GMAT Tip of the Week: Biggie’s Juicy Secret About GMAT Inequality

As Hip Hop Month rolls on in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, we’re reminded that small nuances in the ways that GMAT questions are structured can have big consequences for test-takers. So who would be a more fitting man to teach that lesson – what’s small can have big consequences – than Biggie Smalls?

Biggie’s most timeless classic, Juicy, may tell the rags-to-riches story you’re hoping to live out once you grab that top tier MBA: “and my whole crew is lounging, celebrating every day no more public housing.” But first you need to get into b-school, and that’s where this lyric can prove helpful:

“Damn right I like the life I live, ’cause I went from negative to positive … and if you don’t know, now you know.”

What secret is Big Poppa passing along? It’s a critical message in two parts:

…went from negative to positive” is a word of caution. When you’re dealing with inequalities on the GMAT, you need to remember that when a number goes from negative to positive – when you multiply or divide by a negative number to change the sign from positive to negative or from negative to positive – you must also change the direction of the inequality:

If 10 > 5, then -10 is LESS THAN -5
If x > 10, then -x < -10

The lesson: Be careful when going from negative to positive – if you’re working with inequalities and need to multiply or divide by a negative, you MUST change the direction of the inequality.

Perhaps more useful is the next line, however:

And if you don’t know, now you know.” If you don’t know whether a variable is positive or negative, here’s what you need to know: The GMAT is baiting you into assuming that it’s positive. If you’re asked to multiply or divide by a variable in an inequality question, it’s almost always a trap, as the testmaker knows that negative numbers are our blind spots – we tend to overlook them until they’re made absolutely explicit. So as Biggie said, if you don’t know (whether a variable is positive or negative)…now you know that there’s a high likelihood that that distinction will be important. Consider this Data Sufficiency example:

Is a > 3b?

(1) a/b > 3
(2) b > 3

A) Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked
B) Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked
C) Both statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question asked; but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient
D) EACH statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question asked
E) Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question asked, and additional data specific to the problem are needed

The trap on this question is to select A, thinking that you can simply multiply both sides of that inequality by b:

a/b > 3 –> a > 3b

But you don’t know whether b is negative or positive. The above technique works if, say, a = 4 and b = 1 –> 4/1 is greater than 3, and 4 (a) is greater than 1 (b). So you get “yes”. But the situation also encompasses a = -4 and b = -1, as -4/-1 is 4, which is greater than 3. But in this case -4 (a) is LESS than -1 (b). So you get “no”. The trap is to get you to blindly multiply both sides by b…but as Biggie cautions: If you don’t know, now you know (to be careful). Statement 2 isn’t much value on its own, but as it guarantees that b is positive, when you take both statements together, now you know that you can multiply both sides by b. So the correct answer is C, but the takeaway is most important here:

When dealing with inequalities, if you don’t know (the + or – sign of a variable) now you know that the question probably hinges on that point. Heed Biggie’s sage advice and you’ll be on your way to one of the world’s most notorious b-schools.

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GMAT Tip of the Week: Taking Data Sufficiency to the Thrift Shop

As loyal readers of this space will know, if it’s a Friday in March that means it’s Hip Hop Month for GMAT tips, and the US government sequester will not slow us down! Although it may inspire us. As the government careens toward desperate austerity measures, frugality is in the air, both in Washington and on your radio. Which is good news – let’s pop some tags and talk about how going to the Thrift Shop, Macklemore style, can help you crush GMAT Data Sufficiency.

“Thrift Shop” may well be the first monster hip hop hit of 2013, and does so like few others have ever done – eschewing bling for savings, Thrift Shop is all about “looking for a come up”, finding a great deal that has more value than initially meets the eye. Which is absolutely crucial on Data Sufficiency – Data Sufficiency questions by their very nature are about value and efficiency, and they frequently come with massive rewards for those who find that come up.

Want proof? Try this sample question, and while you look at it pretend you only have “20 dollars in your pocket” – you don’t want to pay for more statements than you need.

Four GMAT students visited Macklemore’s thrift shop yesterday. Did any of the four purchase at least three shirts?

(1) No two students purchased the same number of shirts.

(2) Together they purchased a total of 8 shirts.

(A) Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked;
(B) Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked;
(C) Both statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question asked; but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient.
(D) EACH statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question asked;
(E) Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question asked, and additional data specific to the problem are needed.

How’d you do? Did you find that come up? Statistically, on this question (well, not *exactly* this question…the official question has a little less soul but the intent is exactly the same) more than 50% of examinees select C and only about 20% select A, the correct answer. Why? Most test-takers don’t see the reason to be frugal – they like having both statements together and don’t immediately see that one alone is sufficient, so they fall back on “let’s buy both statements”. And keep in mind – that’s really what you’re doing on the GMAT – you’re “buying” statements. If you don’t need both statements but you pick C, you’re wrong – you “spent” too much. This is a test for aspiring business managers – those who can control costs and maximize value will win. If you only need to buy statement 1 (A is correct) but you take both of them (you pick C), you’re wrong. When an answer like C or E comes easily, you *must* consider whether you could have approached the question more frugally.

And here you can – while there’s no single formula that you’d think to set up with statement 1, it guarantees the answer “yes”. If none of the four bought the same number of shirts, then the lowest total is 0, 1, 2, and 3 – which means that someone bought at least 3.

But most don’t see to to that immediately – they see statement 1 as “not mathematical”, then they try to set up an equation with statement 2 and realize they need a little extra information, so they pick C. Statement 1 is a classic “come up” in the Thrift Shop sense of the term – it’s sneaky valuable. And so that’s your job on many Data Sufficiency questions – like Macklemore you’re out there looking for a come up with a reminder that you have to be frugal. Much like most rappers like to make it rain and spend as much (or more) than they have, we all have a predisposition to selecting C – we love having more information, second opinions. But GMAT Data Sufficiency is written specifically so that you can’t take both pieces of information if just one alone will suffice. It pays to be frugal.

So how do you succeed on Data Sufficiency? Recognize that before you pick E or C, particularly if that answer comes to you quickly without much work, you must take a second to consider whether you’re leaving a “come up” statement on the table: Is there any value you’re not applying? The GMAT hides value in many DS statements (or in the question stems), setting up a reward for those who seek to cleverly apply it. One man’s trash – “no, this statement doesn’t say much” – is another man’s come up. Learn to see value in Data Sufficiency statements the way that Macklemore sees value in your granddad’s clothes and you’ll get to echo his famous line when you see your GMAT score report. “This is (pretty) awesome.”

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GMAT Tip of the Week: What the Academy Awards Can Teach You About Sentence Correction

It’s Oscar weekend here in Los Angeles, and that can only mean one thing:

The winner is…your GMAT verbal score.

How can this year’s Academy Awards improve your performance on GMAT Sentence Correction? Let’s look at the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture, Argo. The title alone, Argo, brings up two important points about GMAT Sentence Correction:

1) Are

The very presence of the word “are” in the answer choices should get your mind thinking about subject-verb agreement. Verbs make for great decision points – differences between verbs in the answer choices (are vs. is; are going vs. went; etc.) should lead your eye toward a major decision – is the subject singular or plural, and is there a logical timeline for the verb tenses in this question?

When you’re forced to make a distinction between “are” and “is”, you have some work to do. In order to make this type of question difficult, the GMAT will likely throw a bunch of nouns and modifying phrases in between the subject and the verb to try to get you to incorrectly identify the subject. But knowing that you have to make this decision gives you an advantage – you now know that you have to spend some time focusing on the true subject of the sentence. Consider this example:

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

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

Note the difference between A, B, and C – “are” vs. “is” – this tells you that it’s time to thin out the modifying phrases to make sure you’re using the correct subject. And if you do so, you can whittle the sentence down to:

A study finds that there are one phone.

In your own words you can make this decision pretty efficiently – you’d certainly say “there is one phone” (phone is subject, and it’s singular), so you can eliminate A and make your way toward the correct answer, C.

Most importantly, being highly attuned to differences like “are vs. is” (or “have vs. has” or “was vs. were”) can immediately direct you to a binary decision – find the subject via eliminating modifying phrases and you can determine whether you need the singular or the plural.

2) Are going

When answer choices feature multiple verb tenses, like “are going” vs. “has been going”, your job again should become clear – you need to look for signals in the sentence that determine the sequence of events. And one of the more-clever ways that the GMAT can reward shrewd examinees is to employ words like “since” or “from”. Consider this example:

The Academy of Motion Pictures has found that, since stadium-style seating became widespread in cinemas in 2002, over 80% moviegoers are going to modern theaters even when the cost is as much as twice that of the old auditorium-style theaters.

(A) are going
(B) have been going
(C) will go

First, recognize that “are going” (remember the Argo theme…) difference from the other verb tenses in the answer choices. You’re being asked to select the proper verb tense here. The key? Check out the word “since” earlier in the sentence. That word tells you that the action “going” started in the past and has yet to finish – so you must use the “have been going” tense. Signal words like “since” (which leads to the present perfect tense “have been”) or “from” (when you get two past-tense dates “from 2002 to 2006” that requires the past tense) often reside far from the underlined portion, but control the timeline of the sentence and help you to determine which tenses are allowed and which cannot be used. Your clue? The presence of multiple verb tenses in the answer choices should direct you to seek out such signals. If you glossed over the word “since” in your initial pass through the sentence, you’re not alone; but once you knew that you were being asked to determine the correct verb tense as one of the differences between answer choices, you should know to look for time signals and the word “since” should jump off the screen at you.

To summarize, we don’t know whether movies like Argo are going to sweep the Academy Awards, or whether Ben Affleck will finally win another Oscar to pair with his trophy from Good Will Hunting. But we do know this – focusing on words like “are” and phrases like “are going” is a wicked smart idea. The speeches this weekend may be verbose, but if the Oscars help you better direct your attention toward verbs in Sentence Correction answer choices, the next time you hear “the envelope please…” it may well contain that acceptance letter you’ve been hoping for.

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GMAT Tip of the Week: Brought to You by the Letter C

In a Valentine’s Day surprise yesterday, the standard Thursday Veritas Prep staff meeting was crashed by a lovable intruder. Cookie Monster – yes, the one-track-minded carnivore from Sesame Street – barreled into the meeting with a singing telegram for our Director of Admissions Consulting and Worldwide GMAT Instructor of the Year, Travis Morgan. Bearing a message of love and his standard message of “me want cookie”, he also reminded the GMAT staff of why Cookie Monster would fail miserably at the GMAT:

On the GMAT, you cannot have a one-track mind.

If you grew up watching Sesame Street you know all about Cookie Monster’s one-track mind – in his zeal to eat as many cookies as humanly possible (a pretty realistic goal for the toddlers who adore him) he’ll eat absolutely anything: chairs, tables, flowers, whatever you put in front of him. And in a way this caricature of a food-crazed lunatic looks a lot like many GMAT test-takers, who in their zeal to solve quantitative problems will calculate anything that’s put in front of them.

But just as Cookie Monster is designed to be absurd, so is the idea that you must get the right answer to every problem no matter how many calculations similarly absurd. The GMAT will punish that one-track-mindedness the same way that stomach pains will someday punish Cookie Monster’s.

GMAT problems are designed in many cases to waste your time, or rather to waste the time of those not astute enough to see that trap. Some questions are structured so that there’s an easy out for those who recognize it, like:

What is the square root of 5929?

(A) 67
(B) 72
(C) 75
(D) 77
(E) 83

Here you *could* try to square each answer choice, but that math could be pretty time consuming. This type of question is designed to reward you for recognizing that B and C cannot produce a number ending in 9 when squared, and that A is too small (70^2 would be 4900 so 67^2 will be far less than 5929) and E is too big (80^2 would be 6400, so 83^2 will be far too big), leading you to answer choice D.

Other questions may waste your time simply because you fail to see the “missing link”. This happens quite often in geometry – if you don’t see that there’s a direct relationship between supplemental angles or you fail to notice that the radii of a circle must be equal leading to an isosceles triangle in the figure, for example, you could work for several minutes to no avail. But that one-track-mindedness of “I’ll solve this problem or run out of time trying” has befallen many a would-be high-scorer. Years ago the holder of a PhD in engineering from MIT called the Veritas Prep offices in near tears, having well underperformed his expected quantitative score. The reason? He spent close to eight minutes on a problem early in the quant section and knew for certain that he had answered it correctly…but was good enough at math to realize that with an average of 2 minutes per question he had put himself in trouble by spending 4 times that amount on just one question, and he panicked from there.

Similarly, one of the chief architects of the GMAT at GMAC headquarters recounted to us recently that he – a PhD in statistics – encountered the same situation while taking the GMAT for R&D purposes last year. Seeking a perfect score to brag around the office, he encountered a geometry problem that took him several minutes to solve, and at a certain point he had to laugh that “for a living I tell people not to fall into this bottomless pit of time, yet here I am”. When he dub into the administrator account to view his test item-by-item he found this: while he did ultimately get that question right in several more minutes than he’d advise anyone to take on it, it turned out to be an unscored, experimental question that didn’t even count toward his score.

So here’s today’s GMAT lesson, brought to you by the letter C: don’t have a one-track mind on GMAT quant questions. If the calculations look to be too time-consuming or labor-intensive:

1) Try to find a more efficient way, often by considering the answer choices to see if an estimate or a number property can help you avoid the work altogether
2) Know when it’s time to make an educated guess and move on. Pacing is personal – some students can afford 3-4 minutes on one question because they’re so efficient on others, but must cannot. Take practice tests and get a feel for your own pacing and your own barometer for when it’s time to guess and move on. The GMAT is a war, and it’s easy to lose a war when your goal is to win every single battle. Nearly all of us need to retreat on a question here or there to regroup for the ones we can win. Don’t have that one-track “me want correct answer” Cookie Monster mindset – a more flexible frame of mind is your best path to be on your way to where the air is sweet, be it Cambridge, Palo Alto, or whatever campus you want to get to.

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GMAT Tip of the Week: Don’t Fall in Love

As we’ve reached the midpoint between buzzing over Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” intro over the weekend and Valentine’s Day next week, love is in the air. Which is a good thing in most respects, but can be a dangerous one on the GMAT. You might well say that one of the most common mistakes that test-takers make on verbal questions is “love at first sight”.

How does Cupid’s arrow attack your GMAT score?

Often on GMAT verbal problems, one of the first 2-3 answer choices starts to look pretty good to you – it repeats some words from the passage, or includes a grammatical structure that you like, and it gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling that only true love or a confidently correct answer can provide. You get twitterpated, to borrow the line from Bambi that well predates #socialmedia.

And once you’ve fallen in love with that answer, you only have eyes for it – you don’t hold it up to higher scrutiny that might reveal a flaw, and you don’t keep an open mind for future answers. Consider this sample Critical Reasoning question:

Hallmark Executive: In order to stay lean and efficient given the decreasing margins on our greeting card business, we should reduce our number of employees by 10 to 20% in each of our regional facilities. This way, each facility will be forced to work more efficiently and each remaining employee will have a greater incentive to work additional hours to keep her job. With a reduction in staffing we can not only restore our profits to what they were in previous years, we can take them higher.

Which of the following would most weaken the Hallmark executive’s strategy?

(A) Because of natural fatigue, the additional hours worked by each employee could not be as productive as their base hours.

(B) Greeting card sales tend to peak between November and February, and then remain comparatively low for the rest of the year other than a Mother’s Day spike in May.

(C) The predicted boom in e-cards has not made nearly the feared dent in sales of paper cards, at least not for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

(D) According to a report created by management consultants, even a marginal reduction in headcount would cripple most Hallmark facilities’ ability to function.

(E) Hallmark could also increase profits by making up a new romantic holiday; August seems open.

Many on this question tend to fall in love early with A. A suggests a lack of productivity and some diminishing returns of the plan, so especially when compared with B, a throwaway answer, A is easy to fall in love with. But if you fall in love too early, you’ll miss D, which hits the nail exactly on the head. D shows pretty emphatically that “you can’t reduce headcount at all without disastrous consequences”, so D quite clearly weakens the plan. And if you were to then return to A, having kept and open mind and realized that D is at worst “another right answer” (which won’t happen on the GMAT – there’s 1 right and 4 wrong), you’d then compare the two and realize that A doesn’t really weaken it. A shows that the *extra* hours won’t be as productive as the previous hours, but even getting 40 great hours and 15 lackluster hours out of an employee is better than getting just 40 great hours. So A looks good at first glance, but if you hold it up to higher levels of scrutiny it fails that test.

The key? Be more DiCaprio or Clooney than Taylor Swift – when it comes to GMAT answer choice love keep your options open and don’t fall in love too soon.

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GMAT Tip of the Week: Pairs Probability (And How You Can Use It to Win Super Bowl Bets)

GMAT Tip of the WeekIf you’re like many this weekend, you’ll do some gambling on the Super Bowl. Whether it’s a squares pool at a Super Bowl party, some prop bets in Vegas, or a mayoral contest between the chief executives of Baltimore and San Francisco (Rice-a-Roni against some DVDs of The Wire?), you’ll have opportunities to either win or lose based on probability. So here’s a tip that can help you on both football bets and the GMAT:

People are generally pretty bad at pairs probability.

Here’s an example – if you were to bet a friend on “will this year’s Super Bowl champion repeat as next year’s Super Bowl champion?”, your friend might see the *random* odds as 1/64 (since the GMAT only deals in random probability, we’ll take actual talent, coaching, contract status, draft position out of the equation!). That’s because, in order for the 49ers, say, to repeat, they’ll have to win this year’s championship (a 1/2 chance) and then next year’s championship (and they’re 1 team out of 32).

But this is wrong – your bet doesn’t ask for the probability of one *particular* team winning both Super Bowls, but rather the probability of “this year’s champion” (whichever team wins) doing it again next year. This year’s probability does not matter! Someone will win, and so you’re only concerned with that team’s (whatever it is – and there’s a 100% probability that there will be a winner) probability of repeating. Whatever that team is will have a 1/32 chance (again, just keeping it random) of repeating.

This is a concept that does get tested on the GMAT, and when it does there’s always a trap answer. Consider the question:

On three consecutive flips of a coin, what is the probability that all three produce the same result?

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

The trap answer here is 1/8 – you might look at this as a 1/2 probability on the first flip, then a 1/2 on the second, and a 1/2 on the third for a 1/8 probability, but remember – in this case the result of the first flip doesn’t have to be one or the other. Your job is just to match whatever the first result was on the next two. If the first was heads, then you need heads next (a 1/2 chance) and heads again (a 1/2 chance). And if it were tails, then you need tails (1/2) then tails (1/2). But because “any match will do” and you don’t care that it’s a specific match – the question doesn’t specify all heads or all tails, just “all of one of them” – your probability doubles because you’re not concerned about the result of the first event, you’re only concerned about matching whatever that result was.

So for probability questions that ask about pairs or matches, remember:

1) Check whether you need a *specific* pair/match or not.
2) If you don’t need a specific pair, but “any pair will do,” then the probability of the first result is 100% – something will happen.
3) If you need to guess, keep in mind that if it’s an unspecified pair/match, it’s almost certain that one of the trap answers will be a smaller number than the correct answer (in the above case, 1/8 is a trap and 1/4 is correct), so you can confidently rule out the smallest number and use number properties to try to eliminate another 1-2 answers.

Oh, and remember that your friends are probably pretty bad at pairs probability, too (nearly everyone is, especially after drinking a few of the products that will be advertised throughout the Super Bowl), so feel free to use the true pairs probabilities to your advantage on some prop bets.

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GMAT Tip of the Week: 8 Things to Know About Your 8-minute Breaks

GMAT Tip of the WeekIf you’re a regular reader of this corner of the Veritas Prep blog, you should know that we like to take Friday mornings to identify something newsworthy and relate it to the GMAT. But this week, the trivial-enough-to-blog news cycle has seemed to take a break. Manti Te’o is old news, the NFL playoffs are in their bye week before the Super Bowl… When the world takes a break, what’s a GMAT blogger to do?

Take a break. Or, rather, write about the ever-important 8-minute breaks between sections on the GMAT. Here are 8 things you should know about your 8-minute breaks:

1) Eight isn’t a lot, but Eight is Enough

In the early 2000s, GMAT breaks were 5 minutes, but in that “take a five” Hollywood style where no one was really counting. Then they became hard-cutoff 10-minute breaks, in which if you came back to your computer after 11 minutes, a minute would have already elapsed from your next section. Then, around 2010, the folks at GMAC and Pearson/VUE (the set of test centers where the GMAT is administered) proved that they’re great at business – by cutting the breaks down by 20%, from 10 to 8 minutes, they could run more people through the test center more quickly. So now your break is a hard 8 minutes, which can seem pretty short.

But if 8 minutes is good enough for an ab workout, 8 is enough…provided you use it wisely. Don’t plan to do much more than grab a quick snack, a drink of water, and restroom break, but since that’s likely all you need anyway you can get it done. But word to the wise – practice 8-minute breaks in your study sessions and practice tests so that you know what it feels like and what you can accomplish. Eight minutes is enough, but not much more than that.

2) Eight minutes includes the time it takes to check out and back in

Here’s where practicing with eight-minute breaks can be extremely helpful. At least a minute of that is already spoken-for. You need to check out and then back in with the proctor (for security reasons), so you need to be mindful that you’re not dealing with eight minutes of “free time”, but rather eight minutes to accomplish the entire break, from leaving your chair to sitting back down.

3) Your break starts immediately when you click “yes” and ends immediately after eight minutes

When you’re eligible for a break, the computer will inform you of that and ask you if you want to take it. Once you click “Yes”, your break time starts. And when 8 minutes has elapsed, the break is over and the clock will begin counting down on the next section, whether you’re ready or not. On the plus side, however, your break only begins when you’re done with the previous section (or when the clock runs out on it), so if you do have a few minutes left in a section and want to let your mind rest a moment, you can create yourself a mini-break by waiting to submit your answer to the last question. So if you’re efficient on a particular section, you can earn yourself a small break before the official 8-minute break, and many test-takers find that it’s helpful to catch your breath and let your mind rest before you dive into the slightly-rushed 8-minute respite from your computer.

4) You cannot study during your break

GMAC has cancelled the scores of students who “use study aids” during a break, so don’t plan to bring any notes or books to the test center with you. Even if a proctor sees a GMAT book or notebook in your hand as you’re shuffling items in your locker to grab a snack or stow a sweater, that can be grounds for score cancellation. You don’t have time to study, anyway, so planning to do so wouldn’t help your score. Don’t even take the risk.

5) You cannot talk to anyone during your break

Talking to anyone about the test is also grounds for score cancellation, so don’t take the risk. Smile, hold a door – be polite, but don’t ask anyone “how’s your test going?” or comment “wow, that was a rough quant section”. If the proctor has reason to believe that you’re communicating about the test, she can cancel your score, so keep your break quiet and efficient.

6) Breaks can be extremely important for your mind and body

By the end of your test, you’ll likely have been testing for about four hours (the official test administration time is 3:30, but when you incorporate breaks, tutorials, checking in for the test, filling out the demographic info, etc. it will approach 4:00). And with the combination of nerves, mental focus, intellectual challenge, etc., that time can take a toll on you. Breaks are a good chance to relax your mind and change mental gears (from math to verbal, for example); breaks are a great opportunity to take in a quick snack to provide energy and keep your blood sugar up; and breaks provide you with the opportunity to use the restroom so that you can avoid that mental anguish that comes from nature’s call. With most students needing to take just about the entire time on each section, you don’t have time to lose during the test from dealing with bodily needs, so use the break wisely. Four consecutive hours at a computer terminal solving mind puzzles isn’t entirely natural for any of us, so the breaks can be essential for taking care of your mind and body.

7) You must click “yes” to take your break

When the computer asks you if you want to take a break, make sure that you click “yes” before you leave your chair. At least one student in the recent past has reported that he walked away too early, and the default setting after that question was up for a minute was “no”, so when he returned to his seat after his 8-minute break, the clock had been ticking for 7 minutes on the next section. Make sure you click yes and get clearance from the proctor so that your break doesn’t cost you any time.

8) Breaks make for great transitions

A four hour test can seem daunting and can get exhausting, and the GMAT is structured so that mental fatigue or doubt can cost you dearly. The verbal section comes last, and so you will undoubtedly need to read a boring Reading Comprehension passage after you’ve already been at the test center for >3 hours and your mind is at its least receptive to new information. But here’s where the break can help you – if you break the GMAT up into three completely separate sections (AWA/IR; then Quant; then Verbal) and use the breaks to flush your mind from stress/doubt/frustration/concentration on the previous section and set it fresh to the next section, you can make the test much more manageable. It’s not at all uncommon for test-takers to still be thinking about a frustrating Data Sufficiency question even after ten verbal questions, but by that point that quant question is long gone and can only be detrimental to your verbal performance. Make the breaks a major dividing line between sections – use them to forget the previous section and gear up for the next section, and the GMAT becomes a much more manageable test and your mind can become significantly sharper.

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

GMAT Tip of the Week: Effectively Attacking Must Be True Questions

GMAT Tip of the WeekOne of the more-dreaded types of GMAT Problem Solving questions is the “must be true” question with three statements; these questions often look like:

If 20x = 49y, which of the following must be true?

I.      x > y
II.    x2  > y2
III.  x/7 is an integer

 

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

These problems can be daunting, mainly because:

  1. They’re multiple problems in one, as you have three relationships you have to deal with.
  2. It can be difficult to know if something is “always true” – how many possibilities do you try before you conclude that it’s always true?

But rest assured – there’s an efficient method for these types of questions that puts all the common GMAT trap answers firmly on your side by doing what human beings do best: be critical!

The opposite of “Must Be True” is “Could be False”, so instead of trying to prove that something is always true, you can use process of elimination (and your natural inclination to be critical) by trying to find one situation in which each of the statements could be false.  And the best way to do this is to go on the attack – use all the “weird” numbers that tend to trap you, as your weapons against the test.  “Weird” numbers like negatives, 0, and fractions tend to give the alternative answer, so you should keep those in mind as weapons that allow you to attack that idea that a statement must be true.

In the above question, for example, your goal should be to try to disprove each statement.  If you can find just one set of numbers x and y for which x is not greater than y but 20x = 49y, you can confidently eliminate statement I.  So try to attack, and use the GMAT’s tendencies against it.  “Equal to” is not the same thing as “greater than”, so you actually don’t have to find a case where x is less than y if you can just make them equal.   With that in mind, try using one the all time “gamechanger” numbers, 0.  If x and y each equal 0, the given statement is true (0 does equal 0), but both statements I and II are not, as x equals y and x-squared equals y-squared. So by going on the attack and using strange numbers to your advantage, you can quickly eliminate two statements at once.  And look now at the answer choices – there isn’t a choice for “none of the above”…so the answer simply must be C.

More important than this example is the set of takeaways, so for Must Be True questions, remember:

  1. Go on the attack and try to find a situation for each statement in which it is not true. It’s almost always easier to find one example of a “false” than it is to systematically prove that it’s always true.
  2. To effectively attack, consider those “weird” numbers like negatives, nonintegers, and 0.  Many fear these types of numbers as traps…but they’re also your weapons against the test.
  3. Consider the layout of the answer choices as an asset, too – with three statements and only five answer choices, the test can’t ask you about every possible combination, so sometimes you can save the “hardest” statement for last and end up not even having to deal with it because you’ve eliminated the other answer choices.

So don’t fear “Must Be True” questions – with some technique, strategy, and practice these questions that many feel must be feared can actually become those that you must get right.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We run a free online GMAT prep seminar every couple of weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Tip of the Week: It’s Not the End of the World

So here we are. December 21, 2012. If the Mayans are right, you’re absolutely wasting your time reading this, as if this really is the end of the world then b-schools will cease to exist, too, so why are you thinking about applications and GMAT scores?

Probably because it’s not actually the end of the world. If, like most rational thinkers, you realize that today is not the end of the world, you might as well heed Fleetwood Mac’s advice and not stop thinking about tomorrow. Here’s where you have a leg up on the competition – you realize that today is not the end of the world, and that attitude will help you on the GMAT, where because of the adaptive scoring algorithm missing a question is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s far from it.

The way the scoring algorithm is structured, everyone misses questions. The algorithm’s job is to determine your ability level by showing you questions that will provide it with more information about your level. If your previous answers suggest that you’re somewhere between the 70th and 80th percentile, the test will likely ask a question for which people at the 80th percentile or above usually get it right and those at the 70th or below usually get it wrong. Based on your answer, the algorithm has a better feel for the probability that you’re nearer to the 80th percentile or the 70th. But even if you get it wrong, that only changes the probability…it doesn’t flat out tell the computer that you’re incapable of scoring above that mark. You will have opportunities to overcome that mistake by getting future questions right – the algorithm is self-correcting and focuses much more on probabilities than absolutes.

The converse is also true – a correct answer only tells the computer that your probability of a score above that mark is higher than initially thought. But many a test-taker has won the battle but lost the war so to speak – a right answer that takes you more than 3-4 minutes is often much worse for your score than a wrong answer in a minute, because it almost ensures that you’ll get another question or two wrong later on as you begin to run short on time.

So what does this all mean for you?

  • Don’t sweat a handful of questions that look impossible. Almost everyone guesses at least a couple times, and everyone misses questions. This isn’t just a self-esteem affirmation (“even though this question is hard I’m still smart…”) it’s just sound strategy.
  • Don’t let any one question become your Waterloo – if you don’t see where you’re going in 45 seconds to a minute, it’s not worth spending several minutes to probably still get it wrong. Make an educated guess and move on.
  • Whether a question seems too easy or too hard, remember that no one question is the end of the world. You get plenty of opportunities to counterbalance one mistake, and the worst thing you can do is let doubt or frustration creep into your mind.

If you’re reading this today, December 21, we promise that the sun will come out tomorrow. And whenever you take the GMAT, remember that whatever your answer to the question you’re on, the next question will come…unless you let that one question take enough time to last until the end of the test. That’s the only way that any one question will become the end of the world.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We run a free online GMAT prep seminar every couple of weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Flipping Sentence Correction Upside Down

GMAT Tip Upside DownFor many GMAT test-takers, one of the most challenging tasks on the exam is that of weeding through the clutter on Sentence Correction questions to arrive at an actionable decision point. So many Sentence Correction questions involve a lot of dense language and not-altogether-enjoyable subject matter, and as a result students spend a lot of time spinning their wheels trying to even get going.

To train yourself to cut through this problem, try this drill:
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Becoming a Sentence Correction Pro Through Pronouns

Many test-takers lament the very presence of Sentence Correction questions, feeling overwhelmed as they study grammar rules and still overwhelmed as they look at practice questions and cannot determine where to start. Sentence Correction can be daunting – the English language is far from binary in its usage (“I before E except after C”…and even that has a bunch of extra caveats), and the questions themselves are specifically designed to make finding your Decision Points difficult.

So how can Sentence Correction amateurs become pros?
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Warm Up

Baby, it’s cold outside. Pretty much no matter where you are while you read this, it’s cold right now (even here in Los Angeles), and whether it’s by blankets, Starbucks holiday drinks, or thermal underwear, you’re probably hoping to warm up. Which is actually good advice for the GMAT, too, just in a slightly different way.

En route to blowing his previous practice tests out of the water on the real thing last week, one of our professional athlete students remarked this about his GMAT studies: “I’d never go play a big game with cold muscles, so why would I try to attempt this big test without warming up my mind?” And so it began – before each practice test or study session, he’s grab 1-2 easy questions of each type, remind himself of the thought process and parameters from each question, and then dive into the more-challenging questions as a well-oiled machine.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Nate Silver Projects Your GMAT Score Improvement

As Twitter has confirmed, the real winner in this week’s U.S. Elections was Nate Silver, the statistician behind fivethirtyeight.com and the prognosticator who called nearly every national race correctly, save for one senate race in North Dakota. Famously, he predicted each state’s presidential race correctly and he’s risen to prominence with a role on the New York Times and with his new book “The Signal and the Noise.” So with Nate Silver taking statistical analysis to heights that Moneyball only hoped to, it’s only fitting that we close this week by summoning our inner Silver and taking a statistical dive at GMAT questions.

Polling isn’t new, nor is statistical analysis. So why is Nate Silver so much more successful than others when it comes to using statistics to project outcomes? If we understood completely, we’d be writing a different article for a lot more money on a more-heavily-trafficked blog, but the layman’s answer is largely that he takes time to determine which statistics are most relevant to the outcome, and focuses his energy on those. And that’s what you should do when you analyze your GMAT practice tests and consume information about the GMAT – cut to the most meaningful statistics and focus your energy there.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Jobs Report, Statistics, and Critical Reasoning

So it is upon us. The much-anticipated final Jobs Report before the 2012 Presidential Election has been released, and its results will fuel debates all weekend and can have a significant impact on your GMAT verbal score if you pay attention to the arguments that surround it.

Here’s what happened – the American economy added 171,000 new jobs, beating economists’ predictions by a healthy margin (good news?) but the unemployment rate ticked up a tenth of a point from last month’s figure (bad news?). And in full GMAT Critical Reasoning mode, pundits and political representatives immediately began using those statistics to draw unsupported conclusions. Check out these Critical Reasoning style Weaken questions you could make from today’s arguments:
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GMAT Tip of the Week: GMAT Questions in Halloween Costume

Happy Halloween Weekend, readers (and, yes, we do find it odd that for this generation Halloween now spans several days and seems to have more relevance for 20-somethings than does pretty much any other holiday, but we’re not complaining).

As you put the final touches on your Halloween costume for the weekend – our ever-on-the-pulse-of-costume-popularity coworker, Jason (2010 – Antoine Dodson; 2011- Angry Birds. Every year he’s ahead of the curve on “most popular costume”) is going as Gangam Style – it’s not a bad time to keep your eyes one one of the next hallmarks of the fall-winter calendar, Round Two Application Deadlines. And here’s where the two coincide:
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Larry Rudner is not Candy Crowley. Timing Matters!

There’s a lot you can learn about your GMAT preparation everywhere you look… even in the cutthroat world of American politics. Yes, even watching two Harvard grads snarl at each other can help you become a better GMAT student and, ultimately, a higher score on the exam.

If you watched the U.S. Presidential Debate this week, you hopefully saw a lot of similarities between you and the candidates:
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Make Your GMAT Game Complete, Like Justin Verlander

Within hours of the Detroit Tigers’ blown Game 4 lead against the Oakland A’s, ensuring a fifth and decisive game of the American League Divisional Series, devastated (and exhausted) Detroiters started watching their Facebook and Twitter feeds fill with an internet meme that would prove prophetic:

Justin Verlander the Game Five pitcher, with the slogan “Everybody Chill Out…I Got This”

And “got this” he did, pitching a complete and dominant game, shutting out the A’s and seemingly inspiring run support from what had been dead bats all series. And in doing so, Verlander showed you how to raise your game for the GMAT. He made it known loud and clear – not necessarily from his words but from his actions, demeanor, and commitment, that he was finishing the job no matter what — he wouldn’t hand the ball off to a relief pitcher if there were any way to avoid it.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Avoid Beer Goggles on Verbal Questions

It’s Friday, so if you’re in the GMAT’s general demographic range (20-something, college grad, young professional) there’s a good chance you’ll hit a bar tonight. And there you may have a chance to witness (or experience) an age-old phenomenon that just may help you avoid a common pitfall on the GMAT:

Beer goggles.

If you’re unfamiliar, the general idea behind beer goggles is this – as the night goes on and you consume more alcohol, some options that you might not have considered early in the night begin to look a lot more alluring. And this concept doesn’t just apply to barroom romances – it’s actually a common mistake that people make on the GMAT. Here’s how that typically goes:
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Math Knowledge is Often Insufficient on Data Sufficiency

If you’re like many GMAT test-takers trying to bump up against that “glass ceiling” of 700, you may be frustrated that you keep studying and drilling math concepts and problems but you’re still not improving on Data Sufficiency questions. Does that sound like you?

If so, there’s a reason. While Data Sufficiency both involves math and appears on the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GMAT, it’s not simply a math question. It’s a logic puzzle that hinges on math concepts, and your ability to embrace that subtle difference might just be the difference between reaching your goal score and falling short. For example, consider a few Data Sufficiency questions that employ Geometry principles – as Geometry tends to be among the topics for which students study the most “stuff”.
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GMAT Tip of The Week: One Word – Arithmetic

If the political convention season had one theme in its most-talked-about speeches, it was essentially this: interviewing presidents. Last week, Clint Eastwood owned the Twittersphere with his interview of an invisible Barack Obama, who responded to those questions with exactly zero words (largely because he wasn’t actually there).

And in this past Wednesday’s most-Tweeted-about speech of the DNC, Bill Clinton talked about a question that he’s frequently asked in interviews, and one of his signature lines of the night was his one-word response: Arithmetic.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: GMAT Success The Clint Eastwood Way

If Clint Eastwood went ahead and made anyone’s day last night, it was probably Jon Stewart’s or Stephen Colbert’s, as the legendary film star stole the show at last night’s GOP convention and launched himself to the top of social media trend charts. It can be debated whether Eastwood’s unique speech hit or missed the mark; whether those that invited him were pleased or disappointed with his performance; or whether Saturday Night Live’s forthcoming impression will be one for the ages.

But what cannot be debated is this – by spending some time holding a conversation with an empty chair, Clint Eastwood taught you an important GMAT test-day lesson:
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Critical Reasoning, Statistics, and Lance Armstrong

With this week’s Lance Armstrong news and this blog’s history of rolling cycling news into GMAT tip posts, it’s only natural that today’s GMAT tip will involve that news. We’ll reserve judgment on the Armstrong case, specifically, but let’s use the situation to talk about GMAT Critical Reasoning and the way that it often uses statistics in arguments to assess your ability to think critically.

Consider an argument such as:

A test to denote the presence of a particular performance enhancing drug is known to be accurate in 95% of its cases. A certain athlete’s sample has tested positive for the presence of that drug. Therefore, by virtue of this test, we can conclude that it is far more likely than not that the athlete used that drug.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Bolting Your Way to GMAT Success

One of this weekend’s most popular barroom debates will be this: Is Usain Bolt the greatest sprinter of all time? The greatest Olympian of all time? The Muhammad Ali for this generation?

If you missed it, Usain Bolt tacked on another gold medal last night, winning the 200 meters in 19.32 seconds having eased up to celebrate in the waning meters. While this on-the-run celebration certainly cost him an Olympic record (19.30) and potentially even a world record (19.19), it didn’t cost him the race as he remained ahead of teammate Yohan Blake en route to the win. In doing so, Bolt laid claim with his back-to-back 100 AND 200 meter titles to his place as the Ali-esque Greatest of All Time. And, inadvertently, he may have helped you better understand how to perform on the GMAT with regard to pacing, as the 200 meter dash provides a nice parallel to how you should pace yourself on the GMAT.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Fall in Love with the Correct Data Sufficiency Answer, Bachelor-Style

This week’s GMAT Tip of the Week comes from David Newland, a Veritas Prep GMAT prep instructor based in Boston.

There is a show on ABC on Monday nights that — in my opinion — has almost no redeeming qualities. However, this show does demonstrate a very important facet of data sufficiency. The show is called “The Bachelor” and it features one unmarried man, the bachelor, who claims to be tired of being single and looking to get married. The process of selecting a bride is conducted like a game show. Dozens of women are brought out and the bachelor slowly sifts through them eliminating them or keeping them around by giving them a rose. At the end the bachelor proposes to the chosen woman and they live happily ever after…that is until a few months later — surprise, surprise — we learn that the relationship did not work out. What could have gone wrong? Isn’t this the way all successful relationships begin — on a game show?
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Lin-tegrated Reasoning

Back in February, the entire sporting world succumbed to (Jeremy) Linsanity. But, alas, the GMAT world was months away from the perfect Lin-guistic technique, using “Lin” as a Lintroductory term for “Integrated Reasoning.” So it was with great fanfare this week that Jeremy Lin leaped right back to the top of the news wire, signing with the Houston Rockets and not only creating an opportunity for a fantastic pun with Lintegrated Reasoning, but demonstrating — to the dismay of the world MBA capital, New York City – how to think strategically on Integrated Reasoning questions.

Many IR questions will involve the use of not just math, but “strategic math.” The Houston Rockets’ offer sheet to Lin – a sheet that could have been matched by the Knicks – wasn’t entirely noteworthy in its size. $25 million over 3 years isn’t at all an unconscionable contract for a starting point guard, and Lin is a special case in his marketability. Overseas broadcast rights, jersey sales, ticket sales – Lin has the potential to recoup that investment quickly.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Conclusions Matter

On the GMAT, Critical Reasoning problems often ask you to strengthen a conclusion, weaken a conclusion, or determine an assumption necessary for the conclusion to hold true. In any of these cases, it is of prime importance that you know exactly what the conclusion is saying; otherwise, it can be easy for your answer choice to miss the mark.

It’s therefore important to ensure that you correctly identify the conclusion of the argument, and to make doing so a priority. There are four clues to determine the conclusion of a Critical Reasoning argument, any of which should help you determine which statement is the argument’s conclusion:

1) Conclusion language such as “thus” or “therefore”

2) A call for action, such as “they must…” or “we should…”
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Outkast Teaches Integrated Reasoning

Now that Integrated Reasoning is here to stay on the GMAT, it’s time to, as Outkast would say, “hush that fuss” about how to avoid IR for your fall application or why IR is a new behemoth worthy of fear. As we’ve mentioned many times in this space, IR isn’t as “new” as the hype would suggest. And to conquer it, it’s probably best to heed some other advice from Outkast and specifically from Andre 3000 (not his SAT score) in the song “Roses”:

Now even though
You’d need a golden calculator
To divide

The time it takes to look inside and realize
That real guys
Go for real, down-to-Mars girls

(From the refrain)
But lean a little bit closer
See that roses really smell like poo-poo

What is Andre 3000’s IR advice here? Integrated Reasoning might make you think that you need a “golden calculator” to divide…and the IR format provides you with an on-screen calculator. But lean a little bit closer – roses sometimes smell like, well, poo-poo. In other words, the calculator can be fool’s gold and much less golden than it is pyrite.

After all, this is the GMAT. And the Quantitative Reasoning section focuses on conceptual understanding and mental agility with numbers. You’ve trained for critical thinking with math for Data Sufficiency and quick calculations or estimates without a calculator for problem solving. Why would Integrated Reasoning be that much different?

Here’s why the golden calculator on IR might actually smell like poo-poo. Consider this sequence of calculations:

2 + 4 * 3

The answer is 14, right? Order of operations dictates that you do the multiplication first. But on the single-function calculator, the program will add 2 + 4 first, giving you 18. And if you’re relying solely on the calculator without critical thinking, you’ll fall into that trap.

Consider another example:

A team of 17 elementary school students will form a relay team for a 3-mile race. If each student runs the same distance, approximately how many feet will each need to run (1 mile = 5,280 feet)?

Answers: Between 800 and 900; Between 900 and 1000; Between 1000 and 1100; Between 1100 and 1200

You *could* use the calculator to type in 3 * 5,280 / 17. But look at how many keystrokes that is and how much room for error exists if you miskey a digit. You’re already thinking in terms of divisibility. 5,280 is just above 5,100, which is 17*300. So each runner will need to run just above 300 feet per mile, and there are three miles. The answer has to be between 900 and 1000, and you can quickly do that math in your head without the margin for typo-error. Note that most calculations on the IR section do not require precise answers – they’re generally asking for ranges. You can do most of the math by recognizing divisibility the same way you would on the cleaner-number Problem Solving questions.

Now, for one calculation, the above problem might go just as quickly with the calculator. But consider a question such as:

City Amount Saved Total Budget
Andersonville $8,225 $47,975
Bronxtown $16,750 $142,950
Chadwick $3,925 $20,325
Dodgeville $3,350 $16,275
Edgewater $13,100 $51,675

Which city had the lowest savings as a percentage of its total budget?

You wouldn’t want to key in this many division problems, but you don’t have to. You can simply use fractions and divisibility. You’re looking for the lowest fraction of left column to right column. A is approximately 1/6; B is less than 1/7; C is around 1/4; D is around 1/5; E is around 1/4. B wins, and you could do this by recognizing that the “golden calculator” might actually smell like poo-poo. On most questions, the calculator is for business school outcasts. Take a lesson from Outkast: avoid the calculator when you can, keeping your math so fresh and so clean.

Are you taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting around the world in just a couple of weeks! And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Why You Should Care That the GMAT Is Computer-Adaptive

If you’ve spent more than ten minutes researching the GMAT, you probably know that it’s a computer-adaptive test (CAT). As the name suggests, the GMAT is administered via computer, and it adapts to you based on how you do on each question. By “adapts,” we mean that it decides what question to show you next based on how you’ve done on your previous questions. At any given point in the exam, the test has a best guess as to your ability level, and it keeps serving questions to try to get an even more accurate read on you.

A more simplistic way to phrase that last statement would be: “Get a question right, and the next question gets harder.” But what’s “harder” to one person may not be for another person. The GMAT has a humongous (that’s the technical term) bank of questions, and each one is effective teasing out differences among test takers around a certain ability level. A given question might be too basic to tease out the difference between 700- and 750-level test takers, while another might be too advanced to tell apart 580- and 630-level test takers. When we say that a question is “easier” or “harder” than the last, that’s what we mean.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Laughter Is the Best Medicine for a Low GMAT Score

Today Veritas Prep GMAT prep instructor extraordinaire David Newland provides some insights on overcoming anxiety on test day. Read on… This is really interesting advice that can significantly improve your performance and help you reach your maximum potential on the GMAT!

For the last 15 years a wave of laughter has swept across one of the largest countries in the world. Why are so many people in India laughing? Is it because they have just spoken to some American and are amazed at the crazy way that most Americans speak “English”? No. The laughter is coming from “laughing clubs” where people practice “laughter yoga.” Now maybe those of you who have not heard of laughter yoga are laughing a bit at the whole concept… That would be music to the ears of Dr. Kataria the founder of laughter yoga.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Dave Chappelle Shows You How to Think Like the Testmaker

Repeatedly in this space, you’ve read the theme “Think Like the Testmaker,” an important mantra for success on the GMAT. Also important – knowing precisely what that means, and what it doesn’t. The Veritas Prep emphasis on “Think Like the Testmaker”:

– DOES NOT mean that you somehow need to play mindreader, that GMAT questions are subjective and if you don’t share the testmaker’s opinion or style you’ll get questions wrong. GMAT questions are binary – there are four incorrect answers and one correct answer every time. Even if a question asks you to select “the best” answer, you’re really trying to select “the correct” answer. The other four will be fatally flawed.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Queme Los Barcos on Integrated Reasoning

If you’re reading this post in preparation for the GMAT, you are in luck:

You’re taking the Integrated Reasoning section.

After a few months of handwringing over whether to rush to take the “old” GMAT or to instead take the “new” GMAT, those taking the test after today have just one choice: take the GMAT. Which happens to include Integrated Reasoning. Queme los barcos.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Looks Can Be Deceiving in Integrated Reasoning

With just over a week to go until the debut of the Integrated Reasoning section, “Integrated Reasoning” Google searches are up just about as much as Facebook stock is down. With that in mind, let’s discuss the Graphics Interpretation question type through the lens of the stock market to show you how the creators of the GMAT will use your mind’s natural tendencies against you.

Do you have an iPhone? If so, pull up the “Stocks” app and look at the graph at the bottom of the page. What you see will look something like this:
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GMAT Tip of the Week: A Little Bit of Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Sun Tzu is famous for saying, in The Art of War, “know thy enemy, know thy self” (a loose translation, but that’s the famous quotation that has lasted centuries). And while at Veritas Prep we hesitate to call the authors of the GMAT “thy enemy,” we still advocate that you learn to Think Like the Testmaker, much as Sun Tzu would advise, and to think about how well the testmaker knows yourself.

Know this about “thy enemy” — the makers of the GMAT will admit that theirs is a test of “higher order thinking”, of your ability to think critically, solve problems efficiently, and otherwise demonstrate not merely that you have knowledge but that when you do have knowledge you can leverage it to greater gain. For this reason, the test is obligated to use tricks, shortcuts, and partial knowledge against you if that’s all you bring to the table on harder questions; at some point in the 500s/600s, the test has to determine not just “who studied” but “who can really think and problem solve”. And for that reason, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously

Read that sentence from the title again (please…in honor of Mothers Day we should certainly mind our Ps and Qs!): Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. Does that make any sense?

Not at all, but grammarians have to admit that *grammatically* it’s not a flawed sentence, in that it proceeds with Adjective, Adjective, Plural Noun, Plural Verb, Adverb. This sentence, coined by Noam Chomsky in his 1957 book Syntactic Structures, shows the necessity in language of not merely grammatical correctness, but logical meaning as well. And as you’ll note, this concept of “logical meaning” is one that has become increasingly common in these GMAT-themed blog circles of late, and one that has traditionally appeared on this blog in years past. Consider another, more GMAT-relevant sentence:
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Hiding in Plain Sight

On the GMAT, Data Sufficiency questions can be tricky. But perhaps most frustrating about Data Sufficiency questions are those that somehow trick you when, upon further review, they gave you absolutely everything you needed. When you look back at them, you can’t believe that you got them wrong – but you should also notice patterns in why you did. One common way that an in-hindsight-pretty-straightforward question can be extremely challenging involves the “hiding” of pertinent information in the question stem itself, where the testmakers know that you’re apt to read quickly in your haste to get to the statements. Consider the question:

If xy < 0, is x/y > z?

(1) xyz < 0 (2) x > yz
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Being Larry Rudner

As you study for the GMAT, it is important that you recognize that the GMAT is not a test of memory or knowledge, but rather of higher-order thinking, problem solving, and true understanding. If you’ve begun studying at the memorization/knowledge level, you may already be appalled at the title of this post (“Being! It’s wrong…it’s wrong!”). But that title – which employs correct usage of “being” – should indicate a better way of studying for a reasoning-based test. In this post, we’ll explain how.

First things first: Dr. Lawrence Rudner is considered by most to be the guru of the GMAT. He oversees the administration of the GMAT for the Graduate Management Admissions Council, shaping the scoring algorithm and the direction of question creation and implementation. So as you aspire to “Think Like the Testmaker” to fully understand the GMAT and how to succeed on it, in a way you’re hoping to think as much like Dr. Rudner as possible. Hopefully you learned in high school and college that the topics most favored by your professor were the most likely to appear on the exam; similarly, on the GMAT, if you can understand how questions are written and what they are trying to assess, you can become a much more effective studier and examinee.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: The Driving Force Behind Your GMAT Study

If you’re like many of us at Veritas Prep Headquarters in Los Angeles, you spend an undue amount of time driving, and driving in heavy traffic. But if you find that you’re spending too much time driving and that you need to spend more time studying for the GMAT, you’re in luck! Driving and the GMAT go hand in hand, in a way, and there are two major ways that you can use your drive time to become a better GMAT test taker:

1) Driving lets you use a lot of mental, GMAT-style math

2) Driving is a metaphor for GMAT reasoning

Let’s start with mental math. You should know that the GMAT tests a lot of Number Properties, Divisibility and Factors, Rate Problems, and calculations that are done much quicker without doing problems fully by hand. And you should also notice that, while you’re driving, you’re absolutely bombarded with numbers in that GMAT style. So even if you’re just driving from Santa Monica to San Diego for the weekend, you can sharpen your mental math skills by nothing things like:
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Opening Day

For Major League Baseball fans, this week marks Opening Day, the dawn of a new season and the unofficial beginning of spring. For GMAT test-takers, Opening Day of the new Integrated Reasoning section is two months away…and sadly most GMAT examinees don’t quite see that Opening Day with as much hope and promise as baseball fans have for their opener. But the two Opening Days have some direct similarities, and understanding those similarities can help you to see the IR Opening Day with much more promise and excitement.

If you saw any of the MLB Opening Day on ESPN yesterday, you likely watched MVP / Cy Young winner Justin Verlander throw an 8-inning, 2-hit gem. And if you listened to the commentary by Orel Hershiser and Terry Francona, they cited two things that make Verlander such an incredible pitcher:

-He’s very versatile, with the ability to throw several pitches masterfully
-He gets stronger as the game goes on, throwing some of his fastest pitches in the later innings

Those qualities will be essential for those taking the Integrated Reasoning section on Opening Day in June and beyond. To succeed on the IR section and the GMAT as a whole, you need to:

-Be versatile
-Stay strong throughout the exam

So let’s discuss those qualities.

BE VERSATILE

The Integrated Reasoning question types will require you to use combinations of skills and abilities. Many questions will come in the form of “which of the following conclusions can be drawn from the (chart/graph/email thread/etc.)?”. This means that you will need to use your Critical Reasoning abilities, determining which conclusions “MUST BE TRUE” (to which the answer is “yes, this conclusion can be drawn”) and which just “MIGHT BE TRUE” (in which case that conclusion cannot be drawn). But many of these questions will involve math, meaning that you will need to perform some mental calculations in order to determine that conclusion. For example, a portion of the prompt on a Multi-Source Reasoning question might include:

REALTOR, TALKING TO THE SELLERS OF A HOME: Based on my experience, I expect that you can counter at a price of $345,000, and still end up agreeing on a price that is no lower than 10% below your asking price.

And the question might ask whether the following conclusion can be drawn from that information:

CONCLUSION: The sellers’ initial asking price is greater than $380,000.

Here you need to be versatile, using mathematical skills to determine the maximum asking price. If $345k is “no less than 10% below”, then $345,000 > Asking Price – 10%(Asking Price). And here’s where versatility can be extremely helpful – if you don’t want to do that math, you can also set the line at $380,000. 10% of $380,000 is $38,000, which means that any price less than $342,000 would be more than 10% off of an asking price of $380,000 or above. But because $345,000 is therefore in the range of “no less than 10% off of a price greater than $380,000” and “no less than 10% off of a price slightly less than $380,000”, the conclusion COULD BE TRUE but does not HAVE TO BE TRUE.

In other words, here is where the math is essential to finding that range (yes, an asking price over $380,000 is possible), but you cannot simply turn off your logical reasoning abilities either. The math is only part of the question. IR will require you to be Verlanderly Versatile.

GET STRONGER AS THE TEST GOES ON

The other important characteristic on the Next-Generation GMAT will be your ability to stay strong throughout the test. Many examinees will find that the IR section takes some effort and may drain a little mental stamina more so than writing another AWA essay would. So a huge facet of the IR section will be stamina/effort management. As made popular in the book Moneyball, in baseball a batter who can simply wear down a starting pitcher by making him throw more balls in the first few innings is potentially more valuable than a batter with a higher batting average. Part of the game of baseball is wearing down an ace like Verlander so that you get to play against a weaker opponent. The GMAT has this potential with you – you can be Verlander for the first two hours of the test, but if you come back down to average too soon your score will suffer.

For that reason, you must practice the new-format GMAT (the GMAT Prep tests at www.mba.com have been updated to include the IR section) multiple times before you take the official test, and you should study in long sessions from time to time to ensure that you build the type of stamina that will last you through the test.

And it will also be important to manage your energy on the IR section (and the AWA section). Grinding through lengthy calculations when you could have gotten away with an estimate will sap your time and energy. Spending >3 minutes on any one of the 12 prompts will likely force you to rush through too many subsequent questions and wear down your stamina and confidence. Remember that your ultimate goal is the 200-800 score that only comes from the quant and verbal sections. Perform well on the IR section, but recognize that a “good” IR score that keeps you fresh for the quant/verbal sections is better for your MBA candidacy than a “great” IR score that wears you down and drops your performance later in that day. Yesterday, manager Jim Leyland pulled a still-strong Justin Verlander after 8 innings of a masterpiece, going to the closer (and nearly losing the game in the process) even though Verlander could have finished the game off. Why? Because it was *only* Opening Day, and Verlander needs to be fresh for nearly 40 more starts this summer. Wearing him down when he had already done more than his job just bore too much risk for the bigger picture. Similarly, you should manage your own “pitch count” on the IR section. Do your job, but recognize that you don’t want your IR experience to come at the expense of the bigger picture.

GMAT Tip of the Week: No Scrubs, No Pigeons, No Problem

Welcome to the final day of Hip Hop Month here in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, where like any good radio station we’re letting our listeners have a say through the request line. Sean in Wayne, Michigan requested an old-school cut that should have a tremendous impact on your GMAT study regimen and test-day strategy. So we’re going to take you back to 1999 with a study message from Sporty Thievz.

Like you as a GMAT test-taker, Sporty Thievz found themselves chasing a big career jump (they weren’t getting much airplay; you want to get an elite MBA) and being held down by a powerful, acronymed entity (GMAC for you, TLC for them) that seemingly wrote all the rules. TLC had taken a shot at Sporty Thievz types with their hit single “No Scrubs,” decrying the low-on-cash, high-on-themselves types of wannabes. The overarching message – “don’t have a car so you’re walking”; “if you live at home with your mama”; “wanna get with me with no money” – was “impress me, then we’ll talk”. Which, if you think about it, is exactly the GMAT’s message to you:
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Don’t Just Stand There…

Welcome back to Hip Hop Month in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, where this week we’re taking it old school with a GMAT Quant lesson courtesy of the much-karaoked (and poorly Weird Al Yankoviced as you’ll see below) Young MC:

This here’s a post for all the students
Trying to finish the quant section with wit and prudence
But waste a lot of time ’cause they’re overzealous
Question’s too abstract is what they tell us

More quant section, another tough question
Full of classic GMAT misdirection
You need to post a score of which schools will approve
(Everybody now…)
So don’t just stand there, bust a move
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