Without further ado, here are Tuck’s deadlines and essays for the 2015-2016 application season, followed by our comments in italics:

**Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Deadlines**

Early Action round: October 7, 2015

November round: November 4, 2015

January round: January 6, 2016

April round: April 4, 2016

*Tuck’s deadlines are almost exactly the same as they were last year. Rather than joining other top MBA programs in pushing its first round deadline into September, Tuck decided to hold steady. Note that Tuck is one of the few top business schools to offer an Early Action admissions option. “Early Action” means that the decision is non-binding, although if you are admitted you will need to send in a $4,500 deposit by January 15 if you plan on enrolling. If Tuck is your top choice, or at least a very strong 2nd or 3rd choice, Early Action is a great way to demonstrate that you’re seriously interested in Tuck.*

**Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Essays**

- What are your short- and long-term goals? Why do you need an MBA to achieve those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically? (500 words)

*This question has been substantially reworded since last year, although at its core, it’s still the same fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that many business schools ask. One notable change is actually the addition of the second question in there (“Why do you need an MBA?”), and the fact that the Tuck admissions team added this part suggests that perhaps not enough applicants were addressing this fairly obvious question last year.*The other subtle change is how the last part of the prompt changed from “Why are you the best fit for Tuck?” to “Why are you interested in Tuck specifically?” No matter how the question is asked, Tuck really is still trying to get at the concept of fit here — what about Tuck interests you enough that you would consider devoting two years of your life to the program? Tuck takes the concept of fit very seriously when evaluating candidates — which makes sense, given its small class size and remote location — so you need to take it seriously, too.

*Keep in mind that anyone can browse the school’s website and drop some professors’ and clubs’ names into this essay; a response that will really stand out is one that is believable, shows that you’ve done your research and reveals something unique about you. In this way, the wording in last year’s essay prompt can be a great guide to writing a great response to this year’s question.* - Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. How will that experience contribute to the learning environment at Tuck? (500 words)

*This question has also been tweaked for this year’s application. The meaningful difference is in the second part: While last year’s question asked you what you learned about yourself, this year’s version squeezes in the part that was dropped from Essay #1. Why does this matter? Because the part that was dropped (“What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?”) is still actually pretty important, and it’s hard to imagine writing a great essay that doesn’t at least briefly cover that material this year.*Since you only have 500 words for the whole essay, being succinct will be important! You need to describe what the situation was, what action you specifically took, and what the results were (Situation-Action-Result, “SAR”). And devoting at least several sentences to how you grew or changed makes a lot of sense… So you’re left with less than half of essay to tie this all back to Tuck and how you will contribute. No problem, right?

Are you grasping for a story to use for this essay? Don’t lose site of that important word in the first part of the question: leadership. Keep in mind that leadership shows itself in many forms, not just from being the official manager of a team. Perhaps you took on a tough problem that no one else wanted to deal with. Maybe you faced a tough ethical decision that kept you up at night. Or maybe you spotted an opportunity for how something could be done in a better way, and you convinced your peers to come around to this new way of doing things… All of these could make for rich stories to use in this essay!

*Finally, remember to tie it back to Tuck. Our advice here is not to force it (e.g., “… and that is why I will be a natural to lead the Tuck Finance Club”). The key is to tell an story that demonstrates your growth as a young, developing leader, and then to demonstrate that you understand what Tuck’s respectful, collaborative culture is all about.* - (Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application. (500 words)

*As we always tell applicants when it comes to the optional essay for any application, only answer this essay prompt if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay!*

Each year we work with dozens of MBA applicants who want to get into Tuck. If you’re ready to start working on your own candidacy, call us 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*

There are three essay questions for Columbia, which is a high number in these days of essay consolidation at most other business schools. With so many essays it is critical that applicants present their candidacy in a clearly aligned fashion.

**Essay 1:**

Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (Maximum 500 words)

Columbia’s first essay falls into the category of your typical “career goals” essay and is double the word count of the other essays so the school is expecting a fully fleshed out path forward. Avoid spending much time detailing your past as the prompt clearly has taken account of your past professional career. This is purely a future-oriented career essay.

With that said, clear articulation and alignment of your short-term and long-term career goals will be key to executing a successful essay here. Probably even more important, given the ubiquity of the career goals portion of the prompt, is the fit portion of the essay. Breakthrough candidates will cite specific references to Columbia’s professional, academic, and extra-curricular programs that will support the applicant’s development goals. With so much competition amongst similar institutions it is critical to make a bold case for a strong fit with the program.

**Essay 2:
Columbia Business School’s location enables us to bridge theory and practice in multiple ways: through Master Classes, internships, the New York Immersion Seminars, and, most importantly, through a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)**

Again keeping in mind the totality of the three essays, it may make sense to reserve the NY specific advantages until essay two. Essay one presents a clear opportunity to do this but doubling down here would make more sense. With so few words to work with you want to get right to the point in this essay.

Columbia outlines a few of the potential advantages the school offers in the prompt, so you want to get specific on what the relationship between the school and the “Big Apple” can offer you. Breakthrough candidates will personalize this essay right from the start and structure the essay around specific aspects of the Columbia Business School experience relevant to the candidate’s personal and professional development.

**Essay 3:
CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)**

This is a great opportunity to let your personality shine through. The first two essays cover career goals and fit and interest in Columbia, but this essay is a bit more open. These types of essays tend to be the greatest opportunities for candidates to differentiate themselves, so don’t miss out on this chance! As you choose which topic to discuss keep in mind what would engage your classmates and it goes without saying but whatever you share should actually be something not immediately obvious to the Admissions Committee. Breakthrough candidates will leverage their research into the Columbia culture to frame a response that is not only unique but also compelling to the admissions team.

These are just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Columbia Business School. Hopefully these thoughts will help you get started.

Considering applying to MBA programs? 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. *

Instead, planning an effective and feasible study plan for the summer is a much more fruitful approach. Most students who are taking the test in October or November are Seniors, as Juniors generally do not take the SAT for the first time until the spring of their 11^{th} grade year. Many of the seniors who take the test in the fall are veterans of the SAT, having sat for the exam before. This means that the summer can be used to brush up on skills and review the areas of weakness that were holding students’ scores down on their earlier attempts.

**VOCABULARY IS YOUR FRIEND**

One of the best ways to take advantage of the extra time in summer is to schedule a consistent vocabulary session each day. These do not have to be extremely time intensive, as long as you dedicate 15-30 minutes on a daily basis to learning new words and reviewing old ones. Vocabulary is the one thing you can absolutely memorize for the test, and if you actually put in the time it is like picking up free points. Unfortunately, most students during the school year have a finite amount of time and decide to prioritize other elements of the test. During the summer, this is not an issue and you can use the extra time to really hone your vocabulary skills. Not only are there 19 sentence completion questions that are directly related to vocabulary, but there are also tremendous benefits on the essay and within the passage based section that come with learning your vocabulary.

**BECOME BFF WITH YOUR SCORE REPORT**

Another great thing to do during the summer is to review your score report, and identify the specific areas of weakness on your test. On the College Board website, go to the advanced report which tells you how you fared in different sub sections of each subject. If data and operations seemed to be an area that you struggled with in the mathematics section, then you should dedicate study sessions to doing more practice problems and reviewing the strategies associated with that topic. The same could be said about understanding the main idea in passage based reading or identifying apples to apples comparison problems in the writing mechanics section.

**POLISH YOUR ESSAY**

Finally, the summer is the perfect time to work on crafting a stellar essay. If you aren’t in English class during the summer and actively writing, your sentence composition and overall essay writing ability might temporarily flounder. A good way to counteract this and stay sharp is to set aside an hour a week to writing two practice essays. This will allow you to perfect your essay template and get comfortable with explaining strong examples in your body paragraphs.

All in all, summer is a great time to jump ahead on the SAT. Using an hour or two a day or even every other day, will pay major dividends when the test rolls around and summer ends. Happy Studying!

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

*Jake Davidson** is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.*

Here are Chicago Booth’s admissions deadlines and essays for the 2015-2016 season:

**Chicago Booth Application Deadlines**

Round 1: September 17, 2015

Round 2: January 5, 2016

Round 3: April 5, 2016

*Once again Booth has moved its Round 1 deadline forward by a week, making Booth the latest top business school to have its first deadline come in mid-September. (Five years ago, Booth’s Round 1 deadline was October 13… Things have changed!) The good news is that applying to Booth in Round 1 means that you will get your decision back by December 10, which gives you almost a month before most business schools’ Round 2 deadlines come in early January. Booth’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines each moved only slightly compared to last season.*

**Chicago Booth Application Essay**

- Chicago Booth values individuality because of what we can learn from the diverse experiences and perspectives of others. This mutual respect creates an open-minded community that supports curiosity, inspires us to think more broadly, take risks, and challenge assumptions. At Booth, community is about collaborative thinking and tapping into each other’s different viewpoints to cultivate new ideas and realize breakthrough moments every day. Using one of the photos provided, tell us how it resonates with your own viewpoint on why the Booth community is the right fit for you.

*This essay prompt is new this year, although at its core, it’s not that different from last year’s essay. The Booth admissions team wants to get to know you better, and this is their way of doing it. Why did they change the essay prompt? Our bet is that they actually liked what they saw from applicants last year, but they seemed determined to make their essays a moving target because of all of the coaching resources that applicants have access to (such as this blog!)… This is their way of trying to keep it fresh while not messing with the formula too much.*We always tell applicants that they have to do two things to be successful: stand out from other applicants, but also show fit with their target MBA program. With this essay prompt Booth is going after the latter; they explicitly ask you to show why the Booth community “is the right fit for you” here! But, how you show fit is one way you can stand out vs. other applicants. Don’t be afraid to get creative here! (Here are all of the technical details of what you can and can’t submit.) Remember, the reason Booth kept this question is because it really is the admissions committee’s best chance to get a sense of your personality, so let that personality shine through here!

*Finally, the addition of the “react to one of these photos” idea is… interesting. We have a feeling that a lot of applicants will end up forcing the explanation of why a photo of Eugene Fama resonates with them… At a high level, our advice is not to get too hung up on your choice of photo. Don’t just randomly pick one and then use editorial duct tape to attach that your own story, but remember that the admissions committee really wants to learn about YOU here, not about what you think of one of these photos. Any one of Booth’s thousands of applicants can write about those photos, but only you can tell Booth about you.*

If you’re ready to start building your own application for Booth and other top MBA programs, fill out a free profile evaluation and speak with an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

**No single question matters unless you let it.**

Reflect on that for a second, because it’s super important, weird, true, and again…important. The GMAT exam is not testing your ability to get as many questions right as you can. You can get the exact same percentage of questions right on two different exams and end up getting very different scores as a result of the complicated scoring algorithm. Mistakes that will crush your score are a large string of consecutive incorrect answers, unanswered questions remaining at the end of the section (these hurt your score even more than answering them incorrectly would), and a very low hit rate for the last 5 or 10 questions. These are all problems that are likely to arise if you spend way too much time on one/several questions.

Each individual question is actually pretty insignificant. The GMAT has 37 quantitative questions to gauge your ability level (currently ignoring the issue of experimental questions), so whether you get a certain question right or wrong doesn’t matter much. Let’s look at a hypothetical example and pick on question #17 for a second (just because it looked at me wrong!). If you start question 17, realize that it is not going your way, and ultimately make an educated guess after about 2 minutes and get it wrong…that doesn’t hurt you a lot. You missed the question, but you didn’t let it burn a bunch of your time and you live to fight another day (or in this case question).

Now let’s look at question 17 again, but from the perspective of being stubborn. If you start the question and are struggling with it but refuse to quit, thinking something like “this is geometry, I am so good at geometry, I have to get this right!”, then it will become very significant. In a bad way. In this example you spend 6 minutes on the question and you get it right. Congratulations! Except…you are now statistically not even going to get to attempt to answer two other questions because of the time that you just committed to it (with an average of 2 minutes per question on the quant section, you just allocated 3 questions’ worth of time to one question).

So your victory over infamous question 17 just got you 2 questions wrong! That’s a net negative. Loop in the concept of experimental questions, the fact that approximately one-fourth of quant questions don’t count, and therefore it is entirely possible that #17 isn’t even a real question, and the situation is pretty depressing.

Pacing is critical, and your pacing on quant questions should very rarely ever go above 3 minutes. Spending an excess amount of time on a question but getting it right is not a success; it is a bad strategic move. I challenge you to look at any practice tests that you have taken and decide whether you let this happen. Were there a few questions that you spent way over 2 minutes on and got right, but then later in the test a bunch of questions that you had to rush on and ended up missing, even though they may not have been that difficult? If that’s the case, then your timing is doing some serious damage. Work to correct this fatal error ASAP!

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!

*Brandon Pierpont is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep. He studied finance at Notre Dame and went on to work in private equity and investment banking. When he’s not teaching the GMAT, he enjoys long-distance running, wakeboarding, and attending comedy shows.*

I’m no financial expert, but as a soon-to-graduate senior who’s watched plenty of friends feed savings accounts or run their wallets to empty, here’s what I’ve learned.

*SKIP*

- Skip: The nicest apartment on campus. You’re only spending four years at college, and the first one or two of them were probably in a dorm; in the long term, it’s not worth the extra $500 each month for slightly whiter walls or a barely-shorter commute. The best way to build a great apartment life is to pick the right roommates, be considerate about sharing space with others, and take good care of the place you’re in.
- Skip: Nice furniture. Again, you won’t be in this apartment for long, and you’ll probably sell all or almost all of the furniture you’re buying to fill it. Nicer furniture will lose more value over the course of the year or two you’ll own it. Secondhand or IKEA furniture will do just fine if it’s kept in good condition, and if you dress it up with cozy tablecloths, pillows, and other accessories you won’t even notice the difference.
- Skip: New textbooks. You’re (probably) only keeping these for a semester and ultimately you care much more about what’s
*in*them than how crisp and white the pages are. Rent textbooks, buy them secondhand, order them from discount textbook websites, or just use the library’s copy; you’ll save hundreds or thousands of dollars over the years. - Skip: The gym membership…maybe. Unless you’re sure you’ll use it regularly, don’t sign up on the first day, and be sure to look for a student discount if you do. Far too many gym memberships go unused and become senseless drains on your bank account. And hey—running is a great way to explore a new town!

*BUY*

- Buy: Healthy food. It’s tempting to eat fast food or junk food every day; you’re a busy person, the grocery store takes an hour out of your schedule, and junk food is cheaper, longer-lasting, and less likely to require much cooking time. Remember that you’ll perform better as a student with healthy food in your system, and that your waistline a couple years after graduation will thank you.
- Buy: Restaurant food…but sparingly. You’re in a new town and it’s worth getting to know a new place. College is just as much about the experience as it is about studying. Just be tasteful about it. Check out the New Place Everyone’s Talking About, but you don’t need to eat at a five-star restaurant every night.
- Buy: New clothes…but sparingly. I’m a big fan of tiny closets, especially in college, where you’ll probably need to move at least once. (I’ve moved almost every year, and twice again for study abroad.) It’s worth updating your closet to match your new environment and to look good for professional events, but don’t fill your closet up; extra pieces will end up as clutter.
- Buy: Drinks, movies, camping trips, and other fun…but sparingly. Again, you’re in a new town and it’s worth exploring and socializing, but it’s not worth going out every night—and it’s definitely not worth a hangover the next day!

*SAVE*

- Save for: Study and travel abroad. Nearly every study abroad student cites their semester abroad as their most educational college semester, and for good reason. International experience is increasingly valuable in our quickly globalizing world. Study abroad is expensive, but the benefits make it a worthy investment as long as you choose the right program for your interests and goals. Even if you can’t study abroad, use college as an opportunity to travel abroad; you have fewer life responsibilities in college than you likely will later in life, and as a college student you’re probably more willing to save money by staying in hostels or skipping fancy wine tasting tours.
- Save for: Graduate school application fees, research travel, and other career- and academic-development endeavors. A good education is always worth the investment.

*Need help* *prepping your college application? Visit our **College Admissions** website and fill out our **FREE College profile evaluation**! *

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

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For example, review this post on averages.

Here we saw that:

**Average Speed = 2ab/(a + b)**

Applicable when one travels at speed a for half the distance and speed b for other half of the distance. In this case, average speed is the harmonic mean of the two speeds.

So now, say if we have a question which looks like this:

**Question**: In the morning, Chris drives from Toronto to Oakville and in the evening he drives back from Oakville to Toronto on the same road. Was his average speed for the entire round trip less than 100 miles per hour?

Statement 1: In the morning, Chris drove at an average speed of at least 10 miles per hour while travelling from Toronto to Oakville.

Statement 2: In the evening, Chris drove at an average speed which was no more than 50 miles per hour while travelling from Oakville to Toronto.

**Solution**: We know that the question involves average speed. The case involves travelling at a particular average speed for one half of the journey and at another average speed for the other half of the journey.

So average speed of the entire trip will be given by 2ab/(a+b)

But the first problem is that we are given a range of speeds. How do we handle ‘at least 10’ and ‘no more than 50’ in equation form? We have learnt that we should focus on the extremities so let’s analyse the problem by taking the numbers are the extremities:10 and 50

Statement 1: In the morning, Chris drove at an average speed of at least 10 miles per hour while travelling from Toronto to Oakville.

What if Chris drives at an average speed of 10 mph in the morning and averages 100 mph for the entire journey? What will be his average speed in the evening? Perhaps around 200, right? Let’s see.

100 = 2*10*b/(10 + b)

1000 + 100b = 20b

1000 = -80b

b = – 1000/80

How can speed be negative?

Let’s hold on here and try the same calculation for statement 2 too.

Statement 2: In the evening, Chris drove at an average speed which no more than 50 miles per hour while travelling from Oakville to Toronto.

If Chris drives at an average speed of 50 mph in the evening, and averages 100 mph, let’s find his average speed in the morning.

100 = 2a*50/(a + 50)

100a + 5000 = 100a

5000 = 0

This doesn’t make any sense either!

What is going wrong? Look at it conceptually:

Say, Toronto is 100 miles away from Oakville. If Chris wants his average speed to be 100 mph over the entire trip, he should cover 100+100 = 200 miles in 2 hrs.

What happens when he travels at 10 mph in the morning? He takes 100/10 = 10 hrs to reach Oakville in the morning. He has already taken more time than what he had allotted for the entire round trip. Now, no matter what his speed in the evening, his average speed cannot be 100mph. Even if he reaches Oakville to Toronto in the blink of an eye, he would have taken 10 hours and then some time to cover the total 200 miles distance. So his average speed cannot be equal to or more than 200/10 = 20 mph.

Similarly, if he travels at 50 mph in the evening, he takes 2 full hours to travel 100 miles (one side distance). In the morning, he would have taken some time to travel 100 miles from Toronto to Oakville. Even if that time is just a few seconds, his average speed cannot be 100 mph under any circumstances.

But statement 1 says that his speed in morning was at least 10 mph which means that he could have traveled at 10 mph in the morning or at 100 mph. In one case, his average speed for the round trip cannot be 100 mph and in the other case, it can very well be. Hence statement 1 alone is not sufficient.

On the other hand, statement 2 says that his speed in the evening was 50 mph or less. This means he would have taken AT LEAST 2 hours in the morning. So his average speed for the round trip cannot be 100 mph under any circumstances. So statement 2 alone is sufficient to answer this question with ‘No’.

Answer (B)

**Takeaway: If your average speed is s for a certain trip, your average speed for half the distance must be more than s/2.**

*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!*

Now let’s dig in! Here are Haas’s deadlines and essays for the Class of 2018, followed by our comments in italics:

**Berkeley (Haas) Application Deadlines**

Round 1: October 1, 2015

Round2: January 7, 2016

Round 3: March 31, 2016

*Haas’s Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines are exactly the same as they were last year. The one bit of news here is that while the school used to wait until mid-January to notify Round 1 applicants, now applying in Round 1 means that you will get your decision by December 17, giving you at least a couple of weeks before most schools’ Round 2 deadlines, should you need to scramble and apply to some backup schools. Looking at Round 3, Haas pushed back this deadline by nearly three weeks vs. last year, matching similar moves at some other top schools to hopefully catch a few more great candidates who may have missed the earlier rounds.*

**Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays**

- If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 words)
*This question is new this year, although Haas actually used it before dropping it last year. Now it’s back, and it’s clear that the Haas admissions team wants to get past the normal jargon and stuffy language and get a real sense of your personality here. That means you shouldn’t be afraid to have a little fun or reveal the real you here. If an admissions officer reads this essay and then still has no sense of what it would be like to meet you in person, then you haven’t made good use of this essay. That doesn’t mean your choice of a song needs to be wacky or so deep that it will make the reader cry, but avoid the temptation to choose a song that merely echoes one of the more straightforward themes you will cover below. And, we’re willing to take bets on the number of applicants who say their favorite song is John Lennon’s “Imagine”… Save the high-minded “I want to save the world” stuff for another essay! This one is more for just helping admissions officers feel like they know you at least a little bit.* - Please respond to one of the following prompts: (250 words)

– Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you.

– Describe a significant accomplishment and why it makes you proud.

– Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging.*All three of these essay prompts try to get at the same thing — identifying an experience in your life that led to growth and transformation. The first one is essentially carried over from last year’s application, and the second one is quite similar to a prompt from last year, although it’s a little broader this time around (it can be any accomplishment, not just a professional one). The third question is new this year. And, most notably, you’re picking just one, while the first two questions were actually two separate required prompts on last year’s application. We like that Haas gives applicants three different ways to go about this one; your best story may come from an accomplishment, or from overcoming a setback, or from making a tough choice in life. Why not let you choose which story to tell here?**No matter which essay prompt you choose, think about the “SAR” (Situation-Action-Result) essay framework here — describe what happened, what you did, and then what happened as a results. Sounds obvious, right? You would be surprised by how often applicants get lost in the details and end up using most of their words merely to describe to the situation… the result gets tacked on in two sentences at the very end! That’s too bad because the result — not just what happened in that situation, but also how you changed as a result — is what Haas really wants to know here! Even seemingly smaller accomplishments or life events, such as the first time you spoke in front of a large group, can make for a really impactful essay here.* - Tell us about your path to business school and your future plans. How will the Berkeley-Haas experience help you along this journey? (500 words)
*This is the more conventional “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that MBA programs often ask. Ask yourself these questions: Where do you see yourself in a few years (and beyond that), and why do you need an MBA to get there? Specifically, why do you need a Haas MBA to get there? Why not another top-ten MBA program? Really force yourself to answer that question, even if not all of your answer makes its way into your final essay response!**By the way, the Haas admissions team gave you a big hint here: On the Haas website, check out the paragraph that introduces the essays. It describes the four key principles that define the Haas culture: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Your goal here is NOT to see how many of these you can cram into your essay (this is not merely an exercise to see if you bothered to read the website), but if none of that appeals to you, and you can’t even articulate why Haas is the right way for you to invest in yourself, then you need to take a step back before drafting this essay. You obviously are an unfinished product, which is why you’re considering business school… Help the admissions committee believe that Haas is the right place for you to grow for the next two years, invoking those four key principles where you can.*

If you’re ready to start building your own application for Haas and other top business schools, fill out a free profile evaluation and speak with an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

*By Scott Shrum*

*On challenging Strengthen and Assumption questions, the correct answer often tells you that a potential flaw with the argument is not true. *

Everything that’s not true in that answer choice, then, makes the conclusion substantially more valid.

Consider this argument, for example:

Kanye received the most votes for the “Best Hip Hop Artist” award at the upcoming MTV Video Music Awards, so Kanye will be awarded the trophy for Best Hip Hop Artist.

If this were the prompt for a question that asked “Which of the following is an assumption required by the argument above?” a correct answer might read:

A) The Video Music Award for “Best Hip Hop Artist” is not decided by a method other than voting.

And the function of that answer choice is to tell you what’s not true (“everything I’m not”), removing a flaw that allows the conclusion to be much more logically sound (“…made me everything I am.”) These answer choices can be challenging in context, largely because:

1) Answer choices that remove a flaw can be difficult to anticipate, because those flaws are usually subtle.

2) Answer choices that remove a flaw tend to include a good amount of negation, making them a bit more convoluted.

In order to counteract these difficulties, it can be helpful to use “Everything I’m not made me everything I am” to your advantage. If what’s NOT true is essential to the conclusion’s truth, then if you consider the opposite – what if it WERE true – you can turn that question into a Weaken question. For example, if you took the opposite of the choice above, it would read:

The VMA for “Best Hip Hop Artist” is decided by a method other than voting.

If that were true, the conclusion is then wholly unsupported. So what if Kanye got the most votes, if votes aren’t how the award is determined? At that point the argument has no leg to stand on, so since the opposite of the answer directly weakens the argument, then you know that the answer itself strengthens it. And since we’re typically all much more effective as critics than we are as defenders, taking the opposite helps you to do what you’re best at. So consider the full-length problem:

**Editor of an automobile magazine:** The materials used to make older model cars (those built before 1980) are clearly superior to those used to make late model cars (those built since 1980). For instance, all the 1960’s and 1970’s cars that I routinely inspect are in surprisingly good condition: they run well, all components work perfectly, and they have very little rust, even though many are over 50 years old. However, almost all of the late model cars I inspect that are over 10 years old run poorly, have lots of rust, and are barely fit to be on the road.

Which of the following is an assumption required by the argument above?

A) The quality of materials used in older model cars is not superior to those used to make other types of vehicles produced in the same time period.

B) Cars built before 1980 are not used for shorter trips than cars built since then.

C) Manufacturing techniques used in modern automobile plants are not superior to those used in plants before 1980.

D) Well-maintained and seldom-used older model vehicles are not the only ones still on the road.

E) Owners of older model vehicles take particularly good care of those vehicles.

First notice that several of the answer choices (A, B, C, and D) include “is not” or “are not” and that the question stem asks for an assumption. These are clues that you’re dealing with a “removes the flaw” kind of problem, in which what is not true (in the answer choices) is essential to making the conclusion of the argument true. Because of that, it’s a good idea to take the opposites of those answer choices so that instead of removing the flaw in a Strengthen/Assumption question, you’re introducing the flaw and making it a Weaken. When you do that, you should see that choice D becomes:

D) Well-maintained and seldom-used older model vehicles ARE the only ones still on the road.

If that’s the case, the conclusion – “the materials used to make older cars are clearly superior to those used in newer ones” – is proven to be flawed. All the junkers are now off the road, so the evidence no longer holds up; you’re only seeing well-working old cars because they’re the most cared-for, not because they were better made in the first place.

And in a larger context, look at what D does ‘reading forward': if it’s not only well-maintained and seldom-driven older cars on the road, then you have a better comparison point. So what’s not true here makes the argument everything it is. But dealing in “what’s not true” can be a challenge, so remember that you can take the opposite of each answer choice and make this “Everything I’m Not” assumption question into a much-clearer “Everything I Am” Weaken question.

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*By Brian Galvin*

As an example, consider a simple question that asks you how many even numbers there are between 1 and 100. Of course, you could write out all 100 terms and identify which ones are even, say by circling them, and then sum up all the circled terms. This strategy would work, but it is completely inefficient and anyone who’s successfully passed the fourth grade would be able to see that you can get the answer faster than this. If every second number is even, then you just have to take the number of terms and divide by 2. The only difficulty you could face would be the endpoints (say 0 to 100 instead), but you can adjust for these easily. The next question might be count from 1 to 1,000, and you definitely don’t want to be doing that manually.

Other questions might not be as straight forward, but can be solved using similar mathematical properties. It’s important to note that you don’t have a calculator on the GMAT, but you will have one handy for the rest of your life (even in a no-WiFi zone!). This means that the goal of the test is not to waste your time executing calculations you would execute on your calculator in real life, but rather to evaluate how you think and whether you can find a logical shortcut that will yield the correct answer quickly.

Let’s look at an example that can waste a lot of time if you’re not careful:

*Brian plays a game in which he rolls two die. For each die, an even number means he wins that amount of money and an odd number means he loses that amount of money. What is the probability that he loses money if he plays the game once?*

*A) 11/12
*

First, it’s important to interpret the question properly. Brian will roll two die, independently of one another. For each even number rolled, he will win that amount of money, so any given die is 50/50. If both end up even, he’s definitely winning some money, but if one ends up even and the other odd, he may win or lose money depending on the values. The probability should thus be close to being 50/50, but a 5 with a 4 will result in a net loss of 1$, whereas a 5 with a 6 will result in a net gain of 1$. Clearly, we need to consider the actual values of each die in some of our calculations.

Let’s start with the brute force approach (similar to writing out 1-100 above). There are 6 sides to a die, and we’re rolling 2 dice, so there are 6^2 or 36 possibilities. We could write them all out, sum up the dollar amounts won or lost, and circle each one that loses money. However, it is essentially impossible to do this in less than 2 minutes (or even 3-4 minutes), so we shouldn’t use this as our base approach. We may have to write out a few possibilities, but ideally not all 36.

If both numbers are even, say 2 and 2, then Brian will definitely win some money. The only variable is how much money, but that is irrelevant in this problem. Similarly, if he rolls two odd numbers, say 3 and 3, then he’s definitely losing money. We don’t need to calculate each value; we simply need to know they will result in net gains or net losses. For two even numbers, in which we definitely win money, this will happen if the first die is a 2, a 4 or a 6, and the second die is a 2, a 4 or a 6. That would leave us with 9 possibilities out of the 36 total outcomes. You can also calculate this by doing the probability of even and even, which is 3/6 * 3/6 or 9/36. Similarly, odd and odd will also yield 9/36 as the possibilities are 1, 3, and 5 with 1, 3, and 5. Beyond this, we don’t need to consider even/even or odd/odd outcomes at all.

The interesting part is when we come to odds and evens together. One die will make Brian win money and the other will make him lose money. The issue is in the amplitude. Since we’ve eliminated 18 possibilities that are all entirely odd or even, we only need to consider the 18 remaining mixed possibilities. There is a logical way to solve this issue, but let’s cover the brute force approach since it’s reasonable at this point. The 18 possibilities are:

Odd then even: Even then odd:

1, 2 3, 2 5, 2 2, 1 4, 1 6, 1

1, 4 3, 4 5, 4 2, 3 4, 3 6, 3

1, 6 3, 6 5,6 2, 5 4, 5 6, 5

Looking at these numbers, it becomes apparent that each combination is there twice ((2,1) or (1,2)). The order may matter when considering 36 possibilities, but it doesn’t matter when considering the sums of the die rolls. (2,1) and (1,2) both yield the same result (net gain of 1), so the order doesn’t change anything to the result. We can simplify our 18 cases into 9 outcomes and recall that each one weighs 1/18 of the total:

(1,2) or (2,1): Net gain of 1$

(1,4) or (4,1): Net gain of 3$

(1,6) or (6,1): Net gain of 5$

Indeed, no matter what even number we roll with a 1, we definitely make money. This is because 1 is the smallest possible number. Next up:

(3,2) or (2,3): Net loss of 1$

(3,4) or (4,3): Net gain of 1$

(3,6) or (6,3): Net gain of 3$

For 3, one of the outcomes is a loss whereas the other two are gains. Since 3 is bigger than 2, it will lead to a loss. Finally:

(5,2) or (2,5): Net loss of 3$

(5,4) or (4,5): Net loss of 1$

(5,6) or (6,5): Net gain of 1$

For 5, we tend to lose money, because 2/3 of the possibilities are smaller than 5. Only a 6 paired with the 5 would result in a net gain. Indeed, all numbers paired with 6 will result in a net gain, which is the same principle as always losing with a 1.

Summing up our 9 possibilities, 3 led to losses while 6 led to gains. The probability is thus not evenly distributed as we might have guessed up front. Indeed, the fact that any 6 rolled with an odd number always leads to a gain whereas any 1 rolled with an even number always leads to a loss helps explain this discrepancy.

To find the total probability of losing money, we need to find the probability of reaching one of these three odd-even outcomes. The chance of the dice being odd and even (in any order) is ½, and within that the chances of losing money are 3/9: (3, 2), (5, 2), and (5, 4). Thus we have 3/9 * ½ = 3/18 or 1/6 chance of losing money if it’s odd/even. Similarly, if it ends up odd/odd, then we always lose money, and that’s 3/9 * 3/9 = 9/36 or ¼. We have to add the two possibilities since any of them is possible, and we get ¼ + 1/6, if we put them on 12 we get 3/12 + 2/12 which equals 5/12. This is answer choice D.

It’s convenient to shortcut this problem somewhat by identifying that it cannot end up at 50/50 (answer choice C) because of the added weight of even numbers. Since 6 will win over anything, you start getting the feeling that your probability of losing will be lower than ½. From there, your choices are D or E, 15/36 or 12/36. Short of taking a guess, you could start writing out a few possibilities without having to consider all 36 outcomes, and determine that all odd/odd combinations will work. After that, you look at the few possibilities that could work ((5,4), (4,5), etc) and determine that there are more than 12 total possibilities, locking you in to answer choice D.

Many students struggle with problems such as these because they appear to be simple if you just write out all the possibilities. Especially when your brain is already feeling fatigued, you may be tempted to try and save mental energy by using brute force to solve problems. Beware, the exam wants you to do this (It’s a trap!) and waste precious time. If you need to write out some possibilities, that’s perfectly fine, but try and avoid writing them all out by using logic and deduction. On test day, if you use logic to save time on possible outcomes, you won’t lose.

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*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.*