SAT Tip of the Week: Math Traps

GMAT TrapsYou’re near the end of the last math section on the SAT. You’re feeling confident; you’ve answered every question so far, and you only have a couple of questions left to answer. You know that you’re so close to that dream score you’ve been pushing for. You glance at the clock: four minutes remaining. You take a quick look at the third to last question:

 

 

RP - math problem 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The question seems simple enough. If the can is eight inches tall, then four of the pencils cannot fit entirely inside the can. You circle D and move on, since you only have a few minutes left to answer the last two questions.

Unfortunately, if you choose D as the answer, you’d have missed one and a quarter points, which is enough to knock you out of the percentile you may have been aiming for. Newsflash: this seemingly simple math problem is a trick question! But before you groan and say to yourself, “How am I supposed to know when an SAT math question is just plain easy and when it’s a trap?”, heed this simple rule of thumb: on the SAT, trick questions tend to appear near the end of the section, say about the last 5-6 problems.

So, although you may be able to do math questions at the beginning of the section in less than thirty seconds, if you do a problem at the end of the section easily and in little time, chances are you fell for a trap! In fact, if a problem at the end of the section seems strangely easy, an alarm bell should go off in your head.

Be sure to always pause and consider the question carefully, instead of circling the first plausible answer. Also, be sure to always give yourself extra time for the end of the section, since you’ll need to spend a couple of minutes on the tricky problems to avoid traps. Let’s take another look at that problem.

One great way to deal with geometry-based questions at the end of the math section is to draw on the provided diagrams as you think your way through the problem. In other words, thinking visually. Doing will help you consider possible solutions you may otherwise overlook, such as in our tricky problem. So, let’s start by “drawing” the nine inch pencil in the tin can:
RP - math problem 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

RP - math problem 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The more tricky math questions you practice working through, the better you will become at spotting traps and using strategies like drawing on the figures. Consider signing up for the SAT question of the day to keep sharpening your skills!

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson, an 99th percentile SAT instructor for Veritas Prep.

The University of Rochester (Simon) Drops Price: What this Means for You

InterestOne of the recurring, and quite frankly most surprising, themes we’ve seen in recent posts on MBA discussion boards is the discussion of costs of programs. Many students are setting a budget first and then applying to schools in that budget range. Why is that so surprising? Well first of all, students have typically chosen to attend the best school they get into and then plan on figuring out the budget issues later through a combination of loans, scholarships or their own cold, hard-earned cash.

From the perspective of someone who has helped dozens of students with the application process over the last few years (and being a budget conscious consumer in their own right), it is actually very encouraging to see this since it will probably help students be much more realistic in their school choice, and raise their probabilities of being accepted to good, cost-effective programs.

Secondly, the ROI of a student’ s MBA program investment has a lot of variability based on things like the job market in two or more years, the chosen field the student goes into and also what a student should expect to make ten or more years after graduation.

The downside of a budget first approach is that students could turn down great opportunities at amazing schools because they are looking to save a few thousand dollars on the program cost. This, at the end of the day, will not move the needle on your ROI calculation as significantly as budget conscious students might be hoping for.

Schools that are typically ranked outside of the top ten are trying to take advantage of these budget-conscious students by offering more competitive scholarships, and in the case of the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School, actually dropping the cost of tuition. They plan to reduce tuition and fees from about $106,500 to $92,000 for the entire 2-year MBA program.

According to Andrew Ainslie, Dean of the school, there is a correlation between the ranking of a business school and its price. “The higher rank the school, is the higher the price. And the lower ranked the school is, the lower the price.” It seems Rochester felt they had to get their costs more in line with their peer schools instead of raising their tuition 3-5% as they have the last few years.

The good news is there is now an industry-wide discussion about the constant increase in pricing of MBA programs and if it will have a significant impact on demand. To see MBA costs significantly outpacing inflation doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s certainly refreshing to see a school actually look at the cost of the program and find a way to lower costs than to raise them. Andrew Ainslie added, “Industry really wants us to keep producing M.B.A. students, but we seem to be getting less and less interest from potential students.” Perhaps this will help make students more aware of the school and increase applications.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us onFacebookYouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter.

You Can Afford College! A Guide to Scholarship Resources

PiggyBankCost is one of the most prominent reasons that high school students choose not to apply to college. After nearly nine years helping students get into college, I can confidently say that you can afford college! There are many sources of financial aid—money that organizations and the government give or lend to you to help you pay for higher education—including grants, loans, work study, and scholarships. Scholarships are attractive because they don’t have to be repaid. Let’s explore the broad spectrum of scholarship resources.

There are scholarships for all types of students. They may be granted to members of certain religious, ethnic, age, gender, or regional groups. They may be awarded based on interest in a certain subject, volunteerism, for athletic and academic aptitude. Because there are so many scholarships out there, your scholarship search will probably be the most daunting aspect of securing scholarships.

It’s useful to start your search on a scholarship-specific search engine. (Using a mainstream search engine, like Google, may return several million results.) Some top scholarship search engines are CollegeBoard.com, fastweb.com, CollegeNET.com, scholarships.com, and ScholarshipMonkey.com. CollegeBoard’s scholarships only include scholarships from reputable and established organizations. CollegeNET.com offers peer-voted scholarships that aren’t based on traditional factors such as GPA or income, in addition to the search engine. Fastweb contains the most up-to-date scholarships, as they update their databases daily! Explore these sites to determine which yields the best results for you.

Millions of students rely on these scholarship search engines, so you should also supplement your search with more personally-tailored resources. You will find school-specific scholarships and fellowships at your target colleges, so make sure to familiarize yourself with their sites. Prospective post-graduation employers that interest you may offer scholarships; many organizations also offer scholarships to children of employees. Your high school guidance counselor will also receive scholarship information that may be more aligned to your community.

When you’ve identified scholarships to apply to, there are several factors to keep in mind. Start looking for scholarships early and continue to search for them [even after you’re enrolled in college]. Take some time to learn about each organization that is awarding the scholarships you’re applying to, so that your essays are personally tailored to each.

Remember, there’s a scholarship for everything, so never assume you can’t afford school!

Need some help with your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Dakotah Eddy is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant, and the Assistant Director of Admissions Consulting. She received both her bachelor’s degree and MBA from Cornell University (Go Big Red!), with the aid of several scholarships, grants, fellowships. She enjoys creating: from culinary masterpieces, to wearable art, to tech solutions.

 

 

An Introvert’s Survival Guide to College: The Importance of “Me” Time

peaceAll I ever did in my freshman year of college was sleep, socialize, and work. Predictably, I burned out only a little more than halfway through the semester.

I’ve always been fairly introverted, but until college I had never felt any significant pressure to be any other way. Socially speaking, elementary school prepared me well for middle school, which prepared me well for high school. I always had structured work time, structured social time, structured free time (leisure hours after school) and structured alone time (home hours after leisure hours). “Me” time was abundant, automatic, and sometimes even boring. I even had my own room throughout middle school and high school, where I regularly hid from the world to relax, reflect, and recharge my social batteries.

The opposite was true in college. I shared a dorm room with another freshman, lived in a packed and noisy eight-floor dorm building in a six-building dorm unit, and was bombarded every day with people I wanted to meet and people who wanted to meet me. During the day I networked obsessively for reliable study friends, smart project partners, internships, research positions, and club leadership positions; at night, I bonded with dorm-mates, explored parties on frat row (overrated), and attended sorority recruitment events.

The result of all this was that I ended up with almost no “me” time at all, not including hours spent catching up on homework. I got so carried away by my excitement about college that I forgot to pay attention to my own needs. Even though I was getting all of my work done (usually in groggy frenzies twenty minutes before my 10am class), I was selling myself short mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

As the novelty of college life wore off, I realized that I had built up an unhealthy lifestyle. It was hard to accept at first, but I eventually came to terms with the fact that I was simply not made for the routine in which so many of my more extroverted friends seemed to thrive.

I soon became very sure that the reason I felt so burned out was that my demanding course load required not only intellectual energy but also enthusiasm and focus, which I was only able to sustainably generate when I felt settled and healthy. I began whittling down my social commitments, turning down or rescheduling invitations, and cutting my personal party time allowance to no more than one or two nights a week. I ate more healthily and worked out more, I became more aware and appreciative of my small circle of truly close friends, and my grades went up.

I realize now that the problem was that I had failed to recognize how valuable my own time was. I thoughtlessly committed the limited hours in my day to every passing event, extracurricular, or outing that happened to pique my interest. I know now that because I’m introverted, I badly need to keep some of that time to myself if I’m to benefit from the time that I do choose to spend being productive or social. I’m happy to say I learned my lesson: these days I make sure to save a block of time every week just for me, and I can’t imagine life without it.

Are you starting to think about applying to college? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

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

 

How Understanding Sampling Can Help You Conquer the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday, we will discuss the concept of sampling. People with a statistics background will be very comfortable with it, but if you have not studied statistics, a little bit of knowledge will be helpful. You are not required to know this for the GMAT, however there could be questions framed on the sampling premise, and you will be far more comfortable solving them with some understanding in place. A sample is a selection made from a larger group (the “population”) which helps you examine certain characteristics of the larger group using limited resources.

For example:

In a large population, say all the people in a state, it is difficult to find the number of people with a certain trait, such as red hair. So you pick up 100 people at random (from different families, different areas, different backgrounds) and find the number of people who have red hair in this selection of 100.

Let’s say 12 have red hair. You can then generalize that approximately 12% of the whole population has red hair. The more unbiased your sample, the better the approximation.

In this example, you found something about the entire population (12% has red hair) based on a small sample and hence, using few resources. To find the actual percentage of people who have red hair in the entire population, you would need far more effort, time and money. Usually the use of fewer resources justifies the use of sampling even though it comes with some error.

So that is a bit of background on sampling. It will help you make sense of the  official question given below:

In a certain pond, 50 fish were caught, tagged, and returned to the pond. A few days later, 50 fish were caught again, of which 2 were found to have been tagged. If the percent of tagged fish in the second catch approximates the percent of tagged fish in the pond, what is the approximate number of fish in the pond?

A) 400

B) 625

C) 1,250

D) 2,500

E) 10,000

This is what took place: From a pond, 50 fish were caught, tagged and returned to the pond. Then 50 were caught again and 2 of those were found to be tagged.

Why was this done?

The total number of fish in the pond is the population of the pond. It is unknown. Since counting the total number of fish in the pond was hard, they tagged 50 of them and let them disperse evenly in the population. This means they gave a certain trait to a known number of fish in the pond – they tagged 50 fish.

Then they caught 50 fish again and these fish became the sample. Out of these 50, 2 were found to be tagged. So 2 of the 50 fish caught were found to have the trait given (tagged) – 4% of our sample was tagged.

The question tells us that “… the percent of tagged fish in the second catch approximates the percent of tagged fish in the pond …” that is, the question tells us that the sample is representative of the population. This implies that 50 (the number of fish we tagged) is 4% of the entire fish population of the pond.

50 = 4% of Total Fish Population, therefore, we can calculate that the Total Fish Population = 50 * 100/4 = 1250. Our answer is then C.

Using sampling, we were able to calculate the total population of the pond without actually counting each fish. For increased accuracy, often the exercise of taking samples is repeated many times and then some kind of average is used to get the best approximation.

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

All About Business School Interviews

Admissions The process of applying to business school involves several steps: filling out an admissions application, writing an essay, and submitting GMAT or GRE scores are just a few of them. Another important step is the admissions interview. An interview allows business school admissions officials to get a look at the student behind the application. It also gives students the chance to ask the admissions officials a few questions about the school and it’s MBA program.

At Veritas Prep, our knowledgeable consultants help students prepare their admissions application, create a convincing essay, and organize all of the documents and deadlines involved in applying to business school. We know what business schools are looking for, and we share that valuable information with our students. Consider some typical questions asked of business school applicants, and learn some other helpful tips for students getting ready for an interview.

Typical Questions Asked During Business School Interviews

For students pursuing an MBA, interview questions can range from the academic to the personal. Generally, the official conducting the interview will start by asking a student why they want to attend that school. The interviewer is looking for specific answers to this question. For instance, a student may bring up certain internship opportunities available due to the school’s longtime relationship with a variety of companies. Or a student may mention the school’s average class size of just 30 students. These answers show that the candidate is familiar with what the school has to offer, and that they are dedicated to pursuing that particular school.

Another typical question asked in business school interviews concerns a student’s strengths and weaknesses. This question reveals the character, motivation, and work ethic of a student, and helps to reveal the student’s suitability for the study program. It’s a good idea for you to mention here what you are doing to improve in any weak areas.

Generally, students are asked about their career plans and how a degree from business school will help them in the pursuit of a particular profession, as well as about their personal academic accomplishments and their unique leadership skills. All of these answers and others help an interviewer to envision the candidate as a student in the business school.

How to Prep for the Interview

One of the best ways to prepare for interview questions is to review a school’s website. Most school websites include information about class size and faculty member qualifications, as well as statistics on the number of students who find jobs after graduation. This is an efficient way to find specific facts.

Students should practice answering potential questions with a friend or family member. The person playing the interviewer can offer helpful suggestions on how the student can improve upon certain answers, plus students can use this opportunity to come up with questions for the interviewer about the school and its courses.

What to Bring to the Interview

Most of the time, business schools will have a copy of a student’s résumé at the interview, but it’s a good idea for students to bring a few extra copies of their résumé as well, as there might be additional officials in the interview room. Students may also want to bring a copy of their GMAT or GRE test scores as well as a copy of their latest transcript – you may not need to take any of these documents out of their folder, but it’s a good idea to have them on hand.

What to Wear to the Interview

Dressing in an appropriate way plays an important part in a student’s success in an MBA interview. Although interview questions and answers are the most important elements of an interview, a student must also make a good visual first impression. It’s best for a student to wear conservative clothes and have a well-groomed appearance. A student doesn’t have to invest in designer clothes to make a positive impression on an interviewer – just look neat and professional.

Our consultants at Veritas Prep guide students through the process of applying to business school. We have the resources to prepare students for the GMAT, advise them on their admissions application, and offer strategies for success in business school interviews. Call or email Veritas Prep today and let us partner with you on the path toward an advanced degree in business.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us onFacebookYouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter.

3 Ways to Spice Up Studying: How to Overcome That Boring Class

procrastinationMost colleges have general education requirements outside of one’s major. While this is great, and extremely important, for building a well-rounded student, it can sometimes lead to less than exciting class choices. Having a liberal arts educational base helps many students develop as critical thinkers, but in the moment it may not be the most enjoyable process. Sometimes, it is hard to just get started to study for these classes. If they don’t necessarily connect to your future employment prospects, and it’s something you are utterly disinterested in, here are some things to do to get your excitement juices flowing.

1. Turn it into a contest

Nothing gets people excited like a little healthy competition. Find some friends in the class, and turn study time into fun academic type contests. While this certainly sounds a little nerdy, it can help compensate for the lack of excitement these classes create. It may not be that intriguing to you to learn about architecture in Egypt in 1000 BCE, but if you can beat a friend by memorizing a couple facts, the motivation to study becomes slightly more compelling.

Now this is not to say you should turn your general education class into a high stakes gambling ring, but tying the class to external incentives may just give you the pop you need to get into action and really start hitting the books. Whether it is figuring out who knows the material the best, or seeing who will get the best score on a test, any type of healthy competition can be good for studying.

2. Tie it into something you care about

You may not be that interested in East Asian art from 2500 BCE, or early Greek scientific hypotheses, but something within that content has to be interesting and connected to your major or a hobby. Take some time and explore the subject in detail, which also gets you studying, and try to find connections to things you care about. However loose they may be, a connection that adds a personal interest or pushes you to crack open a textbook is extremely helpful in spicing up your study habits.

If you are a business major and in a history class, try to figure out what the commerce was at the time. How did merchants succeed in a different economy and what can you take from that to apply it to your life? If you are a premed student and learning about early English poetry, what kind of subjects did they discuss in relation to medicine. How far have people advanced. The world is full of connections, it is just about making them to ensure your study process is somewhat enjoyable.

3. Challenge yourself

Finally, challenge yourself. If you force yourself to sit front and center in the classroom, you will feel a personal motivation to study. Nothing is more embarrassing than being called out by a professor, and not knowing the answer to the question. Sitting in the front turns on a type of self-preservation that will motivate you to study no matter what the class is. If you know that you will be called on, it doesn’t matter how disinterested you are in the subject, you will be studying and paying attention in class.

This may seem a little cruel and unusual, but it is a good strategy! Whatever the case is, you will be thankful you learned these somewhat random subjects later on, as you never know when they will come in handy to discuss.

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

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

 

How to Solve Probability Problems on the GMAT

Roll the DiceAt some point in every class I teach, I’ll take a poll from my students about which topics they struggle with most. The answers will vary, but one topic that comes up over and over again is probability. Though I do recall finding probability somewhat vexing when I studied it as an undergraduate, I’ve always found it surprising that this is such an area of concern for GMAT test-takers, for the simple reason that probability questions, historically, have tended not to be very common on the test.

I suspect there are two reasons for the concern. First, is simply that the human brain isn’t naturally wired to do probability very well. Whereas many branches of mathematics are thousands of years old and have their roots in ancient civilizations, there was no working theory of probability until the 16th century.

This is pretty surprising. The ancient Greeks, for example, possessed the rudiments of integral calculus, but when it came to probability, they were clueless. Moreover, there is plenty of research demonstrating that, even now, well-educated adults struggle with probability even when the question touches on material within their field of expertise.

Secondly, GMAC seems to be realizing that probability is such an elastic concept that other question types can be incorporated into a probability question. Consequently, probability questions have been showing up a bit more frequently on some of the newer material released by GMAC. If we’re not wired to do probability very well, and these questions are showing up more frequently, some anxiety about the topic is inevitable.

The reason that probability can encompass other categories so easily is that the probability of an event occurring is, at heart, a simple ratio: the number of desired outcomes/the number of total possible outcomes. To simplify matters, it can be helpful to break this ratio into its component parts. First find the total possible number of outcomes. Then find the number of desired outcomes. When we think about the issue this way, it seems much more manageable. Take this newer official question, for example:

If an integer n to be chosen randomly between 1 and 96 inclusive, what is the probability that n(n+1)(n+2) is divisible by 8 ? 

A) 1/4 

B) 3/8

C) 1/2

D) 5/8

E) 3/4 

On the surface, this is a probability question, but because we’re talking about divisibility, it’s also testing our knowledge of number properties. So let’s start by thinking about our total possible outcomes. There are 96 numbers between 1 and 96 inclusive, so clearly, there are 96 total possible outcomes when we select a number at random. We have the denominator of our fraction.

Now we just have to figure out how many ways we can multiply three consecutive numbers, n(n+1)(n+2), to get a multiple of 8. Put another way, any multiple of 8, or 2^3, must contain three 2’s. One way this can happen is if the middle number, n+1, is odd, because every odd number must be sandwiched between a multiple of 2 and a multiple of 4.

If n+1 is 3, for example, you’d have 2*3*4, which is a multiple of 8. (We need three 2’s in all. The 2 gives us one, and the 4 donates the other 2’s.) If n+1 is 5, you’d have 4*5*6, which is also a multiple of 8. (The 4 donates two 2’s and the 6 donates one. So long as we have three 2’s, we have a multiple of 8.) Between 1 and 96, we’ve got 48 odd numbers.

The other way we can get a multiple of 8, when we multiply n(n+1)(n+2)  is if n + 1 is itself a multiple of 8. Clearly 7*8*9 will be a multiple of 8. As will 15*16*17. We can either count the multiples of 8 between 1 and 96, or we can use the trusty formula: [(High-Low)/Interval] + 1. The first multiple of 8 between 1 and 96 is 8. The largest is 96. And the interval will be 8. So we get [(96-8)/8] + 1 = 11 + 1 = 12 multiples of 8.

So we have two categories of desired outcomes: there are 48 ways that n+1 can be odd, and there are 12 ways that n+1 can be a multiple of 8, giving us a total of 48 + 12 = 60 desired outcomes.

We’re done! The number of desired outcomes/number of total possible outcomes is 60/96, which will reduce to 5/8. The correct answer is D.

Takeaway: There’s no reason to be intimidated by probability questions, particularly when we remember that a probability calculation can be viewed as a ratio of two numbers. If we break the problem into its constituent parts, the question is often revealed to be quite a bit easier than it seems at first glance, a realization that proves true for almost any challenging GMAT problem.

*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 find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

SAT Tip of the Week: Looking for Roots

SAT Tip of the Week - FullArguably the most infamous subject tested on the SAT is vocabulary. My students moan when I present them with a lengthy list of hundreds upon hundreds of words they need to learn by test day. Many report that vocabulary-based questions are responsible for most of their missed points on the Reading Section, others complain that they’ve never even heard of at least half of the tested vocabulary words.

In fact, even Collegeboard, the company that makes the SAT, is dropping the vocabulary section from the new version of the test, which will come into effect in March of 2016. However, the following trick that will help you ace sentence  completion questions is still relevant to any of you students taking the SAT over the next six months.

The reason the vocabulary on the current SAT is so tricky is that the tested words tend to be unfamiliar. By unfamiliar, I mean words you don’t throw around in everyday conversation with your friends, family, and peers. On the SAT, you won’t see words like “lol”, “fomo” or “candid”. Instead, you’ll see words like “anachronism”, “strident”, “quotidian”, and “panacea”, all of which, I’m guessing, you haven’t recently dropped in casual conversation.  However, just because these words are unfamiliar, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to deduce the rough meaning of some of them simply by looking for recognizable roots, or parts of the words.

Take the word “anachronism”, for example. In the middle of the word I spot the root “chron” which reminds me of “chronological”, a word most of us are more likely to know than “anachronism”. So, if I were to make an educated guess, I’d wager that anachronism has something to do with time. And in fact, the dictionary definition of the word is, “A thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned.”

So how can I use this trick of looking at the roots of unfamiliar words to improve my scores on the SAT? Take a look at the following sentence completion question:

Many economists believe that since resources are scarce and since human desires cannot all be _____, a method of ____ is needed.

A) indulged… apportionment

B) verified…distribution

C) usurped…expropriation

D) expressed…reparation

E) anticipated…advertising

Let’s say that I narrowed my answer choices down to A and B, because the second word in each answer (apportionment and distribution, respectively) makes sense in the sentence (as both suggest that resources need to be divided because they are scarce). However, let’s say I couldn’t choose between A and B, because I know the meaning of “indulged”, but not the meaning of “verified”.

Before guessing between the two, I would scan the word “verified” for roots. In this case, I can spot the root “veri”, which I know is a version of “verus”, meaning true, accurate, or real. It makes much less sense, in context, for resources to be divided because human desires cannot all be true rather than for resources to be divided because not all human desires can be satisfied. So, my final answer is A.

Let’s take a look at another example:

Even in her fiction writing, Denise Chavez functions as a kind of historian in that she _____ the real experiences of Hispanic women through her characters.

A) predicts

B) defends

C) chronicles

D) averts

E) surmises

I can eliminate D and E, because it doesn’t make sense in context for Chavez to ward off or to make guesses about the experiences of her characters.  However, let’s say I was considering A because “predict” seems relevant to history, and B because defending the real experiences of hispanic women also seems relevant. Also, let’s say I’m unsure about C, because I don’t know what the word “chronicles” means. Note: rather than guessing at random between the three remaining choices, I would want to scan the unfamiliar word for roots.

In this case, “chronicles”, like anachronism, has the root “chron”, meaning “time”. So, given that the sentence is about an author being comparable to a historian, I’ll keep C for now. Does it make sense to call Chavez a sort of historian because she predicts the experiences of hispanic women? Upon consideration, it doesn’t, because historians record the past; they don’t predict the future. Does it make sense to call Chavez a sort of historian because she defends the experiences of hispanic women? That sounds more like an activist than a historian. So, I can eliminate the other answers through logic, and even though I don’t know the exact meaning of “chronicles”, I can reasonably assume the word fits in context, as it has to do with time. In fact, chronicles means to record, so the correct answer is indeed C.

I know some of you might be thinking that it’s unfair that you have to learn so many vocabulary words for so few questions, especially with the new, vocabulary-free SAT just around the corner. However, the skill you’ve learned today will prove valuable to you whenever you see unfamiliar words, which means that it will be especially relevant in college.

Building a strong vocabulary and looking at words critically aren’t skills you should only invest in for the SAT; they will come in handy for the rest of your education! And in case you’d like some further practice, take a look at the tricky question below. See if you can spot roots that you know in any of the words you are unfamiliar with! Also, be sure to look up the words after you finish the question, so you can learn new roots!

No longer narrowly preoccupied with their own national pasts, historians are increasingly _____ in that they often take a transnational perspective.

A) conciliatory

B) bombastic

C) mendacious

D) cosmopolitan

E) jocular

Correct answer: D. Cosmopolitan means worldly, and is derived from the roots “kosmo” (world) and “polites” (citizen).

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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

Advanced Exponent Properties for the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday, let’s discuss the relative placements of exponents on the number line.

We know what the graph of 2^x looks like:

 

 

 

 

Graph of 2^x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It shows that when x is positive, with increasing value of x, 2^x increases very quickly (look at the first quadrant), but we don’t know exactly how it increases.

It also shows that when x is negative, 2^x stays very close to 0. As x decreases, the value of 2^x decreases by a very small amount.

Now note the spacing of the powers of 2 on the number line:

Number line jpg

2^0 = 1

2^1 = 2

2^2 = 4

2^3 = 8

and so on…

2^1 = 2 * 2^0 = 2^0 + 2^0

2^2 = 2 * 2^1 = 2^1 + 2^1

2^3 = 2 * 2^2 = 2^2 + 2^2

2^4 = 2 * 2^3 = 2^3 + 2^3

So every power of 2 is equidistant from 0 and the next power. This means that a power of 2 would be much closer to 0 than the next higher powers. For example, 2^2 is at the same distance from 0 as it is from 2^3.

But 2^2 is much closer to 0 than it is to 2^4, 2^5 etc.

Let’s look at a question based on this concept. Most people find it a bit tough if they do not understand this concept:

Given that x = 2^b – (8^30 + 16^5), which of the following values for b yields the lowest value for |x|?

A) 35

B) 90

C) 91

D) 95

E) 105

We need the lowest value of |x|. We know that the smallest value any absolute value function can take is 0. So 2^b should be as close as possible to (8^30 + 16^5) to get the lowest value of |x|.

Let’s try to simplify:

(8^30 + 16^5)

= (2^3)^30 + (2^4)^5

= 2^90 + 2^20

Which value should b take such that 2^b is as close as possible to 2^90 + 2^20?

2^90 + 2^20 is obviously larger than 2^90. But is it closer to 2^90 or 2^91 or higher powers of 2?

Let’s use the concept we have learned today – let’s compare 2^90 + 2^20 with 2^90 and 2^91.

2^90 = 2^90 + 0

2^91 = 2^90 + 2^90

So now if we compare these two with 2^90 + 2^20, we need to know whether 2^20 is closer to 0 or closer to 2^90.

We already know that 2^20 is equidistant from 0 and 2^21, so obviously it will be much closer to 0 than it will be to 2^90.

Hence, 2^90 + 2^20 is much closer to 2^90 than it is to 2^91 or any other higher powers.

We should take the value 90 to minimize |x|, therefore the answer is B.

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

5 Tips for Being Efficient with Data Sufficiency Problems

GoalsGMAT Data Sufficiency problems present test takers with several unique issues.  First, this type of problem has likely not been encountered before and thus, there is a learning curve for not only what the “rules” regarding such problems are, but also how to approach the various questions. Additionally, Data Sufficiency problems do not lend themselves to being solved through brute force – with Data Sufficiency questions you do not really need to answer the question in order to solve the problem.

Data Sufficiency questions are inherently more difficult than Problem Solving questions because they are more conceptual in nature.  Take for example the following problem:

Is xy > 0?

1) x < 6

2) 0 ≤ y < x

Right off the bat, we see that there are 2 variables, so to answer the question we need to know the values of x and y.  However, this problem is better viewed conceptually – instead of  determining the actual values of x and y, if we recognize that this problem is really testing us on the Properties of Numbers, we realize that what is actually being asked is if x and y are either both positive or both negative. Once we re-phrase the question this way, the problem is much easier to deal with.  Statement 1 says that x is less than 6, but this does not tell us definitively whether x is positive or negative. Nor, does Statement 1 give us any information about y.  Thus, Statement 1 is not sufficient.

Statement 2 gives us information about both x and y.  We now know that y is less than or equal to 0, and x is greater than y. This looks promising.  But, since y could be 0 (or greater than 0), we cannot say that xy is greater than 0.  Statement 2 is not sufficient.  Taking both Statements together provides no more information about y, so we still cannot answer the question (although some might be tempted to overlook the less than or equal to portion).

Here are some tips to efficiently and strategically approach these unique problems:

  • Memorize the answer choices! They are the same for every Data Sufficiency question on the GMAT, so you can save valuable time by knowing them and knowing that if Statement 1 is sufficient, your answer choices are either A or D.
  • Before reading the statements, try to verbalize what information you need to answer the question. This will help you to determine whether the statements provide the information you need.
  • Leverage as much information as you can from the prompt. Often times, important information is included in the prompt but not readily apparent.
  • Be very wary of statements that provide information that blatantly and obviously answers the question. If a question asks what the value of x is and one statement tells you x = 6, take a very close look at the other statement. Many times, the other statement will contain information that is difficult to decipher and the test makers are baiting you to select the obvious answer and move on.
  • Be on the lookout for statements that give no new information. The circumference of a circle, for instance, contains just as much information as the length of the radius. If you know the circumference, you can find the radius; conversely, if you know the radius, you can find the circumference. Often on Data Sufficiency questions, Statement 2 will just be a repackaging of the same information provided by Statement 1.

Even though GMAT Data Sufficiency problems require some different thinking, with some strategic practice, you will master them. Start with becoming familiar with the structure of the questions and the concepts they most commonly test.

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

By Dennis Cashion, a Veritas Prep instructor based in Denver.

The GMAT Quant Decimal Trend You NEED to Know

Pi to the 36th digitWhenever GMAC releases new material, I’m always on the lookout for conspicuous trends – esoteric or little known rules that end up being applicable in multiple questions. One type of question that has recently shown up with greater frequency involves terminating decimals. The concept isn’t, in the abstract, a terribly hard one. ½, for example, is .5, and so this is a terminating decimal. It ends. 1/3, on the other hand is .33333…, and continues indefinitely, so it’s not a terminating decimal. That’s not so hard. So, you say to yourself: all I have to do is perform a little division, and then I can see for myself if the decimal terminates or not, right?

But then you see a question like this:

Which of the following fractions has a decimal equivalent that is a terminating decimal?

A) 10/189

B) 15/196

C) 16/225

D) 25/144

E) 39/128

Once you spend a little time trying to divide 10 by 189, you realize that the question is going to be incredibly painful and time-consuming if you have to keep applying this approach until you find a fraction that results in a terminating decimal. So let’s be mindful of the fact that the purpose of the GMAT is not to test one’s facility for engaging in tedious arithmetic, but rather to assess our ability to recognize patterns under pressure.

Generally speaking, the best way to uncover a pattern is to use simple numbers first and then extrapolate our results to the more complex scenario we’re tasked with evaluating. We already established above that ½ is a terminating decimal and 1/3 is not. Let’s continue in that vein and see what we find (terminating decimals are in bold):

½ = .5

1/3 = .3333…

¼ = .25

1/5 = .2

1/6 = .166666…

1/7= .142857…

1/8 = .125

1/9 = .1111

1/10 = .1

Next, let’s examine our terminating decimal expressions and see if these numbers have any elements in common. Each of these fractions, it turns out, has a denominator whose prime factorization is composed solely of two prime bases, 2 or 5 or both. This turns out to be a general principle: if a fraction has been simplified, and the prime factorization of the denominator can be expressed in the form of 2^x * 5^y where x and y are non-negative integers, the fraction can be expressed as a terminating decimal.

Now back to our question. We can rephrase the question to be, “Which of the following denominators has a prime factorization that consists solely of 2’s or 5’s or both?”

Not bad. That certainly makes life a little easier. But before we dive in and begin taking prime factorizations with reckless abandon, let’s think like the test-maker. There is no way to do this question without working with the answer choices. Most test-takers will begin with A and work their way down. If you’re trying to create a difficult time-consuming question, where would you bury the correct answer? Probably towards D or E. So when we encounter this kind of scenario, we’re better off if we start at the bottom and work our way up.

E) 39/128. The denominator is 128, which has a prime factorization of 2^7. Because the denominator consists solely of 2’s, this fraction, when expressed as a decimal, must terminate. We’re done. E is the answer. (Intuitively, this makes sense, as all we’re really doing is cutting our numerator in half seven times.) Much easier than doing long division.

Before we commit this principle to memory, let’s make sure that it will be helpful in other contexts. After all, the rule that unlocks a single question won’t be terribly useful to us. So here is the same concept utilized in a Data Sufficiency question:

Any decimal that has only a finite number of nonzero digits is a terminating decimal. For example, 24, 0.82, and 5.096 are three terminating decimals. If r and s are positive integers and the ratio r/s is expressed as a decimal, is r/s a terminating decimal? 

(1) 90 < r < 100 

(2) s = 4 

Notice how much easier this question is if we rephrase it as “if r/s is in its most simplified form, does the prime factorization of the denominator consist entirely of 2’s or 5’s?”

Statement 1 can’t be sufficient on its own, as it tells us nothing about the denominator. 91/2 is a terminating decimal, for example, but 91/3 is not.

Statement 2 tells us that the denominator is 4, or 2^2. If we’ve internalized our terminating decimal rule, we see right away that this must be sufficient, as anything dividing by 4 will result in a terminating decimal. The answer is B, Statement 2 alone is sufficient to answer the question.

Takeaway: When studying for the GMAT, it can feel as though there are an infinite number of rules, axioms, and formulas to memorize. Our job, when preparing, is to find the rules that are applicable in multiple contexts and internalize those. If we encounter a problem that seems unusually time-consuming, and no rule springs to mind, we can derive the necessary pattern on the spot by working with simple numbers.

*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 find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

GMAT Tip of the Week: Yogi Berra Teaches GMAT Sentence Correction

GMAT Tip of the WeekThe world lost a legend this week with the passing of Yogi Berra, a New York Yankee and World War II hero. Yogi was universally famous – his name was, of course, the inspiration for beloved cartoon character Yogi Bear’s – but to paraphrase the man himself, those who knew him didn’t really know him.

As news of his passing turned into news reports summarizing his life, many were stunned by just how illustrious his career was: 18 All-Star game appearances (in 19 pro seasons), 10 World Series championships as a player, 3 American League MVP awards, part of the Normandy campaign on D-Day… To much of the world, he was “the quote guy” who also had been a really good baseball player. His wordsmithery is what we all remembered:

  • Never answer an anonymous letter.
  • It ain’t over ’til it’s over.
  • It gets late early out here.
  • Pair up in threes.

And his command (or butchering) of the English language is what you should remember as you take the GMAT. Yogi Berra famously “didn’t say some of the things I said” but he did, however inadvertently, have a lot to say about GMAT Sentence Correction:

Pronouns Matter

What’s funny about his quote, “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours”?

It’s the pronoun “they.” You know what Yogi means – go to other people’s funerals so that other people will come to yours. But in that sentence, the logical referent for “they” is “other people(‘s)”, and those other people have already been designated in the sentence as people who have already died. So the meaning is illogical: those same people cannot logically attend a funeral in the future. When you use a pronoun, it has to refer back to a specific noun. If that noun cannot logically do what the pronoun is said to be doing, that’s a Sentence Correction, illogical meaning problem.

What’s funny about his quote, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”?

Again, it’s the pronoun, this time “it.” Since a fork in the road is a place where the road diverges into two paths, you can’t take “it” – you have to pick one path. And this is a good example of another sentence correction theme. In order to fix this thought (and the one above), there’s really not a pronoun that will work. “Them” has no logical referent (there’s only one fork) so the meaning is extremely important.

The only way to fix it is to change something prior in the sentence. Perhaps, “When you come to a turnoff on the road, take it,” or, “when the road presents a turn, take it.” On the GMAT, a pronoun error isn’t always fixed by fixing the pronoun – often the correct answer will change the logic that precedes the pronoun so that in the correct answer the previously-incorrect pronoun is correct.

Modifiers Matter

What’s funny about his quote, “Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken”?

Of course records stand until they’re broken, but in a grammatical sense Yogi’s primary mistake was his placement of the modifier “until it was broken.” What he likely meant to say is, “Until the record was broken, I thought it might stand forever.” That’s a perfectly logical thought, but we all laugh at the statement he actually made because the placement of the modifier creates a laughable meaning. So learn to spot similarly-misplaced modifiers by checking to make sure the language means exactly what it should.

Redundancy Is Funny (but sometimes has its place)

What’s funny about, “We made too many wrong mistakes,” and “It’s like déjà vu all over again”?

They’re redundant. A mistake is, by nature, something that went wrong. And déjà vu is the feeling that something happened before, so of course it’s “all over again.” Redundancy does come up on the GMAT, but as Yogi himself would point out, there’s a fine line between “redundant (and wrong)” and “a useful literary device”.

Take, for example, his famed, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over” quote. In a sports context, even though the word “over” is repeated, that sentence carries a lot of useful meaning: “when someone might say that the game is over, if there is still time (or outs) remaining there’s always a chance to change the result.” The world chuckles at this particular Yogi quote, but in actuality it’s arguably his most famous because, in its own way, it’s quite poignant.

What does that mean for you on the GMAT? Don’t prioritize redundancy as a primary decision point! GMAT Sentence Correction, by nature, involves plenty of different literary devices and sentence structures, and it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll feel like an expert on all of them.

Students often eliminate correct answers because they perceive redundancy, but a phrase like “not unlike” (a “not” next to an “un-“? That’s a redundant double-negative!) actually has a logical and important meaning (“not unlike” means “it’s not totally different from…there are at least some similarities,” whereas “like” conveys significantly more similarity). Rules for modifiers and pronouns are much more absolute, and you can get plenty of practice with those. Be careful with redundancy because, as Yogi might say, sometimes saying it twice is twice as good as saying it once.

It’s all in your head.

“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”

To paraphrase the great Yogi Berra, 90% of Sentence Correction is mental and the other half is grammatical. When he talked about baseball, he was talking about the physical tools – the ability to hit, run, throw, catch –  as meaning substantially less than people thought, but the mental part of the game – strategy, mental toughness, stamina, etc. – being more important than people thought. The exact percentages, as his quote so ineloquently suggests, are harder to pin down and less important than the takeaway.

So heed Yogi’s advice as it pertains to Sentence Correction. Memorizing and knowing hundreds of grammar rules is “the other half” (or maybe 10%) of the game – employing good strategy (prioritizing primary Decision Points, paying attention to logical meaning, etc.) is the more-important-but-often-overlooked part of success. However eloquently or inelegantly Yogi Berra may have articulated his lessons, at least he made them memorable.

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

By Brian Galvin.

6 Simple Steps to Attack Critical Reasoning Questions on the GMAT

GMAT ReasoningThe first step in attacking any Critical Reasoning question on the GMAT is to identify the premises and conclusions of the argument being presented. While Strengthen, Weaken, Assumption and Resolve the Paradox questions include a conclusion in the stimulus, Inference questions require you to select the conclusion (answer choice) that directly follows from the information presented in the stimulus.

This can be difficult because several of the answers can appear attractive. Keep in mind, however, that for Inference questions, the correct answer must be true. Answers that are “likely to be true” or “could be true” based on the information provided in the stimulus seem attractive at first, but if they are not true 100% of the time, in every situation, then they are not the correct answer.

Another difficulty in approaching Inference questions is that with the many of the other question types (Strengthen, Weaken, etc.), your job is to select the answer that includes new information that either undermines or supports the conclusion. For Inference questions, you do not want to bring in information that is not in the stimulus. All of the information required to answer the question will be included in the stimulus.

Here is a 6-step approach that can help you to efficiently attack GMAT Critical Reasoning Inference questions:

1) Read the question stem first.

This will allow you quickly categorize the type of Critical Reasoning question (Strengthen, Weaken, Inference, etc.) and let you focus on identifying the premises in the stimulus. Questions such as, “Which of the following can be correctly inferred from the statements above?” and, “If the statements above are true, which of the following must also be true?” signify that you are dealing with an Inference question.

2) Speculate what you think the correct conclusion is.

Sometimes this may be difficult to verbalize, but having an outline or framework of what the “must be true” answer should include will help to eliminate some answer choices.

3) Evaluate the answer choices using your speculated answer.

You want to carefully read all 5 answer choices. As you read the answers, compare them to the answer, or the outline of the answer, you speculated. Some answers are obviously incorrect – either they are too narrow in scope, too extreme to be always be true, or do not follow the criteria laid out in the stimulus. Eliminate these answers. For other answer choices that seem attractive, keep them as possibilities. Once you have read all of the answer choices, you can then compare your list of possible answers using the criteria that the correct answer must be always be true.

4) Become a Defense Lawyer.

When comparing your list of possible answers, try to come up with plausible scenarios that would prove the answer being considered not true. Just because the stimulus says that “everyone sitting in the dentist’s office waiting room at 9:00 a.m. was a patient” does not necessarily mean that they were waiting for an appointment. Some could have already finished their appointment, and some could have been there dropping off another patient. Like a defense lawyer, you need to find every every scenario in which an answer choice might not be true in order to eliminate it from your options.

5) Be aware of exaggerated or extreme answers.

Because the correct answer must always be true, modifiers that exaggerate an element of the premise or make an extreme claim usually signify an incorrect answer. If the stimulus says, “Some of the widgets produced by Company X were defective,” an attractive, yet incorrect answer choice may exaggerate this statement with a modifier such as “most” by claiming, “Most of Company X’s widgets were found to be defective.” Furthermore, answers that include the terms “always”, “never”, “none” and the like are good indicators that the answer will not be true 100% of the time.

6) Be aware of answers that change the scope of the stimulus.

On more difficult Inference questions (as if they were not difficult enough), the test makers will tempt you to select an answer choice that slightly changes an element of the facts laid out in the stimulus. For example, the stimulus might discuss the decrease in the violent crime rate in City A over a certain time period.

The attractive answer that follows all of the elements of having to be true 100% of the time, but is still incorrect might discuss decrease in the murder rate of City A over that time period. While the answer would seem to fit the bill, the murder rate is not the same as the rate of violent crime – this changes the scope of the initial stimulus and we can therefore rule that answer out.

The correct inference or conclusion on Critical Reasoning Inference questions is very close to what is stated explicitly in the stimulus. Remember, the right answer choice on these question types must be true 100% of the time.

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

By Dennis Cashion, a Veritas Prep instructor based in Denver.

How to Use the Answer Choices to Solve GMAT Quant Problems

EssayIn your approach to solving Quantitative problems on the GMAT, do not forget that the answers are part of the problem and often provide valuable information.

Take for example, the following question:

 

 

 

If 3x4y = 177,147 and x – y = 11, then x =?

A) Undefined

B) 0

C) 11

D) 177,136

E) 177,158

Where do we begin here? 177,147 is a large (not familiar) number and there are not one, but two exponents in the equation.  Looking at the answer choices, we can see that D and E cannot be the answer as they are too large, so at least now we have a starting point.  Additionally, we can see that our choices come down to some mixture of x and y, all y, or all x.

If x = 0, then we can say that 177, 147 is not divisible by 3 and is divisible by 4, so checking the divisibility rule is the ticket! Knowing that to be divisible by 4, the last two digits must be divisible by 4, we can see that 177,147 is not divisible by 4, so 4y becomes irrelevant and we realize y must equal 0.  The sum of the digits of 177, 147 is 27, which is divisible by 3, so we can see that the 3portion of the equation is relevant. We can now (correctly) conclude that the correct answer is answer choice C, x = 11.

Answer choices are little used resources by GMAT test takers.  In the heat of battle, we become so focused on solving the problems in front of us that we forget to utilize all of the information at our disposal.  Another way the answer choices can help you is by plugging them back into the problem to see if they work.

This “back-plugging” is useful when the problem to be solved is algebraic in nature and the answer choices are numbers (not variables). You may find it is easier on a certain problem to arithmetically calculate 2, 3 or even 5 answers by plugging in the answer choices, than in creating and manipulating a complex algebraic equation.  In these cases, plugging in answer choice C first will help you to eliminate up to 60% of the answers on the first calculation.

Many times, just understanding what the correct answer should “look like” by employing some reasoning on the front end will allow you to eliminate some, if not all of the incorrect answers.  Consider this problem:

((-1.9)(o.6) – (2.6)(1.2))/6.0 = ?

A) -0.71

B) 1.00

C) 1.07

D) 1.71

E) 2.71

This is not a difficult problem by any measure, and some test takers will not hesitate to jump in and begin multiplying and dividing decimals.  However, by spending a little bit of time looking at the big picture of this problem, an astute test taker would see that the answer must be negative.  The first term is negative and we are subtracting a larger number from it.  Therefore, the correct answer must be A.

So, instead of jumping in and crunching numbers on the GMAT, you can save yourself some time and brain power by using the answer choices to assist you in reasoning your way to the correct answer – or at least in eliminating several of the incorrect answers.

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

By Dennis Cashion, a Veritas Prep instructor based in Denver.

5 Tips for Ivy-Worthy Extracurriculars

clubsExtracurricular activities are an enormous part of your college application; they’re the main tool that admissions counselors use to imagine your contributions to campus life and culture. They’re also enormous time commitments, so choose wisely. Below are a few tips to help you figure out which ones to choose…

1. Quality, Not Quantity

Take this advice from someone who is always spread too thin: it’s not worth it. It’s OK in your freshman year to be involved with a number of extracurricular activities, but as you progress through high school, find the extracurriculars that you value most and actively search for more meaningful ways to participate.

I didn’t have enough space on my Common Application to include all of the clubs and activities from my four years of high school. But frankly, I’d wager that only 2-3 of those extracurriculars — the handful that I deeply committed to during my senior year — mattered to admissions counselors.

2. Seek Leadership Positions

College admissions counselors look for initiative and influence in prospective students. This doesn’t mean that you need to be the president of every single group you’re in, but it does mean that you need to show personal growth and engagement in each activity. Be cognizant of tangible ways to display your individual achievement— possibly by running for club treasurer, representing your organization at community events, or submitting your extracurricular work for awards.

3. Dare To Be Different

Activities such as school sports, community service, debate, yearbook, and orchestra demonstrate well-rounded skill sets, but they aren’t especially unique. There’s nothing wrong with joining the clubs that your friends are in, but be aware that following the crowd in all of your activities will make standing out that much harder.

One of my most significant extracurriculars was an internship with my National Public Radio affiliate. Radio journalism opened my mind to a new spectrum of careers, introduced me to friends from distant neighborhoods, and distinguished my work experience dramatically from the rest of my peers.

4. D.I.Y.

If your dream extracurricular doesn’t exist, make it happen. This is another great way to demonstrate your leadership skills, in addition to your own powers of innovation. I really enjoyed theater in high school, but none of the local troupes were performing the types of plays that interested me. So I co-founded a teen-powered theater company dedicated to performing student-written work and sci-fi productions. It ended up being one of the most fun and rewarding decisions I’ve ever made.

5. Love What You Do, Do What You Love

Never ever, ever, ever join an extracurricular for the sake of your college application. Extracurriculars are an opportunity to enrich yourself with connections, experiences, and insights that you wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. A college acceptance is just one of the many, many benefits to engaging with your passions and your community.

Remember, extracurricular activities are an enormous part of your college application, so be sure to stay active and involved things you are most passionate about. Best of luck in preparing your applications!

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

Madeline Ewbank is an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Her current extracurriculars include producing feature-length student films, interning for the U.S. Department of State, and teaching ACT 36 courses. She is excited to help students achieve their college aspirations as a member of the Veritas Prep team.

Do You Need an MBA for a Career in Management Consulting?

MBA AdmissionsManagement consulting is one of the most “glamourous” industries among business professionals – a career path that can transform even the most polished of resumes – and the names of the firms which consultants covertly provide solutions for are known as the “Who’s Who” of American commerce. Prestigious firms like Bain & Co, McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group commonly rank at the top of many job seekers’ wish lists.

So what are some of the common tracks for entering one of the most competitive industries in the world? The entry points below are your best bets if interested in joining the ranks of the consulting elite:

Undergraduate

Top consulting firms do recruit students out of undergraduate academic programs, but not in major numbers. Recruits from this level are just a fraction of the classes of consultants they bring in at the MBA level. Typically, consulting companies will use students at this level to fill their analyst-level responsibilities on project teams.

Firms target the majority of recruiting at this level at prestigious universities and at regional powerhouses near local offices. If you’re a student at this level, make sure you are a top performer in your class. Top consulting firms are notorious for identifying only elite students, so to get on their radar you will have to bring a strong track record of academic performance to the recruiting process.

MBA 

MBA recruiting is the crown jewel of talent acquisition for top consulting firms. The rigorous training and diverse experience common in MBA-level talent makes business school a natural feeder for consulting firms. MBAs make up the majority of the associate-level talent at consulting firms, with a small selection of other graduate school recruits coming from programs like law, engineering and computer science.

Potential recruits have two chances to enter the industry: during internship recruiting in Year 1 and during full-time recruiting throughout Year 2. The recruiting support for candidates in MBA programs exceeds that at any level, so students tend to have the opportunity to build in-depth relationships throughout the process.

Industry

A less common source for talent from consulting companies is plucking employees from within “industry”. Industry talent tends to be more experienced and individuals in this category are poached for their specific industry knowledge to operate as subject matter experts.

Consulting is a tough industry to crack – your best bet to making the transition into a career in this industry is to consider an MBA as your entry point.

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

99th GMAT Score or Bust! Lesson 9: Talk Like a Lawyer

raviVeritas Prep’s Ravi Sreerama is the #1-ranked GMAT instructor in the world (by GMATClub) and a fixture in the new Veritas Prep Live Online format as well as in Los Angeles-area classrooms. He’s beloved by his students for the philosophy “99th percentile or bust!”, a signal that all students can score in the elusive 99thpercentile with the proper techniques and preparation. In this “9 for 99th” video seriesRavi shares some of his favorite strategies to efficiently conquer the GMAT and enter that 99th percentile.

First, take a look at the previous lessons in this series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8!

Lesson Nine: 

Talk Like a Lawyer. When you click “Agree” on a user contract (think iTunes) or read through a GMAT question, you may just see an overkill of words. But thanks to lawyers, every word on that user agreement is carefully chosen – and that GMAT question is written the same exact way. In this final “9 for 99th” video, Ravi (a member of the bar himself) shows you how to talk and read like a lawyer, noticing those subtle word choices that can make or break your answer to those carefully-written GMAT problems you see on test day.​

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Want to learn more from Ravi? He’s taking his show on the road for a one-week Immersion Course in New York this summer, and he teaches frequently in our new Live Online classroom.

By Brian Galvin

SAT Tip of the Week: 8 Ways to Decide if You Should Take the SAT or ACT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullOne of the questions nearly every college-bound student wrestles with is which college entrance examination is right for them. There are a number of widely-spouted, all-encompassing statements about these tests flying around, such as one test is a skills test and the other is an aptitude test, or one test is more suited to creative thinkers than the other.

The long and the short of it is that BOTH tests are skills tests and test a student’s ability to take each test. The best way to determine which test is right for a student is to take a practice test of each and see which test taking experience yields the highest score. With that said, here are a few important things to know when considering which test is right for a perspective student.

1) The SAT and ACT are both accepted by every top university.

Since about 2007, every reputable, four-year college has accepted both entrance examinations, however there are some differences in the exact requirements for submitting each test between schools. For example, Harvard College requires the SAT or ACT, with a writing component, and two SAT subject tests (they state the subject tests are optional if taking them poses a financial hardship), whereas Brown University does not require two SAT subject tests if the student submits an ACT score (Brown will also stop requiring the writing component of the SAT when it becomes optional in the next year).

The main thing to be aware of is what the individual requirements of the school or schools to which a student hopes to apply are.  In general, taking the SAT or ACT, with the writing component, and two SAT II subject tests will cover all bases for most schools.

2) The SAT Math slightly favors lateral thinking, but requires less specific knowledge.

The above statement is somewhat difficult to quantify and seems to be changing as College Board unveils its new SAT for 2016, however it has generally been the case that the most difficult questions on the SAT require more creative problem solving, such as drawing in lines and figures that are not given by the problems, and finding patterns that can be applied to solve seemingly untenable problems.

The ACT, however, tends to favor integration of different concepts in their difficult questions as well as some simple trigonometric knowledge, such as the Law of Sines and Co-Sines, and basic knowledge of sine co-sine and tangents and their inverses.

Neither requires higher knowledge than is covered in a basic Algebra 2 and Geometry class, and neither requires any knowledge of Calculus or Advanced Statistics. The ACT is also more likely to require the use of a calculator to determine an exact value, while the SAT favors abstract problems using variables and fractions that require no calculator use.

3) The ACT favors punctuation errors (especially commas), while the SAT favors conjugation and structure errors.

In general, the ACT writing is slightly more straight forward as it is all based on finding errors in and improving the structure of a passage.  The ACT writing is very similar to the third portion of the SAT writing section, where a student must improve a short passage. The main difference between the two, is that the ACT tests on a wider variety of punctuation errors and favors comma errors, while the SAT tends to focus on structural and conjugation errors. The SAT only really tests on commas in relation to their roll separating clauses.

4) The SAT Reading is slightly more straightforward than the ACT Reading.

The two reading sections of these tests are very similar – the only real discernible difference is that the SAT reading section is set up so the questions are chronologically related to the passage. That is to say, the questions can be answered as the student reads the passage and the order of the questions should more or less follow the order of the passage. The only questions that this does not apply to on the SAT are the questions which ask the passage’s main idea, and these can simply be skipped and returned to after reading the entire passage.

The ACT, however, is not chronological and therefore requires a student to read the whole passage first and then go back to answer each specific question. This can be an issue for many students who have problems with time management on standardized tests.

5) The ACT has a Science section, but requires very little specific science knowledge.

Apart from general scientific knowledge, such as how to read a graph and what entropy is, the scientific section of the ACT is really just a scientific reading test. This section does not require much specific knowledge about any scientific field, and is more similar to the reading comprehension section of the SAT or ACT than a true science test.

6) The ACT has an optional writing section.

The Writing Section on the ACT (and the newly revamped SAT) is optional, but is strongly encouraged, if not required, by most top schools. The main difference between the ACT and the SAT essay is the ACT favors a full paragraph acknowledging the opposing viewpoint to the one that the student chooses to argue. The ACT also gives the student the main arguments for each side, which requires less spontaneous generation of arguments by students.

7) The ACT has no penalty for guessing wrong answers.

Students should answer every question on the ACT, however they should only answer a question on the SAT if they can eliminate two or more answer choices.

8) The ACT is in four (or five if a student elects to do the writing) longer sections, whereas the SAT is split up into ten shorter sections.

The fact that the ACT is broken up into only five sections means that it is potentially easier to get stuck on difficult problems or mismanage time and not complete a large portion of the test. It is VERY important to skip problems that seem too difficult to attempt on the ACT because lingering on such problems early on in the test can be problematic for the whole section.

The SAT is also challenging in terms of time management, but stopping on one question that requires a lot of time early on in a section is less likely to hurt the entirety of a student’s score because the sections are more broken up. The SAT also requires students to shift between topics more quickly, so students who enjoy a variety of questions as opposed to focusing on only one academic area at a time tend to favor the SAT.

As stated above, the SAT and ACT are both tests that require a student to understand the structure of the test being taken, and how to best approach the question types. The best way to determine which test is best for which student is to take a free practice test, widely available online or through schools, and see which test seems to be a better fit.  From there, it is simply a matter of learning the techniques that are useful to approaching each exam, and using them to conquer the test!

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

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

Beat the GMAT Verbal Section by Personalizing Questions

Integrated Reasoning GMATMy students often ask why the verbal section has to come at the very end of the GMAT. When they’re fresh, they complain, they’re able to answer a much higher percentage of questions correctly. Of course, this is precisely the point. Part of what the GMAT is assessing is your stamina and focus, both of which will certainly be flagging by the time you’ve been in the testing facility for over three hours.

Moreover, the questions themselves aren’t exactly known for their dazzling wit and soaring narrative verve. They’re boring. Reading Comp. passages are often tedious and technical, while Critical Reasoning arguments can feel so abstract as to be ungraspable. So how do we, as test-takers, combat this?

One answer, when it comes to those abstract Critical Reasoning questions, is to personalize the argument. I’ve blogged in the past about how our reading comprehension improves dramatically when we’re emotionally invested in what we’re reading, so why not attempt to trick ourselves into this state of heightened concentration?

If the CR question is about the impact of pesticide use on crop yields, I imagine I’m the farmer, and the well-being of my family is at stake. If the question is about how overtime pay will impact employee incentives, I imagine I own the business and that the consequence of my company’s compensation structure will impact not only me, but dozens of workers whose livelihood I’m responsible for. By creating these artificial stakes, I find that my brain is able to lock in on the minutia of the question in a way it can’t if the question is about some airy fictional farmer, whom I know exists only in the mind of some bureaucratic question writer.

Take an official question, for example:

In the past the country of Malvernia has relied heavily on imported oil. Malvernia recently implemented a program to convert heating systems from oil to natural gas. Malvernia currently produces more natural gas each year than it uses, and oil production in Malvernian oil fields is increasing at a steady pace. If these trends in fuel production and usage continue, therefore, Malvernian reliance on foreign sources for fuel is likely to decline soon. 

Which of the following would it be most useful to establish in evaluating the argument?

(A) When, if ever, will production of oil in Malvernia outstrip production of natural gas?

(B) Is Malvernia among the countries that rely most on imported oil?

(C) What proportion of Malvernia’s total energy needs is met by hydroelectric, solar, and nuclear power?

(D) Is the amount of oil used each year in Malvernia for generating electricity and fuel for transportation increasing?

(E) Have any existing oil-burning heating systems in Malvernia already been converted to natural-gas-burning heating systems?

If you’re anything like most test-takers, your eyes glaze over a bit. You know that Malvernia is not a real country, that it’s been invented for the sake of the problem. Consequently, the details of energy consumption in this non-existent country are not going to be terribly compelling to, well, anyone. This is by design. So let’s create some artificial stakes. Let’s say you’re the President of Malvernia. The economic well-being of your country, and, therefore, the prospects of your reelection, are going to be impacted by your country’s energy policy. Now let’s break down the facts:

  • Historically, you’ve relied on oil imports.
  • A new program converts heating systems from oil to gas.
  • You produce more gas than you use.
  • Oil production is increasing.

Based on this, you’ve concluded that your reliance on foreign oil will soon decrease. The question is what do you, as President, need to know to determine whether this prediction is valid?

Let’s break down each answer choice:

(A) The question of when production of oil will outstrip production of gas isn’t really relevant. In fact, if you’re using less oil as a result of the change in heating systems, and oil production is up, it’s possible that you can reduce your dependence on foreign oil without having to produce more oil than gas. A is out.

(B) Whether you are among the most dependent countries on foreign oil doesn’t matter. You are now, and we’re trying to determine if you will be in the future. This doesn’t help. Eliminate B.

(C) Hydroelectric, solar, and nuclear power aren’t relevant for this argument. We know that you’re dependent on foreign oil now, irrespective of other energy sources. It’s increased oil production and switching to gas that will, according to the argument, reduce this dependence. C is out of scope.

(D) Let’s say your oil consumption for electricity and transportation is increasing. Suddenly, the fact that you’re switching heating systems from oil to gas might not help – if your oil needs are going up in other areas, you may remain dependent on foreign oil. But if your oil consumption in these other areas is not increasing, that would reduce your dependence on foreign oil because your heating systems are switching to gas. D looks good.

(E) This doesn’t matter at all. We know that the systems are going to switch from oil to gas, so the question of whether some systems have already made the switch sheds no light on whether you will remain dependent on foreign oil.

D is the answer. Once you have the answer to whether your oil consumption for electricity and transportation is increasing, you’ll be better able to assess whether you will remain dependent on foreign oil, and, consequently, whether your reign as supreme ruler of Malvernia will continue.

Takeaway: There is plenty of research indicating that our comprehension improves drastically when we’re reading something we care about. When we put ourselves into the position of the agents having to make decisions in these arguments, we can transform a tedious abstraction into something that has a bit of emotional resonance, which will, in turn, result in a higher GMAT score.

*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 find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

3 Ways to Improve Brain Function for Better Studying

SATI recently read The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin, a book teeming with insights about simple adjustments we can make in our daily routines to improve our productivity. I’ve written about this topic in the past, but it can’t be emphasized enough – the primary problem most test-takers encounter is that they struggle to find enough time to study consistently.

According to GMAC, test-takers who score 700 or above spend, on average, 114 hours preparing for the exam. There’s nothing magic about that number, but it does reveal that getting ready for the GMAT is an intensive ordeal. As technologies improve and our focus becomes increasingly fragmented by our proliferating gadgets, the challenge, whether we’re studying for the GMAT or trying to complete a project at work, is how we can be productive and still have enough time and energy to enjoy some semblance of a personal life.

1) Sleep

First, Levitin emphasizes the importance of sleep. When we’re feeling overwhelmed, our instinct is to work more and sleep less – we feel as though we need more waking hours to complete whatever tasks we have to perform. The problem with this approach is that sleep deprivation causes us to be significantly less effective and productive, so much so that the additional time we gain is more than offset by the diminished performance that results from a sleep-debt.

The statistics on the subject are nothing short of astonishing. According to economists, sleep deprivation costs U.S. businesses more than $150 billion dollars a year from accidents and lost productivity. It is also associated with increased risk for heart disease, obesity, suicide, and cancer. This is an easy fix.

Levitin recommends going to bed at the same time each night (preferably an hour earlier than you’re accustomed to) and waking at the same time each morning. If it isn’t possible to sleep more at night, a nap as short as 15 minutes can serve the same refreshing function. Napping has been shown to reduce our risk of developing a host of medical conditions, and the beneficial effects are so striking that many companies have designated nap rooms filled with cots.

2) Stop Multi-Tasking

Next, Levitin discusses the cognitive impact of multi-tasking. We all know that it isn’t a great idea to try to study while texting or answering emails, etc., but what’s striking is that the impact of allowing other activities to siphon our attention is actually quantifiable. Glenn Wilson, a British researcher from Gresham College, conducted a study in which he found that when participants were informed that they had an unread email in their inbox, their effective IQ decreased by 10 points. Moreover, he documented that the cognitive-blunting effects of multi-tasking are more pronounced than the effects of smoking marijuana.

Other studies have revealed that task-switching, in general, heightens the brain’s glucose demands and amplifies anxiety, and the resulting discomfort ratchets up the desire to find some kind of distraction, such as, checking email again. Experts recommend designating two or three blocks of time a day for responding to email, and beyond that, strictly forbidding yourself to check for new messages.

A more ingenious idea comes from Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law professor. Lessig recommends declaring email bankruptcy, which would involve composing an automatic reply that informs whoever has contacted you that if this email requires an immediate response, they should call you, and if not, they should resend the email in a week if they haven’t heard from you. This technique will allow you greater latitude in structuring your day in terms of when you respond to emails, and will, hopefully, negate the multi-tasking concerns that lead to the aforementioned IQ drop. And when you’re studying for the GMAT, have a strict policy of not checking your phone or opening a new browser window.

3) Don’t Procrastinate

Last, and perhaps most importantly, the book addresses the problem of procrastination. Procrastination is a universal problem and likely results from the basic architecture of the human brain, wired as it is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Jake Eberts, a Harvard MBA and successful film producer, offers a bit of very simple but compelling advice: just get in the habit of always doing the most unpleasant thing on your agenda first. There is evidence that our willpower is gradually depleted throughout the day, so it’s best to tackle the most dreaded elements of our to-do list first thing in the morning.

Takeaway: Here are three very easy things you can do, starting today, if you’re having difficulty finding the time/energy to study:

1) First, sleep more. If that means a 15-minute midday nap, so be it – you will gain in productivity far more than you lose in time sacrificed.

2) Second, declare email bankruptcy and put away your phone. Multi-tasking produces a scientifically documented brain drain.

3) Last, do the most unpleasant thing first. Whether that unpleasant thing is 25 Data Sufficiency questions, or some work-related activity, your resilience will be greatest first thing in the morning, so that’s the time to tackle the task you want to do least.

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

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

What 3 Things Should You Do On Orientation Day?

College orientation is one of the most exciting days ever! For the first time, students are in an entirely new environment taking on an entirely new challenge. Orientation can seem daunting at first, but really it is one of the best ways to start your college experience.

For some, this is the first new school they have gone to since freshman year of high school. Even if you have already met your admissions counselor, there will definitely be a plethora of new people who you haven’t met . Orientation is the perfect place to meet your roommate/floormate and practice getting comfortable in naturally uncomfortable settings.

You may be a little nervous about this event, but the good news is many other students feel the same way you do! There is no need to be anxious or concerned about going up to a complete stranger – this is what advisors, counselors, and professors are hoping you will do. That is just one of the many secrets of orientation, and here are a couple more to help you start your new college experience on a high note.

1. Make friends with your orientation advisor

Every school has orientation advisors; these are current students who work to make the orientation process an exciting one. These students are passionate about the university, knowledgeable about classes and majors, and most importantly – willing to be of assistance to new students. It may be intimidating to try and befriend one of these orientation advisors but that is what they are there for. Plus, it is really the first chance for you to communicate with a classmate in college. In high school it was normal to be friends with primarily students in your grade. While that also happens in college, it’s perfectly natural to make friends with seniors, juniors, and sophomores as well.

2. Pay attention during the information sessions

Getting off to a strong academic start as a freshman will put you ahead of the general population who may struggle their first few weeks. One of the best ways to be prepared academically, is to pay attention during the information sessions at orientation. Sometimes orientations can take place two months before your freshman year will start, othertimes, they are only days away from the first day of school. It is important to stay motivated to pay close attention to what the advisors are saying. Try your best to focus and soak up all the pertinent information related to your major because it will come in handy later.

3. Schedule your classes

Many universities have dedicated time to schedule your classes during orientation. This is a new process for incoming students, and having advisors and current students there to help is an invaluable resource that you should use. Sometimes, students like to put this off until they can do more research and figure out the best classes to take. You can always reschedule or further customize your classes, so get something down on paper during orientation.

Overall, keep these things in mind (and remember to have fun!) during student orientation. Navigating through this event will lead you to success  your freshmen year and set you up for a great first start of college!

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

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

Min/Max Questions on the GMAT are a Piece of Cake (or Pie)!

Pie ChartWhen I was a child, dessert was serious business. If my family were having pie, that pie had to be evenly distributed among family members, or violence would ensue. Portion size was something we understood at a primal, instinctive level. A larger piece for my brother meant a smaller piece for me. If I wanted to be generous, I could cut myself a smaller piece, thus providing one of my fortunate brothers with a larger dessert share. Every child knows this. But somehow what a child knows intuitively about pie, an adult can forget when dealing with a GMAT question.

I’m talking specifically about min/max questions. For these problems, there are only two things we need to do. First, we need to determine the size of the pie. Then, if we’re trying to maximize one slice, we need to minimize the size of all the other slices and see what’s left over. Similarly, if we’re trying to minimize one slice, we need to maximize all the other slices. Let’s see this principle in action with an official question:

Five pieces of wood have an average length (arithmetic mean) of 124 centimeters and a median length of 140 centimeters. What is the maximum length, in centimeters, of the shortest piece of wood? 

A) 90 

B) 100 

C) 110 

D) 130 

E) 140

First, let’s determine the size of the pie. If the average is 124 centimeters, and there are five pieces of wood, we know that the total sum of all the pieces of wood would be 5*124 = 620. Let’s call the smallest piece, ’s.’ So far, we have the following:

s ___, 140, ___, ___

Next, we want to maximize the smallest piece. Think pie. If I want to maximize the size of one piece, in this case ‘s,’ I want to minimize the size of all the other slices. The minimum size for the second smallest slice is ‘s.’ (If it were any smaller, it would be the smallest slice.) The minimum size for our two larges slices is 140. (If those were any smaller, the median would change.)

Now, we’re left with the following set:

s, s, 140, 140, 140.

Well, we already know that the sum is 620, so now we have the following equation:

s + s + 140 + 140 + 140 = 620.

2s + 420 = 620

2s = 200

s = 100. The answer is B.

Let’s try a tougher one:

For a certain race, 3 teams were allowed to enter 3 members each. A team earned 6 – n points whenever one of its members finished in nth place, where 1 ≤ n ≤ 5.

There were no ties, disqualifications, or withdrawals. If no team earned more than 6 points, what is the least possible score a team could have earned?

A) 0

B) 1

C) 2

D) 3

E) 4

We know it’s a min/max question, so first we need to determine the size of the pie. We’re told that a team will earn 6 – n points whenever one of its members finishes in nth place. The team that has the first place finisher (n = 1) will earn 6 – 1 = 5 points. The second place finisher (n =2) will earn 6 – 2 = 4 points. The trend quickly becomes clear:

First place: 5 points

Second place: 4 points

Third place: 3 points

Fourth place: 2 points

Fifth place: 1 point

One of the conditions of the problem is that ‘n’ cannot be any larger than 5, so at this point, there are no more points to earn. Summing all the available points, we get 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 = 15. So there are 15 points total for the three teams to divvy up.

Now we’re trying to minimize the number of points one team earned. What did we do in the Goldstein household when we were feeling particularly sadistic and wished to stick my youngest brother with the smallest possible piece of pie? We’d maximize the size of all the other pieces, leaving the youngest, most vulnerable Goldstein with a sad pile of unpalatable mush. Let’s do the same here.

We’re told that no team scored more than 6 points, so 6 is the max number of points a team could have earned. If two teams earned the max – 6 points – they’d have earned 12 points between them. If there are 15 points total, and two of the teams earn a total of 12 points, that leaves 3 points for the stragglers. D is the answer.

Takeaway: As soon as you see a min/max term such as “least,” “most,” “minimum,” “or “maximum,” you’ll be well-served to summon some traumatic memories of divvying up your favorite childhood dessert.

*GMATPrep questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

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

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

New School, New Friends: 2 Things to Remember When Communicating in Your New College Community

roomateYou’ve probably heard adults say that college is “an important learning experience”, but you may not have realized that in college, you’re learning more than high-level academic content. For example, the instant you leave your hometown – and with it, your family and childhood friends – to begin life in your college dorm, you’ll be learning how to live with strangers, which, I can say with certainty, is a skill. In fact, your whole social and personal life is going to “restart” once you go to college, because you won’t be waking up to your mom’s or dad’s breakfast anymore, or going to classes with people you’ve known for years. With a few exceptions, you’re going to be surrounded by veritable strangers 24/7, which is a thrilling and a nerve-wracking prospect: thrilling, because you’ll have a chance to meet all sorts of new unique people, and scary because, well, who doesn’t feel a little anxious about getting along with people they don’t know?

A lot of the advice I’m going to give you is only going to make sense once you’ve been in college for a while. Even so, the following can help you navigate the social element of the “college experience” as you begin to figure out what you want in your adult life.

Balance community events and one-on-one hang-outs

When you first get to college, you and many other freshman will be “on the hunt” for new friends – seriously, it’s a little like speed-dating. Roommates will ask you to come to parties with them; peers living on your floor will ask you if you want to grab lunch after class; you’ll get 14 new friend requests a day on Facebook from people you hardly know, etc. However, despite all of this feverish socializing, you may find that you aren’t forming any deep connections, at least not right away. My advice to you is to attend community events – whether they take the form of sport games, barbecues, a new club meeting, or a lecture – that you are interested in, and also make it a point to ask some people you meet at these events to hang out one-on-one. Why? Community events in college can give you a feel of the campus vibe, can help you make form new interests, and can introduce you to people who are looking for similar things as you – whether that’s sustainable living, or learning new languages, or cooking together. So, if you aren’t finding close friends in your dorm or your classes, you can meet other people by getting involved in community life. And don’t be shy about asking people you meet to hang out – you’ll be amazed to find how many other underclassmen are still looking for close friends, even many months into college.

It’s important to also consider the fact that once you graduate college, you may move to a new city to start your career. That means that developing the abilities to get out to local and community events, and to meet people at them, will be useful and necessary in your adult life.

Communicate clearly and kindly with your roommate:

Passive aggressive relationships between roommates are far too common in college, which is a shame, because they are stressful (to the point that they can affect academics) and easily avoidable. Even if you’ve shared a room with a sibling or with another kid before at a summer camp, sharing a room in a college dorm is a different ball-game. First of all, you won’t know your roommate as well as you do a sibling, so there’s a good chance you’ll find it more difficult to tell him or her why he/she needs to turn down his/her music, or pick his/her clothes up off the floor, etc. Second of all, it’s easy to quickly develop poor communication habits with a roommate, and as I said, this can affect your academics.

When I was in college, I saw far too many situations in which roommates were extremely upset with each other over relatively minor problems (like cleaning dishes) because neither had taken the time to sit down with the other person, discuss their schedules, and figure out a compromise that everyone could accept. Instead, both parties complained about the other, meaning the apartment wasn’t amicable for anyone.

Given that there’s a good chance you’ll end up living with apartment-mates if you move to a city after college, being able to 1) speak directly to your housemates about your needs and 2) be considerate of your housemates’ needs is one of the more important sets of skills you can learn in college. For example, when you get upset over something, it’s important to tell your housemates why, and to do so in a constructive fashion. I.e., telling your roommates that when they don’t clean the dishes, you aren’t able to cook dinner, which is impacting your schedule, in a firm but calm tone, is much more constructive than calling your housemates ‘a bunch of slobs’. And if you can also pay attention to your housemates’ needs and schedules, and work towards an empathetic agreement that takes everyone into consideration, you’ll be demonstrating true leadership, which is one of the most important signs of real maturity.

Need some help with your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Rita Pearson

 

Know the Concept of Cost Price for the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomMost of us are quite comfortable with the concepts of percentages, cost price and sale price, but when we come across a toughie from these topics, we feel lost. Then we go back to the theory but there seems to be nothing new there – nothing new that could potentially help us tackle such questions with ease in the future. The point is, the basic theory of these topics is quite simple – there isn’t anything else to it – but it’s application to GMAT questions is an altogether different deal. There are small but critical things that you need to keep in mind, one of which we will discuss today: what is the cost price?

Let’s take a look at this with an official question:

A photography dealer ordered 60 Model X cameras to be sold for $250 each, which represents a 20 percent markup over the dealer’s initial cost for each camera. Of the cameras ordered, 6 were never sold and were returned to the manufacturer for a refund of 50 percent of the dealer’s initial cost. What was the dealer’s approximate profit or loss as a percent of the dealer’s initial cost for the 60 cameras?

(A) 7% loss

(B) 13% loss

(C) 7% profit

(D) 13% profit

(E) 14% profit

Solution:

Here are the various data points:

  • 60 cameras bought at 20% markup.
  • Selling Price = $250
  • 6 not sold and 50% of initial cost refunded
  • Profit/Loss = ?

Now look at the solution:

The cost price per camera = 250/1.2 = 1250/6

The total cost price = (1250/6)*60 = $12,500

50% of the cost of 6 cameras was returned.

The cost price of 6 cameras = (1250/6)*6 = $1250

50% of this = 1250/2 = $625

This means the effective cost price = 12,500 – 625 = $11,875

If the selling price per camera = $250, the total selling price = 54 * 250 = $13500 (only 54 cameras were sold)

Hence, the profit % = [(13500 – 11875) / 11875] x 100 = (1625/11875) x 100 = 13.684%

This gives us approximately 14% as the answer (rounding up). But that is not correct. Before you move ahead, try to figure out the problem with this solution. If you are able to, it means you do understand this topic very well.

Here is the problem with the solution:

The cost price is the total initial cost price. You cannot subtract the refund out of it. The refund is effectively the price at which the 6 cameras were sold. You cannot cancel off your cost price with your sale price and have a smaller cost price. Your initial investment in the transaction is your cost price. When you reduce it by cancelling off some sale price (or refund), you are artificially increasing your profit percentage.

Say, we buy a few thing for $100. While selling them off, we get $50 for half of them. We reduce our cost price by $50 and get $50 as cost price. For the other half, we sell them for $60. We say that $50 is out cost price and $60 is our selling price. The profit we made is $10, which is fine. The issue is that our profit percentage is not (10/50) * 100 = 20%. Rather, our profit percentage will be (10/100) * 100 = 10% only, so $100 would be our actual cost price.

Keeping this in mind, here is the correct algebra solution:

The total cost price = (1250/6)*60 = $12,500

The total selling price = 54 * 250 + $625 = $13,500 + $625 = $14,125 (60 cameras were sold, 54 at $250 each and 6 at 50% of cost price)

The profit = 14,125 – 12,500 = $1625 (same as before)

The profit percentage = (1625/12,500) * 100 = 13%

Therefore, the answer is (D).

Obviously, we can always use our trusted weighted averages formula here for a quick and efficient solution:

Weighted Averages

On 54 cameras, the dealer made a 20% profit and on 6 cameras, he made a 50% loss. The ratio of the cost price of 54 cameras:cost price of 6 cameras = 54:6 = 9:1

Average Profit/Loss percentage = (.2*9 + (-.5)*1)/10 = 1.3/10 = .13 = 13% profit.

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

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

4 Things To Consider When Reviewing College Rankings

USnews!It’s that time of year again. The excitement and frenzy surrounding college applications is starting to pick up and colleges are trying to put their best foot forward in appealing to high school students around the world. When it comes to appealing to potential applicants, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be highly ranked in the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges list!

We know how important college rankings are – graduating from a school that consistently ranks at the top often leads to jobs sooner after graduation, higher salaries and a competitive advantage when applying to graduate programs. As we’ve seen for the past several years, Princeton University, Harvard University and Yale University continue to hold the top three spots, respectively. These top schools are all members of the Ivy League and admit less than 8% of applicants each year.

While their acceptance rate is quite low, they estimate that over three quarters of students who apply for admission are qualified candidates. This is a true testament to the sheer number of talented and successful students are out there. That means there are hundreds of thousands who are fighting for spots at the most selective schools in the country.

With these published lists comes the (sometimes daunting) task of assembling a ranking system for your own. When assembling your list of top schools, it is important to not only consider where they rank overall, but also where they rank in terms of other important factors like academic programs, student life, size and value. So, when you scroll through the lists and get a sense of the top schools in the U.S., you should also focus on the factors that could make them your top pick. Just a few things to consider when reviewing the college ranking lists:

1. Academic programs: Do they have a strong academic program for the area you’d like to study? What kind of classes can you take? Who are the Professors and what are their backgrounds? Will this school help you get an internship in this industry? What percentage of graduates get jobs in this industry after graduation?

2. Student life: Does this school have students who live on or off campus (or both)? Do they guarantee housing for freshman? What athletic programs do they offer? Do they have clubs already on campus that you’re interested in joining? Is Greek Life prominent on campus?

3. Size: How many undergraduate students are there? What is the average number of students in each class? What is the faculty to student ratio? How many clubs are on campus? Is Greek Life part of the student community?

4. Best value: How well does the school support students who require need-based financial assistance? What is the average cost after receiving grants based on needs? What scholarships are available? Do they have funding in the programs you’re interested in?

Answering these essential questions early on will help you narrow down your college list and develop a ranking system for your own top schools. It is important to remember that the schools you select should meet your own specific criteria, not necessarily the criteria that others use to make these annual rankings.

Speaking of, you might be interested to know how the U.S. News & World Report makes their rankings! To learn more about how U.S. News & World Report generates these rankings every year, click here!

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

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.

 

Our Thoughts on Duke Fuqua’s MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

FuquaApplication season at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts. With all of your essays for Fuqua, treat your responses holistically and try to paint a complete picture of your candidacy. This post will focus on the actual required essay prompts but keep in mind, Fuqua does also have three required short answers focused on career goals, so it makes sense to limit those discussions to that that section.

Essay 1: 25 Random Things About Yourself

The Admissions Committee also wants to get to know you-beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. Share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are.

This essay from Fuqua is one of the more unique questions asked among top MBA programs. It really takes most applicants outside of their comfort zone and implores them to put some thought into some of the more insightful elements of who they are as a person. This can be a tough task that many applicants will struggle to address properly.

A good start is drafting a broad list of items and curating this list based on the elements that best connect with the values the Fuqua MBA is best known for. Make sure to select your list in alignment with the prompt by avoiding information already available elsewhere – take this as an opportunity to let your personality shine through while getting creative. If this list does not truly reflect who you are as a person then it is time to start over, so make that connection and try to have fun with this one.

Essay 2A: Why Duke?

When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them? Share the reasons that are most meaningful. (2 pages)

This is one of two optional questions for Essay 2, which may actually be the simpler of the two options, but decide for yourself which option will allow you to most impressively tell your story. Keep in mind the areas you have already covered in the other short answer/essay responses, and use your choice here to complement the previous narrative.

I love this first question option from Fuqua, as it really strikes at the core of the desire for an authentic response. You are not addressing the AdComm here, but those close to you instead, so the expectation with your response is that it should touch on some more honest elements that might differ from the more formal, canned responses typically provided. Be honest and personable here, and try and connect with the AdComm on a more human level. Also, don’t forget to include some program specifics – it is still important to communicate how Fuqua is the ideal fit for your personal and professional development goals.

Essay 2B: Team Fuqua Principles

If you were to receive an award for exemplifying one of the 6 “Team Fuqua Principles” – Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, Uncompromising Integrity. Which one would it be and why? Your response should reflect your knowledge of Fuqua and the Daytime MBA program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student. (2 pages)

Another very unique essay prompt coming from Fuqua. A common theme should be becoming obvious to applicants with this school: Fuqua really wants to get to the core of who you are, what you will bring to the student community, and whether Fuqua is the right MBA program for you. This question seeks to address exactly that.

A strong foundation of school research is the key to crafting a successful response to this essay question. Leverage research about the program to identify which “Team Fuqua Principle” is most consistent with who you are and what you plan to bring to the table. The requested timeframe for your selection is worth noting, so keep your planned contributions focused on your time at Fuqua and less on the past.

Just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Fuqua, hopefully this will help you get started.

If you are considering applying to Fuqua, download our Essential Guide to Fuqua, one of our 13 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Fuqua and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

99th Percentile GMAT Score or Bust! Lesson 8: Reading is FUNdamental

raviVeritas Prep’s Ravi Sreerama is the #1-ranked GMAT instructor in the world (by GMATClub) and a fixture in the new Veritas Prep Live Online format as well as in Los Angeles-area classrooms.  He’s beloved by his students for the philosophy “99th percentile or bust!”, a signal that all students can score in the elusive 99th percentile with the proper techniques and preparation.   In this “9 for 99thvideo series, Ravi shares some of his favorite strategies to efficiently conquer the GMAT and enter that 99th percentile.

First, take a look at lessons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7!

Lesson Eight:

Reading is FUNdamental:  If you can read this video prompt, there are several GMAT quantitative problems that you should answer correctly…but might not on test day.  As Ravi notes in this video, often students supply incorrect answers to quantitative problems not because they can’t do the math, but because in doing the math they take their attention off of reading the question carefully.  So heed Ravi’s advice: if you’re going to get a math problem wrong, get it wrong because you can’t do the math, not because you can’t read.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Want to learn more from Ravi? He’s taking his show on the road for a one-week Immersion Course in New York this summer, and he teaches frequently in our new Live Online classroom.

By Brian Galvin

SAT Tip of the Week: 3 Steps to Attack Wrong Answers on Test Day

SAT Tip of the Week - FullOne of the biggest mistakes students make while prepping for the SAT is fixating on the correct answer during practice tests and problems. While getting answers right is obviously the ultimate goal of the SAT, having too much of an obsession with the right answers during test preparation can actually be very harmful to your overall objective.

The reason for this is that focusing on the right answer takes away from the strategy and reasoning behind certain problems. You will never have the same exact problem on the actual SAT, so it does you no good to memorize the answer. Instead, focus on the process and it will pay dividends when the test comes.

Here is how you should properly review missed problems on practice SAT tests or homework:

1) Identify

First, you want to identify the type of question it is so you know if it is in an area that you struggle with, or it’s just this specific problem. For instance, if it’s an isosceles triangle problem, do you always have issues with geometry or triangles, or specifically with isosceles triangles. Getting down to the absolute specifics of your problem will allow you to properly pinpoint your areas of weakness in order to improve for the future.

2) Strategize

Once you have identified the specifics of the problem, figure out which strategy is best for you to use to attack these types of problems moving forward. Is it an algebraic problem that would be best solved by plugging in numbers, or are you better off testing answer choices? Once you determine the proper strategy for these types of problems, you will be way ahead of the game for similar future ones.

One way to check whether these strategies should be used moving forward is to redo the problem by either plugging in numbers, or testing answer choices or any other strategy of your choice. Only move forward if you now understand the conceptual aspect and are able to get the question right. Once you do this, you are ready for the last step of proper review.

You should keep a notebook where you chronicle all of the problems you got wrong, why you got them wrong and what you will do differently moving forward to get similar ones right in the future. While this is certainly time intensive, it helps you internalize the concept by dedicating more time to review.

3) Double-Check Other Errors

In addition to paying attention to the process, also check out the other errors you might be making. Maybe you aren’t labeling diagrams enough, or writing enough information down. Often students chalk up wrong answers to careless errors, but sometimes that is not enough. Until you figure out exactly what caused the careless error, it isn’t very helpful – you can’t just assume these problems will be fixed magically. Usually there is a reason for a careless error, whether it is not checking one’s work or relying to heavily on the calculator. Figure out the exact reason, and you will be in a much better position moving forward.

Determining the proper “why” of why you answered a practice question incorrectly is the proper way to attack wrong answers on the SAT. While you won’t be focusing on the actual answer, the ultimate result is getting it right in the future, and that’s what really counts on 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 and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

Strategies for the New GMAT Questions that You Need to Know!

MBA Interview QuestionsAbout a month ago, GMAC released the latest version of the GMAT Official Guide, 25% of which consisted of new questions. Though the GMAT tends not to change too drastically over time – how else could a school compare a score received by one candidate in 2015 to a score received by another candidate in 2010? – there can be subtle shifts of emphasis, and paying attention to the composition mix of the questions in the latest version of the Official Guide is a good way to ascertain if any such shift is in the offing.

My concern as an instructor is whether the philosophy I’m advocating and the techniques I’m teaching are as relevant for the newer questions as they have been for the older ones.

This philosophy can be summarized as follows: the GMAT is not, fundamentally, a content-based test, but rather, uses certain elements of our academic background to test how we think under pressure. Because the test is evaluating how we think, and not what we know, the cultivation of simple strategies, such as using the answer choices or picking easy numbers, is just as important as the re-mastery of the content you may have initially learned in eighth grade, but have subsequently forgotten.

Having thoroughly dissected the new questions in the latest version of the Official Guide, I can confidently report that this philosophy is more relevant than ever. Of the over 200 new quantitative questions, I didn’t do extensive calculations for a single problem. If anything, the kind of fluid logic-based approach that we preach at Veritas is more critical than ever.

Take this new question, for example:

Four extra-large sandwiches of exactly the same size were ordered for m students, where m > 4. Three of the sandwiches were evenly divided among the students. Since 4 students did not want any of the fourth sandwich, it was evenly divided among the remaining students. If Carol ate one piece from each of the four sandwiches, the amount of sandwich that she ate would be what fraction of a whole extra-large sandwich? 

A) (m+4)/[m(m-4)]
B) (2m-4)/[m(m-4)]
C) (4m-4)/[m(m-4)]
D) (4m-8)/[m(m-4)]
E) (4m-12)/[m(m-4)]

Of course, we could do this question algebraically. But if the GMAT is testing our ability to make good decisions under pressure, and if the algebra feels hard for you, then a better option is to make your life as easy as possible and select a simple number for m. If m is larger than 4, let’s say that m = 5. “m” represents the number of students, so now we have 5 students and, we’re told in the question stem, a total of 4 sandwiches. (The question of what kind of negligent, hard-hearted school knowingly packs only 4 sandwiches for all of its students to share will have to be addressed in another post. This question feels straight out of Oliver Twist.)

Okay. We’re told that 3 of the sandwiches are divided evenly among the 5 students. (3 sandwiches)/(5 students) means each student gets 3/5 of a sandwich.

Additionally, we’re told that 4 of the students don’t want any part of the remaining sandwich. Because we only have 5 students and 4 of them don’t want the remaining sandwich, the last student will get the entire fourth sandwich.

To summarize what we have so far: Each of the 5 students initially received 3/5 of a sandwich, and then one student received an entire additional sandwich, on top of that initial 3/5. The lucky fifth student received a total of 3/5 + 1 = 8/5 of a sandwich.

Last, we ‘re told that Carol ate a piece of each of the four sandwiches. But we established that only one student ate a piece of every sandwich, so Carol has to be that lucky student! Therefore, Carol ate 8/5 of a sandwich.

We’re asked what fraction of a sandwich Carol ate, so the answer is simply 8/5. Now all we have to do is plug ‘5’ in place of ‘m’ in each answer choice, and the one that gives us 8/5 will be our answer.

Most test-takers will simply start with A and work their way down until they find an option that works. The question-writer knows that this is how most test-takers proceed. Therefore, it’s a more challenging question if the correct answer is towards the bottom of our answer choices. So let’s use this logic to our advantage, start with E, and work our way up.

Answer choice E:  (4m-12)/[m(m-4)]

Substituting ‘5’ in place of ‘m,’ we get (4*5 – 12)/[5(5-4) = 8/5. That’s it! We’re done. The correct answer is E.

Takeaway: Keep reminding yourself that the GMAT (even with its new questions) is not designed to test what you know. While it is important to brush up on all of the fundamentals you acquired years before, the most successful test-takers will fluidly incorporate simple strategies when attacking complex questions, rather than simply grinding through longer calculations. Each new version of the Official Guide validates the wisdom of this approach.

*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 find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

How to Tackle Evenly Spaced Sets on the GMAT

MBA Applicant Evaluation WorkshopThere’s an amusing anecdote told about the great 18th century mathematician, Carl Friedrich Gauss. Apparently, when Gauss was young, he was something of a troublemaker in school, and as a punishment for one of his disruptive outbursts, his teacher ordered him to calculate the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 100 inclusive, thinking that such a calculation would be taxing and time-consuming. Gauss simply scratched his head, thought for a few seconds, and then astonished his teacher and classmates by spitting out the answer: 5,050. He was about seven years old when this happened.

So then, how is it possible for a child – a genius, perhaps, but still a child – to do such an extensive computation in his head? The answer involves exploiting certain properties of evenly spaced sets. An evenly spaced set, as the name implies, is one in which the gap between each successive element in the set is equal. So a set consisting of consecutive integers would be evenly spaced, as would a set consisting of consecutive multiples of 2 or consecutive multiples of 3, etc.

It is always true of evenly spaced sets that the median – the middle term of the set – is equal to the mean, or arithmetic average, of the set. Moreover, the mean can be calculated by adding the high and the low terms of the set, and then dividing by 2. We can use this property in conjunction with the equation: Average * Number of Terms = Sum to calculate the sum of any large evenly spaced set.

In the case of the set of the integers from 1 to 100 inclusive, it works like this:

Average = (High + Low)/2 = (100 + 1)/2 = 101/2 = 50.5.

The Number of Terms = 100. Technically, the equation for finding the number of terms in an evenly spaced set is [(High-Low)/increment] + 1, but clearly, there are 100 terms between 1 and 100. Just remember, when using this formula, we want to add one to make sure we’re not leaving off the last term.

Average * Number = 50.5 * 100 = 5050.

Not too bad, even for a seven-year-old. (Note to those curious about the history of mathematics, this isn’t exactly how Gauss did the calculation, but it’s close enough.)

Now let’s see this concept in action on the GMAT:

For any positive integer n, the sum of the first n positive integers equals (n(n+1))/2. What is the sum of all the even integers between 99 and 301? 
A) 10,000
B) 20,200
C) 22,650
D) 40,200
E) 45,150 

Notice that we don’t have to bother with the formula they give us. The set of all evens from 99 to 301 inclusive will really be from 100 to 300, as those are the lowest and highest even terms of the set, respectively.

Average = (High + Low)/2 = (300 + 100)/2 = 400/2 = 200.

Number of Terms = [(High-Low)/increment] + 1 = [(300-100)/2] + 1 = 101. (Note: we divide by ‘2’ here because we only want even numbers, or multiples of 2. Thus, there is an increment of 2 between each successive term in the set.)

Average * Number = 200 * 101 = 20,200. The answer is B. Not bad.

Great, you think. Now I can just go on autopilot and apply these formulas anytime I encounter a huge evenly spaced set. But the GMAT doesn’t work like that. Sometimes we use a formula, but just as often, we’ll use logic, or we’ll pick a number, or we’ll work with the answer choices.

This cannot be repeated enough: Quantitative Reasoning is not a math test. It’s a test that requires some mathematical knowledge in order to make good decisions under pressure. Sometimes the best decision is doing little or no math at all.

Consider the following question:

How many positive three-digit integers are divisible by both 3 and 4? 
A) 75
B) 128
C) 150
D) 225
E) 300 

First, note that any number that is divisible by both 3 and 4 will be divisible by 12, as 12 is the least common multiple of 3 and 4. Perhaps you also noted that we’re dealing with an evenly spaced set here, and that, if the set consists of multiples of 12, the increment is clearly 12. But this question is very different from the previous one because we’re not required to calculate a sum. We just need to know how many multiples of 12 exist between 100 and 999.

If my increment is 12, I know I’ll be dividing by 12 at some point. But I can see that my (High – Low) will be at most (999 – 100) = 899. (Technically, our highest multiple of 12 in this set is 996 and our low term is 108, but there’s actually no need to discern this.) Clearly 899/12 will be less than 100, so there have to be fewer than 100 terms in the set. Now look at the answer choices. Only A is less than 100, so I’m done. I don’t have to finish the calculation.

Takeaway: You will be learning many useful formulas for the GMAT, but make sure you don’t use them blindly. Expect to mix formal algebra with the well-worn strategies of picking numbers and working with the answer choices. On the GMAT, flexibility and mental agility will always take precedence over rote memorization.

*GMATPrep questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

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

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

College Separation Anxiety: Reflecting on the Past and Embracing Your New Surroundings

transition into collegeAt the start of July 2012 (I started early), I was thrilled to move in to the dorms and excited for the year to start. A few of my floor mates had bad cases of homesickness, but since my parents lived only a few miles away from my dorm room, I figured I’d be able to avoid the separation anxiety that so famously plagues new undergraduates.

I wasn’t entirely wrong; I had it easier than my friends, since most of them were out-of-state students. I still, though, had to deal with more than a few late nights spent sorely missing my old haunts and social groups, and I still found myself taking in new experiences by comparing them to my favorite things about my old life. My favorite professor reminded me of my favorite high school history teacher, my roommate liked the same authors my high school best friend did, and my new running trails just weren’t as relaxing and familiar as my old routes had been. At its best, separation anxiety was wistful nostalgia. At its worst, it was as though gravity had suddenly been sucked away, and I waded through my class schedule full of self-pity and longing for the sense of security I hadn’t properly appreciated in my high school days.

I was mindful enough, at least, to cope well. I spoke to my old friends regularly, but resisted the urge to call too late at night. I made new friends and built a new support system that has stayed with me to this day. When I felt particularly lonely, I watched my favorite TV shows from grade school or hand-wrote letters to the people I missed most. I went out of my way to build a new normal out of new favorite restaurants, new hobbies, and new study spots. Over the next few months I largely moved on, almost without realizing it. Today I can’t even imagine going back to the way I lived before college, and that’s how I know I was ready to move on.

The last time it really hit me was when I was visiting my old high school teachers in November of the same year. As soon as I stepped off the bus, I instinctively scanned the halls for familiar faces and found exactly that—faces. No one I had really known and loved was still there besides the teachers, and they had their hands full with new students coming in. Because my real attachment to my high school had been to the students in my grade, the world I missed wasn’t gone—it just wasn’t living in the same buildings anymore. I was still in touch with everyone who had really mattered to me, even though my friend group had spread across the country. My old world had just expanded, not disappeared, and I felt dumb for not having realized it earlier.

I still visit my high school friends whenever I get the opportunity. I’ve gotten to know their new cities and schools and friends, and I’ve become more able to think of my past as something I carry with me rather than something I leave behind. It’s been one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned here, and as I gear up to transition out of college in a few months I’m far less nervous about leaving than I am grateful to have three and half wonderful years to miss.

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

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

The First 3 Areas You Should Tackle in Your MBA Application Process

Applicant SurveyApplying to business school can be a very daunting experience for the uninitiated. With so many different programs, specialties, and teaching styles, knowing how to get started in the process is an area that many applicants struggle with. Should you start with school research or extra coursework? Ordering your transcripts from your undergrad institution or reaching out to current students for a chat?

The process of applying to business school can be overwhelming to even the most polished and organized professional. Now the initial first few steps will vary from candidate to candidate given your timeline before the application submission due date, application strengths/weakness, and time available to commit to the admissions process.

The key to being most efficient when applying to business school is to avoid redundant steps like working on applications for schools that are not a fit. So the steps we will discuss should limit major opportunities for redundancies

Let’s take a structured approach into thinking about the 3 best areas to tackle to jump-start your business school application process:

1) Career Goals

Why are you applying to business school? A very simple question that often gets overlooked amidst the myriad of other tasks candidates tend to prioritize. But this fundamental question is critical as it feeds into many aspects of the application process. Applicants will identify schools based off of which programs may provide the best fit for their career development goals, along with a host of other elements that reflect the ideal compatibility.

2) GMAT

The choice of tiers of schools to target will also be influenced by your performance on the GMAT. Depending on the score a candidate receives, this will help determine the most realistic range of school options when choosing which MBA programs to apply to. The GMAT is higher on the list than other numerical benchmarks like GPA because GPA is for, most applicants, a historical figure, while the GMAT is a future oriented step that can still be influenced.

3) School Selection

After clearly articulating career goals and the type of schools that reflect your ideal fit, and filtering this list through performance on the GMAT, candidates should be able to start closing in on a realistic list of target programs. School selection is a critical element because it will directly influence chances of admission, and eventually overall satisfaction once accepted. There are few things worse than spending two years at an MBA program that does not address your necessary career and personal development goals.

Kick-off your application process with the above steps to make the most out of your application experience!

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Advanced Averages Concepts for the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomLet’s discuss an advanced averages concept today.

Say, you have the following set of consecutive integers: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

What is the average of this set? There are 7 consecutive integers here and the average is 5, the middle number.

Say the set is changed to: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (another consecutive number is added to the extreme right). Now what is the average? It is the average of the two middle numbers (5+6)/2 = 5.5.

Let’s edit the set one more time: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (another consecutive number is added to the extreme left). The average now is 5 again.

Whenever you add a number on either side of a set of consecutive integers, the average changes by 0.5. This is obvious because odd number of consecutive integers have the middle number as the average and an even number of consecutive integers have the average of two middle numbers as the average. Since every time you add an integer, the number of integers changes from odd to even or from even to odd, the average changes by 0.5.

By the same logic, what happens when you remove an integer from either extreme?

Given a set 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, how will its average change if you remove 3?

The average of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 is 6, and the average of 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 is 6.5 — the average increases to 6.5 because you removed a small number.

Now how will the average change if you remove 9 instead of 3?

The average of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 is 6, and the average of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 is 5.5 — here, the average decreases to 5.5 because you removed a large number.

So, every time you add or remove a number from one of the extremes, the average will move by 0.5.

What happens if you remove a number from somewhere in the middle?

The average changes but by how much? When you remove the greatest or the least number, the average changes by 0.5. So when you remove some other number, the average will change by something less than 0.5. For example, from the set 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, if you remove 8, the average changes from 6 to 5.667. If instead, you remove 7, the average changes to 5.833.

A few takeaways:

  1. When you remove an integer very close to the average, the average changes by very little. If you remove the average, the average doesn’t change (changes by 0). When you remove a number close to the extreme, the average changes by a larger number (up to a maximum of 0.5).
  2. When you remove a number less than the average, the average increases. When you remove a number more than the average, the average decreases.
  3. When you remove the smallest number, the average increases by 0.5. When you remove the greatest number, the average decreases by 0.5.

Now, a question based on this concept:

In a class, the teacher wrote a set of consecutive integers beginning with 1 on the blackboard. A student erased one number. The average of the remaining numbers was 29(14/19). What was the number that the student erased?

(A) 13

(B) 16

(C) 28

(D) 36

(E) 50

Solution:

The numbers on the board: 1, 2, 3, 4, …

The new average is 29(14/19). Since the average changes by not more than 0.5 when you remove an integer from a set of consecutive integers, the original average was either 29.5 or 30. So originally there were either 58 numbers (average 29.5) or 59 numbers (average 30).

When you remove a number, you are left with either 57 numbers or with 58 numbers. Now, the new average will tell you whether you are left with 57 numbers or 58 numbers. The denominator is 19 in the fraction, so when you divide the sum of all remaining integers by the number of integers, the number of integers (denominator) is 19 or a multiple of 19 — 57 is a multiple of 19, 58 is not. So you must have been left with 57 integers and the original number of integers must be 58. This means the original average must have been 29.5.

The original average of 29(1/2) increases to 29(14/19), i.e. an increase of 14/19 – 1/2 = 9/38.

When an integer was removed, the average increased by 9/38 so the integer must be less than the original average. Now use the concept of average that we have learned. One integer was bringing the rest of the numbers down by 9/38 each so the integer must have been (9/38)*57 = 13.5, which is less than the original average of 29.5.

This means the integer that was removed must have been (29.5 – 13.5) = 16, so the answer is B.

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

Our Thoughts on Wharton’s MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

Wharton AdmissionsApplication season at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 MBA admission essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts. There is only one required essay question this year, but an additional “optional” essay that candidates should strongly consider addressing is also presented.

 

Essay 1:

What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

A very similar essay to last year’s returns from the Wharton School. This is a classic “Why School X”/“Career Goals” question but with a little Wharton twist. The biggest trap in this prompt is to treat this question like the typical school fit variety. I caution against simply repurposing responses to similar questions from other schools. This question implores candidates to address not only the professional fit with Wharton but also the personal fit.

Breakthrough candidates will utilize a very personal narrative that uniquely captures the essence of why Wharton is the ideal fit for the applicant’s development goals. Wharton is looking for specifics here so avoid general statements that could be harbored by any candidate. This is your chance to connect 1 to 1 with the Admissions Committee, so do not waste this opportunity. The personal element is what makes this question a bit more unique, particularly since many applicants tend to struggle with the personal, more holistic side of the application process.

Really take a future-oriented approach to this essay and think of how the Wharton MBA is uniquely positioned to help you achieve these personal and professional goals. Don’t limit your response to just what things you can gain from Wharton – make sure to also share what elements you bring to the student community as well.

Essay 2 (Optional): 

Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy? (400 words)

Another dreaded “open ended” prompt from an elite program, and to complicate your application, this essay is technically an “optional” one. My first recommendation is to avoid treating this like an optional essay in two key ways:

The first, answer the question! With limited opportunities to tell your story in the Wharton application process, the chance to share additional details should not be missed.  The second, do not approach the response to this question as you would a typical optional essay – avoid discussions about low GPAs or gaps in employment in lieu of a well-developed, concrete essay response.

When contemplating topic selections here in Essay 2, consider focusing on topics that will round out the perception of your candidacy. This essay should offer additional information to showcase the candidate as a “360 degrees” applicant, so avoid any previously mentioned information that may live elsewhere in the application and put this additional real estate to use!

Just a few thoughts on the new essays from Wharton, hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Wharton essays and deadlines, check out another post here.

If you are considering applying to Wharton, download our Essential Guide to Wharton, one of our 13 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Wharton and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

6 Steps to Succeed on the ACT Science Section

i-have-no-idea-what-im-doing-science-dog1I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the ACT Science section is just Reading in disguise!

For the vast majority of questions on the Science section, you don’t need to really know anything about science. You only need to follow these six simple steps:

1. Spot the Data

Any chart, table, or graph attached to a passage will be significant. If it’s there, you will be tested on your ability to interpret it.

2. Interpret the Data

Once you’ve located an important-looking chart, table, or graph, it’s time to decipher it. Don’t go overboard just yet; for now, identify the variables and how those variables are related (the basic trend).

For example:

ACT Pic

Here are the important things to immediately note about the graph above:

A. The x-variable is the number of snacks and the y-variable is the number of smiles.

B. As the number of snacks increases, so does the number of smiles.

3. Compare the Data

Often there will be more than one graph/chart/table in a given passage. If this is the case, there is guaranteed to be a question that will require you to compare/contrast the data at hand. BE SURE TO REMEMBER THE DIFFERENCE(S) BETWEEN THE CHARTS/TABLES/GRAPHS. These questions almost always emphasize the difference(s) between the variables and/or results in the data. Always, always, always note the changes between “Scientist 1” and “Scientist 2,” or “Experiment 1” and “Experiment 2.”

4. Examine the Questions

You will always be tested on the data presented, but peruse the multiple choice to determine what else you need to read. Immediately answer the questions that directly address the data included; there are reliably 1-3 questions specifically about the graph(s) following a given science passage.

5. Skim for Key Words

For the other questions not concerning graphs or specific data, seek key words. More often than not, the phrasing of a multiple choice question will be excerpted directly from the passage.

For example: if a question asks you about the relationship between atmospheric pressure and wind speeds, locate the word “atmospheric pressure” in the passage and only study sentences in the nearby vicinity. Be selective about the text you choose to read closely.

6. Don’t Get Intimidated

If I had to summarize the best strategy for the ACT Science section in two words, it would be, “Avoid reading.” The rambling science passages are intended to lose you, bruise you, abuse you and confuse you. Seriously. Some of them are long enough to give The Odyssey a run for its money.

I’m a fairly fast reader and I didn’t have enough time to finish the ACT Science section. I spent my 35 minutes attempting to comprehend overly-complicated paragraphs about experimental design and the scientific method. Don’t let this happen to you.

Stay focused. Watch the variables. Eat snacks. Smile.

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, check out our free online ACT resources, and be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Madeline Ewbank is an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where she produces student films, hosts podcasts, and teaches ACT 36 courses. She is excited to help students achieve their college aspirations as a member of the Veritas Prep team.

 

GMAT Tip of the Week: There’s a Hole in the Bucket… But Not in Your GMAT Score!

GMAT Tip of the WeekIf you’ve ever attended a summer camp or roasted marshmallows over a campfire, there’s a good chance you know the popular children’s singalong song “There’s a Hole in the Bucket.”  Sparing you the repeat lyrics, let’s take a look at the ridiculous (and GMAT-relevant) musical conversation between Dear Henry and Dear Liza:

Henry: There’s a hole in the bucket (dear Liza, dear Liza, dear Liza…)

Liza: Then fix it (dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry…)

Henry: With what shall I fix it?

Liza: With straw.

Henry: The straw is too long.

Liza: Well, cut it.

Henry: With what shall I cut it?

Liza: With an axe.

Henry: The axe is too dull.

Liza: Then sharpen it.

Henry: With what shall I sharpen it?

Liza: With a stone.

Henry: The stone is too dry.

Liza: Then wet it.

Henry: With what shall I wet it? (Editor’s note: really, Henry?)

Liza: With water.

Henry: With what shall I fetch it?

Liza: With a bucket.

Henry (and his redemption): There’s a hole in the bucket.

<Repeat over and over again>

Now, what makes that song such a children’s and family favorite?  In some part it’s popular because it repeats upon itself, but mostly it’s popular because even small children have to laugh at Henry’s heroic lack of critical thought.  Henry simply can’t function unless Liza directly hands him the specific next step.

…and Liza and Henry’s conversation is not all that much unlike many GMAT tutoring sessions.

Among the pool of GMAT test-takers, there are plenty of Henrys.  And as much as you may laugh at him, you’re playing the part of Henry just a little too much when you:

  • Stop working on a problem in less than 2 minutes and flip to the back of the book for the solution. (“With what shall I solve it, dear textbook, dear textbook…”)
  • Give up on the calculations without first checking the answer choices to see if they afford you a shortcut. (“The calculation is too long, dear GMAT, dear GMAT”)
  • Frustratedly ask “but how am I supposed to see that I should do that?”. (“But how should I know that, dear teacher, dear teacher…”)
  • Write off the question as flawed because you disagree with the correct answer. (“The solution is just wrong, dear answer key, dear answer key…”)

Eavesdrop on a GMAT tutoring session at your local library or coffee shop and there’s a good chance you’ll hear more Liza-and-Henry than you’d expect.  Students frequently ask for the rule but not the lesson, and tutors often simply oblige.  But to avoid Henrydom on test day (this conversation should last 3-5 seconds, not be a song that kids will sing for an entire field trip bus ride.  Figure it out, Henry!) you need to train yourself to ask and answer those questions for yourself.

We at Veritas Prep suggest the “toolkit” approach as opposed to a “if it’s this kind of problem I will steadfastly use this method without critical thought” mindset.  When the bucket has a hole or the straw is too long, ask yourself what other tools are in your toolkit.

For example, if you blank on a rule, try proving it with small numbers.  Unsure whether Even + Odd is Even or Odd?  Just try 2 + 1 (an even plus and odd) and recognize that the answer is 3 (Odd!).  Or if the algebra looks too messy, see if you can plug in an answer choice to get a better feel for the solutions’ relationship to the problem.

What makes “There’s a Hole in the Bucket” funny is what could ultimately make your own GMAT test experience miserable: you (and Henry) have to employ a combination of critical thinking, trial-and-error, and patience to solve problems. The exam simply isn’t testing your ability to memorize a “Liza List” of steps to solve each problem; many hard problems are designed specifically to reward those who overcome the adversity of the “obvious” method leading you down a rabbit hole of awful algebra or those who find a familiar theme in a completely unfamiliar setup.  So to train yourself to be an anti-Henry:

  • Force yourself to fight and struggle through hard practice problems. The written solution isn’t likely to be nearly as helpful as your having had to struggle to gain understanding.
  • Think in terms of your “toolkit” – if your first inclination doesn’t lead to success, rummage around your toolkit to see what other types of concepts might apply to that problem.
  • When you don’t know or can’t remember a rule, test the concept with small numbers to see if you can retrain your brain or prove the relationship to yourself.
  • Hold your tutor accountable – they should be asking you probing questions like Socrates, not handing you one-time solutions and steps like Liza (she’s not totally innocent in this either…she enables Henry way too much!)

The way the song goes, there will be a hole in Henry’s bucket forever, but if there’s a hole in your GMAT score you can fix it with a new study mindset (even if the straw is too long…).

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

By Brian Galvin.

Why is There “Math” in the GMAT Critical Reasoning Section?

No MathThe Critical Reasoning portion of the GMAT will sometimes test basic mathematical concepts. My more verbally-minded students sometimes complain that this tendency is unfair, as the test seems to have imported a question-type from the section of the test that they find less agreeable into the section they consider their strength. But the truth is that the “math” in Critical Reasoning is really about logic and intuition rather than higher-level abstraction.

Take percentages, for instance. We can understand percentage reasoning without doing much calculation. When I introduce this topic, I’ll offer a simple real-world example:

In the 2014 playoffs, Lebron James made roughly 56% of his field goal attempts. In the 2015 playoffs, he made roughly 42% of his attempts. Therefore, he made fewer field goals in 2015 than in 2014.

You don’t need to be an avid basketball fan to recognize the glaring logical flaw in this statement. To determine whether that percentage dip is meaningful, we have to know how many shot attempts he was taking. Because he took so many more shots in 2015 than in 2014, he ended up making more field goals in that year, when his field goal percentage was lower. The notion that a percentage isn’t terribly meaningful without knowing the percent of what is obvious to everyone.

What the GMAT will typically do, however, is to test the exact same concept using a scenario that we may not grasp quite as intuitively. Consider the following official argument:

In the United States, of the people who moved from one state to another when they retired, the percentage who retired to Florida has decreased by three percentage points over the last ten years.  Since many local businesses in Florida cater to retirees, these declines are likely to have a noticeably negative economic effect on these businesses and therefore on the economy of Florida.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument given?

  1. People who moved from one state to another when they retired moved a greater distance, on average, last year than such people did ten years ago.
  2. People were more likely to retire to North Carolina from another state last year than people were ten years ago.
  3. The number of people who moved from one state to another when they retired has increased significantly over the past ten years.
  4. The number of people who left Florida when they retired to live in another state was greater last year than it was 10 years ago.
  5. Florida attracts more people who move form one state to another when they retired than does any other state.

The logic here may not be as obvious as the Lebron example, but it is, in fact, identical. The argument’s conclusion is that Florida’s economy will suffer negative consequences. The central premise is that of the people moving from one state to another, a smaller percentage are going to Florida now than were going to Florida ten years ago. The assumption is that a smaller percentage moving to Florida means fewer people moving to Florida.

This line of reasoning is no more valid than asserting that Lebron shooting a lower percentage in 2015 than in 2014 means he made fewer shots in 2015. Just as we needed to know if there was a change in the total number of shots Lebron was taking in order to evaluate whether the change in percentage was meaningful, we need to know if there was a change in the total number of people moving from one state to another in order to properly assess whether it’s meaningful that a smaller percentage are moving to Florida.

Let’s evaluate the answer choices one by one:

  1. The distance people moved doesn’t matter. Out of Scope. A is out.
  2. North Carolina isn’t relevant to what’s happening in Florida. Out of Scope. B is out.
  3. This is the logical equivalent of pointing out that Lebron took many more shots in 2015 than in 2014. If far more people are moving from one state to another now than were moving from one state to another ten years ago, it’s possible that more total people are moving to Florida, even if a smaller percentage of movers are going to Florida. This looks good.
  4. First, the number of people leaving Florida has no bearing on whether a smaller percentage of people moving to Florida will have an impact on Florida’s economy. Moreover, we’re trying to weaken the idea that Florida’s economy will suffer. If more people are leaving Florida, it would strengthen the notion that Florida’s economy will endure negative consequences. That’s the opposite of what we want. D is out.
  5. Tempting perhaps, but ultimately, irrelevant. Just because Lebron led the league in field goals made in both 2015 and 2014 (he didn’t, but play along), doesn’t mean he didn’t make fewer field goals in 2015. E is out.

The answer is C.  If more people are moving from state to state, a lower percentage moving to Florida may not mean that fewer people are coming to Florida, just as Lebron’s dip in field goal percentage does not mean he was making fewer field goals if he was taking more shots.

Takeaway: The “math” concepts tested in Critical Reasoning are, in fact, logic concepts. By connecting the prompt to a more concrete real-world example, we make this logic far more intuitive and easily graspable when we encounter it on the test.

*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 find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

Our Thoughts on Tuck’s MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

Tuck MBA Application season at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts. With all of your essays for Tuck, treat your responses holistically and try to paint a complete picture of your candidacy within the school-specific suite of essay questions.

Essay 1:

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

This essay is Tuck’s take on the common “Why MBA?”/“Why School X?”/“Career Goals” essays. One of the biggest challenges with this incarnation of this common question is the word limit. These are all common application prompts, but having to address them all in the same essay is a bit uncommon and really forces applicants to be concise with each point.

It is important to directly address each point while highlighting your strong fit with the Tuck MBA. Tuck is known for their strong culture and highly connected alumni base, so your evaluation by the Admissions Committee will be based on how well you will fit into the student community.

Tuck is a very specific MBA experience. From the small class size to the tight-knit community to the remote location, it is your job to convince the AdComm that Tuck is the best place for you and your development goals.

Essay 2:

Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. How will that experience contribute to the learning environment at Tuck? (500 words)

This is a classic “Leadership” essay that really puts a responsibility on the applicant to clearly articulate the role they played in a leadership anecdote. Like many business schools, Tuck places a premium on leadership skills, so it is important to use this essay as a conduit to highlight your strengths.

Don’t limit yourself to just professional examples – this prompt is purposefully vague with which direction your response can go, so select the topic that best highlights your leadership skills. Make sure you connect the dots for the AdComm by also detailing out the impact the lessons learned from this experience had on you and your career, and how it will factor into your contributions as a Tuck MBA student. This area should be directly aligned with Tuck’s reputation for having a tight-knit community. Make sure your contributions to this community are clear, and reference specific programs at the school.

Just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Tuck, hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Tuck’s essays and deadlines, check out another post here.

If you are considering applying to Dartmouth Tuck, download our Essential Guide to Tuck, one of our 13 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Tuck and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

99th Percentile GMAT Score or Bust! Lesson 7: Read Like You Drive

raviVeritas Prep’s Ravi Sreerama is the #1-ranked GMAT instructor in the world (by GMATClub) and a fixture in the new Veritas Prep Live Online format as well as in Los Angeles-area classrooms. He’s beloved by his students for the philosophy “99th percentile or bust!”, a signal that all students can score in the elusive 99th percentile with the proper techniques and preparation. In this “9 for 99thvideo series, Ravi shares some of his favorite strategies to efficiently conquer the GMAT and enter that 99th percentile.

First, take a look at lessons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6!

Lesson Seven:

Read Like You Drive: very few GMAT examinees will make mistakes driving to the GMAT test center, but most test-takers will make several Reading Comprehension mistakes once they’re there. As Ravi will discuss in this video, however, the two activities are much more similar than you realize: your job is to follow the signs. Certain keywords in Reading Comprehension passages will tell you when to yield, stop, turn, and pass with care, and if you’re following those signs properly you can proceed much faster than your self-imposed “speed limit” (most people read the passages far too slowly – stay out of the left lane!) and save valuable time for the questions themselves.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Want to learn more from Ravi? He’s taking his show on the road for a one-week Immersion Course in New York this summer, and he teaches frequently in our new Live Online classroom.

By Brian Galvin