How I Achieved GMAT Success Through Service to School and Veritas Prep

Service to School Bryan Young served in the United States Army as an enlisted infantryman for five years, with a fifteen month tour in Iraq from 06’-07’. After leaving the military in 2008, he completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Washington. He started his career in the consumer packaged goods industry and is now looking to attend a top tier university to obtain an MBA. Along with help from Veritas Prep, he was able to raise his GMAT score from a 540 to a 690!

How did you hear about Veritas Prep?

I had been thinking about taking the GMAT for the last three years and knew that I would probably need the help of a prep course to be able to get a competitive score. Service to School, a non-profit that helps veterans make the transition from the military to undergraduate and graduate school, awarded me with a scholarship to Veritas Prep.

What was your initial Experience with the GMAT?

During my first diagnostic test, I was pretty overwhelmed. The questions were confusing and the length of the test was intimidating. Finishing the test with a 540 was a wakeup call for me. My goal was to score a 700 or higher and the score I achieved showed me just how much work I was going to need to put into the process.

How did the Veritas Prep Course help prepare you?

The resources that Veritas Prep provides are amazing. The books arrived within a few days and then I was ready to start taking the online classes. After a few classes I realized that I needed to brush up on some of the basics and was able to use their skill builders sections to get back on track. The online class format was great and helped me to learn the strategies and ask questions. Then the homework help line was where I was able to get answers on some of the more tricky questions I encountered.

Tell us about your test day experiences and how you felt throughout the experience?

The first two times I took the test I was still not as prepared as I need to be. The test day started well, but quickly went sour. I ran out of time on the integrated reasoning section and with my energy being low I wound up having my worst verbal performances.

One of the greatest aspects of Veritas Prep is that they allow you to retake the class if you feel like you need to take it again. The second time through the class helped me a lot more since I wasn’t struggling with not knowing some of the basics. This helped me to fully understand the strategies for the quant section and solidify my sentence corrections skills as well. One suggestion of eating a snickers bar (or some sugary snack) made a huge difference for my energy levels and concentration on test day.

After another month and a half of studying I took the GMAT again and was excited to see the 690 with an 8 on the integrated reasoning. The score was in the range I wanted and I couldn’t have been happier to be finished. Veritas Prep helped me so much throughout the year long process of beating the GMAT!

Need help preparing for the GMAT? Join us for one of our FREE online GMAT strategy sessions or sign up for one of our GMAT prep courses, which are starting all the time. And be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

The Patterns to Solve GMAT Questions with Reversed-Digit Numbers

Essay The GMAT asks a fair number of questions about the properties of two-digit numbers whose tens and units digits have been reversed. Because these questions pop up so frequently, it’s worth spending a little time to gain a deeper understanding of the properties of such pairs of numbers. Like much of the content on the GMAT, we can gain understanding of these problems by simply selecting random examples of such numbers and analyzing and dissecting them algebraically.

Let’s do both.

First, we’ll list out some random pairs of two-digit numbers whose tens and units digits have been reversed: {34, 43}; {17, 71}; {18, 81.} Now we’ll see if we can recognize a pattern when we add or subtract these figures. First, let’s try addition: 34 + 43 = 77; 17 + 71 = 88; 18 + 81 = 99. Interesting. Each of these sums turns out to be a multiple of 11. This will be true for the sum of any two two-digit numbers whose tens and units digits are reversed. Next, we’ll try subtraction: 43 – 34 = 9; 71 – 17 = 54; 81 – 18 = 63; Again, there’s a pattern. The difference of each pair turns out to be a multiple of 9.

Algebraically, this is easy enough to demonstrate. Say we have a two-digit number with a tens digit of “a” and a units digit of “b”. The number can be depicted as 10a + b. (If that isn’t clear, use a concrete number to illustrate it to yourself. Let’s reuse “34”. In this case a = 3 and b = 4. 10a + b = 10*3 + 4 = 34. This makes sense. The number in the “tens” place should be multiplied by 10.) If the original number is 10a + b, then swapping the tens and units digits would give us 10b + a. The sum of the two terms would be (10a + b) + (10b + a) = 11a + 11b = 11(a + b.) Because “a” and “b” are integers, this sum must be a multiple of 11. The difference of the two terms would be  (10a + b) – (10b + a) = 9a – 9b = 9(a – b) and this number will be a multiple of 9.

Now watch how easy certain official GMAT questions become once we’ve internalized these properties:

The positive two-digit integers x and y have the same digits, but in reverse order. Which of the following must be a factor of x + y?

A) 6

B) 9

C) 10

D) 11

E) 14

If you followed the above discussion, you barely need to be conscious to answer this question correctly. We just proved that the sum of two-digit numbers whose units and tens digits have been reversed is 11! No need to do anything here. The answer is D. Pretty nice.

Let’s try another, slightly tougher one:

If a two-digit positive integer has its digits reversed, the resulting integer differs from the original by 27. By how much do the two digits differ?

A) 3

B) 4

C) 5

D) 6

E) 7

This one is a little more indicative of what we’re likely to encounter on the actual GMAT. It’s testing us on a concept we’re expected to know, but doing so in a way that precludes us from simply relying on rote memorization. So let’s try a couple of approaches.

First, we’ll try picking some numbers. Let’s use the answer choices to steer us. Say we try B – we’ll want two digits that differ by 4. So let’s use the numbers 84 and 48. Okay, we can see that the difference is 84 – 48 = 36. That difference is too big, it should be 27. So we know that the digits are closer together. This means that the answer must be less than 4. We’re done. The answer is A. (And if you were feeling paranoid that it couldn’t possibly be that simple, you could test two numbers whose digits were 3 apart, say, 14 and 41. 41-14 = 27. Proof!)

Alternatively, we can do this one algebraically. We know that if the original two-digit numbers were 10a +b, that the new number, whose digits are reversed, would be 10b + a. If the difference between the two numbers were 27, we’d derive the following equation: (10a + b) – (10b + a) = 27. Simplifying, we get 9a – 9b = 27. Thus, 9(a – b) = 27, and a – b = 3. Also not so bad.

Takeaway: Once you’ve completed a few hundred practice questions, you’ll begin to notice that a few GMAT strategies are applicable to a huge swath of different question types. You’re constantly picking numbers, testing answer choices, doing simple algebra, or applying a basic number property that you’ve internalized. In this case, the relevant number property to remember is that the sum of two two-digit numbers whose units and tens digits have been reversed is always a multiple of 11, and the difference of such numbers is always a multiple of 9. Generally speaking, if you encounter a particular question type more than once in the Official Guide, it’s always worth spending a little more time familiarizing yourself with it.

*Official Guide 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 by him here.

How to Use Difference of Squares to Beat the GMAT

GMATIn Michael Lewis’ Flashboys, a book about the hazards of high-speed trading algorithms, Lewis relates an amusing anecdote about a candidate interviewing for a position at a hedge fund. During this interview, the candidate receives the following question: Is 3599 a prime number? Hopefully, your testing Spidey Senses are tingling and telling you that the answer to the question is going to incorporate some techniques that will come in handy on the GMAT. So let’s break this question down.

First, this is an interview question in which the interviewee is put on the spot, so whatever the solution entails, it can’t involve too much hairy arithmetic. Moreover, it is far easier to prove that a large number is NOT prime than to prove that it is prime, so we should be thinking about how we can demonstrate that this number possesses factors other than 1 and itself.

Whenever we’re given unpleasant numbers on the GMAT, it’s worthwhile to think about the characteristics of round numbers in the vicinity. In this case, 3599 is the same as 3600 – 1. 3600, the beautiful round number that it is, is a perfect square: 602. And 1 is also a perfect square: 12. Therefore 3600 – 1 can be written as the following difference of squares:

3600 – 1 = 602 – 12

We know that x– y= (x + y)(x – y), so if we were to designate “x” as “60” and “y” as “1”, we’ll arrive at the following:

60– 1= (60 + 1)(60 – 1) = 61 * 59

Now we know that 61 and 59 are both factors of 3599. Because 3599 has factors other than 1 and itself, we’ve proven that it is not prime, and earned ourselves a plumb job at a hedge fund. Not a bad day’s work.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s analyze some actual GMAT questions that incorporate this concept.

First:

999,9992 – 1 = 

A) 1010 – 2

B) (106 – 2) 2   

C) 105 (106 -2)

D) 106 (105 -2)

E) 106 (106 -2)

Notice the pattern. Anytime we have something raised to a power of 2 (or an even power) and we subtract 1, we have the difference of squares, because 1 is itself a perfect square. So we can rewrite the initial expression as 999,9992 – 12.

Using our equation for difference of squares, we get:

999,9992 – 12  = (999,999 +1)(999,999 – 1)

(999,999 + 1)(999,999 – 1) = 1,000,000* 999,998.

Take a quick glance back at the answer choices: they’re all in terms of base 10, so there’s a little work left for us to do. We know that 1,000,000 = 106  (Remember that the exponent for base 10 is determined by the number of 0’s in the figure.) And we know that 999,998 = 1,000,000 – 2 = 106 – 2, so 1,000,000* 999,998 = 106 (106 -2), and our answer is E.

Let’s try one more:

Which of the following is NOT a factor of 38 – 28?

A) 97

B) 65

C) 35

D) 13

E) 5

Okay, you’ll see quickly that 38 – 28 will involve same painful arithmetic. But thankfully, we’ve got the difference of two numbers, each of which has been raised to an even exponent, meaning that we have our trusty difference of squares! So we can rewrite 38 – 28 as (34)2 – (24)2. We know that 34 = 81 and 24 = 16, so (34)2 – (24)2 = 812 – 162. Now we’re in business.

812 – 162 = (81 + 16)(81 – 16) = 97 * 65.

Right off the bat, we can see that 97 and 65 are factors of our starting numbers, and because we’re looking for what is not a factor, A and B are immediately out. Now let’s take the prime factorization of 65. 65 = 13 * 5. So our full prime factorization is 97 * 13 * 5. Now we see that 13 and 5 are factors as well, thus eliminating D and E from contention. That leaves us with our answer C. Not so bad.

Takeaways:

  • The GMAT is not interested in your ability to do tedious arithmetic, so anytime you’re asked to find the difference of two large numbers, there is a decent chance that the number can be depicted as a difference of squares.
  • If you have the setup (Huge Number)2 – 1, you’re definitely looking at a difference of squares, because 1 is a perfect square.
  • If you’re given the difference of two numbers, both of which are raised to even exponents, this can also be depicted as a difference of squares, as all integers raised to even exponents are, by definition, perfect squares.

*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 FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

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

Is Technology Costing You Your GMAT Score?

Veritas Prep GMAT Prep Books on iPadI recently read Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. While the book isn’t about testing advice, per se, its analysis of the costs of technology is so comprehensive that the insights are applicable to virtually every aspect of our lives.

The book’s core thesis – that our smartphones and tablets are fragmenting our concentration and robbing us of a fundamental part of what it means to be human – isn’t a terribly original one. The difference between Turkle’s work and less effective screeds about the evils of technology is the scope of the research she provides in demonstrating how the overuse of our devices is eroding the quality of our education, our personal relationships, and our mental health.

What’s amazing is that these costs are, to some extent, quantifiable. Ever wonder what the impact is of having most of our conversations mediated through screens rather than through hoary old things like facial expressions? College students in the age of smartphones score 40% lower on tests measuring indicators of empathy than college students from a generation ago. In polls, respondents who had access to smartphones by the time they were adolescents reported heightened anxiety about the prospect of face-to-face conversations in general.

Okay, you say. Disturbing as that is, those findings have to do with interpersonal relationships, not education. Can’t technology be used to enhance the learning environment as well? Though it would be silly to condemn any technology as wholly corrosive, particularly in light of the fact that most schools are making a concerted effort to incorporate laptops and tablets in the classroom, Turkle makes a persuasive case that the overall costs outweigh the benefits.

In one study conducted by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, the researchers compared the retention rates of students who took notes on their laptops versus those who took notes by hand. The researchers’ assumption had always been that taking notes on a laptop would be more beneficial, as most of us can type faster than we can write longhand. Much to their surprise, the students who took notes by hand did significantly better than those who took notes on their laptops when tested on the contents of a lecture a week later.

The reason, Mueller and Oppenheimer speculate, is that because the students writing longhand couldn’t transcribe fast enough to record everything, they had to work harder to filter the information they were provided, and this additional cognitive effort allowed them to retain more. The ease of transcription – what we perceive as a benefit of technology – actually proved to be a cost. Even more disturbing, another study indicated that the mere presence of a smartphone – even if the phone is off – will cause everyone in its presence to retain less of a lecture, not just the phone’s owner.

I’ve been teaching long enough that when I first started, it was basically unheard of for a student’s attention to wander because he’d been distracted by a device. Smartphones didn’t exist yet. No one brought laptops to class. Now, if I were to take a poll, I’d be surprised if there were a single student in class who didn’t at least glance at a smartphone during the course of a lesson. One imagines that the same is true when students are studying on their own – a phone is nearby, just in case something important comes up. I’d always assumed the presence of these devices was relatively harmless, but if a phone that’s off can degrade the quality of our study sessions, just imagine the impact of a phone that continually pings and buzzes as fresh texts, emails and notifications come in.

The GMAT is a four-hour test that requires intense focus and concentration, so anything that hampers our ability to focus is a potential drag on our scores. There’s no easy solution here. I’m certainly not advocating that anyone throw away their smartphone – the fact that certain technology has costs associated with it is hardly a reason to discard that technology altogether. There are plenty of well-documented educational benefits: one can use a long train ride as an opportunity to do practice problems or watch a lecture. We can easily store data that can shed light on where we need to focus our attention in future study sessions. So the answer isn’t a draconian one in which we have to dramatically alter our lifestyles. Technology isn’t going anywhere – it’s a question of moderation.

Takeaways: No rant about the costs of technology is going to be terribly helpful without an action plan, so here’s what I suggest:

  • Put the devices away in class and take notes longhand. Whether you’re in a GMAT prep class, or an accounting class in your MBA program, this will benefit both you and your classmates.
  • If you aren’t using your device to study, turn it off, and make sure it’s out of sight when you work. The mere visual presence of a smartphone will cause you to retain less.
  • Give yourself at least 2 hours of device-free time each day. This need not be when you’re studying. It can also be when you’re out to dinner with friends or spending time with family. In addition to improving your interpersonal relationships, conversation actually makes you smarter.

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

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

GMAT Tip of the Week: Movember and Moving Your GMAT Score Higher

GMAT Tip of the WeekOn this first Friday of November, you may start seeing some peach fuzz sprouts on the upper lips of some of your friends and colleagues. For many around the world, November means Movember, a month dedicated to the hopefully-overlapping Venn Diagram of mustaches and men’s health. Why – other than the fact that this is a GMAT blog – do we mention the Venn Diagram?

Because while the Movember Foundation is committed to using mustaches as a way to increase both awareness of and funding for men’s health issues (in particular prostate and testicular cancer), many young men focus solely on the mustache-growth facet of the month. And “I’m growing a mustache for Movember” without the fundraising follow-through is akin to the following quotes:

“I’m growing a mustache for Movember.”

“I’m running a marathon for lymphoma research.”

“I’m dumping a bucket of ice water over my head on Facebook.”

“I’m taking a GMAT practice test this weekend.”/”I’m going to the library to study for the GMAT.”

Now, those are all noble sentiments expressed with great intentions. But another thing they all have in common is that they’re each missing a critical action step in their mission to reach their desired outcome. Growing a mustache does very little to prevent or treat prostate cancer. Running a marathon isn’t what furthers scientists’ knowledge of lymphoma. Dumping an ice bucket over your head is more likely to cause pneumonia than to cure ALS. And taking a practice test won’t do very much for your GMAT score.

Each of those actions requires a much more thorough and meaningful component. It’s the fundraising behind Movember, Team in Training, and the Ice Bucket Challenge that advances those causes. It’s your effort to use your mustache, sore knees, and Facebook video to encourage friends and family to seek out early diagnosis or to donate to the cause. And it’s the follow-up to your GMAT practice test or homework session that helps you increase your score.

This weekend, well over a thousand practice tests will be taken in the Veritas Prep system, many by young men a week into their mustache growth. But the practice tests that are truly valuable will be taken by those who follow up on their performance, adding that extra step of action that’s all so critical. They’ll ask themselves:

Which mistakes can I keep top-of-mind so that I never make them again?

How could I have budgeted my time better? Which types of problems take the most time with the least probability of a right answer, and which types would I always get right if I just took the extra few seconds to double check and really focus?

Based on this test, which are the 2-3 content areas/question types that I can markedly improve upon between now and my next practice test?

How will I structure this week’s study sessions to directly attack those areas?

And then they’ll follow up on what they’ve learned, following the new week’s plan of attack until it’s time to again take the first step (a practice test) with the commitment to take the substantially-more-important follow-up steps that really move the needle toward success.

Taking a practice test and growing a Movember mustache are great first steps toward accomplishing noble goals, but in classic Critical Reasoning form, premise alone doesn’t guarantee the conclusion. So make sure you don’t leave the GMAT test center this November with an ineffective mustache and a dismal score – put in the hard work that has to accompany that first step, and this can be a Movember to Remember.

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

By Brian Galvin.

Manipulating Standard Formulas on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe know the formula we need to use to find the sum of n consecutive positive integers starting from 1. The formula is given as n(n+1)/2.

So the sum of first four positive integers is 4 * (4 + 1)/2 = 10.

This might seem a bit cumbersome, since it is easy to see that 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10, but we know that the formula comes in very handy when n is a large number. For example, the sum of first 50 positive integers = 50 * 51/2 = 1275. Obviously, this will be a lot harder when done the “1 + 2 + 3 + 4 … + 49 + 50” way.

Now the question is, how do we adjust the same formula to find the sum of consecutive integers which do not start from 1?

Say, how do we find the sum of all positive integers from 8 to 20? The formula assumes a starting point of 1, so then we insert only the last number, n. How do we manage the 8? Let’s try to figure it out

Say the sum of first 20 positive integers = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + …. + 19 + 20 = 20 * 21/2

(1 + 2 + 3 +… + 7) + (8 + 9 +10 + … + 19 + 20) = 20 * 21/2

We need the value of the part in red, let’s call it the required sum.

(1 + 2 + 3 +… + 7) + The Required Sum = 20 * 21/2

Note here that we know the sum of 1 + 2 + 3 + … + 7 = 7 * 8/2

So, 7*8/2 + The Required Sum = 20 * 21/2, therefore the Required Sum = 20*21/2 – 7*8/2

To get the sum of consecutive integers from 8 to 20, we find the sum of all integers from 1 to 20 (using the formula we know) and subtract the sum of integers from 1 to 7 out of it (using the same formula).

To generalize, the sum of all positive integers from m to n is given as:

n(n+1)/2 – (m-1)*m/2

Let’s look at a question based on this concept:

If the sum of the consecutive integers from –40 to n inclusive is 356, what is the value of n?

(A) 47

(B) 48

(C) 49

(D) 50

(E) 51

If you are thinking that we haven’t gone over how to adjust the formula for negative numbers, you are right, but what we have discussed is enough to solve this question.

Numbers around 0 are symmetrical. So 1 and -1 add up to equal 0. Similarly, 2 and -2 add up to equal 0, and so on…

-40, -39 … 0 … 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 …

The sum of all numbers from -40 to 40 will be 0. Or another way to look at it is that 0 is the mean of all numbers from -40 to 40. So the total sum of these numbers will also be 0.

The given sum is actually the sum of numbers from 41 to n only.

We know how to calculate that:

n(n+1)/2 – 40*41/2 = 356

n(n+1) = 2352

From the options, we see that n cannot be 49 or 50 because the product of 49*50 or 50*51 will end in 0, so plug in n = 48 to check whether 48*49 is equal to 2352. It is, therefore our answer is B

(Had we obtained a lower product than required, we could have said that n must be 51. Had we obtained a higher product than was required, we could have said that n is 47.)

Another method:

Use the concept of arithmetic mean and ballpark. The mean of numbers from 41 to 47 or 48 or 49… will be somewhere between 44 and 46.

Let’s estimate the number of integers we need to get the sum of about 356. Each additional integer is quite large (more than 45) therefore, a difference of about 10-15 in the sum due to the various possible values of the mean will be immaterial.

45*7 = 315

45*8 = 360

This brings us very close to the value of 356.

Assuming there are 8 integers, their values will be from 41 to 48. The average of these 8 numbers will be 44.5. The total sum will be 44.5 * 8 = 356. It matches, so our answer is still B.

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

99th GMAT Score or Bust! Lesson 9: Talk Like a Lawyer

raviVeritas Prep’s Ravi Sreerama is the #1-ranked GMAT instructor in the world (by GMATClub) and a fixture in the new Veritas Prep Live Online format as well as in Los Angeles-area classrooms. He’s beloved by his students for the philosophy “99th percentile or bust!”, a signal that all students can score in the elusive 99thpercentile with the proper techniques and preparation. In this “9 for 99th” video seriesRavi shares some of his favorite strategies to efficiently conquer the GMAT and enter that 99th percentile.

First, take a look at the previous lessons in this series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8!

Lesson Nine: 

Talk Like a Lawyer. When you click “Agree” on a user contract (think iTunes) or read through a GMAT question, you may just see an overkill of words. But thanks to lawyers, every word on that user agreement is carefully chosen – and that GMAT question is written the same exact way. In this final “9 for 99th” video, Ravi (a member of the bar himself) shows you how to talk and read like a lawyer, noticing those subtle word choices that can make or break your answer to those carefully-written GMAT problems you see on test day.​

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Want to learn more from Ravi? He’s taking his show on the road for a one-week Immersion Course in New York this summer, and he teaches frequently in our new Live Online classroom.

By Brian Galvin

3 Ways to Improve Brain Function for Better Studying

SATI recently read The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin, a book teeming with insights about simple adjustments we can make in our daily routines to improve our productivity. I’ve written about this topic in the past, but it can’t be emphasized enough – the primary problem most test-takers encounter is that they struggle to find enough time to study consistently.

According to GMAC, test-takers who score 700 or above spend, on average, 114 hours preparing for the exam. There’s nothing magic about that number, but it does reveal that getting ready for the GMAT is an intensive ordeal. As technologies improve and our focus becomes increasingly fragmented by our proliferating gadgets, the challenge, whether we’re studying for the GMAT or trying to complete a project at work, is how we can be productive and still have enough time and energy to enjoy some semblance of a personal life.

1) Sleep

First, Levitin emphasizes the importance of sleep. When we’re feeling overwhelmed, our instinct is to work more and sleep less – we feel as though we need more waking hours to complete whatever tasks we have to perform. The problem with this approach is that sleep deprivation causes us to be significantly less effective and productive, so much so that the additional time we gain is more than offset by the diminished performance that results from a sleep-debt.

The statistics on the subject are nothing short of astonishing. According to economists, sleep deprivation costs U.S. businesses more than $150 billion dollars a year from accidents and lost productivity. It is also associated with increased risk for heart disease, obesity, suicide, and cancer. This is an easy fix.

Levitin recommends going to bed at the same time each night (preferably an hour earlier than you’re accustomed to) and waking at the same time each morning. If it isn’t possible to sleep more at night, a nap as short as 15 minutes can serve the same refreshing function. Napping has been shown to reduce our risk of developing a host of medical conditions, and the beneficial effects are so striking that many companies have designated nap rooms filled with cots.

2) Stop Multi-Tasking

Next, Levitin discusses the cognitive impact of multi-tasking. We all know that it isn’t a great idea to try to study while texting or answering emails, etc., but what’s striking is that the impact of allowing other activities to siphon our attention is actually quantifiable. Glenn Wilson, a British researcher from Gresham College, conducted a study in which he found that when participants were informed that they had an unread email in their inbox, their effective IQ decreased by 10 points. Moreover, he documented that the cognitive-blunting effects of multi-tasking are more pronounced than the effects of smoking marijuana.

Other studies have revealed that task-switching, in general, heightens the brain’s glucose demands and amplifies anxiety, and the resulting discomfort ratchets up the desire to find some kind of distraction, such as, checking email again. Experts recommend designating two or three blocks of time a day for responding to email, and beyond that, strictly forbidding yourself to check for new messages.

A more ingenious idea comes from Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law professor. Lessig recommends declaring email bankruptcy, which would involve composing an automatic reply that informs whoever has contacted you that if this email requires an immediate response, they should call you, and if not, they should resend the email in a week if they haven’t heard from you. This technique will allow you greater latitude in structuring your day in terms of when you respond to emails, and will, hopefully, negate the multi-tasking concerns that lead to the aforementioned IQ drop. And when you’re studying for the GMAT, have a strict policy of not checking your phone or opening a new browser window.

3) Don’t Procrastinate

Last, and perhaps most importantly, the book addresses the problem of procrastination. Procrastination is a universal problem and likely results from the basic architecture of the human brain, wired as it is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Jake Eberts, a Harvard MBA and successful film producer, offers a bit of very simple but compelling advice: just get in the habit of always doing the most unpleasant thing on your agenda first. There is evidence that our willpower is gradually depleted throughout the day, so it’s best to tackle the most dreaded elements of our to-do list first thing in the morning.

Takeaway: Here are three very easy things you can do, starting today, if you’re having difficulty finding the time/energy to study:

1) First, sleep more. If that means a 15-minute midday nap, so be it – you will gain in productivity far more than you lose in time sacrificed.

2) Second, declare email bankruptcy and put away your phone. Multi-tasking produces a scientifically documented brain drain.

3) Last, do the most unpleasant thing first. Whether that unpleasant thing is 25 Data Sufficiency questions, or some work-related activity, your resilience will be greatest first thing in the morning, so that’s the time to tackle the task you want to do least.

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

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

99th Percentile GMAT Score or Bust! Lesson 8: Reading is FUNdamental

raviVeritas Prep’s Ravi Sreerama is the #1-ranked GMAT instructor in the world (by GMATClub) and a fixture in the new Veritas Prep Live Online format as well as in Los Angeles-area classrooms.  He’s beloved by his students for the philosophy “99th percentile or bust!”, a signal that all students can score in the elusive 99th percentile with the proper techniques and preparation.   In this “9 for 99thvideo series, Ravi shares some of his favorite strategies to efficiently conquer the GMAT and enter that 99th percentile.

First, take a look at lessons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7!

Lesson Eight:

Reading is FUNdamental:  If you can read this video prompt, there are several GMAT quantitative problems that you should answer correctly…but might not on test day.  As Ravi notes in this video, often students supply incorrect answers to quantitative problems not because they can’t do the math, but because in doing the math they take their attention off of reading the question carefully.  So heed Ravi’s advice: if you’re going to get a math problem wrong, get it wrong because you can’t do the math, not because you can’t read.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Want to learn more from Ravi? He’s taking his show on the road for a one-week Immersion Course in New York this summer, and he teaches frequently in our new Live Online classroom.

By Brian Galvin

Strategies for the New GMAT Questions that You Need to Know!

MBA Interview QuestionsAbout a month ago, GMAC released the latest version of the GMAT Official Guide, 25% of which consisted of new questions. Though the GMAT tends not to change too drastically over time – how else could a school compare a score received by one candidate in 2015 to a score received by another candidate in 2010? – there can be subtle shifts of emphasis, and paying attention to the composition mix of the questions in the latest version of the Official Guide is a good way to ascertain if any such shift is in the offing.

My concern as an instructor is whether the philosophy I’m advocating and the techniques I’m teaching are as relevant for the newer questions as they have been for the older ones.

This philosophy can be summarized as follows: the GMAT is not, fundamentally, a content-based test, but rather, uses certain elements of our academic background to test how we think under pressure. Because the test is evaluating how we think, and not what we know, the cultivation of simple strategies, such as using the answer choices or picking easy numbers, is just as important as the re-mastery of the content you may have initially learned in eighth grade, but have subsequently forgotten.

Having thoroughly dissected the new questions in the latest version of the Official Guide, I can confidently report that this philosophy is more relevant than ever. Of the over 200 new quantitative questions, I didn’t do extensive calculations for a single problem. If anything, the kind of fluid logic-based approach that we preach at Veritas is more critical than ever.

Take this new question, for example:

Four extra-large sandwiches of exactly the same size were ordered for m students, where m > 4. Three of the sandwiches were evenly divided among the students. Since 4 students did not want any of the fourth sandwich, it was evenly divided among the remaining students. If Carol ate one piece from each of the four sandwiches, the amount of sandwich that she ate would be what fraction of a whole extra-large sandwich? 

A) (m+4)/[m(m-4)]
B) (2m-4)/[m(m-4)]
C) (4m-4)/[m(m-4)]
D) (4m-8)/[m(m-4)]
E) (4m-12)/[m(m-4)]

Of course, we could do this question algebraically. But if the GMAT is testing our ability to make good decisions under pressure, and if the algebra feels hard for you, then a better option is to make your life as easy as possible and select a simple number for m. If m is larger than 4, let’s say that m = 5. “m” represents the number of students, so now we have 5 students and, we’re told in the question stem, a total of 4 sandwiches. (The question of what kind of negligent, hard-hearted school knowingly packs only 4 sandwiches for all of its students to share will have to be addressed in another post. This question feels straight out of Oliver Twist.)

Okay. We’re told that 3 of the sandwiches are divided evenly among the 5 students. (3 sandwiches)/(5 students) means each student gets 3/5 of a sandwich.

Additionally, we’re told that 4 of the students don’t want any part of the remaining sandwich. Because we only have 5 students and 4 of them don’t want the remaining sandwich, the last student will get the entire fourth sandwich.

To summarize what we have so far: Each of the 5 students initially received 3/5 of a sandwich, and then one student received an entire additional sandwich, on top of that initial 3/5. The lucky fifth student received a total of 3/5 + 1 = 8/5 of a sandwich.

Last, we ‘re told that Carol ate a piece of each of the four sandwiches. But we established that only one student ate a piece of every sandwich, so Carol has to be that lucky student! Therefore, Carol ate 8/5 of a sandwich.

We’re asked what fraction of a sandwich Carol ate, so the answer is simply 8/5. Now all we have to do is plug ‘5’ in place of ‘m’ in each answer choice, and the one that gives us 8/5 will be our answer.

Most test-takers will simply start with A and work their way down until they find an option that works. The question-writer knows that this is how most test-takers proceed. Therefore, it’s a more challenging question if the correct answer is towards the bottom of our answer choices. So let’s use this logic to our advantage, start with E, and work our way up.

Answer choice E:  (4m-12)/[m(m-4)]

Substituting ‘5’ in place of ‘m,’ we get (4*5 – 12)/[5(5-4) = 8/5. That’s it! We’re done. The correct answer is E.

Takeaway: Keep reminding yourself that the GMAT (even with its new questions) is not designed to test what you know. While it is important to brush up on all of the fundamentals you acquired years before, the most successful test-takers will fluidly incorporate simple strategies when attacking complex questions, rather than simply grinding through longer calculations. Each new version of the Official Guide validates the wisdom of this approach.

*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 find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

99th Percentile GMAT Score or Bust! Lesson 7: Read Like You Drive

raviVeritas Prep’s Ravi Sreerama is the #1-ranked GMAT instructor in the world (by GMATClub) and a fixture in the new Veritas Prep Live Online format as well as in Los Angeles-area classrooms. He’s beloved by his students for the philosophy “99th percentile or bust!”, a signal that all students can score in the elusive 99th percentile with the proper techniques and preparation. In this “9 for 99thvideo series, Ravi shares some of his favorite strategies to efficiently conquer the GMAT and enter that 99th percentile.

First, take a look at lessons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6!

Lesson Seven:

Read Like You Drive: very few GMAT examinees will make mistakes driving to the GMAT test center, but most test-takers will make several Reading Comprehension mistakes once they’re there. As Ravi will discuss in this video, however, the two activities are much more similar than you realize: your job is to follow the signs. Certain keywords in Reading Comprehension passages will tell you when to yield, stop, turn, and pass with care, and if you’re following those signs properly you can proceed much faster than your self-imposed “speed limit” (most people read the passages far too slowly – stay out of the left lane!) and save valuable time for the questions themselves.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Want to learn more from Ravi? He’s taking his show on the road for a one-week Immersion Course in New York this summer, and he teaches frequently in our new Live Online classroom.

By Brian Galvin

Is Positive Thinking Enough to Actually Succeed on the GMAT?

QuestioningAt some point during each course I teach, I’ll ask my students if they’re familiar with this famous quote from Henry Ford “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”  Of course, they always know it. It’s a quote so popular it’s become a pedagogical cliché. Next, I’ll ask them if they believe the quote is true. They usually do. I’ll follow up with a series of GMAT-related questions. “Who struggles with probability questions?” “Who sees Reading Comprehension as a weakness?” Different hands go up for different questions.

They realize immediately that there’s a disconnect here. Why would anyone maintain the belief that he or she struggles in a given area if he or she subscribes to the notion that the pessimistic belief is a self-fulfilling prophesy? My sense is that this disconnect is rooted in our tendency to nod politely when greeted with popular aphorisms we’d like to be true, while at some level, not really believing them.

We can pay lip service to Henry Ford all we want. Our actual belief is something more along the lines of: sure, it would be nice if you could improve your performance via thought alone, but that doesn’t actually work. It’s a fantasy, one that is so appealing that we’ll collectively agree to pretend that it’s true.

 Part of my job as an instructor is to get my students to move past the cliché and somehow internalize the truth of the sentiment that our beliefs do matter. This isn’t a New Age chimera that we’d like to be true. It’s an area of extensive scientific research. In 2007, researchers at Stanford University conducted a study in which they tracked the development of 7th grade students who believed that intelligence was innate vs. students who believed that intelligence is a fluid phenomenon, something that can be cultivated and improved through dedicated effort.

The students who believed that intelligence is innate were deemed the “fixed mindset” group, and the group who believed that intelligence could be improved were deemed the “growth mindset” group. Most importantly, at the start of the study, these groups had similar academic background. Sure enough, over the next couple of years, there was a marked divergence in performance – the growth mindset group outperformed their fixed mindset peers by a significant margin (take a look at this study here).

One component of the growth mindset is the belief that adversity isn’t evidence of an inherent shortcoming, but rather, an opportunity to learn and improve. This is absolutely essential on the GMAT. Students will, on average, take about a half-dozen practice tests. It is extremely rare that every one of those practice tests goes well.

At some point, during every class I teach, I’ll get a panicked email, the general gist of which is that things had been going well, but now, after a disappointing practice test, the student has significant doubts about whether the previous successes were real. I’m often asked if it will be necessary to push the test date back. The growth mindset compels us to see this setback as a positive. Isn’t it better to uncover the need for a strategic tweak on a low stakes practice test than on the official exam?

 Sure enough, once my students are able to re-frame their beliefs from, “I’m just not good at X,” to, “Maybe I’ve struggled with X in the past, but with a little practice I can actual convert this former liability into an asset,” they improve. The student who struggled with probability wasn’t inherently bad at probability, but had a less than stellar teacher in high school or college and never learned the underlying concepts properly. The student who struggled with Reading Comprehension simply wasn’t taking notes properly.

Most importantly, the students who believed that they just weren’t good at standardized tests realized that the ability to do well on standardized tests is a skill that they simply hadn’t acquired yet. In the past, when they were convinced that they couldn’t do well on, say, the SAT, they hadn’t bothered to study, because what was the point of expending any effort if the result was going to be disappointment? Once they see that they their past struggles weren’t functions of innate deficits, but rather, of self-limiting beliefs, a world of possibility opens up.

Takeaway: how we frame our thoughts with respect to academic performance is extraordinarily important. Unfortunately, our culture generally pays lip service to the growth mindset while perpetuating the notion of a fixed one. We’ll thoughtlessly spout that Henry Ford quote, all the while thinking of people as high IQ or low IQ, not realizing that IQ is itself malleable (take a look at this idea here).

Think of someone you knew in high school who did unusually well on the SAT’s. You probably thought, “That person is great at standardized tests,” rather than “That person has been successful at cultivating a particular skill set that translated well in the domain of this one particular exam.” But the latter is true. So don’t set arbitrary limits of yourself, because, contrary to some our deepest intuitions, belief and performance are inextricably linked.

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

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

Master the GMAT by Applying Jedi-like Skills

Yoda ForceOnce you begin studying for the GMAT, you’ll realize quickly that there are different levels of mastery. There’s that initial level of competence in which you learn, or relearn, many of the foundational concepts that you learned in middle school and have since forgotten. There’s a more intermediate level of mastery in which you’re able to blend strategic thinking with foundational concepts.

Then there’s the highest level in which you achieve a kind of trance-like, fugue state that allows you to incorporate multiple strategies to break down a single complex problem and then seamlessly shift to a fresh set of strategies on the next problem, which, of course, will be testing slightly different concepts from the previous one.

It’s the GMAT equivalent of becoming a Jedi who can anticipate his opponent’s next light saber strike several moves in advance or becoming Neo in the Matrix, finally deciphering the structure of the streaming code that animates his synthetic world. Pick whatever sci-fi analogy you like – it’s this kind of expertise that we’re shooting for when we prepare for the test. The pertinent questions are then the following: how do we accomplish this level of expertise, and what does it look like once we’re finally there?

Fortunately for you, dear student, our books are organized with this philosophy in mind. Once you’ve worked through the skill-builders and the lessons, you’ll likely be at the intermediate level of competence. Then it will be through drilling with homework problems and taking practice tests that you’ll achieve the level of mastery we seek. But let’s take a look at a Sentence Correction question to get a sense of how our thought processes might unfold, once we’re functioning in full Jedi-mode.

Unlike most severance packages, which require workers to stay until the last day scheduled to collect, workers at the automobile company are eligible for its severance package even if they find a new job before they are terminated. 

(A) the last day scheduled to collect, workers at the automobile company are eligible for its severance package

(B) the last day they are scheduled to collect, workers are eligible for the automobile company’s severance package

(C) their last scheduled day to collect, the automobile company offers its severance package to workers

(D) their last scheduled day in order to collect, the automobile company’s severance package is available to workers

(E) the last day that they are scheduled to collect, the automobile company’s severance package is available to workers

Having done hundreds of questions, you’ll notice one structural clue leap immediately: “unlike.” When you see words such as “like” or “unlike” you know that you’re dealing with a comparison, so your first task is to make sure you’re comparing appropriate items. You’ll also note that the clause beginning with “which require” modifies “severance packages,” so whatever is compared to these severance packages will come after the modifier.

In A, you’re comparing “severance packages” to “workers.” We’d rather compare severance packages to severance packages or workers to workers. No good.

In B, again, you’re comparing “severance packages” to “workers.”

In C, you’re comparing “severance packages” to “the automobile company.” Nope.

That leaves us with D and E, both of which compare “severance packages” to “automobile’s company severance package.” Here, you’re comparing one group of severance packages to another, so this is logical. But now you have to switch gears – the comparison issue allowed you to eliminate some incorrect answer choices, but you’ll have to use another issue to differentiate between your remaining options.

Once we’re down to two options, you can simply read the two sentences and look for differences. One difference is that E contains the word “that” in the phrase “the last day that they are scheduled to collect.” Perhaps it sounds okay to your ear, but you’ll recall that when “that” is used as a relative pronoun, it should touch the noun it modifies. In this case, it touches, “last day.” Read literally, the phrase, “the last day that they are scheduled to collect,” makes it sound as though “they” are collecting the “last day.” Surely this isn’t what the sentence intends to convey, so we’re then left with ‘D,’ which is the correct answer.

Takeaway:

Notice how many disparate concepts you had to juggle here: You had to recognize the structural clue indicating that “unlike” signifies a comparison; recognize that temporarily skipping over a longer modifying phrase is an effective way to get a sense of the core clause you’re evaluating; recall that once you’re down to two answer choices, you can simply zero in on differences between your options; remember the rule stipulating that relative pronouns must touch what they modify; and last, you had to recognize that Sentence Correction is not only about grammar but also about logic and meaning, and all in under a minute and a half. I’d say that’s pretty Jedi-like.

*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 find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

GMAT Tip of the Week: Test Day Should Not Be Labor Day

GMAT Tip of the WeekAs we head into the Labor Day weekend here in the U.S., it seems a fitting time to talk about labor.  Precious few people consider the GMAT to be a labor of love; to most aspiring (and perspiring?) MBAs, the GMAT is a lot of hard work.  And while, to earn the score that you’re hoping for, it’s likely that you’ll have to put in a good amount of sweat and a few tears (but hopefully no blood…), it’s important to recognize that test day itself should not be a Labor Day!

Your hard work should take place well before you get to the test center, so that on test day you’re not overworking yourself.  Working too hard on test day takes time (which is a precious resource on the exam), saps your mental energy (which also tends to be in short supply as you get later into the test with only two 8-minute breaks to recharge), and leads to errors.  Accordingly, here are a few tips to help you take the heavy labor out of your test day:

1. Only do the math you absolutely have to do.

The GMAT rewards efficiency and ingenuity, and has been known to set up problems that can be awful if done “by the book” but relatively smooth if you recognize common patterns.  For example:

  • Answers are assets! If the math looks like it’s going to get messy, look at the answer choices.  If they’re really far apart, you may be able to estimate after just a step or two.  Or if the answer choices are really “clean” numbers (0, 1, 10…these are really easy numbers with which to perform calculations) you may be able to plug them into the problem and backsolve without any algebra.
  • Don’t multiply until you’ve divided. Working step by step through a problem, you may see that you have to multiply, say, 51 by 18.  Which is an ugly thing to have to do for two reasons: that calculation will take time by hand, and it will leave you with a new number that will be hard to work with for the following step.  But the next step might be to divide by 34.  If you save the multiplication (just call it (51)(18) and don’t actually perform the step), then you can divide by 2 and 17.  Which works out pretty cleanly: 51/17 is 3 and 18/2 is 9, so now you’re just multiplying 3 by 9 and the answer has to be 27.   The GMAT goes heavy on divisibility, so keep in mind that you’ll do a lot of division on this test…meaning that it usually makes sense to wait to multiply until after you’ve seen what you’ll have to divide by.
  • Think in terms of number properties. Often you can determine quickly whether the answer has to be even or odd, or whether it has to be positive or negative, or what the first or last digit will be.  If you’ve made those determinations, quickly scan the answer choices and see how many fit those criteria.  If only one does, you’re done.  And if 2-3 do but they’re easier to plug in to the problem or to estimate between, then you can avoid doing the actual math.

2. Don’t take too many notes.

Particularly with Reading Comprehension passages, GMAT test-takers on average take far too many notes.  This hurts you for two reasons: first, it’s time consuming, and on a question type that’s already time consuming by nature.  And second, very few of the notes that people take are useful. People tend to take notes on details – you generally write down what you don’t think you’ll remember – but the test will typically only ask you about one detail per passage.  And the passage stays on the screen the whole time, so if you need to find a detail it’s just as easy to find it on the screen as it is in your notes (plus you’ll want to read the exact way that it was written, which your notes won’t necessarily have).  So use your time wisely: use your initial read of the passage to get a feel for the general direction of the passage, and then you’ll know which area/paragraph to go back to if and when you do need to find the details.

3. Stay flexible.

The GMAT is a test that rewards “mental agility,” meaning that it often designs problems that look like they should be solved one way (say, algebra) but quickly become labor-intensive that way and then reward those who are able to quickly change approaches (maybe to backsolving or picking numbers).  When it looks like you’ve just set yourself up for a massive amount of work, take a quick step back and re-analyze.  At this point are the answer choices more helpful?  Should you abandon your number-picking and go back to doing the algebra?  Does re-reading the question allow you to set it up differently?  Generally speaking, if the math starts to get labor-intensive you’re missing a better method.  So let that be your catalyst for re-assessing.

As you sit down to take the GMAT (to get into a great business school to become a more valuable member of the labor force), those 4 hours you spend at the test center probably won’t be a labor of love.  But they shouldn’t be full of labor, anyway.  Heed this advice to lighten your labor and the GMAT just might feel like more of a day off than anything (like, you know, Labor Day).

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

By Brian Galvin

99th Percentile GMAT Score or Bust! Lesson 6: Practice Tests Aren’t Real Tests

Veritas Prep’s Ravi Sreerama is the #1-ranked GMAT instructor in the world (by GMATClub) and a fixture in the new Veritas Prep Live Online format as well as in Los Angeles-area classrooms.  He’s beloved by his students for the philosophy “99th percentile or bust!”, a signal that all students can score in the elusive 99th percentile with the proper techniques and preparation.   In this “9 for 99thvideo series, Ravi shares some of his favorite strategies to efficiently conquer the GMAT and enter that 99th percentile.

First, take a look at Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5!

Lesson Six:

Practice Tests Aren’t Real Tests: read the popular GMAT forums and you’ll see lots of handwringing and bellyaching about practice tests scores…but not very much analysis beyond the scores themselves.  In this video, Ravi (along with his alter ego Allen Iverson) talks about practice, stressing the importance of using the tests to increase your score more than to merely try to predict it.  Pacing is paramount and diagnosis is divine; as Ravi will explain, practice tests are critical for learning how you would perform if that were the real thing, with the added bonus of having the opportunity to fix those things that you don’t like about that practice performance.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Want to learn more from Ravi? He’s taking his show on the road for a one-week Immersion Course in New York this summer, and he teaches frequently in our new Live Online classroom.

By Brian Galvin

5 Reasons That Studying for the GMAT Sucks

GMATLet’s face it. Except for the folks who write the test and prepare you for the test, no one really loves the GMAT. Any anyone who tells you otherwise either scored an 800 with no prep or is lying.

But self-inflicted misery loves company, so in no particular order, let’s take a look at some of the things that suck and more importantly, how to cope:

 

  • Integrated Reasoning (IR) : It was introduced a few years ago, and even though multiple surveys and studies show it does correlate well with skills needed to succeed in business and the corporate world, schools still seem to have varying opinions on its value and how best to use it in the admissions process. For now, think of IR as the appetizer or warm-up. It’s tough, but it’s 30 minutes and can serve as a solid warmup before tackling the tougher ‘main course’ of quant and verbal. You wouldn’t start sprinting out of the gates in a race; treat the GMAT the same way, and if you bank some early points, that can’t hurt either.
  • AWA: Similar to IR, it doesn’t factor into your Total score, and schools differ on how they evaluate the essay. That being said, consider it a pre-pre-warm up, and more importantly, remember that schools can download a copy of your essay when they view your scores. So it’s important to put forth your best effort (now is NOT the time to challenge authority and write what you truly think of the GMAT or B school admissions process) and treat it as another writing sample that schools can use to evaluate your brilliance and creativity under pressure. Also, if English isn’t your first language, it’s absolutely going to be leveraged as an additional writing sample.
  • Data Sufficiency: This isn’t math, at least not in the sense that you’re used to seeing. What happened to the two trains leaving from separate stations and determining where they’ll meet? While that’s more problem solving, data sufficiency is important for schools to gauge your decision making abilities when you have limited or inaccurate information In a perfect world, you could make informed decisions with an infinite amount of time and all of the necessary details. But the world isn’t ideal, and like the cliché says, time is money. So data sufficiency quantifies what schools want to see: can you discern at what point do you have enough information to make an informed decision or at what point do you not have enough information and need to walk away.
  • Getting up early/Staying up late/Giving up Happy Hour aka Time Suck: We’ve all heard of FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” You’re likely going to have to make FOMO your new BFF while you’re preparing. In order to get the score you want, it’s important to put forth the effort. Just like training for a marathon or triathlon, you can’t take shortcuts or it’ll show on race day, and only you truly know the full measure of the effort you’re putting forth. So before you even start studying, make sure you’re mapping out a 3-4 month window where you know you can truly carve out time on a daily (regular!) basis to prepare, and more importantly, dedicate quality time to preparation.
  • Expenses!: The GMAT is expensive! And so is preparation! But if you think about it compared to the investment you’re about to make in your future and your long-term earnings potential, $250 for the test, $20 in bus fare/gas/transportation, and $50 for a celebratory steak after you crush it is a drop in the bucket. In life, there are absolutely times you should clip coupons, look for a better value and skimp on the extras. This is not one of them. Consider the GMAT the first step in a much larger investment in yourself.

It’s not rocket science (if it was, that might be the MCAT, not the GMAT), but it is important to recognize and embrace the challenges of this process. If it was easy, there would be far more individuals taking the GMAT every year (though nearly 250,000 is some decently sized competition). And one day while you’re studying, you’ll realize that while you don’t necessarily love it, the “studying for the GMAT sucks” factor is not quite as strong as it once was.   Take that as your reminder to keep your eye on the end game and keep plugging away. Your former self will thank you down the road.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Joanna Graham

Dr. Larry Rudner Endorses Veritas Prep’s GMAT Practice Tests

GMACThree years ago this month, the team here at Veritas Prep launched a new project to completely reinvent how we build and administer GMAT practice tests for our students. A home-built system that started with the GMAT Question Bank (launched in October, 2012) soon grew into a whole computer-adaptive testing system containing thousands of questions and employing Item Response Theory to produce some of the most authentic practice tests in the industry. We launched our new practice test in May, 2013, and five months later we made five tests available to everyone. We later added two more tests, bringing the total number to seven that anyone could get. (Veritas Prep students get five additional computer-adaptive tests, for a total of 12.)

The whole time, we kept evaluating the current bank questions (aka “items” in testing parlance), adding new ones, and measuring the ability levels of tens thousands of GMAT students. To date, we have gathered more than 12 million responses from students, and put all of that data to work to keep making our tests better and better. And we keep doing this every week.

Earlier this year, we embarked on a new chapter in the development of our computer-adaptive testing system: We began working with Dr. Larry Rudner, the former Chief Psychometrician at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), and the definitive authority on the GMAT examination. Dr. Rudner took a look at every aspect of our system, from how we manage our items, to how good each item is at helping our system measure ability levels, to how we employ Item Response Theory to produce an accurate ability level for each test taker. In the end, not only did Dr. Rudner provide us with a roadmap for how to make our tests even better, but he also gave us a great deal of praise for the system that we have now.

What exactly did he say about our GMAT practice tests? See for yourself:

After months spent evaluating every aspect of their GMAT practice exams, it’s clear that Veritas Prep has mastered the science of test simulation. They offer thousands of realistic questions that have been validated using Item Response Theory and a powerful computer adaptive testing algorithm that closely matches that of the real GMAT® exam. Simply stated, Veritas Prep gives students a remarkably accurate measure of how they will perform on the Official GMAT.”

– Lawrence M. Rudner, PhD, MBA. Former Chief Psychometrician at GMAC and the definitive authority on the GMAT exam

Our work on our practice tests will never stop — after all, every month we add new items to our GMAT Question Bank, and many of these questions eventually make it into our computer-adaptive tests — but Dr. Rudner’s endorsement is particularly satisfying given the thousands of hours that have gone into building a testing system as robust as ours. When you take this or any practice test (even the official ones from GMAC), keep in mind that it never can perfectly predict how you will perform on test day. But, with Veritas Prep’s own practice tests, you have the confidence of knowing that more than three years of hard work and over 12 million responses from other students have gone into giving you as authentic a practice experience as possible.

We plan on putting this system to use in even more places, and helping even more students prepare for a wide variety of exams… That’s how powerful Item Response Theory is. Stay tuned!

Finally, we love talking and writing about this stuff. If you’re relatively new to studying for the GMAT or understanding how these tests work, check out some of our previous articles on computer-adaptive testing:

By Scott Shrum

Set Up a Consistent and Manageable Study Schedule to Succeed on Test Day

procrastinationWhen I ask my students how their studying is going, the response is often to give an embarrassed smile, and admit that they just haven’t found as much time as they would have liked to devote to GMAT problems. This is understandable. Most of them have full-time jobs. Many serve on the boards of non-profit organizations. Others have young families. Preparing for a test as challenging as the GMAT can often feel like taking on a part-time job, and when piled on top of an already burdensome schedule, the demands can feel overwhelming and unreasonable.

Consequently, whenever they do find time to study, they tend to cram in as much work as they can, forsaking little things like socializing, exercise, and sleep. In an earlier post, I discussed why it can be counterproductive to engage in marathon study sessions, so in this one, I want to explore strategies for consistently finding small blocks of time so that our study regimens will be less painful and more productive.

The good news is that while we all feel incredibly busy, research shows that, in actuality, we’re a good deal less saturated with responsibilities than we think we are. In Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No Has the Time, Brigid Schulte discusses how our sense of having too much to do is, in a sense, a self-fulfilling prophesy. When we feel as though there’s too much to do, we tend to procrastinate, and part of this procrastination involves lamenting to others about how overwhelmed we are. Of course, while we’re complaining about our busy schedules, we’re not exactly models of productivity, and so we fall even further behind, which compounds our overriding sense of helplessness, compelling us to complain even more, a cycle that deepens as it perpetuates itself.

So then, how do we break this cycle?

First, we need to identify the biggest productivity-killers that trigger our procrastination tendencies in the first place. It will surprise no one to hear that email is a major culprit. What is surprising, at least to me, is how much of our idea was devoted to responding to emails. According to a study conducted by Mckinsey, we spend, on average, 28% of our workdays on email.

If you’re working a 10-hour day, as many of my students are, that’s nearly three hours of pure email time. If they can cut this down to 2 hours, well, that’s an hour of potential GMAT study time.  A few simple strategies can accomplish this. This Forbes article offers some excellent advice.

The most salient recommendations are pretty simple. First, set up an auto-responder. Unless an email is urgent, the sender will not expect to hear back from you right away. Second, get in the habit of sending shorter emails. If complicated logistics are involved, make a phone call rather than going back and forth over email. Also, make judicious use of folders to prioritize which messages are most important. And last, do not, under any circumstances, send an email that is mostly about how you don’t have any time to do things like, well, sending recreational emails.

Next, during those times when we’d otherwise have been on our phones complaining how much we have to do, we can instead use our phones to sneak in a bit of extra study time. Many of my students take the subway or commuter rail to work. While I don’t expect anyone to crack open their GMAT books in this environment, there’s no reason why they can’t use a good app on their phones to sneak in a good 20-minute session each day. And if you were wondering, yes, Veritas Prep has an excellent app for precisely such occasions.

The hope is that simple strategies, like the ones outlined above, will allow you to make your study regimen both consistent and manageable, diminishing the need to over-study when you finally have a block of free time on the weekend. If you’re able to do something more restorative on the weekend and feel refreshed when you begin the following work week, you’ll find you’ll be more productive that week and more inclined to stick with your study plan without running the risk of burnout. In time, you’ll feel less busy, and paradoxically, will be able to get more done.

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

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

Are Brain Training Exercises Helpful When Studying for Standardized Tests?

StudentIn the last two classes I’ve taught, I’ve had students come up to me after a session to ask about the value of brain-training exercises. The brain-training industry has been getting more attention recently as neuroscience sheds new light on how the brain works, baby-boomers worry about cognitive decline, and companies offering brain-improvement software expand. It’s impossible to listen to NPR without hearing an advertisement for Lumosity, a brain-training website that now boasts 70 million subscribers.  The site claims that the benefits of a regular practice range from adolescents improving their academic performance to the elderly staving off dementia.

The truth is, I never know quite what to tell these students. The research in this field, so far as I can tell is in its infancy. For years, the conventional wisdom regarding claims about brain-improvement exercises had been somewhat paradoxical. No one really believed that there was any magic regimen that would improve intelligence, and yet, most people accepted that there were tangible benefits to pursuing advanced degrees, learning another language, and generally trying to keep our brains active. In other words, we accepted that there were things we could do to improve our minds, but that such endeavors would never be a quick fix. The explanation for this disconnect is that there are two different kinds of intelligence. There is crystalized intelligence, the store of knowledge that we accumulate over a lifetime. And then there is fluid intelligence, our ability to quickly process novel stimuli. The assumption had been that crystallized intelligence could be improved, but fluid intelligence was a genetic endowment.

Things changed in 2008 with the release of a paper written by the researchers Susanne Jaeggi, martin Buschkuehl, John Jonides, and Walter Perrig. In this paper, the researches claimed to have shown that when subjects regularly played a memory game called Dual N-Back, which involved having to internalize two streams of data simultaneously, their fluid intelligence improved. This was ground-breaking.

This research has played an integral in role in facilitating the growth of the brain-training industry. Some estimates put industry revenue at over a billion dollars. There have been articles about the brain-training revolution in publications as wide-ranging as The New York Times and Wired. This cultural saturation has made it inevitable that those studying for standardized tests occasionally wonder if they’re shortchanging themselves by not doing these exercises.

Unfortunately, not much research has been performed to assess the value of these brain-training exercises on standardized tests. (A few smaller studies suggest promise, but the challenge of creating a true control group makes such studies extraordinarily difficult to evaluate). Moreover, there’s still debate about whether these brain-training exercises confer any benefit at all beyond helping the person training to improve his particular facility with the game he’s using to train.  Put another way, some say that games like Dual N-Back will improve your fluid intelligence, and this improvement translates into improvements in other domains. Others say that training with Dual N-Back will do little aside from making you unusually proficient at Dual N-Back.

It’s hard to arrive at any conclusion aside from this: the debate is seriously muddled. There are claims that the research has been poorly done. There are claims that the research is so persuasive that the question has been definitively answered. Obviously, both cannot be true. My suspicion is that the better-researched exercises, such as Dual N-Back, confer some modest benefit, but that this benefit is likely to be most conspicuous in populations that are starting from an unusually low baseline.

This brings us to the relevant question: is it worth it to incorporate these brain-exercise programs into a GMAT preparation regime? The answer is a qualified ‘maybe.’ If you’re very busy, there is no scenario in which it is worthwhile to sacrifice GMAT study time to play brain-training games that may or may not benefit you. Secondly, the research regarding the cognitive benefits of aerobic exercise, mindfulness meditation, and social interaction is far more persuasive than anything I’ve seen about brain-training games.

However, if you’re already studying hard, working out regularly, and finding time for family and friends, and you think can sneak in another 20 minutes a day for brain-training without negatively impacting the other more important facets of your life, it can’t hurt. Just know that, as with most challenging things in life, the shortcuts and hacks should always be subordinated to good, old-fashioned hard work and patience.

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

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

Stop Studying: 2 Activities That Will Increase Your GMAT Score

stressed-studentI like to arrive to my Monday evening classes a good half hour early so that I can spend some time talking to my students about how they spent their weekends. It helps me to get to know them, and it allows me to get a sense of the rhythm of their days. Some of my students do interesting things. They travel. They ski in the winters. They rock-climb when it’s warmer. But, unfortunately, they’re a minority.

The most common response is some variation of: I studied for the GMAT. Of course, they should be doing some studying, and I hope that this studying is at times enjoyable. But if an unusually satisfying Data Sufficiency problem is the highlight of your weekend, something is profoundly out of whack in your study-life balance. And yes, at times comments about studying all weekend are exaggerated for comic effect, but I think there is a distressing truth captured in these exchanges: people are so busy and overwhelmed during the week that they end up spending an unhealthy amount of time cramming for the GMAT on the weekends.

This isn’t good.

It isn’t good for the students’ physical or psychological wellbeing; and research is beginning to show that over-studying might be bad for performance as well.

According to one study performed by Stanford University, academic performance for high school students began to deteriorate once the students’ workloads exceeded two hours of homework per night. Now, there’s nothing magic about the figure of two hours – one imagines that people vary in terms of stamina levels, motivation, etc. – but this notion, that doing too much work not only will fail to help you, but also will actively stymie your efforts, is one well worth considering. And though this study involved high school students, there’s no reason to believe that this phenomenon wouldn’t hold for adults preparing for the GMAT. When we overexert ourselves in any capacity, be it physical training, work in the office, or studying, our performance tends to suffer.

I suspect that the most important factor is that if we’re studying too much, there are other beneficial things that we’re not doing. Put another way, if the benefits of additional studying begin to decrease once you’ve been at it for a few hours, wouldn’t it make more sense to use this time to engage in other activities that would not only be more enjoyable but could actually boost your score beyond what more study time could accomplish?

1. Exercise

The first, and most obvious consideration is that when we study, we’re typically inactive. (My apologies to anyone who is reading this at their treadmill desk.) The research on the benefits of aerobic exercise on academic performance is unambiguous. Aerobic exercise prompts the brain to generate, not just fresh neural connections, but new neurons, a phenomenon that was considered a physical impossibility as recently as 20 years ago. Students who exercise do better, on average, than those who don’t. We’ve been touting the benefits of exercise at Veritas Prep for years.  There’s no reason not to have exercise be a part of your routine. (This is to say nothing of the whole feeling better, being healthier, and living longer perk).

2. Conversation

The second, and perhaps more surprising finding, is that socialization can boost intelligence. One study, conducted by the University of Michigan, found that as little as 10 minutes of conversation can boost working memory. Moreover, they found that the total amount of socialization in one’s day was positively correlated with performance on a variety of cognitive tests. (If you’ve been studying for Critical Reasoning, hopefully, you’ve taken a moment to object that correlation isn’t necessarily causation. Yes, you say: it’s possible that socializing causes our brains to work better; but isn’t it also possible that when our brains are functioning optimally, we’re more likely to seek out opportunities for socialization? Not to worry. The experiments were designed to see what happened to a given group that socialized before taking a test, and what happened to that same group when they hadn’t socialized. When controlling for extraneous variables, socialization still had a robust impact on performance.)

Of course, one shouldn’t take any of this research to mean that preparing for this test won’t require a significant time investment. It will. But if you study so much that you stop taking care of yourself and neglect your personal relationships, you will not only make yourself unhappy, you’ll be artificially limiting your intellectual potential. So yes, do those few hours of Data Sufficiency questions. Take a four-hour exam on another day. Just make sure that you’re also taking time to go for a run or to play tennis or to see friends. You’ll be happier and less likely to burn out. And the fact that you’re also likely to do better on the exam with this approach is about as good an ancillary benefit as you’re likely to find.

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

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

Win a Free Veritas Prep GMAT Course!

NSHMBA Thumbnail 1Veritas Prep is excited to announce a scholarship opportunity to help you achieve your target GMAT score! We’ve partnered with the National Society of Hispanic MBAs to offer 100 GMAT preparation courses to qualifying applicants completely free of charge!

A good GMAT score is crucial when applying to business school, and we want to help you succeed. Our GMAT courses are available in over 90 cities worldwide, and also online using new Smartboard technology.

 

Every GMAT course comes with the following:

  • 36 hours of live instruction
  • An instructor who scored in the 99th percentile on the actual GMAT
  • 12 lesson booklets
  • 12 computer-adaptive practice tests
  • Live instructor help seven days a week
  • Veritas Prep GMAT on Demand pre-recorded lesson videos
  • 3,000 GMAT practice problems and solutions

To learn more about this scholarship and how to apply, visit the NSHMBA website. The deadline to apply is May 8th, so if you’re thinking about taking the GMAT, submit your application today!

We’re excited to get you moving on your next step towards graduate school!

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

By Colleen Hill

GMAT Tip of the Week: Prepare for the GMAT Using the Study Plan Rule of Thirds

GMAT Tip of the WeekHere on the first Friday of April, we’ve officially ended the first quarter of the year and fiscal reports are streaming in. But who’s in a hurry to finish 2015?

We’re still firmly entrenched in the first third of the year, and if 2015 is the year that you plan to conquer the GMAT you’re in luck. Why?

Because your GMAT study plan should include three phases:

 

1) Learn

One of the most common mistakes that GMAT studiers make is that they forget that they need to learn before they can execute. Are you keeping an eye on the stopwatch on every question you complete? Are you taking multiple practice tests in your first month of GMAT prep? Have you uttered the phrase “how could I ever do this in two minutes???”? If so, you’re probably not paying nearly enough attention to the learning phase. In the learning phase you should:

  • Review core skills related to the GMAT by DOING them and not just by trying to memorize them. You were once a master of (or maybe a B-student at) factoring quadratics and identifying misplaced modifiers and completing long division. Retrain your mind to do those things well again by practicing those skills.
  • Learn about the GMAT question types and the strategies that will help you attack them efficiently. For this you might consider a prep course or self-study program, or you can always start by reviewing prep books and free online resources.
  • Take as much time as you need to complete and learn from problems. You’ll learn a lot more from struggling through a problem in six minutes than you will from taking two minutes, giving up, and then reading the typewritten solution in the back of the book. Let yourself learn! Again, it’s critical to learn by doing – by actively engaging with problems and talking yourself into understanding – than it is to try to memorize your way to success. The stopwatch is not your friend in the first third of your preparation!
  • Embrace mistakes and keep a positive attitude. The GMAT is a hard test; most people struggle with unfamiliar question formats (Data Sufficiency, anyone?) and challenging concepts (without a calculator, too). Recognize that it will take some time to learn/re-learn these skills, and that making mistakes and thinking about them is one of the best ways to learn.

2) Practice

Regardless of how you’ve studied, you’ll need to complete plenty of practice to make sure you’re comfortable implementing those strategies and using those skills on test day. Once you’ve developed a good sense of what the GMAT is testing and how you need to approach it, it’s time to spend a few weeks devouring practice problems. Among the best sources include:

In this phase, you can start concerning yourself with the stopwatch a little and you’ll want to identify weaknesses and common mistakes so that you can emphasize those. Particularly with GMAT verbal, the more official problems you see the more you develop a feel for the style of them, so it’s important to emphasize practice not just for the conscious skills but also for those subconscious feelings you’ll get on test day from having seen so many ways they’ll ask you a question.

3) Execute

Before you take the GMAT you should have taken several practice tests. Practice tests will help you:

  • Work on pacing and develop a sense for how much time you’ll need to complete each section. From there you can develop a pacing plan.
  • Determine which “silly” mistakes you tend to make under timed pressure and exam conditions, and be hyperaware of them on test day.
  • Develop the kind of mental stamina you’ll need to hold up under a 4-hour test day. Verbal strategies can be much easier to employ in a 60-minute study session than at the end of a several-hour test! Make sure that at least a few times you take the entire test including AWA and IR for the first hour.
  • Continue to see new problems and hone your skills.

While it’s not a terrible idea to take a practice test early in your study regimen and another partway through the Practice phase, most of your tests should come toward the end of your study process. Why? Because the learning and practice phases are so important. You can’t execute until you’ve developed the skills and strategies necessary to do so, and you won’t do nearly as effective a job of gaining and practicing those if you’re not allowing yourself the time and subject-by-subject focus to learn with an open mind.

So be certain to let yourself learn with a natural progression via the GMAT Study Rule of Thirds. Learn first; then focus on practice; then emphasize execution via practice tests. Studying in thirds is the best way to ensure that you get into a school that’s your first choice.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Brian Galvin

My Test Prep Journey to Scoring a 710 on the GMAT

Wood Veritas Prep PictureThe Veritas Prep program allowed me to reach my GMAT goals and re-learn all of the quantitative skills that I had forgotten over the past several years. I am an Army veteran, six years out of college, and Veritas Prep was the perfect program to teach me the skills I needed to succeed on the GMAT. I am thankful for the quality of the curriculum, and also very appreciative of the generous scholarship from Veritas Prep through the Service2School organization. Throughout the self-study lessons, I could always count on the on-demand videos to deliver engaging, thoughtful content and guide me through the lesson of the day. I particularly enjoyed Brian’s humorous references (the “alge, brah” joke stands out): The human element to the videos definitely helped me to remember many topics and leverage them on test day.

My goal was a score over 700, and I knew that I needed a structured, high-quality program to help me to get a top 10% score. After looking at several programs, Veritas Prep stood out as the one that would work for me. On day one of the program, I was contacted by Colleen Hill, who told me how to get started and offered her time for any questions I had throughout the course. I have to admit, I did not expect an actual person to contact me; it was a pleasant surprise! Upon receiving my materials in the mail and logging on to check out the online resources, I was again impressed by the quality of the materials. I found that I was more and more excited to begin the course. With everything organized and a thirty-day plan ahead of me, I began the course.

The curriculum was demanding, as I worked through it over a thirty-day period, and well-balanced to where I didn’t feel that I was ever losing ground in either quant or verbal. While working through the lessons, I could also always take comfort in the fact that if I didn’t understand a specific question, I could use the online homework help as a resource. Homework was challenging, which was great, and I found the explanations covered anything that I had missed when it came to why the correct answer was right, and why the wrong answers looked tempting.

When my test day finally came, I felt confident. I felt that the Veritas Prep practice tests had provided a very accurate measure of the difficulty of questions that I faced. Throughout the test, I remembered the lessons, always looking for logical ways to answer the question and leveraging a mastery of the content. I felt calm and confident throughout the test, and when I finished I had a 710. I am ecstatic at that score, especially as it is my first attempt, and I can attribute it to nothing but the exceptional quality of the Veritas Prep curriculum.

For someone who is looking for high-quality, comprehensive preparation for the GMAT, Veritas Prep should definitely be their first choice. I want to give a sincere “thank you” to Colleen and the rest of the Veritas Prep organization; you have helped me get a head start on my journey towards an MBA.

Veritas Prep is a proud sponsor of Service2School.

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

By US Army Captain Chuck Wood

Use Anxiety to Your Advantage on Test Day

GMAT PrepAt some point during the first session of each new class I teach, I’ll write my phone number on the board and mention that I take emergency calls. When I first started doing this, I figured that every now and again I’d get a call from a frantic student the night before the exam because he or she was running through some practice problems and was stumped on a concept that had previously been clear. I could then talk the student through a concept or strategy as a kind of pre-test boost. It turns out, these emergency calls happen far more often than I’d suspected, and they’re never about content. They’re always about anxiety. And the refrain is always the same. “When we’re doing the questions in class, I understand them. When I’m working on my own with no pressure, I’m fine. But when I see the timer…” The implications are clear: the issue often isn’t the content of the question, but the psychological mindset of the test-taker when he encounters it.

In fact, the link between anxiety and standardized testing is so prevalent that a Google search of ‘test anxiety’ yields well over 100,000,000 results. You want to make a parent nervous? Say something about Common Core. Want to freak out a high school student? Invoke the SATs. And if you’re reading this article, you are likely well acquainted with the pernicious effects that the GMAT can have on the ‘ol nervous system. It isn’t hard to see why. These tests not only have tangible academic and professional consequences that can reverberate for years, but they shape our fundamental self-perceptions. Someone who scores in the 98th percentile on a standardized test will, no matter what he says, walk out of that test feeling different about his abilities than someone who scores in the 7th percentile, despite the fact that there are literally dozens of variables in play that have little or nothing to do with underlying intelligence. (And this supposes that there is such a thing as underlying intelligence, as opposed to a host of complexly intersecting domains of intelligence, all of which may be difficult to measure with any kind of accuracy or consistency.) This is all to say that testing anxiety is both real and inevitable. It’s impossible to talk about preparation for an exam like the GMAT without addressing it.

Though this connection isn’t new, much of the science behind how the brain works under pressure is quite novel, and as we learn more, this knowledge will invariably seep into how teachers and tutors prepare their students for the exam.

First, consider the physiological process by which stress makes it make more difficult to perform well on exams. We enter what psychologists call a threat state. Here is a relevant quote from Barry Mendes, an associate professor of psychology from UC San Francisco, culled from a New York Times article on the subject. (The article is itself well worth a read).

The hallmark of a threat state is vasoconstriction — a tightening of the smooth muscles that line every blood vessel in the body. Blood pressure rises; breathing gets shallow. Oxygenated blood levels drop, and energy supplies are reduced. Meanwhile, a rush of hormones amplifies activity in the brain’s amygdala, making you more aware of risks and fearful of mistakes.”

And it turns out that the physiological processes in play are even more complicated than we’ve thought. Recent research has revealed that there is a gene that codes for the speed at which enzymes remove dopamine from various regions in the brain. Some remove dopamine quickly. Others remove it more slowly. In and of itself, this isn’t terrible interesting, but what is fascinating, and relevant to this discussion, is that those who had the gene that coded for the enzymes that removed dopamine more slowly did better than the other group on IQ tests in normal conditions, but worse than the other group on tests with significant time constraints. In other words, the gene that makes you smarter in a low stress environment causes you to underperform in a stressful situation. Suddenly, we have a scientific explanation for the dozens and dozens of students I’ve had over the years who maintained a 3.9 GPA in college, but could not, for the life of them, understand why they struggled on standardized tests!

The implications from the above discussion may sound fairly straightforward. Stress is bad. It can hurt test performance. But it isn’t that simple. It turns out that stress is one of those maddeningly elusive phenomena that we actually alter by focusing our attention on it. (Fans of quantum mechanics will recognize this as a version of the Observer Dilemma. In the quantum world, observing a particle alters the very characteristics we’re attempting to observe, so there’s no way to derive uncontaminated data. Scientists and philosophers have been puzzling over this for the better part of a century, and the phenomenon is no less strange now than it was when it was codified). This is best illustrated by a study conducted at Harvard. Half of the subjects were simply told that the purpose of the study was to examine the effect of anxiety on test-taking. The other students, however, were told that the anxiety during a test could actually boost performance. Sure enough, the group that was told that anxiety could boost performance did significantly better than the control group.

In other words, when we think stress is bad for us, it is. And when we think stress can be beneficial, it is. How we frame the issue in our minds has a direct and material impact on our response to trying conditions.

Moreover, there are things we can do to improve our performance in stressful situations. Pilots, for example, will practice dealing with artificial problems during test runs, and this practice yields benefits when these same problems happen during commercial flights. I’ll often encourage students to create a simulated stressful environment during a practice exam so that if a similar situation should befall the student during the real test, she’ll have an experience to draw on when attempting to adapt. For example, you can allow 10 minutes to elapse during a practice test so that if there is a time crunch on the real test, you’ll have already practiced how to address this potential crisis.

Last, you can practice mindfulness in the weeks leading up to the exam. A study performed last year demonstrated that students who began a mindfulness practice for only two weeks demonstrated improvements in working memory and concentration, benefits that translated to significantly higher scores on standardized tests. (The students in the study took the GRE, but there’s every reason to believe that mindfulness meditation would confer comparable benefits on the GMAT.) Here is an article distilling the main points of the study.

There is no avoiding stress on test day, but there is a lot we can do to reshape how we perceive this stress, and this reshaped perception can actually serve to improve our performance.

Takeaways:

  • Remind yourself that stress is not inherently bad. It can be a source of energy and focus that you can harness. Moreover, your belief in the bracing qualities of stress can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Repeat that to yourself like mantra: stress can be helpful, but only if we tell ourselves so.
  • Simulate stressful conditions when taking practice tests so that these situations will be less alarming should they happen during the actual exam.
  • Consider starting a consistent mindfulness practice. The research indicating that mindfulness can boost test scores is promising, and the tangential health benefits are enormous.

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

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston.

Veritas Prep’s Top-Rated Instructor Comes to India on March 29!

Ravi SreeramaFor some time now, Veritas Prep team member Ravi Sreerama has been regarded as the best GMAT instructor in the industry (see for yourself!) Whether he’s leading GMAT courses in Los Angeles or training students worldwide in our Next-Generation Live Online GMAT Course, Ravi keeps growing his legion of loyal followers. They want to score in the 99th percentile on the GMAT, and Ravi knows how to help them do it.

No, for the first time ever, Ravi will take his show on the road: Starting March 29, Ravi will lead a seven-day Immersion Course in New Delhi! Our Immersion Course format is entirely unique — you cover all 36 hours of the traditional Veritas Prep Full Course GMAT curriculum, but do so over seven straight days. Six of those days feature six hours of GMAT instruction each, with a break in the middle of the week.

The schedule is as follows:

  • Sunday: Foundations of GMAT Logic & Arithmetic
  • Monday: Critical Reasoning, Algebra
  • Tuesday: Sentence Correction, Geometry
  • Wednesday: Review Session and Office Hours
  • Thursday: Reading Comprehension, Data Sufficiency
  • Friday: Advanced Verbal Strategy, Statistics and Combinatorics
  • Saturday: Word Problems, AWA & Integrated Reasoning

Pay special attention to that Wednesday schedule — that day is dedicated to review and to office hours in which you can get one-on-one GMAT coaching from Ravi. Need to catch up? Stuck on a particular area? Have specific questions that you’ve been saving to ask a GMAT expert? Wednesday is when you can take advantage of Ravi being in New Delhi to brush up on the skills that matter most to you.

And, of course, you get all of the other benefits of being in a Veritas Prep Immersion Course, including the camaraderie that comes from spending seven days with a group of like-minded, ambitious GMAT students. You also receive:

  • 36 hours of live, instructor-led class time
  • 12 GMAT lesson booklets
  • 12 computer adaptive practice tests
  • Online student account with study plan
  • 3,000 practice problems and solutions, including video
  • Live homework help 7 days a week for a year
  • Every lesson pre-recorded in HD for review

Hurry… March 29 is coming quickly! Learn more about Ravi Sreerama’s New Delhi GMAT course, and enroll as soon as you can so that you’re ready when class starts on the 29th!

By Scott Shrum

3 Ways to Improve Your Timing on the GMAT

stopwatchThe GMAT presents several challenges for test takers. For many people, the issues are focused around aptitude and the ability to simply get answers right. For others, timing is a big challenge. The GMAT is as much a test of mental endurance as it is an aptitude test.

With over 90 questions in 3+ hours the GMAT requires test takers to not only answer questions correctly, but to also do so quickly. In a vacuum many test takers could answer most GMAT questions correctly under normal conditions but the time constraints imposed by the GMAT make this one of the toughest standardized tests for graduate education.

All hope is not lost however; let’s discuss a few ways to prepare for the GMAT that will pay dividends on the timing front on test day.

Problem Sets

Every practice question you solve should be timed based on the average time you will have per question on the exam. Answering questions under unrealistic time scenarios does little to improve your performance especially if you are already struggling with pacing. Take the questions in sets (1, 5, 10, 20, etc.) and have your phone or stopwatch handy to make sure you are comfortable answering questions in realistic time constraints. If you are a Veritas Prep GMAT student, the Problems tab in your online account allows for the timed answering of homework questions!

Practice Exams

Too often test takers don’t start taking practice exams until too close to their test date. Practice exams are an integral part of your test prep game plan. I recommend taking your practice test at a similar time of day as your test date, if possible. If your test date is Saturday morning make sure you are taking practice tests on Saturday mornings. This is a good way to get your body synced up with the physical and mental side of taking such a long and difficult test. Once you take the test make sure you are including some time for review. Getting a problem wrong can be even more valuable than getting a problem right, focus on learning from your mistakes. You should spend a considerable amount of time figuring out why you got a problem wrong so you will never get a similar problem wrong again.

Problem Recognition

For most test takers who struggle with pacing, you will also want to work on problem recognition. Pacing is about quickly identifying the question type as well as how to approach it and then answering it quickly. Spend some time finding ways to quickly identify different question types and how to approach them. Finally, be able to move on if you realize that you don’t have a strong chance answering the question accurately in a reasonable amount of time. Spending an exorbitant amount of time on a question you will eventually get wrong is a death sentence on the GMAT; so don’t be afraid to move on after making an educated guess.

Incorporate these GMAT prep strategies into your studies and kiss pacing issues goodbye!

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on 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. Find more of his articles here

3 Things You Need to Know About Your GMAT Test Day Experience

You’re probably going to spend considerable time preparing for the GMAT exam, but many students spend so much time on practice exams and questions, they often overlook one of the most important pieces of that equation: scheduling their actual GMAT exam!

You’re probably thinking you just visit mba.com and take what you can find, but there’s definitely an art to scoring your preferred appointment.

Did  You Know?

  • GMAC releases appointments six months in advance, so if you plan early, you can score an appointment date and time that’s most convenient for you.

There’s a little known tool on mba.com called “Find Test Dates” that lets you peruse available appointments in real time without making a commitment. Think of it as the Tinder of the standardized testing world. Well maybe not exactly since there’s no collaboration allowed on the GMAT.  “Find Test Dates” lets you view six months of available GMAT appointments at up to 10 test centers near you.  All you have to do is enter your address.  If you’re hyperventilating and having high school flashbacks to bad fluorescent lighting, a high school gym with 300 of your closest friends and strangers at SAT testing at 8:00 AM on a Monday, those days are gone!  The GMAT is offered “on-demand” which means that while you can’t control much when it comes to your actual exam, you do have several choices around where and when you test.  Not a morning person?  Book a 1:15 PM Saturday session. Don’t see anything that you like at first glance? If you start searching early and have some flexibility with your timing, check back. Just like airlines constantly update their inventory in realtime, so do the folks at GMAC. Just remember, if that Saturday afternoon session sounds appealing to you, it’s probably appealing to others. Weekend testing appointments are the most popular among GMAT test takers so learn the scheduling patterns of the test centers near you early.

Did You Know?

  • GMAC guarantees that you’ll be able to find an appointment within 30 days at any test center around the globe? It might not be your first choice, but there will always be available appointments.

It pays to do your homework. You’d never buy a car by just looking at a picture and name, right?  You have to take it for a test drive and see if it’s built for you. Just like cars, test centers come in all shapes and sizes.  They can have as few as 4 or as many as 15 work stations. Remember, you’re going to have one proctor keeping tabs on everyone, so you’ll likely get greater attention (and quicker response time during your exam) if there are fewer candidates in the room.  Also, many test centers deliver several other exams in addition to the GMAT exam.  There may be speaking components involved, and even though you can be given ear plugs, that murmur might sound like nails on a chalkboard if you’re looking for some peace and quiet.  While there isn’t a Yelp for test centers, ask your friends where they tested and what their experience was like. Remember, crowd sourcing for test center feedback is acceptable; crowd sourcing for GMAT questions they saw on their test is not.

Depending on where the test center is located, getting there may be half the battle. In larger metropolitan areas, there may be limited or no parking. You may be looking out on a busy street where you’ll test to the symphony of street and city sounds.  Once you decide where you want to test, do a dry run (preferably before you book your appointment).  See how long it will take you to drive or use public transportation to get there. If you’re testing on a weekend and relying on public transportation, double check schedules to make sure trains/cars/buses use that route. They  may operate on reduced or altered schedules.

Did You Know?

  • There are several types of test centers: Pearson Professional Centers (PPCs), third-party owned test centers, university-based test centers and DoD military installation centers.

The biggest difference between PPCs and every other test center is consistency of environment.  Every PPC is designed to look and feel the same from the carpeting to the paint and artwork on the walls.  GMAC and Pearson Vue wanted to create a fair and equitable experience for  all tests. What does this mean for you as a test taker? The candidates testing in Sydney, Australia are staring at the same paint and artwork as the test takers in Beijing, China; the test takers in Paris, France are sitting in the same chairs as the test takers in Washington, DC.  There’s no edge to testing in Paris except that you might be able to drown your sorrows… err celebrate your victory… with a warm buttery croissant after you’re done testing.

The third party owned sites are located outside the U.S. and must meet the same set of standards established by GMAC.  Just know they’re free to pick their own paint and carpeting, so they won’t look quite the same. University based centers often run on the academic schedules of their home universities, so if you’re not a student make sure you check schedules as they’re often closed for extended periods of time around holidays or campus breaks. Finally, DoD (Department of Defense) centers are located on U.S. military bases and installations around the globe. These centers are only accessible by active duty military, retired military or civilians who hold credentials that grant them access to that particular base.  Chances are, the type of test center will have the least impact on your testing experience, but again, it pays to RESEARCH and research early and often!

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when you start planning for your test appointment. Practice and preparation will prepare you for what you see inside the test center, but make sure you’re equally well prepared so there are no surprises as you travel to or settle in at the test center.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Joanna Graham

3 Similarities Between the Hobbit and the GMAT

Over the holiday season, you may have taken the time to go see the Hobbit, the much-hyped precursor to the Lord of the Rings movies which breathed life into the seminal Tolkien books published over a half century ago. If this sentence looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same one I used two years ago to begin an article about the similarities between the first Hobbit movie and the GMAT. Lo and behold, a couple of weeks ago I was watching the final installment of the Hobbit trilogy, and I noticed more parallels to the GMAT. I decided then to pen a follow up to my original article to finish the comparison between the two disparate, yet often overlapping events.

To quickly recap some of the main points from the original article, I mentioned that both the GMAT and the Hobbit movie require a significant allocation of your time and that both should contain very few surprises. The Hobbit (pick any of the three movies) is about three hours between run time and previews, whereas the GMAT is just short of four hours if you take all the breaks (which I recommend). Since you know you’ll be there for a while, you should plan accordingly in terms of snacks, medication and fatigue. Bring anything you might need to manage the lengthy endeavour.

The other main point I brought up is that the Hobbit movies should contain very few surprises because the source material is already known. If you want to know what happened in the Hobbit, you could read the book first published in 1937. If you want to know what’s on the GMAT, you can read the OG (or other specialized GMAT study guide). All the material you need to know is contained within. The only thing that will change is the execution. Indeed, just knowing there will be a question about triangles doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the right answer, but you shouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself using the Pythagorean theorem to solve the second quant problem. If you don’t want to be surprised, do your research.

However, while watching the newest installment of the franchise, I noticed more elements that are similar to the GMAT. Specifically, I was struck by how the first sequence of this movie was essentially a warm up for the main event, how the protagonists constantly had to think strategically, and how the entire movie was the culmination of an arduous journey. For the purposes of this analogy, I will assume you have seen the movie (or at least read the book). It’s hard to spoil a book published during the great depression, but I want a disclaimer noting that there might be some minor spoilers ahead (#spoilers).

The Warm Up Section

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies begins with the dragon Smaug unleashing his fury on nearby Laketown. This continues from where the last movie leaves off, but even though there is much action from the start, viewers know that this scene will not take very long to conclude. Why? Because the movie is called “The Battle of the Five Armies”, and not “Smaug Burns Everything” (or even “Smaug Gets his Comeuppance”). The scene certainly looks frightening, but we know it is just a matter of time before one of the dwarves gets his mystical arrow and shoots it perfectly at a specific weakness on the dragon whizzing around at hurricane speed. The movie will then get on with the gathering of multiple armies to face off in a grandiose climax of sword and steel.

Similarly, the opening act of the GMAT, the AWA and IR, are simply warm ups to the main event commencing at around the one hour mark. Certainly no one wants to do poorly on these early sections, but just doing okay on them and performing well on the verbal and quant sections of the GMAT will do just fine. The score out of 800, which is really what most people look for, is composed entirely of your blended verbal and quant scores. You still have to go through the first two sections, but if you could conserve mental energy for the final two sections, you’ll typically see your score improve. (I could see this exam being called “GMAT: the Struggle of Verbal and Quant”).

Strategic Thinking

Having never engaged in warfare (beyond Starcraft), I cannot say definitively that having one opponent is easier than having four, but it certainly seems that way. If you only have one enemy to deal with, you can focus all of your attention on them. However, if five separate armies are entering the fray, as was the case in the movie, you had to coordinate strategically among your allies and adjust to your enemy’s changes rapidly. If the orcs suddenly overrun the dwarves, then the elves have to switch strategies and defend their vulnerable flank. Similarly, if a new army appears from a different direction, you may have to redeploy to avoid being surrounded.

The GMAT is very similar, as the exam is designed to test your mental agility. If you are great at algebra, that can help you with a lot of questions, but some questions will be almost impossible to solve purely through algebra (and without a calculator). You must consider other options such as backsolving or using the concept to avoid wasting time and getting frustrated. Some questions are designed to be time-consuming if approached in a straightforward way, so you always have to think strategically. If your approach looks like it will take 4-5 minutes, you might be better off thinking of it in another way.

The Culmination of a Long Journey

The final installment of the Hobbit has a runtime of about 2.5 hours, but it is the conclusion of something much greater. Two other movies (some might argue five) are closed at the end of this spectacle, so even if it only took a few hours to complete, it is the ending of months or even years of preparation. Few people spontaneously decide to take the GMAT without studying or at least researching the exam a little. For most, hundreds of hours are devoted to the 3-4 hour endeavour that is the exam. Just because the exam is over in the blink of an eye (more or less), doesn’t mean that there weren’t hours of studying, of wondering, of panicking and of persevering that all concluded in one day at the Pearson center.

You can learn a lot about the GMAT from this final Hobbit movie, most remarkably that the beginning is just a set up for the second portion. You should also recognize that you must always think strategically on this test, for it is designed to trick people who consistently depend on one single approach. Finally, you can also note that the GMAT, like the Hobbit is the last step on a long (and unexpected) journey. Ironically, in both cases, it is often the beginning of an even greater journey, but I’ll save that analogy (LotR/MBA) for another day.

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

Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice for success on your exam.  After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.

GMAT Tip of the Week: New Year, New You, New Study Plan

GMAT Tip of the WeekHappy New Year!  If you’re reading this on January 9, our publication date, and your New Year’s Resolution is still intact, you’re probably in the majority.  But within the next few weeks that will change… This week the gyms, yoga studios, pools, and health food stores of the world were packed with people for whom 2015 is the year to become great; by Valentine’s Day, however, Netflix usage, Frito-Lay sales, and Taco Bell drive through volume will be back to their normal levels, while GMAT class attendance will start to wane, too.

As a GMAT student who wants to make 2015 the year of the elite MBA acceptance letter, how can you be among the disappointingly-few who keep up this week’s excellence exuberance?

Keep it simple.

The problem with most New Year’s Resolutions and GMAT study plan’s is that they’re far too ambitious.  Hatched over eggnog and 7-10 days of paid vacation, these plans are destined to failure because they’re way too much for anyone to adhere to in the long term.  They often read like:

“I’ll get up 90 minutes before I normally do and study over a healthy breakfast, then after work three days a week I’ll go the library, and every Saturday I’ll take a practice test and spend Sunday mornings with a tutor reviewing it all.”

“I’ll take a leave of absence from work so that I can study 40-50 hours a week for three months, then I’ll take the GMAT in the spring and get a high score, then volunteer all summer to demonstrate my community service, then apply round 1 to Harvard/Stanford/Wharton, and maybe throw Yale or London Business School in the mix as a safety school.”

“I’ll turn off my smartphone and give up social media for the next few months, study at least 90 minutes a day, and….”

And the problem with those study plans? You’ll resent them within a week, just like most New Year’s Resolvers resent their no-carb / all-lettuce diets and overpriced gym memberships.  You have to come up with a study plan that:

1) You can fit in to your lifestyle so that you can keep to it.

This means that you factor in your hobbies and, yes, limitations.  If you’re not a morning person, you won’t keep to a schedule of studying every morning before work.  If you thrive on a good workout, giving up your soccer league or gym regimen completely won’t work either.  And friends, family, work functions, etc. are always important.

2) You can build on.

The best study plans are those that start a bit smaller and build into something more robust, like a “Couch to 5k (or marathon)” training program.  If you want to run a marathon, you start with a couple miles and build up to 18-20 milers as your body is ready for it.  If you want a 700 on the GMAT, you start with a handful of study sessions per week and build into longer sessions when they’re more purposeful and you know what you’re using the time to work on.

3) Focus on achievement, not activity.

Veritas Prep emphasizes the famous John Wooden quote “never mistake activity for achievement”, meaning that simply spending 4 hours studying Sentence Correction, for example, isn’t going to get the job done; it’s the quality of study that helps.  So hold yourself accountable for goals, not time spent.  Think in terms of “I want to do 25 SC problems focusing on major error categories first, then thinking of logical meaning second”

or “I’m going to practice applying right triangle principles to geometry problems” or “I’m going to do a timed drill to force myself to think more quickly.”  Give your study sessions themes and achievement goals, and they’ll not only be more productive but they’ll also be more fun.

So what does a productive, sustainable study schedule look like?

*It’s firm but flexible.  Plan to study at least 3 times per week, but let yourself move Tuesday’s session to Wednesday if you get tickets to a Tuesday concert or you work late and just need to blow off steam with a run.  You have to get those sessions in, but you don’t have to resent them or go through the motions just to stick to your (probably arbitrary) schedule.

*It’s achievement-driven.  Your study sessions have themes and goals, not just durations.

*It’s reasonable. Know yourself and your preferences and limitations.

Very few people can study for hours every day, so schedule something you can commit to – a few sessions per week, maybe two weeknights and one weekend morning, or something that you know you can hold yourself accountable to.

*It’s custom-built. Think about when you’ve been most successful in other academic pursuits and try to replicate that.  Do you study better in the morning?  In the evening?  With friends or music?  Alone?  After a good workout?   With a snack?  Build your plan around your own successes.

*It’s built to expand.  2-3 study sessions a week may very well not be enough for you, so be honest with yourself once you’ve up and running.  Do you need more time to master algebra?  Do you need to build in a class or On Demand program to supplement your practice?  Do you have enough time for practice tests?  Once you’re committed to a bsseline study regimen, you need to be honest with yourself about what you need, and at that point it’s often easier to bite the bullet and dive into something more intense.

But in the beginning, make sure you have a schedule/plan that you won’t quit before your neighbors even take their Christmas lights down.

January is a great time to make plans for self-improvement, but most of those plans never live to see February.  To ensure that your New YEAR’s Resolution to succeed on the GMAT isn’t limited to one month or less, resolve to plan on something that will last.  If you can do that, we’ll see you back in this GMAT Tip of the Week every Friday until you have that score you’re looking for.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Brian Galvin

The 411 on GMAT Testing Accommodations

GMACSeveral of my students have asked about the process of requesting testing accommodations for the GMAT, so I thought it’d be helpful to organize the relevant information in one place, along with a brief overview of what to expect.

Who is eligible for testing accommodations?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.  The GMAC recognizes several categories of disabilities that may warrant testing accommodations, including:

  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Learning and Cognitive Disorders (e.g., dyslexia, dyscalculia)
  • Physical and Systemic Disabilities (e.g., multiple sclerosis, mobility impairments, cerebral palsy, cancer, AIDS, muscle dystrophy)
  • Psychological Disabilities
  • Sensory Disabilities (e.g., vision and hearing impairments)

If you have a documented disability, then you may be entitled to testing accommodations on the GMAT.

What kinds of accommodations are offered?

The most common accommodations are:

  • Additional testing time (+50% or +100%)
  • Extended or additional rest breaks
  • Someone to read items to you
  • Someone to record your responses
  • Screen-reader software and/or enlarged type font

How do I apply for testing accommodations?

Read the GMAT Handbook Supplement for Test Takers with Disabilities and follow the instructions about creating a profile and submitting the appropriate documentation to Pearson VUE (which administers the GMAT) via fax or snail mail only.  There is no extra charge for testing accommodations, but you must submit the standard $250 test fee along with your application.

Keep in mind that the GMAC requires more than just an official diagnosis before granting testing accommodations; they need an in-depth examination of how your disability is affecting you currently, and why the requested accommodations are necessary and appropriate relative to your disability.  Documentation guidelines for the various categories of disabilities are available here.

Once your application is received, you’ll get an email confirming that the process is underway, and then it’s time to play the waiting game.

How long does the application process take?

Usually they will get back to with their decision within 7-10 business days, but officially they give themselves a cushion of 26-30 calendar days.  It’s important to note that you must apply for accommodations before scheduling your test date; they will not grant testing accommodations to an already scheduled test date.  If you want to check on the status of your application, the GMAC Testing Accommodations Department can be reached via email at testingaccommodations@gmac.com, or via phone at 1-800-466-0450.

Once a decision has been made regarding your application, you’ll get an email notification with the results.  If accommodations are granted, then it’s time to actually schedule your exam.  Only certain testing centers are designated to handle testing accommodations, and there are a limited number of slots available at any given time, so you can’t schedule the exam online yourself.  You’ll have to call to leave a message for a scheduling specialist, and then someone should call you back within 3 business days to find an appropriate test location and date for you.

I don’t have a disability but I’m always running out of time on the GMAT.  Can I get extra time?

Pretty much everybody would love some extra time on the GMAT, myself included.  It’s a challenging test, and lots of people have issues with pacing.  Accommodations are designed to provide equal access to people who are truly disabled relative to the general population.  Pacing issues alone don’t qualify someone for extra time.

Some other things to keep in mind

Don’t want until the last minute to apply for accommodations.  The whole process of getting the proper documentation, submitting it to Pearson, awaiting their response, and then scheduling the exam is fairly involved, so give yourself plenty of time to do it.  I had one student with a diagnosed learning disability who decided to apply for testing accommodations only after he had already taken the GMAT twice and hadn’t gotten the score he wanted.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time before his b-school application due date to apply for accommodations, so he had to take the exam without any.  (Fortunately, we got his score up to where it needed to be anyway—yay!)  The point is, if you think you might be eligible for accommodations, start getting your documentation together and submit the application as soon as possible.

Some accommodations can be a double-edged sword.  Extra time is great, right?  Except that more time on the GMAT also means more time to get fatigued and stressed out.  Another student of mine had double time, meaning that he took the test over two consecutive days.  But after the first day, he was convinced he had bombed the quant section (which turned out not to be the case), and as a result he barely slept that night and was exhausted for the verbal section on day two.  Whatever the accommodation you’re applying for, just don’t expect it to be a panacea.

Helpful links

http://www.mba.com/us/the-gmat-exam/about-the-gmat-exam/why-take-gmat-exam/register-test-taker-disabilities.aspx

http://www.gmac.com/gmat/prepare-candidates-for-the-exam-classroom/accomodations-for-test-takers-with-disabilities.aspx

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Ryan McGorman

A Student Perspective: My Jump From a 580 to a 750

Matt Hamilton is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point where he was commissioned as and engineer officer in the US Army. He has served in Afghanistan and is currently preparing to transition to a full-time MBA program. He just completed the GMAT and with the help of Veritas Prep, he raised his score from a 580 to a 750!

How did you hear about Veritas Prep?

 I signed on with Veritas Prep via Service to School, a non-profit that helps veterans make the transition from the military to both undergraduate and graduate school. Veritas Prep has teamed up with Service to School and is awarding free GMAT prep scholarships to select candidates. My Service to School Ambassador, a fellow veteran who is an MBA candidate at the Booth School of Business, thought I was a good fit for the Veritas Prep program and that’s how the process started! I ended up using Veritas Prep and only Veritas Prep to prepare for the GMAT.

What was your initial experience with the GMAT? How did you first feel going in?

I took the diagnostic CAT a week before starting the Veritas Prep course and walked away with a 580 and a bruised ego. Not that I expected a great score on my first test, but it was still a good reality check, and it let me know how much work I had ahead of me. I know I’m definitely not alone when I say this, but finding study time with a busy work schedule is tough, even more so if you have a family. It took me a few weeks to nail down my rhythm. I also took a little longer than I should have to schedule the official test, so by the time my appointment came around I feared that I had forgotten a bunch of material I’d learned in the Veritas Prep course. Regardless, my CAT scores were right around my target range (710-730) and this gave me enough confidence going into the actual test. Even though I’m still a ways off from beginning the school application process, I honestly wanted to be “one and done” with the GMAT as I’m about to take a job with a significantly higher demand on my time.

How did the Veritas Prep course help prepare you?

In my opinion, one of the most devilish aspects of the GMAT is that it stresses thought processes more than concept mastery. The Veritas Prep course hammered that fact home within the first five minutes of study and continued to stress it in each of the lessons. I feel that the value in prep courses lies in the foundation of fundamental concepts for future individual study that they establish. In that regard, the Veritas Prep course (and instructor) did a great job in developing my ability to think through questions so that when I eventually moved to self-study I could look at all the math and verbal concepts through a more logical lens. I should also mention the quality of Veritas Prep’s materials – the lesson books, online problem sets (with solutions), and CATs are all extremely easy to use. In particular, the CATs were pretty spot-on in terms of difficulty and content when compared to the actual GMAT.

Tell us about your test day experience and how you felt throughout the experience?

I had a healthy mix of nerves and confidence. I’d already scouted the test location so I didn’t have to worry about finding the place in the beehive that is downtown Honolulu. Once the test got started I felt like I was back at my house doing another Veritas Prep practice test: equal amounts of “I’ve got this” reactions and “I’m screwed” reactions to the questions that came up on the screen. I didn’t notice too much test fatigue – I did a few full practices on the Veritas Prep site – although about halfway through the verbal section I really wanted nothing more than to finish and see my score. When I clicked past the last page of admin data verification and saw the 750 on the screen I was so excited that I couldn’t get out of my chair for almost three minutes.

Veritas Prep is a proud sponsor of Service 2 School.

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

Compiled by Colleen Hill

Free Live Online GMAT Classes

Starting this Monday, October 6th,  you can benefit from various sample  GMAT prep classes taught by Veritas Prep’s course creator and Vice President of Academics, Brian Galvin. Over the course of next week, we will be offering an introductory session to the GMAT as well as sample Critical Reasoning and Data Sufficiency classes.

All classes will be delivered online via Veritas Prep’s live online course platform.  They will be taught  live and will include time for students to ask questions about the course material being taught.  You will receive supplemental articles and videos, homework sheets, and a full length computer-adaptive GMAT practice test.

Throughout the week, you’ll learn about the most crucial strategies that you will need to know to achieve your desired GMAT score.

Course Syllabus:

  • Monday, October 6th at 11:00am Pacific – Introduction to the GMAT
  • Tuesday, October 7th at 11:00am Pacific – Critical Reasoning Lesson
  • Wednesday, October 8th at 11:00am Pacific – Data Sufficiency Lesson

These free live online sample GMAT classes are provided by Veritas Prep and PrepAdviser.

Interested? Click here to reserve your spot now! 

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We also have full GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Colleen Hill

How Veritas Prep Helped me Reach a 770 on the GMAT

The following article comes from Eliza Chute, a motivated GMAT self-studier who scored an impressive 770 on the GMAT.  Eliza utilized numerous resources to help her prepare for the GMAT, including Veritas Prep’s GMAT Question Bank and GMAT Practice Test.  Here, Eliza describes her experience using both resources and makes strategic recommendations for how to get the most out of each resource to help you with your GMAT preparation.

The Veritas Prep Question Bank and GMAT practice test helped me find my weaknesses and focus my study so that I could break the 700 barrier and ultimately helped me reach a 770.

The Question Bank was an essential part of my study plan.  I could pick which topics I wanted included in each quiz and could set the amount of questions, so I used it to help me hone in on specific skills I learned.  For example, after completing a sentence correction lesson, I used the  Question Bank to help me practice the skills I just learned and solidify the strategies in my mind.  Also, it was a great resource to help me keep up with subjects I wasn’t currently studying.  If I was having a particularly quant heavy few days, I would use the Question Bank to practice with 5-10 verbal questions to make sure I was keeping up with the topics I wasn’t actively studying at the time.

Question Bank shows you a comparison of your accuracy vs. other test takers, which is extremely valuable considering you are scored based on how well you do in relation to others on the actual GMAT.  I used this to ensure that I was up to snuff as far as my accuracy on each topic.  I was aiming for above a 700, so I needed to be well above average for everything.   After a few months of study, I saw that I was still only at average for Sentence Correction and above for everything else.  After identifying Sentence Correction as my weakness, I was able to correct it by doing a lot of review of grammar rules.

The Question Bank also showed me the progression of my accuracy over time, which I used to help plan future study.  For example, I saw that I had an increase in Data Sufficiency and then I began to plateau at an accuracy level below what I wanted for my goal score.  This showed me that I needed to go back to the books and work with more advanced problems to help me increase to where I needed to be.

Finding the right pacing strategy is such a key part of doing well on the GMAT and the Veritas Prep practice GMAT test helped me identify key areas where I was going wrong.  After you take the test, you can look at how long it took you to answer each type of question on average and how that compares to other test takers.  It also shows you a comparison of how long you spend on questions you get wrong versus how long you spend on the ones you get right.  Not only did my practice test reveal that I was taking much longer than average on problem solving, but that I spent longer, on average on the questions that I got wrong.  This helped me see that I needed to make a change and learn to let go of some questions that I just was not capable of answering.  By trying to answer these questions, I allowed myself less time to answer other questions and I wasn’t even getting them right anyway, making it a complete waste of time.  After seeing this, I adopted a strategy of guessing on 1-3 questions on the quant section to save me more time for the rest of the questions; a strategy that helped me earn a 51 in quant.

I took over 20 full length practice tests during my study and I found the Veritas Prep practice GMAT test one of the most accurate test experience and score simulators.  Not only that, but it opened my eyes to something I hadn’t thought about previously in my study: my score balance.  Though it is something that is pretty important, it is something that is not often emphasized.  Veritas Prep helped me see that while my score was pretty good, it was also very unbalanced towards the verbal side and in order to make my GMAT score more competitive, I needed to step it up in the quant department, so I did.

To learn more about how Eliza prepared for the GMAT, visit http://bestgmatprepcourse.com!

Breaking Down the 2015 Official Guide for GMAT Review

GMACThis month, the Graduate Management Admissions Council began offering new versions of the popular Official Guide for GMAT Review series, now labeling by year (OG 2015) as opposed to edition (the last was the 13th). For the nuts and bolts we’ll let you read the official press release or visit the official website, but here’s what you should know about the new resources:

1) The questions in the Official Guide 2015 series are the same as in the previous editions. So if you already have the Official Guide 13th edition or the Verbal or Quant 2nd editions, you won’t find new questions with the new books.

2) The biggest new feature is that the practice questions in the book are also available in an online tool. If you love the GMAT Question Pack the way that we do, this is a fantastic feature, allowing you to carve up the ~900 problems into quizzes, delineate your practice by difficulty level, and take advantage of study tools like the ability to bookmark questions and type in notes to remember later.

3) The online tool includes ~20 question diagnostic quizzes for each practice type, using GMAC’s knowledge of question difficulty to help you gauge your ability level relative to your goals.

To Buy or Not To Buy?

If you already have the previous versions of the Official Guide (the 13th edition of the Official Guide for GMAT Review or the 2nd edition of the Official Guide Quant Review or Official Guide Verbal Review), don’t race out to buy the new Official Guide 2015 books. Instead, put that money toward the aforementioned Question Pack, which will provide you with new questions and increased computer-based functionality.

If you don’t have a previous edition Official Guide, by all means purchase the new one. There’s no better resource for practicing officially-written questions, and the new tech tools will enhance your practice sessions with diagnostic feedback and the opportunity to practice on a computer screen, just like you’ll attempt questions on test day.

What to Watch For

As with any unveiling of new technology, the current web interface includes a few things that may not be ideal and may end up being tweaked. But for this first phase of deployment, you should be careful to note that:

•The question delivery order online is not the same as the delivery order in the book. So if you’re planning to start online, then continue in the book (or vice versa) there isn’t an easy way to ensure you won’t see repeat questions.

•Reading Comprehension problems in the “Practice” and “Exam” modes are delivered without keeping passages together, so you’ll usually only get one problem for the passage you just read (and then the other problems associated with that passage will come at some point later). For this reason, it’s still likely best to do your RC practice out of the book and not online. (Note: the diagnostic quizzes deliver RC problems in order with their passages, so that functionality works well)

•Presumably since so much of the GMAT’s recent tech investments have been for Integrated Reasoning, the online tool includes an on-screen calculator for all problems. This does NOT mean that you’ll have it for quant problems on test day – ignore this tool as you practice the quantitative section!!

•The user interface takes a few quizzes to get used to; you’ll need to name each problem set that you begin (so think about meaningful names to keep yourself organized) so that you can review them later. Importantly, the diagnostic quizzes do not save once you’ve left the review screen, so when you take a diagnostic quiz make sure that you review it thoroughly before you click away!

•The online access is good for six months from activation, whereas the book lasts just about forever. Keep this in mind when you activate – the clock is ticking…

Overall Review

As always, the Official Guide for GMAT Review series remains the best destination for officially-produced practice problems and belongs on the bookshelves and in the backpacks of virtually all serious GMAT students. And GMAC continues to evolve into newer, more user-friendly ways of delivering practice problems, helping students to better simulate the test-day experience. The online tool is launching with a few little hiccups that will surely be cleaned up soon – among standardized tests GMAC has to rank as one of the most student-friendly and open-to-feedback – and should prove a useful resource. As we’ve said, the biggest “negative” to the new suite of OG books is that you won’t find any new problems, so if you’re currently studying with the “old” versions (13th overall, 2nd of subject-specific) don’t feel the need to rush out and buy the new ones. But if you’re ready to begin your Official Guide journey, the Official Guide 2015 series is an invaluable study tool.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Brian Galvin

G-Matt Mondays: Free Online GMAT Q&A Session

GMAT NewNow every GMAT student in the world can take a class with Worldwide Instructor of the Year Matt Douglas – Veritas Prep is proud to announce G-Matt Mondays, a free live online study session featuring one of the world’s most-requested instructors.

Every other Monday, Matt will answer your GMAT questions, using each question as an opportunity to teach one of his famous mini-lessons that’s sure to echo in your mind on test day.  Whether it’s quant or verbal, difficult or something you know you should know but just can’t quite train yourself to remember, submit your question when you register for each session and Matt will choose the most teachable problems to create engaging lessons that will improve your score.  Even if you don’t have a question to ask, Matt encourages drop-ins – listen to the questions of others and absorb Matt’s lessons to take with you as you study.

G-Matt Mondays will last for one hour every other week – Mondays at 8pm US Eastern Time – and students can attend as often as they’d like, free of charge.

Registration is completely free and takes less than 1-minute to complete. The next G-Matt Monday session is this coming Monday, June 17th at 8:00pm, US Eastern Time.

Click here to register, and see for yourself why Matt remains among the highest-rated and most-requested instructors in GMAT history!

Try Veritas Prep GMAT on Demand for Free!

We are very excited to announce that you can now register for a free 7-day trial of our self-study course, Veritas Prep GMAT on Demand. This trial gives you free access to over four hours of high-definition video GMAT instruction!

Veritas Prep GMAT on Demand is our  all-online GMAT course delivered in high-definition streaming video, using the same course materials and curriculum that students cover in every live Veritas Prep GMAT course. Taught by the co-author of the Veritas Prep GMAT course curriculum, Brian Galvin and co-hosted by Lissette Padilla, Dean’s Fellow at the MIT Sloan MBA program, Veritas Prep GMAT on Demand  is the most comprehensive self-study program available.

The course comes with over 20 hours of streaming video, broken down into easily digestible lessons that correspond with the Veritas Prep lesson books.  Brian and Lissette are engaging and thorough in their coverage of the course.  You’ll come to think of them as your own personal tutors who are just as invested in your success as you are.

We’re especially proud of the fact that Veritas Prep GMAT on Demand can be accessed across a host of devices, including your computer, iPad, or any other iOS device.  Our goal with Veritas Prep on Demand was to create a program as user friendly and accessible as possible.  No other self-study program is delivered across so many platforms or offers the amount of  expertise and depth as Veritas Prep GMAT on Demand.

We are so confident that you’ll love Veritas Prep GMAT on Demand that we’re making it available to everyone for free through a 7-day, no risk free trial.  You’ll get access the first full lesson and then you will be able to view selections of the remaining eleven lessons – that’s more than four hours of instruction, all in HD video!  All you need to do is provide your name and email address (no credit card  is required) and you’ll get immediate access to the program.  Try it out now!

New Veritas Prep Computer Adaptive Practice Test!

GMAT NewAbout seven months ago we embarked on one of the most ambitious data-collection efforts ever undertaken in the test preparation space. When we introduced the Veritas Prep GMAT Question Bank in October, we wrote:

We’ve created this tool and opened it up to everyone so that we can collect loads of data on our questions. We’ll use the data we collect to measure and refine our questions, which will then go into new generations of our GMAT practice tests. In effect, by answering these questions, you’re helping our system learn about the questions — which ones are easy, which ones are hard, which ones are confusing and need to be refined, etc. The system is also learning about each user (this is one reason why the system asks you to create an account and log in)… It’s an iterative process that helps it measure users by seeing how they did on certain questions, and it assesses those questions by seeing how well certain users performed on those questions.

Now, after collecting more than 450,000 GMAT question responses from more than 12,000 students (thank you!), we have entered the next phase of our ambitious project of creating the most accurate, realistic GMAT practice tests in the industry: When you take our free GMAT practice test, you benefit from all of this collective work by getting what we believe is a true measure of your ability to navigate challenging GMAT questions in a realistic testing environment.

How do we do it? There is a bit of secret sauce in there that we’d rather not share, but the new Veritas Prep computer-adaptive testing (CAT) system was built using Item Response Theory (IRT), the same theory that underpins the real GMAT. Based on your entire pattern of responses and the estimated difficulty level of each question you answer, you are assigned a score. We do this for each section, and then translate that performance to a total score and percentile ranking vs. other GMAT students around the world. (We don’t know the exact details of GMAC’s scoring algorithm, but we know ours is a powerful implementation of IRT based on hundreds of thousands of responses!).

Our tests truly are adaptive – compare your test to someone else’s, and you two will notice that you saw a lot of different questions from one another. And the Veritas Prep CAT system assigns a unique fingerprint to each question. That last point is important: While other test prep companies crow about having adaptive GMAT practice tests that don’t really differentiate questions beyond “easy/medium/hard” labels, our system measures each question on a handful of attributes. And, it updates these attributes frequently, based on students’ performance.

There are other small conveniences that we’ve added to our new practice tests, such as the ability to pause a test (since we know life dares to get in the way of your GMAT prep) and detailed feedback about how other students have performed on each question that you saw in your practice test.  And with a new test come new questions – our curriculum experts have added dozens of new questions designed to keep the tests current with regard to what is being tested on the GMAT today.  Plus with a sophisticated tagging system to complement our research on GMAT content distribution, you’ll see a test that very closely approximates the question mix that you’ll see on your official GMAT exam. We think you’ll appreciate just how sophisticated this new GMAT practice test is.

So go ahead… Try it and tell us what you think!

GMAT Gurus Speak Out: Sentence Correction for Non-Native Speakers

Today, we introduce a new guest contributor. Seckin Kara has been a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep since 2006. He began teaching in Providence, RI when he was a student at Brown and upon graduating, he went on to teach for us in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt. After years of finance and banking, he left that career to pursue his passion of education forged largely from his interactions with Veritas Prep students, and can soon be found teaching GMAT classes in his homeland of Turkey.

Sentence Correction is one of the key subjects of the GMAT verbal section. It is also a subject most of my non-native students feel uneasy about the first time they hear it is on the GMAT.

Once you’ve checked some sample questions, the feeling could get worse. After all, you (and back in the day I) thought we left painful grammar classes behind in high school, hoping not to face them again.
Continue reading “GMAT Gurus Speak Out: Sentence Correction for Non-Native Speakers”

Veritas Prep GMAT Question Bank… Now with Integrated Reasoning!

Last month we created a bit of a splash when we launched the Veritas Prep GMAT Question Bank, an entirely source of hundreds of realistic GMAT questions that allows you to practice with any number of questions, review your accuracy vs. that of other students, and even track your pacing vs. worldwide averages. In less than a month, thousands of students have logged tens of thousands of responses in the Question Bank. We’re swimming in data!

When we launched, we said, “We will add Integrated Reasoning shortly,” and now we make good on that promise. On Friday we turned on the ability for students to select and answer dozens of Integrated Reasoning problems. Students can then review their results, see a detailed solution for each problem, and use the feedback to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses.
Continue reading “Veritas Prep GMAT Question Bank… Now with Integrated Reasoning!”

Tales from the GMAT Question Bank: When You Assume You Make… A Big Mistake

This blog post is one in a series of lessons that come from the free Veritas Prep GMAT Question Bank and the statistics gathered from its user base. For each question, the data behind correct and incorrect answers tell a story, and many of these stories hold in them great value for you as you prepare to take the GMAT. In each of these posts, we’ll take a question from the GMAT Question Bank and show you what you can learn from the trend in correct/incorrect answers submitted by other students.

When Veritas Prep hosts its free seminars online — 1.5 hour sessions that introduce prospective students to the GMAT and to several strategies for succeeding on the test, as well as introducing them to the Veritas Prep program — one of the first items that the presenter covers is a Data Sufficiency question that highlights the GMAT “penalty” for making assumptions about numbers. Through that demonstration, students quickly realize their own propensity for thinking in terms of positive integers, and are taught to write down a quick checklist to ensure that they consider both negative numbers and nonintegers.
Continue reading “Tales from the GMAT Question Bank: When You Assume You Make… A Big Mistake”