SAT Tip of the Week: Earn Scholarships for Good SAT Scores

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMost high school seniors recognize the importance of doing their best on the SAT because they know that good SAT scores can help them get into the college of their choice. But what they may not know is that many colleges actually offer scholarships for SAT scores that are above average.

Students who achieve high SAT scores can qualify for a number of different scholarships that can help them pay for tuition, basic college supplies, and more while they are working towards their degrees. This makes it all the more critical for students to showcase their skills on this exam. Consider some facts about the SAT and how you can earn scholarships as a result of your hard work on this challenging test:

A Closer Look at SAT Scores for Scholarships
There are many colleges that offer scholarships for students who excel on the SAT, however, the specific requirements of these scholarships differ from school to school. For instance, one college may have a scholarship that’s open to students who score between 1330 and 1600 on the SAT, while another college may have a scholarship that requires students to have a minimum score of 1440 on the SAT. In many cases, both a student’s SAT scores and GPA are taken into account in examining their scholarship applications, as schools want as much information as possible about the academic work of a student before awarding them a coveted scholarship.

In addition to varying in value, these scholarships can also differ in the number of semesters they cover. In applying for these scholarships, you will want to check with the schools themselves to ensure you know exactly what terms their scholarships have before actually submitting your applications for them.

Why Do Colleges Offer Scholarships Based on SAT Scores?
Not surprisingly, colleges want to accept students who are going to succeed in their intellectual endeavors and add value to their programs, and typically, students who earn high SAT scores are likely to excel in their future college courses.

But an impressive SAT score is just one indication that a student is going to flourish at a particular school. Other indications of a promising student include a high GPA, dedication to extracurricular activities, and even volunteer work, which is why scholarship requirements will vary so much from school to school and include some of these other factors. All colleges want to accept students who will be excellent representatives of their school, and offering scholarships is one way to do that.

How to Find Colleges That Offer Scholarships for High SAT Scores
One way you can locate scholarships awarded for high SAT scores is to just do a basic online search – it should be relatively easy for you to find information about any scholarship on the web. If you have an interest in attending a particular college, it may be wise to also search the school’s official website for details of the scholarships it awards for high SAT scores. Talking to your high school counselor is another way to learn about college scholarships related to performance on the SAT, as your counselor should have access to many helpful resources you can utilize in your search.

How to Earn a High Score on the SAT
The first step toward winning this type of scholarship is to earn a high score on the SAT! Scholarships have deadlines just as college applications do, so it’s a good idea to research the cutoff dates for the scholarships that interest you. Scholarships are well within the reach of well-prepared students who approach the SAT with confidence, so taking a practice test will be a good place to start to build this confidence and help you determine what subjects to focus on in preparing for this test. Through this proper preparation and research, you’ll be well on your way to earning your own SAT scholarship.

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

Your 4-Year Guide to the College Search Process

Magnifying GlassLooking for colleges can seem like just a senior year activity, but it’s actually helpful to start early and be consistent. Spreading out the search for colleges over all 4 years of high school decreases stress and increases the likelihood of finding schools you really love. So, it’s a good idea develop a general plan for how your process is going to work, and go do it! (And of course, a little preparedness always helps to get the parents off your back, and that’s never a bad thing.)

There are lots of ways to approach looking for colleges, but here is a guide to some helpful strategies for each year of high school to put you in command of your college future:

Freshman Year
– Think about purchasing a college guide (such as the Fiske Guide to Colleges) and flip it open once in a while – it’s a no stress way to introduce yourself to the college landscape.

– Talk to older friends and siblings about where they are going or considering going to school. This will introduce you to different schools, and might even land you some free tidbits of college application wisdom.

– Don’t get too anxious! Getting acclimated to high school and doing well academically are more important than freaking out over which college you’ll go to.

Sophomore Year
– Stay focused on doing well in school, and don’t get nervous if you hear peers talking about college; you still have plenty of time to figure things out.

– Take the PSAT (or ACT Aspire) this year to help you figure out an appropriate range of schools to start looking at.

– Tour a local college, or any school you happen to be passing by.

– Keep flipping open those college books! Start asking yourself some questions about what you want from a school, and start building a basic list of schools that sound good. You can easily use websites like Naviance, Niche or countless others to help refine your search.

Junior Year
– Start to compile a real list! The list doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s okay if it’s really big or really small. Try to get a group of friends together to talk about schools you’re considering – often your friends’ choices can help inspire you to consider new possibilities.

– Be sure to take advantage of the college resources your high school provides. If there are college seminars or information days, don’t be afraid to check them out. If you can’t seem to find anything, talk to your counselors; they’ll be happy to work with you to help you find great colleges and alleviate your stress.

– Tighten up your search criteria – figure out the things you really want in a college (such as size, majors, academic structure, social scene, etc.) and find colleges that have them. Once you find some schools that match your criteria, make the time to go on some tours. Pick some schools you are really interested in and see if your family has time to check them out.

– Take the SAT or ACT to open up opportunities for yourself! Doing well on these tests in junior year will make your senior year much more stress-free.

– Over the summer, start to work on your application and essays. You don’t want to be that person scrambling to send in applications right at the schools’ deadlines. I know it sounds awful to start the Common App during your summer vacation, but trust me when I say that you’ll be glad to not have it hanging over your head as senior year rolls around.

Senior Year
– Congratulations! You’re almost at the finish line! It’s time to finally narrow down that list of schools you made last year. Most students typically apply to anywhere from 1-25 schools, but a healthy number is around 6-12. This may seem like obvious advice, but be sure you only apply to schools you actually want to go to. There is no point in wasting an application fee on a school there’s no chance you’ll attend.

– If you have the time, re-visit the schools you’re applying to. Often, you can get a more in-depth feel for a school when you’re there for the second time. If a college still has that “it” factor even though you’ve already seen it, that’s a very good sign.

– Once you’ve sent in all your applications, take a well-deserved break, and bond with your classmates who just went through the same process. Senior year will be a fun time – it’s important to take in the excitement of your last months in high school without getting caught up in the worries of where you’ll go to college.

Remember that each person goes at his or her own pace, and there is no one right way to approach searching for a college. Keep in mind, the key to finding the school that is right for you is fit. Personal fit, academic fit, and social fit are the three broad criteria you should make sure a college fulfills for you.

Above all, the best way you can complete your college search process is to get excited and get into it. Finding schools can be fun! There is a world of possibilities out there that will reveal themselves to you when you open your mind and dive in.

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.

It’s All Greek to Me: How to Use Greek Concepts to Beat the GMAT

Aero_img084The ancient Greeks were, to put it mildly, really neat. They created or helped to create the foundations of philosophy, theater, science, democracy, and mathematics – no small accomplishment for a small war-torn civilization from over two millennia ago. Many of our contemporary ideas, beliefs, and traditions are rooted in contributions made by Greek thinkers, and the GMAT is no exception.

A few months ago, I wrote about this difficult Data Sufficiency question.

When I first encountered this problem I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of mad scientist question-writer engineered it. Where would such an idea even come from? It turns out, it wasn’t a GMAC employee at all, but Archimedes, the famous Greek geometer and coiner of the phrase “Eureka!”

The question is based on his attempt to trisect an angle with only a straight edge and a compass. (Alas, Archimedes’ work, though ingenious, was not technically a correct solution to the problem, as it provides only an approximation.) The reader is hereby invited to contemplate the kind of person who encounters a proof by Archimedes and instinctively thinks, “This would make an excellent Data Sufficiency question on the GMAT!” We’d like to believe that the good folks at GMAC are just like you and me, but perhaps not.

So this got me thinking: what other interesting Greek contributions to mathematics might be helpful in analyzing GMAT questions? In Euclid’s work Elements, he offers a simple and elegant proof for why there is no largest prime number. The proof proceeds by positing a hypothetical largest prime number “p.” We can then construct a product that consists of every prime number 2*3*5*7….*p. We’ll call this product “q.”

The next consecutive number will be q + 1. Now, we know that “q” contains 2 as a factor, as “q,” supposedly, contains every prime as a factor. Therefore q +1 will not contain 2 as a factor. (The next number to contain 2 as a factor will be q + 2.) We know that “q” contains 3 as a factor. Therefore q + 1 will not contain 3 as a factor. (The next number to contain 3 as a factor will be q + 3.)

Uh oh. If “p” really is the largest prime number, we’ve got a problem, because q + 1 will not contain any of the primes between 2 and p as factors. So either q + 1 is itself prime, or there is some prime greater than p and less than q + 1 that we’ve failed to consider. Either way, we’ve proven that p can’t be the largest prime number – I told you the Greeks were neat.

One axiom that’s worth internalizing from Euclid’s proof is the notion that two consecutive numbers cannot have any factors in common aside from 1.  When q contains every prime from 2 to p as a factor, q + 1 contains none of those primes. How would this be helpful on the GMAT? Glad you asked. Check out this question:

x is the product of all even numbers from 2 to 50, inclusive. The smallest prime factor of x + 1 must be:

(A) Between 1 and 10

(B) Between 11 and 15

(C) Between 15 and 20

(D) Between 20 and 25

(E) Greater than 25

We’re given information about x, and we’re asked about x + 1. If x is the product of all even numbers from 2 to 50, we can write x = 2 * 4 * 6 …* 50. This is the same as (1*2) * (2*2) * (3*2)… (25*2), which means the product consists of all the integers from 1 to 25, inclusive, and a bunch of 2’s.

So now we know that every prime number between 2 and 25 will be a factor of x. What about x + 1? (Paging Euclid!) We know that 2 is not a factor of x + 1, as 2 is a factor of x, and so the next multiple of 2 would be x + 2. We know that 3 is also not a factor of x + 1, as 3 is a factor of x, and so the next multiple of 3 would be x + 3. And once we’ve internalized that two consecutive numbers cannot have any factors in common aside from 1, we know that if all the primes between 2 and 25 are factors of x, none of those primes can be factors of x + 1, meaning that the smallest prime of x, whatever is, will be greater than 25. The answer, therefore, is E.

Takeaway: One of the beautiful things about mathematics is that fundamental truths do not change over time. What worked for the Greeks will work for us. The same axioms that allowed ancient mathematicians to grapple with problems two millennia ago will allow us to unravel the toughest GMAT questions. Learning a few of these axioms is not only interesting – though I’d caution against bringing up Archimedes’ trisection proof at a dinner party – but also helpful on the GMAT.

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

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

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Solving GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions Involving Rates

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIn our “Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom” series, we have seen how to solve various rates questions – the basic ones as well as the complicated ones. But we haven’t considered critical reasoning questions involving rates, yet. In fact, the concept of rates makes these problems very difficult to both understand and explain. First, let’s look at what “rate” is.

Say my average driving speed is 60 miles/hr. Does it matter whether I drive for 2 hours or 4 hours? Will my average speed change if I drive more (theoretically speaking)? No, right? When I drive for more hours, the distance I cover is more. When I drive for fewer hours, the distance I cover is less. If I travel for a longer time, does it mean my average speed has decreased? No. For that, I need to know  what happened to the distance covered. If the distance covered is the same while time taken has increased, only then can I say that my speed was reduced.

Now we will look at an official question and hopefully convince you of the right answer:

The faster a car is traveling, the less time the driver has to avoid a potential accident, and if a car does crash, higher speeds increase the risk of a fatality. Between 1995 and 2000, average highway speeds increased significantly in the United States, yet, over that time, there was a drop in the number of car-crash fatalities per highway mile driven by cars.

Which of the following, if true about the United States between 1995 and 2000, most helps to explain why the fatality rate decreased in spite of the increase in average highway speeds?

(A) The average number of passengers per car on highways increased.

(B) There were increases in both the proportion of people who wore seat belts and the proportion of cars that were equipped with airbags as safety devices.

(C) The increase in average highway speeds occurred as legal speed limits were raised on one highway after another.

(D) The average mileage driven on highways per car increased.

(E) In most locations on the highways, the density of vehicles on the highway did not decrease, although individual vehicles, on average, made their trips more quickly.

Let’s break down the given argument:

  • The faster a car, the higher the risk of fatality.
  • In a span of 5 years, the average highway speed has increased.
  • In the same time, the number of car crash fatalities per highway mile driven by cars has reduced.

This is a paradox question. In last 5 years, the average highway speed has increased. This would have increased the risk of fatality, so we would expect the number of car crash fatalities per highway mile to go up. Instead, it actually goes down. We need to find an answer choice that explains why this happened.

(A) The average number of passengers per car on highways increased.

If there are more people in each car, the risk of fatality increases, if anything. More people are exposed to the possibility of a crash, and if a vehicle is in fact involved in an accident, more people are at risk. It certainly doesn’t explain why the rate of fatality actually decreases.

(B) There were increases in both the proportion of people who wore seat belts and the proportion of cars that were equipped with airbags as safety devices.

This option tells us that the safety features in the cars have been enhanced. That certainly explains why the fatality rate has gone down. If the cars are safer now, the risk of fatality would have reduced, hence this option does help us in explaining the paradox. This is the answer, but let’s double-check by looking at the other options too.

(C) The increase in average highway speeds occurred as legal speed limits were raised on one highway after another.

This option is irrelevant – why the average speed increased is not our concern at all. Our only concern is that average speed has, in fact, increased. This should logically increase the risk of fatality, and hence, our paradox still stands.

(D) The average mileage driven on highways per car increased.

This is the answer choice that troubles us the most. The rate we are concerned about is number of fatalities/highway mile driven, and this option tells us that mileage driven by cars has increased.

Now, let’s consider the parallel with our previous distance-rate-time example:

Rate = Distance/Time

We know that if I drive for more time, it doesn’t mean that my rate changes. Here, however:

Rate = Number of fatalities/highway mile driven

In this case, if more highway miles are driven, it doesn’t mean that the rate will change. It actually has no impact on the rate; we would need to know what happened to the number of fatalities to find out what happened to the rate. Hence this option does not explain the paradox.

(E) In most locations on the highways, the density of vehicles on the highway did not decrease, although individual vehicles, on average, made their trips more quickly.

This answer choice tells us that on average, the trips were made more quickly, i.e. the speed increased. The given argument already tells us that, so this option does not help resolve the paradox.

Our answer is, therefore, (B).

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: Kanye, Wiz Khalifa, Twitter Beef…and GMAT Variables

GMAT Tip of the WeekThis week, the internet exploded with a massive Twitter feud between rappers Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa, with help from their significant others and exes. For days now, hashtags unpublishable for an education blog have topped the trending lists, all as a result of the epic social media confrontation. And all of THAT originated from a classic GMAT mistake from the Louis Vuitton Don – a man who so loves his hometown Kellogg School of Management that he essentially named his daughter Northwestern – himself:

Kanye didn’t consider all the possibilities when he saw variables.
A brief history of the beef: there was musical origin, as Wiz wanted a bit of credit for his young/wild/free friends for the term “Wave,” as Kanye changed his upcoming album title from Swish to Waves. But where things escalated quickly all stemmed from Wiz’s use of variables in the following tweet:

Hit this kk and become yourself.

Kanye, whose wife bears those exact initials, K.K., immediately interpreted those variables as a reference to Kim and lost his mind. But Wiz had intended those variables kk to mean something entirely different, a reference to his favorite drug of choice. And then…well let’s just say that things got out of hand.

So back to the GMAT: Kanye’s main mistake was that he didn’t consider alternate possibilities for the variables he saw in the tweet, and quickly built in some incorrect assumptions that led to disastrous results. Do not let this happen to you on the GMAT! Here’s how it could happen:

1) Forgetting about not-obvious numbers.
If a problem, for example, defines k as 10 < k < 12, you can’t just think “k = 11” because you don’t know that k has to be an integer. 11.9 or 10.1 are also possibilities. Similarly if k^2 = 121, you have to consider that k could be -11 as well as it could be 11.

Ultimately, that was Yeezy’s mistake: he saw KK and with tunnel vision saw the most obvious possibility. But why couldn’t “KK” have been Krispy Kreme or Kyle Korver or Kato Kaelin? Before you leap to conclusions on a GMAT variable, see if there’s anything else it could be.

2) Assuming that each variable must represent a different number.
This one is a bit more nuanced. Suppose you were asked:

For positive integers a and b, is the product ab > 1?

(1) a = 1

With that statement, you might start thinking, “Well if a is 1, b has to be something else…” but all the variable b really means is “a number we don’t know.” Just because a problem assigns two different variables does not mean that they represent two different numbers! B could also be 1…we just don’t know yet.

Where this manifests itself as a problem most often is on function problems. When people see the setup, for example:

The function f is defined for all values x as f(x) = x^2 – x – 1

They’ll often be confused when that’s paired with a question like, “Is f(a) > 1?” and a statement like:

(1) -2 < a < 2

“I know about f(x) but I don’t know anything about f(a),” they might say, but the way these variables work, f(x) means “the function of any number…we just don’t know which number” so when you then see f(a), a becomes that number you don’t know. You’ll do the same thing for a: f(a) = a^2 – a – 1. What goes in the parentheses is just “the number you perform the function on” – the function doesn’t just apply to the variable in the definition, but to any number, variable, or combination that is then put in the parentheses.

The real lesson here is this: variables on the GMAT are a lot like variables in Wiz Khalifa’s Twitter feed. You might think you know what they mean, but before you stake your reputation (or score) on your response to those variables, consider all the options. Hit this GMAT and become yourself.

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

By Brian Galvin.

What to Do if You Are Waitlisted

Letter of RecommendationYou’ve made it through the admissions process, completed your interview, and think you have a good shot at being admitted. Instead, you get that discouraging letter that you aren’t in – at least, not yet. There is good news and bad news when it comes to being put on the waitlist for the business school of your dreams. The bad news is that you’ll have to wait a bit longer to get in. The good news is that the waitlist is not the death of your MBA admissions campaign.

Think of it as a new beginning, another chance to prove to the admissions committee why you are deserving of admittance to their school. Remember, business schools only put people on the waitlist who they think are good candidates and have the chance to be admitted. Very often it simply becomes a numbers game, and schools have to wait and see how students from your demographic are accepting or not accepting their admission offers. If you do end up on the waitlist, here are some tips for how you can help improve your situation:

Read the Waitlist Letter and Follow Its Instructions
Some schools will want you to follow up your waitlist letter with additional information, such as a new recommender, update on your job, or a progress report on classes you might be taking. However, some schools make it clear that they will reach out to you when the time comes, and do not want any further materials sent to them. Whatever they say, do it. Don’t think you’ll be able to get on the good side of the committee by reaching out to the admissions director with a “question” about your status. Follow the instructions that are given to you.

Asked for Additional Information?
If the waitlist letter does give you the chance to provide additional information, consider the following:

  • Providing an update on recent projects at work or sharing a recent promotion or achievement award.
  • Making clear how passionate you are about the school.
  • Showing how you have, or are addressing, shortfalls in your application. For example, do you know you have a low Quant score on the GMAT? Make sure you are taking some stats classes at your local community college to supplement this aspect of your application.

Have a Backup Plan
Now is the time to build a backup plan and put it into action. Whether that is applying to more schools, retaking the GMAT, or staying at your job for another year, you never want to leave yourself with no options.

Be Patient
No one likes being told “no,” and our first instinct is to make that person change his or her mind. However, Admissions Committees have been reviewing thousands of candidates for a long time – they know what they are looking for. Now is not the time to panic and risk embarrassing yourself with constant calls to the admissions office. Instead, focus on other applications you might be working on, maintain a high work output, and try to remain positive. Worst case scenario, you will be able to reapply next year.

Good luck, and if it’s meant to be, don’t hold the fact that you were put on the waitlist against the school. Just remember, your future MBA diploma won’t say anything about your previous waitlist status.

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.

SAT Tip of the Week: The SAT Does NOT Define You!

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe SAT is a major source of worry for a lot of students, and this worry can affect their scores in a negative way. When even thinking about the test fills a student with anxiety and dread, he will be unconfident and unable to achieve his potential.

In order to overcome that worry, we first need to understand where it comes from. Students tend to make the SAT a bigger deal than it is – they think it is the measure of how smart they are, they think it will completely determine where they go to college, and on the extreme end, they make it out to be the biggest moment of their lives, acting as if doing poorly on the SAT will ruin their futures forever.

To these students, or any students who worry about the SAT, here’s what I say: the SAT does not define you. It doesn’t tell you how smart you are. It is not the only thing (not even close) that matters for getting into college. It certainly doesn’t tell you whether you’re a good person, or even a good student. All the SAT does is tell you how good you are at playing the game of the SAT.

Of course the SAT is an important test – if it wasn’t, nobody would take it and this whole blog wouldn’t exist. But even though the SAT is important in itself, it’s even more important to put the test in perspective. Does the SAT help you get into the colleges you want to go to? Yes, so you should definitely try to do your best. The SAT can be one aspect of a well-rounded college application that will help you reach your higher education goals. Is taking the SAT the biggest moment of your life? Does your score dictate your future happiness and tell you what job you will have in 10 years? No, no, and no! The SAT is a college admissions test – it’s crucial to stop pretending that it’s more than that.

Here’s the advice that I give my SAT classes when I’m teaching: treat the SAT like anything else you want to do well on. Study hard and try to do the best you can, but always keep the bigger picture in mind. I like to think of the SAT as a win-neutral test – if you do well, great! Your application will look that much better. If you don’t do so well, that’s also fine. You can always try again, and there will still be plenty of great colleges that want you to be a member of their communities. When you’re getting stressed out about the SAT, take a deep breath, step back, and remind yourself that you’ll still be you, no matter how many points you get on the test.

The best part about having a healthy perspective on the SAT is that it can even help you score higher. The more you understand just how the SAT matters and what it shows about you, the more relaxed and level-headed you’ll be. With those qualities, your score can do nothing but improve.

When you finally realize what role the SAT should really play in your life and start to see that you have all the tools necessary to crush it, you’ll be well on your way to a good attitude and a good score.

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

By Aidan Calvelli.

Why You Should Have a Mix of Classes in College

In ClassWhen you get to college, the vast array of courses available to you can be incredibly exciting. If you’re like many students whose high schools had limited course offerings, you might be tempted to take a bunch of classes in college in a subject you love that your high school didn’t offer.

This makes sense. You’ve been stuck taking the same math, science, and history classes the last 12 years – maybe now you really want to spend your tuition money studying what you actually enjoy, like architecture or astronomy. Or maybe you really liked history but disliked math and science, so only plan to take social studies courses.

In both of those cases, I’d urge you to reconsider. While I know from personal experience that it’s really easy to just take subjects you know you already like, it’s really important to branch out and be balanced. I think there are 2 primary reasons why taking a broad mix of classes is good for your academic and personal development.

The first reason is that taking different subjects forces you to think in different ways and develop different skills. Each discipline pushes you in different directions intellectually: math will hone your numerical analysis; history will hone your critical thinking; philosophy will hone your argument analysis; science will hone your command of data; architecture will hone your spatial reasoning… I think you get the point by now.

What I’m really trying to say, is that working with a variety of subjects broadens your horizons as a thinker. The more you’re challenged to develop a mental capacity outside your comfort zone, the more able you’ll be to think on your feet and synthesize diverse information successfully.

The second reason is that branching out allows you to find other things that interest you aside from what you already thought you liked. The academic world is filled with fascinating subjects. You won’t discover most of them if you stick to what you know. We’re teenage college students (or soon-to-be college students) – our desires are fickle and change all the time. To really maximize our intellectual enjoyment, it’s crucial to explore the unknown.

Of course, the hardest part of this will be actually finding courses to branch out with. How are you supposed to know what you will like among the things you don’t think you’ll like? It seems like a tough predicament, but the solutions are pretty simple. One good way is to search for courses in a department you’ve never even heard of, like, say, Egyptology. Then just pick the class that sounds the most random and go for it. Think of all the cocktail party trivia you will learn! The other way is to look around for great professors. The best professors will get you to fall in love with subjects you never thought you enjoyed, making any class you choose a good one.

College is a time where you’ll be exposed to the most new information you’ll have ever seen in your life. Take full advantage of that opportunity by learning about as many different subjects as you can. Trust me – your future self will thank you for making yourself smarter and more interested.

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.

Why Logic is More Important Than Algebra on the GMAT

QuestioningOne common complaint I get from students is that their algebra skills aren’t where they need to be to excel on the GMAT. This complaint, invariably, is followed by a request for additional algebra drills.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that one of the themes we stress is that Quantitative Reasoning is not, primarily, a math test. Though math is certainly involved – How could it not be? – logic and reasoning are far more important factors than conventional mathematical facility. I stress this in every class I teach. So why the misconception that we need to hone our algebra chops?

I suspect that the culprit here is the explanations that often accompany official GMAC questions. On the whole, they tend to be biased in favor of purely algebraic solutions.  They’re always technically correct, but often suboptimal for the test-taker who needs to arrive at a solution within two minutes. Consequently, many students, after reviewing these solutions and arriving at the conclusion that they would not have been capable of the hairy algebra proffered in the official solution, think they need to work on this aspect of their prep. And for the most part it isn’t true.

Here’s a good example:

If x, y, and k are positive numbers such that [x/(x+y)]*10 + [y/(x+y)]*20 = k and if x < y, which of the following could be the value of k? 

A) 10
B) 12
C) 15
D) 18
E) 30

A large percentage of test-takers see this question, rub their hands together, and dive into the algebra. The solution offered in the Official Guide does the same – it is about fifteen steps, few of them intuitive. If you were fortunate enough to possess the algebraic virtuosity to solve the question in this manner, you’d likely chew up 5 or 6 minutes, a disastrous scenario on a test that requires you to average 2 minutes per problem.

The upshot is that it’s important for test-takers, when they peruse the official solution, not to arrive at the conclusion that they need to solve this question the same way the solution-writer did. Instead, we can use the same simple strategies we’re always preaching on this blog: pick some simple numbers.

We’re told that x<y, but for my first set of numbers, I like to make x and y the same value – this way, I can see what effect the restriction has on the problem. So let’s say x = 1 and y = 1. Plugging those values into the equation, we get:

(1/2) * 10 + (1/2) * 20  = k

5 + 10 = k

15 = k

Well, we know this isn’t the answer, because x should be less than y. So scratch off C. And now let’s see what the effect is when x is, in fact, less than y. Say x = 1 and y = 2. Now we get:

(1/3) * 10 + (2/3) * 20  = k

10/3 + 40/3 = k

50/3 = k

50/3 is about 17. So when we honor the restriction, k becomes larger than 15. The answer therefore must be D or E. Now we could pick another set of numbers and pay attention to the trend, or we can employ a bit of logic and common sense. The first term in the equation x/(x+y)*10 is some fraction multiplied by 10. So this term, logically, is some value that’s less than 10.

The second term in the equation is y/(x+y)*20, is some fraction multiplied by 20, this term must be less than 20. If we add a number that’s less than 10 to a number that’s less than 20, we’re pretty clearly not going to get a sum of 30. That leaves us with an answer of 18, or D.

(Note that if you’re really savvy, you’ll recognize that the equation is a weighted average. The coefficients in the weighted average are 10 and 20. If x and y were equal, we’d end up at the midway point, 15. Because 20 is multiplied by y, and y is greater than x, we’ll be pulled towards the high end of the range, leading to a k that must fall between 15 and 20 – only 18 is in that range.)

Takeaway: Never take a formal solution to a problem at face value. All you’re seeing is one way to solve a given question. If that approach doesn’t resonate for you, or seems so challenging that your conclusion is that you must purchase a host of textbooks in order to improve your formal math skills, then you haven’t absorbed what the GMAT is really about. Often, the relevant question isn’t, “Can you do the math?” It’s, “Can you reason your way to the answer without actually doing the math?”

*Official Guide question courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

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 by him here.

3 Reasons You Need to Take a Day Off in College

In college, you can get busy. Like really busy. Like how-did-I-ever-think-I-was-busy-in-high-school-I-don’t-think-I-even-know-what-busy-even-meant busy. Don’t worry, college is still really fun and exciting, but the workload and responsibilities can get overwhelming at times.

It’s easy to fall into the mindset of thinking you should be doing something all the time. Reading now, essay later, dinner with friends at night, club meeting afterward, problem set before bed… With so much on your plate and a seemingly endless supply of homework, taking a break from working can seem like a dangerous idea.

I’m here to say that breaks are good. Breaks are great! I think breaks have so much value that I’d go so far as to advocate taking a full day off from schoolwork once per week, every week. That’s right, I said it: take an entire day off! Don’t worry about finishing your project or getting ahead on your textbook reading. Spending a day without doing any homework is a great idea, and here are a few reasons why:

1) A day off allows you to relax and recharge.
The demands of college life can really add up, so a whole day on the schedule devoid of school responsibilities is just what a student needs to stay relaxed and mentally healthy. It’s wonderful to wake up knowing that you could spend all day in bed and still not feel behind in school.  Burnout is a real problem among college students – what better way to make sure that you aren’t working too hard than to make one day entirely work-free.

2) A day off gives you time to do things you enjoy.
The things you do in college will often be fun, but it’s common to not have time in your schedule to do things you used to like. (For me, it was reading for pleasure and playing the piano). When you have a whole day in front of you with no schoolwork responsibilities, you won’t feel to make time for those things. Instead of being so sick of reading textbooks and articles for school that you can’t bear the thought of reading any more, you will feel rejuvenated and free enough to cozy up with your favorite novel!

3) A day off makes you extra organized the other 6 days of the week.
When you know you only have 6 days to get all your work done, you will really learn to make those 6 days count. Setting aside a day for free time will challenge you to be organized and responsible the other days of the week so that you can reap the benefits of your day off.

College is a time where you get to set your own schedule. Take full advantage of that by making one day on your schedule a relaxation day. If you really can’t afford to give yourself a full day off every work, remember that the value of taking breaks still exists even if the time period is shorter than a whole day. Working all the time is unhealthy and counterproductive; be sure to remember to step back, relax, and a take a break. You’ll have earned it!

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.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Should You Use the Permutation or Combination Formula?

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomA recurring question from many students who are preparing for GMAT is this: When should one use the permutation formula and when should one use the combination formula?

People have tried to answer this question in various ways, but some students still remain unsure. So we will give you a rule of thumb to follow in all permutation/combination questions:

You never NEED to use the permutation formula! You can always use the combination formula quite conveniently. First let’s look at what these formulas do:

Permutation: nPr = n!/(n-r)!
Out of n items, select r and arrange them in r! ways.

Combination: nCr = n!/[(n-r)!*r!]
Out of n items, select r.

So the only difference between the two formulas is that nCr has an additional r! in the denominator (that is the number of ways in which you can arrange r elements in a row). So you can very well use the combinations formula in place of the permutation formula like this:

nPr = nCr * r!

The nCr formula is far more versatile than nPr, so if the two formulas confuse you, just forget about nPr.

Whenever you need to “select,” “pick,” or “choose” r things/people/letters… out of n, it’s straightaway nCr. What you do next depends on what the question asks of you. Do you need to arrange the r people in a row? Multiply by r!. Do you need to arrange them in a circle? Multiply by (r-1)!. Do you need to distribute them among m groups? Do that! You don’t need to think about whether it is a permutation problem or a combination problem at all. Let’s look at this concept more in depth with the use of a few examples.

There are 8 teachers in a school of which 3 need to give a presentation each. In how many ways can the presenters be chosen?

In this question, you simply have to choose 3 of the 8 teachers, and you know that you can do that in 8C3 ways. That is all that is required.

8C3 = 8*7*6/3*2*1 = 56 ways

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

There are 8 teachers in a school of which 3 need to give a presentation each. In how many ways can all three presentations be done?

This question is a little different. You need to find the ways in which the presentations can be done. Here the presentations will be different if the same three teachers give presentations in different order. Say Teacher 1 presents, then Teacher 2 and finally Teacher 3 — this will be different from Teacher 2 presenting first, then Teacher 3 and finally Teacher 1. So, not only do we need to select the three teachers, but we also need to arrange them in an order. Select 3 teachers out of 8 in 8C3 ways and then arrange them in 3! ways:

We get 8C3 * 3! = 56 * 6 = 336 ways

Let’s try another one:

Alex took a trip with his three best friends and there he clicked 7 photographs. He wants to put 3 of the 7 photographs on Facebook. How many groups of photographs are possible?

For this problem, out of 7 photographs, we just have to select 3 to make a group. This can be done in 7C3 ways:

7C3 = 7*6*5/3*2*1 = 35 ways

Here’s another variation:

Alex took a trip with his three best friends and there he clicked 7 photographs. He wants to put 3 of the 7 photographs on Facebook, 1 each on the walls of his three best friends. In how many ways can he do that?

Here, out of 7 photographs, we have to first select 3 photographs. This can be done in 7C3 ways. Thereafter, we need to put the photographs on the walls of his three chosen friends. In how many ways can he do that? Now there are three distinct spots in which he will put up the photographs, so basically, he needs to arrange the 3 photographs in 3 distinct spots, which that can be done in 3! ways:

Total number of ways = 7C3 * 3! = (7*6*5/3*2*1) * 6= 35 * 6 = 210 ways

Finally, our last problem:

12 athletes will run in a race. In how many ways can the gold, silver and bronze medals be awarded at the end of the race?

We will start with selecting 3 of the 12 athletes who will win some position in the race. This can be done in 12C3 ways. But just selecting 3 athletes is not enough — they will be awarded 3 distinct medals of gold, silver, and bronze. Athlete 1 getting gold, Athlete 2 getting silver, and Athlete 3 getting bronze is not the same as Athlete 1 getting silver, Athlete 2 getting gold and Athlete 3 getting bronze. So, the three athletes need to be arranged in 3 distinct spots (first, second and third) in 3! ways:

Total number of ways = 12C3 * 3! ways

Note that some of the questions above were permutation questions and some were combination questions, but remember, we don’t need to worry about which is which. All we need to think about is how to solve the question, which is usually by starting with nCr and then doing any other required steps. Break the question down — select people and then arrange if required. This will help you get rid of the “permutation or combination” puzzle once and for all.

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: Stay In Your Lane (In The Snow And On Sentence Correction)

GMAT Tip of the WeekAs the east coast braces for a historic winter storm (and Weezer fans can’t get “My Name is Jonas” out of their heads), there’s a lesson that needs to be taught from Hanover to Cambridge to Manhattan to Philadelphia to Charlottesville.

When driving in the snow:

  • Don’t brake until you have to.
  • Don’t make sudden turns or lane changes, and only turn if you have to.
  • Stay calm and leave yourself space and time to make decisions.

And those same lessons apply to GMAT Sentence Correction. Approach these questions like you would approach driving in a blizzard, and you may very well earn that opportunity to drive through blustery New England storms as you pursue your MBA. What does that mean?

1) Stay In Your Lane
Just as quick, sudden jerks of the steering wheel will doom you on snowy/icy roads, sudden and unexpected decisions on GMAT Sentence Correction will get you in trouble. Your “lane” consists of the decisions that you’ve studied and practiced and can calmly execute: Modifiers, Verbs (tense and agreement), Pronouns, Comparisons, Parallelism in a Series, etc. It’s when you get out of that lane that you’re prone to skidding well off track. For example, on this problem (courtesy the Official Guide for GMAT Review):

While Jackie Robinson was a Brooklyn Dodger, his courage in the face of physical threats and verbal attacks was not unlike that of Rosa Parks, who refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

(A) not unlike that of Rosa Parks, who refused
(B) not unlike Rosa Parks, who refused
(C) like Rosa Parks and her refusal
(D) like that of Rosa Parks for refusing
(E) as that of Rosa Parks, who refused

Your “lane” here is to check for Modifiers (Is “who refused” correct? Is it required?) and for logical, clear meaning (it is required, because otherwise you aren’t sure who refused to move to the back of the bus). But examinees are routinely baited into “jerking the wheel” and turning against the strange-but-correct structure of “not unlike.” When you’re taken off of your game, you often eliminate the correct answer (A) because you’re turning into a decision you’re just not great at making.

2) Don’t Turn or Brake Until You Have To
The GMAT does test Redundancy and Pronoun Reference (among other things), but those are error types that are dangerous to prioritize – much like it’s dangerous while driving in snow to decide quickly that you need to turn or hit the brakes. Too often, test-takers will slam on the Sentence Correction brakes at their first hint of, “That’s redundant!” (like they would for “not unlike” above) or “There are multiple nouns – that pronoun is unclear!” and steer away from that answer choice.

The problem, as you saw above, is that often this means you’re turning away from the proper path. “Not unlike” may scream “double-negative” or “redundant” to many, but it’s a perfectly valid way to express the idea that the two things aren’t close to identical, but they’re not as different as you might think. And you don’t need to know THAT, as much as you need to know that you shouldn’t ever make redundancy your first decision, because if you’re like most examinees you’re probably not that great at you…AND you don’t have to be, because the path toward your strengths will get you to your destination.

Similarly, this week the Veritas Prep Homework Help service got into an interesting email thread about why this sentence:

Based on his experience in law school, John recommended that his friend take the GMAT instead of the LSAT.

has a pronoun reference error, but this sentence:

Mothers expect unconditional love from their children, and they are rarely disappointed.

does not. And while there likely exists a technical, grammatical reason why, the GMAT reason really comes down to this: Does the problem make you address the pronoun reference? If not, don’t worry about it. In other words, don’t brake or turn until you have to. If you look at those sentences in GMAT problem form, you might have:

Based on his experience in law school, John recommended that his friend take the GMAT instead of the LSAT.

(A) Based on his experience in law school, John

(B) Having had a disappointing experience in law school, John

(C) Given his experience in law school, John

Here, the question forces you to deal with the pronoun problem. The major differences between the choices are that A and C involve a pronoun, and B doesn’t. Here, you have to deal with that issue. But for the other sentence, you might see:

Mothers expect unconditional love from their children, and they are rarely disappointed.

(A) Mothers expect unconditional love from their children, and they are

(B) The average mother expects unconditional love from their children, and are

(C) The average mother expects unconditional love from their children, and they are

(D) Mothers, expecting unconditional love from their children, they are

Here, the only choice that doesn’t include the pronoun “they” is choice B, but that choice commits a glaring pronoun (and verb) agreement error (“the average mother” is singular, but “their children” is plural…and the verb “are” is, too). So you don’t need to worry about the “they” (which clearly refers to “mothers” and not “children,” even though there happen to be two plural nouns in the sentence).

Grammatically, the presence of multiple nouns doesn’t alone make the pronoun itself ambiguous, but strategically for the GMAT, what you really need to know is that you don’t have to hit the brakes at the first sign of “unclear reference.” Wait and see if the answer choices give you a chance to address that, and if they do, then make sure that those choices are free of other, more binary errors first. Don’t turn or brake unless you have to.

3) Stay calm and leave yourself space to make decisions.
Just like a driver in the snow, as a GMAT test-taker you’ll be nervous and antsy. But don’t let that force you into rash decisions! Assess the answer choices before you try to determine whether something outside your 100% confidence interval is right or wrong in the original. You don’t need to make a decision on Choice A right away, just like you don’t need to change lanes simply for the sake of doing so. Have a plan and stick to it, both on the GMAT and on those snowy roads this weekend.

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

By Brian Galvin.

How to Show Fit During the Interview Process at Kellogg

Kellogg School of ManagementIf you have received an interview invite to the prestigious Kellogg School of Management, then congratulations! Kellogg has historically been known as a program that really focuses on admitting “real people,” and thus, is one of the few top MBA programs that strives to interview every candidate. The program has long been known for its strong student community and this thorough interview process goes a long way in determining if potential candidates can make the cut in this area.

Hopefully, you have already conducted tons of research to prepare yourself for the big day. You know the ins and outs of the school’s academic programs, have a good handle of the recruiting advantages, and even have a comprehensive list of the top extra-curricular activities you’d like to lead. In addition to these factors, understanding the importance of fit at Kellogg is critical in identifying what the program looks for in potential candidates and how you can best position yourself for interview success. Let’s examine some key ways you can showcase fit to your Kellogg interviewer:

Intellectual Ability
This is business school, after all. Kellogg is looking for the best and the brightest, so it is important to project that you can hang academically, as well as bring a diverse point of view to the classroom. Utilizing professional anecdotes here can certainly do the trick, but the structure and style of your communication can also go a long way here.

Problem Solving Skills
Kellogg is looking for problem solvers! Whether in your personal or professional past, the school is looking for the type of people who can not only take on a challenge but also solve one. As a Kellogg MBA, you will be expected to solve some of the most challenging global problems in business, so showcase your track record here. For extra points, highlight instances where you solved problems in a group setting.

Leadership Experience
Although Kellogg has long been known as a top business school that emphasizes teamwork, leadership at the school is equally important. Focus specifically on your individual contributions as you regale the interviewer with your leadership experiences. Keep in mind, particularly for younger candidates, these experiences do not need to be limited to the professional side. Share your most impactful leadership experiences whether they are social, academic, or professional.

Values and Motivations
Kellogg is looking to admit people, so don’t be afraid to share personal aspects of who you are and what you value. A large part of your evaluation will be whether your personality and vibe can fit in at Kellogg, so don’t try to be anything other than yourself.

Extra-Curricular Activities
The Kellogg MBA is built on engagement, and as such, the school is seeking candidates who have shown a track record of engagement in the past as this signals a likelihood of being similarly engaged at Kellogg, and later on as an alum. Clearly articulate how you have engaged yourself in the past, as well as how you plan to engage yourself in the future as a Kellogg MBA. Be specific here, and make sure you have more than one example of your engagement goals at the school itself.

Interpersonal Skills
The ability to work with and lead others is core to all aspects of thriving in the student community at Kellogg. Although this may be the last criteria shared, it may actually be the most important. Don’t be afraid to include examples of how you have engaged with others in all aspects of your life, but remember, Kellogg will have a discerning eye for those inauthentic in this aspect of the evaluation. Also, how you carry yourself in person will be another key indicator if you have what it takes to join the Kellogg community, so keep this in mind.

Follow these tips so come interview day, you will be able to breeze through Kellogg’s interview process and put yourself one step closer to that MBA.

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 of his articles here.

SAT Weather Postponement: What This Means for You

snow studentIf the College Board ever wanted to make a splash, they sure picked a doozy of a weekend to say au revoir, sayonara and adios  to the “old SAT.” Winter Storm Jonas is primed and ready to pack a punch that will likely impact thousands of test takers. What’s a test taker to do after months of preparation?

If you’re scheduled to take the SAT this weekend (January 23/24) anywhere along the Mid-Atlantic, I-95 East Coast corridor, read on. And if you’re scheduled to take the SAT this weekend and don’t live anywhere close to the East Cost, still read on – even if you’re not directly impacted by winter weather this weekend, it’s good to plan ahead in case something happens that derails your test day experience.

Get the 411

Where’s the first place to go for information? College Board has a dedicated page on their website where they post real-time updates. Don’t trust what your friends are posting on Facebook or Twitter. Official word will come from College Board via this site as well as local media outlets, so turn on your local news and radio stations if the web page has issues.

Should your test center close, there may be a few options:

  • Some test centers are shifting students to other nearby centers. You’ll need to print a new ticket (via their online account) and bring that ticket to the new center.
  • If your center is closed (and no new center is assigned), do NOT go to another center. You won’t be admitted as a walk-in.
  • If you’re on a waitlist, and the center is closed, the waitlist request is closed. You won’t be eligible for makeup testing and will need to register for a new test date.

SAT Reschedule?

 Word on the street is that some centers have already closed and are rescheduling for SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20. If you find yourself in this position, don’t panic! Take a deep breath and remember a few important things:

You will not forget everything you’ve just learned overnight, but it’s important to stay “fresh” over the next 4 weeks. Have you ever had a test in school that you wish you had a little extra time to study for? Well, now is your chance to make the most of that extra study time. This extension is a great opportunity to strengthen some areas of weakness. Take a look at your last practice test and identify some topics that you’d like to improve upon. Do you forget some of those special triangles? Do you have trouble remembering some of the less common prepositions? Are you still working on speed reading? Pull out your SAT study guide and complete a few extra drills, improve your pacing, and take an extra practice test or two.

For Multi-Taskers: What if …

. . .  you registered for BOTH the January (old SAT) and March (new SAT) tests? You might be looking at testing on February 20 (old SAT) and March 5 (new SAT), but you can still take both in a two week window. Remember that any studying will help, but be smart about what you’re studying. For example, algebra is algebra. It’s not going to change tremendously across both tests, so prioritize some of your studying based on common elements. Both tests contain reading passages of varying lengths, so also work on speed reading.

. . . you registered for BOTH the January (old SAT) and February ACT (February 6th)? Again, you can still take both in a two week window, but consider shifting your focus to more difficult math, longer reading passages, and writing/grammar for the next two weeks (ACT emphasis) and then switch back to some of the more SAT-specific topics (vocab, shorter reading passages, etc) after the ACT.

Above all, don’t panic. You’ve done the work and put in the time, and whether you test this weekend or in a few weeks, you’re still going to have the opportunity to put forth your best effort on the SAT. In the meantime, if you’re looking for some real world practice, head outside and figure out how long it will take to shovel a driveway that’s 10 meters long if you can only remove 2 cubic feet of snow at a time and snow if falling at a rate of 2 inches per hour. (I’m pretty sure that one won’t show up on the SAT, but the practice can’t hurt.)

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

By Joanna Graham

SAT Tip of the Week: Commonly Misused Words

SAT Tip of the Week - FullHomophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings (and usually different spellings). For example, there is a massive difference between “I proposed to my fiancée with five carats,” and, “I proposed to my fiancée with five carrots.”

The SAT will occasionally test certain differently-spelled homophones (there is a small chance that you will have to choose between words such as fair and fare, as you will see in your practice tests), but it very frequently test the most commonly misused homophones – those involving possessive pronouns and contractions. Let’s take a look at the drill below:

“[Its/It’s] a shame,” she sighed. “[They’re/Their/There] on [they’re/their/there] way to taste [your/you’re] famous chili and yet [your/you’re] stuck [they’re/their/there] at the airport. I’ll do my best to make sure they appreciate it in all [its/it’s] glory!”

These three sets of homophones are very frequently tested on the SAT – and very frequently misused in day to day communication. Their commonality is that they all involve possessive pronouns (its, their, and your), and contractions (it’s = it is; they’re = they are; you’re = you are).

To the academic elite – a group you seek to join as you pursue acceptance to college – the misuse of these common words tends to be a major sign of poor education, so make sure that you get these right on test day and in your application essays.

Its vs. It’s

Its is the possessive form of it. If an object possesses something (e.g. your phone has a case), then you’ll use its (e.g. “I never take my phone out of its case.”).

This is often misused because you’re used to putting ‘s for possessives, but keep in mind, you don’t do that for other pronouns, either! If he has something, that thing is his (not he’s or him’s). Is she has something, that thing is hers (not she’s or her’s). And if they share something, it is theirs (not they’s or them’s). So if it has something, that thing is its thing.

It’s, on the other hand, is a contraction for “it is.” (e.g. “Where is your textbook? It’s (it is) in your locker.”)

There vs. Their vs. They’re

There refers to a place. (e.g. “I’d love to visit Barcelona; I hear it’s beautiful there.”)

Their is the possessive for the pronouns they and them. (e.g. “The Lakers are in last place in their division.”)

They’re is the contraction for “they are.” (e.g. “Who are The Beatles? They’re only the most famous band in world history.”)

Your vs. You’re

Your is the possessive pronoun for you. If you own something, people will say that it is yours. (e.g. “Go to your room!”)

You’re is the contraction for “you are.” (e.g. “You’re grounded!”)

With these rules in mind, let’s look at the answer for that drill we saw earlier:

It’s a shame,” she sighed. “They’re on their way to taste your famous chili and yet you’re stuck there at the airport. I’ll do my best to make sure they appreciate it in all its glory!”

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

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Keeping an Open Mind in Critical Reasoning

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday we will discuss why it is important to keep an open mind while toiling away on your GMAT studying. Don’t go into test day with biases expecting that if a question tells us this, then it must ask that. GMAC testmakers are experts in surprising you and taking advantage of your preconceived notions, which is how they confuse you and convert a 600-level question to a 700-level one.

We have discussed necessary and sufficient conditions before; we have also discussed assumptions before. This question from our own curriculum is an innovative take on both of these concepts. Let’s take a look.

All of the athletes who will win a medal in competition have spent many hours training under an elite coach. Michael is coached by one of the world’s elite coaches; therefore it follows logically that Michael will win a medal in competition.

The argument above logically depends on which of the following assumptions?

(A) Michael has not suffered any major injuries in the past year.

(B) Michael’s competitors did not spend as much time in training as Michael did.

(C) Michael’s coach trained him for many hours.

(D) Most of the time Michael spent in training was productive.

(E) Michael performs as well in competition as he does in training.

First we must break down the argument into premises and conclusions:

Premises:

  • All of the athletes who will win a medal in competition have spent many hours training under an elite coach.
  • Michael is coached by one of the world’s elite coaches.

Conclusion: Michael will win a medal in competition.

Read the argument carefully:

All of the athletes who will win a medal in competition have spent many hours training under an elite coach.

Are you wondering, “How does one know that all athletes who will win (in the future) would have spent many hours training under an elite coach?”

The answer to this is that it doesn’t matter how one knows – it is a premise and it has to be taken as the truth. How the truth was established is none of our business and that is that. If we try to snoop around too much, we will waste precious time. Also, what may seem improbable may have a perfectly rational explanation. Perhaps all athletes who are competing have spent many hours under an elite coach – we don’t know.

Basically, what this statement tells us is that spending many hours under an elite coach is a NECESSARY condition for winning. What you need to take away from this statement is that “many hours training under an elite coach” is a necessary condition to win a medal. Don’t worry about the rest.

Michael is coached by one of the world’s elite coaches.

It seems that Michael satisfies one necessary condition: he is coached by an elite coach.

Conclusion: Michael will win a medal in competition.

Now this looks like our standard “gap in logic”. To get this conclusion, the necessary condition has been taken to be sufficient. So if we are asked for the flaw in the argument, we know what to say.

Anyway, let’s check out the question (this is usually our first step):

The argument above logically depends on which of the following assumptions?

Note the question carefully – it is asking for an assumption, or a necessary premise for the conclusion to hold.

We know that “many hours training under an elite coach” is a necessary condition to win a medal. We also know that Michael has been trained by an elite coach. Note that we don’t know whether he has spent “many hours” under his elite coach. The necessary condition requires “many hours” under an elite coach.

If Michael has spent many hours under the elite coach then he satisfies the necessary condition to win a medal. It is still not sufficient for him to win the medal, but our question only asks for an assumption – a necessary premise for the conclusion to hold. It does not ask for the flaw in the logic.

Focus on what you are asked and look at answer choice (C):

(C) Michael’s coach trained him for many hours.

This is a necessary condition for Michael to win a medal. Hence, it is an assumption and therefore, (C) is the correct answer.

Don’t worry that the argument is flawed. There could be another question on this argument which asks you to find the flaw in it, however this particular question asks you for the assumption and nothing more.

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: Your MLK Study Challenge (Remove Your Biases)

GMAT Tip of the WeekAs we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, you may take some of your free time to study for the GMAT. And if you do, make sure to heed the lessons of Dr. King, particularly as you study Data Sufficiency.

If Dr. King were alive today, he would certainly be proud of the legislation he inspired to end much of the explicit bias – you can’t eat here, vote there, etc. – that was part of the American legal code until the 1960s. But he would undoubtedly be dismayed by the implicit bias that still runs rampant across society.

This implicit bias is harder to detect and even harder to “fix.” It’s the kind of bias that, for example, the movie Freaknomics shows; often when the name at the top of a resume connotes some sort of stereotype, it subconsciously colors the way that the reader of that resume processes the rest of the information on it.

While that kind of subconscious bias is a topic for a different blog to cover, it has an incredible degree of relevance to the way that you attack GMAT Data Sufficiency problems. If you’re serious about studying for the GMAT, you’ll probably have long enacted your own versions of the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act well before you get to test day – that is to say, you’ll have figured out how to eliminate the kind of explicit bias that comes from reading a question like:

If y is an odd integer and the product of x and y equals 222, what is the value of x?

1) x > 0

2) y is a 3 digit number

Here, you’ll likely see very quickly that Statement 1 is not sufficient, and come back to Statement 2 with fresh eyes. You don’t know that x is positive, so you’ll quickly see that y could be 111 and x could be 2, or that y could be -111 and x could be -2, so Statement 2 is clearly also not sufficient. The explicit bias that came from seeing “x is positive” is relatively easy to avoid – you know not to carry over that explicit information from Statement 1 to Statement 2.

But you also need to be just as aware of implicit bias. Try this question, as it is more likely to appear on the actual GMAT:

If y is an odd integer and the product of x and y equals 222, what is the value of x?

1) x is a prime number

2) y is a 3 digit number

On this version of the problem, people become extremely susceptible to implicit bias. You no longer get to quickly rule out the obvious “x is positive.” Here, the first statement serves to pollute your mind – it is, on its own merit, sufficient (if y is odd and the product of x and y is even, the only prime number x could be is 2, the only even prime), but it also serves to get you thinking about positive numbers (only positive numbers can be prime) and integers (only integers are prime). But those aren’t explicitly stated; they’re just inferences that your mind quickly makes, and then has trouble getting rid of. So as you assess Statement 2, it’s harder for you to even think of the possibilities that:

x could be -2 and y could be -111: You’re not thinking about negatives!

x could be 2/3 and y could be 333: You’re not thinking about non-integers!

On this problem, over 50% of users say that Statement 2 is sufficient (and less than 25% correctly answer A, that Statement 1 alone is sufficient), because they fall victim to that implicit bias that comes from Statement 1 whispering – not shouting – “positive integers.”

Harder problems will generally prey on your more subtle bias, so you need to make sure you’re giving each statement a fresh set of available options. So this Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, applaud the progress that you have made in removing explicit bias from your Data Sufficiency regimen – you now know not to include Statement 1 directly in your assessment of Statement 2 ALONE – but remember that implicit bias is just as dangerous to your score. Pay attention to the times that implicit bias draws you to a poor decision, and be steadfast in your mission to give each statement its deserved, unbiased attention.

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

By Brian Galvin.

How to Stay Under Your Essay Word Limit

SAT WorryOne of the hardest things for many MBA applicants to deal with when it comes to writing their business school essays is to stay under the word limit. You would think crafting a clear, well-written, and compelling essay that fully addressed the prompt is hard enough, but MBA programs make things a bit more difficult with often dauntingly tight word limits.

There are a few things that make staying under essay word limits so tough. First, most candidates are not used to explaining themselves in a limited amount of words. The MBA application is an exercise in saying a lot in a few words, meaning every word has to matter – extra pronouns, articles, and prepositions must be reduced to stay under the given word count. Focusing on being as concise and as direct as possible in your language is a major key to making the most of your word count. A good rule of thumb here is if the word doesn’t drive the essay forward and is not integral to the ultimate message you are trying to convey, then you should strongly consider removing it.

Second, many candidates will ignore one of the golden rules of MBA essay writing: answer the question! With so few words to write your essay, there is little room to answer extraneous questions or include content not directly referenced in the essay prompt. Providing extra, unnecessary information can also be seen by the admissions committee as the sign of a candidate who is repurposing essays from other schools, which is definitely a bad idea. Answering unasked questions will waste your words and reduce the focus of your narrative, so stick with what the prompt gives you.

Third, candidates often make the mistake of spending too much time trying to fit their essays into traditional writing templates with an introduction and conclusion. With so few words, it is often best to skip formalities and dive right into the content. In many instances, if the writing is strong enough, this approach eliminates the need for clunky introductions and conclusions that will most likely end up sounding forced and unnatural anyways.

Finally, don’t forget the outline! Creating an outline before writing really brings a focused edge to the essay writing process. Ensure that your outline fully addresses the essay prompt while still allowing enough real estate to communicate your narrative in a compelling way.

Don’t let tight essay word limits sap all of the life out of your essays; follow the tips above to ensure you are making the most out of this part of the application process.

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 of his articles here.

4 Steps to Finish Your MBA Application Essay the Right Way

writing essayCongratulations! If you are reading this, then you are probably almost ready to submit your business school application essays for evaluation. You have spent a ton of time in the recent months conceptualizing, outlining, and writing responses to these notoriously challenging essay prompts. With so much time spent on these by most candidates, you would assume that these essays are typically free of error by the time they reach the admissions officers. However, with so many different touch points in the typical MBA application and with multiple applications in the mix, this process is ripe for typos and mistakes.

Admission to business school remains a very competitive process and although minor typos here and there will not greatly affect your candidacy, when multiple are aggregated they may give off the impression of a lack of attention to detail, which can ultimately tank your chances during tough evaluation periods.

Let’s walk through a few tips you should leverage as you put the finishing touches on your business school application essays:

Read Aloud

This is my favorite tip, so let’s start here. Often many candidates will tell me that they are shocked to notice typos after going through multiple in-depth reviews. Sometimes when you are so close to a document, you will overlook glaring typos. The simple act of verbalizing your essay can really help reduce the likelihood that a typo or clunky sentence will survive the final review process. This approach will ensure better flow and clarity to your writing style, and will improve the overall submission.

Taking A Break

Taking a break between reviews is also another great trick. For the most part, typos and mistakes are more a function of an oversight than incompetence – no one knowingly overlooks a mistake. Separating yourself from the essay for a few hours or days can really sharpen your eye and make you more discerning in the review process.

Leverage Personal Reviewers

Having a team of reviewers who are familiar with the application process is highly recommended, but it is also helpful to utilize a few who do not. These personal reviewers should be experts on “you” and able to ensure your essays actually sound like, and read like, the person actually writing them. Friends and family are the natural targets here – leverage these people to make sure your essays are coming across as authentic and true to your life as possible.

Proofread

This one sounds very obvious but you would be surprised how many business school applicants do not run the simplest of proofing software or conduct their own thorough review of their essays before submitting them. Remember, your MBA application will be one of the most important packages you submit in your life, so give it the attention it deserves by allocating ample time to review it in detail.

Follow these tips so come decision day, you can let the content of your essays stand for themselves!

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 of his articles here.

SAT Tip of the Week: 5 Things You Need to Do the Week Before the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullImagine it’s Saturday, the weekend before your official SAT test date. You’ve studied hard, learned the material, and maybe even taken one of our super helpful SAT courses. The question is, What more do you need to do to get ready? How should you spend your last week before the SAT?

First order of business: take a deep breath. Your brain is probably screaming at you that you’re underprepared. Maybe you’ve had nightmares about sleeping through your alarm. Don’t listen to these thoughts – you’ll be okay! Let’s take a look at 5 thoughts you should be having the week before the SAT:

1) Take a Practice Test
Now it’s time to get down to one last bit of hard work. If you haven’t taken a full-length, timed SAT practice test recently, doing one the Saturday before your test is a good idea. I sat down and took a full practice test the week before my real test and got my best score yet. With all the practice I’d been doing and great new score in front of my eyes, I was filled with confidence and energy going into the real test the following week. Think of it like a practice run – treat your practice like it’s the real thing, so that when you do get to the real test, it won’t seem so alien.

2) RELAX
The next thing you should do is important: RELAX. Take another deep breath. Remind yourself of all the work you’ve done. Don’t fret over memorizing small details and remembering the names of all the SAT strategies you’ve learned – your goal for this week should be to get your mind in a good, comfortable spot. The worst thing to do is to try to cram a ton of studying in at the last minute. That leads to stress, and stress hurts scores. So, I’ll say it again: try to relax.

3) Become Familiar with the Test Structure
It’s also important to be familiar with the structure of the test before test day. Be sure to review the instructions for the sections as well as how to fill out the Scantron before showing up to the test. You want your focus test day to be spent entirely on the actual test questions; knowing the rules before going in will allow you to have laser-like focus on the test. The instructions, the timing of the sections, and the Scantron always are the same. Familiarize yourself with them once and you’ll be okay; the SAT never throws curveballs.

4) Treat Your Body Well
An oft-overlooked part of preparation is treating your body well. Be extra conscious about eating well and getting a good night’s sleep during the week before your test (not just the night before). You’ve put in all the hard mental work of learning the strategies, so you don’t want to waste that by treating your body poorly.

5) Study LIGHTLY
If you really do feel worry-free, it can be a good thing to look over a few SAT concepts. You definitely don’t want to stress yourself out by doing too much work, but light practice sessions have benefits. Looking over previous questions you’ve struggled with or maybe even doing one section each night can be low-stress ways to keep the SAT in your brain.

The big thing to remember is that you’ve put in the work over a long period of time. You’re ready. The week leading up to your test date should be one of excitement, not anxiety. Just remember, as my favorite economics teacher always said, “The truth is in you; just let it out!”

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

By Aidan Calvelli.

GMAC to Test “Select Section Order” Option

GMAT Select Section Order PilotBig news in the standardized testing space! For a brief period of time starting next month, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) will let GMAT candidates choose the order in which they take the GMAT. The “Select Section Order Pilot” will run from February 23 through March 8, 2016. The pilot was first announced via an email to candidates who recently took the GMAT, and it appears to be limited to “invitation only” status for some people who recently took the exam.

What Exactly Is The Pilot?
Currently, the GMAT is given one way and one way only: Analytical Writing Assessment (30 minutes), Integrated Reasoning (30 minutes), Quantitative (75 minutes), and Verbal (75 minutes). With the pilot, students may choose to take the GMAT in one of these four ways:

1. Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
2. Quantitative, Verbal, Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning
3. Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
4. Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Verbal, Quantitative

You will need to select your preferred order when you register for a new test date on MBA.com. If you choose one of the experimental options above, then you will need to find an available test center in the February 23 – March 8 period; if choose the normal order in which the GMAT is given now (AWA, IR, Quant, Verbal), then you will not be considered part of the pilot program, and you can register for the test on any date.

On its website, GMAC makes a point of saying that the pilot will be very small, involving less than 1% of total testing volume. So, your odds of being invited to the pilot are very small. Also, if you participate, your score will be considered just as valid as if you had taken the “normal” GMAT, and schools will not know that you were part of the Select Section Order pilot.

Why Is GMAC Doing This?
No doubt GMAC wants to innovate and make the GMAT more applicant-friendly in the face of increasing competition from ETS in the form of the GRE. In its email to recent test takers, GMAC wrote:

A launch schedule for any further release of this feature beyond the pilot has not been determined at this time. The wider launch of the Select Section Order feature will depend greatly on the results of the pilot. GMAC may decide not to launch the feature for any number of reasons, including candidate dissatisfaction with the feature.

It’s safe to assume that GMAC will only expand the program if it finds that pilot students don’t perform significantly better or worse than their counterparts who take the GMAT in its normal order. Focusing the test on retake students — who give GMAC a terrific baseline for comparing results between the normal GMAT and the pilot program — is how they will determine whether or not playing with section order has a meaningful impact on scores.

Should You Participate?
If you’re one of the approximately 1% of GMAT candidates who are invited to take part in the pilot, it will be very tempting to take part and try customizing your test day experience. However, we normally recommend that students play the real game just the way they do in practice (and vice versa)… If you’re taking practice tests in the normal order, then we recommend taking the real GMAT the same way.

If stamina is a real problem for you — e.g., you find that you always run out of steam on the Verbal section and start making silly mistakes or simply run out of time — then it may be worth trying a format in which you get Quant and Verbal out of the way first. If you’re not sure, then stick with the normal order that you’re used to.

Were you invited to take part in the pilot? If so, let us know in the comments below!

By Scott Shrum

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: An Interesting Property of Exponents

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday, let’s take a look at an interesting number property. Once we discuss it, you might think, “I always knew that!” and “Really, what’s new here?” So let me give you a question beforehand:

For integers x and y, 2^x + 2^y = 2^(36). What is the value of x + y?

Think about it for a few seconds – could you come up with the answer in the blink of an eye? If yes, great! Close this window and wait for the next week’s post. If no, then read on. There is much to learn today and it is an eye-opener!

Let’s start by jotting down some powers of numbers:

Power of 2: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 …

Power of 3: 1, 3, 9, 27, 81, 243 …

Power of 4: 1, 4, 16, 64, 256, 1024 …

Power of 5: 1, 5, 25, 125, 625, 3125 …

and so on.

Obviously, for every power of 2, when you multiply the previous power by 2, you get the next power (4*2 = 8).

For every power of 3, when you multiply the previous power by 3, you get the next power (27*3 = 81), and so on.

Also, let’s recall that multiplication is basically repeated addition, so 4*2 is basically 4 + 4.

This leads us to the following conclusion using the power of 2:

4 * 2 = 8

4 + 4 = 8

2^2 + 2^2 = 2^3

(2 times 2^2 gives 2^3)

Similarly, for the power of 3:

27 * 3 = 81

27 + 27 + 27 = 81

3^3 + 3^3 + 3^3 = 3^4

(3 times 3^3 gives 3^4)

And for the power of 4:

4 * 4 = 16

4 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 16

4^1 + 4^1 + 4^1 + 4^1 = 4^2

(4 times 4^1 gives 4^2)

Finally, for the power of 5:

125 * 5 = 625

125 + 125 + 125 + 125 + 125 = 625

5^3 + 5^3 + 5^3 + 5^3 + 5^3 = 5^4

(5 times 5^3 gives 5^4)

Quite natural and intuitive, isn’t it? Take a look at the previous question again now.

For integers x and y, 2^x + 2^y = 2^(36). What is the value of x + y?

A) 18

(B) 32

(C) 35

(D) 64

(E) 70

Which two powers when added will give 2^(36)?

From our discussion above, we know they are 2^(35) and 2^(35).

2^(35) + 2^(35) = 2^(36)

So x = 35 and y = 35 will satisfy this equation.

x + y = 35 + 35 = 70

Therefore, our answer is E.

One question arises here: Is this the only possible sum of x and y? Can x and y take some other integer values such that the sum of 2^x and 2^y will be 2^(36)?

Well, we know that no matter which integer values x and y take, 2^x and 2^y will always be positive, which means both x and y must be less than 36. Now note that no matter which two powers of 2 you add, their sum will always be less than 2^(36). For example:

2^(35) + 2^(34) < 2^(35) + 2^(35)

2^(2) + 2^(35) < 2^(35) + 2^(35)

etc.

So if x and y are both integers, the only possible values that they can take are 35 and 35.

How about something like this: 2^x + 2^y + 2^z = 2^36? What integer values can x, y and z take here?

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 Last SAT: Here Are 3 Things to Do on Test Day to Rock the Final 2400 Exam

SAT 2400If you’re trying to nail the final 2400 SAT, then you’re probably trying to figure out which tips (given the endless amount of SAT strategies already out there) will truly impact your score. While I do recommend using these remaining two weeks to improve your grasp of content and of strategies (viz., don’t skimp on learning vocabulary words or on practicing tricky word problems), there are a few key habits that you should implement on test day to ensure you perform at your highest level.

1. Be Aware Of Order Of Difficulty
Imagine it’s test day. You’re near the end of the long Writing Section. You’re feeling good; so far, you’ve answered every question with confidence, and you only have a couple of questions left to answer. You know you’re close to that dream score you’ve been working hard for. You take a quick look at one of the final grammar-based questions before you begin the paragraph corrections:

 

rita-1

 

 

 

 

This question seems easy enough. There aren’t any glaring mistakes, such as subject-verb disagreement. And if you ignore the descriptive phrases (such as “Not very particular in nesting sites…”) you’ll notice that the sentence also makes sense, meaning there aren’t any problems with sentence construction. You may be tempted to choose E, No error, and move on.

Unfortunately, if you did think the answer was E, you fell for a classic SAT trap. There in fact is a mistake in this sentence! So let’s consider it more carefully. For example, when you look at A, rather than just giving a knee-jerk answer, try using the phrase “not very particular ___ …” in your own sentence. How would you say “my sister is not very particular ____ what she wears”?

Hopefully, you realized that you would say “my sister is not very particular about what she wears”. Therefore, “particular in” is an idiomatic error, because in English, we say “particular about”.

Maybe you’re groaning and thinking to yourself that you’ll never be able to tell the difference between plain easy questions and tricky questions on the SAT. However, if you pay attention to Order of Difficulty, you actually can predict when you are likely to see tricky questions. That is, on the SAT, difficult questions tend to appear near the end of the section, say about the last 5 – 6 problems. So, although you may be able to do a writing or math or vocab question at the beginning of a section in less than thirty seconds, if you do a question at the end of the section easily and in little time, chances are you fell for a trap! In fact, if a problem at the end of the section seems strangely easy, an alarm bell should go off in your head. So, my first tip for you is this: on test day, whenever you are at the end of a section, be sure to always pause and carefully consider an ostensibly easy question, rather than just circling the first plausible answer.

2. Skip and Return
Skipping tricky questions on multiple-choice tests (so as to return to them later) is one of the oldest tricks in the book, so I’m sure you’re familiar. However, I want to break down this trick a little further, because although many students do use this strategy, not all of them do so as well as they could.

First off, let’s identify under what circumstances you should absolutely skip, versus when you should stick it out. You should skip whenever:

-You don’t understand what the question is asking, or the question really confuses you.
-You can’t eliminate more than one answer choice.

Some test prep companies recommend guessing when you can eliminate just one answer. The reasoning is that you have a 25% chance of guessing correctly, which will outweigh the ¼-point guessing penalty that is in effect on the 2400 SAT. However, this isn’t really good advice, because students rarely guess without any partiality towards certain answer choices. In other words, when students are presented with four answer choices, they are more likely to choose some answers than others. And unsurprisingly, the College Board leverages this by purposely making some answer choices look more appealing than others on difficult questions. So, when you guess between four answer choices, you actually don’t have a 25% chance of guessing correctly. Your chance of guessing correctly will always be lower than 25%. Therefore, only guess if you can eliminate two or more answer choices.

Take a look at the following difficult question from a SAT Reading Section:

rita-2

 

 

 

Can you eliminate more than one answer? If you can’t, this is the type of question you should skip and leave blank.

Can you eliminate more than one answer? If yes, you should work through this question as best as you can, even if you can’t instantly identify the correct answer. Although you sometimes will have to skip some hard questions because they are either too confusing or too time-consuming, you should not skip every single difficult question on the SAT. In fact, being able to work through hard questions is what sets apart top test takers.

Looking at this question again, let’s say that you were able to eliminate C, steadfast, and E, frank, because you know both of those words have positive connotations and you’ve figured out that the word in the blank must have a negative connotation. However, now you feel stuck, because you don’t know what convivial, steadfast, or clandestine mean.

The good news is that you can continue to work through this problem, even though you don’t know the exact definitions of the words. So, rather than guessing randomly between the three, or deciding to return to the question later, you could use two Veritas Prep strategies to continue to eliminate answer choices. Notice that convivial has the root viv. If you know Spanish or Latin, you can intelligently guess that viv probably means life. This means that answer A likely has a positive connotation, and should be eliminated. Also, notice that fortuitous sounds like fortune, which means that it also has a good chance of being related to the word fortune, another word with a positive connotation. Thus, you should eliminate answer D, and choose B, which in fact is the correct answer.

Now that we’ve talked about when you should skip versus when you should stick it out, let’s talk about when you should skip and return. Take a look at the following math problem, which was taken from near the end of a SAT Math Section :

 

rita-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The question seems simple enough. You might think to yourself that if the can is eight inches tall, then four of the pencils cannot fit entirely inside the can. However, this question is from the end of a SAT section, so it shouldn’t be easy to solve.

So when should you skip a question like this, to return to later?

I recommend skipping a question like this when you don’t have a lot of time. For example, let’s say you still have 4 math questions, and you only have 4 minutes left, and you can only eliminate one answer – answer choice D, because it’s too obvious an answer. Unless you can quickly think of a method for working through this problem, I would advise skipping it, and returning to it if you have any remaining time.

Note: At the end of this blog post, I’ve included an explanation for this problem. Once you finish reading these test-day tips, try to solve the problem yourself before reading the explanation.

3. Set Pacing Goals
One of the most avoidable ways students miss points on the SAT is by not working quickly enough. Thus, it’s essential that you set pacing goals for yourself whenever you do practice sections. For example, if you regularly don’t finish the 35-question Writing Section, then you should try to do the first half of it (approximately questions 1-18) in no more than twelves minutes. That means that at around question 9, you should check your watch to see if you’re on target. If you’ve spent more than six minutes on the first nine questions, then you’re falling behind, and you need to speed up.

Note that it isn’t a good idea to check your watch either after every single question, as that will just disrupt your flow. It’s also ineffective to check your watch only near the end of the section, as that may not leave you enough time to finish. Thus, it’s essential that you set simple but effect pacing goals for yourself (i.e., every 5 minutes, I finish 9 questions) so that on test day, you can keep track of your pace. Pacing goals will be different for different students, so use these next two weeks to develop goals that work for you.

Before you take a crack at that hard math question with the pencils, I want to give you one last piece of advice. Studies show that resting before a major exam is just as essential as studying, so, be sure to get a good night’s sleep on the two nights leading up to the test. You’ll only perform at your best on test day if you take good care of yourself!

Explanation for math problem:

One great way to deal with geometry-based questions at the end of the math section is to draw on the provided diagrams as you think your way through the problem -in other words, thinking visually. Doing will help you consider possible solutions you may otherwise overlook, such as in this tricky problem. So, let’s start by “drawing” the nine inch pencil in the tin can:
rita-4

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly, the pencil sticks out of the can. But, seeing the pencil sticking nearly straight up from inside the can gives me a new idea: what if the pencil were tilted? Couldn’t a pencil longer than eight inches fit inside the can? And if so, what would be the longest possible length of a titled pencil that could fit entirely inside the can?

To get a better grasp of this idea, I would draw the longest possible tilted line that fit inside the can, meaning a line starting in a bottom corner of the can, and stretching to the top corner, like so:

rita-5

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the line that represents the longest possible length of a pencil that fits entirely inside the can is also the hypotenuse of a right triangle with side lengths of 6 inches and 8 inches. Because I can identify the side lengths of this triangle as multiples of the lengths of a 3-4-5 triangle, I know the hypotenuse is 10 inches, meaning that any pencils less than or equal to 10 inches long can fit inside the can. Therefore, my answer is B: only two of the pencils cannot fit entirely inside of the can.

Good luck on the final 2400 SAT!

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

By Rita Pearson

 

GMAT Tip of the Week: Make 2016 The Year Of Number Fluency

GMAT Tip of the WeekWhether you were watching the College Football Playoffs or Ryan Seacrest; whether you were at a house party, in a nightclub, or home studying for the GMAT; however you rang in 2016, if 2016 is the year that you make your business school goals come true, hopefully you had one of the following thoughts immediately after seeing the number 2016 itself:

  • Oh, that’s divisible by 9
  • Well, obviously that’s divisible by 4
  • Huh, 20 and 16 are consecutive multiples of 4
  • 2, 0, 1, 6 – that’s three evens and an odd
  • I wonder what the prime factors of 2016 are…

Why? Because the GMAT – and its no-calculator-permitted format for the Quant Section – is a test that highly values and rewards mathematical fluency. The GMAT tests patterns in, and properties of, numbers quite a bit. Whenever you see a number flash before your eyes, you should be thinking about even vs. odd, prime vs. composite, positive vs. negative, “Is that number a square or not?” etc. And, mathematically speaking, the GMAT is a multiplication/division test more than a test of anything else, so as you process numbers you should be ready to factor and divide them at a moment’s notice.

Those who quickly see relationships between numbers are at a huge advantage: they’re not just ready to operate on them when they have to, they’re also anticipating what that operation might be so that they don’t have to start from scratch wondering how and where to get started.

With 2016, for example:

The last two digits are divisible by 4, so you know it’s divisible by 4.

The sum of the digits (2 + 0 + 1 + 6) is 9, a multiple of 9, so you know it’s divisible by 9 (and also by 3).

So without much thinking or prompting, you should already have that number broken down in your head. 16 divided by 4 is 4 and 2000 divided by 4 is 500, so you should be hoping that the number 504 (also divisible by 9) shows up somewhere in a denominator or division operation (or that 4 or 9 does).

So, for example, if you were given a problem:

In honor of the year 2016, a donor has purchased 2016 books to be distributed evenly among the elementary schools in a certain school district. If each school must receive the same number of books, and there are to be no books remaining, which of the following is NOT a number of books that each school could receive?

(A) 18

(B) 36

(C) 42

(D) 54

(E) 56

You shouldn’t have to spend any time thinking about choices A and B, because you know that 2016 is divisible by 4 and by 9, so it’s definitely divisible by 36 which means it’s also divisible by every factor of 36 (including 18). You don’t need to do long division on each answer choice – your number fluency has taken care of that for you.

From there, you should look at the other numbers and get a quick sense of their prime factors:

42 = 2 * 3 * 7 – You know that 2016 is divisible by 2 and 3, but what about 7?

54 = 2 * 3 * 3 * 3 – You know that 2016 is divisible by that 2 and that it’s divisible by 9, so you can cover two of the 3s. But is 2016 divisible by three 3s?

56 = 2 * 2 * 2 * 7 – You know that two of the 2s are covered, and it’s quick math to divide 2016 by 4 (as you saw above, it’s 504). Since 504 is still even, you know that you can cover all three 2s, but what about 7?

Here’s where good test-taking strategy can give you a quick leg up: to this point, a savvy 700-scorer shouldn’t have had to do any real “work,” but testing all three remaining answer choices could now get a bit labor intensive. Unless you recognize this: for C and E, the only real question to be asked is “Is 2016 divisible by 7?” After all, you’re already accounted for the 2 and 3 out of 42, and you’ve already accounted for the three 2s out of 56.

7 is the only one you haven’t checked for. And since there can only be one correct answer, 2016 must be divisible by 7…otherwise you’d have to say that C and E are both correct.

But even if you’re not willing to take that leap, you may still have the hunch that 7 is probably a factor of 2016, so you can start with choice D. Once you’ve divided 2016 by 9 (here you may have to go long division, or you can factor it out), you’re left with 224. And that’s not divisible by 3. Therefore, you know that 2016 cannot be divided evenly into sets of 54, so answer choice D must be correct. And more importantly, good number fluency should have allowed you to do that relatively quickly without the need for much (if any) long division.

So if you didn’t immediately think “divisible by 4 and 9!” when you saw the year 2016 pop up, make it your New Year’s resolution to start thinking that way. When you see numbers this year, start seeing them like a GMAT expert, taking note of clear factors and properties and being ready to quickly operate on that number.

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

By Brian Galvin.

Back to the Grind: 3 Tips on Handling Your Final Months as a Senior in High School

Run OnIf you’re a senior heading back from winter break, you probably feel a strange combination of excitement and weariness. You’re done with college applications and ACT and SAT prep; you’re probably already looking forward to your senior trip or the other activities for seniors that your school has planned; you are so close to finally enjoying the fruits of your hard work. That being said, you also have to muster the energy to get through either AP or IB testing, spring sports, and final projects.

If you don’t have senioritis already, trust me, it’s going to hit hard during these final months of high school. You’ll find yourself tempted to slack off a bit in the grades department, not to mention showing up to class on time. While some relaxation and celebration is healthy, it’s important that you don’t stop pushing yourself. The better you do on your AP and IB exams, the more likely you’ll earn credits at your college, meaning that you get to pass out of general courses, and move onto the more advanced, detailed courses that distinguish a college education from a high school education. Also, you’ve worked so hard to get where you are – if you keep straight A’s, or run your fastest mile in high school track this spring, it’s something you’ll remember with pride when you’re much older. So, without further ado, here are a few tips from a former senior on how you can jump back into your final months of high school:

1. Get to Bed
You’ve probably been staying up late this winter break – and maybe you’ve been eating more sweets than you should, too. One of the simplest and most effective things you can do this January is getting back to a lifestyle that fits with your school schedule. It doesn’t matter how great a student you are – if you can’t get yourself to bed by a reasonable time, senioritis is going to hit you early this semester. So, although your diet and sleep might not seem significant, I’d recommend getting those on lock down as early as possible this semester.

2. Take Care of the Details Now, Not in April
In addition to sleeping at a reasonable time, look for other small habits you can adjust to improve your studying and your overall health. Were you on Facebook 24/7 this winter break? Did you spend the last few weeks plugged into your Netflix account? Now that you have to meet deadlines and prepare for your AP and IB exams, it’s time for you to unplug and find a quiet place to study. If you do waste time on the internet, consider downloading Self-control, an app that you can program to block distracting websites.

3. Work on Developing College-Ready Study Habits
Speaking of studying, not only should you get off Facebook, but you should also use these months to begin forming college-ready study habits. From kindergarten all the way through high school, your teachers have been structuring your classes – assigning homework that they regularly grade, giving frequent quizzes and in-class exercises – so as to make practice and learning easy. In college, it’s a different ball-game. For the most part, professors will assign less homework and less quizzes. So, it will be up to you to figure out how to digest new material you’ve learned in class. In college, you will have to teach yourself how to learn.

Because college is so much less structured than high school, one of the study habits I had to learn in college was pacing. In high school, I used to do “marathon” study sessions. For example, if I had been busy all week preparing for a Varsity track meet and for my IB exams, I might not have had the time I needed to study for an in-class physics test. So, the night before, I’d sit down with my notes, and study them for 3 straight hours until I’d learned everything. While this method can work in high school, I found that in college the material was so much more demanding that I couldn’t learn it in a couple hours, especially because I wasn’t regularly practicing it by doing homework. To get A’s, I needed to study on a daily basis (or every few days). Also, because the material in college is so complicated, I would find that my brain would simply tire out after two hours if I tried to learn it all in one go.

I know you’re going to be dragging your feet a little when you have to start waking up at 7 AM again for school. However, if you can see this as an opportunity to practice good study habits, you’ll be laying a great foundation for your academic life in college. For example, why not jump into your final semester by making a resolution to be more organized. Rather than cram for four straight hours the night before a test, start studying two days before. And when you do study, rather than do a marathon session, study for an hour, and then take a 15 minute break – whether that’s going for a walk around the block, listening to a few songs, or having a healthy snack. Repeat this hour of studying followed by 15 minutes of relaxing two to three times, and then do something entirely different, such as going on a jog.

Enjoy the last few months of senior year and best of luck preparing for your freshman year of College!

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Rita Pearson

How to Choose the Right Number for a GMAT Variable Problem

Pi to the 36th digitWhen you begin studying for the GMAT, you will quickly discover that most of the strategies are, on the surface, fairly simple. It will not come as a terribly big surprise that selecting numbers and doing arithmetic is often an easier way of attacking a problem than attempting to perform complex algebra. There is, however, a big difference between understanding a strategy in the abstract and having honed that strategy to the point that it can be implemented effectively under pressure.

Now, you may be thinking, “How hard can it possibly be to pick numbers? I see an “x” and I decide x = 5. Not so complicated.” The art is in learning how to pick workable numbers for each question type. Different questions will require different types of numbers to create a scenario that truly is simpler than the algebra. The harder the problem, the more finesse that will be required when selecting numbers. Let’s start with a problem that doesn’t require much strategy:

If n=4p, where p is prime number greater than 2, how many different positive even divisors does n have, including n? 

(A) 2

(B) 3

(C) 4

(D) 6 

(E) 8 

Okay in this problem, “p” is a prime number greater than 2. So let’s say p = 3. If n = 4p, and 4p = 4*3 = 12. Let’s list out the factors of 12: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12. The even factors here are 2, 4, 6, 12. There are 4 of them. So the answer is C. Not so bad, right? Just pick the first simple number that pops into your head and you’re off to the races. Bring on the test!

If only it were that simple for all questions. So let’s try a much harder question to illustrate the pitfalls of adhering to an approach that’s overly mechanistic:

The volume of water in a certain tank is x percent greater than it was one week ago. If r percent of the current volume of water in the tank is removed, the resulting volume will be 90 percent of the volume it was one week ago. What is the value of r in terms of x?

(A) x + 10

(B) 10x + 1

(C) 100(x + 10)

(D) 100 * (x+10)/(x+100)

(E) 100 * (10x + 1)/(10x+10)

You’ll notice quickly that if you simply declare that x = 10 and r =20, you may run into trouble. Say, for example, that the starting value from one week ago was 100 liters. If x = 10, a 10% increase will lead to a volume of 110 liters. If we remove 20% of that 110, we’ll be removing .20*110 = 22 liters, giving us 110-22 = 88 liters. But we’re also told that the resulting volume is 90% of the original volume! 88 is not 90% of 100, therefore our numbers aren’t valid. In instances like this, we need to pick some simple starting numbers and then calculate the numbers that will be required to fit the parameters of the question.

So again, say the volume one week ago was 100 liters. Let’s say that x = 20%, so the volume, after water is added, will be 100 + 20 = 120 liters.

We know that once water is removed, the resulting volume will be 90% of the original. If the original was 100, the volume, once water is removed, will be 100*.90 = 90 liters.

Now, rather than arbitrarily picking an “r”, we’ll calculate it based on the numbers we have. To summarize:

Start: 100 liters

After adding water: 120 liters

After removing water: 90 liters

We now need to calculate what percent of those 120 liters need to be removed to get down to 90. Using our trusty percent change formula [(Change/Original) * 100] we’ll get (30/120) * 100 = 25%.

Thus, when x = 20, r =25. Now all we have to do is substitute “x” with “20” in the answer choices until we hit our target of 25.

Remember that in these types of problems, we want to start at the bottom of the answer choice options and work our way up:

(E) 100 * (10x + 1)/(10x+10)

100 * (10*20 + 1)/(10*20+10) = 201/210. No need to simplify. There’s no way this equals 25.

(D) 100 * (x+10)/(x+100)

100 * (20+10)/(20+100) = 100 * (30/120) = 25. That’s it! We’re done. The correct answer is D.

Takeaways: Internalizing strategies is the first step in your process of preparing for the GMAT. Once you’ve learned these strategies, you need to practice them in a variety of contexts until you’ve fully absorbed how each strategy needs to be tweaked to fit the contours of the question. In some cases, you can pick a single random number. Other times, there will be multiple variables, so you’ll have to pick one or two numbers to start and then solve for the remaining numbers so that you don’t violate the conditions of the problem. Accept that you may have to make adjustments mid-stream. Your first selection may produce hairy arithmetic. There are no style point on the GMAT, so stay flexible, cultivate back-up plans, and remember that mental agility trumps rote memorization every time.

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 by him here.

How to Apply to Business School with a Bad GPA

08fba0fYour GPA is one of the most important evaluation criteria used by MBA admissions committees. Unlike the GMAT or your essays, improving this aspect of your application profile is not as simple as a test retake or an additional essay revision. The “in the past” nature of GPA scores means it is more important to confront a poor performance in this area than just simply ignoring the data point.

There are a few common threads that plague applicants who suffer from a low undergrad GPA. Let’s explore a few of these common reasons for a low GPA and some ways to explain away these red flags:

Maturity:

Did your GPA suffer due to a lack of maturity? Many applicants suffered through a low GPA during undergrad because they did not take the academic rigors of school seriously enough. Sometimes it is an issue with partying, other times it can be a lack of focus or prioritization on academia, but maturity is the root cause of many low GPAs coming into the application process. Addressing any maturity issues head on while providing clear examples that chronicle your growth into a mature candidate can help diffuse obvious concerns about your academic profile.

Outside Obligations:

Was academics not your biggest priority during undergrad? Many students have serious outside obligations that can negatively affect academic performance. From family commitments to work study, students in undergrad are confronted with many distractions than can result in low GPAs. Many of these reasons will immediately resonate with admissions given how relatable these obligations tend to be. The key here is to personalize these challenges and provide context for admissions so it is clear how these obligations affected your performance and whether they will affect your performance in the future.

Extracurriculars:

Did you have a major extracurricular commitment that affected your academic performance? Utilize these experiences to outline the time commitments of these obligations while highlighting the interpersonal skills developed and results achieved. This is a nice opportunity touch on the value of these extracurricular activities in spite of the negative affect they had on your GPA.

Academic Major:

Were you in an intense major? Did you change majors? Did you take on a particularly heavy course load? Not all majors and course loads are created equally – no excuses here! It is important to own up to your mistakes or issues, but if there are outside factors out of your control that are related to academics, don’t shy away from discussing them in your optional essays. Focus here on your major aspects that are atypical and would clearly have an affect on your academic performance.

Health

Did you experience any health concerns during undergrad? Health issues often do not easily show up via your academic record. Even with a withdrawal on your transcript, you will need to explain this via the optional essay. Honestly and vividly express the impact this had on your academic performance to really illuminate the challenges you experienced.

A low GPA is not a death sentence to your MBA dreams – follow the tips above to explain away your past GPA missteps.

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 of his articles here.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Improve Your SAT Writing, Vocabulary, and Comprehension

SAT Tip of the Week - FullAs you probably already know, the newest version of the SAT is coming out in March of 2016, and as such, there are plenty of changes in the Critical Reading and Writing portions of the test. As a result, many students are wondering how to improve their writing skills and vocabulary for this section of the test. Let’s take a look at some tips you can use as they prep for the reading and writing portions of the new SAT:

How to Improve SAT Writing Skills

The Writing and Language section on the new SAT requires students to read passages and answer questions about them. For example, one question may ask a student to make changes to a sentence to clarify a point. Another question may ask a student to correct a punctuation error or improve a sentence’s structure.

Although the Writing and Language test is in multiple-choice form, a student still needs to be able to recognize the best answer option. One tip to follow when preparing for this section is to read a variety of articles on different topics, such as science, history, and the humanities. Pay close attention to how the sentences flow and determine what changes could be made to improve them – remember to also examine the punctuation and grammar in these articles to try to spot any mistakes. This sort of practice will allow you to become accustomed to evaluating and proofreading all types of written work.

How to Improve Vocabulary for the SAT

In the past, students studied vocabulary for the SAT by memorizing lists of words. On the new SAT, however, it’s important for students to understand the multiple meanings of these vocabulary words. The same vocab word can have different meanings depending on the context of a sentence, so you must be able to look at a word in the context of a sentence and choose its correct meaning from the list of options.

Taking practice tests is one way for you to sharpen your skills when it comes to recognizing vocabulary words in context. Another way to learn more vocabulary words and practice recognizing them in context is to read newspaper and magazine articles. If you encounter an unknown word in any article or book, you can refer to the dictionary to become familiar with its definitions – dictionaries are some of the most valuable resources a student can have.

Tips for Improving Reading Comprehension Skills

Many high school students want to know how to improve reading comprehension, as the SAT questions in the Reading section require students to understand the meaning behind an author’s work. This section on the new SAT contains a few passages, and students must answer questions related to each passage.

Along with questions about the author’s intention, there are also questions about the author’s style and tone. For example, a question may ask what an author is trying to convey by using a particular phrase – this is where a student’s reading comprehension skills come into play. A student who understands what the author is trying to convey can determine why the author employed particular words or phrases in the text.

One way you can improve your reading comprehension skills is by reading classic works of fiction. You can then practice this skill by dissecting a passage sentence by sentence to figure out what an author is trying to convey. (plus, there’s a chance that you may encounter questions on the new SAT that involve a classic work of literature). Reading newspapers and online articles can also help you practice spotting the main idea of a piece. And of course, taking practice tests is always helpful to get into the habit of reading in a focused, critical way.

At Veritas Prep, we have a selection of tutoring options for students who need assistance preparing for the Critical Reading and Writing sections of the new SAT. Our professional tutors teach strategies to students that allow them to handle SAT questions with confidence. We also offer a free test for students who want to gauge their skills before starting to prep for the SAT. Check out our in-person or online courses and start preparing for the SAT today!

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

4 Ways Admissions Committees Will Examine Your Work Experience

MBA JobsMany students enter business school with plans to develop their business skills and improve their overall career options. However, when it comes time to prepare to submit an application, much of the effort tends to fall on other areas of the package, such as GMAT scores or essays. Considering that “career improvement” is commonly seen as the lead reason for pursuing an MBA, more focus should instead fall on the work experience that you have compiled prior to submitting your application.

Your work experience is a key evaluation point in the admissions process and should be treated as such. Let’s discuss a few of the reasons why work experience matters so much:

1) Hireability

One of the key reasons many are even pursuing an MBA in the first place is to land the job of their dreams. so it should come as no surprise that a major evaluation aspect for admissions is whether the program can actually help you achieve your career goals. Your work experience, both from an industry and role perspective, can factor into how admissions views your profile. Even if you are one of the many applicants looking to make a career switch, some transferable skills from your current career to your future career will better showcase the viability of your plan.

2) Impact

The concept of impact is one of the most important aspects of evaluating your work experience. What results have you driven in the various roles you have held throughout your career? Programs are looking to learn about how you have made a qualitative or quantitative impact in your career. Make sure these accomplishments are clear in your resume, essays, and short answers to ensure your contributions are not being overlooked.

3) Career Progression

Your work experience gives a clear indication of the decisions you have made in your career. The various stops can tell a story about where you have been and where you plan to go. The better aligned this story is, and will be, with your future career goals, the more positive message you send to the admissions committee about your maturity and potential.

4) Classroom Value

Business school is school after all, so your ability to add value inside the classroom is a critical element of the evaluation criteria by the admissions committee. The better you can project confidence and business savvy while highlighting where in your background you generated these learnings, the better chances you have at securing an admit.

Don’t make the mistake of downplaying your work experience! Utilize these tips to create a breakthrough application.

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

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Calculating the Probability of Intersecting Events

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe know our basic probability formulas (for two events), which are very similar to the formulas for sets:

P(A or B) = P(A) + P(B) – P(A and B)

P(A) is the probability that event A will occur.

P(B) is the probability that event B will occur.

P(A or B) gives us the union; i.e. the probability that at least one of the two events will occur.

P(A and B) gives us the intersection; i.e. the probability that both events will occur.

Now, how do you find the value of P(A and B)? The value of P(A and B) depends on the relation between event A and event B. Let’s discuss three cases:

1) A and B are independent events

If A and B are independent events such as “the teacher will give math homework,” and “the temperature will exceed 30 degrees celsius,” the probability that both will occur is the product of their individual probabilities.

Say, P(A) = P(the teacher will give math homework) = 0.4

P(B) = P(the temperature will exceed 30 degrees celsius) = 0.3

P(A and B will occur) = 0.4 * 0.3 = 0.12

2) A and B are mutually exclusive events

If A and B are mutually exclusive events, this means they are events that cannot take place at the same time, such as “flipping a coin and getting heads” and “flipping a coin and getting tails.” You cannot get both heads and tails at the same time when you flip a coin. Similarly, “It will rain today” and “It will not rain today” are mutually exclusive events – only one of the two will happen.

In these cases, P(A and B will occur) = 0

3) A and B are related in some other way

Events A and B could be related but not in either of the two ways discussed above – “The stock market will rise by 100 points” and “Stock S will rise by 10 points” could be two related events, but are not independent or mutually exclusive. Here, the probability that both occur would need to be given to you. What we can find here is the range in which this probability must lie.

Maximum value of P(A and B):

The maximum value of P(A and B) is the lower of the two probabilities, P(A) and P(B).

Say P(A) = 0.4 and P(B) = 0.7

The maximum probability of intersection can be 0.4 because P(A) = 0.4. If probability of one event is 0.4, probability of both occurring can certainly not be more than 0.4.

Minimum value of P(A and B):

To find the minimum value of P(A and B), consider that any probability cannot exceed 1, so the maximum P(A or B) is 1.

Remember, P(A or B) = P(A) + P(B) – P(A and B)

1 = 0.4 + 0.7 – P(A and B)

P(A and B) = 0.1 (at least)

Therefore, the actual value of P(A and B) will lie somewhere between 0.1 and 0.4 (both inclusive).

Now let’s take a look at a GMAT question using these fundamentals:

There is a 10% chance that Tigers will not win at all during the whole season. There is a 20% chance that Federer will not play at all in the whole season. What is the greatest possible probability that the Tigers will win and Federer will play during the season?

(A) 55%

(B) 60%

(C) 70%

(D) 72%

(E) 80%

Let’s review what we are given.

P(Tigers will not win at all) = 0.1

P(Tigers will win) = 1 – 0.1 = 0.9

P(Federer will not play at all) = 0.2

P(Federer will play) = 1 – 0.2 = 0.8

Do we know the relation between the two events “Tigers will win” (A) and “Federer will play” (B)? No. They are not mutually exclusive and we do not know whether they are independent.

If they are independent, then the P(A and B) = 0.9 * 0.8 = 0.72

If the relation between the two events is unknown, then the maximum value of P(A and B) will be 0.8 because P(B), the lesser of the two given probabilities, is 0.8.

Since 0.8, or 80%, is the greater value, the greatest possibility that the Tigers will win and Federer will play during the season is 80%. 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!

4 Predictions for 2016: Trends to Look for in the Coming Year

Can you believe another year has already gone by? It seems like just yesterday that we were taking down 2014’s holiday decorations and trying to remember to write “2015” when writing down the date. Well, 2015 is now in the books, which means it’s time for us to stick our necks out and make a few predictions for what 2016 will bring in the world of college and graduate school testing and admissions. We don’t always nail all of our predictions, and sometimes we’re way off, but that’s what makes this predictions business kind of fun, right?

Let’s see how we do this year… Here are four things that we expect to see unfold at some point in 2016:

The College Board will announce at least one significant change to the New SAT after it is introduced in March.
Yes, we know that an all-new SAT is coming. And we also know that College Board CEO David Coleman is determined to make his mark and launch a new test that is much more closely aligned with the Common Core standards that Coleman himself helped develop before stepping into the CEO role at the College Board. (The changes also happen to make the New SAT much more similar to the ACT, but we digress.) The College Board’s excitement to introduce a radically redesigned test, though, may very well lead to some changes that need some tweaking after the first several times the new test is administered. We don’t know exactly what the changes will be, but the new test’s use of “Founding Documents” as a source of reading passages is one spot where we won’t be shocked to see tweaks later in 2016.

At least one major business school rankings publication will start to collect GRE scores from MBA programs.
While the GRE is still a long way from catching up to the GMAT as the most commonly submitted test score by MBA applicants, it is gaining ground. In fact, 29 of Bloomberg Businessweek‘s top 30 U.S. business schools now let applicants submit a score from either exam. Right now, no publication includes GRE score data in its ranking criteria, which creates a small but meaningful implication: if you’re not a strong standardized test taker, then submitting a GRE score may mean that an admissions committee will be more willing to take a chance and admit you (assuming the rest of your application is strong), since it won’t have to report your test score and risk lowering its average GMAT score.

Of course, when a school admits hundreds of applicants, the impact of your one single score is very small, but no admissions director wants to have to explain to his or her boss why the school admitted someone with a 640 GMAT score while all other schools’ average scores keep going up. Knowing this incentive is in place, it’s only a matter of time before Businessweek, U.S. News, or someone else starts collecting GRE scores from business schools for their rankings data.

An expansion of student loan forgiveness is coming.
It’s an election year, and not many issues have a bigger financial impact on young voters than student loan debt. The average Class of 2015 college grad was left school owing more than $35,000 in student loans, meaning that these young grads may have to work until the age of 75 until they can reasonably expect to retire. Already this year the government announced the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan, which lets borrowers cap their monthly loan payments at 10% of their monthly discretionary income. One possible way the program could expand is by loosening the standards of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. Right now a borrower needs to make on-time monthly payments for 10 straight years to be eligible; don’t be surprised if someone proposes shortening it to five or eight years.

The number of business schools using video responses in their applications will triple.
Several prominent business schools such as Kellogg, Yale SOM, and U. of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management (which pioneered the practice) have started using video “essays” in their application process. While the rollout hasn’t been perfectly smooth, and many applicants have told us that video responses make the process even more stressful, we think video is’t going away anytime soon. In fact, we think that closer to 10 schools will use video as part of the application process by this time next year.

If a super-elite MBA program such as Stanford GSB or Harvard Business School starts video responses, then you will probably see a full-blown stampede towards video. But, even without one of those names adopting it, we think the medium’s popularity will climb significantly in the coming year. It’s just such a time saver for admissions officers – one can glean a lot about someone with just a few minutes of video – that this trend will only accelerate in 2016.

Let’s check back in 12 months and see how we did. In the meantime, we wish you a happy, healthy, and successful 2016!

By Scott Shrum

GMAT Tip of the Week: Your GMAT New Year’s Resolution

GMAT Tip of the WeekHappy New Year! If you’re reading this on January 1, 2016, chances are you’ve made your New Year’s resolution to succeed on the GMAT and apply to business school. (Why else read a GMAT-themed blog on a holiday?) And if so, you’re in luck: anecdotally speaking, students who study for and take the GMAT in the first half of the year, well before any major admissions deadlines, tend to have an easier time grasping material and taking the test. They have the benefit of an open mind, the time to invest in the process, and the lack of pressure that comes from needing a massive score ASAP.

This all relates to how you should approach your New Year’s resolution to study for the GMAT. Take advantage of that luxury of time and lessened-pressure, and study the right way – patiently and thoroughly.

What does that mean? Let’s equate the GMAT to MBA admissions New Year’s resolution to the most common New Year’s resolution of all: weight loss.

Someone with a GMAT score in the 300s or 400s is not unlike someone with a weight in the 300s or 400s (in pounds). There are easy points to gain just like there are easy pounds to drop. For weight loss, that means sweating away water weight and/or crash-dieting and starving one’s self as long as one can. As boxers, wrestlers, and mixed-martial artists know quite well, it’s not that hard to drop even 10 pounds in a day or two…but those aren’t long-lasting pounds to drop.

The GMAT equivalent is sheer memorization score gain. Particularly if your starting point is way below average (which is around 540 these days), you can probably memorize your way to a 40-60 point gain by cramming as many rules and formulas as you can. And unlike weight loss, you won’t “give those points” back. But here’s what’s a lot more like weight loss: if you don’t change your eating/study habits, you’re not going to get near where you want to go with a crash diet or cram session. And ultimately those cram sessions can prove to be counterproductive over the long run.

The GMAT is a test not of surface knowledge, but of deep understanding and of application. And the the problem with a memorization-based approach is that it doesn’t include much understanding or application. So while there are plenty of questions in the below-average bucket that will ask you pretty directly about a rule or relationship, the problems that you’ll see as you attempt to get to above average and beyond will hinge more on your ability to deeply understand a concept or to apply a concept to a situation where you might not see that it even applies.

So be leery of the study plan that nets you 40-50 points in a few weeks (unless of course that 40 takes you from 660 to 700) but then holds you steady at that level because you’re only remembering and not *knowing* or *understanding*. When you’re studying in January for a test that you don’t need to take until the summer or fall, you have the luxury of starting patiently and building to a much higher score.

Your job this next month isn’t to memorize every rule under the sun; it’s to make sure you fundamentally understand the building blocks of arithmetic, algebra, logic, and grammar as it relates to meaning. Your score might not jump as high in January, but it’ll be higher when decision day comes later this fall.

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

By Brian Galvin.

Fit vs. Ranking: Choosing the Right Business School for You

Round 1 vs. Round 2One of the hardest aspects of selecting which MBA programs to apply to is reconciling how well you fit with a program with how highly ranked that same program is. Many students will initially gravitate towards rankings as their default target school list. Many applicant school lists will be left littered with the historic elite of graduate business education, with programs like Harvard, Stanford, and Kellogg consistently making appearances for unqualified applicants.

These schools top the rankings year in and year out and they do so for a reason: they are very difficult to gain admission to, with some acceptance rates in the single digits, making admission to these programs a rarity for the greater majority.

For those applicants who create their list based off of “fit”, they tend to have a bit more success in the application process. Now “fit” is not always as straightforward a concept as one might imagine when framed in the context of business school admissions. “Fit” should account for geographic, academic, professional, social, and school specific admissions criteria.

By utilizing fit, applicants can make sure that if admitted, the program properly addresses their development goals. However, adhering to the “fit” criteria above can be more difficult than it seems. Often candidates are not always completely honest when it comes to assessing where their profile may stand in comparison to the competition, so make sure to be as honest as possible with your own personal assessment.

The best approach is really to take both “fit” and the rankings into consideration to create your target school list. Identify the programs that fit your criteria both quantitatively and qualitatively as an initial step, and then leverage various external rankings to tier your potential programs. Overall, creating your target school list is an inexact science that requires a bit more of a personal touch than simply following an arbitrary list created by media publications.

Utilize the guidance above to more effectively shape your target school list to ensure you optimize your chances of admissions success.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to 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 of his articles here.

SAT Tip of the Week: The Most Useful Math Tip You Will Hear This Year

SAT Tip of the Week - FullIn the world of test prep, there are a number of promises made about “one trick” that will bring up your score 800 points with almost no effort!  This is almost always an oversimplification and the tips are either so broad they are  not useful, or much more complicated in practice than in theory.

This tip is not a panacea for all of your testing challenges, but for those who struggle with the math section of the SAT or ACT, this one technique has been extremely helpful for approaching difficult math problems. So what is this incredible technique?

Write down all the given information and plug it into an applicable equation.

This may sound like an obvious technique, but often times even advanced students don’t do this one extremely useful and beneficial step.  Let’s take a look at how this technique works in practice to see just how useful it can be:

Farmer Charmer is building a stable for his prize winning ponies. The length of the stable needs to be twice the width.  In the center of the stable, a circular area must be set apart with a separate fence, the diameter of which is one half the width of the stable.  If the area of the stable is 800 square feet, how much fencing is necessary to build an outer fence and the inner circular fence of the stable? 

This is a classic multistep problem.  The actual computations involved are simple (which is true for all math on the SAT and ACT), but in order to see what computations must take place, the somewhat complex verbiage needs to be re-written in a way that looks more like a traditional math problem.

Write down all the given information…

The problem says that the length of the stable is twice the width.

L = 2W

The problem also says the area of the stable is 800 square feet.  We can rewrite this given using the area formula.

L x W = 800

Finally the problem says the diameter of the circular fence is half the width of the stable.

D = ½W

We are solving for the perimeter of stable plus the circumference of the circle. This should be written out and marked with a star so that we know we are finished when it is solved.

*2L +2W +D(Pi) =

Now that we have all the givens written down, all we have to do is…

Plug it into an applicable equation.

All that is left to do is plug in all the variables into the applicable equations. Let’s start by substituting 2W for L in the area equation, and then plugging the solutions into all other previously written equations:

W x 2W = 800

2W^2 = 800

W^2 = 400

W = 20

L=2W

L = 2(20)

L = 40

D = ½ W

D = ½ (20)

D = 10

*2L + 2W + D(Pi)

2(40) + 2(20) + 10(Pi) = 120 + 10Pi

And voila! We have our solution.  Almost all computational problems on the SAT can be approached by writing the givens and then plugging the variables into the relevant equations.  Remember, this isn’t a cure-all for all of your math challenges, but it is one of the best tools to have in your tool belt.  Happy test taking!

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

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

The New SAT Writing Section

student reseachThe new version of the SAT has three main parts: the Math, Critical Reading, and Writing and Language sections. There is also an essay question that is now optional for students. In the Writing and Language section, students must find and correct various types of errors in the given passages.

Most high school students practice the skills necessary for this section every day. For instance, they use these skills when proofreading reports written for English and history classes, and while taking tests in English classes. Check out some information that reveals what students can expect on the new SAT Writing and Language section, and learn a few tips that can assist students as they work their way through this part of the test:

The Format of the Writing and Language Section

The multiple-choice format of the writing and language section should be familiar to most students in high school today. Students taking the new SAT will be given 35 minutes to answer 44 questions. They are required to read each passage and answer the questions that relate to it. In many cases, several of the questions relate to just one passage, so on the new SAT, students don’t have to read a separate passage for each question in this section.

What Skills Are Tested in the Writing and Language Section?

Some questions in the new SAT writing and language section require students to choose the word that fits best within the context of a sentence. Also, students are asked to decide what changes should be made to improve the clarity or organization of an argument. There are also questions that test a student’s knowledge of proper sentence structure, punctuation, and usage. Though students are given a set of answer options, they must know how to go about improving the language in a passage.

The Passages in the New SAT Writing and Language Section

The passages in this section cover a number of different topics. One passage may be about a particular era in history, while another passage might relate to science. Other possible topics include the humanities, careers, and histories. The creators of the new SAT chose topics for passages that students are likely to encounter in their college courses. In a way, this section of the new SAT serves as an introduction to the type of work a student might tackle in college.

Tips for the Writing and Language Section

Taking a timed practice test is the first step toward preparing for this section of the new SAT. The results of this practice test can help a student to determine which skills need strengthening, as well as help set a test-taking rhythm to ensure that the student completes all of the questions within the allotted time.

It’s also a good idea for students to peruse the answer options as well as the questions before reading each passage. A student who has an idea of what to look for is able to read in a more focused way. Another helpful tip is to eliminate answer options that are clearly incorrect. This helps to narrow down the choices and reduces the amount of time a student spends on each question. On many of the questions, students have the ability to choose the “no change” option as the answer, so keep that in mind as well.

At Veritas Prep, our knowledgeable instructors convey strategies to students that can help them to approach this section with confidence. We teach students how to make every question more manageable, from professional instructors who have all scored in the 99th percentile on this challenging exam. Contact our offices today and choose the instruction option that’s right for you!

Planning to take the current or new SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Basic Operations for GMAT Inequalities

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe know that we can perform all basic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division on two equations:

a = b

c = d

When these numbers are equal, we know that:

a + c = b + d (Valid)

a – c = b – d (Valid)

a * c = b * d (Valid)

a / c = b / d (Valid assuming c and d are not 0)

When can we add, subtract, multiply or divide two inequalities? There are rules that we need to follow for those. Today let’s discuss those rules and the concepts behind them.

Addition:

We can add two inequalities when they have the same inequality sign.

a < b

c < d

a + c < b + d (Valid)

Conceptually, it makes sense, right? If a is less than b and c is less than d, then the sum of a and c will be less than the sum of b and d.

On the same lines:

a > b

c > d

a + c > b + d (Valid)

Case 2: What happens when the inequalities have opposite signs?

a > b

c < d

We need to multiply one inequality by -1 to get the two to have the same inequality sign.

-c > -d

Now we can add them.

a – c > b – d

Subtraction:

We can subtract two inequalities when they have opposite signs:

a > b

c < d

a – c > b – d (The result will take the sign of the first inequality)

Conceptually, think about it like this: from a greater number (a is greater than b), if we subtract a smaller number (c is smaller than d), the result (a – c) will be greater than the result obtained when we subtract the greater number from the smaller number (b – d).

Note that this result is the same as that obtained when we added the two inequalities after changing the sign (see Case 2 above). We cannot subtract inequalities if they have the same sign, so it is better to always stick to addition. If the inequalities have the same sign, we simply add them. If the inequalities have opposite signs, we multiply one of them by -1 (to get the same sign) and then add them (in effect, we subtract them).

Why can we not subtract two inequalities when they have the same inequality sign, such as when a > b and c > d?

Say, we have 3 > 1 and 5 > 1.

If we subtract these two, we get 3 – 5 > 1 – 1, or -2 > 0 which is not valid.

If instead it were 3 > 1 and 2 > 1, we would get 1 > 0 which is valid.

We don’t know how much greater one term is from the other and hence we cannot subtract inequalities when their inequality signs are the same.

Multiplication:

Here, the constraint is the same as that in addition (the inequality signs should be the same) with an extra constraint: both sides of both inequalities should be non-negative. If we do not know whether both sides are non-negative or not, we cannot multiply the inequalities.

If a, b, c and d are all non negative,

a < b

c < d

a*c < b*d (Valid)

When two greater numbers are multiplied together, the result will be greater.

Take some examples to see what happens in Case 1, or more numbers are negative:

-2 < -1

10 < 30

Multiply to get: -20 < -30 (Not valid)

-2 < 7

-8 < 1

Multiply to get: 16 < 7 (Not valid)

Division:

Here, the constraint is the same as that in subtraction (the inequality signs should be opposite) with an extra constraint: both sides of both inequalities should be non-negative (obviously, 0 should not be in the denominator). If we do not know whether both sides are positive or not, we cannot divide the inequalities.

a < b

c > d

a/c < b/d (given all a, b, c and d are positive)

The final inequality takes the sign of the numerator.

Think of it conceptually: a smaller number is divided by a greater number, so the result will be a smaller number.

Take some examples to see what happens in Case 1, or more numbers are negative.

1 < 2

10 > -30

Divide to get 1/10 < -2/30 (Not valid)

Takeaways: 

Addition: We can add two inequalities when they have the same inequality signs.

Subtraction: We can subtract two inequalities when they have opposite inequality signs.

Multiplication: We can multiply two inequalities when they have the same inequality signs and both sides of both inequalities are non-negative.

Division: We can divide two inequalities when they have opposite inequality signs and both sides of both inequalities are non-negative (0 should not be in the denominator).

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+, 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 Make Rate Questions Easy on the GMAT

Integrated Reasoning StrategiesI recently wrote about the reciprocal relationship between rate and time in “rate” questions. Occasionally, students will ask why it’s important to understand this particular rule, given that it’s possible to solve most questions without employing it.

There are two reasons: the first is that knowledge of this relationship can convert incredibly laborious arithmetic into a very straightforward calculation. And the second is that this same logic can be applied to other types of questions. The goal, when preparing for the GMAT, isn’t to internalize hundreds of strategies; it’s to absorb a handful that will prove helpful on a variety of questions.

The other night, I had a tutoring student present me with the following question:

It takes Carlos 9 minutes to drive from home to work at an average rate of 22 miles per hour.  How many minutes will it take Carlos to cycle from home to work along the same route at an average rate of 6 miles per hour?

(A) 26

(B) 33

(C) 36

(D) 44

(E) 48

This question doesn’t seem that hard, conceptually speaking, but here is how my student attempted to do it: first, he saw that the time to complete the trip was given in minutes and the rate of the trip was given in hours so he did a simple unit conversion, and determined that it took Carlos (9/60) hours to complete his trip.

He then computed the distance of the trip using the following equation: (9/60) hours * 22 miles/hour = (198/60) miles. He then set up a second equation: 6miles/hour * T = (198/60) miles. At this point, he gave up, not wanting to wrestle with the hairy arithmetic. I don’t blame him.

Watch how much easier it is if we remember our reciprocal relationship between rate and time. We have two scenarios here. In Scenario 1, the time is 9 minutes and the rate is 22 mph. In Scenario 2, the rate is 6 mph, and we want the time, which we’ll call ‘T.” The ratio of the rates of the two scenarios is 22/6. Well, if the times have a reciprocal relationship, we know the ratio of the times must be 6/22. So we know that 9/T = 6/22.

Cross-multiply to get 6T = 9*22.

Divide both sides by 6 to get T = 9*22/6.

We can rewrite this as T = (9*22)/(3*2) = 3*11 = 33, so the answer is B.

The other point I want to stress here is that there isn’t anything magical about rate questions. In any equation that takes the form a*b = c, a and b will have a reciprocal relationship, provided that we hold c constant. Take “quantity * unit price = total cost”, for example. We can see intuitively that if we double the price, we’ll cut the quantity of items we can afford in half. Again, this relationship can be exploited to save time.

Take the following data sufficiency question:

Pat bought 5 lbs. of apples. How many pounds of pears could Pat have bought for the same amount of money? 

(1) One pound of pears costs $0.50 more than one pound of apples. 

(2) One pound of pears costs 1 1/2 times as much as one pound of apples. 

Statement 1 can be tested by picking numbers. Say apples cost $1/pound. The total cost of 5 pounds of apples would be $5.  If one pound of pears cost $.50 more than one pound of apples, then one pound of pears would cost $1.50. The number of pounds of pears that could be purchased for $5 would be 5/1.5 = 10/3. So that’s one possibility.

Now say apples cost $2/pound. The total cost of 5 pounds of apples would be $10. If one pound of pears cost $.50 more than one pound of apples, then one pound of pears would cost $2.50. The number of pounds of pears that could be purchased for $10 would be 10/2.5 = 4. Because we get different results, this Statement alone is not sufficient to answer the question.

Statement 2 tells us that one pound of pears costs 1 ½ times (or 3/2 times) as much as one pound of apples. Remember that reciprocal relationship! If the ratio of the price per pound for pears and the price per pound for apples is 3/2, then the ratio of their respective quantities must be 2/3. If we could buy five pounds of apples for a given cost, then we must be able to buy (2/3) * 5 = (10/3) pounds of pears for that same cost. Because we can find a single unique value, Statement 2 alone is sufficient to answer the question, and we know our answer must be B.

Takeaway: Remember that in “rate” questions, time and rate will have a reciprocal relationship, and that in “total cost” questions, quantity and unit price will have a reciprocal relationship. Now the time you save on these problem-types can be allocated to other questions, creating a virtuous cycle in which your time management, your accuracy, and your confidence all improve in turn.

*GMATPrep questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

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 by him here.

SAT Tip of the Week: Effective Time Management for the New SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullStudents planning to take the new SAT may be wondering about the time management aspect of the test – will they have enough time to finish all of the questions in each section? Take a look at the breakdown of time allotted for each section of the test and find out what you can do to reduce the amount of time you spend on each SAT question:

A Look at the Various Sections on the New SAT

The new SAT timing breakdown is different from the current SAT. Test time, length, and content have been adjusted to meet the goals of the new standard. Students now have 65 minutes to complete the reading section, 35 minutes to finish the writing section, 80 minutes for the math section, and 50 minutes for the optional essay. The total time for the new SAT is approximately 180 minutes.

Completing the Writing and Language Section

According to this SAT time breakdown, students have just 35 minutes to complete the writing and language section. One effective step students can take to make sure they complete every question in this section is to take several timed practice tests. If a student runs out of time during a practice test, they have the opportunity to make some time-saving adjustments. Plus, working through practice tests helps students to establish a rhythm that allows them to finish every question.

One tip to reduce the time spent on each question is to skim the question as well as the answer options before reading the passage. By doing this, students are able to hone in on the correct answer and save valuable SAT writing time. especially when several questions are related to a single passage.

Another tip is to reread the sentence that contains the word in question. For instance, some questions require students to choose the short phrase that fits best in a sentence. Looking at the sentence as a whole instead of just the answer options can help a student to find the one that makes the most sense.

Finishing the Math Section

In the SAT time schedule, the math section consumes the largest portion of time. There are 20 questions that students must work out without a calculator and 38 questions that can be solved with a calculator. The SAT time breakdown for the math section allows students approximately one minute and 25 seconds per non-calculator question, and one minute and 45 seconds for each calculator-approved question. This breakdown of minutes and seconds gives students an idea of how quickly they need to work. Along with taking timed practice tests to work on their speed, a student can save valuable minutes by skipping challenging problems and returning to work on them later.

Finishing the Critical Reading Section

In the SAT time schedule, the critical reading section is the second longest in duration: 65 minutes. Students sometimes become anxious about their timing on the critical reading section due to the lengthy passages. But several questions on the test may relate to a single passage.

Taking timed practice tests helps students to pinpoint the types of questions that puzzle them. During a practice test, it’s a good idea for students to put a mark next to questions that prove difficult. One student may find that they are stumped by questions relating to how an author conveys an idea, while another student needs to work on identifying context clues in a passage. Once students are able to identify stumbling blocks, they can prep for the test by strengthening those skills.

Tips for Writing the SAT Essay

The new SAT allows students 50 minutes to complete the optional essay. Students may want to go with the standard five-paragraph format so they can include all of the necessary evidence in their essay. After reading the prompt, it’s a good idea to use some of the test time to create a rough outline and jot down pieces of evidence to include in specific paragraphs. Outlines are valuable resources, especially if a student loses their train of thought.

Our professional tutors at Veritas Prep stand ready to help you with time management as well as any other aspect of the new SAT. We offer both online and in-person SAT prep courses. Contact our offices today!

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

3 Easy Ways to Stay Sharp During the Holidays

sleepAs the holidays ramp up and the focus of many students shifts from tests to turkey (or a delicious vegetarian alternative), it is easy to put any sort of educational pursuits away for a long winter’s nap. It is true that taking a little bit of time to not think about your new college workload is beneficial, but that does not mean that the next two months should be devoid of any work.

With any workout plan, the two most important things are consistency and attitude. This is true for being a college student as well, and as a student, you can continue to flex your brain muscles while still leaving lots of time to hang out with your great aunt as she tells you how much you are the spitting image of some uncle you’ve never met.

1) Do A Little Everyday (or at least every other day)

Generally over the holidays, there are no specific assignments to focus on as it usually marks the semester break (a much needed and much deserved break), but this does not mean there are not things that can be done. If you are taking a two-part class, such as Organic Chemistry or Physics,  the holidays offer an opportunity to get ahead – simply going over a few days of notes for ten minutes from the previous semester can keep you sharp for the upcoming semester.

Do a practice problem or two so you stay in the mindset of the class. If you are really feeling ambitious, go ahead and get the book you’ll need for next semester and read a few pages a day or skim for 15 minutes. Just doing a little bit each day can ensure you stay sharp from the semester before, and also give you a leg up for the semester to come.

2) Pick a book to read for FUN!

As insane as this may sound, pleasure can actually be derived from reading. It may seem to be a task invented by educators to bore and stupefy students, but there are a lot of books out there that you (yes YOU) may find interesting. The whole point of this exercise is to pick something that you may like. It may not be Faulkner or Joyce – though if it is, kudos to you – it could just as easily be Harry Potter or The Da Vinci Code, anything that you will enjoy. Reading something you like is a way to build the habit of pursuing knowledge for pleasure. Bodies like routines, and building a routine that includes reading will prove to be useful in college and for the future ahead.

3) Learn Some Vocabulary!

Developing a system for vocabulary with regular learning and reviewing is not only helpful for understanding dense college-level reading, but it also makes you sound smart! This kind of concerted vocabulary training does not need to take more than five minutes but can still produce fantastic results. In just the six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years, students can add 120 vocab words to their repertoire and have thoroughly reviewed the words they already know.

Repeat each word seven times and then test your memory for the definition. Remember to eliminate words you already know to maximize your efforts (though it’s a good idea to review all of the words, just in case). This method will actually prove extremely effective in creating long term memory because gradual repetition is one of the best methods for retaining information. Challenge yourself to use all the words you learn in a conversation the day you learn them – show your great aunt you are brainy as well as tall.

The Holiday Season should certainly be a time of rest and relaxation, and I firmly believe that it is good for the brain to have periods where it is not asked to complete arduous tasks. With that said, the slightly lower work load from school provides an opportunity to utilize your time for other efforts. Remember, consistency and attitude are the two keys to success, so carve out twenty minutes, turn off all distractions, and use the Holidays to bolster your studying so you come out of them rested and ready to attack the new semester! In all honesty, we are extremely thankful all of you have chosen to trust us to help you in your academic pursuits and we believe that you will achieve at the highest level. Have a very happy holidays!

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

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Grammatical Structure of Conditional Sentences on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday, we will take a look at the various “if/then” constructions in the GMAT Verbal section. Let us start out with some basic ideas on conditional sentences (though I know that most of you will be comfortable with these):

A conditional sentence (an if/then sentence) has two clauses – the “if clause” (conditional clause) and the “then clause” (main clause).  The “if clause” is the dependent clause, meaning the verbs we use in the clauses will depend on whether we are talking about a real or a hypothetical situation.

Often, conditional sentences are classified into first conditional, second conditional and third conditional (depending on the tense and possibility of the actions), but sometimes we have a separate zero conditional for facts. We will follow this classification and discuss four types of conditionals:

1) Zero Conditional

These sentences express facts; i.e. implications – “if this happens, then that happens.”

  • If the suns shines, the clothes dry quickly.
  • If he eats bananas, he gets a headache.
  • If it rains heavily, the temperature drops.

These conditionals establish universally known facts or something that happens habitually (every time he eats bananas, he gets a headache).

2) First Conditional

These sentences refer to predictive conditional sentences. They often use the present tense in the “if clause” and future tense (usually with the word “will”) in the main clause.

  • If you come to  my place, I will help you with your homework.
  • If I am able to save $10,000 by year end, I will go to France next year.

3) Second Conditional

These sentences refer to hypothetical or unlikely situations in the present or future. Here, the “if clause” often uses the past tense and the main clause uses conditional mood (usually with the word “would”).

  • If I were you, I would take her to the dance.
  • If I knew her phone number, I would tell you.
  • If I won the lottery, I would travel the whole world.

4) Third Conditional

These sentences refer to hypothetical situations in the past – what could have been different in the past. Here, the “if clause” uses the past perfect tense and the main clause uses the conditional perfect tense (often with the words “would have”).

  • If you had told me about the party, I would have attended it.
  • If I had not lied to my mother, I would not have hurt her.

Sometimes, mixed conditionals are used here, where the second and third conditionals are combined. The “if clause” then uses the past perfect and the main clause uses  the word “would”.

  • If you had helped me then, I would be in a much better spot today.

Now that you know which conditionals to use in which situation, let’s take a look at a GMAT question:

Botanists have proven that if plants extended laterally beyond the scope of their root system, they will grow slower than do those that are more vertically contained.

(A) extended laterally beyond the scope of their root system, they will grow slower than do

(B) extended laterally beyond the scope of their root system, they will grow slower than

(C) extend laterally beyond the scope of their root system, they grow more slowly than

(D) extend laterally beyond the scope of their root system, they would have grown more slowly than do

(E) extend laterally beyond the scope of their root system, they will grow more slowly than do

Now that we understand our conditionals, we should be able to answer this question quickly. Scientists have established something here; i.e. it is a fact. So we will use the zero conditional here – if this happens, then that happens.

…if plants extend laterally beyond the scope of their root system, they grow more slowly than do…

So the correct answer must be (C).

A note on slower vs. more slowly – we need to use an adverb here because “slow” describes “grow,” which is a verb. So we must use “grow slowly”. If we want to show comparison, we use “more slowly”, so the use of “slower” is incorrect here.

Let’s look at another question now:

If Dr. Wade was right, any apparent connection of the eating of highly processed foods and excelling at sports is purely coincidental.

(A) If Dr. Wade was right, any apparent connection of the eating of

(B) Should Dr. Wade be right, any apparent connection of eating

(C) If Dr. Wade is right, any connection that is apparent between eating of

(D) If Dr. Wade is right, any apparent connection between eating

(E) Should Dr. Wade have been right, any connection apparent between eating

Notice the non-underlined part “… is purely coincidental” in the main clause. This makes us think of the zero conditional.

Let’s see if it makes sense:

If Dr. Wade is right, any connection … is purely coincidental.

This is correct. It talks about a fact.

Also, “eating highly processed foods and excelling at sports” is correct.

Hence, our answer must be (D).

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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!