3 Things We Learned From the First New SAT (That You Should Know, Too!)

SAT Tip of the Week - FullAfter months of speculation and conversation, the first iteration of the “new SAT” was administered this past week and weekend by the College Board.   While previous administrations of the SAT have been marred by historic snowstorms and typos on testing booklets, it seems that the big news around this test is the test itself.

With a new scoring scale and updated content, the new SAT is attempting to test more college-relevant skills. Gone are obscure vocabulary and penalties for guessing incorrectly. Rather, students are seeing a much heavier focus on algebra, context-based reading questions and grammar.

We spoke with several test takers and collected anecdotal feedback from this weekend’s test and wanted to share some interesting findings and advice:

1) For students who did not register for the (optional) essay, there was an additional 20 minute experimental section, or fifth section. The purpose of the section was to pre-test new potential test questions and it will not impact test takers’ scores in any way. However, test takers also won’t receive any feedback on how they performed on this section. Students who completed the essay did not take this section.

While there was some information circulated online about the experimental section, College Board didn’t indicate when the section would be administered, if it would be a regular part of the SAT moving forward, or how many markets and test centers  delivered test forms containing the extra section.

Lesson for students: Prepare for the unexpected! While extra questions might create additional anxiety and fatigue, at the end of the day, they will not make or break a student’s score. If the section happens to be delivered before the rest of the exam, give the questions an honest attempt and think of it as a warm-up.  If College Board shifts to incorporating experimental questions into the already established sections, it still should not impact study plans or test day strategy. Students are already planning on three hours of testing (and 154 questions), and in most cases, experimental questions are camouflaged well enough that they cannot be distinguished from actual questions that count.

2) Algebra counts! As advertised, algebra plays a prominent role on the new SAT, and overall, the math questions seemed to reflect the topics presented in the College Board’s previously released practice tests. Advanced concepts such as circles, trigonometry and imaginary numbers will be tested, but won’t make up the bulk of the questions on the test. For older, non-traditional students who are a little rusty in math, a strong refresher is probably in order.

Lesson for students: If you’ve been paying attention in high school math classes, nothing should be unfamiliar. However, pacing is going to be a challenge, especially on the non-calculator section, so practice techniques that will make you more efficient. Veritas Prep teaches students several strategies that can be leveraged to solve questions that are reasoning-based and more “SAT-focused” rather than pure math-focused. Often, you can leverage answer choices or manipulate questions to make the math much simpler (and quicker).  Above all, be careful not to fall back onto school-oriented math strategies just because they’re familiar – they might get you the right answer, but you may be wasting time that could be spent on the tougher math questions.

3) Use evidence and context to your advantage (on the verbal!) While the new test has eliminated obscure vocabulary, the College Board has introduced new questions that ask you to find evidence to support answers. The good news is that you’re rewarded for knowing the answer as well as  finding the evidence because these questions comes in pairs (so two points for the price of one)!

Lesson for students: If you don’t love the topics, it may be a struggle. Passages are a little longer, and there are 10-11 questions per passage so you don’t have the luxury of being able to skip a passage and hope for something more interesting on the next page.  However, pacing on the reading passages seems to be less of an issue on the new test since students can gain some momentum by focusing on one topic (and passage) rather than having to switch gears (and passages) more frequently. This should also help with college thinking as you’ll often have more time to do a deeper dive into one single topic.

While the new test likely still has some kinks to work out, it seems that the experimental section was the biggest surprise of the weekend. And if the biggest surprise was one that didn’t technically count, then that’s probably better than anything Mother Nature (or a rogue printer) could throw at students.

At Veritas Prep, we remain committed to ensuring our students are well prepared for anything the SAT might present.  We encourage you to learn more at a free online seminar soon! And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Joanna Graham

Breaking Down Your MBA Deferred Enrollment Options

GMATMany candidates start considering business school very early in their professional careers, while others start investigating even earlier as undergraduate students. Some of the top MBA programs in the world provide options for these eager college students to begin the application process for business school early.

For college students, this is an opportunity to earn an early business school admit – before even graduating college – from some of the top MBA programs in the world. This option is usually accompanied by some requirement to complete a few years of work experience, but some programs will allow students to matriculate immediately following undergrad.

Let’s explore a few of the top deferred enrollment programs and how they differ from each other:

Yale SOM
Yale’s deferred enrollment program is called the Yale Silver Scholars Program. This program is unique because it allows graduating students to begin their MBA immediately after graduation. For young applicants looking to complete their MBA at a top business school as soon as possible, this is a great option.

Silver Scholars is structured as a three-year program: the first year of the program builds business fundamentals through a core set of classes, with the second year taking students off campus through an extended internship that serves to supplement that lack of work experience Silver Scholars possess, while adding a more practical component to the program. In the final year of the program, students utilize the Yale electives curriculum to personalize their education and pursue unique areas of interest.

Harvard Business School
Harvard’s deferred enrollment program is called the HBS 2+2 Program. It is one of the most well-known and longest running of the MBA deferred enrollment programs. In the 2+2 program, participants must complete two years of HBS-approved post-undergrad work prior to matriculation. If you’re already a grad student don’t fret – with the 2+2 program, as long as you have not held a full-time work position you are still eligible to apply.

Stanford
The Stanford MBA Deferred Enrollment Program offers applicants the opportunity to directly enroll in their program or pursue full-time work experience for between one and three years prior to matriculation. The school then ultimately decides which program is optimal for the student and reserves the right to place the applicant appropriately.

As always, research is the key, so go beyond secondary research and connect with current program participants and admissions officers to get a feel for which program best addresses your development needs and whether deferred enrollment makes sense for you and your career goals.

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 find more of his articles here.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: The Case of a Correct Answer Despite Incorrect Logic!

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIt is common for GMAT test-takers to think in the right direction, understand what a question gives and what it is asking to be found out, but still get the wrong answer. Mistakes made during the execution of a problem are common on the GMAT, but what is rather rare is going with incorrect logic and still getting the correct answer! If only life was this rosy so often!

Today, we will look at a question in which exactly this phenomenon occurs – we will find the flaw in the logic that test-takers often come up with and then learn how to correct that flaw:

If a motorist had driven 1 hour longer on a certain day and at an average rate of 5 miles per hour faster, he would have covered 70 more miles than he actually did. How many more miles would he have covered than he actually did had he driven 2 hours longer and at an average rate of 10 miles per hour faster on that day?

(A) 100

(B) 120

(C) 140

(D) 150

(E) 160

This little gem (and it’s detailed algebra solution) is from our Advanced Word Problems book. We will post its solution here, too, for the sake of a comprehensive discussion:

Method 1: Algebra
Let’s start with the basic “Distance = Rate * Time” formula:

D = R*T ……….(I)

From here, the first theoretical trip can be represented as D + 70 = (R + 5)(T + 1), (the motorist travels for 1 extra hour at a rate of 5 mph faster), which can be expanded to D + 70 = RT + R + 5T +5.

We can then eliminate “D” by plugging in the value of “D” from our equation (I):

RT + 70 = RT + R + 5T + 5, which simplifies to 70 = R + 5T + 5 and then to 65 = R + 5T ……….. (II)

The second theoretical trip can be represented as (R+10)(T+2), which expands to RT + 2R + 10T + 20 (not that we only have an expression since we don’t know what the distance is).

The two middle terms (2R + 10T) can be factored to 2(R+5T), which allows us to use equation (II) here:

RT + 2(R+5T) + 20 = RT + 2(65) + 20 = RT + 150.

Since the original distance was RT, the additional distance is 150 more miles, or answer choice D.

We totally understand that this solution is a bit convoluted – algebra often is. So, understandably, students often look for a more direct logical solution.

Here is one they sometimes employ:

Method 2: Logic (Incorrect)
If the motorist had driven 1 hour longer at a rate 5 mph faster, then his original speed would be 70 miles subtracted by the extra 5 miles he drove in that hour to get 70 – 5 = 65 mph. If he drives at a rate 10 mph faster (i.e. at 65 + 10 = 75) * 2 for the extra hours, he/she would have driven 150 miles extra.

But here is the catch in this logic:

The motorist drove for an average rate of 5 mph extra. So the 70 includes not only the extra distance covered in the last hour, but also the extra 5 miles covered every hour for which he drove. Hence, his original speed is not 65. Now, let’s see the correct logical method of solving this:

Method 3: Logic (Correct)
Let’s review the original problem first. Say, speed is “S” mph – we don’t know the number of hours for which this speed was maintained.

STEP 1:

S + S + S + … + S + S = TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED

In the first hypothetical case, the motorist drove for an extra hour at a speed of 5 mph faster. This means he covered 5 extra miles every hour and then covered another S + 5 miles in the last hour. The underlined distances are the extra ones which all add up to 70.

STEP 2:

S + S + S + … + S + S = TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED

+5 +5 +5 + … + 5 + 5 = +70

In the second hypothetical case, in which the motorist drove for two hours longer at a speed of 10 mph faster,  he adds another 5 mph to his hourly speed and covers yet another distance of “S” in the second extra hour. In addition to S, he also covers another 10 miles in the second extra hour. The additional distances are shown in red  in the third case – every hour, the speed is 10 mph faster and he drove for two extra hours in this case (compared with Step 1).

STEP 3:

S + S + S + … + S + S + S + S = TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED

+5  +5  +5 + …  +5  +5  +5 = +70

+5  +5  +5 + …  +5  +5  +5 + 10 = +70 + 10

Note that the +5s and the S all add up to 70 (as seen in Step 2). We also separately add the extra 10 from the last hour. This is the logic of getting the additional distance of 70 + 70 + 10 = 150. It involves no calculations, but does require you to understand the logic. Therefore, our answer is still D.

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

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

GMAT Tip of the Week: The Biggie Smalls Sufficiency Strategy

GMAT Tip of the WeekIf it’s March, it must be Hip Hop Month in the Veritas Prep GMAT Tip of the Week space, where this week we’ll tackle the most notorious GMAT question type – Data Sufficiency – with some help from hip hop’s most notorious rapper – Biggie Smalls.

Biggie’s lyrics – and his name itself – provide a terrific template for you to use when picking numbers to test whether a statement is sufficient or not. So let’s begin with a classic lyric from “Big Poppa” – you may think Big is describing how he’s approach a young lady in a nightclub, but if you listen closely he’s actually talking directly to you as you attack Data Sufficiency:

“Ask you what your interests are, who you be with. Things to make you smile; what numbers to dial.”

“What numbers to dial” tends to be one of the biggest challenges that face GMAT examinees, so let’s examine the strategies that can take your score from “it was all a dream” to sipping champagne when you’re thirsty.

Biggie Smalls Strategy #1: Biggie Smalls
Consider this Data Sufficiency problem:

What is the value of integer z?

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

2) y is not a prime number

Statistically, more than 50% of respondents in the Veritas Prep practice tests incorrectly choose answer choice A, that Statement 1 alone is sufficient but Statement 2 alone is not sufficient. Why? Because they’re not quite sure “what numbers to dial.” People know that they need to test numbers – Statement 1 is very abstract and difficult to visualize with variables – so they test a few numbers that come to mind:

If y = 5, y – 1 = 4, and the problem is then 5/4 which leads to 1, remainder 1.

If y = 10, y – 1 = 9, so the problem is then 10/9 which also leads to 1, remainder 1.

If they keep choosing random integers that happen to come to mind, they’ll see that pattern hold – the answer is ALMOST always 1 remainder 1, with exactly one exception. If y = 2, then y – 1 = 1, and 2 divided by 1 is 2 with no remainder. This is the only case where z does not equal 1, but that one exception shows that Statement 1 is not sufficient.

The question then becomes, “If there’s only one exception, how the heck does the GMAT expect me to stumble on that needle in a haystack?” And the answer comes directly from the Notorious BIG himself:

You need to test “Biggie Smalls,” meaning that you need to test the biggest number they’ll let you use (here it can be infinite, so just test a couple of really big numbers like 1,000 and 1,000,000) and you need to test the smallest number they’ll let you use. Here, that’s y = 2 and y – 1 = 1, since y – 1 must be a positive integer, and the smallest of those is 1.

The problem is that people tend to simply test numbers that come to mind (again, over half of all respondents think that Statement 1 is sufficient, which means that they very likely never considered the pairing of 2 and 1) and don’t push the limits. Data Sufficiency tends to play to the edge cases – if you get a statement like 5 < x < 12, you can’t just test 8, 9, and 10 – you’ll want to consider 5.00001 and 11.9999. When the GMAT gives you a range, use the entire range – and a good way to remind yourself of that is to just remember “Biggie Smalls.”

Biggie Smalls Strategy #2:  Juicy
In arguably his most famous song, “Juicy”, Biggie spits the line, “Damn right I like the life I live, because I went from negative to positive and it’s all…it’s all good (and if you don’t know, now you know).”

There, of course, Biggie is reminding you that you have to consider both negative and positive numbers in Data Sufficiency problems. Consider this example:

a, b, c, and d are consecutive integers such that the product abcd = 5,040. What is the value of d?

1) d is prime

2) a>b>c>d

This problem exemplifies why keeping Big’s words top of mind is so crucial – difficult problems will often “satisfy your intellect” with interesting math…and then beat you with negative/positive ideology. Here it takes some time to factor 5040 into the consecutive integers 7 x 8 x 9 x 10, but once you do, you can see that Statement 1 is sufficient: 7 is the only prime number.

But then when you carry that over to Statement 2, it’s very, very easy to see 7, 8, 9, and 10 as the only choices and again see that d = 7. But wait! If d doesn’t have to be prime – primes can only be positive – that allows for a possibility of negative numbers: -10, -9, -8, and -7. In that case, d could be either 7 or -10, so Statement 2 is actually not sufficient.

So heed Biggie’s logic: you’ll like the life you live much better if you go from negative to positive (or in most cases, vice versa since your mind usually thinks positive first), and if you don’t know (is that sufficient?) now, after checking for both positive and negative and for the biggest and smallest numbers they’ll let you pick, now you know.

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

By Brian Galvin.

How to Get Your Boss to Write You a Great Letter of Recommendation

RecommenderOne of the only external sources of information within an MBA application package is the voice of one’s recommendations. For such an important component, it is critical to arm your recommender with enough information to allow them to successfully draft their evaluation of the time you have worked together.

Now, let us consider the recommendation process from the side of the recommender – they are typically more senior working professionals who manage multiple people, and they are often very busy and a bit ignorant of the MBA application process, which is obviously no fault of their own. So the more you can inform and shepherd them through the process the better your ultimate evaluation will be.

Let’s discuss a few ways you can better support the evaluation process for your recommenders:

Timelines
This might be one of the most important reasons to help your recommenders. Remember, YOU are applying to school, not them. It is in your best interest to make sure they are clear on all dates and deadlines – a missed deadline can equate to you missing a target admissions round. I even like to give recommenders a hard deadline in advance of the real one, so even if they miss your self-imposed deadline, which many unfortunately will, you will still be in good shape. All recommendations are due the same time as the applications, so schedule accordingly.

Personal Information
Although we like to assume our supervisors know everything about us, sometimes they need a bit of a reminder. As such, it is wise to create a package for them highlighting your accomplishments during your time in the organization, and working with them in particular. Included in this package, you should also state your motivation for pursuing an MBA and any other relevant information about your career trajectory. The more connected your recommenders are to your future success, the better your recommendation will be.

School Information
In your recommender package, you should also provide some information on each of the schools you are applying to. Every school has a unique culture and approach to graduate business education, so try to communicate this to your recommender. Such information could potentially help them shape the content of your evaluation to fit that particular school. Also, make sure your recommenders are clear on the specific questions and recommendation protocols at each school – remember, many are uninformed when it comes to the process, so make their work as easy and straightforward as possible.

Take ownership of your MBA application process by supporting your recommender in the areas above. By following these tips, you will ensure your recommendation remains an area of strength for your candidacy.

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 find more of his articles here

Take Advantage Your Time as a “Partial” Adult

ReflectingI like to call the time that you’re in college “fake adulthood.” You have some responsibilities, you’re more on your own, and life starts to get a little harder. That means life is becoming more like the “real world,” but you’re not quite there yet – the real real world is still years (and a diploma) away.

In college, you have access to “free” resources, built-in support systems, and a room to sleep in; many of you will still be financially supported by your parents, and perhaps most liberating, you will not be completely screwed by messing up or failing a class. The real world (the work world) isn’t affected by some wrong answers you gave on a multiple-choice test in your History of Ancient Greece class (unless, perhaps, you’re planning to become a History of Ancient Greece professor after college).

I don’t mean to say this like it’s a bad thing – college can be a wonderful time in your life, regardless of whether it is the “real world.” What I do mean to say, is you should take advantage of the freedom and the relative lack of consequences that college entails!

There are lots of ways to do this, but two big ones are to take risks and to branch out – go explore the world and explore your own mind. You’re not bogged down by a set 9-5 schedule with rigid responsibilities, so take this opportunity to let your creativity roam free. A day in college can be spent perusing the Iliad, picnicking at a public park, attending a scientific demonstration, or going to a collegiate sporting event (for free!). It’s hard to imagine a teacher or a banker having the schedule flexibility to do all that, especially on a weekday.

In college, you can also take advantage of the fact that you aren’t working full-time to donate some of your energy to causes that you might not have as much time to later in life. There are often built-in networks on college campuses for you to get involved in volunteer work right away. Community organizations also usually love energetic, youthful volunteers, so there is bound to be a plethora of places near your campus eager to take on some extra help.

Perhaps most importantly, you can use your time in college to work hard and develop skills for responsible adulthood so you aren’t thrust into the ring with no experience. Practice cashing checks, doing laundry, buying groceries, etc. – that way, when you actually have to do live on your own, you’ll be more prepared and less nervous about making that jump into reality. It is too easy to pretend that these daily tasks of adulthood are too far in the future to be worried about, and by overcoming that self-deception and gradually preparing yourself for the routine of adult living, you will build habits that will serve you well for a lifetime to come.

College is a unique time for many reasons – during your time there, you are on the cusp of adulthood but still have ways to exercise youthful freedom. Take advantage of this by exploring yourself and the world, all while preparing yourself to soon take a step into that oh-so-scary place – the real world.

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.

SAT Tip of the Week: You Waited Until the Last Minute to Cram for the SAT, Now What?

SAT Tip of the Week - FullIt’s the week of the first New SAT and despite the warnings you may have heard from others, you’ve waited until the last minute to begin studying. As with any other test at school, it should come as no surprise that students who participate in last-minute cramming for the SAT are not going to be able to showcase all of their skills on this important exam – they simply aren’t likely to remember any of the information from their cram sessions.

In order to properly prepare for the SAT, a student has to study in a gradual way over a period of months. As such, if you find yourself cramming for the SAT, you should first and foremost consider rescheduling the test. Of course, there’s a fee for rescheduling the SAT, but taking the test without being prepared is likely to be a waste of time – chances are good that you will have to retake the test anyway. However, if you have delayed studying for the test and would still like to take it anyway, there are some last-minute SAT tips that can be of some help. Let’s check out three examples:

Complete a Practice Test
One of the most important elements of last-minute SAT prep is to take a practice test, with a timer actually set for each section in order to get accustomed to finishing in the allotted number of minutes. The results of this practice test will reveal the skills that need work. This is one of those last-minute SAT tips that can make a limited amount of study time all the more effective, and if a student finds that they need to improve several skills, then it’s best for the person to begin with the skill that needs the most improvement.

Focus on the Areas That Need the Most Attention
Another effective last-minute tips for SAT prep is for students to focus their energy and limited time on their weakest subject. For example, you may complete a practice test and see that you need to sharpen your algebra skills. Your first move should then be to find practice problems (either in math textbooks or online), complete the problems, and check your answers. If an answer is incorrect, you should work your way back through the steps of the problem to figure out what went wrong. This may be time-consuming, but you may find that you have made the same type of mistake in several problems, and correcting that mistake could help you improve your overall score on the next SAT practice test you take.

Or, you may examine your practice test results and see that you need to work on your vocabulary skills in the reading section. To improve in this area, you might then look for a list of words commonly found on the exam, and make flashcards with the word on one side of a card and its definition on the other. By practicing with the flashcards, you may be able to absorb a dozen new words (however, you had taken several months to practice with flashcards, you would likely be able to absorb several dozen new words by test day).

Employ Simple Strategies When Completing Practice Questions
One last-minute SAT prep tip is to absorb a few basic test-taking strategies and start putting them into practice. One such basic tip is to eliminate answer options that are obviously incorrect. This will allow you to narrow down the number of possible answers and makes the question seem more manageable. Being able to simplify questions is always a plus on the SAT! Last-minute tips for the math section include drawing the diagrams referred to in geometry problems and writing down the steps of algebra equations in the test booklet. Sometimes, seeing the steps of a problem in black and white can help lead you to the correct answer.

We are proud to help students demonstrate their skills on the SAT. Students who ssigns up for one of our course options benefit from the knowledge and test-taking experience of our professional SAT tutors and have the opportunity to learn many helpful test-taking strategies over a longer period of time. Don’t procrastinate on your preparation; contact the team at Veritas Prep today and get started on the path to mastering the 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!

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: How to Find Composite Numbers on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe love to talk about prime numbers and their various properties for GMAT preparation, but composite numbers usually aren’t mentioned. Composite numbers are often viewed as whatever is leftover after prime numbers are removed from a set of positive integers (except 1 because 1 is neither prime, nor composite), but it is important to understand how these numbers are made, what makes them special and what should come to mind when we read “composite numbers.”

Principle: Every composite number is made up of 2 or more prime numbers. The prime numbers could be the same or they could be distinct.

For example:

2*2 = 4 (Composite number)

2*3*11 = 66 (Composite number)

5*23 = 115 (Composite number)

and so on…

Look at any composite number. You will always be able to split it into 2 or more prime numbers (not necessarily distinct). For example:

72 = 2*2*2*3*3

140 = 2*2*5*7

166 = 2*83

and so on…

This principle does look quite simple and intuitive at first, but when tested, we could face problems because we don’t think much about it. Let’s look at it with the help of one of our 700+ level GMAT questions:

x is the smallest integer greater than 1000 that is not prime and that has only one factor in common with 30!. What is x?

(A) 1009

(B) 1021

(C) 1147

(D) 1273

(E) 50! + 1

If we start with the answer choices, the way we often do when dealing with prime/composite numbers, we will get stuck. If we were looking for a prime number, we would use the method of elimination – we would find factors of all other numbers and the number that was left over would be the prime number.

But in this question, we are instead looking for a composite number – a specific composite number – and some of the answer choices are probably prime. Try as we might, we will not find a factor for them, and by the time we realize that it is prime, we will have wasted a lot of precious time. Let’s start from the question stem, instead.

We need a composite number that has only one factor in common with 30!. Every positive integer will have 1 as a factor, as will 30!, hence the only factor our answer and 30! will have in common is 1.

30! = 1*2*3*…*28*29*30

30! is the product of all integers from 1 to 30, so all prime numbers less than 30 are factors of 30!.

To make a composite number which has no prime factor in common with 30!, we must use prime numbers greater than 30. The first prime number greater than 30 is 31.

(As an aside, note that if we were looking for the smallest number with no factor other than 1 in common with 31!, we would skip to 37. All integers between 31 and 37 are composite and hence, would have factors lying between 1 and 31. Similarly, if we were looking for the smallest number with no factor other than 1 in common with 50!, 53 would be the answer.)

Let’s get back to our question. If we want to make a composite number without using any primes until 30, we must use two or more prime numbers greater than 30, and the smallest prime greater than 30 is 31. If we use two 31’s to get the smallest composite number, we get 31*31 = 961 But 961 is not greater than 1000, so it cannot be our answer.

So, let’s find the next prime number after 31 – it is 37. Multiplying 31 and 37, we get 31*37 = 1147. This is the smallest composite number greater than 1000 with no prime factors in common with 30! – the only factor it has in common with 30! is 1. Therefore, our answer is (C).

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

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

GMAT Tip of the Week: Verbal Answers Are Like Donald Trump

GMAT Tip of the WeekIn the winter/spring of 2016, Donald Trump is everywhere – always on your TV screen, all over your social media feeds, on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and, yes, even lurking in the answer choices on your GMAT verbal section.

Why are verbal answer choices like Donald Trump? Is it that they’re only correct 20% of the time? That they’re very often a lot of boastful verbiage about nothing? Hackneyed comedy aside, there’s a very valid reason and it’s one that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio learned just last night:

Verbal choices, like Donald Trump, simply MUST be attacked. If you saw last night’s debate (or read any coverage of it) you saw how the two closest challengers changed tactics immensely, verbally attacking Trump all night. The rationale there is that if you let Trump go unchecked, he’s going to attack you and he’s going to get away with his own stump speeches all night. The exact same thing is true of GMAT verbal answer choices. If you don’t attack them – if you’re not actively looking for reasons that they’re wrong – they’ll both beat you tactically and wear you down over the test. You simply must be in attack mode throughout the verbal section.

What does that mean? For almost every answer choice, there’s some reason there why someone would pick it (after all, if no one picks it then it’s just a terrible, useless answer choice). And so if you’re looking for reasons to like an answer choice, you’re going to find lots to like (and in doing so pick some wrong answers) and you’re going to get worn down by keeping wrong answer choices in your “maybe” pile too long. But if, instead, you’re more skeptical about each answer choice, actively looking for reasons not to pick them, that discerning approach will help you more efficiently find correct answers.

Consider the example:

If Shero wins the election, McGuinness will be appointed head of the planning commission. But Stauning is more qualified to head it since he is an architect who has been on the planning commission for 15 years. Unless the polls are grossly inaccurate, Shero will win.

Which one of the following can be properly inferred from the information above?

(A) If the polls are grossly inaccurate, someone more qualified than McGuinness will be appointed head of the planning commission.
(B) McGuinness will be appointed head of the planning commission only if the polls are a good indication of how the election will turn out.
(C) Either Shero will win the election or Stauning will be appointed head of the planning commission.
(D) McGuinness is not an architect and has not been on the planning commission for 15 years or more.
(E) If the polls are a good indication of how the election will turn out, someone less qualified than Stauning will be appointed head of the planning commission.

Here there’s a lot to like about a lot of answer choices:

A seems plausible. We know that McGuinness isn’t the most qualified, so there’s a high likelihood that a different candidate could find someone better (maybe even Stauning). B also has a lot to like (and it’s actually ALMOST perfect as we’ll discuss in a second). And so on. But you need to attack these answers:

A is fatally flawed. You don’t know for certain that a different candidate would appoint anyone other than McGuinness, and you really only know that one person is more qualified (and does he even want the job?). This cannot be concluded. B has that dangerous word “only” in it – remove it and the answer is correct, but “only if the polls are a good indication” is way too far to go. What if the polls are flawed and the underdog candidate just appoints McGuinness, too? The same logic invalidates C (there’s nothing guaranteeing that a different candidate wouldn’t pick McGuinness), and the word “and” makes D all the harder to prove (how do you know that McGuinness lacks both qualities?).

The lesson? Much like John Kasich may find on that same stage, the nicer and more accommodating you are, the more the GMAT walks over you. If you want to give each answer a fair chance, you’ll find that many answers have enough reason to be tempting. So follow the new GOP debate strategy and always be attacking. You didn’t sign up for the GMAT to make friends with answer choices; you signed up to “win.”

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.

3 Points International Candidates Need to Highlight in Their MBA Applications

PassportInternational MBA applicants to top programs frequently ask how much they should focus on their home countries in their applications, versus demonstrating their similarities to the typically-admitted domestic student. This is a good question, as balancing between fitting in with one’s target MBA program and standing out by bringing something unique to one’s application is a line that all candidates tread carefully.

An international applicant will usually have more materials to consider adding to their application, given the experience of growing up, studying, and working in another country. Even for second-generation immigrants, the wealth of influences and heritage from another culture could be a rich source of essay topics and passing references to consider. Used correctly, they add character and breadth, enhancing the readability of an application, which can help a candidate stand out from a competitive pool of other accomplished applicants from the same industry and country.

If you are applying to business school as an international applicant, take a look at these three factors you should focus on in your application:

1) Uniqueness
MBA essays are best used to tell a unique personal story that allows readers to understand the candidate’s motivation and goals. As an international candidate, you can use your country’s economic, cultural, or even political situations as an interesting and complementary backdrop to further stand out.

Let’s look at some examples of how this can be done:

  • An applicant managing a business from a growing consumer market could be played up to show the candidate’s potential to be a bridge for companies seeking to enter the lucrative market. This would flow nicely into the applicant’s post-MBA goal of leading a global company’s international unit.
  • An applicant who navigated and hurdled a developing country’s political and regulatory challenges to successfully lead a large-scale project of a foreign entity could use this experience to demonstrate his or her maturity and leadership qualities.
  • Candidates from a country encountering great difficulties could position themselves as people who are in a unique position to give back to their country of origin post-MBA, while also helping open the eyes of the student community to global issues.

These experiences show the potential of candidates to serve as a resource for interesting classroom discussions, enriching the experiences of classmates, while also serving as a future bridge to alumni with interest in their respective countries.

Likewise, a sentence or two identifying strong core values and influences that defined a family’s history and how it inspires the applicant serve she dual purpose of showing a personal side to leave a vivid impression with the Admissions Committee, and demonstrating the candidate’s underlying motivation and personal traits. Executing this precisely will result in a profile that comes across genuinely and stands out from the pack.

Applying the right dose of details and balance between personal sentiments and professional rationality on these topics is key in ensuring your essays stay unique and on track.

2) International Exposure
For international candidates who spent most of their lives in their home countries, it is particularly helpful to mention experiences with exchange programs, international assignments, travels abroad, or at the minimum, working with cross-cultural teams. These do not necessarily have to take up major space – sprinkling in tidbits at appropriate instances will still make for an interesting and engaging read. It also helps demonstrate an international mindset, adaptability, and intellectual curiosity.

Instances of initiating projects and leading teams with international components are also valuable, as these will help show the ability to actively contribute to classroom discussions and group project dynamics. Showcasing your teamwork skills via an international setting in this way will assure the Admissions Committee that you will be able to adjust to life on campus, benefit from their program, and contribute to the experiences of your MBA peers.

3) Confidence!
The content and tone of your overall application should be confident that you are an excellent fit for the program, able to keep pace with the academics and classroom rigors the school requires, and maximize your overall experience. Coming from an environment, school, or firm that is different from the usual sources of MBA candidates, you must ensure that confidence in your intellectual horsepower and personal traits comes through, especially in your essays. Standardized measures, such as a great GMAT score, will also help address this.

Crafting such an application requires honest reflection and self-awareness – most applicants find themselves more focused and motivated after investing the time and effort to do so, thus making the whole exercise a valuable experience, so be sure you take ample time to reflect before beginning your writing process.

Creating a personal story while highlighting your successes handling complex projects or academic accomplishments, and combining this with a post-MBA goal that is both compelling and realistic are the usual ingredients for a strong application, and adding the right international flavor to this recipe will help your candidacy shine even more. Finding the right flow between answering the specific questions directly and adding international elements may be challenging, but successfully pulling it off  will result in a very personal and powerful application package.

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

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

All You Need to Know About Using Interest Equations on the GMAT

PiggyBankAs an undergraduate, I concentrated in Finance. When I tell people this, they make two unwarranted assumptions: the first is that I work in Finance (I don’t), and the second is that I am a glutton for mathematical punishment (debatable).

The reason people are intimidated by the kinds of compound interest equations we encounter in finance classes is that they look complicated. GMAT test-takers get anxious whenever I introduce this topic in class. But, as with most seemingly abstruse topics, these concepts are far less difficult than they appear at first glance.

Here’s all we really need to know about interest equations: if we’re talking about simple interest, the interest will be the same in every time period, and the equation you assemble will end up being straightforward linear algebra (if you choose to do algebra, that is). If we’re talking about compound interest, we’re really talking about an exponent question. The rest involves a bit of logic and algebraic manipulation.

Look at this official question that many of my students have initially struggled with:

An investment of $1000 was made in a certain account and earned interest that was compounded annually. The annual interest rate was fixed for the duration of the investment, and after 12 years the $1000 increased to 4000 by earning interest. In how many years after the initial investment was made would the 1000 have increased to 8000 by earning interest at that rate?  

(A) 16
(B) 18
(C) 20
(D) 24
(E) 30

Looking at this question, the first instinct of most test-takers is to start frantically rummaging through their memory banks for that compound interest formula – there’s no need. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that these questions are just exponent questions involving a bit of algebra. With this in mind, let’s call the factor that the principal is multiplied by in each time period “x”. (If you’re accustomed to working with the formula, “x” is basically standing in for your standard (1 + r/100.) If you’re not accustomed to this formula, feel free to retroactively erase this parenthetical from your memory banks.)

If the principal is getting multiplied by “x” each year, then after one year, the investment will be 1000x. After two years the investment will be 1000x^2. After three years, it will be 1000x^3… and so on. In our problem, we’re talking about an investment after 12 years, which would be 1000x^12. If this value is 4000, we get the following equation: 1000x^12 = 4000 (and file away for now that the exponent represents the number of years elapsed).

Ultimately, we want to know what the exponent should be when the investment is at $8000. If you’re looking at the answer choices now and think that 24 seems just a little too easy, your instincts are sound.

We need to work with 1000x^12 = 4000. Let’s simplify:

Divide both sides by 1000 to get x^12 = 4.  Solving for x seems unnecessarily complicated, so let’s consider our options. x^12 = 4 is the same as x^12 = 2^2, so if we take the square root of both sides, we will get x^6 = 2.

Essentially, this means that every 6 years (the exponent) the investment is doubling, or multiplied by 2. But we want to know how long it will take for that initial $1000 to become $8000, or to be multiplied by a factor of 8.

What can we do to x^6 = 2 so that we have an 8 on the right side? We can cube both sides!

(x^6)^3 = 2^3

x^18 = 8

This means that it will take 18 years to increase the investment by a factor of 8. Therefore, our answer is B.

Alternatively, once we see that the investment doubles every 6 years, we can ask ourselves how many times we need to double an investment to go from $1000 to $8000. Doubling once gets us to $2000. Doubling twice gets us to $4000. Doubling a third time gets us to $8000. So if we double the investment every 6 years, and we need the investment to double 3 times, it will take a total of 6*3 = 18 years.

Takeaway: There are plenty of formulas that could come in handy on the GMAT – just know that a little logic and conceptual understanding will allow you to solve many of the questions that seem to require a particular formula. Memorization has limits that logic and mental agility don’t.

*GMATPrep 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 read more articles by him here.

SAT Tip of the Week: 3 Huge Benefits to Studying in Short Chunks

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMany students wait until the last minute to study for tests or do major projects. Before I get too far in, let me just say that for a long time I was one of those students (and sadly, sometimes I still am). Putting things off is easy to rationalize – after all, if you get the work done eventually, it doesn’t matter when you do it, right? Wrong! Waiting until the last minute is a bad habit and extreme procrastination almost invariably brings down the quality of whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.

On the SAT, putting off studying until a week or two before the test is an all-too-common phenomenon. I know a lot of students who wouldn’t even think about the test until it was already almost upon them. Fun fact: many of those students didn’t do nearly as well as they wanted to.

It’s no secret that in order to do your best on the SAT, you have to put in the time. The test isn’t really about knowledge, but rather, is about being familiar with the questions and knowing how the test operates. With these two topics, cramming is of very little help. You can’t cram familiarity and understanding – you have to be disciplined over an extended and consistent period of time.

My recommendation for how to best manage your time studying for the SAT is to spend the two months leading up to your exam date studying in small, manageable chunks. Spending 30-40 minutes per day, three-four times per week, is a lot more helpful than spending 4 hours on one day the week before the official exam. It’s pretty easy to find 30 minutes of free time in a day; it’s a lot harder to find 4 hours.

This 30-minute chunk method is how I studied, and it had a lot of benefits for me. Here are 3 biggest ones:

  1. I felt like I really understood the test. Instead of seeing the SAT as an unpredictable monster, I came to be really familiar with how it worked. Spending a little time with the test on a consistent basis made me more comfortable with the structure and the patterns of the questions, so I knew what to expect on test day.
  2. I didn’t feel rushed to learn everything I needed to. Since I started months before my test, I knew that when I found a weak spot, I would have time to fix it. This gave me the confidence to be honest about my shortcomings. I could devote a week to the Writing Section if I found that I was bad at comma usage and still not feel like I was rushed to teach myself geometry. The feeling of having plenty of time made my stress surrounding the test significantly decrease.
  3. I found it much easier to focus for a half hour than it was to focus for 4 hours. I don’t know about you, but my attention span really isn’t that long. The best way for me to maximize my study time was to use short intervals of serious focus. Doing full practice tests is important, but if that’s your entire study strategy, you’re likely to get bored and burnt out pretty quickly.

I urge you to resist putting off studying for the SAT – if you start studying early and keep yourself on a regular, manageable study plan, your anxiety about the test will fall while your SAT score will jump.

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.

7 Resources You Need to Utilize While in College

Macalester CollegeOne great and often overlooked part of being in college is the wealth of resources you have access to. Some of these resources are exactly what you think of when you think about colleges – big libraries, distinguished professors, expansive dining halls. – but there is also a variety of lesser-known, but equally important services and centers that many colleges have to support their students and contribute to the overall college experience.

It’s a good idea to check these places out, since it is your tuition money that funds them, after all! College is one of the rare times where many of the services available to you will be free (technically nothing in life or college is really free, but that’s besides the point), so take advantage of this while you can. Here is just a sampling of resources found at many universities that I recommend utilizing during your time in college:

Career Counseling
College is about learning, but it’s still not a bad idea to prepare for the job search early. Lots of colleges have career service centers that can connect you with alumni networks, guide you in crafting your résumés, and help you figure out what future career path will be right for you.

Fitness Center
This is a big one for me – gym memberships are really expensive, but colleges give you access to their fitness centers for free. When someone gives you an opportunity to get in shape and stay healthy for free, that’s not something you should turn down. Plus, taking a break from your studies to exercise is a great way to de-stress and have some fun – the pick-up basketball games I’ve played at my school’s gym has been some of the best of my life!

Student Health Center
Again, healthcare is something that will cost a lot more once you get outside of college. Getting sick when you’re separated from your parents can be a jarring experience, so know that you can feel comfortable reaching out to campus health professionals to help you.

Mental Health Counseling
As much fun as college can be, it can also be a very stressful time. Like student health centers, mental health counseling is often offered by colleges as a safe place for students to go to speak to a mental health professional about any difficulties they may be experiencing while at school. Your school will want you to be healthy, mentally as well as physically, so don’t be afraid to seek this service out.

Writing Center
There are more people to turn to than just your professors or TAs when you’re having trouble with a writing assignment. Lots of schools have writing centers, where students and staff will go over your papers with you and give you detailed feedback on how to improve. You’ll probably have to be proactive in making an appointment, though – from my experience, spots at these centers fill up fast!

Library Staff
In high school you may not have talked to your librarians much (mine were awesome, but that’s a different story), but in college, the library staff can be incredibly helpful with research or just with navigating around the facility. The Dewey Decimal System can be a little difficult to use, especially when the library has 4 floors and thousands of books, so utilize your library staff to assist you.

Academic Support
Some colleges offer subject tutoring for students in certain classes, while others hold workshops on subjects such as how to manage homework time in college, steps to succeed on problem sets, and a variety of other topics. All colleges want their students to succeed academically; it’s incumbent on the student to seek out what academic support programs and resources their college has at their disposal, but there will always be options available to you, no matter what school you go to. Trust me, if you search for academic help, you’ll find it!

College is more than just going to school (even though school is very important). Universities have lots of resources to help you in all aspects of your life – use them while you still can, and while they’re still free!

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.

Jump-Start Your GRE Prep With a Free GRE Strategy Session

GREWhether you are planning to apply to business school, pursue another field of graduate study, or simply want to keep your future options open, you’ve decided to take the GRE. The GRE is a challenging exam and if you are planning on taking the test, you undoubtedly have questions about how to prepare and how to maximize your score.

If you’re looking to jump-start your GRE preparation, register to attend Veritas Prep’s free online GRE Strategy Session. Hosted by Veritas Prep’s GRE Course co-creator, Brian Galvin, this one-hour session will go over the basics of the GRE and show you some of the advanced strategies needed to tackle this exam. In addition, each session concludes with a Q&A session, so you can have your toughest GRE questions answered in live time.

So what are you waiting for? Register to attend the next Veritas Prep GRE Strategy Session now and improve your chances of GRE success!

Wednesday, February 24
7:30pm – 8:30pm (Eastern)

Wednesday, March 23
8:00pm – 9:00pm (Eastern)

Register now!

Want a more focused approach to your GRE preparation? Check out our GRE Course and Private Tutoring options. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Ratios in GMAT Data Sufficiency

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe know that ratios are the building blocks for a lot of other concepts such as time/speed, work/rate and mixtures. As such, we spend a lot of time getting comfortable with understanding and manipulating ratios, so the GMAT questions that test ratios seem simple enough, but not always! Just like questions from all other test areas, questions on ratios can be tricky too, especially when they are formatted as Data Sufficiency questions.

Let’s look at two cases today: when a little bit of data is sufficient, and when a lot of data is insufficient.

When a little bit of data is sufficient!
Three brothers shared all the proceeds from the sale of their inherited property. If the eldest brother received exactly 5/8 of the total proceeds, how much money did the youngest brother (who received the smallest share) receive from the sale?

Statement 1: The youngest brother received exactly 1/5 the amount received by the middle brother.

Statement 2: The middle brother received exactly half of the two million dollars received by the eldest brother.

First impressions on reading this question? The question stem gives the fraction of money received by one brother. Statement 1 gives the fraction of money received by the youngest brother relative to the amount received by the middle brother. Statement 2 gives the fraction of money received by the middle brother relative to the eldest brother and an actual amount. It seems like the three of these together give us all the information we need. Let’s dig deeper now.

From the Question stem:

Eldest brother’s share = (5/8) of Total

Statement 1: Youngest Brother’s share = (1/5) * Middle brother’s share

We don’t have any actual number – all the information is in fraction/ratio form. Without an actual value, we cannot find the amount of money received by the youngest brother, therefore, Statement 1 alone is not sufficient.

Statement 2: Middle brother’s share = (1/2) * Eldest brother’s share, and the eldest brother’s share = 2 million dollars

Middle brother’s share = (1/2) * 2 million dollars = 1 million dollars

Now, we might be tempted to jump to Statement 1 where the relation between youngest brother’s share and middle brother’s share is given, but hold on: we don’t need that information. We know from the question stem that the eldest brother’s share is (5/8) of the total share.

So 2 million = (5/8) of the total share, therefore the total share = 3.2 million dollars.

We already know the share of the eldest and middle brothers, so we can subtract their shares out of the total and get the share of the youngest brother.

Youngest brother’s share = 3.2 million – 2 million – 1 million = 0.2 million dollars

Statement 2 alone is sufficient, therefore, the answer is B.

When a lot of data is insufficient!
A department manager distributed a number of books, calendars, and diaries among the staff in the department, with each staff member receiving x books, y calendars, and z diaries. How many staff members were in the department?

Statement 1: The numbers of books, calendars, and diaries that each staff member received were in the ratio 2:3:4, respectively.

Statement 2: The manager distributed a total of 18 books, 27 calendars, and 36 diaries.

First impressions on reading this question? The question stem tells us that each staff member received the same number of books, calendars, and diaries. Statement 1 gives us the ratio of books, calendars and diaries. Statement 2 gives us the actual numbers. It certainly seems that we should be able to obtain the answer. Let’s find out:

Looking at the question stem, Staff Member 1 recieved x books, y calendars, and z diaries, Staff Member 2 recieved x books, y calendars, and z diaries… and so on until Staff Member n (who also recieves x books, y calendars, and z diaries).

With this in mind, the total number of books = nx, the total number of calendars = ny, and the total number of diaries = nz.

Question: What is n?

Statement 1 tells us that x:y:z = 2:3:4. This means the values of x, y and z can be:

2, 3, and 4,

or 4, 6, and 8,

or 6, 9, and 12,

or any other values in the ratio 2:3:4.

They needn’t necessarily be 2, 3 and 4, they just need the required ratio of 2:3:4.

Obviously, n can be anything here, therefore, Statement 1 alone is not sufficient.

Statement 2 tell us that nx = 18, ny = 27, and nz = 36.

Now we know the actual values of nx, ny and nz, but we still don’t know the values of x, y, z and n.

They could be

2, 3, 4 and 9

or 6, 9, 12 and 3

Therefore, Statement 2 alone is also not sufficient.

Considering both statements together, note that Statement 2 tells us that nx:ny:nz = 18:27:36 = 2:3:4 (they had 9 as a common factor).

Since n is a common factor on left side, x:y:z = 2:3:4 (ratios are best expressed in the lowest form).

This is a case of what we call “we already knew that” – information given in Statement 1 is already a part of Statement 2, so it is not possible that Statement 2 alone is not sufficient but that together Statement 1 and 2 are. Hence, both statements together are not sufficient, and our answer must be E.

A question that arises often here is, “Why can’t we say that the number of staff members must be 9?”

This is because the ratio of 2:3:4 is same as the ratio of 6:9:12, which is same as 18:27:36 (when you multiply each number of a ratio by the same number, the ratio remains unchanged).

If 18 books, 27 calendars, and 36 diaries are distributed in the ratio 2:3:4, we could give them all to one person, or to 3 people (giving them each 6 books, 9 calendars and 12 diaries), or to 9 people (giving them each 2 books, 3 calendars and 4 diaries).

When we see 18, 27 and 36, what comes to mind is that the number of people could have been 9, which would mean that the department manager distributed 2 books, 3 calendars and 4 diaries to each person. But we know that 9 is divisible by 3, which should remind us that the number of people could also be 3, which would mean that the manager distributed 6 books, 9 calendars and 12 diaries to each person. As such, we still don’t know how many staff members there are, and our answer remians 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!

GMAT Tip of the Week: OJ Simpson’s Defense Team And Critical Reasoning Strategy

GMAT Tip of the WeekIf you’re like many people this month, you’re thoroughly enjoying the guilty pleasure that is FX’s series The People v. OJ Simpson. And whether you’re in it to reminisce about the 1990s or for the wealth of Kardashian family history, one thing remains certain (even though, according to the state of California – spoiler alert! – that thing is not OJ’s guilt):

Robert Shaprio, Johnnie Cochran, F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz, and (yes, even) Robert Kardashian can provide you with the ultimate blueprint for GMAT Critical Reasoning success.

This past week’s third episode focused on the preparations of the prosecutors and of the defense, and showcased some crucial differences between success and failure on GMAT CR:

The prosecution made some classic GMAT CR mistakes, most notably that they went in to the case assuming the truth of their position (that OJ was guilty). On the other hand, the defense took nothing for granted – when they didn’t like the evidence (the bloody glove, for example) they looked for ways that it must be faulty evidence (Mark Fuhrman and the LAPD were racist).

This is how you must approach GMAT Critical Reasoning! The single greatest mistake that examinees make during the GMAT is in accepting that the argument they’re given is valid – like Marcia Clark, you’re a nice, good-natured person and you’ll give the argument the benefit of the doubt. But in law and on the GMAT, bullies like Travolta’s Robert Shapiro win the day. The name of the game is “Critical Reasoning” – make sure that you’re being critical.

What does that look like on the test? It means:

Be Skeptical of Arguments
From the first word of a Strengthen, Weaken, or Assumption question, you’re reading skeptically, and almost angrily so. You’re not buying this argument and you’re searching for holes immediately. Often times these arguments will actually seem pretty valid (sort of like, you know, “OJ did it, based on the glove, the blood in the Brondo, his footprint at the scene, etc.”), but your job is to attack them so you’d better start attacking immediately.

Look for Details That Don’t Match
If an argument says, for example, that “the murder rate is down, so the police department must be doing a better job preventing violent crime…” notice that murder is not the same thing as violent crime, and that even if violent crime is down, you don’t have a direct link to the police department being the catalysts for preventing it. This is part of not buying the argument – when the general flow of ideas suggests “yes,” make sure that the details do, too.

Look for Alternative Explanations
Conclusions on the GMAT – like criminal trial “guilty” verdicts – must be true beyond a reasonable doubt. So even though the premises might make it seem quite likely that a conclusion is true, if there is an alternate explanation that’s consistent with the facts but allows for a different conclusion, that conclusion cannot be logically drawn. This is where the Simpson legal team was so successful: the evidence was overwhelming in its suggestion that Simpson was guilty (as the soon-after civil trial proves), but the defense was able to create just enough suspicion that he could have been framed that the jury was able to acquit.

So whether you’re appalled or enthralled as you watch The People v. OJ Simpson and the defense team shrewdness it portrays, know that the show has valuable insight for you as you attempt to become a Critical Reasoning master. If you want to keep your GMAT verbal score out of jail, you might want to keep up with one particular Kardashian.

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.

Making College Friends Before Freshman Year Begins

transition into collegeA lot of people get nervous about showing up to college and not knowing anyone, but that fear is not necessarily relevant anymore. With social media and college networking events, it’s possible to meet people in your class between when you get accepted and when you actually arrive on campus.

Facebook pages for admitted or enrolled students are common for lots of schools. Many of these school pages are very popular, and students are always super excited to get involved posting on them. I spent way too much time on Brown’s Class of 2019 Facebook page for weeks after I got in – everyone seemed so friendly, interesting, and excited to be part of our new community.

When someone ends a post with, “Looking to make friends, message me if we have anything in common!” go ahead and reach out if it seems like you two could get along. The best-case scenario is you make a new friend. The worst-case scenario is you have a semi-awkward conversation with no real repercussions. That seems like a situation where it is impossible to lose, so it’s worth your time to give it a chance. I met some cool people from my Brown Facebook group that I still see around campus. I may not be BFFs with all of them, but the more friendly faces you know around campus, the more comfortable you will feel.

There will also be meet-ups and congratulatory events to attend in your area that will be sponsored by schools or even just informally by new students. Going to these might be nerve-wracking, but it is a nice way to hear from enthusiastic alumni and learn some of the faces of your new classmates. I still see large groups of students who met each other this way (and through massive group chats) walking around campus together all the time!

So, I’ve talked a lot about how you could make friends before school starts, but the real question is, “What’s the point?” Doing this could allow you to make a friend, have people to hang with outside your dorm during orientation, find a roommate, or get over some of the awkwardness of meeting new people. Moving in to college can be stressful for a lot of reasons, and the fear of struggling socially is a big one. By knowing people beforehand, you can alleviate some of this fear and focus your efforts on acclimating to college in other ways.

Don’t worry, though, it is by no means necessary to figure out your friend group before you get to school. People find friends on their own at school, so it’s totally not a “must” that you go searching around for a best friend before you even get to school. Everyone at college is looking to meet new people, which makes it really easy to find friends among people you don’t know.

Making friends before freshman year even begins is one of those things that would probably benefit you if you did it, however if you don’t, you’ll still be in a perfectly good position to have a great social life on campus.

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.

Financial Times Ranks INSEAD as the #1 MBA Program in the World

INSEADThe Financial Times recently released their Global MBA Rankings for 2016, and this year, INSEAD topped the list. This is the first time a “one-year MBA program” has ranked #1 in the Financial Times‘ rankings.

With this honor, INSEAD also becomes only the fifth school to ever assume the top spot in the Financial Times‘ 18-year history of publishing their rankings – the only schools to reach #1 thus far have been Harvard Business School, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, London Business School, and the Wharton School of Business, all of which occupy the rest of the top five slots for this year’s rankings.

INSEAD prides itself on being the “business school of the world,” and boasts of an international faculty and student body of over 80 different nationalities that enriches classroom discussions and creates life changing experiences for its students through its cultural diversity and views. INSEAD’s campuses in France and Singapore further add to the student experience with opportunities to travel across Europe and Asia with fellow MBA participants during the program.

In his letter to INSEAD alumni, Dean Ilian Mihov attributes the school’s #1 ranking to what INSEAD values: “diversity, academic excellence, entrepreneurial culture and extensive global alumni network.” The school’s international faculty also works together to continuously improve its curriculum and deliver exceptional educational experiences to all its students in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Mihov also shared that this marked a “triple first” for INSEAD, becoming the first and only school to have all three of its MBA programs ranked #1 by the FT in their respective categories: INSEAD MBA ranked #1 for MBA programs, the Tsinghua INSEAD EMBA ranked #1 for EMBA programs, and the INSEAD Global EMBA was honored as the highest ranked single school program.

In a separate letter, the INSEAD MBA Admissions team shared the profile of its latest intake of 514 students, with 75 nationalities represented – 30% of them women – including students from Indian, American, Chinese, French, British, and Canadian nationalities. The average age of INSEAD’s incoming class is 29 and its average GMAT score is 702.

INSEAD has also continued its “Conditional Acceptance Offer” of offering a place to candidates who have the potential and quality to be admitted, but need one more year of professional experience. Introduced in 2014, the school has found this offer to be a good way to retain young, bright candidates for future MBA classes. 15 students received such an offer for their latest intake.

Surely this remarkable achievement will be something to consider when determining whether INSEAD is the right business school for you.

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

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

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Improve Your SAT Score the Second Time

SAT Tip of the Week - FullEvery year, high school seniors sit down in testing centers across the country to take the SAT. They know that college admissions officials will consider their SAT score along with their letters of recommendation, transcripts, and essays, so a good performance on this test is critical.

Some students aren’t satisfied with the score they receive the first time they take the SAT, so they make the decision to retake the test. Naturally, these students want to know how to improve their SAT scores so they can perform well on the test the second time around. Let’s take a look at some simple tips that can lead to SAT score improvement:

Examine the Results of Your First SAT
Students who take the SAT receive a score report that includes a lot more than their final scores – the report offers a detailed breakdown of the student’s performance on the exam. These results can be tremendously helpful to a student who wants to pinpoint their weakest areas on the SAT. For instance, looking at your detailed score report, you may notice that you answered a large percentage of algebra questions incorrectly, but performed well on questions that involved data analysis. With this information, you can avoid spending too much time reviewing your strong skills and focus instead on sharpening your weaker skills.

Focused Study
A student who knows where they went wrong on the first test has the tools for improving his or her SAT scores the second time around. After analyzing your first SAT results, it’s time to create study aids that can strengthen your skills that need attention.

For example, you might learn that you need to expand your knowledge of concepts that will be tested in the new SAT Math section, so it’s a good idea to find a list of concepts commonly tested on the SAT and creates mnemonics for each of them. These mnemonics all might relate to your family or favorite hobbies so they are easy to practice and remember, and can help you improve your score on this section as a result. Finding study tactics such as this and utilizing them to focus on your areas of weakness will be key to improving your SAT score.

Evaluate Other Aspects of Performance on the First Test
In some cases, there are other factors that influence a student’s performance on the SAT. It’s worthwhile to think back to the day of the test to examine what these other factors might be. Perhaps you weren’t feeling well on test day. A student who has a terrible cold or cough is not likely to do their best on the exam. Or maybe you didn’t slept well the night before, which could have caused you to be tired and unfocused during the exam. By analyzing what went “wrong” on test day, you can work to avoid these problems the second time around.

Also, some students experience test anxiety: they arrive to the test well-prepared, but feel very anxious in an actual test-taking situation. As a result, they aren’t able to focus on the material. If this sounds like you, fortunately, there are ways to deal with test anxiety that can improve SAT scores. Students who are feeling good and have a sense of confidence are able to showcase their skills on the SAT and truly improve their scores.

Prep with the Experts
When it comes to the SAT, improvement is achievable with the right kind of instruction. At Veritas Prep, students have the opportunity to choose from a variety of SAT tutoring options so they can have their questions answered and issues addressed, and are able to retake the test with confidence.

Whether you’re taking the test for the first time or looking to improve your current SAT score, we are proud to assist you in any way we can. Contact our staff at Veritas Prep today and get started on the journey toward your best score on the 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!

3 Things to Consider If You Are Applying to Business School as an Investment Banker

MBA AdmissionsInvestment banks are one of the biggest feeders of talent into business schools around the world. Investment bankers have consistently earned a reputation as quant jocks with powerful academic pedigrees and great senior leadership exposure. With backgrounds like this, it should come as no surprise that bankers flood campuses at elite MBA programs across the globe.

With such great numbers comes challenges as well. Many schools could easily fill a classroom with qualified bankers if they so chose, but with diversity of experience being such an important component of a quality MBA student community, schools seek instead to balance out the student body with people from various career backgrounds. As an overrepresented applicant pool, bankers must think strategically about how to position their candidacy.

Let’s explore some of the things to keep in mind as you construct your application as an investment banker:

Stand Out:
I know this is easier said than done, but with so much competition coming out of investment banks, it is important to find areas within your application that will distinguish you from the hordes of other applicants from your bank and others. This does not need to be limited to just the professional arena either, so explore the personal side of your credentials as well. Focus on highlighting areas where you have made an impact in your personal or professional careers to separate you from the masses.

Personalize Your Profile:
One of the biggest mistakes many bankers make when applying to business school is focusing exclusively on their professional career. This is a negative knock on professionals from this industry, so grab the admissions committee’s attention and go the opposite way by personalizing your application process. Business schools truly evaluate candidates in a holistic manner, so take advantage of the more personal touch points of your application, such as the essay, interview, and short answer questions to tell your story. Utilizing these aspects to humanize your profile is a great way to stand out from the competition.

Highlight Extracurriculars:
Another useful way to distinguish yourself from other MBA candidates is to highlight your history of engagement outside the work place. Schools see candidates who have this track record as likely to continue this trend as future students and alumni of their programs. Also, with the long hours bankers tend to work, many are unable to take on meaningful extracurricular opportunities – go against the norm here, and develop some experience in this capacity outside of the office to further differentiate your profile from other bankers.

Follow the tips above to stand out from your competition in the investment banking industry.

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 find more of his articles here

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Circular Reasoning in GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomConsider this argument:

Anatomical bilateral symmetry is a common trait. It follows, therefore, that it confers survival advantages on organisms. After all, if bilateral symmetry did not confer such advantages, it would not be common.

What is the flaw here?

The argument restates rather than proves. The conclusion is a  premise, too – we start out by assuming that the conclusion is true and then state that the conclusion is true.

If A (bilateral symmetry) were not B (confer survival advantages), A (bilateral symmetry) would not be C (common).

A (bilateral symmetry) is C (common) so A (bilateral symmetry) is B (confer survival advantages).

Note that we did not try to prove that “A is C implies A is B”. We did not explain the connection between C and B. For our reasoning, all we said is that if A were not B, it would not be C, so we are starting out by taking the conclusion to be true.

This is called circular reasoning. It is a kind of logical fallacy – a flaw in the logic. You begin with what you are trying to prove, using your own conclusion as one of your premises.

Why is it good to understand circular reasoning for the GMAT? A critical reasoning question that asks you to mimic the reasoning argument could require you to identify such a flawed reasoning and find the argument that mimics it.

Continuing with the previous example:

Anatomical bilateral symmetry is a common trait. It follows, therefore, that it confers survival advantages on organisms. After all, if bilateral symmetry did not confer such advantages, it would not be common.

The pattern of reasoning in which one of the following arguments is most similar to that in the argument above?

(A) Since it is Sawyer who is negotiating for the city government, it must be true that the city takes the matter seriously. After all, if Sawyer had not been available, the city would have insisted that the negotiations be deferred.
(B) Clearly, no candidate is better qualified for the job than Trumbull. In fact, even to suggest that there might be a more highly qualified candidate seems absurd to those who have seen Trumbull at work.
(C) If Powell lacked superior negotiating skills, she would not have been appointed arbitrator in this case. As everyone knows, she is the appointed arbitrator, so her negotiating skills are, detractors notwithstanding, bound to be superior.
(D) Since Varga was away on vacation at the time, it must have been Rivers who conducted the secret negotiations. Any other scenario makes little sense, for Rivers never does the negotiating unless Varga is unavailable.
(E) If Wong is appointed arbitrator, a decision will be reached promptly. Since it would be absurd to appoint anyone other than Wong as arbitrator, a prompt decision can reasonably be expected.

We’ve established that the above pattern of reasoning has a circular reasoning flaw. Let’s consider each answer option to find the one which has similarly flawed reasoning.

(A) Since it is Sawyer who is negotiating for the city government, it must be true that the city takes the matter seriously. After all, if Sawyer had not been available, the city would have insisted that the negotiations be deferred.

Here is the structure of this argument:

If A (Sawyer) were not B (available), C (the city) would have D (insisted on deferring).

Since A (Sawyer) is B (available to the city), C (the city) does E (takes matter seriously).

Obviously, this argument structure is not the same as in the original argument.

(B) Clearly, no candidate is better qualified for the job than Trumbull. In fact, even to suggest that there might be a more highly qualified candidate seems absurd to those who have seen Trumbull at work.

Here is the structure of this argument:

A (people who have seen Trumbull at work) find B (Trumbull is not the best) absurd, therefore B (Trumbull is not the best) is false.

This is not circular reasoning. We have not assumed that B is false in our premises, we are simply saying that people think B is absurd. This is flawed logic too, but it is not circular reasoning.

(C) If Powell lacked superior negotiating skills, she would not have been appointed arbitrator in this case. As everyone knows, she is the appointed arbitrator, so her negotiating skills are, detractors notwithstanding, bound to be superior.

Here is the structure of this argument:

If A (Powell) were not B (had superior negotiating skills), A (Powell) would not have been C (appointed arbitrator).

A (Powell) is C (appointed arbitrator), therefore A (Powell) is B (had superior negotiating skills).

Note that the structure of the argument matches the structure of our original argument – this is circular reasoning, too. We are saying that if A were not B, A would not be C and concluding that since A is C, A is B. The conclusion is already taken to be true in the initial argument, so we can see it is is also an example of circular reasoning.

Hence (C) is the correct answer. Nevertheless, let’s look at the other two options and why they don’t work:

(D) Since Varga was away on vacation at the time, it must have been Rivers who conducted the secret negotiations. Any other scenario makes little sense, for Rivers never does the negotiating unless Varga is unavailable.

Here is the structure of this argument:

If A (Varga) is B (available), C (Rivers) does not do D (negotiate).

A (Varga) was not B (available), so C (Rivers) did D (negotiate).

This logic is flawed – the premise tells us what happens when A is B, however it does not tell us what happens when A is not B. We cannot conclude anything about what happens when A is not B. And because this is not circular reasoning, it cannot be the answer.

(E) If Wong is appointed arbitrator, a decision will be reached promptly. Since it would be absurd to appoint anyone other than Wong as arbitrator, a prompt decision can reasonably be expected.

Here is the structure of this argument:

If A (Wong) is B (appointed arbitrator), C (a decision) will be D (reached promptly).

A (Wong) not being B (appointed arbitrator) would be absurd, so C (a decision) will be D (reached promptly).

Again, this argument uses brute force, but it is not circular reasoning. “A not being B would be absurd” is not a convincing reason, so the argument is not strong as it is, but in any case, we don’t have to worry about it since it doesn’t use circular reasoning.

Take a look at this question for practice:

Dr. A: The new influenza vaccine is useless at best and possibly dangerous. I would never use it on a patient.
Dr. B: But three studies published in the Journal of Medical Associates have rated that vaccine as unusually effective.
Dr. A: The studies must have been faulty because the vaccine is worthless.

In which of the following is the reasoning most similar to that of Dr. A?

(A) Three of my patients have been harmed by that vaccine during the past three weeks, so the vaccine is unsafe.
(B) Jerrold Jersey recommends this milk, and I don’t trust Jerrold Jersey, so I won’t buy this milk.
(C) Wingz tennis balls perform best because they are far more effective than any other tennis balls.
(D) I’m buying Vim Vitamins. Doctors recommend them more often than they recommend any other vitamins, so Vim Vitamins must be good.
(E) Since University of Muldoon graduates score about 20 percent higher than average on the GMAT, Sheila Lee, a University of Muldoon graduate, will score about 20 percent higher than average when she takes the GMAT.

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

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

GMAT Tip of the Week: Marco Rubio, Repetition, and Sentence Correction

GMAT Tip of the WeekLet’s dispel with the fiction that Marco Rubio doesn’t know what he’s doing on Sentence Correction problems. He knows exactly what he’s doing. In his memorable New Hampshire debate performance this past week, Rubio famously delivered the same 25-second speech several times, even in direct response to Chris Christie’s accusation that Rubio only speaks in memorized 25-second speech form.

In doing so, he likely cost himself delegates in New Hampshire and perhaps even cost himself the election (was this his Rick Perry “I can’t remember the third thing” or Howard Dean “Hi-yaaaah!” moment?), but he also provided you with a critical Sentence Correction strategy:

Find what you do well, and keep doing it over and over until you just can’t do it anymore.

This strategy manifests itself in two ways on GMAT Sentence Correction problems:

1) Look for primary Decision Points first.
Rubio came into the debate with one strong talking point, and his first inclination – regardless of the question – was to go straight to that point. On Sentence Correction problems, that is the single most important thing you can do. Much like a debate moderator, the GMAT testmaker will try to get you “off message” by offering you several decisions you could make. And often the decision that comes first is one you’re just not good at, or that actually isn’t a good differentiator. For example, you may think you need to decide between:

“…so realistic as to…” vs. “…so realistic that it…”

“…not unlike…” vs. “…like…”

“…all things antique…” vs. “…all antique things…”

And in any of those cases, you might find that both expressions are actually correct; those are differences between answer choices, but they’re not the difference between correct and incorrect. Idiomatic differences, changes in word choice, etc. may seem to beg your attention, but like Marco Rubio, you should head into each question with your list of points you want to address: modifiers, verbs, pronouns, parallel structure, etc. Look for those primary decision points first and attack them until you’ve exhausted them. Nearly always, you’ll find that doing so eliminates enough answer choices that you never have to deal with the trickier, more obscure, and often irrelevant differences between choices.

Approach each Sentence Correction problem with your scripted and heavily-practiced Decision Points in mind first. Sentence Correction is a task tailor-made for Rubio-bots.

2) Once you identify an error, stay on message as long as you can.
Rubio’s strategy backfired, but that doesn’t mean that it was a poor strategy to begin with – in fact, it’s one that will immensely help you on Sentence Correction problems. He identified a message that resonated, and he decided to do that until he was – quite literally – forced to do something else. This is a critical Sentence Correction tactic: if you find a particular error (say, an illogical modifier), you should then hold each answer choice up to that standard checking for the same error. Nearly always, if you find an error in one answer choice that same type of error will appear in at least one more.

Don’t treat each individual answer choice as a “unique snowflake” that you’ve never seen before. If there’s a verb tense / timeline error in choice B, then immediately scan C, D, and E checking those verb tenses and quickly eliminating any choices with a problem.

For example, consider the problem:

The economic report released today by Congress and the Federal Reserve was bleaker than expected, which suggests that the nearing recession might be even deeper and more prolonged than even the most pessimistic analysts have predicted.

(A) which suggests that the nearing recession might be even deeper and more prolonged than even the most pessimistic analysts have predicted.
(B) which suggests that the nearing recession might be deeper and more prolonged than that predicted by even the most pessimistic analysts.
(C) suggests that the nearing recession might be even deeper and more prolonged than that predicted by even the most pessimistic analysts.
(D) suggesting that the nearing recession might be deeper and more prolonged than that predicted by even the most pessimistic analysts.
(E) a situation that is even more deep and prolonged than even the most pessimistic analysts have predicted.

If you’re attacking this problem like a Rubio-bot, you’ll notice before you ever look at the sentence that the answer choices supply different modifiers. A and B use the relative modifier “which,” D uses the participial phrase “suggesting,” and E uses an appositive “a situation.” Noticing that, you should begin reading the sentence with that Modifier talking point in mind.

When you realize that “which” is used incorrectly in A, you don’t need to read the rest of B to see that it makes the exact same mistake. Since the sentence calls for a modifier (the portion before the comma and underlined is a complete sentence on its own, so the role of the underlined section is to further describe) and the only correct modifier in this situation is the participial “suggesting,” you can eliminate three answer choices (A, B, and E) just with that one Decision Point and quickly arrive at the correct answer, D.

More importantly, remember the overarching strategy: before you attack any Sentence Correction problem, know the grounds upon which you’re hoping to attack it – have your primary Decision Points in mind before you’re ever asked the question. And then when you do find one of those Decision Points that you can use, repeat it ad nauseum until it no longer applies.

Let’s dispel with the fiction that Marco Rubio doesn’t know what he’s doing when he repeats the same talking point over and over again; he knows exactly what he’s doing…it just works better on the GMAT than it does in a presidential debate.

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 is a “Good” Weakness to Put in Your MBA Application?

SAT/ACT“What are your weaknesses?”

Most MBA applicants find this to be the most difficult question to answer.

As professionals and entrepreneurs, we are trained to put our best foot forward in order to sell our businesses and ourselves. We think and rehearse how to best present our strengths, while hardly spending any time considering our weaknesses. Understandably, addressing this question during one’s MBA application essay or interview usually proves to be quite a challenge.

Asked to identify his weaknesses, a typical MBA applicant will ask him or herself two questions:

1) What should I avoid mentioning?
Everyone worries about giving an answer that will reveal a fatal flaw to the admissions committee and hurt one’s chances at being admitted to an MBA program. Thus, a frequent mistake is to answer this question using a fake weakness – saying something like, “I am too smart,” or, “I work too effectively,” does not really answer the question and will just irritate your audience. Presenting yourself as unrealistically perfect will also diminish the genuine strengths you have, and create doubt in the accomplishments you have discussed throughout the essays or the interview, as it makes you appear incapable of an honest self-assessment.

Another similar no-no is to blame somebody else for your weakness. Do not attribute a weakness solely to your work environment, personal circumstances, or ethnicity – this comes across as a reckless generalization and will not add any value to your case. It will also only shift the conversation into a negative tone and counter the strong, optimistic vibe that you want to be associated with.

2) What exactly are they looking for?
Admissions committees are looking for applicants who will greatly benefit from attending their school’s MBA program, and who can contribute to the experience of other MBA participants. Using this as a guide, the weakness question should be used to demonstrate character traits of self-awareness, ability to learn from failures, and open-mindedness to effectively use feedback and criticism.

An applicant should identify specific skills and knowledge gaps that he or she will need to work on in order to reach her post MBA goals – ideally, specifics of the target MBA program in terms of courses, culture, or community should be matched to these potential growth areas.

Executing this answer properly will put forth an honest reflection that shows genuine interest in a school’s MBA program and convinces the admissions committee that the applicant has really researched the school’s offering. Effectively demonstrating your potential to gain from, and contribute to, an MBA program through your personal story will help convince the admission committee of your fit with their school. Filling in details of how you have addressed your identified weakness or how you are in the process of doing so will also help show how proactive you are, and how you will greatly benefit from this particular MBA program.

A final tip: whenever you are asked about strengths and weaknesses in one question, whether in an essay or an interview, you must allocate time and space as evenly as possible between talking about the two. Most applicants spend 2/3 or more of the space they are given for strengths leaving little room to develop the weakness portion of the answer. This type of answer will look like it was just glossed over, and that the question was not answered adequately – it will also not allow you to make a proper case as to why you will benefit from the program.

A good answer to the “weakness” question strengthens your case to be admitted to your target MBA program even as you identify a real weakness. Skillfully weaving stories of your personal experiences, self-reflection, and vision through discussion of this weakness will make your profile unique and compelling to the admissions committee.

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

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

SAT Tip of the Week: The Importance of “Stepping Back”

SAT Tip of the Week - FullWhen you’re taking the SAT, it’s easy to get lost in the moment concentrating on the test. You’re so focused on doing well, answering all the questions, double checking your work, and staying within the time limits that it’s easy to neglect thinking about the ways to actually be successful on the test.

One way I’ve found to make sure I don’t get distracted from my purpose is to consciously take a second to pause and remind myself that I know how this standardized test works. The SAT is standardized, which means it always operates in the same way; I “step back” to use that knowledge to my advantage.

Not really sure what I’m saying? Let me explain. So right now, as I’m writing this article, I am fully aware that there is always only one right answer on each SAT question. I’m aware that the answers to reading passages always have direct evidence from the text. I’m aware that all SAT math questions can be solved using uncomplicated math. But when I actually take a test, sometimes the pressure gets to me and I forget these vital tips. I’ll agonize over two different answers I think might be right, or I’ll find myself using calculus to try to solve a problem. When you’re desperate for points, things like this can happen.

To solve this problem, I need to consciously extricate myself from the pressures of the test and take a deep breath, remembering that the SAT has to follow certain rules every time. This is what I mean by “stepping back.” Once you “step back,” you’ll likely see a flaw in your thinking that was causing you to mess up on the problem in the first place. Maybe you’ll notice an assumption you were making about the passage, and now that you’re clearheaded and can remember that assumptions should not be made on the SAT, you’ll see that only one of the answers is justifiable in the passage.

It might seem scary to do this process, since taking a pause mid-test could cost you precious time. In reality, that is far from the truth – stepping back only takes a few seconds and will allow you to clear your mind, thereby eliminating time wasted agonizing over tough problems.

The SAT is not a test that you will do well on if you aren’t aware of what kind of test it is. The SAT is a standardized test that has to operate by certain rules and principles – it’s easy to forget this when your whole mind seems focused on how to fix a comma splice. Taking a moment to remember what you have to do is a valuable exercise that will help maintain a useful perspective on the test day.

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.

Are You Too Young to Apply to Business School?

Make Studying FunBusiness school is one of the few power graduate degree programs where age and work experience play a key role in the admissions process as well as quality of the overall student community. Graduate programs in law and medicine often admit students right out of undergraduate university with no expectation of work experience, but with business school, age, maturity, and work experience often play a critical role in the assessment process.

As a younger candidate applying to business school, it is important that you think critically about how age factors into your chances and whether you are old enough – from both an age and maturity perspective – to compete for a spot at the top schools in the world. Let’s explore some of the aspects that should factor into this determination:

Career Clarity:
Is your rationale for applying to business school at this moment sound? Why is this year the ideal year for you? Could next year make more sense? Oftentimes, candidates will have set in their mind that they need to go to business school on a set time-table, as soon as possible – make sure your rationale is focused instead on an authentic reasoning for applying. Younger candidates are put under additional scrutiny to ensure they have really thought through why business school is the ideal next step in their career, so make sure you have a good answer for the Admissions Committee when thinking through this key question.

Work Experience:
Have you cultivated the requisite amount of quality professional work experience to contribute to an MBA classroom? It is not enough to just have the right GPA, GMAT score, and pedigree to apply – your ability to add value to the student community for your classmates is another critical element that the Admissions Committee will evaluate you on. With the increase in team-based assignments in business schools around the world, your ability to contribute to group and classroom educational dynamics is critical to the experience of others. If you have no work experiences to share during classroom discussions, it will be difficult for admissions to see you as a viable candidate.

Class Profile:
Historically, certain schools such as Harvard and Stanford have been unafraid to lean a bit younger in targeting potential MBA students. Understanding the reputation of your target program and investigating how its class profile may factor into admissions decisions can help you better curate your list of potential programs. The question of whether you are qualified or not still remains the most important, but by evaluating trends in class composition at your target program, you can save yourself a lot of precious time in the application process.

Use the criteria above to evaluate whether right now is truly the best time for you to apply to business school, and use this evaluation to stress in your applications why your young age will not hinder you in pursuing an MBA at this time.

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

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.

A 750+ Level GMAT Geometry Question

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday we will discuss a pretty advanced GMAT question, because we can still use our basic GMAT concepts to find the answer. It may seem like we will need trigonometry to handle this question, but that is not so. In fact, the question will look familiar at first, but will present unforeseen problems later on.

While going through this exercise, we will learn a few tips and tricks which will be useful in our mainstream GMAT questions, hence, it will add value to our GMAT repertoire (especially in elimination techniques). Let’s go on to the question now:

In triangle ABC, if angle ABC is 30 degrees, AC = 2*sqrt(2) and AB = BC = X, what is the value of X?

(A) Sqrt(3) – 1

(B) Sqrt(3) + 2

(C) (Sqrt(3) – 1)/2

(D) (Sqrt(3) + 1)/2

(E) 2*(Sqrt(3) + 1)

What we see here is an isosceles triangle with one angle as 30 degrees and other two angles as (180 – 30)/2 = 75 degrees each.

The side opposite the 30 degrees angle is 2*sqrt(2). One simple observation is that X must be greater than 2*sqrt(2) because these sides are opposite the greater angles (75 degrees).

2*sqrt(2) is a bit less than 2*1.5 because Sqrt(2) = 1.414. So 2*sqrt(2) is a bit less than 3. Note that options (A), (C), and (D) are much smaller than 3, so these cannot be the value of X. We have already improved our chances of getting the correct answer by eliminating three options! Now we have to choose out of (B) and (E).
2Triangles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what is given: Angle ABC = 30 degrees, and AC = 2*sqrt(2). We need to find the value of X. Now, our 30 degree angle reminds us of a 30-60-90 triangle in which we know the ratio of the sides – given one side, we can find the other two.

The problem is this: if we drop an altitude from angle B to AC, the angle 30 degrees will be split in half and we will actually get a 15-75-90 triangle, instead. We won’t have a 30-60-90 triangle anymore, so what do we do now? Let’s try to maintain the 30 degree angle as it is to get the 30-60-90 triangle, and drop an altitude from angle C to AB instead, calling it CE. Now we have a 30-60-90 triangle! Since BCE is a 30-60-90 triangle, its sides are in the ratio 1:sqrt(3):2. Side X corresponds to 2 on the ratio, so CE = x/2.

Area of triangle ABC = (1/2)*BD*AC = (1/2)*CE*AB

(1/2)*BD*2*sqrt(2) = (1/2)*(X/2)*X

BD = X^2/4*Sqrt(2)

Now DC = (1/2)AC = 2*sqrt(2)/2 = sqrt(2)

Let’s use the pythagorean theorem on triangle BDC:

BD^2 + DC^2 = BC^2

(X^2/4*Sqrt(2))^2 + (Sqrt(2))^2 = X^2

X^4/32 + 2 = X^2

X^4 – 32*X^2 + 64 = 0

X^4 – 16X^2 + 8^2 – 16X^2 = 0

(X^2 – 8)^2 – (4X)^2 = 0

(X^2 -8 + 4X) * (X^2 – 8 – 4X) = 0

Normally, this would require us to use the quadratic roots formula, but let’s not get that complicated. We can just plug in the the two shortlisted options and see if either of the factors is 0. If one of the factors becomes 0, the equation will be satisfied and we will have the root of the equation.

Since both options have both terms positive, it means the co-efficient corresponding to B in Ax^2 + Bx + C = 0 must be negative.

x = [-B +- Sqrt(B^2 – 4AC)]/2A

-B will give us a positive term if B is negative, so we will get the answer by plugging into (X^2 – 4X – 8):

Put X = Sqrt(3) + 2 in X^2 – 4X – 8 and you do not get 0.

Put X = 2*(Sqrt(3) + 1) in X^2 – 4X – 8 and you do get 0.

This means that X is 2*(Sqrt(3) + 1), so our answer must be (E).

To recap:

Tip 1: A greater side of a triangle is opposite a greater angle.

Tip 2: We can get the relation between sides and altitudes of a triangle by using the area of the triangle formula.

Tip 3: The quadratic formula can help identify the sign of the irrational roots.

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: Cam Newton’s GMAT Success Strategy

GMAT Tip of the WeekAs we head into Super Bowl weekend, the most popular conversation topic in the world is the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback, Cam Newton. Many questions surround him: is he the QB to whom the Brady/Manning “Greatest of All Time” torch will be passed? Is this the beginning of a new dynasty? Why do people like/dislike him so much? What the heck is the Dab, anyway? And most commonly:

Why is Cam dancing and smiling so much?

The answer? Because smiling may very well be the secret to success, both in the Super Bowl and on the GMAT.

Note: this won’t be the most mathematically tactical GMAT tip post you read, and it’s not something you’ll really be able to practice on Sunday afternoon while you hit the Official Guide for GMAT Review before your Super Bowl party starts. But it may very well be the tip that most impacts your score on test day, because managing stress and optimizing performance are major keys for GMAT examinees. And smiling is a great way to do that.

First, there’s science: the act of smiling itself is known to release endorphins, relaxing your mind and giving you a more positive outlook. And this happens regardless of whether you’re actually happy or optimistic – you can literally “fake it till you make it” by smiling through a stressful or unpleasant experience.

(Plus there’s the fact that smiling puts OTHER people in a better mood, too, which won’t really help you on the GMAT since it’s you against a computer, but for your b-school and job interviews, a smile can go a long way toward an upbeat experience for both you and the interviewer.)

There are plenty of ways to force yourself to smile. One is the obvious: just do it. Write it down on the top of your noteboard in all caps: SMILE! And force yourself to do it, even when it doesn’t feel natural.

But you can also laugh/smile at yourself more naturally: when Question 1 is a permutations problem and you were dreading the idea of a permutations problem, you can laugh at your bad luck but also at the fact that at least you’re getting it over with while you still have plenty of time to recover. When you blank on a rule and have to test small numbers to prove it, you can laugh at the fact that had you not been so fascinated with the video games on your calculator in middle school you’d know that cold. You can smile when you see a friend’s name in a word problem or a Sentence Correction reference to a place you want to visit someday.

And the tactical rationale there: when you can smile in relation to the subject matter on the test, you can remind yourself that, at least on some level, you enjoy learning and problem-solving and striving for achievement. The biggest difference between “good test takers” and “good students, but bad test takers” is in the way that each approaches problems: the latter group says, “I don’t know,” and feels doubt, while the former says, “I don’t know…yet,” and starts from a position of confidence and strength. Then when you apply that confidence and figure out a problem that for a second had you totally stumped, you’ve earned that next smile and the positive energy snowballs.

As you watch Cam Newton on Sunday (For you brand management hopefuls, he’ll be playing football between those commercials you’re so excited to see!), pay attention to that megawatt smile that’s been the topic of so much talk radio controversy the last few weeks. Cam smiles because he’s having fun out there, and then that smile leads to big plays, which is even more fun, and then he’s smiling again. Apply that Cam Newton “smile your way to success” philosophy on test day and maybe you’ll be the next one getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to school for two years… (We kid, Cam – we kid!)

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.

How to Seek Scholarships as an International MBA Candidate

moneyEvery year, the world’s top business schools become more and more expensive. There are various ways to pay for one’s MBA education, and for domestic students, the process is pretty straightforward. Many students will utilize loans as one of their primary forms of payments, others will pay out of pocket or enjoy the benefits of an employee sponsorship.

One of the most coveted forms of paying for an MBA is the scholarship, because it usually comes with no attached financial commitment to repay the money one is given. Now, these lucrative scholarships do not come easy, especially for international students. Free money is difficult to come by as is, but for international students, there are a few complicating factors.

The biggest challenge international students face with this process is the origin of the scholarship money – most scholarships that are applicable to MBAs at business schools in the United States usually come from domestic donors, and for this reason, the money is largely earmarked for domestic students. This leaves very little available money for international students. If you are an international student, make sure you use this information to research scholarships that are open to, or specifically target, international students.

Keep in mind, if you are applying from an over-represented group, this process may be even more competitive for you. With so many students applying for so little available money, attempting to secure a scholarship can be daunting, which makes it even more important to put your best foot forward in the application process (of course for admission purposes, but also for the limited available money). Candidates with top-notch profiles will obviously stand out in this phase of the process, as many scholarships are administered based on career potential and available scores and grades.

Do not limit your scholarship search simply to those provided by your school. Publicly available scholarships are certainly out there, and if your profile or career trajectory align with the requirements of the organization offering the scholarship, you may be “in the money.” Conducting a basic online search is a good way to find out what scholarships are available, and applicable, to you.

The best advice I can give to international students here is to try and get into the best and most reputed school possible – this will afford you the best career options and highest potential future income level, scholarship or not. Know the realities of the scholarship search and the unique challenges for international students, and set yourself up for success in securing financial support for your education.

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: 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.

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By Brian Galvin.