The GMAT is an exam that tests many different facets of understanding, and some questions are designed to test your ability to finish a thought. In Critical Reasoning, we are often asked to establish which answer choice is the correct answer to a given question. However, sometimes there is no actual question posed, but simply an unfinished thought that must be completed. The thought cannot end in multiple different ways, but rather, it must end in the only answer choice that is coherent with the rest of the passage. These questions combine elements of strengthen, weaken and inference questions and ask you to best complete the passage given.

These questions do tend to be harder than a typical Critical Reasoning question, and therefore may not show up that frequently on any one test. However, they are important to understand because they ______________

A) Build confidence

B) Underscore important concepts

C) Squirrel!!

The answer to my little trivia game was B, but you could make a case for any of the given answers. Let’s try it again with an actual GMAT question:

*Environmentalists support a major phase-down of fossil fuels and substitution of favored ‘non-polluting’ energies to conserve depleting resources and protect the environment. Yet energy megatrends contradict those concerns. Fossil-fuel resources are becoming more abundant, not scarcer, and promise to continue expanding as technology improves, world markets liberalize, and investment capital expands. However, these facts do not mean a smaller role of the non-polluting sources of energy in the long run given that ______________*

*A) The costs of producing energy from non-polluting sources of energy have remained constant in the last five years.
*

The correct answer must correctly finish the thought as if it were always supposed to be there. If there are any contradictions or illogical conclusions drawn, that answer choice must be incorrect. The thought began by discussing fossil fuels and how environmentalists are calling for decreasing their use. However, the worldwide trend is that their use is increasing (#FossilFuels). These facts must somehow combine to indicate that non-polluting sources of energy will still be prevalent in the future, and we must select the answer choice that supports that. Let’s examine them one by one.

Answer choice A *“The costs of producing energy from non-polluting sources of energy have remained constant in the last five years”* introduces cost into the equation. There was no mention of cost prior to this, so it seems illogical that cost will be a determining factor in this issue. We can safely eliminate A.

Answer choice B *“The availability of fossil fuels does mean an increased use of the same”* is actually a 180°. If this were true, then there would be ever more fossil fuel use, and the alternatives would be significantly reduced. Answer choice B may seem tempting, but it’s going the wrong way.

Answer choice C *“The amount of confirmed deposits of fossil fuels is sufficient to serve the world energy needs at least over the next two centuries”* brings up an arbitrary timeframe for the purposes of sounding grandiose. Two centuries seems like a long time, but it’s also unfounded and irrelevant to the process. What if the answer choice had been two decades instead? Or two millennia? Would that make it more or less likely to be true? The arbitrary timeframe does not have any bearing on this thought, so we must eliminate answer choice C.

Answer choice D *“There is an increasing sense of acceptance across the world on the harmful effects of the use of fossil fuels on the environment”* brings the argument back to the cause of the environmentalists. This harkens back to the first sentence of the passage, and logically concludes why the facts may indicate something, but the long term trend will eventually indicate something else. Answer choice D is correct.

Answer choice E *“Non-polluting sources of energy are less cost-effective than fossil fuels“* can be particularly tempting, because it is actually true in real life. However, just like with answer choice A, the concept of cost is parachuted into the passage with no antecedent to build upon. This factoid may be largely true in 2014, but does that mean it will be true in 2015 or 2025? We cannot select answer choices that seem correct in real life but are unsupported in the text. Answer choice E can also be eliminated.

When it comes to finishing a thought, it is important to note that the conclusion is often the most interesting part. Even if you’re already contemplating the next element or task, ensure that you do a thorough job finishing up the previous job. No one likes to leave loose threads, and it completely undermines your conclusion when the last portion is unclear or unfinished. Above all, the most important thing is to always…

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.*

Here are Chicago Booth’s deadlines and essay, followed by our comments in italics:

**Chicago Booth Admissions Deadlines**

Round 1: September 25, 2015

Round 2: January 6, 2015

Round 3: April 7, 2015

*Booth’s Round 1 deadline has crept up by about a week, making Booth the latest top MBA program to move its first deadline into September. Note that applying to Booth in Round 1 means that you will get your decision back by December 18, which gives you at least a couple of weeks before most business schools’ Round 2 deadlines come. Booth’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines each budged only slightly compared to last year.*

**Chicago Booth Admissions Essay**

- Chicago Booth values adventurous inquiry, diverse perspectives, and a collaborative exchange of ideas. This is us. Who are you?
*(You can see all of the technical requirements and limitations here.)*

*Chicago Booth’s “PowerPoint question” returns once again, although the wording of the question is new. Still, our advice mostly remians the same. As you think about how you want to approach this prompt, remember that the Chicago Booth admissions committee members already hold in their hands a great deal of information about you… What else do you want them to know? Don’t simply use this response to just show off professional achievements that you already cover elsewhere in your application. Be creative! The reason Booth kept this question is because, while it hasn’t worked perfectly for the school so far, it really is the admissions committee’s best chance to tease some personality out of your application. So don’t be afraid to give them some!**Finally, note that an essay truly is okay here. Don’t feel that, because PowerPoint is an option, it’s expected or preferred. If you can best “broaden their perspective about who you are” using plain old words, then we recommend that you go that route.*

Do you dream of getting into Chicago Booth? Download our Essential Guide to Booth, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Booth 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*

There is one mathematical discipline that dominates the Quant section of the GMAT: Algebra. The majority of the math questions that you will see on test day involve algebra.

Many questions involve pure algebra, such as expressions and equations involving variables, roots, and exponents. Another large group of questions is word problems, most of which are best addressed using algebraic equations. Geometry is another significant subject on the GMAT; and geometry is simply a delivery mechanism for algebra. Even things like ratios can often best be addressed by using equations with “x” as the multiplier.

It seems that the “A” in “A Game” really does stand for Algebra! It’s a good thing that there are topics, such as statistics, that involve real numbers instead of algebra. Yet even these questions can often best be solved using Algebra.

Here is a statistics question that can be addressed several ways. Try to solve this question using algebra.

“The average of the five numbers is 6.8. If one of the numbers is multiplied by 3, the average of the numbers increases to 9.2. Which of the five numbers is multiplied by 3?

(A) 1.5

(B) 3.0

(C) 3.9

(D) 4.0

(E) 6.0

You can do this problem in a few different ways, but perhaps the best way is Algebra! No matter how you choose the address the question you will need to determine the magnitude of the increase. Since “sum (total) = average * # of terms” You can take the average of 6.8 times the five terms and get a beginning total of 34. The new total is 9.2 times 5 which equals 46. So the increase is 12.

In order to create an equation you need to ask yourself “what happened to cause that increase of 12?” The question stem tells you that one of the numbers was multiplied by 3. So when one of the numbers (we can call that number “x”) was multiplied by 3 the total increased by 12.

The equation formed from this information is simply “3x = x + 12.” The “3x” is because the number is multiplied by 3 and the “x + 12” is because you had the x to start with (there were five numbers right? and x was one of them) and you added 12 because of the increase to the sum.

So if “3x = x + 12” then x = 6. So the correct answer is E.

This question can be done based on knowledge of number properties and can even be done by working directly with the answer choices. However, neither of these methods is as reliable for most students as the algebra is. I have worked with the question for years and I can tell you that more people choose D than choose the correct answer. Yet very few of the people who get this wrong used algebra. Those who use algebra generally seem to get this question right.

Make sure that you are very comfortable with algebra, after all, bringing your “A Game” is essential to your success on the Quant section!

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!

*David Newland* has been teaching for Veritas Prep since 2006, and he won the Veritas Prep Instructor of the Year award in 2008. Students’ friends often call in asking when he will be teaching next because he really is a Veritas Prep and a GMAT rock star! Read more of his articles here.

**1. Use real SAT questions to practice.**

Though this may seem like a relatively obvious point, it may surprise many people to know that the vast majority of books do not use real SAT questions in their practice sections. The SAT is a product of College Board and this makes all the questions that they write proprietary information. They will license out this product, but many companies that write books about how to succeed on the SAT are not allowed to use these questions as practice problems. This may not seem like a big deal, but the College Board has a very specific style for the questions that they write. Most SAT books will write their problems to practice certain skills, as opposed to writing them to emulate the style of the SAT. As a result, many students find that their practice problems ask for these skills to be used in very different ways. Imagine learning to drive on wide desert roads, and then being asked to take a driving test in downtown Manhattan. The basic skills are the same, but you would be much more likely to succeed if you learned to drive on the same streets where the test would be administered.

**2. Read and answer reading questions as you go.**

This technique is so powerful, because it is so simple. Many students still attempt to read the entire passage and then answer all the questions afterward. This is how I learned to take the reading section of the SAT, but I was always worried about running out of time. The strategy of answering questions as you read is so effective because it saves tons of time (sometimes 5-10 minutes!) and it helps to answer questions more effectively. The essence of the technique is to look at the first question and read the passage until the line is referenced. After reading the section, form your own answer WITHOUT looking at the answers choices. Finally, check out the answer choices and eliminate all answer choices that are not supported by the passage then pick which one matches your answer. Repeat this process with the next line specific question, reading all text between where you left off from the first question to a little past the lines referenced in the next question. Finally, answer the big picture questions after you’ve read the whole passage. This technique alone can mean a lot more time and a lot more points.

**3. Plug in real numbers for math problems that don’t use them.**

The most common problems of this sort look something like this:

“If x < y which of the following is true…” “Some even integer is divided by 7…”

In these set ups, the variables are given parameters, but are not specifically defined by real numbers. These problems are best solved by plugging in real numbers that fit these parameters and solving the problems. Let’s look at the first problem:

*A one digit even integer greater than zero is divided by 7. Which of the following must be true?*

*A) the remainder must be even*

* B) the remainder must be odd*

* C) If the remainder is an even, the remainder of 6 more than the integer will be odd*

* D) If the remainder is odd, the remainder of 8 more than the integer will be even*

* E) There is no way to determine if the remainder is even or odd*

The parameters of this are so clear we can just start listing real one digit numbers greater than zero and dividing them by seven to see what we have.

2/7: remainder 2, 4/7: remainder 4, 6/7: remainder 6. 8/7: remainder 1

There are both even and odd remainders represented, so A and B are out, and the only integer that gives an odd remainder would give an even remainder if 8 was added to it

8+8 = 16

16/7: remainder 2

If we test answer choice C we see that 2+6 = 8, 4+6 = 10 6+6 = 12 and all of these if divided by seven give and odd remainder. We have our answer.

These three changes are simple but can produce big results. By mixing these techniques with some section specific strategies, you will be acing the SAT in no time!

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!

*David Greenslade** is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.*

At Veritas Prep, you have the opportunity to work with the ideal consultant for your needs. We have the most diverse and experienced MBA admissions consulting team ever assembled.

Get to know one right now:

**Heidy: **Head Consultant, Stanford MBA

**Specialties Include**:

- Consulting, Entrepreneur
- Low GPA/GMAT score
- Marketing
- Underrepresented minorities
- International candidates

**What is the most common application pitfall you help clients work through?**

“GMAT (standardized test scores) and GPA (school grades) can be such limiting mental barriers for most clients and sometimes prevent them from putting together a great application. I often hear clients beating themselves down over their lower than average scores or being overly confident (and thus, not putting much effort on the rest of the application) over their high scores. Both of those groups oversee the fact that a successful application goes beyond quantitative measurements. The application should be a well-rounded package that makes sense, is consistent and well put-together.”

**What cuisine is best in the bay area?**

“Being a Mexico-born Chinese living in California for over a decade, I enjoyed all types of cuisines from Asian to Latin to Mediterranean. What is common among all these cuisines is freshness and accessibility, thanks to the happy produce that grows in the local, sunny lands. From world-class wineries to organic artisan bakers and cheese makers to multi-cultural influences, California is a paradise for the most exquisite of palates.”

**What fictional character (movie, book, TV, etc…) do you think best embodies the attitude of students at Stanford GSB?**

“Probably Eliza Doolittle from the old classic movie My Fair Lady (Pygmalion), hehe! The GSB was such a major life-changing experience in my life, I now can think in much more well-rounded ways, aware of my unique abilities and able to use my new set of skills.”

**What do you find most rewarding about helping others apply to business school?**

“Doing an account of school, career and personal accomplishments, some people actually find the application some sort of a self-discovery process, which is essential to those interested in leadership positions in their careers. I enjoy working hard to get over that bump into those “a-ha” moments when my clients finally understand themselves and the process they are in. That’s when the creative juices kick in, and their stories and in turn, their application, become much more compelling and attractive.”

**Want to work with Heidy?** Learn more about her here, or find the expert who’s right for you here! Visit our Team page today.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

]]>Needless to say, this is not the kind of “next generation of leadership” the top schools are seeking to fill their seats. Business schools desire to build a body of students who are able to make an impact both at work and in their community. In fact, it’s not even really enough to be a volunteer anymore. Business schools ideally will see strategic leadership outside of your day job where you have demonstrated a high level of impact and a lasting mark on someone, something or someplace.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you must be Chairman of the Board in a local non-profit, or a city councilman, although those things can sometimes give you an edge, by proving that you not only take the time, but are also recognized by others in the community as a leader. Schools know it’s all too easy to run out and volunteer at a soup kitchen or hand out cups of water in the local 5K race. What they are looking for is your being involved, deeply involved in some area you care about and in the process, have influenced or impacted an organization.

If you think about it, it’s actually easier sometimes to do this than it is to lead in the workplace. Volunteer or community organizations are hungry for people who are willing to devote time, energy and ideas. If you do this, you will likely find yourself quickly rising and perhaps even being given an actual leadership role. At work, promotions are fewer and farther between.

If you find yourself in a place in your career where you have not been engaged in anything but the job, you need to work quickly to plug in somewhere. Perhaps you should spend some time reflecting on what you really care about and see if there are any opportunities to engage locally. If you get stuck, you can always think back to things you did in college as a volunteer and see if you can reinvent or re-engage the same or similar activities now. This has the added benefit of appearing more like a long-term commitment or passion than something you ran out and did for application purposes.

In the end, business schools want to be bringing in future business leaders of tomorrow—people who are passionate, engaging and care about their broader community. Sometimes even postponing your application window is necessary to make sure you can do enough soul-searching to ensure you are the kind of person who will give back. But it’s never too soon to start doing so.

Craft a balanced application! Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

*Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons. See more of his articles here.*

Fortunately, like any other part of the SAT, the time limit can be conquered by practice, dedication, and good test-taking strategies. Here are a few…

**1. Understand what is expected of you.**

It is unlikely that any high school class will ask you to write an essay within a time limit as short as 25 minutes. The types of essays you are generally expected to produce are far more complex. SAT prompts are in the form of simple yes-no questions because they are designed to be answerable in a simple 25-minute essay. To get a good idea of the kind of essay you should write (and to be reassured that it is completely doable within 25 minutes), check out the scored sample essays on the College Board website. This is no excuse not to write a good essay. It just means that you don’t need to write a complex one.

**2. Be prepared.**

Now that you know what kind of essay to write, prepare some examples that you can draw on to support whatever stance you take on the essay prompt. Read classic works of literature (To Kill a Mockingbird, Hamlet, The Scarlet Letter—anything that your English teacher might assign to you) and note major details like the full names of the main characters, the author, and the setting. Follow some current events, major actors, and developments. Pay attention in history class. These will all support you in preparing for the essay prompt.

**3. Don’t second-guess yourself.**

You’ll write more quickly if you stop hesitating. Overcome perfectionist instincts by keeping in mind that you are turning out a short and relatively simple piece of writing. Your essay will be just one of more than 1.5 million essays that College Board essay graders must work through; it will be nearly impossible for you to write anything that the graders have not seen before. If it is grammatically correct and supports your thesis, just write it. Provided that you have practiced diligently, you can be reasonably sure that your writing will be effective.

**4. Practice writing timed SAT essays.**

*This is by far the best way to build confidence and improve your writing.* In the context of the SAT, it comes with two additional benefits. First, you will become more comfortable with the “feel” of the time limit. 25 minutes feels very different depending on the situation: whether you’re waiting for a late bus, chatting with a good friend, or writing an essay that will influence your college admissions. The only way to really understand how it feels to write a SAT essay in 25 minutes is to actually sit down and do it—preferably many times over. Second, you can develop essay templates, which are specific phrases and structures that you will reuse in each essay. Since all SAT essays are based on a simple yes-no prompt, you should always have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion template that you can apply to different essay prompts. Templates allow you to write quickly since they reduce the need to come up with new phrasing while under the pressure of the clock.

The SAT essay time limit is only as scary as you allow it to be. 25 minutes may not be a lot of time, but with some practice and planning, you’ll be ready to conquer the writing section!

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!

*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.
*

In simple words, when you have enough data given and you can infer something from it without doubt, it is called an inference/conclusion.

When you have author’s opinion (conclusion of the argument) and you need something to be true for the opinion to hold, that is an assumption.

Let us explain with a simple example.

All A are B.

All B are C.

You can conclude that: All A are C. This must be true. It is a conclusion.

If you conclude that ‘All C are A’ (your opinion, not necessarily a fact), you are assuming that A, B and C overlap i.e. they all have exactly the same elements.

Look again:

Argument 1:

Premises:

All A are B.

All B are C.

Conclusion: All A are C.

Argument 2:

Premises:

All A are B.

All B are C.

Conclusion: All C are A.

Assumption: A, B and C overlap.

The conclusion of argument 2 will not hold if the assumption is negated.

If you are wondering why we are emphasizing it again and again even though it looks really simple, here is an official question that might help you understand the reasons for our misgivings. We will give you the argument but not the question stem. We will also give you the correct answer. You will need to decide whether the question stem asks for a conclusion or an assumption.

Question: Among the more effective kinds of publicity that publishers can get for a new book is to have excerpts of it published in a high-circulation magazine soon before the book is published. The benefits of such excerption include not only a sure increase in sales but also a fee paid by the magazine to the book’s publisher.

(A) The number of people for whom seeing an excerpt of a book in a magazine provides an adequate substitute for reading the whole book is smaller than the number for whom the excerpt stimulates a desire to read the book.

(B) Because the financial advantage of excerpting a new book in a magazine usually accrues to the book’s publisher, magazine editors are unwilling to publish excerpts from new books.

(C) In calculating the total number of copies that a book has sold, publishers include sales of copies of magazines that featured an excerpt of the book.

(D) The effectiveness of having excerpts of a book published in a magazine, measured in terms of increased sales of a book, is proportional to the circulation of the magazine in which the excerpts are published.

(E) Books that are suitable for excerpting in high-circulation magazines sell more copies than book that are not suitable for excerpting.

The correct answer is (A). What is the question?

*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!*

*Forget the SAT. Forget the classroom.*

A truly remarkable college essay benefits from a few extra ingredients, namely a healthy dose of creativity and a distinctive writing style. Unfortunately, most high schools don’t teach these skills when it comes to writing. Teachers tend to focus exclusively on the expository or analytical essay. This type of essay is immeasurably important in college and beyond, but provides poor framework from which to craft a college essay.

The structure of analytical essays tends to follow this pattern: a specific and provable thesis, pieces of supporting evidence with explanations, and a reiterative (if not outright redundant) conclusion. This works well for discussing literature or proving an argument. However, in the college essay, the subject matter is more dynamic—you are writing about yourself, your experiences, where you come from, perhaps where you hope to end up, and anything that has significantly impacted your life and the way you view the world. By confining yourself to the analytical structure, you are also ignoring the near-infinite number of ways to tell a story.

If that didn’t convince you to let go of your expository ways, consider this: The people who review your essay on a college admissions committee, potentially the gatekeepers to the institution of your dreams, read countless essays each day. Admissions counselors pore over dozens of folders filled with essays, grades, and scores. An unnecessarily verbose, intellectually formal, elaborately highbrow essay is unlikely to leave a good impression. A creative, perhaps even unconventionally structured piece of writing is certainly a better approach.

*When form fits function.*

How then, after years of writing academic essays, can you transition to creative writing? On a basic level, you need to match the structure to the story you are trying to tell. There’s a fundamental idea in biology that form fits function. In other words, the way in which an organism is structured has been tailored to be ideal for a particular function or activity. Similarly, the way your essay is structured should be the one most suitable to the story you are telling. Once you have this basic skeleton, you can start crafting your essay. Nonetheless, if some of your content or ideas morph over time, remember, even structure is flexible!

To be continued… *Happy Writing!*

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!

*Michael Rothberg is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor. He began tutoring his freshman year of college and is excited to help students conquer the SAT by unlocking their academic potential. Currently a rising sophomore at Harvard University, he is a Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology major and Staff Reporter at the Harvard Crimson.*

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Within the confines of the GMAT, the expectations for students are well known. You will be faced with 37 math and 41 verbal questions, have to select from five multiple choice answers, and complete each section within 75 minutes. However, sometimes certain questions will set up arbitrary rules within this game. An obvious example is data sufficiency: a question type that always provides two statements and asks whether a certain question can be answered using these statements. Why are there not three statements? Or four statements? The official answer will be to standardize the questions and allow for easier preparation, but the truthful answer is something most parents have had to utter countless times: “Because I said so”.

The only reason these rules apply is because they were established by the GMAC to test logical thinking. However, other rules could have been set up and test takers would have had to adhere to them. In fact, any question can set up arbitrary rules and then require you to analyze the situation and provide insight. Within the game that is the GMAT, a sub-game is created with each new question, and some of these questions have very specific rules (GMAT Inception).

The difficulty with some of the arbitrary question-specific rules is that the situation is only applicable to the exact question, meaning that you don’t have long to acclimate to the circumstances. Usually, the question will provide rules that are indispensible to solving the query, so we must adhere to them or risk falling into a trap.

Let’s look at an example that highlights the sub-game nature of certain GMAT questions:

An exam consists of 8 true/false questions. Brian forgets to study, so he must guess blindly on each question. If any score above 70% is a passing grade, what is the probability that Brian passes?

(A) 1/16

(B) 37/256

(C) 5/32

(D) 219/256

(E) 15/16

As always, let’s begin by paraphrasing the question. A student is blindly guessing on a True/False question, and thus will likely get half the questions right by default. It is conceivable that he could get 0% or 100% as well, meaning this is likely a probability question of sorts. However it’s a probability question within a probability question. Once we have accepted the premise that this exam will take place, we can only analyze the possible results of the student taking this test (the irony of which is enormous).

Another excellent trick is to look at the answer choices for easily removable options. If Brian did not study a single line of text, then the expected value of his blind guesses is 50%. This means it is possible that he can pass this test if he gets lucky, but he is not expected to do well. As such, any probability above 50% can be eliminated. We will need to do the calculations to determine exactly which answer is correct, but we already know it cannot be D or E as they are both too high.

Picking among the next three choices, each with a different denominator and fairly close values would be tricky. Statistically speaking, this question is identical to a coin flip question, where True is Heads and False is Tails (or vice versa if you prefer). The chances of getting all 8 correct, just as 8 straight Heads, would be (½)^8 or 1/2^8 or 1/256. This would yield a result of 100% on the exam. Brian would undoubtedly be surprised by such a result, but it is possible for him to pass the test without getting every question right. Since there are 8 questions, each question is worth 1/8 of the final score or 12.5%. Thus Brian could miss 1 question and still manage an 87.5%. He could even squeak by with 2 errors, giving him a result of 75% on the test. Anything lower would put him below the failure threshold.

There are three ways to calculate the remaining options, so let’s look at a more likely scenario: the possibility of getting 7 correct answers on the test. This result could be achieved if Brian missed the first question and got the next 7 right, or missed the last question after getting the first 7 right, or any other such breakdown. Logically, you can deduce that there are 8 different spots where the error could be, and the remaining 7 spots are all correct. Thus if each combination of answers has a 1/28 possibility of occurring, we should end up with 8/28 or 23/28 (cancelling to) 20/25 or 1/32. We can also use the combination formula for selecting 7 elements out of 8 where the order doesn’t matter. The formula would be n!/k!(n-k)!, where n is the total (8) and k is the number of choices (7). This would yield 8!/1!*7!, which simplifies to 8. This means there are 8 possible choices to select 7 correct answers. The final step is to divide by the total number of possibilities, which still stands at 28. The last option is to determine the numerator with the repeating elements formula n!/t!f!, where t and f are the number of repeating True and False answers. The result will still be 8!/1!7!, so 8 possibilities out of the same 256 options.

Using the same strategies on 6 correct answers and 2 false answers, we can get 8!/2!6!, which is 8*7/2 or 28 possibilities. The denominator won’t change for any of these, so the probability of getting exactly 6 correct answers is 28/256 (a little less than 11%). While I’m on the subject, I’ll simply draw attention to the fact that picking two correct answers and six incorrect answers on a binary test such as this one will yield the same results as picking two incorrect answers and six correct answers. The nature of the exercise (and the formulas) makes it so symmetry is guaranteed. This may be helpful at some point on the GMAT or in life, so try to ensure you can shortcut some calculations in this manner.

Putting together our three results, the chances of passing this exam are 1/256 + 8/256 + 28/256. This sum gives exactly answer choice B: 37/256. Although it seems unlikely that going into an exam with absolutely no preparation could yield a 15% chance of passing, those are the rules stipulated on this question. The entire GMAT exam has fixed rules, so it’s important to know how to approach each question on the exam. Moreover, it’s also important to understand the adjunct rules on particular questions in order to correctly solve the problem. As Jigsaw would rhetorically ask in any Saw movie: “Would you like to play a game?”

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