**You’re better than that.**

Too often on Data Sufficiency problems, people are impressed by giving themselves a 33% or even 50% chance of success. Keep in mind that guessing one of three remaining choices means you’re probably going to get that problem wrong! And of more strategic importance is this: if one statement is dead obvious, you haven’t just raised your probability of guessing correctly – you *should* have just learned what the question is all about!

**If a Data Sufficiency statement is clearly insufficient, it’s arguably the most important part of the problem.**

Consider this example:

What is the value of integer z?

(1) z represents the remainder when positive integer x is divided by positive integer (x – 1)

(2) x is not a prime number

Many examinees will be thrilled here to see that statement 2 is nowhere near sufficient, therefore meaning that the answer must be A, C, or E – a 33% chance of success! But a more astute test-taker will look closer at statement 2 and think “this problem is likely going to come down to whether it matters that x is prime or not” and then use that information to hold Statement 2 up to that light.

For statement 1, many will test x = 5 and (x – 1) = 4 or x = 10 and (x – 1) = 9 and other combinations of that ilk, and see that the result is usually (always?) 1 remainder 1. But a more astute test-taker will see that word “prime” and ask themselves why a prime would matter. And in listing a few interesting primes, they’ll undoubtedly check 2 and realize that if x = 2 and (x – 1) = 1, the result is 1 with a remainder of 0 – a different answer than the 1, remainder 1 that usually results from testing values for x. So in this case statement 2 DOES matter, and the answer has to be C.

Try this other example:

What is the value of x?

(1) x(x + 1) = 2450

(2) x is odd

Again, someone can easily skip ahead to statement 2 and be thrilled that they’re down to three options, but it pays to take that statement and file it as a consideration for later: when I get my answer for statement 1, is there a reason that even vs. odd would matter? If I get an odd solution, is there a possible even one?

Factoring 2450 leaves you with consecutive integers 49 and 50, so x could be 49 and therefore odd. But is there any possible even value for x, a number exactly one smaller than (x + 1) where the product of the two is still 2450? There is: -50 and -49 give you the same product, and in that case x is even. So statement 2 again is critical to get the answer C.

And the lesson? A ridiculously easy statement typically holds much more value than “oh this is easy to eliminate.” So when you can quickly and effortlessly make your decision on a Data Sufficiency statement, don’t be too happy to take your slightly-increased odds of a correct answer and move on. Use that statement to give you insight into how to attack the other statement, and take your probability of a correct answer all the way up to “certain.”

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*

What does this expression really mean? (Rhetorical question) It means that you followed the logic and executed the calculations properly, but you inputted the wrong parameters. As an example, a problem could ask you to solve a problem about the price of a dozen eggs, but along the way, you have to calculate the price of a single egg. If you’re going too fast and you notice that there’s an answer choice that matches your result, you might be tempted to pick it without executing the final calculation of multiplying the unit price by twelve. While this expression is often used for math problems, the same concept can also be applied to the verbal section of the exam.

The question category that most often exploits erroneous interpretations of a question is Critical Reasoning. In particular, the method of reasoning subcategory appropriately named “Mimic the Reasoning”. These types of questions are reminiscent of SAT questions (or LSAT questions for some) and hinge on properly interpreting what is actually stated in the problem.

Let’s look at an example to highlight this issue:

*Nick**: The best way to write a good detective story is to work backward from the crime. The writer should first decide what the crime is and who the perpetrator is, and then come up with the circumstances and clues based on those decisions.*

*Which one of the following illustrates a principle most similar to that illustrated by the passage?*

**A)** When planning a trip, some people first decide where they want to go and then plan accordingly, but, for most of us, much financial planning must be done before we can choose where we are going.

**B)** In planting a vegetable garden, you should prepare the soil first, and then decide what kind of vegetables to plant.

**C)** Good architects do not extemporaneously construct their plans in the course of an afternoon; an architectural design cannot be divorced from the method of constructing the building.

**D)** In solving mathematical problems, the best method is to try out as many strategies as possible in the time allotted. This is particularly effective if the number of possible strategies is fairly small.

**E)** To make a great tennis shot, you should visualize where you want the shot to go. Then you can determine the position you need to be in to execute the shot properly.

This type of question is asking us to mimic, or copy, the line of reasoning even though the topic may be totally different. The issue is thus to interpret the passage, paraphrase the main ideas in our own words, and then determine which answer choice is analogous to our summary. Theoretically, there could be thousands of correct answers to a question like this, but the GMAT will provide us with four examples to knock out and one correct interpretation (though sometimes it feels like a needle in a haystack).

Let’s look at the original sentence again and try to interpret Nick’s point. The first sentence is: *The best way to write a good detective story is to work backward from the crime. *This means that, wherever we want to go, we should recognize that we should start at the end and work our way backwards. This is a similar principle as solving a maze (or reading “Of Mice and Men”). The second sentence is: *The writer should first decide what the crime is and who the perpetrator is, and then come up with the circumstances and clues based on those decisions. *This means that, once we know the ending, we can layer the text with hints so that the ending makes sense to the audience. Astute readers may even guess the ending based on the clues (R+L = J), and will feel rewarded for their keen observations.

Summarizing this idea, the author wants us to start at the end and work our way backwards so that we end up exactly where we want. The next step is to apply this logic to each answer choice in turn:

For answer choice A, *when* *planning a trip, some people first decide where they want to go and then plan accordingly, but, for most of us, much financial planning must be done before we can choose where we are going*, the first part about choosing a destination is perfect. However, the second part goes off the rails by introducing a previously unheralded concept: limitations. The author was not initially worried about limitations, financial or otherwise, so answer choice A is half right, which is not enough on this test. We can eliminate A.

Answer choice B, *in planting a vegetable garden, you should prepare the soil first, and then decide what kind of vegetables to plant.* While this is good general advice, it has nothing to do with our premise. Starting with the soil is the very definition of starting at the beginning. A more correct (plant-based) answer choice would state that we want to start with which plants we want in the garden and then work backwards to find the right soil. This is incorrect, so answer choice B is out.

Answer choice C, *good architects do not extemporaneously construct their plans in the course of an afternoon; an architectural design cannot be divorced from the method of constructing the building*, changes the timeline (much like Terminator Genysis). We must consider both issues simultaneously, which is not what the original passage postulated. We can eliminate answer choice C.

Answer choice D is: *in solving mathematical problems, the best method is to try out as many strategies as possible in the time allotted. This is particularly effective if the number of possible strategies is fairly small. *This is not only incorrect, but particularly bad advice for aspiring GMAT students. In fact, the author is describing backsolving, because we are starting at the answer and working our way backwards. We are not proposing “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks”. Answer D is out.

This leaves answer choice E, *to make a great tennis shot, you should visualize where you want the shot to go. Then you can determine the position you need to be in to execute the shot properly*. Not only must it be the correct answer given that we’ve eliminated the other four selections, but also it perfectly recreates the logic of planning backwards from the end. Answer choice E is the correct selection.

For method of reasoning questions, and on the GMAT in general, it’s very important to be able to interpret wording. If you cannot paraphrase the statements presented, then you won’t be able to easily eliminate incorrect answer choices. Part of acing the GMAT is not giving away easy points on questions that you actually know how to solve. If you read carefully and paraphrase concepts as they come up, you’ll be interpreting a high score on test 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.*

To be fair, parents do tend to give an overwhelming amount of advice, especially when their little girl or boy is leaving the nest, so it can be hard to know what advice is worth listening to, and what’s just your parents’ anxieties speaking. As someone who’s been through college and who has chatty parents who still swamp me with advice every time I call home, here’s my two cents: **if nothing else, pay attention to your parents’ advice about how to stay healthy and avoid falling sick in college.**

I was very healthy as a child and teenager (never had the chicken pox, never missed class during flu season, ran track every day, etc.) so during my first two years of college when my mom would call me up to remind me to eat my greens, get a good night’s sleep, get my flu shot in November, and on and on, I didn’t take her very seriously. Unfortunately, I had to learn from experience: it was only after I had caught the flu both freshman and sophomore year, suffered from a month of insomnia, and caught mono (which was so debilitating that I had to drop classes and stop working out for three months), that I began to listen to my parents.

What I didn’t initially understand was that I was now living in a very different environment than the California suburbs I’d grown up in. Instead of eating the vegetables my mom would have cooked every evening, I was eating pizza and bagels (the only edible food in my school’s cafeteria); instead of quietly studying in my bedroom and going to sleep by midnight, I hanging out in the dorm common room until 4AM; instead of living with my parents and two sisters, I was living around hundreds of other students who, like me, stayed up late and ate poorly.

Because college students, especially freshman and sophomores, tend to live in close quarters, you can imagine what happens when one student gets the flu; half of the students in his or her hallway get it too.

You don’t know it yet, but you’re going to have so many awesome and profound experiences in college that are going to shape who you become as an adult. One of those experiences is learning how to take care of yourself, a large part of which involves heeding good advice. So, when your parents give you tips on how to get your daily greens and a healthy night’s sleep while juggling a full college schedule, put down your phone and listen up! And no matter how busy you are, get that flu shot!

*Plan on taking the SAT soon? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter! Here’s another article by Rita on scoring a perfect 2400.*

By *Rita Pearson*

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Here are MIT Sloan’s essays and deadlines for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

**MIT Sloan Admissions Deadlines**

Round 1: September 17, 2015

Round 2: January 14, 2016

Round 3: April 11, 2016

*Several noteworthy things here… First, Sloan’s Round 1 deadline has moved up by almost a week, pushing into mid-September for the first time ever. And, the school’s Round 2 deadline comes almost a week later than it did last year. If you apply to Sloan in Round 1, you will get your decision by December 16, which will give you plenty of time to get Round 2 applications ready for other MBA programs, if needed.*

*The other interesting thing here is that Sloan has added a Round 3! For a while, Sloan had been unique among top U.S. business schools in that it only had two admissions rounds. For instance, last year, if you hadn’t applied by January 8, then you weren’t going to apply to Sloan at all. Now stragglers actually have a chance of getting into MIT Sloan, although our advice about Round 3 is always the same — there are simply fewer seats available by Round 3, so only truly standout applicants have a real chance of getting in. Plan on applying in Round 1 or 2 to maximize your chances of success.*

**MIT Sloan Admissions Essays**

- Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have? (500 words)

*This question is new to MIT Sloan’s application this year. What we like about it is how it very explicitly spells out what Sloan’s admissions team wants to see. For these types of questions, we always advise applicants to use the “SAR” method — spell out the Situation, the Action that you took, and the Results of those actions. There is no hard and fast rule for how many words you should devote to each section, but the situation is where you want to use up the fewest words; you need to set the stage, but with only 500 words to work with, you want to make sure that you give the bare minimum of background and then move on to what actions you took. And, make sure you leave enough room to discuss the result (“What type of impact did this have?”) Your individual actions and the impact that you had are what the admissions committee really wants to see.**One final thought here: Don’t only think about the impact that you had on your organization, but also spend some time thinking about the impact that the experience had on you. What did you learn? How did you grow as a result? And, how did you put this lesson to work in a later experience? That may be a challenge to fit into a 500-word essay, but this is the type of introspection and growth that any business school admissions committee loves to see.* - For those who are invited to interview: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission. (250 words)

*The wording of this prompt has changed slightly since last year, but the biggest change (other than the fact that it’s become the essay only for those invited to interview) is that the word count has dropped from 500 to 250 words. At its core, this is a “Why MIT Sloan?” question. The admissions committee wants to see that you have done your homework on Sloan, that you understand what the school stands for, and that you really want to be there.**When Sloan asks you to share something that “aligns with” its mission, it’s not just asking about what you will do while you’re in school for two years, but also about how you plan on taking what you’ve learned (and the connections you’ve built) and going farther than you could ever have without an MIT Sloan MBA. Note the very last part of the question: The key to a believable essay here will be to cite a specific example from your past when you got involved and make things better around you. Don’t be intimidated by the high-minded ideals in the first part of the essay prompt — making an impact (rather than just standing idly by and being a follower) is what they want to see here, even if it’s on a relatively small scale.*

The MIT Sloan MBA admissions team just posted a brief video that has some good basic advice on how to tackle their essays. There are no huge “Ah ha!” moments in the video, but it’s always good to hear advice straight from the course.

Do you dream of getting into MIT Sloan? Give us a call at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

*By Scott Shrum*

Reading strategically involves reading parts of the passage that contain the author’s main ideas, such as the introductory paragraphs, and reading parts of the passage that are specifically cited by the questions, all while answering questions as you go.

If you follow this technique, you often won’t have to reread the passage, because you’ll be answering questions that correspond to the parts of the passage that you just read. In fact, if you follow Veritas Prep SAT techniques, you will only have to reread the passage in one circumstance: when you are stuck between answer choices, and you cannot find any unambiguous problems in the remaining answer choices. Unambiguous problems in answer choices include assumptions or information not discussed in the passage, or hyperbolic descriptions of an element in the passage. In such circumstances, here’s what you should do:

1. Cross out the obviously incorrect answer choices. That way, when you come back to the question later, you won’t have to reread incorrect answer choices.

2. Skip the question – for now! All questions are worth the same amount of points. Don’t waste time on a tricky question.

3. Continue to answer remaining questions. It’s better to answer as many questions as you can. And sometimes, the information you need to answer the tricky question is in fact located later in the passage!

4. Return to any skipped questions after completing the section. Reread relevant paragraphs that cover the main subjects also referenced in the question. For example, if I had been stuck on the following question:

*The author mentions the Blackfeet (lines 34-40) primarily because: *

* (A) they appreciated the plains*

* (B) they were experts in using the resources of the rivers*

* (C) they cared about the ecology of the plants*

* (D) river travelers learned a lot from them*

* (E) local people were in awe of them *

Then I would want to reread lines 34-40:

*The Blackfeet, the lords of the Great Plains and the prairie’s most serious students, would no sooner have dined on catfish then we would on a dish of fricasseed sewer rat. The mucus-covered creatures of the muddy river bottoms, the Blackfeet thought, were simply not the best the plains had to offer; far from being palatable, catfish were repulsive, disgusting. *

Let’s say that in my first go-around, I’d crossed out C, D, and E, because the lines do not mention ecology, travelers, or local people. In this case, rereading can help me choose between A and B – neither of which have unambiguous problems – because I can now pay attention to lines that I’d only skimmed before, such as the description of the Blackfeet as the prairie’s “most serious students”. The correct answer in this case is A. The Blackfeet clearly used the plains for food, but their use of rivers is not mentioned.

Plan on taking the SAT soon? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter! Here’s another article by Rita on scoring a perfect 2400.

By *Rita Pearson*

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The Common Application was created over 40 years ago as a tool for students to access college applications. In the 2014-2015 application season, over 857,000 different students from over 26,000 high schools submitted more than 3.7 million applications to the 500+ member colleges. In addition, teachers and counselors submitted over 14.3 million recommendations and over 913,000 fee waivers were utilized. There are a few updates for the next academic year:

**Key changes to the Common Application in 2015-2016**

- Added 69 new colleges who accept the Common Application
- You can print by page rather than waiting until the end to to print the complete application
- You can now enter 15 AP courses instead of just 10 AP courses
- How you search for your high schools
- The FERPA waiver
- Essay prompts
- Writing requirements
- Special Circumstances
- Application support feature

*How you search for your high schools*

In the past, students would search for their high schools by the name of the high school. If you couldn’t find your high school by name, you could manually input your high school. While this solution would allow you to continue the application, the problem was that the Common Application system had no way of connecting your application to the correct high school so that your counselor and recommenders could upload their documents. Going forward, you will now be able to search for your high school by CEEB code so that you can be sure that you have the correct high school on your application and so that all of the components of your application can be seamlessly integrated.

*The FERPA Waiver*

There has always been a great deal of confusion around waiving the FERPA Release (or not). Most students assume that it’s correct to NOT waive your right to review all recommendations and supporting documents, but most colleges and high schools **will want you to waive your rights**. It used to be that if you selected the incorrect option the first time, you could not change the option once you realized the error. Going forward, you can change your FERPA selection at any time prior to the recommendations being submitted.

* Essay Prompts*

The essay prompt that asked about “a place where you feel perfectly content” was replaced with a new prompt that focuses more on analytical skills and intellectual curiosity. The other prompts remain the same with the exception of a few small wording changes. The new prompt is as follows:

“Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.”

**Writing Requirements**

Colleges can now choose whether or not they require the personal essay. This means that you will have the option of choosing to send your essay to a college that does not require it, or not sending the essay to a college because they don’t require it. The Common Application made a couple of adjustments so that it’s much clearer which schools require essays and which do not.

One other big change for the upcoming year is that you now make unlimited edits to your essay rather than the 2 edits you were limited to before. According to the Common Application, “the essay will remain editable for all applicants, at any time.”

*Special Circumstances*

For explanations for education interruption, disciplinary situations, or criminal history, the information used to be collected in one general text field. Going forward, these explanations will be collected as independent explanations so they’re not all lumped in under one prompt.

*Application Support*

Currently, you can access many help items via the Applicant Help center. This knowledge base has extensive information that is searchable and provides many of the answers to frequently asked questions. Going forward, you will have access to an Applicant Chat and solution center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! This may come in handy if you find yourself working on the applications late at night, on the weekends, or over holidays!

For more information about the Common Application directly from the organization, follow the Common App blog! Best of luck in your college applications!

*If you would like to learn about your strengths and areas for improvement as well as how to improve your college profile, complete our free profile evaluation form and get personalized advice on your profile! *

*By Jennifer Sohn Lim, Assistant Director of Admissions at Veritas Prep.*

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

**Lesson Five: **

Procrastinate to Calculate: in much of your academic and professional life, it’s a terrible idea to procrastinate. But on the GMAT? Procrastination is often the most efficient way to do math. In this video, Ravi will demonstrate why waiting until it’s absolutely necessary to do math is a time-saving and accuracy-boosting strategy. So whatever it is you would be doing right now, put that off for later and immediately watch this video. The sooner you learn that procrastination is your friend on the GMAT, the more time you’ll save.

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!

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*

Applicants should approach the school selection process with an open mind and use this as the basis to conduct research on the programs that best align with their unique needs. For some students, profile limitations like GPA, GMAT, or work experience can restrict opportunities at higher ranked programs, so it makes sense to consider all alternatives. Often lower-ranked schools are better aligned with the development needs of certain students. Some of the best programs for areas like entrepreneurship, operations, and supply chain management fall outside of the various rankings done every year. These programs can provide direct pipelines into career paths into these industries of interest.

Location should also be an area of note for aspiring MBAs. For some, targeting a specific location where the applicant wants to reside post-MBA is another smart strategy when identifying the ideal program. This is key because most schools have at the very least strong local recruiting within their geographic area. This strategy will increase the likelihood of landing at a target firm. These schools will often also have stronger alumni networks in their geographic region that trump higher ranked programs, so choose wisely.

A complimentary approach is identifying MBA programs close to target recruiters. For example if a career in Venture Capital is important then the west coast or Silicon Valley in particular should influence the school selection process. Interested in oil and gas? Then researching the local MBA programs in the state of Texas is a no brainer and would make more sense than pursuing admission at some higher rated programs outside the state.

Finally, some students just may not be academically equipped to perform or compete at certain MBA programs. Intense academic rigor, heavy workloads, and cumbersome pre-requisite coursework make some lower ranked programs a more comfortable academic environment.

Don’t be constrained by the various school rankings on the market. Create your own list that allows you to pick the program that makes the most sense for YOU!

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, 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. You can read more of his articles here. *

Problem solving questions have five definite options, that is, “cannot be determined” and “data not sufficient” are not given as options. So this means that in all cases, data is sufficient for us to answer the question. So as long as the data we assume conforms to all the data given in the question, we are free to assume and make the problem simpler for ourselves. The concept is not new – you have been already doing it all along – every time you assume the total to be 100 in percentage questions or the value of n to be 0 or 1, you are assuming that as long as your assumed data conforms to the data given, the relation should hold for every value of the unknown. So the relation should be the same when n is 0 and also the same when n is 1.

Now all you have to do is go a step further and, using the same concept, assume that the given figure is more symmetrical than may seem. The reason is that say, you want to find the value of x. Since in problem solving questions, you are required to find a single unique value of x, the value will stay the same even if you make the figure more symmetrical – provided it conforms to the given data.

Let us give an example from Official Guide 13th edition to show you what we mean:

Question: In the figure shown, what is the value of v+x+y+z+w?

(A) 45

(B) 90

(C) 180

(D) 270

(E) 360

We see that the leg with the angle w seems a bit narrower – i.e. the star does not look symmetrical. But the good news is that we can assume it to be symmetrical because we are not given that angle w is smaller than the other angles. We can do this because the value of v+x+y+z+w would be unique. So whether w is much smaller than the other angles or almost the same, it doesn’t matter to us. The total sum will remain the same. Whatever is the total sum when w is very close to the other angles, will also be the sum when w is much smaller. So for our convenience, we can assume that all the angles are the same.

Now it is very simple to solve. Imagine that the star is inscribed in a circle.

Now, arc MN subtends the angle w at the circumference of the circle; this angle w will be half of the central angle subtended by MN (by the central angle theorem discussed in your book).

Arc NP subtends angle v at the circumference of the circle; this angle v will be half of the central angle subtended by NP and so on for all the arcs which form the full circle i.e. PQ, QR and RM.

All the central angles combined measure 360 degrees so all the subtended angles w + v + x + y + z will add up to half of it i.e. 360/2 = 180.

Answer (C)

There are many other ways of solving this question including long winded algebraic methods but this is the best method, in my opinion.

This was possible because we assumed that the figure is symmetrical, which we can in problem solving questions!

But beware of question prompts which look like this:

– Which of the following cannot be the value of x?

– Which of the following must be true?

You cannot assume anything here since we are not looking for a unique value that exists. If a bunch of values are possible for x, then x will take different values in different circumstances.

If we know that the unknown has a unique value, then we are free to assume as long as we are working under the constraints of the question. Finally, we would like to mention here that this is a relatively advanced technique. Use it only if you understand fully when and what you can assume.

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

What does that mean?

Consider the statement:

8 = 8

That’s obviously not groundbreaking news, but it does show the underpinnings of what makes algebra “work.” When you use that equals sign, =, you’re saying that what’s on the left of that sign is the exact same value as what’s on the right hand side of that sign. 8 = 8 means “8 is the same exact value as 8.” And then as long as you do the same thing to both 8s, you’ll preserve that equality. So you could subtract 2 from both sides:

8 – 2 = 8 – 2

And you’ll arrive at another definitely-true statement:

6 = 6

And then you could divide both sides by 3:

6/3 = 6/3

And again you’ve created another true statement:

2 = 2

Because you start with a true statement, as proven by that equals sign, as long as you do the exact same thing to what’s on either side of that equals sign, the statement will remain true. So when you replace that with a different equation:

3x + 2 = 8

That’s when the equals sign really helps you. It’s saying that “3x + 2″ is the exact same value as 8. So whatever you do to that 8, as long as you do the same exact thing to the other side, the equation will remain true. Following the same steps, you can:

Subtract two from both sides:

3x = 6

Divide both sides by 3:

x = 2

And you’ve now solved for x. That’s what you’re doing with algebra. You’re taking advantage of that equality: the equals sign guarantees a true statement and allows you to do the exact same thing on either side of that sign to create additional true statements. And your goal then is to use that equals sign to strategically create a true statement that helps you to answer the question that you’re given.

**Equality applies to all terms; it cannot single out just one individual term.**

Now, where do people go wrong? The most common mistake that people make is that they don’t do the same thing to both SIDES of the inequality. Instead they do the same thing to a term on each side, but they miss a term. For example:

(3x + 5)/7 = x – 9

In order to preserve this equation and eliminate the denominator, you must multiply both SIDES by 7. You cannot multiply just the x on the right by 7 (a common mistake); instead you have to multiply everything on the right by 7 (and of course everything on the left by 7 too):

7(3x + 5)/7 = 7(x – 9)

3x + 5 = 7x – 63

Then subtract 3x from both sides to preserve the equation:

5 = 4x – 63

Then add 63 to both sides to preserve the equation:

68 = 4x

Then divide both sides by 4:

17 = x

The point being: preserving equality is what makes algebra work. When you’re multiplying or dividing in order to preserve that equality, you have to be completely equitable to both sides of the equation: you can’t single out any one term or group. If you’re multiplying both sides by 7, you have to distribute that 7 to both the x and the -9. So when you take the GMAT, do so with equality in mind. The equals sign is what allows you to solve for variables, but remember that you have to do the exact same thing to both sides.

Inequalities? Well those will just have to wait for another 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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

*By Brian Galvin*