champion allowed you to succeed with your start-up, even after encountering major obstacles.

A surprising hobby or interest can help your profile pop and paint a vivid picture of you in the minds of the Admissions Committee, helping you become a memorable and relatable candidate they would want attending their 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.

8 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Pick a College Major

student reseachAll college students hope to major in subjects they love, but unfortunately, choosing a major is rarely that simple. Majors can shape everything, from job prospects to college workloads to future salaries, not to mention ways of thinking and even ways of life.

It’s no surprise, then, that so many college students feel pressure to find the “Perfect Major” for their interests, skills, and plans for the future — and it’s also no surprise that with so many factors to take into consideration, finding that “Perfect Major” can be so difficult. Here are eight questions to help guide your decision:

1) Do you like the subject enough to drown yourself in it? Keep in mind that choosing a major — say, psychology — means spending years taking classes on psychology, writing reports on psychology, completing assignments on psychology, reading textbooks and articles about psychology, attending lectures on psychology, taking tests on psychology… you get the picture. Signing up for a major you aren’t interested in could mean setting yourself up for years of boredom and burnout.

2) Do you like the classes you’ll have to complete for your major? Read descriptions and reviews for the classes required in your major. Do you think you’d like to take those classes? Did past students in those classes enjoy their experiences? Doing a bit of research before you make your decision could help you avoid a semester of pain in the wrong classes.

3) How difficult are those classes? Ask former students or read reviews to gauge how many hours of work you’ll need to put into your classes each week. If you anticipate filling up your schedule with extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, internships or other commitments during the school year (as most students do), consider your priorities carefully before signing up for a work-intensive major.

4) Will your major allow you to fulfill its requirements using courses taken outside of your university? If you plan to study abroad, can you transfer classes from the program at your destination university back to your major at your home university? If you’re a transfer student, or you plan to graduate early, can you apply credits completed at other universities to your major requirements?

5) How many classes will you need to take each semester? Create a tentative four-year class plan, and list out the courses you’ll need to take each semester in order to finish your major. Do you have enough space left to take classes outside your major? If your major includes any highly demanding classes: if you end up needing to retake a class to improve your grade, will you have the extra space in your schedule to do so? Could you free up a semester to spend abroad?

6) How long will it take you to complete your major? If graduating in fewer than four years is important to you for financial or other reasons, it may serve you well to choose a major that doesn’t require a high number of classes, a full final year of thesis supervision, etc.

7) Will your major increase your access to jobs you’d like to have after you graduate? Ask your university’s career counselors about the jobs that past graduates of your intended major went on to take. Could you see yourself working those jobs in the future? Do you think you’d enjoy your work?

8) Will your major increase your access to jobs that pay well? What are the average starting salaries of people who complete your major? What are the average starting salaries of people who complete your major at your particular university? Your university’s career counselors can offer you useful information on this front, too.

By asking yourself these eight questions, you’ll be able to easily evaluate which major is right for you and your future.

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.

Applying to Business School With a Non-Profit Background

NonprofitIf you’re applying to business school from a non-profit background, then congrats! The richness of the student community at many top business schools is due to the diversity of their student’s unique backgrounds and perspectives, so do not run from your non-profit experience – embrace it!

MBA programs have historically been filled with students from more traditional feeder industries, such as consulting and finance, but this does not mean these are the only industries Admissions Committees are looking for. There are a few factors to keep in mind, however, as you apply to top MBA programs from a non-profit background:

Academic Transcript
What type of coursework did you take as an undergraduate student? Was it primarily quantitative or more qualitative? These factors play a big role in how ready your candidacy appears for the predominantly analytical core curriculums found at most business schools. This issue is heightened even further if you also have a low GPA or poor performance in past quantitative classes, given that your non-profit work experience may not be perceived as analytically rigorous as other traditional MBA feeder industries. 

GMAT Score
Your GMAT score plays another important role in the viability of your candidacy. Your ability to achieve a competitive score, particularly on the Quantitative Section, could help dispel any doubt about your ability to perform in your first year at business school.

Interpersonal Skills
Although the non-profit sector still remains a relatively small industry for MBA applicants to come from, the transferable skills schools look for in candidates from this field are relatively similar those from other, more traditional industries. Showcasing your leadership and teamwork abilities will be critical to highlight your potential to make an impact on campus and as a future alum of the school.

Career Goals
Like many other applicants, non-profit candidates often pursue business school as an opportunity to switch careers – sometimes this career switch is a complete turnaround from their prior work experiences, and other times it’s just a subtle tweak to their career trajectories.

In both respects, it is important to identify the transferable skills that you have gained during your time working in the non-profit sector and how these skills will be able to be utilized in your future industry of choice. If there is a personal passion that drove your initial interest in your non-profit, try and connect that in some way to your future career goals, if relevant. Having a commitment to something that has a broader impact on the world around you has always been viewed positively by the Admissions Committee (when authentic).

Keep these strategies in mind as you plan out your approach for applying to MBA programs from your non-profit background.

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 read more articles by him here.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Squares and Square Roots on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIn today’s post, we will try to clear up your doubts regarding positive and negative solutions in the case of squares and square roots. We will explain the reasons behind each case, which will help you recall the fundamentals when you need to use them. While preparing for the GMAT, you have probably come across a discussion that says x^2 = 4 has two roots, 2 and -2, while √4 has only one value, 2.

Now, let’s try to understand why this is so:

1) x^2 = 4
Basic algebra tells us that quadratics have two roots. Here, x can be either 2 or -2; each, when squared, will give you 4.

x^2 – 4 = 0 and (x + 2)*(x – 2) = 0 when x equals -2 or 2.

2) √x is positive, only
Now this is odd, right? √4 must be 2. Why is that? Shouldn’t it be 2 or -2. After all, when we square both 2 and -2, we get 4 (as discussed above). So, √4 should be 2 or -2.

Here is the concept: √x denotes only the principal square root. x has two square roots – the positive square root (or principal square root) written as √x and the negative square root written as -√x. Therefore, when you take the square root of 4, you get two roots: √4 and -√4, which  is 2 and -2 respectively.

On a GMAT question, when you see √x, this is specifically referring to the positive square root of the number. So √4 is 2, only.

3) (√x)^2 = x
This is fairly straightforward – since x has a square root, it must be non-negative. When you square it, just the square root sign vanishes and you are left with x.

4) √(x^2) = |x|
Now this isn’t intuitive either. √(x^2) should simply be x – why do we have absolute value of x, then? Again, this has to do with the principal square root concept. First you will square x, and then when you write √, it is by default just the principal square root. The negative square root will be written as -√(x^2). So, irrespective of whether x was positive or negative initially, √(x^2) will definitely be positive x. Therefore, we will need to take the absolute value of x.

Here’s a quick recap with some examples:

  • √9 = 3
  • x^2 = 16 means x is either 4 or -4
  • √(5^2) = 5
  • √(-5^2) = 5
  • (√16)^2 = 16
  • √100 = 10

To see this concept in action, let’s take a look at a very simple official problem:

If x is not 0, then √(x^2)/x =

(A) -1
(B) 0
(C) 1
(D) x
(E) |x|/x

We know that √(x^2) is not simply x, but rather |x|. So, √(x^2)/x = |x|/x.

Depending on whether x is positive or negative, |x|/x will be 1 or -1 – we can’t say which one. Hence, there is no further simplification that we can do, and our answer must be E.

Now that you are all warmed up, let’s examine a higher-level question:

Is √[(x – 3)^2] = (3 – x)?

Statement 1: x is not 3
Statement 2: -x * |x| > 0

We know that √(x^2) = |x|, so √[(x – 3)^2] = |x – 3|.

This means that our question is basically:

Is |x – 3| = 3 – x?

Note that 3 – x can also be written as -(x – 3).

Is |x – 3| = -(x – 3)?

Recall the definition of absolute values: |a| = a if a is greater than or equal to 0, and -a if a < 0.

So, “Is |x – 3| = -(x – 3)?” depends on whether (x – 3) is positive or negative. If (x – 3) is negative (or 0), then |x – 3| is equal to -(x – 3).

So our question now boils down to:

Is (x – 3) negative (or 0)?

Statement 1: x is not 3

This means we know that (x – 3) is not 0, but we still don’t know whether it is negative or positive. This statement is not sufficient.

Statement 2: -x * |x| > 0

|x| is always non-negative, so for the product to be positive, “-x” must also be positive. This means x must be negative. If x is negative, x – 3 must be negative, too.

If (x – 3) is negative, |x – 3| is equal to -(x – 3). Hence, this statement alone is sufficient, and our answer is B.

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 Rate Questions: Tackling Problems with Multiple Components

stopwatch-620A few posts ago, I tackled rate/work questions, which are invariably a source of consternation for GMAT test-takers. On the latest official practice tests that GMAC has released, these questions showed up with surprising frequency, so I thought it might be worthwhile to tackle a challenging incarnation of this question type: one in which a single machine begins a project and then multiple machines complete the partially-finished work.

To review, the key for dealing with this type of question is to apply the following rules:

  1. Rate * Time = Work
  2. Rates are additive in work questions.
  3. Rate and time have a reciprocal relationship.

For the questions involving partially completed jobs, we’ll throw in the addendum that a completed job can be designated as “1”’

And that’s it!

Here’s a question I saw on my recent practice test:

Working alone at its constant rate, pump X pumped out ¼ of the water in a tank in 2 hours. Then pumps Y and Z started working and the three pumps, working simultaneously at their respective constant rates, pumped out the rest of the water in 3 hours. If pump Y, working alone at its constant rate, would have taken 18 hours to pump out the rest of the water, how many hours would it have taken pump Z, working alone at its constant rate, to pump out all of the water that was pumped out of the tank?

A) 6
B) 12
C) 15
D) 18
E) 24

Okay, deep breath. Recall our three aforementioned rules. Next, let’s designate the rates for the pumps as x, y, and z, respectively.

If pump x can pump out ¼ of the water in 2 hours, then it would take 4*2 = 8 hours to pump out all the water alone. If pump x can complete 1 tank in 8 hours, then x = 1/8.

If x removes ¼ of the water on its own, then all three pumps working together have to remove the ¾ of the water left in the tank. We’re told that together they can do this in 3 hours. If x, y, and z together can do ¾ of the work in 3 hours, then x + y + z = (¾)/3 = 3/12 = ¼.

We’re told that y, alone, could have pumped out the rest of the water in 18 hours – again, there was ¾ of a tank left, so y = (¾)/18 = 1/24.

To summarize, we know that x = 1/8, y = 1/24, and x + y + z = ¼;  Not so hard to solve for z, right?

1/8 + 1/24 + z = ¼

Multiply everything by 24, and we get:

3 + 1 + 24z = 6

24z = 2

z = 1/12.

That’s z’s rate. If rate and time have a reciprocal relationship, we know that it would take z 12 hours to pump out all the water of one tank alone. The answer is, therefore, B.

Takeaway: The joy of seeing new material from GMAC (Is joy the right word?) is the realization that no matter how many additional layers of complexity the question-writers throw at us, the old verities hold true. So when you see tough questions, slow down. Remind yourself that the strategies you’ve cultivated will unlock even the toughest problems. Then, dive in and discover, yet again, that these questions are never quite as hard as they appear at first glance.

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.

From the Family Business to Business School (and Back)

Awkward Family Photo - Summer“You’re going back to the family business?” 

If you’re planning to attend business school with the ultimate intent of working for your family’s business, some of your friends will probably wonder why you would consider pursuing an MBA when they feel that a clear path has already been (very well) paved for you with the power, privilege, and prestige of your family’s business handed to you on a silver platter. Some will envy you, some will resent you, and even more will wonder if you really need an MBA, while you yourself doubt how stating this post-MBA goal will affect your odds of admission.

Interestingly, articulating your personal story towards convince your friends of this decision may also be the same formula towards strengthening your case to getting admitted to your target schools. Let’s examine three ways you can best explain to the Admissions Committee your plans to go from your family’s business to business school, and back:

1) Win Admiration from Peers
Displaying your competence through your strong academic and job accomplishments, demonstrating your character through your work ethic and values, or showcasing how you have gotten involved with interesting and worthwhile activities will help show you as someone who can make it on their own. In turn, this display of independence – that you don’t completely rely on your family to succeed – will work  towards winning admiration and respect from your peers, and even your subordinates.

Imagine, sometime in the near future (perhaps your late 20’s or early 30’s), being introduced as the new General Manager of your family’s business. Some whispers from your employees would surely be, “She’s the daughter of the boss, that’s why…” From your side, you would want them to also recognize how you have also excelled outside of the family business environment, whether it is at another company, or towards a specific social cause or interest. Similarly, explaining this desire to find your own success, independent of your family, will be a great way to explain your MBA aspirations to the Admissions Committee.

2) Acknowledge Your Good Fortune
In discussing your history in relation to your family’s business, you would do well to be grateful for the circumstances you have been blessed with. This gratitude will serve as a good point to highlight the knowledge, exposure and network you are equipped with – attractive qualities that can benefit your future business school community, as well.

Mentioning specifics about your family’s business to demonstrate its scale and potential impact not only shows your awareness and interest in the business, but also helps the Admissions Committee realize the impact you can make in the business world. Providing details on the products this company provides, or on its business model, will also help them visualize what you are involved with now, and how it can influence you as a future MBA.

3) Articulate Your Passion
Tell the Admissions Committee what you are excited to do after business school, such as leading the entry into a new market, launching a product line, building a distribution channel, or formulating new company plans. You can also share the challenges your family’s business is currently facing – perhaps it is the need to modernize its systems and processes, or its struggle with the more personal aspects of succession planning or even family politics. Showing your focus and drive to achieve these specific post-MBA objectives – and explaining how attending business school will help you attain these goals – will further demonstrate your substance and maturity.

Relate these future plans and current challenges to your need for an MBA at your specific school of interest by identifying exactly what you aim to gain at their program and how you plan to bring it back to your family’s business. Doing this will help convince the Admission Committee that you are the right fit for their program and deserving of a spot.

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.

Avoid Obtaining the Wrong Values in Percent Increase Questions

stressed-studentMany test takers make mistakes in percent increase quantitative GMAT questions, not because they do not understand the principle of percent increase, but rather, because they don’t evaluate the correct values.

A quick recap: percent increase questions can be identified (often literally) by the words “percent increase,” and tend to be word problems that don’t read in the most straightforward manner. The first step to take when working towards answering these questions is to be cautious and evaluate them carefully.

The second step is to, of course, use the percent increase formula – (new value – initial value) / (initial value) x 100%.

Let’s start by going through a sample GMAT practice problem:

In 2005, 25 percent of the math department’s 40 students were female, and in 2007, 40 percent of the math department’s 65 students were female. What was the percent increase from 2005 to 2007 in the number of female students in the department?

A) 15%
B) 50%
C) 62.5%
D) 115%
E) 160%

At first can be difficult to determine what the answer is for this question, but keep in mind that the best place to start looking is in the last sentence and/or the actual question that is posed. In this case, the new value is the number of female students in 2007, “the number of female students in the department?”

By working backwards through this problem, we would take  40% of 65 (our final value), which we can easily calculate as 0.4*65 (or 2/5*65), giving us a total of 26 students in 2007.

Our initial value must then be the number of female students in 2005, which we can get by calculating 25% of 40. 0.25*40 (or 1/4*40) leaves us with a total of 10 female students in 2005.

Breaking up the question up into smaller, more manageable chunks gives us the ability to plug 26 and 10 into the percent increase formula – (26‐10)/10 = 16/10 = 1.6 = 160%. Therefore, the correct answer is E.

This strategy of not trying to figure out the conclusion without evaluating all the separate parts of the question is important to tackle percent change GMAT problems, but can be applied across a variety of quantitative questions. Understanding that these questions can be much more manageable, and are more about strategy versus understanding complex math concepts, is the key to success on the Quantitative Section.

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 Ashley Triscuit, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston.

How to Show Leadership Potential in Your MBA Applications (Even Without Holding a Formal Title)

InterviewBusiness schools are known to value the leadership potential of their candidates very highly. Consequently, applicants often worry that their work experiences are not strong enough to impress the Admissions Committee – especially when they do not hold a high-ranking title or do not have direct reports under their supervision.

Aside from formal leadership responsibilities within your organization, use the tips below to showcase your future leadership potential in your MBA applications:

1) Use Successes of Selling Ideas
MBA applicants who have roles as experts or individual contributors to a company often do not have any staff underneath them. If you are in this position, use examples of your success in selling ideas to showcase your leadership potential. This could include convincing senior management to approve a proposal, collaborating with diverse stakeholders for a project, and getting your plans implemented across the company.

Aside from displaying innovation and initiative, speaking about your success in selling ideas will also allow you to demonstrate your ability to negotiate, align and relate with people from diverse backgrounds and motivations, showcasing you as an applicant who can collaborate with peers at business school and be an effective leader post-MBA. This addresses both the leadership and teamwork skills that Admissions Committees look for, while giving you an avenue to show examples of your creativity and expertise.

2) Play up Personal Passions
To present yourself as an all-around great personality with multiple dimensions, you will need to share your personal interests – the activities you do to have fun, to relieve stress, and to grow outside of the work environment will definitely make you a more interesting candidate to the Admissions Committee. In determining which extracurriculars to elaborate on, choose those that involve leadership responsibilities or impressive projects that you took an active role in (these examples could also easily go in any essays that ask for examples of leadership, success, or failure).

Aside from making your profile stand out and offering you another way to display your leadership potential, sharing your passions in this way will give you the chance to show the Admissions Committee how easy it would be for you to relate with your future business school peers and contribute to their experiences.

3) Include Informal Mentoring and Influencing
Another way to demonstrate your interpersonal leadership skills is to relate stories of how you informally mentored and influenced someone to help you achieve an accomplishment or solve a particular problem. MBA programs increasingly value the importance of this ability. In addition to showing the values of leadership, empathy and teamwork, including information about this mentoring in your profile will also be a great chance to exhibit your drive, initiative and ability to adapt to working with different types of personalities.

By employing the tips above, you will be able to demonstrate strong leadership potential – even without holding an impressive title in your organization – while also sharing outstanding aspects of your personal profile.

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: Summer SAT Prep Courses

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe SAT challenges a student’s skills in many different subjects – students must complete questions on reading, math, writing and language, as well as complete the essay (which is optional, but many high school seniors choose to write it anyway). Most students benefit from taking an SAT preparation course.

These types of courses are available to students at many times throughout the year, however SAT summer courses are an ideal option for many high school students (especially for students who are extremely busy with activities and other commitments during the school year). Consider some of the benefits of SAT summer programs for high school students:

Additional Time to Devote to Study
Students who take summer SAT prep classes have more time to focus on practicing for this important test. Alternatively, students who choose to prepare for the SAT during the school year must carefully plan their schedule so they have time to study for the test while keeping up with their school work and extracurricular activities. A student who wants to focus solely on mastering the SAT may want to put aside time in the summer for preparation. At Veritas Prep, we prepare students for the SAT during the summer and all year round!

Enjoying a More Flexible Study Schedule
Many students pare down their daily schedules during the summer so they have the chance to re-energize for the coming school year, which offers them more options when it comes to studying for the SAT.

For example, a student may decide to study for two hours in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays so they can work at a part-time job in the afternoons – this leaves Tuesdays and Thursdays free to spend time with family and friends. Another student may study for a few hours each afternoon five days a week so they can babysit or spend time with friends in the evenings. When it comes to SAT prep, utilizing a summer program allow students more options regarding how to manage their studying.

Feeling Prepared for the Test
A student who feels thoroughly prepared for the SAT will have more confidence in their abilities on test day. SAT summer prep classes give students the chance to build up a tremendous amount of confidence regarding the test, because in the summer, students have the free time they need to absorb the information conveyed during their lessons. They also have plenty of time to become familiar with, and practice, the strategies they learn during their instruction. Throughout the summer months, students can work to improve their weak areas so they can feel more at ease about specific subjects that will be on the exam. All of this preparation can add up to a stellar performance on test day!

Time to Study with Friends
During the school year, most high school students are busy with homework, club meetings, after-school sports and other activities. Though two friends may be taking the SAT at the same time later in the school year, they may not have time to study together due to their busy schedules.

However, two friends who take summer SAT prep classes are likely to have more free time to meet and go over study material before they take their exam. They could quiz one another or perhaps practice math skills by competing in online games. Studying for the SAT can be more effective, not to mention more fun, with the help of an encouraging friend.

Our team at Veritas Prep is proud to provide students with first-rate SAT prep. Summer programs that prepare students for the SAT as well as all of our other courses are taught by skilled instructors – we hire tutors who truly understand what it takes to ace the SAT, and students who work with us benefit from the knowledge and practical experience of our professional instructors. Contact us online or call us today to start preparing for the SAT!

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!

So, You’re Terrible at Integrated Reasoning…

08fba0fSince its release on the June 2012 exam, the Integrated Reasoning portion of the GMAT has had some test takers stumped. This 30-minute, 12 question section is oddly scored on a 1 to 8 scale, and no partial credit is given, even for multi-part, multi-answer questions.

For the past several years, it was a matter of debate as to whether business schools evaluated applicants on the basis of the Integrated Reasoning Section. Admissions offices can be slow to adapt to changes in standardized tests, waiting for enough points of comparison to consider whether the change corresponds with other ways that applicants are assessed. But in the past 1-2 MBA admissions cycles, it has become apparent that admissions teams are ready to actively add the Integrated Reasoning Section as a factor in their assessments.

But this tough nut of a section is not inundated with years of Official Guide and test-prep-company-generated questions like the Quantitative and Verbal Sections. After taking a practice test or two, you may find yourself scoring a 2/8 or 3/8 and completely at a loss on how to improve your Integrated Reasoning score.

The first step you can take to improve your IR score is understanding what types of questions to expect on the Integrated Reasoning Section, and then adjust your approach to each question with a corresponding appropriate strategy. The Integrated Reasoning questions can be bucketed into four categories:

  1. Table Analysis: sorting given tables and making the most of information presented
  2. Graphics Interpretation: reading and interpreting a graph
  3. Multi-Source Reasoning: using all the given information to assess statements
  4. Two-Part Analysis: determine the correctness of two parts of a question (all parts need to be selected correctly, with no partial credit given!)

What many test takers fail to recognize that that the IR Section is not necessarily its own unique section, but rather, it is a “summary” section – you can apply all the strategies you have learned for the Quantitative and Verbal Sections to these types of questions. Anticipation, process of elimination, etc. Integrated Reasoning is multi-faceted, as should be your corresponding strategies.

The next step is practice, practice, practice with the resources you do have available. Timing is hands-down the biggest challenge for test takers on this section, so make sure you’ve completed all the gimmes that the MBA.com website provides (with 48 questions recently released for additional practice).

And if you feel you need more help preparing for the IR Section, consider checking out Veritas Prep’s GMAT course offerings – we were the leader in test preparation companies anticipating strategies and providing dedicated Integrated Reasoning practice. Assess areas that you have made careless mistakes, ways you could better sort tables and charts, and other areas where you could have gotten to the conclusion more readily over being mired down into nitty gritty, and unnecessary, details.

With a bit of understanding and preparation, and figuring out how you are able to best read, assess, review, and interpret tables and information, you should be able to edge closer to the coveted 8/8 IR score.

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 Ashley Triscuit, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston.

5 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Business School for Its Maximum Global Impact

Europeean MBA ProgramsAs the world has become increasingly global and interconnected, the business world has followed the same trend. As such, the ability to be a global thinker has been ingrained in many business school curriculums, both domestically and internationally. For some, this educational dalliance with a global curriculum at many MBA programs is insufficient and does not effectively prepare students to lead in an international setting.

Choosing an MBA program for a global impact is extremely important for students looking to live or work internationally. Also, globally-minded programs tend to attract more students who are interested in working at multi-national corporations that may be headquartered outside of the U.S. For international students, attending programs with a high percentage of other international students eases the transition to a new country and provides a more comfortable experience during the 2-year business school journey. Let us discuss some other things to consider as you explore what constitutes the right globally-minded MBA program for you:

1) Location
The location of your future business school is one of the biggest factors to consider when determining your fit with a specific program. Now, when thinking about programs that can deliver a global impact, usually the closer you are to your target region of post-MBA work, the better off you are – if you are interested in working in Europe, for example, then a European MBA program like INSEAD may make more sense for you than an MBA program in the United States.

2) Reputation
Even an MBA program that is not based in your region of interest can provide great post-MBA career opportunities if its name carries the right reputation. Globally-reputed programs resonate anywhere in the world, which can allow students a great education with career opportunities in other international areas.

3) Curriculum
If you are interested in how global an MBA program is, make sure to review the academic offerings of your target schools, paying close attention to how they weave global learning into their course requirements. The best global programs will offer relevant international coursework, treks, and experiential learning opportunities to provide practical and academic experiences for interested students. Some programs, like the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, even have international education requirements that mandate students to study abroad, take internationally-focused coursework, or engage in some other global experiential learning opportunities.

4) Alumni
Prominent alumni or a high number of alumni in a region from your target school can be another great indicator of fit. A strong, connected alumni network can often help you secure short-term or long-term employment in a desired nation of your choice or multi-national company.

5) Current Students
For applicants interested in global exposure, the amount of international students currently in the MBA programs they are interested in can be a strong indicator that they may click with that program. Having an internationally diverse student body provides tremendous networking opportunities for students interested in learning more about global career opportunities as well as the cultures in specific regions around the world.

Follow the tips above to inform your decision making when choosing the right globally-minded MBA program for your unique 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 read more articles by him here.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Why Critical Reasoning Needs Your Complete Attention on the GMAT!

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomLet’s look at a tricky and time consuming official Critical Reasoning question today. We will learn how to focus on the important aspects of the question and quickly evaluate our answer choices:

Tiger beetles are such fast runners that they can capture virtually any nonflying insect. However, when running toward an insect, a tiger beetle will intermittently stop and then, a moment later, resume its attack. Perhaps the beetles cannot maintain their pace and must pause for a moment’s rest; but an alternative hypothesis is that while running, tiger beetles are unable to adequately process the resulting rapidly changing visual information and so quickly go blind and stop. 

Which of the following, if discovered in experiments using artificially moved prey insects, would support one of the two hypotheses and undermine the other? 

(A) When a prey insect is moved directly toward a beetle that has been chasing it, the beetle immediately stops and runs away without its usual intermittent stopping. 
(B) In pursuing a swerving insect, a beetle alters its course while running and its pauses become more frequent as the chase progresses.
(C) In pursuing a moving insect, a beetle usually responds immediately to changes in the insect’s direction, and it pauses equally frequently whether the chase is up or down an incline. 
(D) If, when a beetle pauses, it has not gained on the insect it is pursuing, the beetle generally ends its pursuit. 
(E) The faster a beetle pursues an insect fleeing directly away from it, the more frequently the beetle stops.

First, take a look at the argument:

  • Tiger beetles are very fast runners.
  • When running toward an insect, a tiger beetle will intermittently stop and then, a moment later, resume its attack.

There are two hypotheses presented for this behavior:

  1. The beetles cannot maintain their pace and must pause for a moment’s rest.
  2. While running, tiger beetles are unable to adequately process the resulting rapidly changing visual information and so quickly go blind and stop.

We need to support one of the two hypotheses and undermine the other. We don’t know which one will be supported and which will be undermined. How will we support/undermine a hypothesis?

The beetles cannot maintain their pace and must pause for a moment’s rest.

Support: Something that tells us that they do get tired. e.g. going uphill they pause more.

Undermine: Something that says that fatigue plays no role e.g. the frequency of pauses do not increase as the chase continues.

While running, tiger beetles are unable to adequately process the resulting rapidly changing visual information and so quickly go blind and stop.

Support: Something that says that they are not able to process changing visual information e.g. as speed increases, frequency of pauses increases.

Undermine: Something that says that they are able to process changing visual information e.g. it doesn’t pause on turns.

Now, we need to look at each answer choice to see which one supports one hypothesis and undermines the other. Focus on the impact each option has on our two hypotheses:

(A) When a prey insect is moved directly toward a beetle that has been chasing it, the beetle immediately stops and runs away without its usual intermittent stopping.

This undermines both hypotheses. If the beetle is able to run without stopping in some situations, it means that it is not a physical ailment that makes him take pauses. He is not trying to catch his breath – so to say – nor is he adjusting his field of vision.

(B) In pursuing a swerving insect, a beetle alters its course while running and its pauses become more frequent as the chase progresses.

If the beetle alters its course while running, it is obviously processing changing visual information and changing its course accordingly while running. This undermines the hypothesis “it cannot process rapidly changing visual information”. However, if the beetle pauses more frequently as the chase progresses, it is tiring out more and more due to the long chase and, hence, is taking more frequent breaks. This supports the hypothesis, “it cannot maintain its speed and pauses for rest”.

Answer choice B strengthens one hypothesis and undermines the other. This must be the answer, but let’s check our other options, just to be sure:

(C) In pursuing a moving insect, a beetle usually responds immediately to changes in the insect’s direction, and it pauses equally frequently whether the chase is up or down an incline.

This answer choice undermines both hypotheses. If the beetle responds immediately to changes in direction, it is able to process changing visual information. In addition, if the beetle takes similar pauses going up or down, it is not the effort of running that is making it take the pauses (otherwise, going up, it would have taken more pauses since it takes more effort going up).

(D) If, when a beetle pauses, it has not gained on the insect it is pursuing, the beetle generally ends its pursuit.

This answer choice might strengthen the hypothesis that the beetle is not able to respond to changing visual information since it decides whether it is giving up or not after pausing (in case there is a certain stance that tells us that it has paused), but it doesn’t actually undermine the hypothesis that the beetle pauses to rest. It is very possible that it pauses to rest, and at that time assesses the situation and decides whether it wants to continue the chase. Hence, this option doesn’t undermine either hypothesis and cannot be our answer.

(E) The faster a beetle pursues an insect fleeing directly away from it, the more frequently the beetle stops.

This answer choice strengthens both of the hypotheses. The faster the beetle runs, the more rest it would need, and the more rapidly visual information would change causing the beetle to pause. Because this option does not undermine either hypothesis, it also cannot be our answer.

Only answer choice B strengthens one hypothesis and undermines the other, therefore, our answer must be B.

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 Simplify Sequences on the GMAT

SAT/ACTThe GMAT loves sequence questions. Test-takers, not surprisingly, do not feel the same level of affection for this topic. In some ways, it’s a peculiar reaction. A sequence is really just a set of numbers. It may be infinite, it may be finite, but it’s this very open-endedness, this dizzying level of fuzzy abstraction, that can make sequences so difficult to mentally corral.

If you are one of the many people who fear and dislike sequences, your main consolation should come from the fact that the main weapon in the question writer’s arsenal is the very fear these questions might elicit. And if you have been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that the best way to combat this anxiety is to dive in and convert abstractions into something concrete, either by listing out some portion of the sequence, or by using the answer choices and working backwards.

Take this question for example:

For a certain set of numbers, if x is in the set, then x – 3 is also in the set. If the number 1 is in the set, which of the following must also be in the set? 

I. 4
II. -1
III. -5

A) I only
B) II only
C) III only
D) I and II
E) II and III

Okay, so let’s list out the elements in this set. We know that 1 is in the set. If x= 1, then x – 3 = -2. So -2 is in the set. If x = -2 is in the set, then x – 3 = -5. So -5 is in the set.

By this point, the pattern should be clear: each term is three less than the previous term, giving us a sequence that looks like this: 1, -2, -5, -8, -11….

So we look at our options, and see we that only III is true. And we’re done. That’s it. The answer is C.

Sure, Dave, you may say. That is much easier than any question I’m going to see on the GMAT. First, this is an official question, so I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that you’d never see a question like this. Second, you’d be surprised by how many test-takers get this wrong.

There is the temptation to assume that if 1 is in the set, then 4 must also be in the set. And note that this is, in fact, a possibility. If x = 4, then x – 3 = 1. But the question asks us what “must be” in the set. So it’s possible that 4 is in our set. But it’s also possible our set begins with 1, in which case 4 would not be included. This little wrinkle is enough to generate a substantial number of incorrect responses.

Still, surely the questions get harder than this. Well, yes. They do. So what are you waiting for? I’m not sure where this testy impatience is coming from, but if you insist:

The sequence a1, a2, a3, . . , an of n integers is such that ak = k if k is odd and ak = -ak-1 if k is even. Is the sum of the terms in the sequence positive?

1) n is odd

2) an is positive

Yikes! Hey, you asked for a harder one. This question looks far more complicated than the previous one, but we can attack it the same way. Let’s establish our sequence:

a1 is the first term in the sequence. We’re told that ak = k if k is odd. Well, 1 is odd, so now we know that a1 = 1. So far so good.

a2 is the second term in the sequence. We’re told that ak = -ak-1 if k is even. 2 is even, so a2 = -a2-1 , meaning that a2 = -a1. Well, we know that a1 = 1, so if a2 = -a1 then a2 = -1.

So, here’s our sequence so far: 1, -1…

Let’s keep going.

a3 is the third term in the sequence. Remember that ak = k if k is odd. 3 is odd, so now we know that a3 = 3.

a4 is the fourth term in the sequence. Remember that ak = -ak-1 if k is even. 4 is even, so a4 = -a4-1 , meaning that a4 = -a3We know that a3 = 3, so if a4 = -a3 then a4 = -3.

Now our sequence looks like this: 1, -1, 3, -3…

By this point we should see the pattern. Every odd term is a positive number that is dictated by its place in the sequence (the first term = 1, the third term = 3, etc.) and every even term is simply the previous term multiplied by -1.

We’re asked about the sum:

After one term, we have 1.

After two terms, we have 1 + (-1) = 0.

After three terms, we have 1 + (-1) + 3 = 3.

After four terms, we have 1 + (-1) + 3 + (-3) = 0.

Notice the trend: after every odd term, the sum is positive. After every even term, the sum is 0.

So the initial question, “Is the sum of the terms in the sequence positive?” can be rephrased as, “Are there an ODD number of terms in the sequence?”

Now to the statements. Statement 1 tells us that there are an odd number of terms in the sequence. That clearly answers our rephrased question, because if there are an odd number of terms, the sum will be positive. This is sufficient.

Statement 2 tells us that an is positive. an is the last term in the sequence. If that term is positive, then, according to the pattern we’ve established, that term must be odd, meaning that the sum of the sequence is positive. This is also sufficient. And the answer is D, either statement alone is sufficient to answer the question.

Takeaway: sequence questions are nothing to fear. Like everything else on the GMAT, the main obstacle we need to overcome is the self-fulfilling prophesy that we don’t know how to proceed, when, in fact, all we need to do is simplify things a bit.

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.

What’s More Important to Business Schools: The Company You Work For or What You Actually Do?

Successful ApplicantFor most Admissions teams at top business schools, an applicant’s work experience is a major area of assessment, but there still remain a lot of questions around how programs evaluate the varying factors that make up one’s work experience. One of the key questions many candidates have when it comes to work experience is what do admissions teams value more: the reputation of the company you work for, or the quality of what you actually do?

Let’s explore why each aspect of this question is important, and ultimately, how admissions teams value or weight your work experience:

Big-Name Firm
Many of the top business schools are certainly “brand conscious” and tend to admit folks who have worked at large “blue chip” companies. However, I would say that this fact exists primarily due to the recruiting process of those firms.

The type of talent that can secure employment at these companies are often similar to the ones that can secure admission at top-tier MBA programs. From attending prestigious undergraduate programs to achieving high standardized test scores and maintaining high levels of ambition, there tend to be more similarities than differences between big-name firm employees and top MBA candidates.

Context of Work
One could argue that “impact” is the most important characteristic when evaluating work experience, however it can certainly be more difficult to get scope your accomplishments across when the Admissions Committee is unfamiliar with your firm.

Another challenge that often occurs here is when an applicant is unable to properly translate their great work experience and impact to the firm. With big-name firms, generally, no translation is needed as the reputation of the company precedes all, but when communicating the context of your work at a smaller firm, it is critical to clearly articulate all of your good deeds.

When considering the choice between firm reputation and impact of work, those without a blue chip pedigree should not be worried. The benefits of working at a larger company do not put you at a significant disadvantage – this just means you need to be proactive and aggressive in highlighting the higher value of your work and the nature of your firm. Your recommenders can also help you by explicitly and repeatedly emphasizing through their examples that you are not doing typical work. If you do these things, you will minimize the disadvantage of your firm’s lack of brand name.

Business schools would rather see you doing meaningful work at a small-name firm then doing nothing at a well-known brand. Now of course, the ideal situation would be to work at a blue chip company and still have great work experiences but it is perfectly fine if that’s not the case. The important thing is to make it very clear of the impact you made and how valued you are at your company.

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.

You’re Fooling Yourself: The GMAT is NOT the SAT!

StudentWhile a fair number of GMAT test takers study for and complete the exam a number of years into their professional career (the average age of a B-school applicant is 28, a good 6-7 years removed from their undergraduate graduation), you may be one of the ambitious few who is studying for the GMAT during, or immediately following, your undergraduate studies.

There are pros and cons to applying to business school entry straight out of undergraduate – your application lacks the core work experience that many of the higher-tier programs prefer, but unlike the competition, you have not only taken a standardized test in the past 6 years, but you are also (likely) still in the studying mindset and know (versus trying to remember) exactly what it takes to prepare for a difficult exam.

However, you may also fall into a common trap that many younger test takers find themselves in – you decide to tackle the GMAT like your old and recent friend, the SAT.

Now, are there similarities between the GMAT and SAT? Of course.

For starters, the SAT and GMAT are both multiple-choice standardized exams. The math section of the SAT covers arithmetic, geometry, and algebra, just like the quantitative section of the GMAT, with some overlap in statistics and probability. Both exams test a core, basic understanding of English grammar, and ask you to answer questions based on your comprehension of dry, somewhat complex reading passages. The SAT and GMAT also both require you write essays (although the essay on the SAT is now optional), and timing and pacing are issues on both exams, though perhaps more so on the GMAT.

But this is largely where the overlap ends. So, does that mean everything you know and prepped for the SAT should be thrown out the window?

Not necessarily, but it does require a fundamental shift in thinking. While applying your understanding of the Pythagorean Theorem, factorization, permutations, and arithmetic sequences from the SAT will certainly help you begin to tackle GMAT quantitative questions, there are key differences in what the GMAT is looking to assess versus the College Board, and with that, the strategy in tackling these questions should also be quite different.

Simply put, the GMAT is testing how you think, not what you know. This makes sense, when you think about what types of skills are required in business school and, eventually, in the management of business and people. GMAC doesn’t hide what the GMAT is looking to assess – in fact, goals of the GMAT’s assessment are clearly stated on its website:

The GMAT exam is designed to test skills that are highly important to business and management programs. It assesses analytical writing and problem-solving abilities, along with the data sufficiency, logic, and critical reasoning skills that are vital to real-world business and management success. In June 2012, the GMAT exam introduced Integrated Reasoning, a new section designed to measure a test taker’s ability to evaluate information presented in new formats and from multiple sources─skills necessary for management students to succeed in a technologically advanced and data-rich world.

To successfully show that you are a candidate worth considering, in your preparation for the exam, make sure you consider what the right strategy and approach will be. Strategy, strategy, strategy. You need to understand which rabbit holes the GMAT can take you down, what tricks not to fall for (especially via misdirection), and how identification of question types can best inform the next steps you take.

An additional, and really, really important point is to keep in mind is that the GMAT is a computer-adaptive exam, not a pen-and-paper test.

Computer-adaptive means that your answer selection dictates the difficulty level of the next question – stacking itself up to a very accurate assessment of how easily you are able to answer easy, medium, and hard questions. Computer-adaptive also means you are not able to skip around, or go back to questions… including the reading comprehension ones. Just like on any game show, you must select your final answer before moving on.

As a computer-adaptive test, the GMAT not only punishes pacing issues, but can be even more detrimental to those who rush and make careless mistakes in the beginning. To wage war against the CAT format, test takers must be careful and methodical in assessing and answering test questions correctly.

Bottom line: don’t treat the GMAT like the SAT, or assume that because you did well on the SAT, you will also do so on the GMAT (or, vice versa). Make sure you are aware of the components of the GMAT that are different and where the similarities between the two tests end.

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 Ashley Triscuit, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston.

SAT Tip of the Week: Don’t Stress Over the PSAT!

SAT Tip of the Week - FullAs many of you already know, PSAT stands for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test. What many people might not believe, though, is that “Preliminary” is the most important word in that title. Sophomores and juniors take the PSAT to prepare for the SAT exam, and that preparation is exactly what the PSAT is designed for.

The PSAT helps students determine what sections of the test they need to work on, what kind of score they could expect on the SAT, what SAT questions will look like, how to manage timing on the test, how to handle high-pressure situations, and a host of other things.

Each of these facets is important, and using the PSAT to get familiar with them can be a big boon to students’ scores come test day.

However, it’s crucial to not let the PSAT become a bigger deal than it really is. Except for those rare students in the top 1% of scorers that qualify for National Merit Scholarships, PSAT scores are only important to one person: the person who took the test. Even for those high-scoring students, the PSAT’s primary function is to get students ready for the SAT – the test that truly matters for college admissions.

PSAT scores are designed to help you do better on the real SAT. They are not meant to be a complete reflection on your academic ability or future success in college. For that reason, you should not stress out about the PSAT at all. The scores are meant to get you acclimated with your strengths and weaknesses; they aren’t intended to crush your confidence and make you overly worried about the SAT. When students get nervous before taking the PSAT, or worried after finding out their scores, that represents a real misunderstanding of the role of the PSAT.

To see why it’s totally fine to not treat the PSAT as a life-or-death occurrence, here’s how I approached the PSAT 2 years ago when I took it (yes, it was the old PSAT that corresponded to the 2400 scale SAT, but the general principles of the PSAT’s importance remain the same):

A few days before the PSAT, I looked over a review packet my school gave me and completed and scored the timed practice sessions. The night before, I looked over the practice test, reviewed a little vocab, and went to bed. It was pretty light studying, but I was feeling good – not stressed out at all. I took the test the next day and it seemed like it went well, but when I got my scores back, I had done a lot worse than I thought. Even still, I knew that that my score didn’t really matter, and while it did frustrate me a little bit, I refused to get stressed out and decided to keep a positive attitude as I got to work preparing for the real SAT.

Using my struggles on the PSAT as a framework for studying for the new SAT, I scored an equivalent of 430 points better on the SAT than I did on the PSAT. That’s an incredibly wide disparity, and it proves that a mediocre PSAT score is definitely not the end of the world.

Keep in mind that stress will make your score worse and increase the already enormous amount of pressure you probably feel to get into college. Your score will not be an accurate depiction of what your real SAT score could look like – the score you’d get with a positive attitude and calm demeanor.

So, how should you approach the PSAT? For starters, don’t act as if your future depends on it. Pro tip: it really doesn’t. It’s also important to remember that you can always bounce back from a sub-par PSAT score, and that the test is valuable for a lot more than just a score.

Think of the PSAT as a free check-up – a great way to practice for the real test that also provides a gauge of how you can expect to do on it. When you think of the PSAT like this, you’ll realize that there isn’t much to worry about. You don’t need to spend weeks studying for it, and you definitely don’t need to feel any anxiety about it. Just get acquainted with the test, do some review, and go take a test that only has the potential to help you.

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.

Solving GMAT Standard Deviation Problems By Using as Little Math as Possible

GMATThe other night I taught our Statistics lesson, and when we got to the section of class that deals with standard deviation, there was a familiar collective groan – not unlike the groan one encounters when doing compound interest, or any mathematical concept that, when we learned it in school, involved an intimidating-looking formula.

So, I think it’s time for me to coin an axiom: the more painful the traditional formula associated with a given topic, the simpler the actual calculations will be on the GMAT. (Please note, though the axiom is awaiting official mathematical verification by Veritas’ hard-working team of data scientists, the anecdotal evidence in support of the axiom is overwhelming.)

So, let’s talk standard deviation. If you’re like my students, your first thought is to start assembling a list of increasingly frantic questions: Do we need to know that horrible formula I learned in Stats class? (No.) Do we need to know the relationship between variance and Standard deviation? (You just need to know that there is a relationship, and that if you can solve for one, you can solve for the other.) Etc.

So, rather than droning on about what we don’t need to know, let’s boil down what we do need to know about standard deviation. The good news – it isn’t much. Just make sure you’ve internalized the following:

  • The standard deviation is a measure of the dispersion the elements of the set around mean. The farther away the terms are from the mean, the larger the standard deviation.
  • If we were to increase or decrease each element of the set by “x,” the standard deviation would remain unchanged.
  • If we were to multiply each element of the set by “x,” the standard deviation would also be multiplied by “x.”
  • If the mean of a set is “m” and the standard deviation is “d,” then to say that something is within 3 standard deviations of a set is to say that it falls within the interval of (m – 3d) to (m + 3d.) And to say that something is within 2 standard deviations of the mean is to say that it falls within the interval of (m – 2d) to (m + 2d.)

That’s basically it. Not anything to get too worked up about. So, let’s see some of these principles in action to substantiate the claim that we won’t have to do too much arithmetical grinding on these types of questions:

If d is the standard deviation of x, y, z, what is the standard deviation of x+5, y+5, z+5 ? 

A) d
B) 3d
C) 15d
D) d+5
E) d+15

If our initial set is x, y, z, and our new set is x+5, y+5, and z+5, then we’re adding the same value to each element of the set. We already know that adding the same value to each element of the set does not change the standard deviation. Therefore, if the initial standard deviation was d, the new standard deviation is also d. We’re done – the answer is A. (You can see this with a simple example. If your initial set is {1, 2, 3} and your new set is {6, 7, 8} the dispersion of the set clearly hasn’t changed.)

Surely the questions get harder than this, you say. They do, but if you know the aforementioned core concepts, they’re all quite manageable. Here’s another one:

Some water was removed from each of 6 tanks. If standard deviation of the volumes of water at the beginning was 10 gallons, what was the standard deviation of the volumes at the end? 

1) For each tank, 30% of water at the beginning was removed
2) The average volume of water in the tanks at the end was 63 gallons 

We know the initial standard deviation. We want to know if it’s possible to determine the new standard deviation after water is removed. To the statements we go!

Statement 1: If 30% of the water is removed from each tank, we know that each term in the set is multiplied by the same value: 0.7. Well, if each term in a set is multiplied by 0.7, then the standard deviation of the set is also multiplied by 0.7. If the initial standard deviation was 10 gallons, then the new standard deviation would be 10*(0.7) = 7 gallons. And we don’t even need to do the math – it’s enough to see that it’s possible to calculate this number. Therefore, Statement 1 alone is sufficient.

Statement 2: Knowing the average of a set is not going to tell us very much about the dispersion of the set. To see why, imagine a simple case in which we have two tanks, and the average volume of water in the tanks is 63 gallons. It’s possible that each tank has exactly 63 gallons and, if so, the standard deviation would be 0, as everything would equal the mean. It’s also possible to have one tank that had 126 gallons and another tank that was empty, creating a standard deviation that would, of course, be significantly greater than 0. So, simply knowing the average cannot possibly give us our standard deviation. Statement 2 alone is not sufficient to answer the question.

And the answer is A.

Maybe at this point you’re itching for more of a challenge. Let’s look at a slightly tougher one:

7.51; 8.22; 7.86; 8.36 
8.09; 7.83; 8.30; 8.01
7.73; 8.25; 7.96; 8.53 

A vending machine is designed to dispense 8 ounces of coffee into a cup. After a test that recorded the number of ounces of coffee in each of 1000 cups dispensed by the vending machine, the 12 listed amounts, in ounces, were selected from the data above. If the 1000 recorded amounts have a mean of 8.1 ounces and a standard deviation of 0.3 ounces, how many of the 12 listed amounts are within 1.5 standard deviations of the mean? 

A)Four
B) Six
C) Nine
D) Ten
E) Eleven

Okay, so the standard deviation is 0.3 ounces. We want the values that are within 1.5 standard deviations of the mean. 1.5 standard deviations would be (1.5)(0.3) = 0.45 ounces, so we want all of the values that are within 0.45 ounces of the mean. If the mean is 8.1 ounces, this means that we want everything that falls between a lower bound of (8.1 – 0.45) and an upper bound of (8.1 + 4.5). Put another way, we want the number of values that fall between 8.1 – 0.45 = 7.65 and 8.1 + 0.45 = 8.55.

Looking at our 12 values, we can see that only one value, 7.51, falls outside of this range. If we have 12 total values and only 1 falls outside the range, then the other 11 are clearly within the range, so the answer is E.

As you can see, there’s very little math involved, even on the more difficult questions.

Takeaway: remember the axiom that the more complex-looking the formula is for a concept, the simpler the calculations are likely to be on the GMAT. An intuitive understanding of a topic will always go a lot further on this test than any amount of arithmetical virtuosity.

*GMATPrep questions 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.

How to Answer the “Post-MBA Goal” Question in 3 Steps

GoalsOne daunting, yet common question every business school candidate must answer at some point during the MBA application process is, “What are your post-MBA goals?”

In many cases, applicants do not have a concrete answer to this question – they just know that they don’t like where they currently are, but do not have clear post-MBA goals in mind. This kind of applicant will usually answer this question with something like, “I’ll explore my options during the program and go from there.”

While this is understandable, answering the question in this way could make the applicant come across as being unfocused, and doubts would arise as to whether the applicant has thought about his or her MBA goals properly. In these cases, it would be better for applicants to research likely post-MBA career paths with respect to their experiences and interests. This will allow them to state realistic post-MBA options, while also explicitly showing fit with the business schools they are interested in.

All things equal (as Econ professors love to say), identifying specifics will be the best way to go when discussing your future plans. Let’s examine 3 ways you can better define your post-business school goals to the Admissions committee:

1) Identify Career Fit with Your Personal Background
You would want to identify a goal that an MBA can help you achieve – that investing in a particular business school will create real value for you. In line with this, the Admissions Committee will evaluate how worthwhile and realistic your goal is given your previous experiences, current skill set, and potential future path with the school. This could include your academic potential, international exposure, work experiences, network, and personal passions.

Highlighting your unique qualities, track record of accomplishments, and resources you can leverage to make your future goals a reality is part of convincing the Admissions Committee of the feasibility of your post-MBA goal.

2) Showcase Your Knowledge of the Job Market
Identifying potential roles and the target market for yourself post-MBA, in the same way you would if you were creating a business plan for a new entrepreneurial venture, would clearly show the feasibility of your MBA plans. Matching your selling points in terms of knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences with the job market will be part of this process.

If possible, identify specific roles, companies, industries, and locations that are an ideal match for you – reaching out to people who have gone down a similar career path to the one you are interested in would help you determine if that particular track and the day-to-day realities that they experience match with your vision.

3) Emphasize Your Interest in This MBA Program
Finally, demonstrating keen interest in a particular MBA program by identifying how its culture, courses and clubs would fit your goals communicates a well-thought out plan. This will show the Admissions Committee that you took time to genuinely reflect on your personal development and what their unique school has to offer. Your interest will also help convince Admissions that you will readily accept a slot into their MBA program, if offered one.

With these tips in mind, be sure to invest your time and effort in researching the specifics of your target MBA programs and demonstrate that you have done so. If you are not yet confident in your answer to the post-MBA goal question, now is a great time to reflect and research – not only will a great answer to this question it strengthen your MBA application chances, but it will also give you clarity on the next stage of your life.

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.

An Introvert’s Guide to Getting Settled in Big Colleges

walking studentMainstream movies, TV shows, and music would have us believe that large colleges are full of loud parties, heavy drinking, and Greek drama. To some of my fellow bright-eyed high school graduates, the scene was an exciting and alluring one. To others—bookish, quiet introverts like me—the idea was terrifying.

I was relieved to eventually discover that college isn’t just four straight years of toga parties and sorority rushes. For most of my first semester, however, I really thought it was: it seemed like everyone around me was partying every night, and all that ever seemed to appear on my Facebook feed were pictures of proud new pledges waving freshly earned Greek letters. Even at UC Berkeley – 34,000 students strong but hardly considered a party school – I felt plenty of pressure to act more like the toga-wearing, letter-waving characters I’d grown up hearing so much about. The 700-person lecture halls, packed study cafes, and loud dorm buildings only scared me more.

I found my place eventually, but it took me a while to realize that I didn’t have to betray my introvert self to do it. Here’s what I learned:

Not everybody is partying.
Actually, pretty few American college students socialize every night (for more, see this research project). It’s just that people tend to Instagram more often about upcoming parties and their nights out than, say, the nights in their rooms with a book and a bowl of instant mac and cheese. It’s worth going to at least a party or two just to see what it’s like, but you’re not considered weird for preferring work time or lazy time over crowded rooms and sweaty dance floors.

Know how you connect best with people, and then do that.
Do you prefer small groups? Join a campus club or attend events that interest you. Do you connect best through one-on-one interactions? Say hello to the student next to you in lecture, or invite your dorm floormate out for a coffee.

Unlike high school, college won’t often create small-group social interactions for you – you’ll have to take the initiative to plan them yourself – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people happy to interact with you in that way. Parties and giant welcome events aren’t the only way to find friends.

Find your hideaways.
Look for quieter areas of campus and less-frequented cafes. Head to higher or lower floors of campus libraries instead of parking near the main entrance. Peaceful surroundings will help you settle back into yourself and store up enough energy to re-enter the fray when you’re ready.

Recognize that your bedroom might not be your refuge anymore.
If you live in a dorm and/or have one or more roommates, you may not be able to come home at the end of a long school day to a quiet space. Instead, try using your time away from home as your break from socializing so you can save up enough social energy for the evenings. Take walks between classes, sit on your own during lectures instead of next to classmates you know, or find a quiet place on or near campus to eat your lunch alone.

Remember that smaller classes are often more socially intense than large lectures.
People tend to keep to themselves in large lectures, so it’s easy to avoid draining small talk just by blending into the crowd. In smaller classes, however, you’re more visible and more likely to be approached. Smaller classes offer great academic benefits, like closer relationships with professors and more personalized learning, so the answer isn’t to avoid small classes. Instead, consider setting up your schedule in a way that avoids stacking too many small classes into the same day, or in time slots too close together, to save yourself enough time to take a social break if you need to.

Be proactive in finding your circle of friends.
Introverts tend to prefer having a few meaningful friends over meeting a slew of acquaintances. The nice part about big colleges is that they’re big enough that you can be sure there are people around who share your interests. The frustrating part is that you have to sift through thousands of other people in order to find them. The only answers here are persistence and luck – choose classes, extracurriculars, and social events that you’re interested in, and be open enough to socializing with strangers that you can give yourself a chance to form close connections.

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.

Free MBA Guide: Everything You Need to Research Business Schools and Create Compelling Applications

Columbia UniversityIt’s no secret that pursuing an MBA is a challenging and time consuming process. There are thousands of MBA programs around the world, and it’s your job to find the program best fit for you. It’s easy to identify programs where your GPA and GMAT score fall within the range of accepted candidates, but what about personal fit? Which school or schools will offer you the best environment for your unique personality and future goals?

The Veritas Prep Essential Guide to Top Business Schools is a must-have resource for every elite MBA applicant. Now available for free through the Veritas Prep website, this comprehensive, interactive guide cuts through the marketing jargon and basic statistics found on any school’s website to offer in-depth analysis and expert advice to gain admission to the world’s most selective graduate business programs.

Use this guide to help determine which business school is the best fit for you based on your unique needs. The Essential Guide to Top Business School includes detailed information about the world’s most competitive business schools, including class statistics, academic structure, campus culture, post-MBA employment trends, as well as actionable advice to create compelling applications.

What are you waiting for? Bring yourself one step closer to getting an MBA, and check out the Veritas Prep Essential Guide to Business School for free now!

Getting ready to apply 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! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Using Visual Symmetry to Solve GMAT Probability Problems

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday, let’s take a look at an official GMAT question involving visual skills. It takes a moment to understand the given diagram, but at close inspection, we’ll find that this question is just a simple probability question – the trick is in understanding the symmetry of the figure:

The figure shown represents a board with 4 rows of pegs, and at the bottom of the board are 4 cells numbered 1 to 4. Whenever the ball shown passes through the opening between two adjacent pegs in the same row, it will hit the peg directly beneath the opening. The ball then has the probability 1/2 of passing through the opening immediately to the left of that peg and probability 1/2 of passing through the opening immediately to the right. What is the probability that when the ball passes through the first two pegs at the top it will end in cell 2?

qwqw pegs pic

 

 

 

 

(A) 1/16
(B) 1/8
(C) 1/4
(D) 3/8
(E) 1/2

First, understand the diagram. There are small pegs arranged in rows and columns. The ball falls between two adjacent pegs and hits the peg directly below. When it does, there are two ways it can go – either to the opening on the left or to the opening on the right. The probability of each move is equal, i.e. 1/2.

The arrow show the first path the ball takes. It is dropped between the top two pegs, hits the peg directly below it, and then either drops to the left side or to the right. The same process will be repeated until the ball falls into one of the four cells – 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Method 1: Using Symmetry
Now that we understand this process, let’s examine the symmetry in this diagram.

Say we flip the image along the vertical axis – what do we get? The figure is still exactly the same, but now the order of cells is reversed to be 4, 3, 2, 1. The pathways in which you could reach Cell 1 are now the pathways in which you can use to reach Cell 4.

OR think about it like this:

To reach Cell 1, the ball needs to turn left-left-left.

To reach Cell 4, the ball needs to turn right-right-right.

Since the probability of turning left or right is the same, the situations are symmetrical. This will be the same case for Cells 2 and 3. Therefore, by symmetry, we see that:

The probability of reaching Cell 1 = the probability of reaching Cell 4.

Similarly:

The probability of reaching Cell 2 = the probability of reaching Cell 3. (There will be multiple ways to reach Cell 2, but the ways of reaching Cell 3 will be similar, too.)

The total probability = the probability of reaching Cell 1 + the probability of reaching Cell 2 + the probability of reaching Cell 3 + the probability of reaching Cell 4 = 1

Because we know the probability of reaching Cells 1 and 4 are the same, and the probabilities of reaching Cells 2 and 3 are the same, this equation can be written as:

2*(the probability of reaching Cell 1) + 2*(the probability of reaching Cell 2) = 1

Let’s find the probability of reaching Cell 1:

After the first opening (not the peg, but the opening between pegs 1 and 2 in the first row), the ball moves left (between pegs 1 and 2 in second row) or right (between pegs 2 and 3 in second row). It must move left to reach Cell 1, and the probability of this = 1/2.

After that, the ball must move left again – the probability of this occurring is also 1/2, since probability of moving left or right is equal. Finally, the ball must turn left again to reach Cell 1 – the probability of this occurring is, again, 1/2. This means that the total probability of the ball reaching Cell 1 = (1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2) = 1/8

Plugging this value into the equation above:

2*(1/8) + 2 * probability of reaching Cell 2 = 1

Therefore, the probability of reaching Cell 2 = 3/8

Method 2: Enumerating the Cases
You can also answer this question by simply enumerating the cases.

At every step after the first drop between pegs 1 and 2 in the first row, there are two different paths available to the ball – either it can go left or it can go right. This happens three times and, hence, the total number of ways in which the ball can travel is 2*2*2 = 8

The ways in which the ball can reach Cell 2 are:

Left-Left-Right

Left-Right-Left

Right-Left-Left

So, the probability of the ball reaching Cell 2 is 3/8.

Note that here there is a chance that we might miss some case(s), especially in problems that involve many different probability options. Hence, enumerating should be the last option you use when tackling these types of questions on the GMAT.

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: Mother Knows Best

GMAT Tip of the WeekThis weekend is Mother’s Day here in the United States, and also, as the first full weekend in May, a weekend that will kick off a sense of study urgency for those intent on the September Round 1 MBA admissions deadlines. (If your mother were here she’d tell you why: if you want two full months to study for the GMAT and two full months to work on your applications, you have to start studying now!)

In honor of mothers everywhere and in preparation for your GMAT, let’s consider one of the things that makes mothers so great. Even today as an adult, you’ll likely find that if you live a flight or lengthy drive/train from home, when you leave your hometown, your mother loads you up with snacks for the plane, bottled water for the drive, hand sanitizer for the airport, etc. Why is that? When it comes to their children – no matter how old or independent – mothers are prepared for every possible situation.

What if you get hungry on the plane, or you’re delayed at your connecting airport and your credit card registers fraud because of the strange location and you’re unable to purchase a meal?! She doesn’t want you getting sick after touching the railing on an escalator, so she found a Purell bottle that’s well less than the liquid limit at security (and also packed a clear plastic bag for you and your toiletries). Moms do not want their children caught in a unique and harmful (or inconvenient) situation, so they plan for all possible occurrences.

And that’s how you should approach Data Sufficiency questions on the GMAT.

When a novice test-taker sees the problem:

What is the value of x?

(1) x^2 = 25

(2) 8 < 2x < 12

He may quickly say “oh it’s 5” to both of them. 5 is the square root of 25, and the second equation simplifies to 4 < x < 6, and what number is between 4 and 6? It’s 5.

But your mother would give you caution, particularly because her mission is to avoid *negative* outcomes for you. She’d be prepared for a negative value of x (-5 satisfies Statement 1) and for nonintegers (x could be 4.00001 or 5.9999 given Statement 2). Knowing those contingencies, she’d wisely recognize that you need both statements to guarantee one exact answer (5) for x.

Just like she’d tie notes to your mittens or pin them on your shirt when you were a kid so that you wouldn’t forget (and like now she’ll text you reminders for your grandmother’s birthday or to RSVP to your cousin’s wedding), your mom would suggest that you keep these unique occurrences written down at the top of your noteboard on test day: Negative, Zero, Noninteger, Infinity, Biggest/Smallest Value. That way, you’ll always check for those unique situations before you submit your answer, and you’ll have a much better shot at a challenge-level problem like this:

The product of consecutive integers a, b, c, and d is 5,040. What is the value of d?

(1) d is prime

(2) d < c < b < a

So where does mom come in?

Searching for consecutive integers, you’ll likely factor 5,040 to 7, 8, 9, and 10 (the 10 is obvious because 5,040 ends in a 0, and then when you see that the rest is 504 and know that’s divisible by 9, and you’re just about done). And so with Statement 1, you’ll see that the only prime number in the bunch is 7, meaning that d = 7 and Statement 1 is sufficient. And Statement 2 seems to support that exact same conclusion – as the smallest of the 4 integers, d is, again, 7.

Right?

Enter mom’s notes: did you consider zero? (irrelevant) Did you consider nonintegers? (they specified integers, so irrelevant) Did you consider negative numbers?

That’s the key. The four consecutive integers could be -10, -9, -8, and -7 meaning that d could also be -10. That wasn’t an option for Statement 1 (only positives are prime) and so since you did the “hard work” of factoring 5,040 and then finally got to where Statement 2 was helpful, there’s a high likelihood that you were ready to be finished and saw 7 as the only option for Statement 2.

This is why mom’s reminders are so helpful: on harder problems, the “special circumstances” numbers that mom wants to make sure you’re always prepared for tend to be afterthoughts, having taken a backseat to the larger challenges of math. But mother knows best – you may not be stranded in a foreign airport without a snack and your car might not stall in the desert when you don’t have water, but in the rare event that such a situation occurs she wants you to be prepared. Keep mom’s list handy at the top of your noteboard (alas, the Pearson/Vue center won’t allow you to pin it to your shirt) and you, like mom, will be prepared for all situations.

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.

Where Should You Live During Business School?

apartmentYou’ve snagged that letter of admission to the school of your dreams and are getting ready to matriculate. Your deposit is sent in and you’ve already notified your employer of your decision to attend business school next year. Everything seems to be falling in place, except where you are actually going to spend those two years in business school. Choosing where you will live during this time can be a bit challenging, especially for students who have limited knowledge of the local renting and housing markets.

Before you begin the housing hunt, prioritize what is most important to you. Is close proximity to campus something that you desire, or would you rather have more access to social areas like bars and restaurants? Do you want to buy or rent? Are you planning to live alone or with other people? Starting from this point will allow you to be more discerning and efficient during your housing search.

The process of finding a new living arrangement does not need to be so complicated – let’s explore a few groups within your business school community that can help ease this decision:

MBA Program
Most MBA programs provide tons of support for entering students when it comes to housing, so leverage your school’s resources to help inform you during this process. Most schools will have an apartment tour during their admitted students weekend, and if you are attending, this should be a can’t-miss activity.

During these tours you’ll have the chance to visit multiple apartment complexes and talk directly with the proprietors as they address any questions you may have about their accommodations. Many of the proprietors will also offer discounts during these weekends, so if you are looking for a good deal on housing, this is a great time to broker one.

Current Students
Another great source of housing intel is current business school students. They understand what’s most important about where to live in the student community, which can really help the decision-making process for matriculating students. It is usually pretty easy to get in touch with second-year students once admitted, so utilize multiple students to help support your housing search.

Alumni
Another great source of housing information is alumni of the school. Alumni are generally the most passionate about MBA programs, and so are overwhelmingly willing to help out new students however they can. Pick their brains over some of the pros and cons of housing options in the area and learn more about the best places to live. Also, don’t limit your alumni outreach to just MBA grads – if you can get in contact with any undergraduate alumni, they often know even more about the surrounding community as they spent four years in the area as opposed to just two years like the average MBA student.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the housing search – utilize the resources above to help you make the best decision and find the perfect new home.

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.

How to Avoid Trap Answers On GMAT Data Sufficiency Questions

GMAT TrapsWhen I’m not teaching GMAT classes or writing posts for our fine blog, I am, unfortunately, writing fiction. Anyone who has taken a stab at writing fiction knows that it’s hard, and because it’s hard, it is awfully tempting to steer away from pain and follow the path of least resistance.

This tendency can manifest itself in any number of ways. Sometimes it means producing a cliché rather than straining for a more precise and original way to render a scene. More often, it means procrastinating – cleaning my desk or refreshing espn.com for the 700th time – rather than doing any writing at all. The point is that my brain is often groping for an easy way out. This is how we’re all wired; it’s a dangerous instinct, both in writing and on the GMAT.

This problem is most acute on Data Sufficiency questions. Most test-takers like to go on auto-pilot when they can, relying on simple rules and heuristics rather than proving things to themselves – if I have the slope of a line and one point on that line, I know every point on that line; if I have two linear equations and two variables I can solve for both variables, etc.

This is not in and of itself a problem, but if you find your brain shifting into path-of-least-resistance mode and thinking that you’ve identified an answer to a question within a few seconds, be very suspicious about your mode of reasoning. This is not to say that you should simply assume that you’re wrong, but rather to encourage you to try to prove that you’re right.

Here’s a classic example of a GMAT Data Sufficiency question that appears to be easier than it is:

Joanna bought only $.15 stamps and $.29 stamps. How many $.15 stamps did she buy?

1) She bought $4.40 worth of stamps
2) She bought an equal number of $.15 stamps and $.29 stamps

Here’s how the path-of-least-resistance part of my brain wants to evaluate this question. Okay, for Statement 1, there could obviously be lots of scenarios. If I call “F” the number of 15 cent stamps and “T” the number of 29 cent stamps, all I know is that .15F + .29T = 4.40. So that statement is not sufficient. Statement 2 is just telling me that F = T. Clearly no good – any number could work. And together, I have two unique linear equations and two unknowns, so I have sufficiency and the answer is C.

This line of thinking only takes a few seconds, and just as I need to fight the urge to take a break from writing to watch YouTube clips of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver because it’s part of my novel “research,” I need to fight the urge to assume that such a simple line of reasoning will definitely lead me to the correct answer to this question.

So let’s rethink this. I know for sure that the answer cannot be E – if I can solve for the unknowns when I’m testing the statements together, I clearly have sufficiency there. And I know for sure that the answer cannot be that Statement 2 alone is sufficient. If F = T, there are an infinite number of values that will work.

So, let’s go back to Statement 1. I know that I cannot purchase a fraction of a stamp, so both F and T must be integer values. That’s interesting. I also know that the total amount spent on stamps is $4.40, or 440 cents, which has a units digit of 0. When I’m buying 15-cent stamps, I can spend 15 cents if I buy 1 stamp, 30 cents if I buy two, etc.

Notice that however many I buy, the units digit must either be 5 or 0. This means that the units digit for the amount I spend on 29 cent stamps must also be 5 or 0, otherwise, there’d be no way to get the 0 units digit I get in 440. The only way to get a units digit of 5 or 0 when I’m multiplying by 29 is if the other number ends in 5 or 0 . In other words, the number of 29-cent stamps I buy will have to be a multiple of 5 so that the amount I spend on 29-cent stamps will end in 5 or 0.

Here’s the sample space of how much I could have spent on 29-cent stamps:

Five stamps: 5*29 = 145 cents
Ten stamps: 10*29 = 290 cents
Fifteen stamps: 15* 29 = 435 cents

Any more than fifteen 29-cent stamps and I ‘m over 440, so these are the only possible options when testing the first statement.

Let’s evaluate: say I buy five 29-cent stamps and spend 145 cents. That will leave me with 440 – 145 = 295 cents left for the 15-cent stamps to cover. But I can’t spend exactly 295 cents by purchasing 15-cent stamps, because 295 is not a multiple of 15.

Say I buy ten 29-cent stamps, spending 290 cents. That leaves 440 – 290 = 150. Ten 15-cent stamps will get me there, so this is a possibility.

Say I buy fifteen 29-cent stamps, spending 435 cents. That leaves 440 – 435 = 5. Clearly that’s not possible to cover with 15-cent stamps.

Only one option works: ten 29-cent stamps and ten 15-cent stamps. Because there’s only one possibility, Statement 1 alone is sufficient, and the answer here is actually A.

Takeaway: Don’t take the GMAT the way I write fiction. Following the path of least-resistance will often lead you right into the trap the question writer has set for unsuspecting test-takers. If something feels too easy on a Data Sufficiency, it probably is.

*Official Guide 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 Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

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

How to Avoid Negativity in Your MBA Application Essays

MBA EssaysAnyone who has gone through the MBA application process knows how stressful it is. Applicants have to wrestle with preparing for the GMAT, deciding which schools to apply to, evaluating probabilities of admission, and worrying about finances – all while juggling various pressures at work and home.

Handling all of these responsibilities simultaneously while targeting specific application periods makes it tempting to just rush through the essay writing process to meet school deadlines and move on to other duties. Exhausted and unfamiliar with this process, applicants often get side-tracked and spend their time fine-tuning their essays with the wrong starting points.

One of the most common mistakes I have seen candidates make during my past eight years working with Veritas Prep is allowing negativity to seep into their application essays. Being mindful of this tendency can take you several steps closer to crafting a great application.

Many MBA applicants express time and again how unhappy, insignificant or stuck they feel with their current roles or companies, and while we always encourage applicants to be honest in their essays, focusing on the negative aspects that are prompting you to apply for an MBA does not help your cause and just wastes precious space.

For example, saying something like “I am just a salesman,” or “It is a boring job with little intellectual challenges,” diminishes your own accomplishments and portrays your past experiences as weak and unremarkable. The admissions committee might also wonder if you would eventually feel negatively about your MBA experience at their program, and thus, be an ineffective ambassador for the program when you become part of their alumni community.

My advice is to remain truthful but to shift your perspective. It is true that you are very motivated to go from your current situation (point A) to your post-MBA goal (point B), however it is better to emphasize what you have gained or learned at point A and how this will help you get to point B, where you are excited to make a great impact, than to complain excessively about point A.

Filling in details on why you want to get to point B, adding in specifics about how your target MBA program will help get you there and why this is a worthwhile and realistic goal, would boost your chances of admission. Just as importantly, this positive outlook will also make you happier and help you plan the next stages of your life productively.

In conclusion, a positive mindset and tone will help you come across as forward-looking, optimistic, and grateful to the admissions committee. It will also help you focus on your goals and convince the school that you will be a valuable member of their community.

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: Understanding and Utilizing Testing Accommodations on the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullHigh school students want to be as prepared as possible when it’s time to sit down and take the SAT exam. Some students, however, may find themselves less prepared than others – especially if they have a physical disability, medical condition, or learning disability might wonder about the actual process of taking the test. Will they be able to get the assistance they need to do their best on the SAT? The answer is yes.

When it comes to the SAT, testing accommodations are available for students who truly need them. It’s a good idea for students in need of testing accommodations to make their requests as soon as possible so that the College Board has ample time to evaluate the details each request. Let’s examine the process of getting SAT testing accommodations as well as some of the resources available to high school students in need of them:

Who Is Eligible for SAT Accommodations?
In order to be eligible for SAT testing accommodations, a student must have a documented disability. Some examples of medical conditions and disabilities that may qualify a student for testing accommodations are diabetes, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, blindness, deafness, and some learning disabilities.

When the College Board considers a student’s request for testing accommodations, the members look at whether the student uses accommodations in classes at school. The basic question to consider is, “Does the student’s condition impact their ability to take the SAT?” If so, the request for testing accommodations is likely to be approved. For example, if a person has a disability that doesn’t allow them to sit for long periods of time, an accommodation may be made for that student to take a break during the exam. Or a student who is blind can request a Braille test book or even an audio version of the SAT.

Examples of Testing Accommodations for the SAT
The type of testing accommodations a student receives depends on their disability or condition. The Braille test booklet and audio test mentioned above are two examples of SAT testing accommodations. A student who is partially blind may request a magnifying machine or even a test book featuring large print. Alternatively, a student with a documented learning disability may receive an extended amount of time to complete the SAT, while a student with diabetes may be able to pause during the test to take a blood sugar reading or eat something to correct a fluctuation in blood sugar levels without being penalized for stopping the timer on the test. The accommodations given fit the individual situations of each student with a disability or medical condition.

How to Arrange for SAT Accommodations
Getting a testing accommodation for the SAT requires a student to submit a request in writing – they can do this with the help of their guidance counselor at school by submitting the request online. This request must include documentation from the student’s doctor as well as an explanation from the student as to how their disability or condition affects the test-taking process.

How Long Does it Take to Be Approved for SAT Accommodations?
It takes approximately seven weeks for the College Board to review all of a student’s documentation, so if you are a student who requires an SAT accommodation, it would be best to send all of your information in as early as possible. If there is a document missing or the board has a question for you regarding your situation, it’s likely to take longer to approve the request. Students interested in getting accommodations for the SAT should also be sure to note the deadlines for making a request and to submit their information for these requests well in advance.

At Veritas Prep, we provide valuable SAT preparation courses to students who want to submit their best work on this important exam. Each of our professional tutors scored in the top one percent of all students taking the exam, so the strategies and test-taking tips given to Veritas Prep students are coming directly from the experts! Call our offices at Veritas Prep today and learn how our convenient tutoring options can help you do your best on the test.

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!

The Right Way to Communicate with Business School Admissions Committees

Phone InterviewThe business school application process can be full of questions that can be difficult to obtain answers to. Although there is a lot of information publicly available about this general process, many applicants often seek answers that are more specific to their own candidacy and profile. However, with so many incoming applications, it is unrealistic for MBA admissions teams to be expected to service every single inquiry made by an applicant.

Now, this does not mean that admissions teams are not open to addressing questions or concerns an applicant may have, it just puts the onus on the candidate to make sure the inquiry is worthy of an admission officer’s time. Keep in mind, during the business school application process every interaction can be judged and evaluated, so you generally want to make sure if you are reaching out, the information you are looking for is of critical importance to your candidacy.

Here are a few ways it may be appropriate to communicate with the admissions committee during each stage of the admissions process:

Pre-Application Submission:
At this stage, you’ll generally want to leverage your communication with the admissions office in two areas. The first is to gain information about the program that will better inform your application – public settings such as school information sessions, affinity weekends and MBA tours are great places to begin to nurture relationships with representatives from admissions. Creating these relationships will allow you to personalize your future inquiries, if necessary, and will increase the opportunity for you to gain new insights into the school through your dialogue.

The second area surrounds more mission-critical questions. I see these questions as ones that will prevent you from properly completing an aspect of the application, such as transcript issues and other process-oriented problems.

Post-Application Submission:
This stage is largely seen as the “waiting game” phase of the admissions process, but important questions still sometimes arise for candidates. You’ll want to avoid communication during this stage unless it is absolutely critical – avoid questions regarding interview or decision timelines in particular, as these can make you appear too impatient to the admissions committee.

Even questions along the lines of receipt of application materials post-submission really should be discouraged; most of the back-end submission process is so automated that if you submit something you should be confident it was received. Unless a question arises that is crucial to your application, just sit back and relax as you wait to hear back from admissions regarding their decision.

Post Decision:
This is one of the tougher communication periods for applicants. Make sure to begin your communication with admissions after you have received a formal decision. If you’ve been admitted, use your communication to clarify the offer and to potentially inquire about additional funding (especially if you have received other favorable offers from competing programs). If you were denied admission, not much communication is necessary. If you had a strong relationship with someone in admissions, I would recommend you send out a thank you note, especially if you are considering reapplying in the future, and perhaps ask if admissions has any advice for future re-application.

If you were waitlisted, this phase is probably the most important for you. First and foremost, follow the communication guidelines laid out in your waitlist letter. Most programs will accept material updates to your application, so if you have any updates to report such as promotions, raises, GMAT improvements, new leadership opportunities, or other offers, make sure you share this information through the appropriate mechanisms.

In all of your interactions with admissions, you want to be professional and courteous. The better you communicate your respect for the great work the admissions committee does, the more they will be willing to help address your 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 read more articles by him here.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Using the Standard Deviation Formula on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe have discussed standard deviation (SD) in detail before. We know what the formula is for finding the standard deviation of a set of numbers, but we also know that GMAT will not ask us to actually calculate the standard deviation because the calculations involved would be way too cumbersome. It is still a good idea to know this formula, though, as it will help us compare standard deviations across various sets – a concept we should know well.

Today, we will look at some GMAT questions that involve sets with similar standard deviations such that it is hard to tell which will have a higher SD without properly understanding the way it is calculated. Take a look at the following question:

Which of the following distribution of numbers has the greatest standard deviation? 

(A) {-3, 1, 2} 
(B) {-2, -1, 1, 2} 
(C) {3, 5, 7} 
(D) {-1, 2, 3, 4} 
(E) {0, 2, 4}

At first glance, these sets all look very similar. If we try to plot them on a number line, we will see that they also have similar distributions, so it is hard to say which will have a higher SD than the others. Let’s quickly review their deviations from the arithmetic means:

For answer choice A, the mean = 0 and the deviations are 3, 1, 2
For answer choice B, the mean = 0 and the deviations are 2, 1, 1, 2
For answer choice C, the mean = 5 and the deviations are 2, 0, 2
For answer choice D, the mean = 2 and the deviations are 3, 0, 1, 2
For answer choice E, the mean = 2 and the deviations are 2, 0, 2

We don’t need to worry about the arithmetic means (they just help us calculate the deviation of each element from the mean); our focus should be on the deviations. The SD formula squares the individual deviations and then adds them, then the sum is divided by the number of elements and finally, we find the square root of the whole term. So if a deviation is greater, its square will be even greater and that will increase the SD.

If the deviation increases and the number of elements increases, too, then we cannot be sure what the final effect will be – an increased deviation increases the SD but an increase in the number of elements increases the denominator and hence, actually decreases the SD. The overall effect as to whether the SD increases or decreases will vary from case to case.

First, we should note that answers C and E have identical deviations and numbers of elements, hence, their SDs will be identical. This means the answer is certainly not C or E, since Problem Solving questions have a single correct answer.

Let’s move on to the other three options:

For answer choice A, the mean = 0 and the deviations are 3, 1, 2
For answer choice B, the mean = 0 and the deviations are 2, 1, 1, 2
For answer choice D, the mean = 2 and the deviations are 3, 0, 1, 2

Comparing answer choices A and D, we see that they both have the same deviations, but D has more elements. This means its denominator will be greater, and therefore, the SD of answer D is smaller than the SD of answer A. This leaves us with options A and B:

For answer choice A, the mean = 0 and the deviations are 3, 1, 2
For answer choice B, the mean = 0 and the deviations are 2, 1, 1, 2

Now notice that although two deviations of answers A and B are the same, answer choice A has a higher deviation of 3 but fewer elements than answer choice B. This means the SD of A will be higher than the SD of B, so the SD of A will be the highest. Hence, our answer must be A.

Let’s try another one:

Which of the following data sets has the third largest standard deviation?

(A) {1, 2, 3, 4, 5} 
(B) {2, 3, 3, 3, 4} 
(C) {2, 2, 2, 4, 5} 
(D) {0, 2, 3, 4, 6} 
(E) {-1, 1, 3, 5, 7}

How would you answer this question without calculating the SDs? We need to arrange the sets in increasing SD order. Upon careful examination, you will see that the number of elements in each set is the same, and the mean of each set is 3.

Deviations of answer choice A: 2, 1, 0, 1, 2
Deviations of answer choice B: 1, 0, 0, 0, 1 (lowest SD)
Deviations of answer choice C: 1, 1, 1, 1, 2
Deviations of answer choice D: 3, 1, 0, 1, 3
Deviations of answer choice E: 4, 2, 0, 2, 4 (highest SD)

Obviously, option B has the lowest SD (the deviations are the smallest) and option E has the highest SD (the deviations are the greatest). This means we can automatically rule these answers out, as they cannot have the third largest SD.

Deviations of answer choice A: 2, 1, 0, 1, 2
Deviations of answer choice C: 1, 1, 1, 1, 2
Deviations of answer choice D: 3, 1, 0, 1, 3

Out of these options, answer choice D has a higher SD than answer choice A, since it has higher deviations of two 3s (whereas A has deviations of two 2s). Also, C is more tightly packed than A, with four deviations of 1. If you are not sure why, consider this:

The square of deviations for C will be 1 + 1+ 1 + 1  + 4 = 8
The square of deviations for A will be 4 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 4 = 10

So, A will have a higher SD than C but a lower SD than D. Arranging from lowest to highest SD’s, we get: B, C, A, D, E. Answer choice A has the third highest SD, and therefore, A is our answer

Although we didn’t need to calculate the actual SD, we used the concepts of the standard deviation formula to answer these 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!

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.

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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!