How to Go From a 48 to 51 in GMAT Quant – Part VII

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomBoth a test-taker at the 48 level and one at the 51 level in the GMAT Quant section, are conceptually strong – given an unlimited time frame, both will be able to solve most GMAT questions correctly. The difference lies in the two things a test-taker at the 51 level does skillfully:

  1. Uses holistic, big-picture methods to solve Quant questions.
  2. Handles questions he or she finds difficult in a timely manner.

We have been discussing holistic methods on this blog for a long time now and will continue discussing them. (Before you continue reading, be sure to check out parts I, II, III, IVV and VI of this series.)

Today we will focus on “handling the hard questions in a timely manner.” Note that we do not say “solving the hard questions in a timely manner.” Occasionally, one might be required to make a quick call and choose to guess and move on – but again, that is not the focus of this post. We are actually going to talk about the “lightbulb” moment that helps us save on time. There are many such moments for the 51 level test-taker – in fact, the 51 scorers often have time left over after attempting all these questions.

Test takers at the 48 level will also eventually reach the same conclusions but might need much more time. That will put pressure on them the next time they look at the ticking clock, and once their cool is lost, “silly errors” will start creeping in. So it isn’t about just that one question – one can end up botching many other questions too.

There are many steps that can be easily avoided by a lightbulb moment early on. This is especially true for Data Sufficiency questions.

Let’s take an official example:

Pam owns an inventory of unopened packages of corn and rice, which she has purchased for $17 and $13 per package, respectively. How many packages of corn does she have ?

Statement 1: She has $282 worth of packages.

Statement 2: She has twice as many packages of corn as of rice.

A high scorer will easily recognize that this question is based on the concept of “integral solutions to an equation in two variables.” Since, in such real world examples, x and y cannot be negative or fractional, these equations usually have a finite number of solutions.

After we find one solution, we will quickly know how many solutions the equation has, but getting the first set of values that satisfy the equation requires a little bit of brute force.

The good thing here is that this is a Data Sufficiency question – you don’t need to find the actual solution. The only thing we need is to establish that there is a single solution only. (Obviously, there has to be a solution since Pam does own $282 worth of packages.)

So, the test-taker will start working on finding the first solution (using the method discussed in this post). We are told:

Price of a packet of corn = $17
Price of a packet of rice = $13

Say Pam has “x” packets of corn and “y” packets of rice.

Statement 1: She has $282 worth of packages

Using Statement 1, we know that 17x + 13y = 282.

We are looking for the integer values of x and y.

If x = 0, y will be 21.something (not an integer)
If x = 1, y = 20.something
If x = 2, y = 19.something
If x = 3, y = 17.something

This is where the 51 level scorer stops because they never lose sight of the big picture. The “lightbulb” switches on, and now he or she knows that there will be only one set of values that can satisfy this equation. Why? Because y will be less than 17 in the first set of values that satisfies this equation. So if we want to get the next set that satisfies, we will need to subtract y by 17 (and add 13 to x), which will make y negative.

So in any case, there will be a unique solution to this equation. We don’t actually need to find the solution and hence, nothing will be gained by continuing these calculations. Statement 1 is sufficient.

Statement 2: She has twice as many packages of corn as of rice.

Statement 2 gives us no information on the total number of packages or the total amount spent. Hence, we cannot find the total number of packages of corn using this information alone. Therefore, our answer is A.

I hope you see how you can be alert to what you want to handle these Quant questions in a timely manner.

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

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

GMAT Tip of the Week: The Overly Specific Question Stem

GMAT Tip of the WeekFor most of our lives, we ask and answer relatively generic questions: “How’s it going?” “What are you up to this weekend?” “What time do the Cubs play tonight?”

And think about it, what if those questions were more specific: “Are you in a melancholy mood today?” “Are you and Josh going to dinner at Don Antonio’s tonight and ordering table-side guacamole?” “Do the Cubs play at 7:05 tonight on WGN?” If someone is asking those questions instead, you’re probably a bit suspicious. Why so specific? What’s your angle?

The same is true on the GMAT. Most of the question stems you see are relatively generic: “What is the value of x?” “Which of the following would most weaken the author’s argument?” So when the question stem get a little too specific, you should become a bit suspicious. What’s the test going for there? Why so specific?

The overly-specific Critical Reasoning question stem is a great example. Consider the problem:

Raisins are made by drying grapes in the sun. Although some of the sugar in the grapes is caramelized in the process, nothing is added.
Moreover, the only thing removed from the grapes is the water that evaporates during the drying, and water contains no calories or nutrients.
The fact that raisins contain more iron per food calorie than grapes do is thus puzzling.

Which one of the following, if true, most helps to explain why raisins contain more iron per calorie than do grapes?

(A) Since grapes are bigger than raisins, it takes several bunches of grapes to provide the same amount of iron as a handful of raisins does.
(B) Caramelized sugar cannot be digested, so its calories do not count toward the food calorie content of raisins.
(C) The body can absorb iron and other nutrients more quickly from grapes than from raisins because of the relatively high water content of grapes.
(D) Raisins, but not grapes, are available year-round, so many people get a greater share of their yearly iron intake from raisins than from grapes.
(E) Raisins are often eaten in combination with other iron-containing foods, while grapes are usually eaten by themselves.

Look at that question stem: a quick scan naturally shows you that you need to explain/resolve a paradox, but the question goes into even more detail for you. It reaffirms the exact nature of the paradox – it’s not about “iron,” but instead that that raisins contain more iron per calorie than grapes do. By adding that extra description into the question stem, the testmaker is practically yelling at you, “Make sure you consider calories…don’t just focus on iron!” And therefore, you should be prepared for the correct answer B, the only one that addresses calories, and deftly avoid answers A, C, D, and E, which all focus only on iron (and do so tangentially to the paradox).

Strategically speaking, if a Critical Reasoning question stem gets overly specific, you should pay particular attention to the specificity there…it’s most likely directing you to the operative portion of the argument.

Overly specific questions are most helpful in Data Sufficiency questions (and that same logic will help on Problem Solving too, as you’ll see). The testmaker knows that you’ve trained your entire algebraic life to solve for individual variables. So how can a question author use that lifetime of repetition against you? By asking you to solve for a specific combination that doesn’t require you to find the individual values. Consider this example, which appears courtesy the Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review:

If x^2 + y^2 = 29, what is the value of (x – y)^2?

(1) xy = 10
(2) x = 5

Two major clues should stand out to you that you need to Leverage Assets on this problem. For one, using both statements together (answer choice C) is dead easy. If xy = 10 and x = 5 then y = 2 and you can solve for any combination of x and y that anyone could ever ask for. But secondly and more subtly, the question stem should jump out as a classic way-too-specific, Leverage Assets question stem. They asked for a really, really specific value: (x – y)^2.

Now, immediately upon seeing that specificity you should be thinking, “That’s too specific…there’s probably a way to solve for that exact value without getting x and y individually.” That thought process alone tells you where to spend your time – you want to really leverage Statement 1 to try to make it work alone.

And if you’re still unconvinced, consider what the specificity does: the “squared” portion removes the question of negative vs. positive from the debate, removing one of the most common reasons that a seemingly-sufficient statement just won’t work. And, furthermore, the common quadratic (x – y)^2 shares an awful lot in common with the x^2 and y^2 elsewhere in the question stem. If you expand the parentheses, you have “What is x^2 – 2xy + y^2?” meaning that you’re already 2/3 of the way there (so to speak), since they’ve spotted you the sum x^2 + y^2.

The important strategy here is that the overly-specific question stem should scream “LEVERAGE ASSETS” and “You don’t need to solve for x and y…there’s probably a way to solve directly for that exact combination.” Since you know that you’re solving for the expanded x^2 – 2xy + y^2, and you already know that x^2 + y^2 = 29, you’re really solving for 29 – 2xy. Since you know from Statement 1 that xy = 20, then 29 – 2xy will be 29 – 2(10), which is 9.

Statement 1 alone is sufficient, even though you don’t know what x and y are individually. And one of the major signals that you should recognize to help you get there is the presence of an overly specific question stem.

So remember, in a world of generic questions, the oddly specific question should arouse a bit of suspicion: the interrogator is up to something! On the GMAT, you can use that to your advantage – an overly specific Critical Reasoning question usually tells you exactly which keywords are the most important, and an overly specific Data Sufficiency question stem begs for you to leverage assets and find a way to get the most out of each statement.

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

By Brian Galvin.

Should You Wait One More Year to Apply to Business School?

stopwatch“Should I wait another year?” This is a common question among many MBA aspirants. On the one hand, you are raring to achieve the goals that have inspired you to consider business school in the first place; on the other, however, you are wondering how much another year of preparing and additional experiences might help your admissions chances. And of course, your other life priorities – such as personal and family relationships – are also major considerations.

You may find yourself feeling impatient with the desire to move forward, while battling your nerves to leave your current path and start anew. Managing your emotions to think clearly and objectively is important in making this critical decision. (Treat this also as good practice for more life-changing and career-defining decisions later on.)

So, what should you consider in deciding whether or not to wait one more year before applying to business school?

1) Reflection on Personal Goals
Many applicants, especially younger ones, are unsure of their current paths, and thus, they pursue business school as a chance to open up potential career opportunities. However, you would do well to learn more about the possibilities that will actually be available to you post-MBA before applying.

How realistic are your target goals given your background, interests, and skills? Is this really the job that you want to hold long-term? Taking the time to answer these questions by researching, networking, and reflecting on yourself could go a long way in making the most out of the time, money, and effort you will be investing in your MBA plans. Afterwards, if you still feel uncertain, it would be best not to rush into applying to business school.

2) Improving Your GMAT Score
Candidates whose GMAT scores are way below their target school’s average need to reconsider retaking the GMAT if they want to increase their odds of acceptance. Depending on your assessment of how much higher you can score, and the amount of time needed (and available) for studying, waiting one more year to try and score closer to the school’s average could be a good reason to defer your application.

3) Accelerating Personal Development
What does your next year look like if you don’t go to business school? Would there be great opportunities to take on large-scale responsibilities at work? Or unique experiences to gain? Or a potential promotion to earn?

If the answer to any of these is “Yes!” then it could be worth it to stay another year, as these possibilities can fast-track your career and development. They might also result in stronger recommendation letters from your superiors or cement your reputation as a high potential executive in your company or industry – all factors that the Admissions Committee will notice when reviewing your future application. And depending on where you work, this may even lead to your company offering sponsorship for your MBA when you decide to pursue it later.

Weigh all of these considerations carefully, as they could affect not only your chances at achieving your MBA, but also your future career prospects afterwards.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. 

Early Thoughts on Harvard Business School’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Question

Harvard Business SchoolApplication season at Harvard Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach this year’s new essay prompt. HBS is mixing it up again this year with a slightly different essay prompt that maintains the same spirit of last year’s essay question. With only one question, it is critical that applicants make the most of the limited real estate available, here.

Essay 1:
As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA Program? (no word limit)
Open-ended prompts such as this are often the most stressful type of essay question MBA applicants receive – couple that with the inherent pressure that comes with applying to Harvard, and this essay may be viewed as one of the more nerve-wracking questions of the application season. The challenge here for many will be just the sheer simplicity of this question. This essay prompt is a good example of why it is important to really just pay attention to the advice the HBS Admissions Committee offers:

“Don’t overthink, over-craft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.”

HBS has really gone out of its way, particularly through Dee Leopold’s blog (soon to become Chad Losee’s blog), to emphasize a desire for authenticity and transparency in the essay-writing process. Candidates who are able to channel their approach in a compelling and natural way will stand out from the flock of impersonal, inauthentic and overly-curated essays the school is bound to see.

This approach tends to fly in the face of what the expectation is at other business schools, but in this case, candidates who are unable to adhere to the guidance provided by the school will struggle with securing admission to HBS. Breakthrough candidates will answer this specific question posed in the manner the school has outlined – your response should be brief, conversational, and really provide the Admissions Committee with insight into aspects of “you” that are not currently represented elsewhere in the application.

Harvard has set the tone of an almost casual “blog-style” approach to their essay, and last year, even focused their prompt around having candidates write from the perspective of communicating with their future classmates. Even though the prompt, itself, is a bit different this year, maintain the spirit of this communication style to really make your essay stand out. At its core, this question is honestly about getting to know you, so don’t miss the opportunity by trying to craft a seemingly “perfect” but dispassionate answer for the Admissions Committee.

These are just a few thoughts on the new essay from HBS – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Harvard and its application essay, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.

Applying to Harvard or other business schools? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and 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 articles by him here.

Don’t Swim Against the Arithmetic Currents on the GMAT Quant Section

MalibuWhen I was a child, I was terrified of riptides. Partially, this was a function of having been raised by unusually neurotic parents who painstakingly instilled this fear in me, and partially this was a function of having inherited a set of genes that seems to have predisposed me towards neuroticism. (The point, of course, is that my parents are to blame for everything. Perhaps there is a better venue for discussing these issues.)

If there’s a benefit to fears, it’s that they serve as potent motivators to find solutions to the troubling predicaments that prompt them. The solution to dealing with riptides is to avoid struggling against the current. The water is more powerful than you are, so a fight is a losing proposition – rather, you want to wait for an opportunity to swim with the current and allow the surf to bring you back to shore. There’s a profound wisdom here that translates to many domains, including the GMAT.

In class, whenever we review a strategy, my students are usually comfortable applying it almost immediately. Their deeper concern is about when to apply the strategy, as they’ll invariably find that different approaches work with different levels of efficacy on different problems. Moreover, even if one has a good strategy in mind, the way the strategy is best applied is often context-dependent. When we’re picking numbers, we can say that x = 2 or x = 100 or x = 10,000; the key is not to go in with a single approach in mind. Put another way, don’t swim against the arithmetic currents.

Let’s look at some questions to see this approach in action:

At a picnic there were 3 times as many adults as children and twice as many women as men. If there was a total of x men, women, and children at the picnic, how many men were there, in terms of x?

A) x/2
B) x/3
C) x/4
D) x/5
E) x/6

The moment we see “x,” we can consider picking numbers. The key here is contemplating how complicated the number should be. Swim with the current – let the question tell you. A quick look at the answer choices reveals that x could be something simple. Ultimately, we’re just dividing this value by 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6.

Keeping this in mind, let’s think about the first line of the question. If there are 3 times as many adults as children, and we’re keeping things simple, we can say that there are 3 adults and 1 child, for a total of 4 people. So, x = 4.

Now, we know that among our 3 adults, there are twice as many women as men. So let’s say there are 2 women and 1 man. Easy enough. In sum, we have 2 women, 1 man, and 1 child at this picnic, and a total of 4 people. The question is how many men are there? There’s just 1! So now we plug x = 4 into the answers and keep going until we find x = 1. Clearly x/4 will work, so C is our answer. The key was to let the question dictate our approach rather than trying to impose an approach on the question.

Let’s try another one:

Last year, sales at Company X were 10% greater in February than in January, 15% less in March than in February, 20% greater in April than in March, 10% less in May than in April, and 5% greater in June than in May. On which month were sales closes to the sales in January?

A) February
B) March
C) April
D) May
E) June

Great, you say. It’s a percent question. So you know that picking 100 is often a good idea. So, let’s say sales in January were 100. If we want the month when sales were closest to January’s level, we want the month when sales were closest to 100, Sales in February were 10% greater, so February sales were 110. (Remember that if sales increase by 10%, we can multiply the original number by 1.1. If they decrease by 10% we could multiply by 0.9, and so forth.)

So far so good. Sales in March were 15% less than in February. Well, if sales in Feb were 110, then the sales in March must be 110*(0.85). Hmm… A little tougher, but not insurmountable. Now, sales in April were 20% greater than they were in March, meaning that April sales would be 110*(0.85)*1.2. Uh oh.  Once you see that sales are 10% less in May than they were in April, we know that sales will be 110*(0.85)*1.2*0.9.

Now you need to stop. Don’t swim against the current. The arithmetic is getting hard and is going to become time-consuming. The question asks which month is closest to 100, so we don’t have to calculate precise values. We can estimate a bit. Let’s double back and try to simplify month by month, keeping things as simple as possible.

Our February sales were simple: 110. March sales were 110*0.85 – an unpleasant number. So, let’s try thinking about this a little differently. 100*0.85 = 85.  10*0.85 = 8.5. Add them together and we get 85 + 8.5 = 93.5.  Let’s make life easier on ourselves – we’ll round up, and call this number 94.

April sales are 20% more than March sales. Well, 20% of 100 is clearly 20, so 20% of 94 will be a little less than that. Say it’s 18. Now sales are up to 94 + 18 = 112. Still not close to 100, so we’ll keep going.

May sales are 10% less than April sales. 10% of 112 is about 11. Subtract 11 from 112, and you get 101. We’re looking for the number closest to 100, so we’ve got our answer – it’s D, May.

Takeaway: Don’t try to impose your will on GMAT questions. Use the structural clues of the problems to dictate how you implement your strategy, and be prepared to adjust midstream. The goal is never to conquer the ocean, but rather, to ride the waves to calmer waters.

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

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

Help! My Practice Test Score Seems Wrong!

MBA Interview QuestionsSo you’ve taken your GMAT practice test, looked at your score, and investigated a little further. If you’re like many GMAT candidates, you’ve tried to determine how your score was calculated by:

  • Looking at the number you answered correctly vs. the number you answered incorrectly, and comparing that to other tests you’ve taken.
  • Analyzing your “response pattern” – how many correct answers did you have in a row? Did you have any strings of consecutive wrong answers?

And if you’ve taken at least a few practice tests, you’ve probably encountered at least one exam for which you looked at your score, looked at those dimensions above, and thought “I think my score is flawed” or “I think the test is broken.” If you’re taking a computer-adaptive exam powered by Item Response Theory (such as the official GMAT Prep tests or the Veritas Prep Practice Tests), here’s why your perception of your score may not match up with your actual, valid score:

The number of right/wrong answers is much less predictive than you think.
Your GMAT score is not a function of the number you answered correctly divided by the number you answered overall. Its adaptive nature is more sophisticated than that – essentially, its job is to serve you questions that help it narrow in on your true score. And to do so, it has to test your upper threshold by serving you questions that you’ll probably get wrong. For example, say your true score is an incredibly-high 790. Your test might look something like:

Are you better than average?  (You answer a 550-level question correctly.)

Ok, are you better than a standard deviation above average? (You answer a 650-level question correctly.)

Ok, you’re pretty good. But are you better than 700 good?  (you answer a 700-level question correctly)

Wow you’re really good.  But are you 760+ good? (You answer a 760 level question correctly.)

If you’re 760+ level are you better or worse than 780? (You answer a 780-level question correctly.)

Well, here goes…are you perfect? (You answer an 800-level question incorrectly.)

Ok, so maybe one or more of those earlier questions was a fluke. Are you better than 760? (You answer a 760 question correctly.)

Are you sure you’re not an 800-level student? (You answer 800 incorrectly.)

Ok, but you’re definitely better than 780, right? (You answer a 780 correctly.)

Are you sure you’re not 800-level? (You answer an 800-level question incorrectly.)

And this goes on, because it has to ask you 37 Quant and 41 Verbal questions, so as the test goes on and you answer you own ability level correctly, it then has to ask the next level up to see if it should increase its estimate of your ability.

The point being: because the system is designed to hone in on your ability level, just about everyone misses several questions along the way. The percentage of questions you answer correctly is not a good predictor of your score, because aspects like the difficulty level of each question carry substantial weight. So don’t simply count rights/wrongs on the test, because that practice omits the crucial IRT factor of difficulty level.

Now, savvier test-takers will then often take this next logical step: “I looked at my response pattern of rights/wrongs and based on that it looks like the system should give me a higher score than it did.” Here’s the problem with that:

Of the “ABCs” of Item Response Theory, Difficulty Level is Only One Element (B)…
…and even at that, it’s not exactly “difficulty level” that matters, per se. Each question in an Item Response Theory exam carries three metrics along with it, the A-parameter, B-parameter, and C-parameter. Essentially, those three parameters measure:

A-parameter: How heavily should the system value your performance on this one question?

Like most things with “big data,” computer adaptive testing deals in probabilities. Each question you answer gives the system a better sense of your ability, but each comes with a different degree of certainty.  Answering one item correctly might tell the system that there’s a 70% likelihood that you’re a 700+ scorer while answering another might only tell it that there’s a 55% likelihood. Over the course of the test, the system incorporates those A-parameters to help it properly weight each question.

For example, consider that you were able to ask three people for investment advice: “Should I buy this stock at $20/share?” Your friend who works at Morgan Stanley is probably a bit more trustworthy than your brother who occasionally watches CNBC, but you don’t want to totally throw away his opinion either. Then, if the third person is Warren Buffet, you probably don’t care at all what the other two had to say; if it’s your broke uncle, though, you’ll weight him at zero and rely more on the opinions of the other two. The A-parameter acts as a statistical filter on “which questions should the test listen to most closely?”

B-parameter: This is essentially the “difficulty” metric but technically what it measures is more “at which ability level is this problem most predictive?”

Again, Item Response Theory deals in probabilities, so the B-parameter is essentially measuring the range of ability levels at which the probability of a correct answer jumps most dramatically. So, for example, on a given question, 25% of all examinees at the 500-550 level get it right; 35% of all those at the 550-600 level get it right; but then 85% of users between 600 and 650 get it right. The B-parameter would tell the system to serve that to examinees that it thinks are around 600 but wants to know whether they’re more of a 580 or a 620, because there’s great predictive power right around that 600 line.

Note that you absolutely cannot predict the B-parameter of a question simply by looking at the percentage of people who got it right or wrong! What really matters is who got it right and who got it wrong, which you can’t tell by looking at a single number. If you could go under the hood of our testing system or another CAT, you could pretty easily find a question that has a “percent correct” statistic that doesn’t seem to intuitively match up with that item’s B-parameter. So, save yourself the heartache of trying to guess the B-parameter, and trust that the system knows!

C-parameter: How likely is it that a user will guess the correct answer? Naturally, with 5 choices this metric is generally close to 20%, but since people often don’t guess quite “randomly” this is a metric that varies slightly and helps the system, again, determine how to weight the results.

With that mini-lesson accomplished, what does that mean for you? Essentially, you can’t simply look at the progression of right/wrong answers on your test and predict how that would turn into a score. You simply don’t know the A value and can only start to predict the “difficulty levels” of each problem, so any qualitative prediction of “this list of answers should yield this type of score” doesn’t have a high probability of being accurate.  Furthermore, there’s:

Question delivery values “content balance” more than you think.
If you followed along with the A/B/C parameters, you may be taking the next logical step which is, “But then wouldn’t the system serve the high A-value (high predictive power) problems first?” which would then still allow you to play with the response patterns for at least a reasonable estimate. But that comes with a bit more error than you might think, largely because the test values a fair/even mix of content areas a bit more than people realize.

Suppose, for example, that you’re not really all that bright, but you had the world’s greatest geometry teacher in high school and have enough of a gambling addiction that you’re oddly good with probability. If your first several – high A-value – problems are Geometry, Probability, Geometry, Geometry, Geometry, Probability… you might get all three right and have the test considering you a genius with such predictive power that it never actually figures out that you’re a fraud.

To make sure that all subject areas are covered and that you’re evaluated fairly, the test is programmed to put a lot of emphasis on content balancing, even though it means you’re not always presented with the single question that would give the system the most information about you.

If you have already seem a lot of Geometry questions and no Probability questions, and the best (i.e., highest A-value) question at the moment is another Geometry question, then the system may very well choose a Probability question. The people who program the test don’t give the system a lot of leeway in this regard—all topics need to be covered at about the same rate from one test taker to the next.

So simply put: Some questions count more than others, and they may come later in the test as opposed to earlier, so you can’t quite predict which problems carry the most value.

Compounding that is:

Some questions don’t count at all.
On the official GMAT and on the Veritas Prep Practice Tests, some questions are delivered randomly for the express purpose of gathering information to determine the A, B, and C parameters for use in future tests. These problems don’t count at all toward your score, so your run of “5 straight right answers” may only be a run of 3 or 4 straight.

And then of course there is the fact that:

Every test has a margin of error.
The official GMAT suggests that your score is valid with a margin of error of +/- 30 points, meaning that if you score a 710 the test is extremely confident that your true ability is between 680 and 740, but also that it wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow you scored 690 or 720. That 710 represents the best estimate of your ability level for that single performance, but not an absolutely precise value.

Similarly, any practice test you take will give you a good prediction of your ability level but could vary by even 30-40 points on either side and still be considered an exceptionally good practice test.

So for the above reasons, a test administered using Item Response Theory is difficult to try to score qualitatively: IRT involves several metrics and nuances that you just can’t see. And, yes, some outlier exams will not seem to pass the “sniff test” – the curriculum & instruction team here at Veritas Prep headquarters has seen its fair share of those, to be sure.

But time and time again the data demonstrates that Item Response Theory tests provide very reliable estimates of scores; a student whose “response pattern” and score seem incompatible typically follows up that performance with a very similar score amidst a more “believable” response pattern a week later.

What does that mean for you?

  • As hard as it is to resist, don’t spend your energy and study time trying to disprove Item Response Theory. The only score that really matters is the score on your MBA application, so use your time/energy to diagnose how you can improve in preparation for that test.
  • Look at your practice tests holistically. If one test doesn’t seem to give you a lot to go on in terms of areas for improvement, hold it up against the other tests you’ve taken and see what patterns stand out across your aggregate performance.
  • View each of your practice test scores more as a range than as an exact number. If you score a 670, that’s a good indication that your ability is in the 650-690 range, but it doesn’t mean that somehow you’ve “gotten worse” than last week when you scored a 680.

A personal note from the Veritas Prep Academics team:
Having worked with Item Response Theory for a few years now, I’ve seen my fair share of tests that don’t look like they should have received the score that they did. And, believe me, the first dozen or more times I saw that my inclination was, “Oh no, the system must be flawed!” But time and time again, when we look under the hood with the psychometricians and programmers who consulted on and built the system, Item Response Theory wins.

If you’ve read this far and are still angry/frustrated that your score doesn’t seem to match what your intuition tells you, I completely understand and have been there, too. But that’s why we love Item Response Theory and our relationship with the psychometric community: we’re not using our own intuition and insight to try to predict your score, but rather using the scoring system that powers the actual GMAT itself and letting that system assess your performance.

With Item Response Theory, there are certainly cases where the score doesn’t seem to precisely match the test, but after dozens of my own frustrated/concerned deep dives into the system I’ve learned to trust the system.  Don’t try to know more than IRT; just try to know more than most of the other examinees and let IRT properly assign you the score you’ve earned.

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

By Brian Galvin and Scott Shrum.

4 Reasons to Consider a Part-Time MBA

scottbloomdecisionsWith the decision to pursue one’s MBA comes the equally large decision as to whether or not one should attend business school part-time or full-time.

While the majority of MBA applicants each year pursue the more traditional full-time MBA programs, there are many reasons that why a part-time MBA might be a better fit for you:

1) You Have a Below-Average Undergraduate Record
While your college record will, of course, still considered by part-time MBA programs, these types of programs tend to be more forgiving of poor college grades – especially if you attended college many years ago and you have had a lot of professional successes since then.

2) You Are a Career Enhancer
Are you looking to move ahead in your current industry or even within your company? Consider continuing to gain that work experience (and the salary and benefits that come with it) while attending a part-time MBA program. Additionally, many companies will offer continuing education benefits, so check with your current company to see if this is something they will provide.

3) You Work in a Family Business or Own Your Own Business
Rather than having to choose between ditching your family obligations or selling your business and attending school, why not do both? A part-time MBA program is great for those who want to continue working while they learn.

4) You Have Many Years of Work Experience
While part-time MBA students, on average, have only two more years of work experience than their full-time MBA counterparts, the spread tends to be much greater – with applicants’ experience ranging from two to twenty years. If you have a lot of work experience, you may find yourself alongside peers with more similar responsibilities and tenure in a part-time program than you would in a full-time classroom.

If any of the above sound like you, then you may find more success in a part-time MBA program than you would attending business school full time.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Nita Losoponkul, a Veritas Prep consultant for UCLA, received her undergraduate degree in Engineering from Caltech and went from engineering to operations to global marketing to education management/non-profit. Her non-traditional background allows her to advise students from many areas of study, and she has successfully helped low GPA students get admitted into UCLA. 

How to Find an Internship in 5 Steps

InterviewCollege students have heard a million times how important internships are for career development, and how wise it is to start looking for internships in college rather than to wait until after graduation. This is repeated so often because it’s good advice – often, the best way to get acquainted with, and get a head start in, a career field is to see it first-hand.

Finding an internship opportunity, however, can be difficult, as they’re not often well advertised. Here are are a few tips you can use to help you find the internship of your dreams:

1) Decide what you want to learn.
Are you looking for exposure to a particular field? Are you looking to gain certain skills? Choose a priority and let that guide your search. This is important because you’ll probably encounter plenty of internship opportunities that you aren’t interested in. Don’t be tempted to take on uninteresting internships just for he sake of completing an internship; poorly chosen internships can turn out to simply be a waste of both your time and your host organization’s time.

2) Find out about internships in your field of interest.
Talk to university advisers, friends or classmates (or do research on your own) to get some information about whether organizations in your field of interest offer internships, what kinds of internships exist, and what qualifications you might need to be eligible for them.

3) Get help from your school.
Ask the career center at your university, which may have alumni networks, job placement programs, information about internship fairs, and other resources that can aid you in your search.

4) Check with local companies or organizations.
Are there any specific organizations you’ve considered pursuing a career with? Check their websites to see if they offer internship opportunities. Even if they don’t, it’s worth giving them a call or paying their office a visit to ask, as many internship opportunities aren’t posted online.

5) Utilize your personal network.
Do you know anyone in your field of interest? Ask them if they know of any open internship opportunities you might be eligible for. If so, see if you can get application information or an introduction to the internship coordinator. If not, see if your contact might know anyone else in the field who might know of potential open internship opportunities.

Don’t be disappointed if you can’t immediately obtain an internship position with a large or well-known organization. Internships in large or famous organizations are not necessarily more interesting, more enriching, or more respectable than other internships. Choose your internship based on whether you think you can learn or gain something worthwhile from it.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and 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.

Our Early Thoughts on Stanford GSB’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

Stanford UniversityApplication season at Stanford GSB is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Stanford comes back with the same slate of essays from last year. Let’s discuss, from a high level, some early thoughts on how best to approach the essay prompts:

Essay 1:
What matters most to you, and why? (750 words)
For years, Stanford’s infamous open-ended essay prompt has been one of the most dreaded aspects of its application process. Stanford is one of the MBA programs that has ushered in the movement of using more “open” essay prompts in evaluating applicants – a trend that has taken hold among many other top programs.

Stanford, as much as any other program, seeks out candidates who can be introspective, self-reflective, and authentic when responding to their essays. The school provides clear guidance on how best to approach these, and it’s not meant to trick you or confuse you, but instead to do the opposite.

As communicated by the school, the “why” of your essay is much more important than the “what.” Stanford truly wants to know who you are, so keep your narrative personal and focus on the experiences that have truly shaped your reasons for applying.

Avoid the temptation to resort to common business school stories around work accomplishments, and instead focus on the things that have had the most impact on your life. Breakthrough candidates will utilize structured storytelling to craft a compelling narrative that brings the Stanford Admissions Committee deep into their world.

Essay 2:
Why Stanford? (400 words)
Essay 2 is the more traditional essay of the bunch, but even so, with Stanford you will want to avoid the typical boilerplate response and dive a bit deeper.

You will want to think about this prompt as really answering two questions: “Why an MBA?” and more specifically, “Why a Stanford MBA?” Be specific here – connect both your personal and professional development goals to the unique programs Stanford has and explain why they are crucial to your success. Breakthrough candidates will not only showcase their clear, well-aligned goals, but will also connect these goals with their personal passions to make their candidacy feel bigger than just business.

Stanford has historically clung to candidates that hold a more mission-based approach to their careers, so if there is some underlying passion inherent in your goals, do not be afraid to leverage that within this essay. Now, this does mean you should stretch the truth – keep your response as authentic as possible, but also keep in mind that Stanford has traditionally held a track record of looking for something special in their candidates.

Just a few thoughts on the new essay from Stanford – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Stanford and its essays, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.

Applying to Stanford or other business schools? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and 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 articles by him here.

How You Should Spend Your First Summer After College

Study on the BeachOkay, so you’ve just finished up your first year of college. It was (hopefully) awesome and you (hopefully) learned a lot, but now it’s time for summer. Glorious summer! Throughout middle and high school, summer vacation was always the peak of the year – a time to relax and enjoy the company of old friends without the incessant demands of school.

Now that you’re a college student, though, things can seem a little different. All of a sudden, you might feel pressure from your family, friends, or classmates to use your summer in a certain way. This often manifests itself in the form of pressure to further your career prospects via an internship, fellowship, or job shadowing.

While doing this may be important, it is not the only worthwhile way you can spend your first summer out of college. It is important to remember that it is your summer – not anyone else’s – so what you choose to do with it should be a reflection of the values that are important to you.

When you don’t let any narrative or stereotype limit what you feel you are “supposed” to do with your first summer, you will be more free to make the best choice available to you. There are 3 main ways that you can use this first summer, each of which have merits and drawbacks that I’ll explore below:

1) Summer Job
One classic way to pass the long summer hours is with a summer job. This can take many forms, such as scooping ice cream, being a camp counselor, working as a cashier, and much more. Businesses are always looking for young people to fill positions, so it’s likely that you’ll be able to find some form of work.

These jobs may not pay high wages, but they can be a great source of income, both to chip away at outrageous college debts or to just have some fun money to spend during the summer. They will also add work experience to your resume, and give you real-world skills that can be valuable outside of just that specific job.

2) Internship
Even though the pressure to find elite internships is often excessive, internships can be a valuable use of your time in the summer. Internships can connect you with career opportunities, help you learn what jobs are of interest to you, and give you skills that might be valuable down the road. However, internships are often unpaid, meaning that doing one is likely a long-term, rather than a short-term, investment in yourself. There are some paid internships out there (Go get one if you can!), but these are a rarity.

If possible, combining an internship with a part-time summer job can be a good way to have the best of both worlds – gain career skills while also raising money – but this can sometimes take too much time out of your summer, a time when you should be able to decompress after the rigors of college rather than add to your stress level.

3) Travel and Relaxation
College students are in a unique position, in that even though they are close to the “real world,” they still can put off searching for careers, if only for a little while. One great way to use your youth is to travel with friends or family to see new places or revisit childhood destinations. You’ll meet friends from all over the world in college, and summer is a great time to really see where they come from.

If you don’t have the opportunity to travel, you can also use your summer to completely relax. Without homework or classes, you will have time to read books, go on adventures, and give your brain a well-deserved break. Although this won’t earn you money or directly prepare you for a career, it can help clear you head and put you in a good position to continue learning from, and enjoying, your college experience.

Each of these ways of spending your summer has different values and benefits, so there is no way to definitely rank which one is best. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer – anything you choose to do over your summer vacation can work out if you approach it with the right mindset.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Using Prepositional Phrases on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIn previous posts, we have already discussed participles as well as absolute phrases. Today, let’s take a look at another type of modifier – the prepositional phrase.

A prepositional phrase will begin with a preposition and end with a noun, pronoun, gerund, or clause – the “object” of the preposition. The object of the preposition might have one or more modifiers to describe it.

Here are some examples of prepositional phrases (with prepositions underlined):

  • along the ten mile highway…
  • with a cozy blanket…
  • without worrying…
  • about what he likes…

A prepositional phrase can function as an adjective or an adverb. As an adjective, it answers the question, “Which one?” while as an adverb it can answer the questions, “How?” “When?” or “Where?”.

For example:

  • The book under the table belongs to my mom. Here, the prepositional phrase acts as an adjective and tells us “which one” of the books belongs to my mom.
  • We tried the double cheeseburger at the new burger joint. Here, the prepositional phrase acts as an adverb and tells us “where” we tried the cheeseburger.

Like other modifiers, a prepositional modifier should be placed as close as possible to the thing it is modifying.

Let’s take a look at a couple of official GMAT questions to see how understanding prepositional phrases can help us on this exam:

The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

(A) The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.
(B) To the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote two letters, being the only eyewitness accounts of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
(C) The only eyewitness account is in two letters by the nephew of Pliny the Elder writing to the historian Tacitus an account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
(D) Writing the only eyewitness account, Pliny the Elder’s nephew accounted for the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.
(E) In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

There are multiple prepositional phrases here:

  • of the great eruption of Vesuvius (answers “Which eruption?”)
  • in two letters (tells us “where” he wrote his account)
  • to the historian Tacitus (answers “Which letters?”)

Therefore, the phrase “to the historian Tacitus” should be close to what it is describing, “letters,” which makes answer choices B and C incorrect.

Also, “in two letters to the historian Tacitus” should modify the verb “wrote.” In options A and D, “in two letters to the historian Tacitus” seems to be modifying “eruption,” which is incorrect. (There are other errors in answer choices B, C and D as well, but we will stick to the topic at hand.)

Option E corrects the prepositional phrase errors by putting the modifier close to the verb “wrote,” so therefore, E is our answer.

Let’s try one more:

Defense attorneys have occasionally argued that their clients’ misconduct stemmed from a reaction to something ingested, but in attributing criminal or delinquent behavior to some food allergy, the perpetrators are in effect told that they are not responsible for their actions.

(A) in attributing criminal or delinquent behavior to some food allergy
(B) if criminal or delinquent behavior is attributed to an allergy to some food
(C) in attributing behavior that is criminal or delinquent to an allergy to some food
(D) if some food allergy is attributed as the cause of criminal or delinquent behavior
(E) in attributing a food allergy as the cause of criminal or delinquent behavior

This sentence has two clauses:

Clause 1: Defense attorneys have occasionally argued that their clients’ misconduct stemmed from a reaction to something ingested,

Clause 2: in attributing criminal or delinquent behavior to some food allergy, the perpetrators are in effect told that they are not responsible for their actions.

These two clauses are joined by the conjunction “but,” and the underlined part is a prepositional phrase in the second clause.

Answer choices A, C and E imply that the perpetrators are attributing their own behaviors to food allergies. That is not correct – their defense attorneys are attributing their behavior to food allergies, and hence, all three of these options have modifier errors.

This leaves us with B and D. Answer choice D uses the phrase “attributed as,” which is grammatically incorrect – the correct usage should be “X is attributed to Y,” rather than “X attributed as Y.” Therefore, option B is our answer.

As you can see, the proper placement of prepositional phrases is instrumental in creating a sentence with a clear, logical meaning.  Since that type of clear, logical meaning is a primary emphasis of correct Sentence Correction answers, you should be prepared to look for prepositional phrases (here we go…) *on the GMAT*.

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

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

GMAT Tip of the Week: Exit the GMAT Test Center…Don’t Brexit It

GMAT Tip of the WeekAcross much of the United Kingdom today, referendum voters are asking themselves “wait, did I think that through thoroughly?” in the aftermath of yesterday’s Brexit vote. Some voters have already admitted that they’d like a do-over, while evidence from Google searches in the hours immediately following the poll closures show that many Brits did a good deal of research after the fact.

And regardless of whether you side with Leave or Stay as it corresponds to the EU, if your goal is to Leave your job to Stay at a top MBA program in the near future, you’d be well-served to learn a lesson from those experiencing Brexit Remorse today.

How can the Brexit aftermath improve you GMAT score?

Pregrets, Not Regrets (Yes, Brexiters…we can combine words too.)
The first lesson is quite simple. Unlike those who returned home from the polls to immediately research “What should I have read up on beforehand?” you should make sure that you do your GMAT study before you get to the test center, not after you’ve (br)exited it with a score as disappointing as this morning’s Dow Jones.

But that doesn’t just mean, “Study before the test!” – an obvious tip. It also means, “Anticipate the things you’ll wish you had thought about.” Which means that you should go into the test center with list of “pregrets” and not leave the test center with a list of regrets.

Having “pregrets” means that you already know before you get to the test center what your likely regrets will be, so that you can fix them in the moment and not lament them after you’ve seen your score. Your list of pregrets should be a summary of the most common mistakes you’ve made on your practice tests, things like:

  • On Data Sufficiency, I’d better not forget to consider negative numbers and nonintegers.
  • Before I start doing algebra, I should check the answer choices to see if I can stop with an estimate.
  • I always blank on the 30-60-90 divisibility rule, so I should memorize it one more time in the parking lot and write it down as soon as I get my noteboard.
  • Reading Comprehension inferences must be true, so always look for proof.
  • Slow down when writing 4’s and 7’s on scratchwork, since when I rush they tend to look too much alike.
  • Check after every 10 questions to make sure I’m on a good pace.

Any mistakes you’ve made more than once on practice tests, any formulas that you know you’re apt to blank on, any reminders to yourself that “when X happens, that’s when the test starts to go downhill” – these are all items that you can plan for in advance. Your debriefs of your practice tests are previews of the real thing, so you should arrive at the test center with your pregrets in mind so that you can avoid having them become regrets.

Much like select English voters, many GMAT examinees can readily articulate, “I should have read/studied/prepare for _____” within minutes of completing their exam, and very frequently, those elements are not a surprise. So anticipate in the hour/day before the test what your regrets might be in the hours/days immediately following the test, and you can avoid that immediate remorse.

Double Cheque Your Work
Much like a Brexit vote, you only get one shot at each GMAT problem, and then the results lead to consequences. But the GMAT gives you a chance to save yourself from yourself – you have to both select your answer and confirm it. So, unlike those who voted and then came home to Google asking, “Did I do the right thing?” you should ask yourself that question before you confirm your answer. Again, your pregrets are helpful. Before you submit your answer, ask yourself:

  • Did I solve for the proper variable?
  • Does this number make logical sense?
  • Does this answer choice create a logical sentence when I read it back to myself?
  • Does this Inference answer have to be true, or is there a chance it’s not?
  • Am I really allowed to perform that algebraic operation? Let me try it with small numbers to make sure…

There will, of course, be some problems on the GMAT that you simply don’t know how to do, and you’ll undoubtedly get some problems wrong. But for those problems that you really should have gotten right, the worst thing that can happen is realizing a question or two later that you blew it.

Almost every GMAT examinee can immediately add 30 points to his score by simply taking back those points he would have given away by rushing through a problem and making a mistake he’d be humiliated to know he made. So, take that extra 5-10 seconds on each question to double check for common mistakes, even if that means you have to burn a guess later in the section. If you minimize those mistakes on questions within your ability level, that guess will come on a problem you should get wrong, anyway.

Like a Brexit voter, the best you can do the day before and day of your important decision-making day is to prepare to make the best decisions you can make. If you’re right, you’re right, and if you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and you may never know which is which (the GMAT won’t release your questions/answers and the Brexit decision will take time to play out). The key is making sure that you don’t leave with immediate regrets that you made bad decisions or didn’t take the short amount of time to prepare yourself for better ones. Enter the test center with pregrets; don’t Brexit it with regrets.

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

By Brian Galvin.

Tips for Completing Your MBA Application Form

Applicant SurveyApplying to business school can be cause for major stress and anxiety for many applicants, and the majority of this anxiety tends revolve around the more time-consuming application elements required of them, such as their GMAT scores, essays and even recommendations. Most applicants spend hours upon hours in these areas in an effort to craft the perfect application.

Business school is a huge personal and financial investment, so to the well-informed, this time commitment should come as no surprise. What may come as more of a shock is that candidates often do not utilize this same level of diligence and focus when it comes to completing the application form itself.

By application form, I am referring to the actual online form in which candidates are required to input relevant details of their personal, academic, and professional profile for consideration for admission. (Application components like essays or recommendation submissions are aspects of this as well, but are typically submitted via attachment or external upload, and so are not the focus of this discussion.)

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you work through the often-overlooked MBA application form:

Do Proofread:
Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! Did I mention it is really important to proofread? As I mentioned above, the application form tends to get overlooked, so don’t make the mistake of investing too little time in completing this. It is important to make sure you avoid making crucial little typos like wrong dates or misspelled words that could potentially send the wrong message to the reviewing Admissions Committee.

Don’t Wait:
Many applicants will leave filling out the application form until right before the deadline. Do not make this mistake! Typically, when you leave something until the last minute it is because you deem it less important – avoid this flawed way of thinking and put this component of the application process on the same footing as the others. It does not need to be the first area you tackle while completing your application package, but it certainly should not be your last. The application form is surprisingly time consuming, and thus, should not be rushed given its relative importance to your future business career.

Be Honest:
The application form often puts many candidates in difficult moral situations. Certain questions around past mistakes, arrests or honor code violations can be difficult to confront. Even more simple moral quandaries such as accurately reporting salary or awards tempt many an applicant to stretch the truth.

Keep this part of the application form simple by being honest. It is not worth risking a potential admission for something that is probably very minor in the grand scheme of your candidacy. Business schools take this aspect very seriously and seek to maintain the integrity of their honor codes at a very high level.

Remember, the application form is just as important as every other aspect of your MBA application package, so follow these tips and give this form the attention it deserves.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and 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 articles by him here.

The Most Important Thing to Focus On When Applying to Business School With a Low GPA

08fba0fGoing into the MBA application season with a low GPA can be an unnerving situation. Your GPA was set long ago, you are years removed from your undergraduate days, and you know this statistic will appear in your applications no matter what. What can you do?

Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that your GPA is not evaluated in a vacuum – all GPAs are not created equally, so depending on the reputation of your undergraduate college, rigor of your major, and performance in your analytical courses (hopefully you have taken some), the perception of your GPA can rise or fall from the actual number on your transcript.

Assuming you actually have a low GPA – one that is “materially” below the listed average score at your target program – now is the time to take action. Now, these tips are really only potential options for those who have the time to follow them; if you are closing in on an application deadline, it will be difficult to make much of an impact here. For most, the two major options you have to address a low GPA are to take additional coursework and/or focus on your GMAT score.

As referenced earlier, your GPA is not an independent data point. It often is taken in concert with other factors, and the most impactful of these is one’s GMAT score. In the eyes of the Admissions Committee, the GMAT is similar to your GPA – both are seen as measures of your intellectual aptitude, and both are also considered to be indicators of your ability to perform in the heavily analytical first year of business school. So, if you are suffering from a low GPA, then the best action you can take to mitigate this red flag is to work on improving your existing GMAT score and aim to exceed the GMAT average of your target program.

For many, this may not be the best approach – a more obvious approach might be to take some additional coursework to counteract the low GPA. This is also something that could help, but when considering the more impactful approach (especially considering the time commitment each option requires) it can be difficult to do both for a working professional. This fact places even more importance on how a candidate prioritizes the limited time they are given during the application process.

Low GPA holders rejoice! All is not lost – prioritize your GMAT score to counteract that red flag and give your application a better chance at success.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and 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 articles by him here.

Life After College: Getting a Head Start

study aboard girlPost-graduation depression is all too common. Students spend four years poring over textbooks and slogging through all-nighters to graduate with a degree, only to realize after graduation that they really have no idea what to do with it. The shift from a few classes a day to a 40-hour workweek, along with a social shift away from large groups of people your own age, often makes graduation a difficult transition period.

I graduated six months ago and ran into this crisis myself. I was lucky: I had done a few internships, read up on jobs I’d like to pursue, and connected with mentors who have been invaluable in guiding me through the process of starting a career, but I still spent plenty of long nights trying to figure out how to navigate the working world, and wondering if I was prepared enough to pull it off.

Here are three things I’m grateful I did, and three things I wish I had done, to better prepare myself for life after graduation:

I did internships in my field.
I knew from the start of my undergraduate career that I was interested in politics and international relations, but I didn’t know where in that vast field I might fit best. By completing a wide range of internships, I became acquainted with the work culture in my field, and I learned about the types of work environments I function best in, the types of work I’m best suited to, and the types of organizations I prefer to work for. Internships helped me find exactly which jobs I wanted to apply for after graduation, and boosted my resume to make me a better candidate for those positions.

I graduated with a degree in a field I love.
It’s hard to study a subject for four years if you’re not really interested in it. It’s even harder to jump headfirst in a career rooted in that subject – 40 hours (or more) per week is a lot of time to pour into something you don’t really care about. It’s never too late to choose a different field, but it’s much easier to make the switch earlier on than later.

I kept learning outside of class.
I went to office hours, built relationships with professors, and did the optional readings on the syllabus. Life is structured around learning in college, but after graduation, learning takes initiative; when nobody assigns you readings or schedules your exams, it’s easy to let your understanding of your field slip. I developed my sense of educational initiative while I still had a strong external learning system supporting me, and was able to lean on that initiative after I left that system.

I should have only taken the classes I was really interested in.
Contrary to my freshman year beliefs, taking more classes didn’t automatically mean I would become a better student or a smarter person; I only really gained from, and engaged with, classes I sincerely found interesting.

I should have spent more time on extracurricular activities and internships.
Classes gave me the academic foundation I needed to pursue a career in the international relations field, but the social skills, leadership skills, and professional skills I gleaned from extracurricular activities and internships were just as important in preparing me for the real world.

I should have taken more classes outside of my specialization.
By zeroing in on political science my freshman year, and devoting any open space in my schedule to even more political science classes, I closed myself off to other interesting and important fields. A better understanding of computer science, biology, economics, literature, art, and other subjects would not only have made me a more educated and well-rounded person, but would also have enhanced my understanding of political science. The world isn’t clearly divided into academic fields – all fields intersect, and I would have become surer of my own interests and opinions earlier on if I had been exposed to more opinions and potential interests.

Life after graduation doesn’t need to be so intimidating – learn from the tips above to ensure your transition from college to the real world is as smooth as possible.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and 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.

How Your MBA Profile Can Be as Likable as Steph Curry

Steph CurrySteph Curry – point guard for the Golden State Warriors basketball team and recently-named unanimous Most Valuable Player of the NBA – is fast becoming one of the most popular figures in sports. In this entry, we will take a closer look at some factors for his unique mass appeal and what we can learn from him to better craft our own business school application profiles.

Consistent Underdog and Overachiever
As far as superstar athletes go, Steph Curry’s path to success has been an unusual one. Recruited out of high school, Curry played basketball at a small college that was not known for producing top-caliber NBA players. Even after excelling at the college level, critics still held doubts as to whether his slight physique and “average” athleticism would allow him to make it at the professional level. Curry’s ability to leverage his unique skills and smarts, however, has allowed him to succeed both on and off the court.

MBA applicants from little-known schools and companies should be able to relate to the doubts that sometimes creep in when competing for spots at the top business schools. Showcasing your history of achieving great results and how you have beat the odds of your more modest background can help show the Admissions Committee that you have the potential to be successful at their program and beyond. Presented properly, you’ll make it easy for them to root for your success.

Resolve and Self-Awareness
Just four years ago, NBA teams wondered whether Curry would actually be healthy enough to have a long and productive career due to his frequent ankle injuries. And, although seemingly born with a gift for shooting the ball, Curry also dealt with many weaknesses in other facets of the game. Nike didn’t even consider him to be one of its priority shoe endorsers, and put dozens of other stars ahead of him as a result.

Publicly acknowledging his struggles with his ankle and with turnovers during his games, Curry humbly sought advice and training methods to strengthen his body and identify his most common errors in handling the basketball in an effort to improve these weaknesses.

Today, Curry is a 2-time NBA MVP – setting record-breaking performances and capturing the imagination of the public at historic levels. Witnessing his authenticity, humility, and rapid progress has won over the public, as crowds of spectators like never before show up early before Curry’s games just to see him go through his pregame warm-ups.

The takeaway here for MBA applicants is that you should feel safe in showing vulnerability and in acknowledging your application’s weak spots (as well as how you are working to improve them). Providing vivid details of how you have grown despite your flaws will allow you to connect with the Admissions Committee on a deeper level, and dispel any doubts they may have about potential red flags in your profile.

Charm
Undeniably, Curry’s “normal” size and boyish appeal, coupled with his adorable family, also play a part in boosting his public profile. In addition, appearing with U.S. President Barack Obama in playful ads to support worthwhile causes shows his community involvement and personal advocacies aside from his profession.

As an MBA applicant, be aware that all aspects of yourself are part of your overall package – not just the parts that are related to your employment. Sharing your personal passions and involvement in causes other than your professional work experiences will help present you in a well-rounded manner, and convince the Admissions Committee that you will make a great and unique addition to their school.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. 

How to Simplify Percent Questions on the GMAT

stressed-studentOne of the most confounding aspects of the GMAT is its tendency to make simple concepts seem far more complex than they are in reality. Percent questions are an excellent example of this.

When I introduce this topic, I’ll typically start by asking my class the following question: If you’ve completed 10% of a project how much is left to do?  I have never, in all my years of teaching, had a class that was unable to tell me that 90% of the project remains. It’s more likely that they’ll react as though I’m insulting their collective intelligence. And yet, when test-takers see this concept under pressure, they’ll often fail to recognize it.

Take the following question, for example:

Dara ran on a treadmill that had a readout indicating the time remaining in her exercise session. When the readout indicated 24 min 18 sec, she had completed 10% of her exercise session. The readout indicated which of the following when she had completed 40% of her exercise session.

(A) 10 min. 48 sec.
(B) 14 min. 52 sec.
(C) 14 min. 58 sec.
(D) 16 min. 6 sec.
(E) 16 min. 12 sec.

Hopefully, you’ve noticed that this question is testing the same simple concept that I use when introducing percent problems to my class. And yet, in my experience, a solid majority of students are stumped by this problem. The reason, I suspect, is twofold. First, that figure – 24 min. 18 sec. – is decidedly unfriendly. Painful math often lends itself to careless mistakes and can easily trigger a panic response. Second, anxiety causes us to work faster, and when we work faster, we’re often unable to recognize patterns that would be clearer to us if we were calm.

There’s interesting research on this. Psychologists, knowing that the color red prompts an anxiety response and that the color blue has a calming effect, conducted a study in which test-takers had to answer math questions – the questions were given to some subjects on paper with a red background and to other subjects on paper with a blue background. (The control group had questions on standard white paper.) The red anxiety-producing background noticeably lowered scores and the calming blue background boosted scores.

Now, the GMAT doesn’t give you a red background, but it does give you unfriendly-seeming numbers that likely have the same effect. So, this question is as much about psychology as it is about mathematical proficiency. Our job is to take a deep breath or two and rein in our anxiety before we proceed.

If Dara has completed 10% of her workout, we know she has 90% of her workout remaining. So, that 24 min. 18 sec. presents 90% of her total workout. If we designate her total workout time as “t,” we end up with the following equation:

24 min. 18 sec. = 0.90t

Let’s work with fractions to solve. 18 seconds is 18/60 minutes, which simplifies to 3/10 minutes. 0.9 is 9/10, so we can rewrite our equation as:

24 + 3/10 = (9/10)t
(243/10) = (9/10)t
(243/10)*(10/9) = t
27 = t

Not so bad. Dara’s full workout is 27 minutes long.

We want to know how much time is remaining when Dara has completed 40% of her workout. Well, if she’s completed 40% of her workout, we know she has 60% of her workout remaining. If her full workout is 27 minutes, then 60% of this value is 0.60*27 = (3/5)*27 = 81/5 = 16 + 1/5, or 16 minutes 12 seconds. And we’ve got our answer: E.

Now, let’s say you get this problem with 20 seconds remaining on the clock and you simply don’t have time to solve it properly. Let’s estimate.

Say, instead of 24 min 18 seconds remaining, Dara had 24 minutes remaining (so we know we’re going to underestimate the answer). If that’s 90% of her workout time, 24 = (9/10)t, or 240/9 = t.

We want 60% of this, so we want (240/9)*(3/5).

Because 240/5 = 48 and 9/3 = 3, (240/9)*(3/5) = 48/3 = 16.

We know that the correct answer is over 16 minutes and that we’ve significantly underestimated – makes sense to go with E.

Takeaway: Don’t let the question-writer trip you up with figures concocted to make you nervous. Take a breath, and remember that the concepts being tested are the same ones that, when boiled down to their essence, are a breeze when we’re calm.

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

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

SAT Tip of the Week: Don’t Let Unfamiliar Content in Reading Passages Scare You

SAT Tip of the Week - FullPassages in the SAT Reading Section encompass a wide array of content areas – there are scientific passages, literary excerpts, parts of famous historical documents, and much more. If you’re like me, you may think that having the opportunity to read all these different pieces is exciting. If you’re not like me (aka, less nerdy), reading these can be boring, or even scary.

The scary part comes when students get nervous about getting a passage on the SAT that’s about something they’re not comfortable with. Some students think that this makes the test harder, and some might even think they have to study up on different subjects to be prepared for this.

Luckily, this is unnecessary. There’s nothing to worry about in terms of content on these reading passages – every question can be answered without any outside content knowledge. All you need to do is use the information presented in the passage to answer the given questions – no special knowledge required.

A passage about gene mutations doesn’t take a degree in biology to ace. A passage from John Milton can be manageable without being the most well-read Junior in the country. Everything that you need to answer the passage-based questions will be directly present in the passages themselves (on the SAT, this is always the case).

In fact, having a lot of outside content knowledge can actually be a detriment to scoring well on that passage. One of the biggest dangers on the SAT Reading Section is using information that’s not in the passage to answer questions. Going beyond the text and making assumptions is a pitfall that many students fall into, especially for students who want to rely on their outside expertise because they think it will make answering passage questions about that topic “easier.”

For example, if I got a passage about Abraham Lincoln (my favorite president), I might get really excited and try to answer the questions using the knowledge I’ve accrued over my lifetime. This would be problematic because I would be tempted to choose the answers that made the most historical sense, or I would get frustrated when the answers weren’t totally historically accurate, rather than focus on the given text. In this case, I would have to be extra careful to justify all my answers solely using evidence from the text – something that is always necessary for these reading passages.

This leads to a sort of irony, that the passages that have content which is unfamiliar to a student might be the passages that are easiest for that student to do well on. Without background knowledge, students are forced to pay careful attention to the details of the text and base their answer choices solely off of that. So, instead of being afraid of complicated-looking passages, see them as the gifts they can really be!

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

GRE Results: Analyzing Your GRE Test Results

Magnifying GlassMost students put a lot of time and effort into preparing for the GRE – not surprisingly, these students are anxious to see their test results. The typical GRE score report contains a lot of information regarding a student’s performance on the GRE.

Discover what is included on a student’s GRE report and the meaning behind this information:

Basic Information Contained in GRE Test Results
A student’s basic information can be found at the top of their GRE results sheet. This includes the person’s name, address, email, phone number, partial Social Security number, birth date, and gender. Also, the report notes a student’s intended focus of study in graduate school. If a student takes the general GRE, then those scores will be on their report – if the student took a GRE subject test, then those scores will be on the report, as well.

Points Possible on the GRE
In order for students to interpret their GRE test results, they have to know the number of points possible for each section of the test. The GRE has three parts: the Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing sections. For the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the test, the scoring scale is 130 to 170 points. These two sections of the test are scored in one-point increments. Students can earn from zero to six points on the Analytical Writing section of the GRE. This section is scored in half-point increments.

To get the most points possible on the GRE, get help from Veritas Prep: Our students benefit from working with an experienced tutor as they prepare for this exam. We hire talented instructors who aced the GRE, so students are able to practice effective test-taking strategies with instructors who have actual experience with the test. We teach our students how to approach every question on the GRE with confidence.

Scores on a GRE Report
Students receive raw scores for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the test. A raw score represents the number of questions that a student got right. A student’s raw score is then turned into a scaled score. Little variations in the difficulty between different editions of the test are taken into account to compute a student’s scaled scores.

As for a student’s Analytical Writing score, each essay receives two scores – one score is given by a human grader trained to evaluate essays, and the other score is given by a computer program designed to evaluate essays. The average of these two scores is the final score assigned to the essay. As a side-note, if the human grader’s score and the computer’s score are radically different, then the essay is re-scored by two human graders.

Percentile Rank
Students looking at their GRE results online will notice a section that includes percentile ranks. Percentiles compare a student’s performance with others who took the GRE. For instance, say a student has a percentile rank of 80 for the Verbal Reasoning portion of the test. This means that 80 percent of the individuals who took the exam scored lower on that section than that student. Students are given a percentile rank for each of the three sections of the GRE. This particular GRE result can be helpful for students who are still deciding which schools to apply to.

School Admissions and GRE Results
As students analyze their GRE results online, they should pay close attention to the requirements of the schools they want to apply to. Many universities and colleges post the average GRE scores of the students they accept, which can serve as a guide for students who want to know what type of score they have to achieve in order to be accepted into their preferred school.

Some schools also post the average GRE scores of students studying in specific programs. For instance, a student who wants to go to Harvard could research what GRE score they need to achieve in order to get into the Physics program, the Sociology program, or another program at the school.

At Veritas Prep, we provide valuable instruction that helps students obtain their best possible GRE results. We combine skillful teaching with invaluable resources to give our students every advantage on the test. Our online GRE prep courses are perfect for busy undergraduate students or individuals with full-time careers. Contact our offices today!

Want to jump-start your GRE preparation? Register to attend one of our upcoming free online GRE Strategy Sessions or check out our variety of GRE Course and Private Tutoring options. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Some GMAT Questions Using the “Like” vs. “As” Concept

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday we will look at some official GMAT questions testing the “like” vs. “as” concept we discussed last week.

(Review last week’s post – if you haven’t read it already – before you read this one for greater insight on this concept.)

Take a look at the following GMAT Sentence Correction question:

As with those of humans, the DNA of grape plants contains sites where certain unique sequences of nucleotides are repeated over and over.

(A) As with those of humans, the DNA of grape plants contains sites where
(B) As human DNA, the DNA of grape plants contain sites in which
(C) As it is with human DNA, the DNA of grape plants, containing sites in which
(D) Like human, the DNA of grape plants contain sites where
(E) Like human DNA, the DNA of grape plants contains sites in which

Should we use “as” or “like”? Well, what are we comparing? We’re comparing the DNA of humans to the DNA of grape plants. Answer choice E compares these two properly – “Like human DNA, the DNA of grape plants…” DNA is singular, so it uses the singular verb “contains”.

All other options are incorrect. Answer choice A uses “those of” for DNA, but DNA is singular, so this cannot be right. B uses “as” to compare the two nouns, which is also incorrect. C is a sentence fragment without a main verb. And D compares “human” to “DNA”, which is not the “apples-to-apples” comparison we need to make this sentence correct. Therefore, our answer must be E.

Let’s try another one:

Like Auden, the language of James Merrill is chatty, arch, and conversational — given to complex syntactic flights as well as to prosaic free-verse strolls.

(A) Like Auden, the language of James Merrill
(B) Like Auden, James Merrill’s language
(C) Like Auden’s, James Merrill’s language
(D) As with Auden, James Merrill’s language
(E) As is Auden’s the language of James Merrill

Here, we’re comparing Auden’s language to James Merrill’s language. Answer choice C correctly uses the possessive “Auden’s” to show that language is implied. “Like Auden’s language, James Merrill’s language …” contains both parallel structure and a correct comparison.

Answer choices A, B and D incorrectly compare “Auden” to “language,” rather than “Auden’s language” to “language,” so those options are out. The structure of answer choice E is not parallel – “Auden’s” vs. “the language of James Merrill”. Therefore, the answer must be C.

Let’s try something more difficult:

More than thirty years ago Dr. Barbara McClintock, the Nobel Prize winner, reported that genes can “jump,” as pearls moving mysteriously from one necklace to another.

(A) as pearls moving mysteriously from one necklace to another
(B) like pearls moving mysteriously from one necklace to another
(C) as pearls do that move mysteriously from one necklace to others
(D) like pearls do that move mysteriously from one necklace to others
(E) as do pearls that move mysteriously from one necklace to some other one

This is a tricky question – it’s perfect for us to re-iterate how important it is to focus on the meaning of the given sentence. Do not try to follow grammar rules blindly on the GMAT!

Is the comparison between “genes jumping” and “pearls moving”? Do pearls really move mysteriously from one necklace to another? No! This is a hypothetical situation, so we must use “like” – genes are like pearls. Answer choices B and D are the only ones that use “like,” so we can eliminate our other options. D uses a clause with “like,” which is incorrect. In answer choice B, “moving from …” is a modifier – “moving” doesn’t act as a verb here, so it doesn’t need a clause. Hence, answer choice B is correct.

Here’s another one:

According to a recent poll, owning and living in a freestanding house on its own land is still a goal of a majority of young adults, like that of earlier generations.

(A) like that of earlier generations
(B) as that for earlier generations
(C) just as earlier generations did
(D) as have earlier generations
(E) as it was of earlier generations

Note the parallel structure of the comparison in answer choice E – “Owning … a house… is still a goal of young adults, as it was of earlier generations.” It correctly uses “as” with a clause.

Answer choice A uses “that” but its antecedent is not very clear; there are other nouns between “goal” and “like,” and hence, confusion arises. None of the other answer choices give us a clear, parallel comparison, so our answer is E.

Alright, last one:

In Hungary, as in much of Eastern Europe, an overwhelming proportion of women work, many of which are in middle management and light industry.

(A) as in much of Eastern Europe, an overwhelming proportion of women work, many of which are in
(B) as with much of Eastern Europe, an overwhelming proportion of women works, many in
(C) as in much of Eastern Europe, an overwhelming proportion of women work, many of them in.
(D) like much of Eastern Europe, an overwhelming proportion of women works, and many are.
(E) like much of Eastern Europe, an overwhelming proportion of women work, many are in.

Another tricky question. The comparison here is between “what happens in Hungary” and “what happens in much of Eastern Europe,” not between “Hungary” and “much of Eastern Europe.” A different sentence structure would be required to compare “Hungary” to “much of Eastern Europe” such as “Hungary, like much of Eastern Europe, has an overwhelming …”

With prepositional phrases, as with clauses, “as” is used. So, we have two relevant options – A and C. Answer choice A uses “which” for “women,” and hence, is incorrect. Therefore, our answer is C.

Here are some takeaways to keep in mind:

  • You should be comparing “apples” to “apples”.
  • Parallel structure is important.
  • Use “as” with prepositional phrases.

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

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

GMAT Tip of the Week: The Least Helpful Waze To Study

GMAT Tip of the WeekIf you drive in a large city, chances are you’re at least familiar with Waze, a navigation app that leverages user data to suggest time-saving routes that avoid traffic and construction and that shave off seconds and minutes with shortcuts on lesser-used streets.

And chances are that you’ve also, at some point or another, been inconvenienced by Waze, whether by a devout user cutting blindly across several lanes to make a suggested turn, by the app requiring you to cut through smaller streets and alleys to save a minute, or by Waze users turning your once-quiet side street into the Talladega Superspeedway.

To its credit, Waze is correcting one of its most common user complaints – that it often leads users into harrowing and time-consuming left turns. But another major concern still looms, and it’s one that could damage both your fender and your chances on the GMAT:

Beware the shortcuts and “crutches” that save you a few seconds, but in doing so completely remove all reasoning and awareness.

With Waze, we’ve all seen it happen: someone so beholden to, “I must turn left on 9th Street because the app told me to!” will often barrel through two lanes of traffic – with no turn signal – to make that turn…not realizing that the trip would have taken the exact same amount of time, with much less risk to the driver and everyone else on the road, had he waited a block or two to safely merge left and turn on 10th or 11th. By focusing so intently on the app’s “don’t worry about paying attention…we’ll tell you when to turn” features, the driver was unaware of other cars and of earlier opportunities to safely make the merge in the desired direction.

The GMAT offers similar pitfalls when examinees rely too heavily on “turn your brain off” tricks and techniques. As you learn and practice them, strategies like the “plumber butt” for rates and averages may seem quick, easy, and “turn your brain off” painless. But the last thing you want to do on a higher-order thinking test like the GMAT is completely turn your brain off. For example, a “turn your brain off” rate problem might say:

John drives at an average rate of 45 miles per hour. How many miles will he drive in 2.5 hours?

And using a Waze-style crutch, you could remember that to get distance you multiply time by rate so you’d get 112.5 miles. That may be a few seconds faster than performing the algebra by thinking “Rate = Distance over Time”; 45 = D/2.5; 45(2.5) = D; D = 112.5.

But where a shortcut crutch saves you time on easier problems, it can leave you helpless on longer problems that are designed to make you think. Consider this Data Sufficiency example:

A factory has three types of machines – A, B, and C – each of which works at its own constant rate. How many widgets could one machine A, one Machine B, and one Machine C produce in one 8-hour day?

(1) 7 Machine As and 11 Machine Bs can produce 250 widgets per hour

(2) 8 Machine As and 22 Machine Cs can produce 600 widgets per hour

Here, simply trying to plug the information into a simple diagram will lead you directly to choice E. You simply cannot separate the rate of A from the rate of B, or the rate of B from the rate of C. It will not fit into the classic “rate pie / plumber’s butt” diagram that many test-takers use as their “I hate rates so I’ll just do this trick instead” crutch.

However, those who have their critical thinking mind turned on will notice two things: that choice E is kind of obvious (the algebra doesn’t get you very close to solving for any one machine’s rate) so it’s worth pressing the issue for the “reward” answer of C, and that if you simply arrange the algebra there are similarities between the number of B and of C:

7(Rate A) + 11(Rate B) = 250
8(Rate A) + 22(Rate C) = 600

Since 11 is half of 22, one way to play with this is to double the first equation so that you at least have the same number of Bs as Cs (and remember…those are the only two machines that you don’t have “together” in either statement, so relating one to the other may help). If you do, then you have:

14(A) + 22(B) = 500
8(A) + 22(C) = 600

Then if you sum the questions (Where does the third 22 come from? Oh, 14 + 8, the coefficients for A.), you have:

22A + 22B + 22C = 1100

So, A + B + C = 50, and now you know the rate for one of each machine. The two statements together are sufficient, but the road to get there comes from awareness and algebra, not from reliance on a trick designed to make easy problems even easier.

The lesson? Much like Waze, which can lead to lack-of-awareness accidents and to shortcuts that dramatically up the degree of difficulty for a minimal time savings, you should take caution when deciding to memorize and rely upon a knee-jerk trick in your GMAT preparation.

Many are willing (or just unaware that this is the decision) to sacrifice mindfulness and awareness to save 10 seconds here or there, but then fall for trap answers because they weren’t paying attention or become lost when problems are more involved because they weren’t prepared.

So, be choosy in the tricks and shortcuts you decide to adopt! If a shortcut saves you a minute or two of calculations, it’s worth the time it takes to learn and master it (but probably never worth completely avoiding the “long way” or knowing the general concept). But if its time savings are minimal and its grand reward is that, “Hey, you don’t have to understand math to do this!” you should be wary of how well it will serve your aspirations of scores above around 600.

Don’t let these slick shortcut waze of avoiding math drive you straight into an accident. Unless the time savings are game-changing, you shouldn’t make a trade that gains you a few seconds of efficiency on select, easier problems in exchange for your awareness and understanding.

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

By Brian Galvin.

Can I Take the GRE Online?

GMAT“Can I take the GRE online?” This is just one of the many questions that students have about the GRE exam – they wonder if perhaps they can take the GRE online from home or at their local library. Although many GRE practice tests can be taken online, the actual exam itself must be taken in an official testing center. Taking the GRE under the guidance of an administrator in one of these testing centers helps ensure the integrity of the test results.

Consider some of the ways that a student can take the GRE in a testing center and learn more about the contents of this challenging exam:

Ways to Take the GRE
Although students are not allowed to take the GRE online from home, they can take the test on a computer in a testing center. In fact, most students choose to take the GRE via computer rather than take it as a traditional paper test (which is also an option – instead of sitting down at a computer, students receive a test booklet where they mark down their answers). Both the computer-based exam and the paper-delivered test take over three hours to complete.

Benefits of Taking the Computer-Delivered GRE
There are lots of students who feel at ease taking the GRE on a computer because they are very familiar with the technology. Unlike its counterpart, the GMAT (which is also taken via computer), the computer-delivered GRE allows test-takers to mark questions they want to skip and return to them later on, as well as to go back and change answers within a particular section.

The computer that the GRE is administered on has basic word processing software that allows students to cut, paste, and otherwise edit their essays – many test-takers appreciate being able to type their essays for the test in this way instead of having to hand-write them. Test-takers also get to use an on-screen calculator for problems in the Quantitative Reasoning Section. The computer-delivered exam is the next best option for students who wish they could take the GRE online.

Benefits of Taking the Paper-Delivered GRE
Some students prefer to stick with the paper-based format for the GRE as they feel more comfortable with this familiar, traditional option. Like the computer-delivered version of the exam, the paper GRE allows test-takers to skip puzzling questions and return to them later on. It also gives them the ability to jot down outlines for their essays to use in hand-writing their final versions. Not surprisingly, this is the preferred option for students who would never want to take the GRE online.

What Is On the GRE?
Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing Sections make up the three parts of the GRE. The Verbal Reasoning Section tests a student’s ability to read and understand written works as well as recognize various vocabulary words in context. The Quantitative Section tests a student’s math skills in the areas of arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and data interpretation. Finally, on the Analytical Writing Section, students are asked to write both an issue essay as well as an argument essay.

Tips for GRE Preparation
Whether a student is taking the GRE via computer or on paper, it’s a good idea to take a practice test. This can help a student to learn which skills need the most attention while they are studying. For example, a student looking at the results of their practice GRE may find that although they performed well on most of the math problems, they would benefit from a little work on their geometry skills. This information will allow the student to focus their study efforts where they are most needed.

Another tip that can assist students in preparing for the GRE is to read more newspaper and magazine articles. This habit can help a student absorb commonly-used vocabulary words and their definitions, which will come in handy if they see these words during the Verbal Reasoning Section of the exam.

At Veritas Prep, we are experts at helping students prepare for the GRE. Each of our professional instructors has achieved a GRE high score, which means that students who take our courses learn test-taking strategies from instructors who have navigated the test with great success!

Though test-takers can’t take the GRE online, they can still gain an advantage over their peers by studying with one of our expert instructors at Veritas Prep. We use excellent study materials and resources to make sure our students have the confidence they need to perform at their best on test day.

Want to jump-start your GRE preparation? Register to attend one of our upcoming free online GRE Strategy Sessions or check out our variety of GRE Course and Private Tutoring options. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

3 Basic Last-Minute Checks for Your MBA Essays

EssayHave you ever noticed that there are always more last-minute details than there are minutes to fix them in? You have put in months (or even years) of work to fit all your experiences at school, work, and life in general into the perfect MBA application essays, and now it is time to finally upload them into the application form. However, no matter how much time and effort you have put in, some additional details always come up.

Use the following last minute checks to address some of the most common business school essay mistakes before you hit “submit”:

1) Make sure you really answered the questions.
At this stage, your essays have probably already gone through several revisions. Most likely, you started by answering each of the essay questions directly, and then filled in your highlights as much as you could. Finding out that you went past the word count limit, you stopped or cut down on your writing and, in the process, some key parts of the essay’s prompt may have been left unaddressed. For instance, an applicant might write about his or her lofty post-MBA goals in detail, but not show how the program they are applying to will help them achieve those.

Thus, make sure you match each part of the essay question or prompt to your essay and ensure that you have addressed each one adequately. If not, edit accordingly. This does not mean you need to completely re-write your essay – changing two to three sentences could be all you need.

2) Be careful with spell checking and transferring content.
As tempting as it is to click “Change All” when you complete spelling and grammar checks on your computer, this can be very risky, especially for the use of proper nouns (for instance, “INSEAD” is often autocorrected to “instead”). Therefore, it is necessary to take the time to actually review spell checker suggestions one by one.

At this stage, if you have to choose between accepting all of the spell checker’s changes blindly or skipping spelling and grammar checks altogether, you would be better off skipping them. This is because the mistakes that remain in your essay will most likely be minor or understandable typographical errors, which is better than having the name of the school you are applying to accidentally autocorrected to something else.

In addition, doing a simple “copy/paste” from your word document to the online application form sounds very basic and routine, but errors can (and do) happen here. Make sure you are pasting your answers to their corresponding questions, and at the very least, check that the word count matches and that no paragraphs are accidentally truncated by looking at their last words (although a more thorough final check of your essays before you officially submit them is always recommended).

3) “Control F” or “Command F” can save you from embarrassing slip-ups.
Imagine you are applying for a job, created a fantastic cover letter, and accidentally wrote in the name of one of the company’s competitors that you are also applying to work for. That is probably the equivalent of writing up your MBA application essay, praising your target program and declaring why you are a great fit for them, only to use the name of another school. This is a common mistake for recycled essays – where you use an essay that you have already submitted to another school and merely edit a few details or sentences.

A quick way to eliminate this risk is to use the “Control F” or “Command F” find functions. For example, say you are working on your application for Wharton and you have also already applied to Columbia and Stern – search for the two latter schools in your Wharton essays as you are proofreading them! This is an easy way to double-check that there will be no embarrassing name slip-ups (although hopefully, you have customized your essays in terms of content and not simply changed the school names!).

Any other tips? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. 

SAT Tip of the Week: What Are You Risking When You Cheat on the SAT?

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMost high school students know that it takes time and effort to properly prepare for the SAT. Unfortunately, there are some students who think that cheating on the SAT is the only way to obtain a high score. What they may not know is that test officials have put many barriers in place to prevent cheating on this exam. Still, every year there are students who stubbornly try to cheat on SAT questions.

Let’s take a look at what you will be risking by choosing to cheat on the SAT:

The Risks of Cheating
Not surprisingly, there are serious consequences for students who are caught cheating (and even for students who are under the suspicion of cheating) on this test. SAT testing centers assign a proctor to each group of students taking the exam – this proctor monitors the group and reports any questionable activity he or she may see.

For instance, if a proctor sees a student texting or otherwise using a cell phone during the test, that student will be asked to leave. When a student is caught cheating like this, the proctor will destroy the student’s answer sheet and report the incident to test officials. The student will then not be able to retake the test for a period of time set by the College Board, which may mean that the student has to delay their college application process.

Having one’s score canceled is another risk students take by cheating on the SAT. If testing officials find any irregularities in a student’s scores or performance on the test, they can open an investigation or cancel that person’s test scores altogether. And keep in mind, a student’s scores can be canceled even if they’ve already been submitted to colleges.

For example, testing officials may suspect cheating if a student earns a very low score on their first SAT attempt and a very high score on a retake – an unusually large discrepancy in scores like this will sometimes trigger an investigation, but of course, tremendous improvement in test performance doesn’t automatically mean a student has cheated. If a student’s test scores are canceled, they must prepare for the SAT again in order to retake it, which can definitely be an inconvenience.

Another important thing to remember is that if a student is accepted into a college based on an unearned SAT score, they may not be able to handle the level of academic rigor at that school. Furthermore, this student will have taken the place of another student who applied to the college with high SAT scores that were earned fairly.

Preparing For the SAT the Right Way
When it comes to the SAT, cheating is never a good idea. Instead, students should set a study schedule that allows them to gradually learn the material they will need to know.

At Veritas Prep, our skillful instructors earned scores on the SAT that placed them in the 99th percentile of test-takers, and students who take our prep courses benefit from these instructors’ practical knowledge! Our online and in-person course options allow students to choose the most convenient way for them to practice with the experts for this exam.

Our students receive individual attention that allows them to focus on what they need to do to improve. We offer tips on how to complete all of the questions on the SAT and still have time left to review answers. Our instructors understand how stressful it can be for students who are preparing for this challenging exam, so in addition to offering academic guidance, our instructors also offer much-needed support and encouragement. Students who work with our team of professional instructors get help every step of the way as they study for the SAT.

Our instructors at Veritas Prep know that most students want to do their best and earn high scores on the SAT, but cheating on this exam is never an option for them. We use quality study resources and materials to give students the tools they need to showcase their abilities on the SAT. As students move through our prep classes, they begin to experience increased confidence. Contact Veritas Prep today and let our instructors help you to true success on the SAT! And as always be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Tips for Applying to Colleges

College AheadWhen it comes time to apply to college, there are several things that students can do to set themselves apart from other applicants. One way students can do this is go out of their way to show their enthusiasm for a school.

For instance, a student can visit a college’s campus and then write a letter to school officials describing how much they enjoyed the trip. Signing up to receive updates on a college’s social media page is another idea for students who want to express their interest. Also, if a college gives applicants the chance to write an optional essay in their application, then a student may want to take advantage of that extra opportunity to communicate their desire to be admitted to that school.

Let’s take a look at some other tips for students who want to outshine the competition when applying to college:

Consider the Early Action Admissions Option
Some students who are applying to college may not be aware of the various admissions options available to them. Some of these options can potentially increase a student’s chances of being accepted to their preferred school – Early Action is a great example of this. Early Action requires students to apply to a college earlier than students who apply during the regular decision period. Early Action applications are typically submitted in November or early December, whereas regular decision applications are usually due in February.

Submitting an Early Action application means that the student will receive an answer in early February, however, if a student is accepted at this time, they don’t have to make their final decision until May 1. The Early Action admissions option is ideal for students who know exactly where they want to go to school – they have done the research and made a reasonably definite choice. If a student is not accepted via Early Action, they can still apply to other colleges during the regular decision period.

It’s important for students to keep in mind that the Early Action option is different from the Early Decision admissions option. If a student is accepted to a college via Early Decision, they must go to that school (whereas a student who is accepted via Early Action can choose to go to a different school).

Write a Summary for Letters of Recommendation
Students who apply to college must arrange for letters of recommendation to be sent along with their other application materials. These letters are usually written by a student’s teachers, employers, or counselors, and they describe the student’s best qualities. College officials who are evaluating a student’s application appreciate hearing different impressions of the student via these letters.

It’s helpful for a student to write down a summary of their own strengths and accomplishments to give to their potential recommenders upon requesting a letter of recommendation from them. Though this may seem like a student’s effort to guide the tone of a recommendation letter, it’s more of a practical step – for example, a high school teacher who teaches many courses may be writing letters of recommendation for a dozen or more students, so they will be grateful for a quick summary from a student so their letter can include all of the right components.

Follow Up on Submitted Materials
When students apply to colleges, there are several documents that must be sent in from different locations. For instance, SAT results are sent from the College Board to the colleges themselves. Transcripts are also sent to colleges from students’ high schools.

It’s a wise idea for a student to call the admissions officials at the schools they are applying to and make sure they’ve received these, and other documents. If not, a student will have the opportunity to check into the problem. Alternatively, if college officials did receive these documents, calling in gives the student an opportunity to reiterate their genuine interest in attending the school.

Veritas Prep specializes in partnering with students who are applying to college. Our admissions consultants have an inside take on what college officials are looking for in prospective students. We help students with all aspects of the college admissions process. Evaluating transcripts, assisting with college applications, providing guidance on essays, and keeping track of deadlines are just a few of the services we offer.

We also provide test prep for the SAT, the ACT, and other exams. Students utilize our study resources, learn test-taking strategies, and practice with our experienced instructors so they can truly master these exams. Contact Veritas Prep today to learn more about our expert academic services.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

What is Considered a “Good” GRE Score and How is it Achieved?

GMATWhat is considered to be a “good” GRE score? This is a common question that often comes to mind for students who are planning to take the GRE. Most of them want an idea as to what scores they will need to have in order to gain admission to their preferred graduate schools. Furthermore, students also want to know the best way they can work to achieve this good GRE score.

At Veritas Prep, we know that thorough preparation is the only way to truly master the GRE, and Veritas Prep students benefit when they study with instructors who have achieved great success on this test. What is a good GRE score? Veritas Prep has the answer.

What is Considered a Good GRE Score?
Students who take the Revised GRE exam receive a report that displays their scores and other information – there are three scores on this report instead of just one, as students receive separate scores for their performance on the Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing Sections of the test. They can score between 130 and 170 points on the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Sections, and anywhere from 0 to 6 points on the Analytical Writing Section.

Scores for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Sections are measured in one-point increments while Analytical Writing scores accumulate in half-point increments. Therefore, a score of about 160 is considered to be good for the Verbal Reasoning Section, a score of around 164 is good for the Quantitative Section, and a score of 5 is good for the the Analytical Writing Section.

Students can also look at the specific admissions requirements of the schools they are considering. The question then becomes, “What is a good GRE score for incoming graduate students at a particular university?” This answer will vary from school to school, so it is best to research the average GRE scores of the schools you are applying to so you can have a target score in mind.

Also, keep in mind that the old version of the GRE used a different scoring scale for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative sections of the exam (students began taking the revised GRE on August 1, 2011). The scores for both the old and the revised versions of the GRE are valid for five years after a student takes the test.

GRE Practice Tests
During GRE prep courses at Veritas Prep, we examine the results of a student’s practice tests, and these results help us to determine where a student needs to improve. Our professional instructors are experts at providing tips to students on how they can strengthen various skills for the GRE. Taking practice tests can help students gauge their progress as they improve in their performance on all three sections of the exam – in a way, a practice test also serves as a sneak preview of what a student will see on test day.

Learn Effective Strategies to Use on the GRE
Students who work with Veritas Prep instructors learn simple test-taking strategies that can end up being their most valuable resources on test day. For instance, they learn how to simplify complicated math equations on the Quantitative Section, how to eliminate answer options to narrow their choices and solve problems with efficiency, and what to look for as they read passages in the Verbal Reasoning Section.

A student who practices these strategies will be able to move through the test and complete all of their questions without running out of time. We also show students how to plan out an organized essay for the Analytical Writing Section of the exam (taking the time to create an outline will pay off in building a convincing argument).

Building Confidence While Preparing for the Test
One of the most important things we do at Veritas Prep is offer encouragement to our students. We know that taking the GRE in preparation for graduate school can be stressful, and we’ve found that most students tend to favor one section of the GRE over another simply because they are more comfortable with the subject matter. We partner with students to improve their performance in weak areas and push them to greater success in the areas in which they already excel.

Students who want to achieve great GRE scores can contact us or consult our FAQ page for more information about our services. We are the experts when it comes to giving students the guidance and strategies they need to perform at their best on the GRE.

Want to jump-start your GRE preparation? Register to attend one of our upcoming free online GRE Strategy Sessions or check out our variety of GRE Course and Private Tutoring options. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

ACT and SAT Score Conversion

ACT vs SATMany students who plan to go to college choose to take both the ACT and the SAT – in many cases, students will take the ACT during their junior year of high school and complete the SAT during their senior year. The results of these tests help college admissions officials gauge whether an individual might be a positive addition to their student body.

While some schools will want to see scores for both exams, others request scores for either the ACT or the SAT. Naturally, if a student is applying to one of the latter schools, they will want to take both tests and submit the better of their two scores. This is where the process of score conversion comes in.

Take a look at how some students are using ACT to SAT score conversion to determine which score to submit with their college applications. Also, learn how our instructors at Veritas Prep can help students perform their best on both tests.

The Process of Score Conversion
The highest achievable score on the ACT is a 36, whereas students can earn up to 1600 points on the new SAT. Score conversion allows students to compare their scores on both exams to determine which is more impressive overall – this can be done using a concordance chart (PDF). Though the ACT and SAT are different types of tests, this chart equates their results in a reasonable way.

Students are able to garner a larger amount of total points on the SAT than on the ACT – as a result, a student’s ACT composite score can equate with a range of scores on the SAT. A score conversion can then help highlight the student’s academic strengths on their college application.

What if a student only takes one of the two tests?
A student who takes the ACT instead of the SAT may try to use a concordance chart to predict their possible SAT score based on their current ACT score, however, without having actually taken the SAT, the student will never know how they might have performed. A concordance chart is not a completely reliable predictor of a student’s performance on either exam – instead, it is meant to be used as a means of comparing the results of both standardized tests. A student can determine which of these two results they should submit to colleges by using the concordance chart to convert an SAT score to an ACT score (conversion to SAT format from an ACT score would help in the same way).

Expert Prep for the ACT and SAT
It’s important for students to begin with a thorough study program for both the ACT and the SAT. Veritas Prep offers SAT and ACT preparation courses that give students the tools they need to tackle all of the challenging questions on the test.

Both our ACT and SAT instructors have first-hand experience with these exams – in fact, our instructors at Veritas Prep must have exemplary scores on these tests in order to work for us, as we want our students to learn from the very best! Students who sign up with Veritas Prep will definitely have an advantage over their peers.

Learning Practical Strategies
We use top quality study materials and professional educational resources to teach our students how to approach the questions on the ACT, as well as on the SAT. For instance, we share tips on how to spot and eliminate wrong answer choices so students can find the correct answer in a more efficient way. We also assist students in dissecting their SAT and ACT practice tests to find the areas that need improvement.

As students prepare for the ACT, the SAT, or both, they can meet with our instructors online or in person and benefit from their skills and know-how. We provide students with plenty of encouragement, so they’ll feel at ease when they sit down on test day to tackle either the ACT or the SAT.

We are proud to guide students in achieving their highest potential scores on the SAT and ACT. Contact Veritas Prep today and sign up for our first-rate ACT and SAT prep courses.

Still need to take the SAT or ACT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources and free ACT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Why Take a Language Test in Addition to the GMAT or GRE?

FAQMany international applicants are curious as to why graduate schools require an English language test along with the GMAT or the GRE. The latter tests are quite challenging and are already conducted in English, so why take TOEFL or IELTS, in addition?

Well, the reason is actually quite simple. Although the GMAT and GRE are administered in English, they do not truly test language proficiency.

Language vs. Aptitude Tests
Test-takers should be fluent in English to take GMAT and GRE, but these exams are just reasoning tests. The GMAT and GRE measure your aptitude for graduate school success by assessing your analytical thinking, quantitative skills, comprehension of complex texts, ability to identify arguments, etc.

These tests do require fluency in English because this is the language of the test. As such, you will need to brush-up your knowledge of standard English grammar and upgrade your vocabulary to an academic level to cope with the Verbal Sections and the Analytical Writing assessments. In addition, the GMAT and GRE will both require a refresher of high school and college math skills.

What language skills do you use on the GMAT and GRE?
1) Reading Comprehension
Both the GRE and GMAT are conducted entirely in English, so you should be able to comprehend all instructions and test questions, as well as be able to read quickly and understand what you are reading in detail.

The vocabulary in some parts of these tests can be at a very high academic level, or can be highly specialized in a certain field. On the GMAT, for example, you can find texts about history, biology and chemistry with very specific terminology. Don’t be surprised – the GMAT opens the door to business school, which prepares future managers. Managers have to be able to make decisions in any industry, not necessarily knowing all the details and terminology in the field.

Reading long, specialized text is essential for success in graduate school, but the GMAT and GRE do not test other equally important language skills such as your listening, comprehension and speaking abilities.

2) Applying Grammar Rules
Mastery of grammar rules and having an experienced eye for tiny details is essential for the Verbal Sections of the GRE and GMAT. Your grammar expertise will help you with, for example, GMAT Sentence Correction questions. Let’s look at how you can work on this using the following practice question; you have to choose which of the five answer choices is correct in order to replace the underlined part of the sentence:

SARS coronavirus – the virus that causes Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome – does not seem to transmit easily from person to person, though in China it has infected the family members and health care personnel taking care of them.

(A) it has infected the family members and health care personnel taking care of them
(B) it has infected the family members and health care personnel who had taken care of them
(C) the virus has infected the family members and health care personnel who have taken care of them
(D) the virus had infected the family members and health care personnel who took care of victims
E) it has infected the family members and health care personnel taking care of victims

Can you see how having a knowledge of grammar rules and a decision-point strategy can help you find the right answer? Veritas Prep experts explain:

In the original sentence, you will probably not notice the error with “them” at the end until you see the choice of “victims” in (D) and (E). The “them” in (A), (B), and (C) has no antecedent in the sentence. When you say “has infected THE family members and health personnel taking care of them” you need to have something for “them” to refer back to (it is not referring to family members or health personnel as that would be illogical – they are THE people doing the taking care of). In (D) the past perfect “had infected” is illogical as the virus did not infect the people BEFORE they took care of the people with the virus (the victims). (E) gets everything correct – it uses the proper, logical tense and uses “victims” instead of “them”. Answer is (E).

3) Writing and Style
Both the GMAT and the GRE have writing components. For the GRE, you are required to write two essays – Analysis of an Argument and Analysis of a Statement. The GMAT has only one essay – Analysis of the Argument. Although the focus of this part of the test is on your analytical skills, your presentation, use of correct grammar, level of vocabulary, structure and writing style will also count towards your score.

What language skills do the TOEFL and IELTS test?
The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are the most well-known English proficiency tests required by universities. Although there are a number of differences between these tests, they both check all English language skills. In this way, university Admissions Committees make sure that prospective applicants can freely communicate in English in an academic environment, as well as make the most of their extracurricular activities and social life while at school.

The TOEFL and IELTS both assess:

1) Listening Comprehension
During these tests, you will listen to recordings of native speakers talking about different topics. Some of them are related to university life, such as lectures, class discussions, and talks between professors and students or among students. These tests reflect the variety of native English accents around the world, just as most of the international university classrooms do.

2) Reading Comprehension
You will have to read (within a specified time) large chunks of text on different topics. Vocabulary is at an academic level here, and the topics are from various fields of study and everyday situations. Your understanding of these texts will be verified in different ways.

3) Grammar
As with the GMAT and GRE, you will have questions that require a mastery of standard English grammar. You will have to find the best answer for certain Verbal questions, or decide whether a sentence is correct or incorrect (and how to correct it).

4) Writing
Both the IELTS and TOEFL exams have a written section. During this part of the test, you will have to write an essay – vocabulary used, clarity of expression, grammar, style, structure and focus on the topic are all considered in evaluating your essay.

5) Speaking
Oral communication is essential in graduate school, especially when the teaching methodology focuses on class discussion, group projects, presentations, and networking. While the Oral Section tests listening comprehension again, its primary purpose is to assess your ability to express yourself orally. For the TOEFL exam, the Oral Section, like the rest of the test, is carried out on a computer – you will listen to the instructions and then record your oral presentation. For the IELTS exam, your oral ability is assessed though a live, face-to-face conversation with the examiners.

Can language tests be waived?
Some universities will waive the requirement for a language test for international applicants who have recently completed a Bachelor’s Degree course studied entirely in English. In rare cases, some business schools will not require applicants to take the IELTS or TOEFL, since they will have the chance to evaluate candidates’ language skills during the admissions interview. This does not mean that all schools requiring an admission interview will waive the TOEFL/IELTS requirement, however, so it is best to check with the schools you are applying to for their policies on the matter.

Now you can clearly see how these two types of tests differ, and why most universities and business schools require both an aptitude test (the GMAT and GRE) and a language proficiency test. Admissions Committees require evidence that you have the potential to succeed with your studies, and that neither your language nor reasoning skills will be barriers.

By Iliana Bobova, from our partners at PrepAdviser.

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

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Using “Like” vs. “As” on the GMAT Verbal Section

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIf you have seen the Veritas Prep curriculum, then you know we frequently highlight the strategy of “Think like the Testmaker” to answer GMAT questions. Recently, we had a student question the grammatical validity of this construct – this brought the “like” vs. “as” debate to mind, so we decided to tackle it this week.

When should you use “like” and when should you use “as” in a sentence?

Both words can be used in comparisons, however the structure of the sentence will be different in the two cases. This is because traditionally, “like” is a preposition and “as” is a conjunction – a preposition takes the form of an object while a conjunction takes the form of a clause. Therefore:

Using “like,” we compare nouns/pronouns (including gerunds). Usually, a single verb will be used.

Using “as,” we compare actual actions. There will be two verbs used when we compare using “as.”

So, this is how we are going to compare “like” and “as”:

  • He runs like a madman. – A single verb, “runs.”
  • He runs as a madman does. – Two verbs, “runs” and “does” (which is equivalent to “does run”).

In the same way, both of the following sentences are correct:

  • Think like the Testmaker.
  • Think as the Testmaker does.

But beware – “as” used with a noun or pronoun alone does not mean that this usage is incorrect. “As” can also be used to show a role or capacity. For example, in the sentence, “She works as a consultant,” the word “as” means that she works in the capacity of a consultant. There is no comparison here, but the sentence is still grammatically correct.

Also, we usually use “like” in the case of hypothetical comparisons. Take, for instance, the sentence, “She screams like a banshee.” Here, it would be odd to say, “She screams as a banshee does,” because we don’t really know how a banshee screams.

Let’s look at a few GMAT Sentence Correction questions now:

Like many self-taught artists, Perle Hessing did not begin to paint until she was well into middle age.

(A) Like
(B) As have
(C) Just as with
(D) Just like
(E) As did

In this sentence, the word “like” is correctly comparing “Perle Hessing” to “many self taught artists.” There is no clause after “like” and we are using a single verb. Hence, the use of “like” is correct and our answer is A.

Not too bad, right? Let’s try another question:

Based on recent box office receipts, the public’s appetite for documentary films, like nonfiction books, seems to be on the rise. 

(A) like nonfiction books 
(B) as nonfiction books 
(C) as its interest in nonfiction books 
(D) like their interest in nonfiction books 
(E) like its interest in nonfiction books

This sentence also has a comparison, and it is between “appetite” and “interest” and how they are both are on a rise. Answer choice E compares “appetite” to “interest” using “like” as a single verb. None of the answer choices have “as” with a clause so the answer must be E.

These were two simple examples of “like” vs. “as.” Now let’s look at a higher-level GMAT question:

During an ice age, the buildup of ice at the poles and the drop in water levels near the equator speed up the Earth’s rotation, like a spinning figure skater whose speed increases when her arms are drawn in

(A) like a spinning figure skater whose speed increases when her arms are drawn in 
(B) like the increased speed of a figure skater when her arms are drawn in 
(C) like a figure skater who increases speed while spinning with her arms drawn in 
(D) just as a spinning figure skater who increases speed by drawing in her arms 
(E) just as a spinning figure skater increases speed by drawing in her arms

There is a comparison here, but between which two things? Answer choice A seems to be comparing “Earth’s rotation” to “spinning figure skater,” but these two things are not comparable. Option E is the correct choice here – it compares “speed up Earth’s rotation” to “skater increases speed.” Therefore, our answer is E.

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

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

The College Transfer Process: How to Transfer Colleges

Columbia UniversityIt’s not unusual for a student to start courses at a college, only to realize that they want to make a change. Perhaps the student wants to attend a school with more resources for art students, or maybe a student wants to switch to a school that allows its students to put their knowledge into practice via internship opportunities.

There are countless reasons why college students want to transfer to other schools, and understandably, students in this situation want to know how this process works – how to complete the prep work necessary to put the transfer into motion. Before taking this big step, examine what a student must do in order to transfer colleges:

Researching the Deadline for Transfer Applications
One of the first steps to transferring schools is for students to visit the website of the college they want to attend. Many colleges have a specific section on their website where students can find information about transferring into the school. It’s important for students to note the various application deadlines so they can submit all of their necessary documents on time.

Sometimes, visiting the college itself to talk with an academic counselor can make the college transfer process easier. For instance, during such a meeting, a student can inquire about the minimum number of credits necessary to transfer into the school (as some colleges won’t consider transfer students unless they’ve earned a certain amount of credits at their current school). The counselor may also be able to help map out strategies that will allow the transfer to graduate on schedule.

Completing an Application
Just like high school seniors, a college student who wants to transfer to a different college must fill out an application, which are available online for most schools. This application must be filled out completely and submitted along with the other required materials by midnight on the date of the deadline.

If you need help putting your application materials together, just contact us! At Veritas Prep, we can evaluate a student’s college transfer application – our professional consultants have experience working in the admissions offices of some of the best universities in the country, so we know what schools are looking for when they evaluate a student’s application, recommendation letters, and other materials.

Getting College Transcripts
A transfer student must also submit their latest college transcript. Naturally, college officials want to know about a student’s performance at their current school before admitting them. Some colleges will even want to see a student’s SAT or ACT scores to get a clearer picture of the person’s academic abilities (this is especially true if the student has spent a short time at their current school). But not to worry – at Veritas Prep, we can provide you with guidance on what colleges look at when evaluating transfer students. Our consultants have experience with the college transfer process and can offer students solid tips on how to navigate their way into a different school.

Obtaining Letters of Recommendation from Professors
For some students, one of the steps to transferring colleges is to garner letters of recommendation from professors. These letters help college officials determine whether the transfer student would be a positive addition to the school. Letters of recommendation should come from professors who are familiar with the student and their work ethic – getting a glowing letter of recommendation from one professor is better than getting lukewarm letters from half a dozen instructors who don’t really know much about the student.

Other Tips for Students Who Want to Transfer to Another College
There are other considerations students should keep in mind when considering transferring, too. Students who have scholarships or other types of financial aid at their current school must determine whether these will be affected if they transfer to another college. Also, transferring to a new school can potentially affect a student’s graduation date because the student may need to take additional classes required by the new college. Transfer students should also check into the availability of housing on campus, as some colleges may not have available housing at the time the student transfers into the school.

Students who want to know more about how to transfer colleges should also take into consideration how their standardized test scores may impact their ability to transfer. In some cases, transfer students with plenty of college credit to their names don’t need to worry as much about their previous SAT or ACT scores, however, if you’re one of the many students who feel that they could improve their scores, Veritas Prep is here to help you do that. We are proud to help students continue to pursue their goals and receive the highest testing scores possible through hard work, dedication, and the right resources. Let us help you today!

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

GMAT Tip of the Week: The Curry Twos Remind You To Keep The GMAT Simple

GMAT Tip of the WeekHappy Friday from Veritas Prep headquarters, where we’re actively monitoring the way that Twitter is reacting to UnderArmour’s release of the new Steph Curry shoes. What’s the problem with the Curry Twos? Essentially they’re too plain and buttoned up – much more Mickelson than Michael, son.

OK, so what? The Curry 2s are more like the Curry 401(k)s. Why should that matter for your GMAT score?

Because on the GMAT, you want to be as simple and predictable as a Steph Curry sneaker.

What does that mean? One of the biggest study mistakes that people make is that once they’ve mastered a core topic like “factoring” or “verb tenses,” they move on to more obscure topics and spend their valuable study time on those.

There are two major problems with this: 1) the core topics appear much more often and are much more repeatable, and 2) in chasing the obscure topics later in their study regimen, people spend the most valuable study time – that coming right before the test – feverishly memorizing things they probably won’t see or use at the expense of practicing the skills and strategies that they’ll need to use several times on test day.

Consider an example: much like Twitter is clowning the Curry Twos, a handful of Veritas Prep GMAT instructors were laughing this time last week about an explanation in a practice test (by a company that shall remain nameless…) for a problem similar to:

Two interconnected, circular gears travel at the same circumferential rate. If Gear A has a diameter of 30 centimeters and Gear B has a diameter of 50 centimeters, what is the ratio of the number of revolutions that Gear A makes per minute to the number of revolutions that Gear B makes per minute?

(A) 3:5
(B) 9:25
(C) 5:3
(D) 25:9
(E) Cannot be determined from the information provided

Now, the “Curry Two” approach – the tried and true, “don’t-overcomplicate-this-for-the-sake-of-overcomplicating-it” method – is to recognize that the distance around any circle (a wheel, a gear, etc.) is its circumference. And circumference is pi * diameter. So, if each gear travels the same circumferential distance, that distance for any given period of time is “circumference * number of revolutions.” That then means that the circumference of A times the number of revolutions of A is equal to the circumference of B times the number of revolutions for B, and you know that’s:

30π * A = 50π * B (where A = # of revolutions for A, and B = # of revolutions for B). Since you want the ratio of A:B, divide both sides by B and by 30, and you have A/B = 50/30, or A:B = 5:3 (answer choice C).

Why were our instructors laughing? The explanation began, “There is a simple rule for interconnected gears…” Which is great to know if you see a gear-based question on the test or become CEO of a pulley factory, but since the GMAT officially tests “geometry,” you’re much better off recognizing the relationship between circles, circumferences, and revolutions (for questions that might deal with gears, wheels, windmills, or any other type of spinning circles) than you are memorizing a single-use rule about gears.

Problems like this offer the “Curry Two” students a fantastic opportunity to reinforce their knowledge of circles, their ability to think spatially about shapes, etc. But, naturally, there are students who will add “gear formula” to their deck of flashcards and study that single-use rule (which 99.9% of GMAT examinees will never have the opportunity to use) with the same amount of time/effort/intensity as they revisit the Pythagorean Theorem (which almost everyone will use at least twice).

Hey, the Curry Twos are plain, boring, and predictable, as are the core rules and skills that you’ll use on the GMAT. But simple, predictable, and repeatable are what win on this test, so heed this lesson. As 73 regular season opponents learned this basketball season, Curry Twos lead to countless Curry 3s, and on the GMAT, “Curry Two” strategies will help you curry favor with admissions committees by leading to Curry 700+ scores.

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

By Brian Galvin.

How to Use Pronoun Substitution to Answer GMAT Sentence Correction Questions

SAT/ACTIt was around the time my daughter was born that my wife and I began to have pronoun fights. A certain amount of ambiguity is hard-wired into all language, so when you combine the complexity of English with a healthy dose of sleep deprivation, commands like “put it over there,” become intolerable. What is “it?” Where is “there?” (And why are we fighting over pronoun ambiguity when there’s a screaming child we’re not attending to?)

Lest you fear for the stability of our marriage, rest assured, dear reader, these fights were not hard to resolve – all we had to do was substitute the noun we intended the pronoun to refer to, and suddenly the intolerably vague directive became an unmistakable clear request. There’s a lesson here for the GMAT.

Because pronouns are so common, there’s no avoiding their usage on Sentence Correction questions, and the best way to avoid getting thrown off by them is to substitute in whatever noun or noun phrase these pronouns appear to be referring to. This has two benefits: first, we’ll be better able to assess whether the pronoun is used correctly, should it appear in the underlined portion of the sentence. And secondly, it will help us to understand the meaning of the sentence so that we can properly evaluate whether whatever we choose is, in fact, logical.

Take the following question, for example:

According to public health officials, in 1998 Massachusetts became the first state in which more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than under it.

(A) than
(B) than born
(C) than they were
(D) than there had been
(E) than had been born

Notice that this sentence ends with the pronoun “it.” Because the “it” is not part of the underlined portion of the sentence, test-takers will often pay the word scant attention. This is certainly true of many students who have brought this sentence to my attention. Pretty much all of them selected B as the correct answer and were astonished to learn they were wrong.

So, let’s look at the relevant clause with answer choice B: more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than born under it. This sounded fine to the students’ ears. When I asked them what “it” referred to, however, they quickly recognized that “it” refers to the preceding noun phrase “the age of thirty.” I then asked them to reread the clause, but this time, to substitute the referent in place of the pronoun. The phrase read as follows: more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than born under [the age of thirty.]

The problem was immediately apparent. This clause compares babies born to women over the age of thirty to babies born under the age of thirty! Hopefully, it goes without saying that the writer did not intend to persuade the reader that some population of babies were under the age of 30 when they were born.

Clearly, B is incorrect. Once we substitute the referent for the pronoun, we can quickly see that only answer choice, A, makes any logical sense: more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than under the [age of thirty.]  We’re simply comparing the number of babies born to women in two different age groups. Not only is A the shortest and cleanest answer choice, it’s also the most coherent option. So, we have our answer.

Let’s try another one:

In 1979 lack of rain reduced India’s rice production to about 41 million tons, nearly 25 percent less than those of the 1978 harvest

(A) less than those of the 1978 harvest
(B) less than the 1978 harvest
(C) less than 1978
(D) fewer than 1978
(E) fewer than that of India’s 1978 harvest

Notice the “those” in the underlined portion. What is “those” referring to? It must be referring to some plural antecedent, so our only real option is “tons.” Let’s take a look at the sentence with “tons” in place of “those.”

In 1979 lack of rain reduced India’s rice production to about 41 million tons, nearly 25 percent less than [the tons] of the 1978 harvest. 

Do we want to compare the rice production in 1979 to the “tons” in 1978? Of course not. We want to compare one year’s production to another year’s production, or one harvest to another.

C and D both compare one year’s production to a year, rather than to the production of another year, so those are both wrong.

E gives us another pronoun – this time we have “that,” which must have a singular antecedent. It seems to refer to “rice production,” so let’s make that substitution.

In 1979 lack of rain reduced India’s rice production to about 41 million tons, nearly 25 percent fewer than [the rice production] of India’s 1978 harvest.

Well, this makes no sense – we use “fewer” to compare countable items, so we certainly wouldn’t say that one year’s production is “fewer” than another year’s production. So, E is also out.

This leaves us with answer choice B, which logically compares one year’s harvest to another year’s harvest.

Takeaway: Anytime you see a pronoun in a Sentence Correction sentence, always substitute the referent in place of the pronoun. This practice will clarify the meaning of the sentence and prevent the kind of ambiguity that leads to both incorrect answers and marital discord.

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

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

SAT Tip of the Week: Why One-on-One SAT Tutoring is So Important

SAT Tip of the Week - FullHigh school students go about preparing for the SAT in a number of different ways – some students form study groups with friends to review vocabulary words and work on math problems, while others prefer to create a study schedule and practice for the SAT on their own. One of the most effective ways to prep for this test is to participate in one-on-one SAT tutoring. Discover several reasons why many students choose to work with a professional tutor as they prepare to tackle the SAT:

Tutoring Tailored to a Student’s Learning Style
When a student works one-on-one with a tutor, the instructor is able to tailor the lessons to the person’s learning style. For example, a tutor who is working with a student who’s a visual learner will likely use lots of graphs, charts, and written exercises during each session. Alternatively, a tutor working with an auditory learner may ask the student to read passages aloud and verbalize the steps of algebra or geometry problems.

Our tutors at Veritas Prep take the time to recognize a student’s learning style before the tutoring sessions even begin. Our experienced tutors know that incorporating a student’s learning style into each lesson goes a long way to helping them absorb the material – we’ve found that determining a student’s learning style beforehand boosts the overall quality of instruction.

A Supply of Useful Strategies
Some students think that taking a practice test, studying vocabulary words, and completing math problems are all they need to do to prepare them for the SAT, but there is another significant step to this process. In order to be fully prepared for the SAT, a student must learn test-taking strategies – these strategies help students simplify complicated questions and allow them to finish each section of the test before time is called. Students who sign up for one-on-one SAT tutoring at Veritas Prep can learn test-taking strategies from the best! We give students a range of strategies that can be applied with success on any section of the exam.

Getting an Answer to Every Question
Students who work one-on-one with an SAT tutor can get answers to all of their questions about this exam. Not surprisingly, students who get their questions addressed right away are able to thoroughly absorb the information and move on to the next topic. Plus, a student’s questions can help a tutor gauge whether the individual is truly grasping a concept. If there’s a topic that needs further review, a tutor and student can take the time to go back over the material. We want our students to sit down on test day with a feeling of confidence!

Personalized Tips Lead to Effective Study
Many students opt for one-on-one SAT tutoring because they know the benefits of personalized study tips. An example of a general study tip for students would be to memorize ten math definitions per week, however, an instructor working one-on-one with a student can personalize that tip by advising the individual to create a mnemonic for each word that relates to the student’s own life to make the strategy all the more effective.

Invaluable Encouragement
Studying for the SAT can be stressful for a high school student. Some students may encounter a section of the practice test that challenges them more than all of the others. This is where an encouraging voice can really help.

Our SAT instructors have been through the study process and have taken the exam, so they can easily empathize with their students. Most importantly, they’ve gone through the experience and achieved tremendous success on the SAT! Our tutors are also experts at providing advice to students who deal with test anxiety. We give students the academic preparation as well as the support they need to do their absolute best on the SAT.

At Veritas Prep, we give students the resources and encouragement they need to master the SAT. When it comes to the SAT, our students have the tools they need to enjoy an advantage over their peers. Check out our tutoring options and courses to find out which one is the best fit for you. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Build Your MBA Profile Like Angelina Jolie

writing essayAngelina Jolie is known worldwide as both a glamorous movie star and an advocate of several worthwhile humanitarian causes. Even more impressive than this amazing image is how she has managed to accomplish so much while simultaneously battling with substance addictions, social controversies, and failed relationships. By building your MBA profile like Angelina has built her career, you can also overcome any potentially negative components of your application.

From “Wild Child” to “World’s Most Admired Woman”
Growing up an unpopular schoolgirl and then becoming an unsuccessful model struggling with an eating disorder, drug addiction, depression, and flops after flops, Angelina’s rise to success was not as easy as one might assume. Early in life, she made the news more often for the wrong reasons than she did for any positive accomplishments.

The turning point, she says, was adopting her son, Maddox – his entry into her life made her commit to ending her self-destructive ways. Around this same time, the filming of her blockbuster hit “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” in Cambodia opened her eyes to the worldwide humanitarian crisis, leading to her involvement as a United Nations ambassador.

From her image as a wild child, to being named the World’s Most Admired Woman in 2015 by YouGov, Angelina Jolie has ably managed her public image to benefit her career and make an impact on worthwhile causes.

Lesson for MBA applicants:
Just as early missteps did not define Angelina – and have even proved to make her story interesting – MBA applicants can build their profiles even with previous failures or mistakes. Identifying turning points and key events that allowed you to mature and fulfill your  potential will allow the Admissions Committee to better understand and relate to your early vulnerability, redemption, and success.

Images of Refugee Camp Visits
Striking images of Angelina’s well-documented visits to refugee camps in Kenya, Lebanon, and all over the world, are also helpful in presenting her awareness of, and commitment to, her cause in a way that is both credible and powerful, such that her reputation as a humanitarian is able to drown out accusations that she is may be a “home-wrecker.” (Apologies to Jennifer Aniston’s fans, if any are still reading up to this point!)

Lesson for MBA applicants:
Sharing stories complete with vivid images that will favorably surprise the Admissions Committee or counteract negative perceptions or stereotypes about your background will be very useful for your MBA essays and your overall profile.

For instance, private equity analysts could be seen as mainly doing desktop research and not getting exposed to the outside world. Thus, an applicant of this background would do well to richly relate the experience of inspecting the mines or interacting with people in the factories. In contrast, an applicant from a very poor country would do well to highlight global leadership experiences and personal exposure across different nations to help assure the Admissions Committee that he or she will do well in a diverse top-tier MBA program.

Building a well-rounded profile like Angelina Jolie will be essential to gaining admission to a top-tier business school; showing that you are someone who can “hit the ground running” wherever you go is the type of candidate MBA programs are truly looking for.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. 

A Snapshot of the U.S. Academic Visa Process

ChecklistFor many international students, the hardest part of pursuing a graduate education in business in the United States is not just gaining admission to an MBA program, but also ensuring, from a legal perspective, they have the right to study in the U.S.  Keep in mind, the following information is focused primarily on the U.S. academic visa process – if you are pursuing your MBA in a different country, such as France or the United Kingdom, please review those country-specific rules and regulations.

Now that we have those particulars out of the way, following your admission to business school, you should immediately begin the visa process to ensure a smooth transition once it is time to begin your MBA studies.

The United States student visa is called the F-1. Once you have secured, and formally accepted, an admissions offer from the business school you will be matriculating to, your MBA program should send you an I-20 form that is required for your academic visa (F-1) submission. After completing this form, you will need to submit it along with the necessary supplementary documents (including a valid passport and photograph), pay a monetary fee, and complete an in-person interview at a U.S. Embassy.

If you have a spouse, your student visa will provide clearance for them to stay in the U.S. while you are a student as well, however, they will still need to go through the F-2 visa process, which establishes kinship of the spouse to the matriculating student. Keep in mind, the accompanying spouse will not be allowed to work or become a full-time student with this visa, but can still pursue part-time coursework (as long as it does not exceed 12 hours per week).

One of the more challenging aspects of the F-1 are its work restrictions – the student visa does allow students to work up to 20 hours per week and up to 40 hours per week during vacations (like during summer internships) but approvals or sponsorships from an employer will be needed in order to work outside of that.

This knowledge is especially relevant for an applicant’s post-MBA work goals – after completing an MBA under the student visa, students must leave the country within 60 days. At this point, a recently-graduated student who is interested in remaining in the United States must secure sponsorship from an employer via the H-1B Visa.

Don’t misstep as you transition to attending business school in the U.S. – get your student visa process started early and make the most of your time before matriculation.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and 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 articles by him here.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Are Official Answers Debatable on the GMAT?

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomLet’s begin with the bottom line: no, they are not. If you are thinking along the lines of, “This official answer cannot be correct! How can the answer be A? It must be C, or C is at least just as valid as A,” then you are wasting your time. The answer given is never debatable. What you should be thinking instead is, “The answer given is A, but  I thought it was C. I must find out where I made a mistake.”

The point is that since you are going to take GMAT, you must learn to think like the GMAT testmakers. The answers they give for these questions are the correct answers, so need to accept that – this way, the next step of figuring out the gap in your understanding will be far easier. Today, let’s take a look at an official question that is often debated:

The average hourly wage of television assemblers in Vernland has long been significantly lower than that in neighboring Borodia. Since Borodia dropped all tariffs on Vernlandian televisions three years ago, the number of televisions sold annually in Borodia has not changed. However, recent statistics show a drop in the number of television assemblers in Borodia. Therefore, updated trade statistics will probably indicate that the number of televisions Borodia imports annually from Vernland has increased.

Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?

(A) The number of television assemblers in Vernland has increased by at least as much as the number of television assemblers in Borodia has decreased.
(B) Televisions assembled in Vernland have features that televisions assembled in Borodia do not have.
(C) The average number of hours it takes a Borodian television assembler to assemble a television has not decreased significantly during the past three years.
(D) The number of televisions assembled annually in Vernland has increased significantly during the past three years.
(E) The difference between the hourly wage of television assemblers in Vernland and the hourly wage of television assemblers in Borodia is likely to decrease in the next few years.

First, let’s look at the premises of the argument:

  • The hourly wage of assemblers in Vernland is much lower than that in Borodia.
  • 3 years ago, Borodia dropped all tariffs on TVs imported from Vernland.
  • The number of TVs sold annually in Borodia is same.
  • However, the number of assemblers in Borodia has decreased.

The conclusion is that the trade statistics will probably indicate that the number of televisions Borodia imports annually from Vernland has increased.

This conclusion might look logical, but it is full of assumptions.

Why does this conclusion seem so logical? Wages in Vernland are lower, so it would seem like TVs should be cheaper here. Borodia dropped all tariffs on imported TVs, which means there will be no artificial inflation of Vernland TV prices. Finally, the number of TVs sold in Borodia has not dropped, but number of assemblers in Borodia has dropped, which makes it look like fewer TVs are getting made in Borodia.

An onlooker might conclude that Borodia is importing more TVs from Vernland because they are cheaper, but here are some assumptions that come to mind:

  • The cost of a TV in Vernland is lower because assembler’s wage is lower. What if the raw material cost is higher in Vernland? Or other costs are higher? The cost to produce a Vernland TV could actually be higher than the cost to produce a Borodia TV.
  • Fewer TVs are getting made in Borodia, but that does not mean that Borodian assemblers have not become more productive. What if fewer assemblers are needed because they can actually complete the assembly process much faster? The number of TVs sold is the same, however, if each assembler is doing more work, fewer assemblers will be needed. In this case, the number of TVs made in Borodia might not have changed even though the number of producers dropped.

Coming to our question now: Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?

We are looking for an assumption, i.e. a NECESSARY premise. We have already identified some assumptions, so let’s see if any of the answer choices gives us one of those:

(A) The number of television assemblers in Vernland has increased by at least as much as the number of television assemblers in Borodia has decreased.

This is the most popular incorrect answer choice. Test takers keep trying to justify why it makes perfect sense, but actually, it is not required for the conclusion to hold true.

The logic of test takers that pick this answer choice is often on the lines of, “If the number of workers from Borodia decreased, in order for Borodia to show an increased number of imports from Vernland, Vernland must have increased their number of workers by at least as much as the number of workers that left Borodia.”

Note that although this may sound logical, it is not necessary to the argument. There are lots of possible situations where this may not be the case:

Perhaps number of TVs being manufactured in Vernland is the same and, hence, the number of assemblers is the same, too. It is possible that out of the fixed number of TVs manufactured, fewer are getting locally bought and more are getting exported to Borodia. So, it is not necessarily true that number of TV assemblers in Vernland has increased.

(B) Televisions assembled in Vernland have features that televisions assembled in Borodia do not have.

This is also not required for the conclusion to hold – the TVs could actually be exactly the same, but the TVs assembled in Vernland could still be cheaper than the TVs assembled in Borodia due to a potentially lower cost of assembly in Vernland.

(C) The average number of hours it takes a Borodian television assembler to assemble a television has not decreased significantly during the past three years.

This is one of the assumptions we discussed above – we are assuming that the reduction in the number of assemblers must not be due to an increase in the productivity of the assemblers because if the assemblers have got more productive, then the number of TVs produced could be the same and, hence, the number of TVs imported would not have increased.

(D) The number of televisions assembled annually in Vernland has increased significantly during the past three years.

This is not required for the conclusion to hold. Perhaps the number of TVs being sold in Vernland has actually reduced while more are getting exported to Borodia, so the overall number of TVs being made is the same.

(E) The difference between the hourly wage of television assemblers in Vernland and the hourly wage of television assemblers in Borodia is likely to decrease in the next few years.

This is also not required for the conclusion to hold. What happens to the hourly wages of assemblers in Vernland and Borodia in the future doesn’t concern this argument – we are only concerned about what has been happening in the last 3 years.

Therefore, our answer is C.

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

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

How to Prepare For Your MBA as an Undergraduate Student

Make Studying FunAre you already considering pursuing an MBA as an undergraduate student? There is no better time to start thinking about a graduate education in business than while you are wrapping up your undergraduate education. This time in your life will afford you the most flexibility with regards to making the decisions that may successfully set you up for the rest of your business career.

The most important thing to keep in mind as you think through your business school strategy is to be flexible. Do not plan so rigidly that you are incapable of adapting to the natural shifts, changes and ad hoc opportunities that life offers. Be focused throughout your career journey, but make sure you are also affording yourself some flexibility.

Career Trajectory
Thinking through how best to achieve your future career goals, and if business school makes sense as a part of this, are natural first steps for most undergrads. Really think through whether or not pursuing an MBA is something you would eventually like to do, and if it will have the desired impact on your career.

I would caution, however, against pursuing career paths that you generally have little interest in simply to maximize your positioning for a top-tier MBA. College is an exploratory time where you should start to filter through industries and functions that excite you – the better you can narrow your career focus early on, the less wasted time you will ultimately have in your post-undergrad career.

GPA
Your GPA is one of few aspects of your profile that you really cannot alter or improve after graduation. So, while you’re still in undergrad, it is important to bank some equity in your future application with a high GPA. Don’t fall for the myth that your grades do not matter after undergrad once you enter the workforce – your GPA can follow you (positively or negatively) throughout your career.

GMAT
Take the GMAT! Take the GMAT! Take the GMAT while you are still in undergrad! Commonly held wisdom suggest that if you are already in study mode as a student, it will be much easier for you to excel on this exam, so find some time to focus on your prepare early. Once you enter the working world, it is often difficult to find time to dedicate yourself to comprehensive GMAT prep.

Extra-Curricular Activities
College is also a great time to explore activities that interest you on campus. Aligning your passions with leadership and teamwork opportunities – be that in athletics, volunteering, or professional or social clubs – can really distinguish you as a future candidate. These experiences also provide great essay fodder and strong interpersonal anecdotes that definitely help differentiate applicants as a whole.

Take advantage of the tips above to get ahead of the curve as an undergraduate student so that you can breeze through your MBA application process in the future.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and 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 articles by him here.

3 Ways to Fit the Most Details Into Your MBA Essays

help - wordsDo you have too many “knick-knacks” and seemingly unrelated, but interesting, details about your MBA candidate profile? Are you unsure of where to use them in your essays, how to fit them into the limited word counts you are given, or if you should even include them in your application at all?

Frequently, I see business school applicants who have accomplishments that they are very proud of – such as winning a competition at their undergraduate university, excelling on a sports team, or holding a long-running passion for performing arts – but that do not seem to fit into the context of their answers to the essay prompts they are given.

Some schools have essays asking applicants to share outside activities or interesting personal facts, but most of the time, you will need to deliberate as to how these attributes will fit in your essays as you address the questions.

Below are three suggestions on how you can find space to share these details in a way that will help make your essays both more personal and powerful:

1) Draw Parallels
As is true in many aspects of life, in your business school essays, showing, instead of simply telling, is often the best way to get your point across.

For example, trying to convince your reader (the Admissions Committee) of your ability to persevere and work hard by mentioning the number of hours you spend at the office may not be all that effective. Instead, you could say how your work habits formed by years of training as a ballerina, and how this experience prepared you to understand the blood, sweat, and tears required to achieve great successes.

Drawing these parallels will put personality into your essay – creating an image for the Admissions Committee, while also reinforcing the character traits you want to highlight by showing how you demonstrate them in another context.

2) Use Your Interests as Examples
Another great way to mention seemingly unrelated, but still impressive, activities is by using them as examples in the context of addressing a question.

For instance, if you are discussing your initiative to improve your time management skills, you may mention that apart from being able to accomplish your responsibilities at work, you have also created time to enrich your life with engaging activities, such as mountain-climbing or performing with a band. This will help show your range of involvement across diverse interests and present you as a multi-faceted character, while still allowing the Admissions Committee to better relate to you.

3) Pivot From a Common Point
In writing your essays, you may also identify a common thread that ties all of your varied interests together. This could be in the form of emphasizing a strength, by giving examples of your involvement in different activities that leverage a particular trait.

For example, you could identify your ability to adapt as a major strength and give examples of your experiences as a student leader working with international students, a volunteer working in the community with refugees, and your current position handling global clients. Relating these activities to each other through a common point will allow you to mention many details without needing to describe them in great detail.

MBA programs want to see applicants who are adaptable, multi-dimensional and interesting. Using your wide array of experiences in the aforementioned ways can help you accomplish this, while also allowing you to express yourself and to submit an application that truly shares your personal stories.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD

Why You Should Consider Leaving the College Bubble

transition into collegeIn college, it can be easy to get so caught up in everything happening on campus that you forget your school exists as part of wider community. This so-called “bubble” phenomenon is real at schools all across the country (see “Vassar Bubble,” “Bowdoin Bubble,” etc.), and can actually be a detriment to students’ overall college experiences.

At Brown, going out into the Providence community is often referred to as “getting off the Hill.” We live on College Hill – which is, in a sense, physically separated from the rest of the city – and sadly, some Brown students rarely venture off the Hill.

At first glance, it might appear like this issue isn’t very important. There are so many exciting things that happen on college campuses, and college is such a unique time in a person’s life, it might seem as if students should spend as much time as they can on campus. After all, one’s time in college is possibly the only chance he or she will have to be that involved in school activities, whereas one can interact with local communities at any point in one’s life.

While somewhat convincing, this argument neglects to consider that getting involved off campus can actually strengthen the college experience. The typical aspects of college life – like classes, clubs, and parties – are great, but they are a bit removed from the “real world.”

Going out into the local community, be it through volunteering or just through the local social scene, is a good way to stay connected with the struggles and successes of everyday people from all walks of life. Plus, doing this can diversify a student’s interactions beyond the ideological, economic, and age-related homogeneity that is sometimes present in college communities.

For me, I’ve gotten tremendous value from volunteering off campus. I help out at an elementary school and a nonprofit legal advocacy group (both are in Providence), and doing each has strengthened my ties to the city and bolstered my academic experience.

There’s no better way to care about a community than to become invested in its children. When I’m working with 5th graders on math problems, I’m reminded of the educational opportunities I’ve been granted, and am intimately aware of how important it is that the children of Providence receive those same opportunities. Similarly, when I help increase turn-out to meetings that will make utility rules more fair for low-income RI residents, I am forced to reflect on the immunity a college campus often provides, and how I can use my studies to make a tangible improvement to the world.

These experiences are not unique to me. As a group, college students have an excellent opportunity to take advantage of the privileges that college provides, while also connecting with local communities that are vibrant in their own right. It is often said that it can take a while for a college to start to feel like a home. Learning more about the town or city in which your college is located will be great way to expedite that process and to become a more involved citizen, overall.

So, even if you think you are totally content to stay within the gated confines of campus, I urge you to try to expand your horizons and enter into the communities around you. Whether it is finding local groups to volunteer with, checking out public libraries, or frequenting local parks and businesses, a college experience is wider and deeper when it expands beyond the campus bubble.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

How to Make Your Admissions Decision With Uneven Information

AdmissionReceiving multiple offers of admission to various business schools after a long application season is a great feeling for most candidates, but the hard part is not quite done yet – now it is time to make a final decision.

For some, this decision-making process will be fairly simple – many candidates prioritize their list of schools well in advance of submitting their applications, so it is easy for them to choose which one they want to attend when they finally hear back from the Admissions Committees. However, in many other situations, all offers are not created equal, so selecting one school from another can often become very complicated. So, where should candidates start with so much uneven information from programs?

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you choose between multiple business school admissions offers:

Prestige:
Is there a distinction between the programs you are considering? Evaluating your decision between a program with a global reputation like Harvard Business School and a smaller regional program would be an uneven comparison. Generally, the more reputable programs will offer better long term career considerations due to their prestigious names and large alumni base.

Location:
Where do you want to live post-MBA? The location of your MBA program plays a huge role in determining the likelihood of where your future job offers will come from. It is always recommended to attend a program in close proximity to your target post-MBA location, whether that is regionally, nationally, or internationally. Reputation can also certainly can factor in here, as the more well-known programs often offer a broader reach of opportunities that can make location preference moot.

Career Opportunities:
Which program better equips you to reach your career goals? Really look at this question holistically – reviewing your target program’s employment report is a great place to start. Look at both the aggregate number of students that have pursued the particular industry you want to be involved in, as well as the percentage. You should also consider are the reputation of the program in this particular industry. For example, Kellogg has a great finance program, but generally does not have a major reputation in the finance industry and with finance practitioners; if finance is your focus and you are choosing between other programs that possess a better reputation in that unique sphere, this would be something to keep in mind.

Financial:
This is business school after all, so the financial aspect of this decision will probably be a major component for you, even if you are one of the lucky recipients of scholarships. Now, money tends to complicate what may be an otherwise clear decision for many candidates, so build out a few scenarios that will aid in this aspect of your decision-making process. The toughest choices occur between programs that better address the above criteria but provide more limited scholarship money with those that provide more scholarship money but less of the desired attributes. In these situations, it is important to balance out all of your options to make the most holistic decision for you and your family.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and 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 articles by him here.