What to Do if You’re Struggling with GMAT Solutions

stressed-studentOne of the most misleading parts of the whole GMAT experience is the process of reading the solution to a math problem in the Quant section. When you try the problem, you struggle, sweat, and go nowhere; when they explain the problem, they wave a snooty, know-it-all magic wand that clears everything up. But how did they think of that? What can you do to think like them (or barring that, where do they keep that magic wand, and how late do we have to break into their house to be sure they’re asleep when we steal it)?

The short answer is that they struggled just like you did, but like anybody else, they wanted to make it look easy. (Think of all the time some people spend preening their LinkedIn or their Instagram: you only ever see the flashy corporate name and the glamour shot, never the 5 AM wake up call or the 6 AM look in the mirror.) Solution writers, particularly those who work for the GMAC, never seem to tell you that problem solving is mostly about blundering through a lot of guesswork before hitting upon a pattern, but that’s really what it is. Your willingness to blunder around until you hit something promising is a huge part of what’s being tested on the GMAT; after all, as depressing as it sounds, that’s basically how life works.

Here’s a great example:

I haven’t laid eyes on it in thirty years, but I still remember that the rope ladder to my childhood treehouse had exactly ten rungs. I was a lot shorter then, and a born lummox, so I could only climb the ladder one or two rungs at a time. I also had more than a touch of childhood OCD, so I had to climb the ladder a different way every time. After how many trips up did my OCD prevent me from ever climbing it again? (In other words, how many different ways was I able to climb the ladder?)

A) 55       

B) 63       

C) 72       

D) 81        

E) 89

Just the thought of trying 55 to 89 different permutations of climbing the ladder has my OCD going off like a car alarm, so I’m going to look for an easier way of doing this. It’s a GMAT problem, albeit one on the level of a Google interview question, so it must have a simple solution. There has to be a pattern here, or the problem wouldn’t be tested. Maybe I could find that pattern, or at least get an idea of how the process works, if I tried some shorter ladders.

Suppose the ladder had one rung. That’d be easy: there’s only one way to climb it.

Now suppose the ladder had two rungs. OK, two ways: I could go 0-1 then 1-2, or straight from 0-2 in a single two step, so there are two ways to climb the ladder.

Now suppose that ladder had three rungs. 0-1, 1-2, 2-3 is one way; 0-2, 2-3 is another; 0-1, 1-3 is the third. So the pattern is looking like 1, 2, 3 … ? That can’t be right! Doubt is gnawing at me, but I’m going to give it one last shot.

Suppose that the ladder had four rungs. I could do [0-1-2-3-4] or [0-1-3-4] or [0-1-2-4] or [0-2-4] or [0-2-3-4]. So there are five ways to climb it … wait, that’s it!

While I was mucking through the ways to climb my four-rung ladder, I hit upon something. When I take my first step onto the ladder, I either climb one rung or two. If I climb one rung, then there are 3 rungs left: in other words, I have a 3-rung ladder, which I can climb in 3 ways, as I saw earlier. If my step is a two-rung step instead, then there are 2 rungs left: in other words, a 2-rung ladder, which I can climb in 2 ways. Making sense?

By the same logic, if I want to climb a 5-rung ladder, I can start with one rung, then have a 4-rung ladder to go, or start with two rungs, then have a 3-rung ladder to go. So the number of ways to climb a 5-rung ladder = (the number of ways to climb a 3-rung ladder) + (the number of ways to climb a 4-rung ladder). Aha!

My pattern starts 1, 2, 3, so from there I can find the number of ways to climb each ladder by summing the previous two. This gives me a 1-, 2-, 3-, … rung ladder list of 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, and 89, so a 10-rung ladder would have 89 possible climbing permutations, and we’re done.

And the lesson? Much like a kid on a rope ladder, for a GMAT examinee on an abstract problem there’s often no “one way” to do the problem, at least not one that you can readily identify from the first instant you start. Very often you have to take a few small steps so that in doing so, you learn what the problem is all about. When all else fails in a “big-number” problem, try testing the relationship with small numbers so that you can either find a pattern or learn more about how you can better attack the bigger numbers. Sometimes your biggest test-day blunder is not allowing yourself to blunder around enough to figure the problem out.

Congratulations: that’s the hardest GMAT problem you’ve solved yet! (And bonus points if you noticed that the answer choices differed by 8, 9, 9, and 8. I still have OCD, and a terrible sense of humor.)

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7 Tips That Will Keep You Awake and Focused While Studying

StudentI didn’t have much trouble doing well in high school. Unfortunately, this meant that I never felt much pressure to develop focus skills. I regularly zoned out in class and procrastinated on my homework. In my senior year, I even won the yearbook award for Most Likely to Fall Asleep In Class.

Enter UC Berkeley, known globally for its competitive student body and academic rigor. I was thrilled to be in such an enriching and challenging environment, but I struggled in freshman year to keep up with everyone around me. I simply couldn’t sit down and pay attention, even though I loved what I was studying.

I’ve gotten much better at it, but I still have trouble focusing now and again.  Fortunately, over the years I’ve come up with a set of go-to remedies:

  1. Switch tasks. I often find that a lack of focus is just boredom in disguise. Changing assignments, books, or subjects can sometimes provide enough variety to shake it off.
  1. Move to another table, room, or study space. Sometimes changing tasks just isn’t enough variety to wake me up. Other times, something in my room is distracting me without my even noticing it. Moving to another spot can often solve both problems.
  1. Make a really detailed to-do list. For instance, if I need to write a short paper, I’ll list “come up with a title”, “write introduction”, “first draft”, “edit”, and “conclusion” as separate items. Once I see all my work listed out, I feel less overwhelmed by it—plus, I get the simple but sweet satisfaction of checking off items as I finish them.
  1. Grab a healthy snack, go for a run, or take a nap. Focus problems can come from physical problems. I tend to semi-consciously eat less, sleep less, and exercise less when I’m really swamped in work, so a brief check-in with my body can work wonders.
  1. Turn off the music. I try to work to music sometimes to keep myself awake and energetic, but other times it’s distracting.
  1. Turn on a song. If I just need a brain break, I’ll sometimes choose exactly one fun song, promise myself that I’ll get right back to work the moment it’s over, and spend a few minutes lost in the music.
  1. Turn on SelfControl, if I find myself drifting onto Facebook or surfing the web instead of working. SelfControl is a fantastic study app for both Mac and Windows that lets you set up your own custom website blacklist and then block access to those sites for however long you need to study.

Keep these things in mind and you’re bound to find success while studying. Best of luck with your finals this semester!

Are you starting to plan for your college applications? We can help! 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.

You Can Do It! How to Work on GMAT Work Problems

Pump UpRate questions, so far as I can remember, have been a staple of almost every standardized test I’ve ever taken. I recall seeing them on proficiency tests in grade school. They showed up on the SAT. They were on the GRE. And, rest assured, dear reader, you will see them on the GMAT. What’s peculiar is that despite the apparent ubiquity of these problems, I never really learned how to do them in school. This is true for many of my students as well, as they come into my class thinking that they’re just not very good at these kinds of questions, when, in actuality, they’ve just never developed a proper approach. This is doubly true of work problems, which are just a kind of rate problem.

When dealing with a complex work question there are typically only two things we need to keep in mind, aside from our standard “rate * time = work” equation. First, we know that rates are  additive. If I can do 1 job in 4 hours, my rate is 1/4. If you can do 1 job in 3 hours, your rate is 1/3. Therefore, our combined rate is 1/4 + 1/3, or 7/12. So we can do 7 jobs in 12 hours.

The second thing we need to bear in mind is that rate and time have a reciprocal relationship. If our rate is 7/12, then the time it would take us to complete a job is 12/7 hours. Not so complex. What’s interesting is that these simple ideas can unlock seemingly complex questions. Take this official question, for example:

Pumps A, B, and C operate at their respective constant rates. Pumps A and B, operating simultaneously, can fill a certain tank in 6/5 hours; pumps A and C, operating simultaneously, can fill the tank in 3/2 hours; and pumps B and C, operating simultaneously, can fill the tank in 2 hours. How many hours does it take pumps A, B, and C, operating simultaneously, to fill the tank.

A) 1/3

B) 1/2

C) 2/3

D) 5/6

E) 1

So let’s start by assigning some variables. We’ll call the rate for p ump A, Ra. Similarly, we’ll designate the rate for pump B as Rb,and the rate for pump C as Rc.

If the time for A and B together to fill the tank is 6/5 hours, then we know that their combined rate is 5/6, because again, time and rate have a reciprocal relationship. So this first piece of information yields the following equation:

Ra + Rb = 5/6.

If A and C can fill the tank in 3/2 hours, then, employing identical logic, their combined rate will be 2/3, and we’ll get:

Ra + Rc = 2/3.

Last, if B and C can fill tank in 2 hours, then their combined rate will be ½, and we’ll have:

Rb+ Rc = 1/2.

Ultimately, what we want here is the time it would take all three pumps working together to fill the tank. If we can find the combined rate, or Ra + Rb + Rc, then all we need to do is take the reciprocal of that number, and we’ll have our time to full the pump. So now, looking at the above equations, how can we get Ra + Rb + Rc on one side of an equation? First, let’s line our equations up vertically:

 Ra + Rb = 5/6.

Ra + Rc = 2/3.

Rb+ Rc = 1/2.

 Now, if we sum those equations, we’ll get the following:

2Ra + 2Rb + 2Rc = 5/6 + 2/3 + 1/2. This simplifies to:

2Ra + 2Rb + 2Rc = 5/6 + 4/6 + 3/6 = 12/6 or 2Ra + 2Rb + 2Rc  = 2.

Dividing both sides by 2, we’ll get: Ra + Rb + Rc  = 1.

This tells us that the pumps, all working together can do one tank in one hour. Well, if the rate is 1, and the time is the reciprocal of the rate, it’s pretty obvious that the time to complete the task is also 1. The answer, therefore, is E.

Takeaway: the most persistent myth we have about our academic limitations is that we’re simply not good at a certain subset of problems when, in truth, we just never properly learned how to do this type of question. Like every other topic on the GMAT, rate/work questions can be mastered rapidly with a sound framework and a little practice. So file away the notion that rates can be added in work questions and that time and rate have a reciprocal relationship. Then do a few practice questions, move on to the next topic, and know that you’re one step closer to mastering the skills that will lead you to your desired GMAT score.

*GMATPrep question courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

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

SAT Tip of the Week: Be the Best of the Best on the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullI’m not particularly brilliant, despite what my grandmother will tell you after a glass of wine. NO ONE (not even Grams) would describe me as a genius, especially when they hear the things I yell at the TV during a UNC basketball game. So how did I score in the 99th percentile on one of the most competitive standardized tests in the country? I am certainly diligent, and it did take some hard work and practice, but there was nothing I accomplished that I feel like another hard working young person couldn’t accomplish as well. In order to dominate the SAT, you really only need to focus on 6 things:

1) Know the SAT

The SAT is a very specific test that is set up in a very specific way. Even with the changes that are occurring with the format of the 2016 SAT, the style of questions and the tactics used by the SAT writers are fairly consistent from year to year. I have looked at so many SAT’s at this point that I can often point out the wrong answers in a question just because of how they are phrased.

This is not a magic trick and can be learned with practice. For example, the SAT does not favor overly specific or overly all-inclusive answers, and it also favors fractions over decimals because they are easier to work with without a calculator. These are small pieces of information that make the SAT much easier to approach, so start looking at practice tests today and work with an instructor who really knows the SAT well to learn how to easily identify test writer tactics.

2) Is the Answer in the Passage?

This is the question you should be asking when you are tackling a reading analysis question. All of the answers in the Reading Comprehension section are based on things directly stated in, or heavily implied by, the passage. Questions also usually ask you about a specific portion of the passage, so the better question would be, “Is the answer in this portion of the passage?” There are times when a section is continuing from something that comes before it or establishing something that comes after it, but usually you are looking for what is directly stated in the lines that are referenced in the question.

Never say an answer “could” be true! It either is or it isn’t correct, and that is based on whether or not the answer is accomplished by, or stated in, the passage. The final caveat is the answer is usually the same idea represented in the passage but restated in different words, so don’t be distracted by plagiarized words from the passage that aren’t actually part of a full correct answer.

3) Show Your Work and Know Your Terminology

Avoid “silly” mistakes by writing out all your steps in the Math section! Be very careful not to lose negatives and to distribute anything outside of parentheses to all the terms in the parentheses. Also, review your basic math terms in advance of the test (i.e. Natural Numbers, Whole Numbers, Rational Numbers, Geometric and Arithmetic sequences, etc.). Know what isosceles, equilateral and right triangles are and what those distinctions mean. Overall, the biggest part of answering math questions is knowing what the questions are asking, and the worst feeling in the world is knowing how to answer a question but then bubbling in the wrong answer because you made a silly mistake.

4) Start Working on Problems That Aren’t Obvious

If you don’t know how to solve a problem, just start working on it anyway. The easiest way to start is to write down your givens and any applicable formulas. Often time, this can at least give you a hint as to what you are able to accomplish. If the unknown you are looking for is a part of the given equation, try to solve for it – if not, see if you can use the information given to solve for other things that might help you ultimately find the answer. Feel free to use real numbers if problems involve equations but does not give you numbers. This may help you to figure out a range of answers or could provide insight into what the equation will produce. Just make sure not to sit there and do nothing, there is always something to try!

5) Know the Parts of a Sentence

It sounds pretty basic, but just identifying what the subject, verb, and (sometimes) object in a sentence can be very helpful in determining the most common errors in SAT Identifying Sentence Error questions. Also be sure you can recognize a prepositional phrase, an introductory phrase, and descriptive phrase, as these are also useful in identifying incorrect parts of sentences.

6) Check for What Could be an Error When Correcting Sentence

There are really only a finite number of things that could be wrong in a sentence, so, especially in the Identifying Sentence Error questions, look for what could be wrong. Does the underlined portion contain a subject, verb, pronoun, idiomatic phrase, or punctuation? If you know what could be wrong, its much easier to see if something is wrong. As an example, one tricky error occurs when multiple words that are supposed to represent the same object or objects disagree. For example:

There is no way to know if the problems with the neighbor’s homes are caused by the roof or if they are caused by cracks in the foundations that have gone unnoticed.

This is very tricky, but the problem here is with number of items mentioned. There are multiple “homes” and the sentence refers to multiple “foundations,” so to use the singular “roof” is incorrect. These errors of numbers can be hard to spot, but if you are looking for them, you can certainly learn to identify them.

With all of theses tools you are set to achieve at the highest level on the SAT.

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

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.

Here is How You Navigate and Understand the Endless Mass of College Mailings

brochureDuring junior and senior year of high school you will probably receive literally thousands of letters, emails, and solicitations from colleges trying to convince you to apply and attend them. On top of this, you’ll also tour potentially dozens of colleges, adding even more information to your already stuffed brain. Given the sheer volume of this info and the uniform positivity that colleges like to present themselves with, it is no surprise that many students get overwhelmed and don’t know how to sift through it all. If you do feel overwhelmed, know that you aren’t alone. It’s really difficult to differentiate between colleges when all of their mailings seem to be saying the same thing. To overcome this it’s key to train your eye to look beyond the gloss and see the information for what it really is.

The first step to being productive with college information is understanding the college’s perspective in sending things to you. Colleges always want to paint themselves in a positive light. No matter what the situation is, a college will never portray itself as a bad place to attend. If a school is large it will emphasize its abundance of opportunities; if a school is small it will emphasize its intimate learning environment. Never does a large school say you’ll just be a face in the crowd, nor does a small school say you’ll feel constricted. The perspectives colleges show you are always skewed. Students featured in pamphlets will be the ones who are incredibly involved and filled with school spirit; rarely do they reflect the average attendee. Tour guides are often on script and relay information and opinions they may not entirely agree with.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that all the information colleges present you with is wrong; it does mean, however, that students need to look beyond the face value of the words and think critically about whether a school is really a good fit. Admissions officers’ job is to make their colleges seem appealing; your job is to consider whether the college is appealing to you.

Okay, now you know what colleges are trying to accomplish in their solicitations. The next step is figuring out what to do with this now decipherable information. Being an active reader and seeker of specific information is a great way to accomplish this. Colleges fill their letters with positive information, so you have to figure out what positive adjectives really mean the most to you. While “intellectual curiosity,” “diversity,” “collaborative,” and “friendly” are all ostensibly good things, it’s the students’ job to figure out which of those (and other characteristics) are most important to them. Otherwise, every college will seem like the best place on earth and there will be no way to decide where to attend. Pick a few characteristics that are really important to you and seek those out when reading college mail. This filter will make the endless stream of mail a bit easier to sift through.

Once you’ve figured out the sort of vibe you want from your college and have found seem to at least somewhat comply with that, it’s then time to add some more depth to your search. The standard advice is to visit and tour the colleges you are particularly interested in. I wholeheartedly agree with this counsel, but I also think it’s important to go beyond the standard activities that colleges offer to prospective students. Tours are great for seeing campus, getting a general feel for a school, and developing a sense of whether you feel at home at a school; however, real life is not like a college tour. Be sure to look beyond the tour and check out what the students on campus seem like. Do they look busy? Rushed? Engaged in fascinating conversations? Happy to be there? Like people you might be friend with? It’s crucial that the day-to-day vibe of a college campus feels good to you, since you have to make sure you’ll enjoy the everyday grind of your life at the college you decide on. After all, a typical day in college involves going to class and doing homework, not being shepherded around campus learning where the libraries are!

It’s equally important to spend time on campus doing things that aren’t sanctioned by the admissions office. Just like in the letters they send you, admissions office-approved events will be designed to paint the school in an attractive light. These events are valuable, but complementing them with sitting in on classes and talking to random students significantly adds to the value of your visit. If you can, talk to professors and students and ask them the tough questions that mean a lot to you. These people are more likely to be unfiltered and can help you gain a fuller understanding of what life at a college is really like. Adding together this candid feedback and the well-manicured information from prospective student brochures allows you to get a diverse variety of perspectives that you can then apply your own filter to in order to make your college decisions.

Above all else, remember that your college decision is ultimately your decision. You want it to be guided by a genuine understanding of what different colleges are like. To do this most accurately you have to see through schools’ facades and seek out ways to see what life is really like at the colleges you’re interested in attending.  Happy searching!

Trying to figure out the college for you? Have you figured out where you want to apply and need help with your application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Aidan Calvelli

Don’t Panic on the GMAT!

Letter of RecommendationYou’ve made it. After months of study, mountains of flash cards, and enough time spent on our YouTube channel that you’re starting to feel like Brian Galvin is one of your roommates, you’re at the test center and the GMAT — not the essay or something, but the real GMAT, in all its evil glory, complete with exponents and fractions — is about to begin. You’re nervous but excited, and cautiously optimistic for the first question: maybe it’ll be something like “What’s (2²)³?” or a work rate problem about how long it’d take George Jetson to burn down a widget factory. You mostly remember these questions, so you click “Begin”, and this is what you see:

A palindrome is a number that reads the same front-to-back as it does back-to-front (e.g. 202, 575, 1991, etc.) p is the smallest integer greater than 200 that is both a prime and a palindrome. What is the sum of the digits of p?

A) 3

B) 4

C) 5

D) 6

E) 7

Thud.

I don’t know about you, but I’m petrified. I mean, yeah, I know what you’re saying — I’m the bozo who just dreamed up that question — but I don’t know where it came from, and I’m sort of thinking I might need to summon an exorcist, because I must be possessed by a math demon. What does that question even say? How the heck are we going to solve it?

This is such a common GMAT predicament to be in that I’m willing to bet that 99% of test takers experience it: the feeling that you don’t even know what the question is saying, and the sense of creeping terror that maybe you don’t know what any of these questions are saying. This is by design, of course. The test writers love these sort of “gut check” questions that test your ability to calmly unpack and reason out a cruel and unusual prompt. So many students take themselves out of the game by panicking, but like any GMAT question, once we get past the intimidation factor, the problem is simple at heart. Let’s try to model the process.

We’ll start by clarifying our terms. Palindrome, palindrome … what on earth is a palindrome!? Is that some sort of hovercraft where Sarah Palin lives? Where are our flash cards? Maybe we should just go to law school or open a food truck or something, this test is absurd.

Wait, the answer is right in front of us, in the very first line! “A palindrome is a number that reads the same back-to-front as it does front-to-back.” Phew, OK, and there are even some examples. So a palindrome is a number like 101, 111, 121, etc. Alright, got that. And it’s prime … prime, prime … OK, right, that WAS on a flashcard: a prime number is a number with exactly two factors, such as 2, or 3, or 5, or 7. So if we were to make lists of each of these numbers, primes and palindromes, we’d have

Primes: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, …

Palindromes: 101, 111, 121, 131, …

and we want the first number that’s greater than 200 that appears on both lists. OK!

Now let’s think of where to start. We know our number is greater than 200, so 202 seems promising. But that can’t be prime: it’s even, so it has at least three factors (1, itself, and 2). Great! We can skip everything that begins/ends with 2, and fast forward to 303. That looks prime, but what was it that Brian kept telling us about divisibility by 3 … ah, yes, test the sum of the digits! 3 + 0 + 3 = 6, and 6 divides by 3, so 303 also divides by 3.

Our next candidate is 313. This seems to be our final hurdle: a lot of quick arithmetic. That’s what the question is testing, after all, right? How quickly can you factor 313?

It sure seems that way, but take one last look at the answers. The GMAT tests efficiency as much as anything else, and it has a way of hiding easter eggs for the observant. Our largest answer is 7, and what’s 3+1+3? 7! So this MUST be the answer, and any time spent factoring 313 is wasted time.

We made it! In hindsight, that didn’t really feel like a math problem, did it? It was testing our ability to:

1) Remember a definition (“prime”)

2) Actually read the question stem (“a palindrome is…”)

3) Not panic, and try a few numbers (“202”? “303”?)

4) Realize that heavy calculation is for suckers, and that the answer might be right in front of us (“check the answers”)

So we just had to remember, actually read the directions, have the courage to try something to see where it leads, and look for clues directly around us. I don’t know about you, but if I were running a business, those are exactly the sort of skills I’d want my employees to have; maybe these test writers are on to something after all!

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

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Permutation Involving Sum of Digits

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe have seen in previous posts how to deal with permutation and combination questions on the GMAT. There is a certain variety of questions that involve getting a bunch of numbers using permutation, and then doing some operations on the numbers we get. The questions can get a little overwhelming considering the sheer magnitude of the number of numbers involved! Let’s take a look at that concept today. We will explain it using an example and then take a question as an exercise:

 

What is the sum of all four digit integers formed using the digits 1, 2, 3 and 4 such that each digit is used exactly once in each integer?

First of all, we will use our basic counting principle to find the number of integers that are possible.

The first digit can be chosen in 4 ways. The next one in 3 ways since each digit can be used only once. The next one in 2 ways and there will be only one digit left for the last place.

This gives us a total of 4*3*2*1 = 24 ways of writing such a four digit number. This is what some of the numbers will look like:

1234

1243

1324

1342

2143

4321

Now we need to add these 24 integers to get their sum. Note that since each digit has an equal probability of occupying every place, out of the 24 integers, six integers will have 1 in the units place, six will have 2 in the units place, another six will have 3 in the units place and the rest of the six will have 4 in the units place. The same is true for all places – tens, hundreds and thousands.

Imagine every number written in expanded form such as:

1234 = 1000 + 200 + 30 + 4

2134 = 2000 + 100 + 30 + 4

…etc.

For the 24 numbers, we will get six 1000’s, six 2000’s, six 3000’s and six 4000’s.

In addition, we will get six 100’s, six 200’s, six 300’s and six 400’s.

For the tens place, will get six 10’s, six 20’s, six 30’s and six 40’s.

And finally, in the ones place we will get six 1’s, six 2’s, six 3’s and six 4’s.

Therefore, the total sum will be:

6*1000 + 6*2000 + 6*3000 + 6*4000 + 6*100 + 6*200 + … + 6*3 + 6*4

= 6*1000*(1 + 2 + 3 + 4) + 6*100*(1 + 2 + 3 + 4) + 6*10*(1 + 2 + 3 + 4) + 6*1*(1 + 2 + 3 + 4)

= 6*1000*10 + 6*100*10 + 6*10*10 + 6*10

= 6*10*(1000 + 100 + 10 + 1)

= 1111*6*10

= 66660

Note that finally, there aren’t too many actual calculations, but there is some manipulation involved. Let’s look at a GMAT question using this concept now:

What is the sum of all four digit integers formed using the digits 1, 2, 3 and 4 (repetition is allowed)

A444440

B) 610000

C) 666640

D) 711040

E) 880000

Conceptually, this problem isn’t much different from the previous one.

Using the same basic counting principle to get the number of integers possible, the first digit can be chosen in 4 ways, the next one in 4 ways, the next one in again 4 ways and finally the last digit in 4 ways. This is what some of the numbers will look like:

1111

1112

1121

and so on till 4444.

As such, we will get a total of 4*4*4*4 = 256 different integers.

Now we need to add these 256 integers to get their sum. Since each digit has an equal probability of occupying every place, out of the 256 integers, 64 integers will have 1 in the units place, 64 will have 2 in the units place, another 64 integers will have 3 in the units place and the rest of the 64 integers will have 4 in the units place. The same is true for all places – tens, hundreds and thousands.

Therefore, the total sum will be:

64*1000 + 64*2000 + 64*3000 + 64*4000 + 64*100 + 64*200 + … + 64*3 + 64*4

= 1000*(64*1 + 64*2 + 64*3 + 64*4) + 100*(64*1 + 64*2 + 64*3 + 64*4) + 10*(64*1 + 64*2 + 64*3 + 64*4) + 1*(64*1 + 64*2 + 64*3 + 64*4)

= (64*1 + 64*2 + 64*3 + 64*4) * (1000 + 100 + 10 + 1)

= 64*10*1111

= 711040

So our answer is D.

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

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

Here Are 5 College Resources You Should Definitely Take Advantage Of

Group MBA Admissions InterviewThere are so many opportunities on a college campus, it’s hard to know where to start! College campuses pride themselves on the unique opportunities they provide to their students – whether it’s bringing a famous singer to perform, offering free academic services or supporting hundreds of extracurricular activities and clubs – colleges and universities are always striving to improve campus life and meet the needs of their students.

So often, though, students don’t recognize the slew of resources and opportunities that are available to them during their undergraduate experience! Many times, these resources may not be properly marketed, and other times, they just simply are overlooked. So, while you think about your weekend plans or start to plan for final examinations, I’d like to remind you to check out your campus resources and take advantage of them, too!

  1. Academic Resources: This is a biggie. Many campuses offer a wide variety of academic resources – from private tutoring, group tutoring and essay reviews. They may also offer test prep courses for the GRE, GMAT or LSAT! Often times, your tuition will cover a few sessions of tutoring or an essay review or two. It is to your benefit to take advantage of these services!
  1. Mental Health Services: College can be an overwhelming time, and many college students would benefit from speaking to licensed psychologists at some point or another. This resource is often overlooked, but is offered as part of your tuition on many campuses.
  1. Extracurricular Activities & Clubs: Do you ever walk through an academic building in the evening and see a group of students in a meeting? Or, do you walk by open fields and see a group of friends playing Frisbee? In many cases, these could be established, organized clubs that receive funding from the school for their activities. Check out your campus organization list – if you don’t see the organization you’re looking for, start a new one!
  1. Career Services: Once you start approaching your senior year, more and more people in your life will start to ask you, “What are you going to do after college?” The question can be daunting if you haven’t really sat down to think about your post-college goals. This is where Career Services kicks in! Their offices aren’t just for seniors, and they can often help you research and secure internships, put together your resume, prep for interviews and assist you in finding opportunities after college.
  1. Spiritual Life Services: Whether you’re looking for more formal spiritual experiences, or just a group of students who have similar beliefs to yours, there are many opportunities to connect spiritually during your undergraduate career. If this is an area you found value in before college, or an area you are curious about, it is absolutely a resource you can pursue on your college campus.

Most campuses offer their students a slew of amazing resources, it is just up to the student to take advantage of them. These types of resources don’t always exist in the “real world,” and when they do, the often come at a cost. Be sure to put those tuition dollars to use and take full advantage of everything that is offered to you while you are a member of the campus community!

Need help prepping your early college applications? 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.

Reflections of a Graduating Senior: Here Are 4 Things I Wish I’d Done Better in College

walking studentAll in all, I did pretty well in college. I maintained a high GPA, earned and kept scholarships and a job, landed four internships and a yearlong research apprenticeship in my field, studied and traveled abroad, and am all set to graduate on time at the end of the school year. On paper, I did just about everything a good college student is supposed to do.

As the real world looms closer, however, I find myself spending more and more time thinking about ways I could have better prepared myself for job searches and grad school. I’m not just paranoid; it’s old news now that the job market isn’t at its friendliest these days, and it’s an even older joke that political science majors all end up having to move back in with their parents after graduation. Just doing well in school isn’t enough anymore. I don’t know yet how it’ll all turn out for me, but I do know that there are plenty of things I wish I had done more of before my last semester. Here are a few…

  • Paying attention in class. We all zone out once in a while, but we’re all too frequently reassured that it’s fine to do so as long as we keep our grades up and our assignments on time. The problem is that education isn’t measured in points and percentages; it’s measured in the things we actually learn. These days I find myself having to research and reread things I know I’ve already been taught, since I didn’t learn them well enough the first time around.
  • On the same note: recognize that college material is way more relevant to my future than high school material was. In high school, I justified forgetting how to balance a chemical equation by telling myself that I wasn’t going to grow up to be a scientist. In college, though, all my classes had to do with the field I’d chosen for myself—the same field I’m trying to explore now as a graduate.
  • Doing all the readings. I learn so much more in my classes and discussions now that I’ve begun to do all the readings assigned, every time. My classes are easier, more productive, and more fun now that I can follow and contextualize everything my professor and classmates talk about, instead of sweating in my chair hoping not to get called on to talk about the reading I missed.
  • Taking fewer classes. I used to be proud of the fact that I could handle heavy course loads every semester, but I’ve realized now that it doesn’t matter how many classes I take if I’m not getting as much out of each of them. I’m currently taking fewer units than I’ve ever taken before, but I’m learning more than I ever have because I have the time and attention to really engage with and be interested in the work I do.

If you are starting your college career, or even if you are midway through, keep a few of the above points in mind as you get closer to graduation. Have a great Winter Break!

Have you been putting off your college application? We can help! 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.

 

Use Number Lines on the GMAT, Not Memory!

SAT/ACTI’ve written in the past about how the biggest challenge on many GMAT questions is the strain they put on our working memory. Working memory, or our ability to process information that we hold temporarily, is by definition quite limited. It’s why phone numbers only contain seven digits – any more than that and most people wouldn’t be able to recall them. (Yes, there was a time, in the dark and distant past, when we had to remember phone numbers.)

One of the most simple and effective strategies we can deploy to combat our working memory limitations is to simply list out the sample space of scenarios we’re dealing with. If we were told, for example, that x is a prime number less than 20, rather than internalize this information, we can jot down x = 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, or 19. The harder and more abstract the question, the more necessary such a strategy will prove to be.

Take this challenging Data Sufficiency question, for example:

On the number line, the distance between x and y is greater than the distance between x and z. Does z lie between x and y on the number line?

1) xyz < 0

2) xy <0

The reader is hereby challenged to attempt this exercise in his or her head without inducing some kind of hemorrhage.

So, rather than try to conceptualize this problem mentally, let’s start by actually writing down all the number line configurations that we might have to deal with before even glancing at the statements. We know that x and z are closer than x and y. So we could get the following:

x____z_______________________y

z____x_______________________y

Or we can swap x and y to generate a kind of mirror image

y______________________x_____z

y______________________z_____x

The above number lines are the only four possibilities given the constraints provided in the question stem. Now we have something concrete and visual that we can use when evaluating the statements.

Statement 1 tells us that the product of the three variables is negative. If you’ve internalized your number properties – and we heartily encourage that you do – you know that a product is negative if there are an odd number of negative elements in said product. In this case, that means that either one of the variables is negative, or all three of them are. So let’s use say one of the variables is negative. By placing a 0 strategically, we can use any of our above number lines:

x__0__z______________________y

z__0__x______________________y

y__0___________________x_____z

y__0___________________z_____x

Each of these scenarios will satisfy that first statement. But we only need two.

In our first number line, z is between x and y, so we get a YES to the question.

In our second number line, z is not between x and y, so we get a NO to the question.

Because we can get a YES or a NO to the original question, Statement 1 alone is not sufficient. Eliminate answer choices A and D.

Statement 2 tells us that the product of x and y is negative. Thus, we know that one of the variables is positive, and one of the variables is negative. Again, we can simply peruse our number lines and select a couple of examples that satisfy this condition.

In our first number line, z is between x and y, so we get a YES to the question.

In our third number line, z is not between x and y, so we get a NO to the question.

Like with Statement 1, because we can get a YES or NO to the original question, Statement 2 alone is also not sufficient. Eliminate answer choice B.

When testing the statements together, we know two pieces of information. Statement 1 tells us that either one variable is negative or all three are. Statement 2 tells us that, between x and y, we have one negative and one positive. Therefore, together, we know that either x or y is negative, and the remaining variables are all positive. Now all we have to do is peruse our sample space and locate these scenarios. It turns out that we can use the same two number lines we used when testing Statement 2:

In our first number line, z is between x and y, so we get a YES to the question.

In our third number line, z is not between x and y, so we get a NO to the question.

So even together, the statements are not sufficient to answer the question – the correct answer is E.

Takeaway: on the GMAT there’s no reason to strain your brain any more than is necessary. The more concrete you can make the information you’re provided on a given question, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to properly execute whatever math or logic maneuvers you’re asked to perform.

*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, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

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

Undecided: 3 Reasons to Go to College Without Choosing a Major

student reseachIf you are anything like me, you change your mind on things all the time. A month ago I liked vanilla ice cream; now I like chocolate. 4 years ago I listened to Eminem; now I listen to Coldplay. I used to believe in Santa Claus; now I’m a bit more skeptical. I could go on, but the point is that I’m 18 years old and my views shift almost constantly. This is totally normal. After all, I would be a pretty boring person if I always stubbornly stuck with the opinions I developed as a little kid. At this point you might be thinking: what relevance does this have to college? Don’t worry, I’m getting there.

Even though many kids believe that it is okay (even good!) to have an open mind, there seems to be one problematic and common exception to that rule: deciding on a college major before getting to college.

It sometimes seems like high school students feel like they have to have a defined major and path for their life before even showing up for the first day of college. How many 18 year olds already know by that point in their life what subject they love the most and want to study for 4 years? The world of academia is so wide and complex that a high school education just doesn’t expose students to all the possible fields of study they can take. In my opinion, going in to college undecided does a lot more good than harm. I understand this might be totally contradictory to what you hear from parents, teachers, friends, etc., so here are three reasons why it’s great to be undecided.

  1. There’s more to school than the typical core subjects. High schools mainly offer course in traditional disciplines like math, history, and English. In college there are a world of possibilities that many students have likely never heard of. The people who want to decide on a major before getting to college likely will choose something they’re familiar with, thereby cutting off their chance to study a less well-known subject. Only an open-minded student will be cognizant of taking advantage of, say, an Egyptology department!
  1. It’s nice to explore without being swamped in requirements. Students who are pre-decided on a major often find their course decisions dictated primarily by requirements. On top of general education requirements, underclassmen who have already decided their major can feel pressure to start knocking off requirements for their major too, limiting their ability to freely explore their ever-changing interests. Undecided students will feel less constrained by onerous requirements and will instead have more liberty to branch out.
  1. There’s no pressure to stick to your original plan. For many people, it’s a fact of human nature that we are hesitant to give up on things once we have started them. While sometimes this is a good thing, when it comes to choosing a college major it can be very pernicious. Ideally your choice in college major is dictated by what subject you feel most passionate about. When students come in fiercely decided on a certain major but then realize they don’t like it as much as they thought they would, stressful conflicts arise as to whether they want to stick to the original plan or change direction entirely. By coming in undecided, students won’t have this conflict, and instead will be able to make their major decision based on their current feelings, not their past promises.

I’m in the midst of my freshman year and am still exploring all my options. When people ask me what I’m majoring in, I give them the same answer I’ve been giving since my college search started: I’m undecided, and I’m proud of it.

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

By Aidan Calvelli

 

4 Tips for Taking Advantage of the Upcoming Holiday Break

taylor swiftWinter break is upon us!

The seasons are starting to change and we’re all starting to anticipate the holiday break that is merely weeks away. While the break is certainly a good time for relaxing, drinking some hot cider and spending time with family and friends, there are opportunities to get ahead while catching up on your sleep, too!

Here are four things to keep in mind for the upcoming holiday break.

  1. Network. You’re already going to be chatting with your friends & family, but now you can start these conversations with a purpose. Reach out to people who may have attended a school you’re applying to or someone who is currently a student. Pick their brain about student experiences, tips for the final stages of your application or prominent academic programs. Your best scoop on a college is an insider’s perspective, so take advantage of the people around you this holiday season who may be able to offer some good insight.
  2. Get involved. There are always a dozen ways to be involved in your community over the holiday breaks – whether you coordinate a book drive or cook and serve food to the homeless, the holidays are always a great time to give. If you don’t see the community service opportunity you’re looking for, create something of your own! It will be a satisfying experience, and college admissions committees will be happy to see that you took initiative to support your community.
  1. Fill out the FAFSA/CSS Profile. These applications for financial aid become available on January 1st, and your holiday break is a great time to get ahead on this process. Imagine how good you will feel knowing that this is completely taken care of when the March 1 deadline rolls around!
  1. Relax! High school can be stressful, and these breaks are given to you for a reason. While you shouldn’t sleep your break away, it is certainly recommended to take advantage of your days off and allow yourself to refocus. Give yourself some “me-time” and get yourself mentally prepared to kick off the New Year on a high note!

Be sure to use this time away from school to focus on your next academic adventure – college! Enjoy your winter break!

Need help prepping your early college applications? 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.

 

 

SAT Tip of the Week: Asking Questions to Answer Questions

SAT Tip of the Week - FullSAT Critical Reading passages are known to be a bit…well…boring. They can range from obscure 19th century literature to scientific articles on the principles of walking. Although some students might find these forays into otherwise-never-read writing interesting, most students are understandably turned off by what they have to read. I never blame students for feeling this way; what I do fight against is letting a lack of interest in a passage detract from a student’s score.

Even though it is hard, it is crucial to be engaged in a passage even if the content isn’t exciting. The best way to get yourself to be engaged and prepare yourself to answer the passage-based questions is to have an internal dialogue with yourself as you read. For me, I’ve always found that asking questions is a great way to stay on task and think critically about the passage at hand. Here are a few good general questions to begin the process of activating your internal voice when approaching SAT reading passages:

  • How does one part of the passage relate to the rest of the passage?
  • What purpose does placing this section of the passage here serve the author?
  • Where is the author using evidence, and where is he or she sharing his or her opinion?

Equally important is asking questions internally once you get to the actual SAT questions relating to the passage. Actively questioning the answer choices is a great way to make sure that you understand the question and don’t get tricked by trap answer choices. Here are a few good questions to ask when attacking a specific problem:

  • Was this actually stated in the passage, or is it merely plausible? (Remember – avoid assumptions!)
  • Where does the author support this claim?
  • Does the answer fit in with how I understood the passage? With how the passage was directly written?

Keeping a running dialogue of these types of questions helps you both to remain focused and to identify correct answer choices.  Let’s see how this strategy can be applied to a real SAT problem. Consider the following passage:

The Space Race, which occurred between 1957 and 1975, began when the Soviets launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik, into space. For the Soviet Union, Sputnik was a tremendous technological achievement. For the United States, it was an embarrassing wake-up call. The United States had previously been regarded as the forerunner in the new field of space exploration, but Sputnik proved that the Soviets were viable contenders for that role.

When I read that passage, a couple key questions come to mind. Some questions occur as I read, others afterwards; it is important to know yourself in order to realize when your internal dialogue will be beneficial and when it will be distracting:

  • How (or does) the author define the Space Race?
  • “Wake-up call” seems figurative. What does the author mean by it and where can I justify that?
  • What is the value in talking specifically about the events in the Space Race?

Once you’ve thought about or answered these questions, it’s time to go on to look at the SAT problems. Keep the understanding you derived from your questions in mind as you think about how to approach the problem presented to you. Now lets look at a specific question related to the passage:

The author most likely uses the phrase “wake-up call” in line 5 in order to:

(A) emphasize the bitterly competitive nature of the space race

(B) highlight the need for the United States to begin its own weapons development program

(C) imply that the Soviets did in fact contact the United States government to notify them of the launch

(D) convey the shock and humiliation the United States felt when it heard about Sputnik

(E) suggest that any American attempt to launch a satellite at that time would be doomed to fail

My favorite strategy is to ask a challenging question directed at each answer choice. This ensures that I am critical of each answer choice and don’t give any answer the benefit of the doubt. The best questions are ones that are framed in such a way that they either eliminate or affirm an answer choice, since this obviously leads you to the correct answer on the problem.

For answer choice A, I’d ask: Is the space race bitterly competitive, or is bitterly too extreme a word?

For B, C, and E, I’d ask: Are the details from the answer choices actually present in the text? Respectively, does the US need to make its own program? Did the Soviets contact the Americans? Is there a suggestion of failure?

For D, I’d ask: Does a wake-up call usually go along with shock?

Answering these questions, I found that “bitterly” was, in fact, an inaccurate description of the situation; the US had no discernible need to start a program; there was no mention of any notification; there was no suggestion of failure; wake-up calls do involve being surprised, which goes along closely with shock. Through this analysis, I can eliminate choices A, B, C, and E, leaving me with just the correct answer, which is D.

As you can see, asking the right questions and keeping yourself engaged is a great way to stay focused and think critically about SAT passage-based reading questions.

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

By Aidan Calvelli.

Burn the Which! On the GMAT, That Is…

holy-grail-witchIt’s Halloween as I write this, but by the time you read it, November will be upon us, and you’ll be several days into a serious candy hangover. With that in mind, you’re probably in the mood for something boring and self-disciplined — or just to throw up — and I couldn’t think of anything that better accomplishes both than a little bit of sentence correction.

Unless you were a big reader in high school (or you’re a incorrigible grammar nerd, the type who brightens up when I use the word “incorrigible”), sentence correction is probably your least favorite part of the GMAT. You should know English, you do know English, but the GMAT wants you to feel like you don’t, and it’s amazing the rest of us can even find the will to live while we listen to you talk. It wasn’t bad enough for the test writers to undo years of hard work with your therapist to forget your high school math; now they’re making you feel inadequate about your own language (or in some cases, a language you busted your butt to learn as an adult).

Like it or not, however, that’s the game here: testing the subtle differences between everyday English, the sort you speak and type and are reading from me right now (“This is him! Who were you looking for?”), and black-tie, formal English, the kind you use to lose friends and alienate people (“This is he! For whom were you looking?”). And no word — see how I started that sentence with “and”? I’m on your side! — better stands for this distinction than “which”, a seemingly simple, everyday word that you and the GMAT test writers will be fighting a brutal war to control.

In your world, after all, “which” is used to describe anything. In your world, “He was being such a jerk, which was totally uncalled for,” or, “I took the GMAT this morning, which was the worst thing I’ve done since I felt off the stage in the first act of that school play,” are perfectly grammatical. In the GMAT’s world, however, they aren’t, and it’s all because of that “which”. In your world, “which” can describe the gist of the sentence, but in the GMAT’s world, it describes the noun that precedes it. Luckily, there’s an easy, 99% accurate way to test GMAT-approved usage of “which”:

CORRECT: (non-human noun), which (phrase describing that noun)

INCORRECT: almost anything else

So these are correct:

“The sun, which is actually a star, was once considered a god.”

“My car, which has multiple dents, two differently colored front doors, and a dog sleeping on it, is a bit of a fixer-upper.”

“I finally saw Wayne’s World 2, which I’ve been hearing about for years.”

In each case, “which” directly connects a noun to a phrase that describes that noun. The sun IS actually a star, my car DOES have multiple dents, and Wayne’s World 2 WAS what I’d been hearing about (I’ve been living under a rock since 1992).

As obnoxious as this rule is — and by no means do I encourage you to follow it in your own writing or speech — it’s easy to remember on test day. If you see “which” begin a modifier, make sure that it’s next to the noun it describes. If it is, lovely! If it isn’t, burn that which!

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

Standing Out as an International Applicant from India

indiaOne of the most competitive MBA applicant pools year-in and year-out is the vast crop of talented applicants originating from the subcontinent of India. Every year, top business schools are flooded with qualified Indian applicants that present a bevy of challenging decisions for admissions committees around the world. If you’re a member of the Indian applicant pool, it is important to understand how the admission committee will view you – having a good handle on this can help a smart applicant properly strategize on producing a “winning” application.

With so many candidates and so few spots available, it is more important than ever for Indian applicants to create an admissions package that stands out from the masses. But how is this done?

Let’s discuss some different ways the typical Indian candidate can create an application package that stands out from the competition.

Work Experience

The Indian applicant pool is known for being predominantly populated by one of the country’s biggest industries: the IT industry is by far the biggest pipeline of MBA talent coming out of India. This fact feeds into the reputation of the “homogeneous” Indian applicant, and “homogeneous” is rarely ever a good buzzword when it comes to gaining admission into business school.

For many application-ready candidates, this is a tough area to stand out in. But there are still some things to do for those candidates in the early stages of planning for their MBA, or those already in the midst of application season. For those in the early stages, this can involve pursuing industries that align with an area of interest, particularly if that is outside of the IT industry.

For those already within their target industry, taking on leadership opportunities in an existing role or exploring development in other areas or functions of your current job can present a strong growth trajectory. Whatever stage you are in as a candidate, the key here is to showcase yourself as a high-potential future leader with the flexibility to succeed in multiple work functions and industries.

GMAT Scores

This one is pretty simple – with so many applicants flooding the business school pipeline; it is critical for a competitive Indian applicant to achieve a strong score on the GMAT. What is a strong score, you may ask?

Many Indian applicants come in with above-average GMAT scores, which makes this aspect of the admissions process particularly competitive. With so many high-performing applicants coming from this region, admitted candidates often report GMAT scores that exceed school averages.

Generally, you will want to aim for around +20 points above the average score for your target program, with anything above that, of course, being increasingly more beneficial for your application.

Education

Education is another fairly competitive area that is pretty unique in comparison to the typical structure favored by U.S. educators. Coming from a nation with a unique ranking system and some high-profile colleges, this is an area where international Indian candidates can try and stand out. Another common item on the transcript of the Indian MBA applicant can actually be an MBA. It is not uncommon for candidates to pursue a second Western MBA after already completing one in-country, so if this is you, make sure to have a clear rationale on why a second MBA is necessary.

Application

A common knock against the Indian applicant is the non-data portion of the application process. A lot of focus tends to go into the GMAT, and not enough on other more nuanced elements of the application. This reputation feeds into the “homogeneous” reputation of the Indian applicant, as the opportunity to differentiate is often missed.

Extra-Curriculars

Undergraduate engagement is important, but continued engagement is also key. The focus in this area should be on leadership within these activities and not just participation. Don’t be afraid to leverage these experiences for other areas of your application as well – your ability to share highlights and impact from your engagements will go a long way in establishing these as meaningful experiences in your application.

Essays

Be interesting! Too many essays are bland responses focused on writing what the candidate feels the AdComm wants to hear. Breakthrough essays will be introspective and passionate responses that provide a unique insight into a candidate’s personal and professional background and goals. Avoid generic responses and use language that builds a narrative that cannot otherwise be gleaned from a resume or transcript.

Understanding the perception of your applicant pool is a key first step in creating a strategy to differentiate your profile from the masses. Use these tips as a starting point to creating a breakthrough application that showcases you as a unique candidate.

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 on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

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

A Survivor’s Guide to College Apartment Living

apartmentI love college, and I love my apartment—I’ll be sad to leave. That doesn’t mean, however, that I didn’t have my share of rough spots along the way.

Before moving out of my freshman dorm I had never lived apart from my parents before, much less found my own apartment, chosen my own roommates, or paid my own bills. The learning curve was steep.

Three years later, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  • While apartment hunting, find a balance between high rent and comfortable living. Stay within your budget because college is expensive, but if at all possible don’t sacrifice your happiness and peace of mind; college can be hard and stressful, and often the thing you’ll want most is a comfortable room to retreat to when the going gets tough. The deciding questions to ask aren’t whether you really like high ceilings or whether you just have to have a gas stove instead of an electric one. Instead, check whether the walls are insulated, whether appliances are clean (or cleanable) and functional, and whether you’re sure you can afford it. If you’re living with roommates: Do you have enough space to avoid living on top of one another? Do you feel safe in the area? If forced to choose, remember that budget and comfort come first, and that you’ll only be there at most for a few years.
  • Consider subletting. It’s more short term, but it’s probably cheaper and it’s a great way to meet new people.
  • Any room or apartment, no matter how small or old or dark, can be made a lot more livable with a little love and care. If you choose a less attractive room or apartment in order to cut costs, bring in lights, rugs, furniture, or other décor to brighten it up. Room décor doesn’t need to be expensive (think Ikea or secondhand stores), and a few well-chosen items can do wonders. It’s worth the fairly small investment to have a nice place to call home.
  • Choose your roommates wisely. Roommates are a great way to keep living costs down and to make great friends. However, roommates you don’t get along with can be worse than not having roommates at all. Before committing to spending a year or more sharing a room with someone, consider whether your personalities mesh well, whether one of you is messier than the other, whether he/she is financially stable enough to pay his/her part of the rent on time, etc.
  • Having less stuff will make both moving and living a lot easier. Clutter occupies the living space as well as mental space, even if you don’t notice it, and will affect your roommates as well. Throw away or donate things you don’t need and keep tidy in order to make a small space feel bigger and more comfortable.

Remember, you’ll want to find a place that is safe and quiet so that you can be successful in your studies and also balance your social life. Happy apartment hunting!

Are you still trying to figure out how to handle your college applications? We can help! 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.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: The Tricky Critical Reasoning Conclusion

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomAs discussed previously, the most important aspect of a strengthen/weaken question on the GMAT is “identifying the conclusion,” but sometimes, that may not be enough. Even after you identify the conclusion, you must ensure that you have understood it well. Today, we will discuss the “tricky conclusions.”

First let’s take a look at some simple examples:

Conclusion 1: A Causes B.

We can strengthen the conclusion by saying that when A happens, B happens.

We can weaken the conclusion by saying that A happened but B did not happen.

How about a statement which suggests that “C causes B,” or, “B happened but A did not happen”?

Do these affect the conclusion? No, they don’t. The relationship here is that A causes B. Whether there are other factors that cause B too is not our concern, so whether B can happen without A is none of our business.

Conclusion 2: Only A Causes B.

This is an altogether different conclusion. It is apparent that A causes B but the point of contention is whether A is the only cause of B.

Now here, a statement suggesting, “C causes B,” or, “B happened but A did not happen,” does affect our conclusion. These weaken our conclusion – they suggest that A is not the only cause of B.

This distinction can be critical in solving the question. We will now illustrate this point with one of our own GMAT practice questions:

Two types of earthworm, one black and one red-brown, inhabit the woods near the town of Millerton. Because the red-brown worm’s coloring affords it better camouflage from predatory birds, its population in 1980 was approximately five times that of the black worm. In 1990, a factory was built in Millerton and emissions from the factory blackened much of the woods. The population of black earthworms is now almost equal to that of the red-brown earthworm, a result, say local ecologists, solely stemming from the blackening of the woods.

Which of the following, if true, would most strengthen the conclusion of the local ecologists?

(A) The number of red-brown earthworms in the Millerton woods has steadily dropped since the factory began operations.

(B) The birds that prey on earthworms prefer black worms to red-brown worms.

(C) Climate conditions since 1990 have been more favorable to the survival of the red-brown worm than to the black worm.

(D) The average life span of the earthworms has remained the same since the factory began operations.

(E) Since the factory took steps to reduce emissions six months ago, there has been a slight increase in the earthworm population.

Let’s look at the argument.

Premises:

  • There are two types of worms – Red and Black.
  • Red has better camouflage from predatory birds, hence its population was five times that of black.
  • The factory has blackened the woods and now the population of both worms is the same.

Conclusion:

From our premises, we can determine that the blackening of the woods is solely responsible for equalization of the population of the two earthworms.

We need to strengthen this conclusion. Note that there is no doubt that the blackening of the woods is responsible for equalization of populations; the question is whether it is solely responsible.

(A) The number of red-brown earthworms in the Millerton woods has steadily dropped since the factory began operations.

Our conclusion is that only the blackening of the woods caused the numbers to equalize (either black worms are able to hide better or red worms are not able to hide or both), therefore, we need to look for the option that strengthens that there is no other reason. Option A only tells us what the argument does anyway – the population of red worms is decreasing (or black worm population is increasing or both) due to the blackening of the woods. It doesn’t strengthen the claim that only blackening of the woods is responsible.

(B) The birds that prey on earthworms prefer black worms to red-brown worms.

The fact that birds prefer black worms doesn’t necessarily mean that they get to actually eat black worms. Even if we do assume that they do eat black worms over red worms when they can, this strengthens the idea that “the blackening of the woods is responsible for equalization of population,” but does not strengthen the idea that “the blackening of the woods is solely responsible for equalization,” hence, this is not our answer.

(C) Climate conditions since 1990 have been more favorable to the survival of the red-brown worm than to the black worm.

Option C tells us that another factor that could have had an effect on equalization (i.e. climate) is not responsible. This strengthens the conclusion that better camouflage is solely responsible – it doesn’t prove the conclusion beyond doubt, since there could be still another factor that could be responsible, but it does discard one of the other factors. Therefore, it does improve the probability that the conclusion is true.

(D) The average life span of the earthworms has remained the same since the factory began operations.

This option does not distinguish between the two types of earthworms. It just tells us that as a group, the average lifespan of the earthworms has remained the same. Hence, it doesn’t affect our conclusion, which is based on the population of two different earthworms.

(E) Since the factory took steps to reduce emissions six months ago, there has been a slight increase in the earthworm population.

Again, this option does not distinguish between the two types of earthworms. It just tells us that as a group, the earthworm population has increased, so it also does not affect our conclusion, which is based on the population of two different earthworms.

Therefore, our answer is C.

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

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

4 Ways Sleep Can Make or Break Your SAT or ACT Score

sleepYou have a big test coming up at the end of the week. You’re a dedicated, hard-working student, so you know you have to study to do well. The nights before the test, you stay up late, pushing yourself to review and learn as much as you can.

However, while taking the test, you can’t remember a lot of the information you spent so much time going over. Focusing on longer questions is more of a struggle than it should be, and you get irritated or panicked easily when you can’t figure out the answer. In the end, when you see your score, you feel that all that hard work and those late nights didn’t pay off as much as they should have. You wonder what you could have done wrong.

If this story sounds familiar, as it should to many ambitious high schoolers, it’s because you’ve experienced for yourself how sleep deprivation can hurt your performance on test day. Getting enough sleep is one of the most crucial steps you can take to achieve your highest potential score. Here’s how to make sure sleep deprivation isn’t holding you back:

1. Know how much you need. Several recent studies have shown that high school students are chronically sleep-deprived. Sleep scientists agree that adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and teenagers probably need even more. If you’re consistently falling behind these numbers, you’ll need to make some changes in your schedule if you really want to get that high score you’re after.

2. Know you might not realize you’re sleep-deprived. Most people assume that as long as they don’t feel tired and drowsy, they aren’t really behind on sleep. In fact, studies show a person can become used to sleep deprivation to the point that they no longer recognize that they’re tired. However, the negative consequences of sleep deprivation still persist. Just because you’re not yawning, it doesn’t mean you’re fully awake and alert.

3. Know what the consequences are. Sleep loss can cause a host of problems for any high-achieving student. Lack of sleep leads to lapses in focus, difficulty memorizing new information, inability to recall important words and facts, problems with multitasking, increased irritability and stress, and quite a few other issues. If you want all your studying to pay off on test day, you have to eliminate these problems. Put simply, you have to get enough sleep to be the best test-taker you can be.

4. Know how to catch up. It’s not enough just to sleep 8 or 9 hours the night before your test. Due to a phenomenon called “sleep debt,” sleep loss actually accumulates over time. Essentially, every time you sleep 5 hours instead of 8, you fall that much further behind the sleep you need. The only way to catch up and get back to your peak self is to sleep well for several nights in a row. You’ll need to plan ahead and make sleep a priority in the week before the test.

Stay well rested and you’ll be at your best on test day! Good luck with the SAT tomorrow!

Are you uncertain about your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Cambrian Thomas-Adams

You’re Hired! 3 Ways to Handle Your First Job Interview in College

HandshakeBy the time students get to college, most have experienced what an academic interview is like. The interviewer asks about your scholastic interests, the particular reason why the school or program is exciting to you, and other questions relating to academics. However, once you get to college, you will be moving on to more professional interviews for internships and potential job opportunities. Many of the same rules apply to these settings, but there are even more particulars to be on the lookout for in order to succeed in this setting. Here are a few to keep in mind.

1. GET INVESTED. First and foremost, make sure you care about the position you are interviewing for. This should be a prerequisite for any situation, but a lot of times students don’t care that much and it shows in the lack of passion they have for the position. This is a major problem and something you definitely want to avoid in order to be successful.

In relation to this, make sure you know why exactly you want the position and some of the specific characteristics of the job. While a lot of times the interviews will start out with basic questions that help the interviewer get to know you, the ultimate goal of any of these interviews is to see if you a good fit for the position. In order to prove you are the right person for the job, it is crucial to demonstrate both your ability and understanding of the task at hand. Referencing specific responsibilities and job functions will allow you to show the interviewer that you mean business.

2. SHOW YOU FIT THE ROLE. It’s important to present a picture of yourself that shows why you are a good candidate for the job. Every company wants to get to know you, but you don’t have to tell them everything about yourself. This doesn’t mean lie at all, but include pertinent information and experiences that you have had that relate to the job opening. This is your chance to tell a story about yourself, so make sure it is one the interviewer will want to read from start to finish.

3. FIND SOMETHING IN COMMON. Finally, the most important thing you should do in this interview (and any interview in general) is connect with the person asking you questions. Multiple studies show that the more someone likes you, the greater chance you have of getting the job. No two interviews are the same in terms of connecting, so your best bet is to feel the situation out.

Does your interviewer seem like the type of person who would appreciate if you ask deep, insightful questions about the position? Or more direct, specific questions about the tasks you will perform? Sometimes, it is a mix and other times they like talking about their own experiences. Whatever the case may be, it is a good idea to make sure you do your best to truly connect with the interviewer. Ultimately they are either making the decision on whether or not you get hired, or they are offering a recommendation that will play a role in the process.

If you are able to check off most of these boxes as you prepare and experience your first professional interview, than you will be in a great position to succeed and earn the position you covet. Best of luck in your interviews!

Are you uncertain about your college application? We can help! 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.

GMAT Tip of the Week: Movember and Moving Your GMAT Score Higher

GMAT Tip of the WeekOn this first Friday of November, you may start seeing some peach fuzz sprouts on the upper lips of some of your friends and colleagues. For many around the world, November means Movember, a month dedicated to the hopefully-overlapping Venn Diagram of mustaches and men’s health. Why – other than the fact that this is a GMAT blog – do we mention the Venn Diagram?

Because while the Movember Foundation is committed to using mustaches as a way to increase both awareness of and funding for men’s health issues (in particular prostate and testicular cancer), many young men focus solely on the mustache-growth facet of the month. And “I’m growing a mustache for Movember” without the fundraising follow-through is akin to the following quotes:

“I’m growing a mustache for Movember.”

“I’m running a marathon for lymphoma research.”

“I’m dumping a bucket of ice water over my head on Facebook.”

“I’m taking a GMAT practice test this weekend.”/”I’m going to the library to study for the GMAT.”

Now, those are all noble sentiments expressed with great intentions. But another thing they all have in common is that they’re each missing a critical action step in their mission to reach their desired outcome. Growing a mustache does very little to prevent or treat prostate cancer. Running a marathon isn’t what furthers scientists’ knowledge of lymphoma. Dumping an ice bucket over your head is more likely to cause pneumonia than to cure ALS. And taking a practice test won’t do very much for your GMAT score.

Each of those actions requires a much more thorough and meaningful component. It’s the fundraising behind Movember, Team in Training, and the Ice Bucket Challenge that advances those causes. It’s your effort to use your mustache, sore knees, and Facebook video to encourage friends and family to seek out early diagnosis or to donate to the cause. And it’s the follow-up to your GMAT practice test or homework session that helps you increase your score.

This weekend, well over a thousand practice tests will be taken in the Veritas Prep system, many by young men a week into their mustache growth. But the practice tests that are truly valuable will be taken by those who follow up on their performance, adding that extra step of action that’s all so critical. They’ll ask themselves:

Which mistakes can I keep top-of-mind so that I never make them again?

How could I have budgeted my time better? Which types of problems take the most time with the least probability of a right answer, and which types would I always get right if I just took the extra few seconds to double check and really focus?

Based on this test, which are the 2-3 content areas/question types that I can markedly improve upon between now and my next practice test?

How will I structure this week’s study sessions to directly attack those areas?

And then they’ll follow up on what they’ve learned, following the new week’s plan of attack until it’s time to again take the first step (a practice test) with the commitment to take the substantially-more-important follow-up steps that really move the needle toward success.

Taking a practice test and growing a Movember mustache are great first steps toward accomplishing noble goals, but in classic Critical Reasoning form, premise alone doesn’t guarantee the conclusion. So make sure you don’t leave the GMAT test center this November with an ineffective mustache and a dismal score – put in the hard work that has to accompany that first step, and this can be a Movember to Remember.

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

By Brian Galvin.

The Unexpected Perks of a Minimalist Lifestyle in College

StuffMinimalist living—living with fewer items—has become something of a fad. Pinterest infographics, Buzzfeed links, blogs, and even Atlantic articles extol the environmental, personal, and spiritual virtues of tiny houses, small closets, and clutter-free living. I’ve never liked jumping onto fads, but this one resonated with me.

I brought almost everything I owned with me to college, largely because my parents’ house didn’t have much space for me to leave things behind. Through the moving process, I realized I owned a lot more stuff than I realized, and much more stuff than I ever actually used or needed: I found middle school clothes that no longer fit, letters from people I couldn’t remember, Happy Meal toys, Beanie Babies, ninth grade math homework, and more. I thought I had finished purging all the junk by the time I pulled up to the parking lot to my dorm building, but was disappointed to find that even a few trash bags later, all my things still didn’t fit into my tiny new shared room.

I began selling and donating old clothes and extra things in freshman year to save up extra cash, fit more school spirit gear into my wardrobe, and clear space in my cramped dorm room. I also promised myself that I’d only ever buy new things if I didn’t already own something similar. It was hard at first, but I found that the more unnecessary things I got rid of the nicer my life became. It became easier to keep my room clean (ish), which kept my mind clearer and helped me stay focused while studying. It was easier to choose outfits in the morning, since I only kept items I either wore regularly or really liked. Extra pocket money didn’t hurt, either.

I continued getting rid of unnecessary belongings as I moved through my undergraduate career, and was surprised that I kept finding unexpected perks to a more minimalist lifestyle. When increasing rent convinced me to move from a dorm room to an apartment, and then from a double room to a triple room, I had little trouble fitting my things into smaller and smaller spaces, which saved me both money and peace of mind. When I studied and traveled abroad, I left behind fewer things (and therefore didn’t need to spend as much on storage). I stopped thinking of shopping as a pastime, which saved me time and money for more important things like travel and my education. I even began dressing better, since getting rid of things I didn’t need made me think hard about what styles I did and didn’t like.

I don’t know if I’ll keep up with a minimalist lifestyle after college, but it worked wonders for me as an undergraduate, both financially and personally. Hoarding belongings is a hard habit to break, but in my experience there’s no better time to break it than in college!

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.

SAT Tip of the Week: Focus on Strategies, Not Scores!

SAT Tip of the Week - FullWhen most people take the SAT, they set target or goal scores for themselves. Statements like, “I need to get an 1800,” and, “I want to improve my Critical Reading by 50 points,” are common aims heard among high school students. Even though these thoughts are common (and make sense, since the ultimate goal of the SAT is to get the best score possible), it doesn’t mean that they are helpful in really improving on the test. In fact, focusing all of your energy on a target score can actually diminish your ability to perform better.

Just like how it is impossible to try to win a game (just think about it – what you’re really doing is trying to play well), it is equally impossible to try for a score on the SAT. What you’re really doing is trying to figure out how to take the test well. Given this, it is better to set goals directly involved with the specific aspects of the test than to aim for arbitrary score improvements!

Here are a few tips for healthy goal setting:

1) Focus your energy on the content of the test. This mindset puts all your energy into the nitty-gritty of test taking, and prevents distractions. Wondering whether getting a question right will bring you from a 750 to a 730 on the reading section does not make you more likely to recognize a misplaced modifier – in fact, such distraction actually hurts your ability to catch mistakes.

2) Better input, better output. As crazy as it sounds, by thinking less about your score, the more your score will increase. By getting better at each individual parts of the test, you will feel more confident about your ability to take the test as whole. In a self-reinforcing cycle, this will give you the energy to make more improvements on specifics, thereby leading to a greater overall score.

3) Take the long-term view. Focusing solely on scores puts too much emphasis on variable results from practice sections. Scores on individual practice tests can vary widely due to a variety of external factors. Focusing on long-term growth and deep understanding of the types of questions on the test will remind you that even if your score on a practice test temporarily went down (due to bad guessing, etc.), your arc of performance is bending toward improvement.

4) Don’t put yourself in a position to come up short. It is very easy to stress if you have a goal score in mind but are struggling to reach it. Avoid this dilemma by setting smaller, more content-focused objectives that you are more likely to achieve. Seeing yourself do well and accomplish your goals will give you the confidence necessary to jump into the harder sections of the SAT!

Above all else, remember that while a good score may be your ultimate goal, you can only get there by diving into the details.

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 Aidan Calvelli.

The Best Classes to Take To Prep for Your MBA

ProfessorWhether you’re the applicant who has never taken an analytical class in your life, trying to account for a low GPA in college or just trying to refresh your memory on some dated concepts from your academic past, taking pre-MBA coursework is a great way to prep for Day One in business school. There are many different options when it comes to which classes you should take – popular and valuable business school classes like marketing and strategy may not be the best use of your time during application season.

Given that Year 1 of most MBA programs tends to be highly analytical, it makes sense to lean towards classes that showcase your analytical skills to the AdComm, as well as prepare for the academic rigor of the business school classroom.

Let’s discuss some of the best classes to take to prepare for business school:

Accounting

One of the core classes of any business school education is accounting. Although business school itself is no longer one of the major feeders in this industry, the course remains core to many functions in the financial industry. Students who have never seen or heard of income statements or balance sheets would be wise to utilize their local community college for a test run before enrollment.

Finance

Another great class to take pre-MBA is finance. Unless you are a veteran of the finance industry or an undergraduate business major, this class can be useful to prepare for the often fast-paced curriculum that first-year students experience. Many students coming from non-business functions find coursework in finance particularly challenging, but prior exposure can do wonders in reducing the learning curve here.

Statistics

Statistics is one of the foundations of many classes in business school. Now very few business school students will eventually become statisticians, but classes like marketing, strategy, and entrepreneurship rely on this very important skill set. Understanding the core concepts and terminology can make the transition into this class, and others, much easier for the uninitiated.

Economics

Economics is another of the underlying core concepts fundamental to a rewarding academic experience in business school. Economics plays a role in classes like marketing, strategy, and operations. Along with statistics, economics tends to be one of the core classes that first years struggle with the most, so any coursework or training a future student can take in advance is helpful.

Although the focus here has been on academic readiness, many candidates utilize this coursework to address a low undergraduate GPA or a spotty analytical track record, as well as to impress MBA Admissions Committees. Whatever your reason for researching which courses to take, utilize the list above to make the best decision in your course selection process.

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.

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

3 Freshmen Year Blunders that You’ll Want to Avoid

pass classFreshman year can be a trying time for a wide variety of reasons. Students are in a new environment, and experiencing the most independence they have had in their lives. While this can produce a lot of great experiences, it can also lead to many mistakes. Some of these mistakes are natural and even expected, and others are more costly. Whatever the case may be, here are three of the most common mistakes of freshman year and how to best avoid them.

1. You Don’t Get Enough Sleep. In the first few months of freshman year, there is so much to do and see. For many, it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day, and ultimately the thing many students cut is sleep. For a few days, this may work, but over the course of the semester it will catch up to you. A lack of sleep makes you more susceptible to sickness, stress, and doesn’t allow you to perform your best in the classroom. While it may seem like you are missing out if you turn in early some nights, in actuality you are pacing yourself to enjoy the entire semester and not just the next few days. There is nothing worse than falling in a hole because you missed class, or were too sick to perform on a test.

The solution to this is to identify a couple of activities that are musts for you and other ones that you will do if you have extra time. If you approach extracurricular activities from this perspective, sleep won’t seem like an optional task and you won’t suffer many of the pitfalls associated with sleep deprivation. Making sleep a bigger priority than some activities that you only have a passing interest in is a great way to avoid this mistake.

2. You Skip Your Classes. Even if you are in a 200 person general education lecture hall, it still is important to go to class. First, there is a direct correlation between showing up and your academic success. Second, you never know what you will learn in certain classes. Sometimes, connecting the dots between disciplines leads to your biggest academic breakthroughs. After all, you are in college first and foremost to expand your mind.

It’s much easier said than done to get to class every day, so create an incentive for attending class. Either treat yourself to breaks, food, or any other reward or go the other way and owe a friend lunch if you miss class. Whatever system you set up, make sure you do something because it will go a very long way in ensuring your continued presence in class.

3. You Close Yourself Off. College is a time to venture out and explore. There is a tendency for many students to stick to the activities they did in high school, or not really do much at all. It may be nice to have this free time for a couple weeks, but there is a reason clubs and groups are one of students’ favorite parts about college. The bonds you make and experiences you have in these settings are something every student should experience.

To avoid this mistake, just make sure you are saying yes enough to potential opportunities. This doesn’t mean over extend yourself and get involved in everything, but if you have an inkling for something then try it out. Again, it’s important to temper the balance between being involved and being over involved. Make sure you are able to walk this fine line so your studies don’t suffer.

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.

3 Tips to Nail That College Interview

InterviewOf all the steps in the college application process, interviews might be the most terrifying. There’s no keyboard to hide behind and no time to sleep on a difficult question; it’s live and face-to-face.

These unpredictable elements aside, it’s also one of the easiest ways to demonstrate interest and get to know alumni from a particular college. Just by following these three, simple steps, the college interview can be an enormous benefit (instead of an enormous burden) to chances of admission:

  1. Be On-Time and Professional

This one is fairly obvious, but it’s worth repeating. Plan to arrive at least 10 minutes early and dressed in your best business casual. Showing up late or in casual clothing (unless specifically requested by the interviewer) not only indicates irresponsibility, but a lack of respect and interest for the college itself.

2. Embrace Tough Queries

Every college interview is bound to include a quirky curveball that’s impossible to prepare for: “If you could have lunch with any historical figure, who would it be?”

Here’s the trick: the answer is pretty irrelevant. Especially for the above example, there’s no historical figure more “correct” than another. Instead, the interviewer is hoping to catch a glimpse of the interviewee’s inner passions. Let them be a tangent for digressions about favorite subjects/books/movies/hobbies/etc: “Leo Tolstoy. Have you read ‘Anna Karenina?’”

3. Come Prepared with Questions

Do the research! Interviewers will ask plenty of questions about extracurriculars, academics, etc, but towards the end of the interview (if not sooner), it’ll be the interviewee’s turn to ask questions. One exchange that should *never* occur in a college interview: “Now, do you have any questions for me?” “No…” This a terrible waste of an opportunity to learn more about the college. Moreover, it reflects poorly on an interviewee’s intellect and curiosity.

In a worst case scenario (“I forgot all of my questions!” or “I didn’t have time to research!”), the following are useful to end an interview:

– What is your favorite thing about ________? What is your least favorite thing?

– Is there an opportunity you wish you seized while you were a student/freshman at ________?

– In your opinion, what are the most important attributes that a student at ________ can have?

– Where is the best food on campus?

Most important of all: if a chance to interview presents itself, take it! So long as you don’t arrive 20 minutes late in sweatpants while spouting profanities, a college interview is an excellent way to prove your enthusiasm and get to know the campus culture. Best of luck!

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

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

The Critical Role of Reading in GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions!

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomMost non-native English users have one question: How do I improve my Verbal GMAT score?  There are lots of strategies and techniques we discuss in our books, in our class and on our blog. But one thing that we seriously encourage our students to do (that they need to do on their own) is read more – fiction, non fiction, magazines (mind you, good quality), national dailies, etc. Reading high quality material helps one develop an ear for correct English. It is also important to understand the idiomatic usage of English, which no one can teach in the class. At some time, most of us have thought how silly some things are in the English language, haven’t we?

For example:

Fat chance” and “slim chance’”mean the same thing – Really? Shouldn’t they mean opposite things?

But “wise man” and “wise guy” are opposites – Come on now!

A house burns up as it burns down and you fill in a form by filling it out?

And let’s not even get started on the multiple unrelated meanings many words have – The word on the top of the page, “critical,” could mean “serious” or “important” or “inclined to find fault” depending on the context!

Well, you really must read to understand these nuances or eccentricities, if you may, of the English language. Let’s look at an official question today which many people get wrong just because of the lack of familiarity with the common usage of phrases in English. But before we do that, some quick statistics on this question – 95% students find this question hard and more than half answer it incorrectly. And, on top of that, it is quite hard to convince test takers of the right answer.

Some species of Arctic birds are threatened by recent sharp increases in the population of snow geese, which breed in the Arctic and are displacing birds of less vigorous species. Although snow geese are a popular quarry for hunters in the southern regions where they winter, the hunting season ends if and when hunting has reduced the population by five percent, according to official estimates. Clearly, dropping this restriction would allow the other species to recover.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously undermines the argument?

(A) Hunting limits for snow geese were imposed many years ago in response to a sharp decline in the population of snow geese.

(B) It has been many years since the restriction led to the hunting season for snow geese being closed earlier than the scheduled date.

(C) The number of snow geese taken by hunters each year has grown every year for several years.

(D) As their population has increased, snow geese have recolonized wintering grounds that they had not used for several seasons.

(E) In the snow goose’s winter habitats, the goose faces no significant natural predation.

As usual, let’s start with the question stem – “… most seriously undermines the argument”

This is a weaken question. The golden rule is to focus on the conclusion and try to weaken it.

Let’s first understand the argument:

Snow geese breed in the Arctic and fly south for the winter. They are proliferating, and that is bad for other birds. Southern hunters reduce the number of geese when they fly south. There is a restriction in place that if the population of the geese that came in reduces by 5%, hunting will stop. So if 1000 birds flew south and 50 were hunted, hunting season will be stopped. The argument says that we should drop this restriction to help other Arctic birds flourish (conclusion), then hunters will hunt many more geese and reduce their numbers.

What is the conclusion here? It is: “Clearly, dropping this restriction would allow the other species to recover.”

You have to try to weaken it, i.e. give reasons why even after dropping this restriction, it is unlikely that other species will recover. Even if this restriction of “not hunting after 5%” is dropped and hunters are allowed to hunt as much as they want, the population of geese will still not reduce.

Now, first look at option (B);

(B) It has been many years since the restriction led to the hunting season for snow geese being closed earlier than the scheduled date.

What does this option really mean?

Does it mean the hunting season has been closing earlier than the scheduled date for many years? Or does it mean the exact opposite, that the restriction came into effect many years ago and since then, it has not come into effect.

It might be obvious to the native speakers and to the avid readers, but many non-native test takers actually fumble here and totally ignore option (B) – which, I am sure you have guessed by now, is the correct answer.

The correct meaning is the second one – the restriction has not come into effect for many years now. This means the restriction doesn’t really mean much. For many years, the restriction has not caused the hunting season to close down early because the population of geese hunted is less than 5% of the population flying in. So if the hunting season is from January to June, it has been closing in June, only, so even if hunters hunt for the entire hunting season, they still do not reach the 5% of the population limit (Southern hunters hunt less than 50 birds when 1000 birds fly down South).

Whether you have the restriction or not, the number of geese hunted is the same. So even if you drop the restriction and tell hunters that they can hunt as much as they want, it will not help as they will not want to hunt geese much anyway. This implies that even if the restriction is removed, it is likely that there will be no change in the situation. This definitely weakens our conclusion that dropping the restriction will help other species to recover.

So when people ignore (B), on which option do they zero in? Some fall for (C) but many fall for (D). Let’s look at all other options now:

(A) Hunting limits for snow geese were imposed many years ago in response to a sharp decline in the population of snow geese.

This is out of scope to our argument. It doesn’t really matter when and why the limits were imposed.

(C) The number of snow geese taken by hunters each year has grown every year for several years.

This doesn’t tell us how dropping the restriction would impact the population of geese, it just tells us what has happened in the past – the number of geese hunted has been increasing. If anything, it might strengthen our conclusion if the number of geese hunted is close to 5% of the population. When the population decreases by 5%, if the restriction is dropped, chances are that more geese will be hunted and other species will recover. We have to show that even after dropping the restriction, the other species may not recover.

(D) As their population has increased, snow geese have recolonised wintering grounds that they had not used for several seasons.

With this answer choice, “wintering grounds” implies the southern region (where they fly for winter). In the South, they have recolonised regions they had not occupied for a while now, which just tells you that the population has increased a lot and the geese are spreading. It doesn’t say that removing the restrictions and letting hunters hunt as much as they want will not help. In fact, if anything, it may make the argument a little stronger. If the geese are occupying more southern areas, hunting grounds may become easily accessible to more hunters and dropping hunting restrictions may actually help more!

(E) In the snow goose’s winter habitats, the goose faces no significant natural predation.

We are concerned about the effect of hunting, thus natural predation is out of scope.

Therefore, our answer is (B).

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

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

GMAT Tip of the Week: Trick or Treat

ZombieinsteinOne of the most dreaded things about the GMAT is the time-honored “Testmaker Trick” – the device that the GMAT question author uses to sucker you into a trap answer on a question. You’ve done all the math right, but forgot to consider negative numbers or submitted the answer for x when the question really asks for y. The “Testmaker Tricks” are enough to make you resent the test and to see it in a derogatory light. This is a grad school test, not Simon Says! Why should it matter that Simon didn’t say “positive”?

But as we head into Halloween weekend, it’s an appropriate time for you to think back to the phrase that earned you pounds and pounds of candy (and maybe tons if you followed Jim Harbaugh’s double-costume strategy): Trick or Treat.

In a GMAT context, that means that on these challenging questions, what tricks one examinee is the “treat” or reward for those who buy into the critical thinking mindset that the GMAT is set up to reward. The GMAT testmakers themselves are defensive about the idea of the “trap” answer, preferring to see it as a reward system; the intent isn’t to “trick” people as much as it is to “treat” higher-order thinking and critical reasoning. Consider the Data Sufficiency example:

Is x > 3z?

(1) x/z > 3

(2) z > 0

Here the “trick” that the testmaker employs is that of negative numbers. Many people will say that Statement 1 is sufficient (just multiply both sides by z and Statement 1 directly answers the questions, x > 3z), but it’s important to remember that z could be negative, and if it were negative you’d have to flip the sign, as you do in an inequality problem when you multiply or divide by a negative. In that case x < 3z and the answer is an emphatic no.

Now, those test takers who lament the trick after getting it wrong are somewhat justified in their complaint that “you forgot about negatives!” is a pretty cheap trick. But that’s not the entire question: Statement 2 exists, too, and it’s a total throwaway when you consider it alone. Why is it there? It’s there to “treat” those who are able to leverage that hint: why would it matter if z is greater than 0? That statement provides a very important clue as to how you should have been thinking when you looked at Statement 1.

If your initial read of Statement 1 – under timed pressure in the middle of a test, mind you – had you doing that quick algebra and making the mistake of saying that it’s sufficient, that’s understandable. But if you blew right past the clear hint in the second statement, you missed a very important opportunity to seize the treat. To some degree this problem is about the math, but the GMAT often adds that larger degree of leveraging hints – after all, much of business success comes down to your ability to find an asset that others have overlooked, or to get more value out of an asset than anyone else could.

So as you study for the GMAT, keep that Halloween spirit close by. When you miss a problem because of a dirty “trick,” take a second to also go back and see if you missed a potential treat – a reward that the GMAT was dangling just out of reach so that only the most critical thinkers could find it and take advantage. GMAT problems aren’t all ghosts, goblins, and ghouls out to frighten and trick you; often they include very friendly pieces of information just disguised or camouflaged enough that you have to train yourself to spot the treat.

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

By Brian Galvin.

Breaking Down the UCLA Extension Program

UCLA Anderson Admissions GuideA new resource has recently gained prominence in the business school application process amongst enterprising MBA candidates. With candidates always looking for an edge during application season, the UCLA Extension has provided a nice option for students looking to improve their chances of admission.

So what is the UCLA Extension, you ask? Well, the UCLA Extension is a continuing education program that allows interested students to take an array of courses online or in-person. This program is specifically designed with distance learners, working adults, and other non-traditional learning arrangements in mind. For many business school applicants, the UCLA Extension offering represents the perfect resource to address concerns within their candidate profile.

UCLA Extension courses can be used in a few different cases for applicants, including to address a low GPA, prove the student’s ability to handle analytical coursework, correct any transcript outliers, or just prepare the student for the rigor of the MBA core curriculum.

Now that the offering and reasons for utilizing the UCLA Extension are clear, let’s discuss some of the best courses to consider. With hundreds of online courses offered via the program, interested candidates should not have a hard time finding some to take. The convenience of these online classes will allow many students to simultaneously complete their application while taking targeted coursework in an area of need.

All of your favorite business classes are here, but interested candidates should focus on the more analytical classes offered through the UCLA Extension. I would suggest classes such as Managerial Accounting, Basic Managerial Finance, Introduction to Statistics and Quantitative Methods, and Principles of Micro/Macroeconomics as good places to start. Generally the classes commonly described as “soft skills” are better left for the traditional classroom environment, and not to showcase your pre-MBA academic aptitude.

UCLA’s Extension Program is not the only academic program that offers this type of coursework, so make sure to conduct an exhaustive search to identify the program that makes the most sense for you and your application needs.

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.

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

3 Ways to Stay Out of Trouble Your Freshman Year of College

free-mba-admissions-guidesFreshman year of college is an entirely new experience, one replete with many highs and many lows. One of these lows is a new form of peer pressure that may be a little different than what one experienced in high school. For the first time in many people’s lives, they are on their own. This independence comes with a lot of benefits, but can also be potentially detrimental if not balanced well.

One of the virtues of independence is not having to work on anyone else’s schedule, which for some freshmen can be a tricky thing to balance. With no one checking on your every move, it might be easy to slip into a pattern of skipping classes, staying out late, and not doing the work you should. One reason a lot of these things happen is that friends and other external influences might try to convince you to engage in certain activities that might not be in your best interest. While some of these things might seem fun in the short term, the novelty will soon wear off and your academic well-being will suffer.

To avoid falling into this common situation freshman year, here are some wise moves to make.

1. Pick friends with similar interests

Try to find a group that has commonalities with yourself. Whether that is studying, sports, or anything else if you feel you share a common bond. Feeling like you “belong” is a great way to get acclimated to college. If you feel an urge to change your behavior or alter how you speak to fit in, that setting probably is not conducive to your success or well-being in college.

Additionally, if you find a group that cares about you, they won’t want to see you struggle or fail, which means that they will be completely understanding if you have to turn in early or not go out one night to prep for a big test.

2. Stay in some nights

In college there is something going on every night. While at first it might feel fun to try and experience it all, this can be overwhelming and actually diminish the enjoyment you get from each individual outing. If something that is normally exciting becomes routine, it can very easily lose its appeal. Additionally, if you are out every night it is very hard to excel in school and really succeed in a learning environment.

One way to cope with the constant pressure from friends and the atmosphere to go out is to designate certain nights as stay in nights. No matter what is going on, you have a deal with yourself to stay in and possibly get to bed early or catch up on some work. This enables you to keep a schedule and a good balance between school and fun, making each night you do go out that much better because it feels rewarding.

3. Get involved on campus

If you find something that you are passionate about that will keep you busy, you will most likely stay out of trouble. If it is an activity or sport, often your focus will motivate you to stay away from partying too hard so that your performance doesn’t suffer. Similarly with clubs that are more academic based, you will want to be rested and have a sharp mind to be part of the team or show your leadership. Getting involved on campus is a great way to stay busy and avoid peer pressures of your first year.

College is an incredible amount of fun, it is just about making sure you can temper the balance between all of the different pressures, and making sure that other people don’t run your own college experience.

Are you uncertain about your college application? We can help! 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.

 

SAT Tip of the Week: Learn to Read Again

SAT Tip of the Week - FullI loved to read as a kid.  Getting lost in great book that took me to another world or time was the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Do you remember the first book you ever read? Maybe it rhymed and had to do with pork products dyed a crazy shade of green? Unfortunately, as you get older and have to read certain books because they’re required, as opposed to you choosing them, it can suck a little bit of the fun out of it. When it comes to the SAT, you’ve probably noticed that the selected passages are about less than exciting and stimulating. Let’s take a look at a few tips to make getting through reading passages a little easier:

1) Prepare for Blah Blah Blah.

Let’s face it, if all reading passages read like Harry Potter, chances are you might not have the challenges you do with passages on 17th century Victorian governesses or what it’s like to be a warden in an 18th century military hospital. How can you prepare yourself for passages that would make you choose to watch paint dry?

Start by forcing yourself to read articles on topics that aren’t necessarily of interest. Not a sports fan? Try essays on the “moneyball” trend of using statistics in baseball. Not an economics fan? Pick up The Economist and learn about other global economies, trends and challenges. Your end goal isn’t necessarily to be an expert on the future growth potential of Philippines, but being able to skim and article and know that the country’s GDP has steadily grown in recent years, it’s the world’s largest producer of coconuts and pineapples and one of the United Kingdom’s largest trading partners might all be strong evidence that could come in handy as you’re tackling questions.

2) Read like you’re reading your Twitter feed, not instructions on how to win backstage passes to meet One Direction.

Granted, not every passage is going to be able to be summarized in fewer than 140 characters, but it’s important to do an initial read that allows you to recognize transitions, recognize scope, tone and purpose. If speed reading isn’t a strength, practice and improve your technique as you’re reading less-than-scintillating passages (per Tip #1).  As you’re speed reading, you’ll be processing multiple words at a time as opposed to reading each word individually.

Think about your Facebook feed. You can likely skim your news feed and get a good idea about what your friends are up to in under a minute, but if a particular post or photo catches your eye, you might stop and read it more carefully and comment.  That’s the difference between speed and active reading.

3) Know your question types & strengths.

The good news about reading passages is you get all the questions at once, and each question is weighted equally. Whether you read the passage before the questions or skim the questions before foraging for answers, the questions aren’t changing. There will be some that ask you about specific line references or meanings of words in context. These are typically easier (and quicker) to answer. There will be questions that test your recollection and comprehension of information that is directly stated as well as questions that ask you identify cause and effect or draw conclusions. These questions are often a little more involved.

However, since each question is weighted equally, play to your strengths and tackle the questions that are easier first (usually those line reference or vocab based questions). Save the more involved question for the end.  The more you familiarize yourself with how these questions are structured and some general strategies, the better equipped you’ll be to actively read and know where to look in the passage for evidence.

Take some time to now to strengthen your reading speed and ability to prioritize, and remember to treat SAT reading passages differently from your leisure reading.  A little extra attention before test day will pay dividends in the future.

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 Joanna Graham

Does the GMAT Even Really Measure Anything?

SAT/ACTAt some point, in pretty much every class I teach, a student will ask me what the GMAT really measures. The tone of the question invariably suggests that the student doesn’t believe that the test accurately assesses anything of real significance, that the frustrations and anxieties we endure when preparing for the exam are little more than a form of admissions sadism.

When it comes to standardized testing, a certain amount of cynicism is understandable – if person A has a better grasp on the fundamentals of geometry and algebra than person B, why on earth would we conclude on that basis that person A will be more likely to have a successful career in a field totally unrelated to geometry and algebra?

Of course, I have my stock answer: the test is designed to reward flexible thinking, to provide feedback on our ability to make good decisions under pressure. And though I do believe this, I’m also well aware that tests have their limitations. There are many incredibly talented and intelligent people who struggle in the artificial conditions of a testing environment, and no 3.5 hour exam will be able to fully capture an individual’s potential. At some level, we all know this. It’s why the admissions process is holistic. Still, your GMAT score is important, so I thought it worthwhile to do a bit of research about what the data says regarding how well the test predicts future success.

In 2005, GMAC issued a report in which it examined data from 1997-2004 about the correlation between GMAT scores and graduate school grades. The report summarizes a regression analysis in which researchers generated what they term a “validity coefficient.” A coefficient of “1” would mean that the correlation between the GMAT and graduate school grades was perfect – the two variables would move in lockstep. According to this report, any coefficient between .3 and .4 is considered useful for admissions.

The GMAT’s validity coefficient came out to .459, suggesting that the test does, in fact, have some predictive value, and this predictive value seems to be superior to other variables that admissions committees consider. The validity coefficient for undergraduate grades, for example, was .283. (And when the variables are combined, the validity coefficient is higher any individual coefficient.) So is that the end of the story? Can I rebuff my students’ complaints about standardized testing by sending them an abstract of this report? It’s not quite that simple.

In the conclusion section of the paper, we’re offered the following: “When examining the validity data in this study, one should recognize that there is a great deal of variability across programs and that the relative importance for each of the investigated variables differs for each program. This is to be expected.”

So one interpretation of the data is that the GMAT does a pretty good job of predicting how well students will do in their MBA programs. But if you’ve been studying for the GMAT for any length of time, hopefully your “correlation is not causation” reflex was triggered. What if students with higher GMAT scores attend more selective schools and then it turns out that those selective schools have more lenient grading policies because they figure that the necessary vetting has already been performed? In this case, the correlation between GMAT score and grades wouldn’t be shedding much light on how well the test-takers would perform academically, but rather, would be providing information about what kinds of programs test-takers would eventually attend.

Moreover, one could argue that looking at the correlation between GMAT scores and grad school grades is of limited usefulness. Schools no doubt hope their students do well in their classes, but it stands to reason that admissions decisions are also informed by predictions about what prospective students can contribute to the school’s community, as well as what kind of future career success these students can expect after they graduate. What, then, is the correlation between graduate grades and career success beyond the classroom? And how would we even begin to measure or define “success”? These are complex questions with no good answer.

Furthermore, while the paper appeared statistically rigorous to me, amateur that I am, we still have to consider that it was commissioned by GMAC, the company that administers the test, so there is a conflict of interest to bear in mind.  A recent article by the Journal of Education for Business questioned the results of the earlier research and insisted that the section of the GMAT that best predicted conventional managerial qualities, such as leadership initiative and communication skill, was the Analytical Writing section, the component of the test that admissions committees care about least and that had the lowest validity coefficient, according to the earlier paper.

Needless to say, though I found these papers interesting, they provided me with no definitive answers to offer my students when they ask about what the GMAT really measures. And, paradoxically enough, this is something we should find encouraging. If the GMAT were measuring any kind of fixed inherent quality, there’d be little point in prepping for the test. But if the test requires a unique skillset, that skillset can be mastered, irrespective of how directly applicable that skillset will be to future endeavors. Pragmatically speaking, the thing that matters most is that admissions committees do care about the GMAT score. So my ultimate message to my students is this: stop worrying about what the GMAT measures, and instead, harness that energy to focus on what you need to do to maximize your score.

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 Solve Tough GMAT Quant Problems by Blending Strategies

victorinox_mountaineer_lgI wrote a post a few weeks ago in which I discussed the importance of blending strategies on certain questions. It’s a mistake to pigeonhole a complex problem as one in which a single tool will be most effective. By test day you will have cultivated a veritable Swiss army knife of strategies and you want to be able to switch from one to another seamlessly.

This philosophy came to mind the other day when a student sent me the following official problem:

For a certain art exhibit, a museum sold admission tickets to a group of 30 people every 5 minutes from 9:00 in the morning to 5:55 in the afternoon, inclusive. The price of a regular admission ticket was $10 and the price of a student ticket was $6. If on one day 3 times as man regular admissions tickets were sold as student tickets, was the total revenue from ticket sales that day?

A) 24,960

B) 25,920

C) 28,080

D) 28,500

E) 29,160

Oh boy. There’s a lot going on here. So let’s start by simply finding the total number of tickets sold. We know that every 5 minutes, 30 tickets are sold. We know that there are twelve 5-minute increments each hour, so 12*30 = 360 tickets are sold each hour. We see that the museum will be open for a total of 9 hours, so a total of 9*360 = 3240 tickets are sold during that time.

We’ve got two different kinds of tickets – general and student. The general tickets were $10 and the student tickets were $6. And we know that 3 times as many general tickets were sold as student tickets. So the tickets were overwhelmingly for general admission. If they were all for general admissions tickets, we know that the revenue would have been 3240*10 = 32,400. Because 25% of the tickets were sold for $6, we know that the correct answer will be a bit below this value. If we were short on time, E would be a pretty reasonable guess.

But say we’ve achieved a level of mastery where we don’t need to guess. Hopefully, you recognized that if the ratio of general tickets to student tickets is 3:1, we’re dealing with a kind of weighted average, meaning we can use a number line to find the average overall ticket price, which will be much closer to $10 than to $6. So we know the average price is greater than $8, as this would be the average price if the same number of both kinds of tickets were sold. What about $9? On the number line, we’ll have the following: 6——–9—-10.

9 is three units away from 6 and one unit away from 10, thus yielding our desired 3:1 ratio. Now we know that the average price is $9 per ticket.

So all we have to do is calculate 3240 * 9, as 3240 tickets were sold for an average of $9 each, and we have our answer. That math isn’t too bad, but we can incorporate a couple more useful strategies to save some time. We know that 3000*9 = 27,000, so clearly 3240*9 is greater than 27,000. Now we can eliminate A and B from contention.  Next, we can see that going from right to left, the first non-zero digit of 3240*9 will be 6, as 4*9 = 36. Among C, D, and E, the only answer choice that has a 6 in the tens place is E, which is our answer.

Takeaway: In a single question, we ended up doing a bit of estimation, using the answer choices, employing some rudimentary logic, and using the number line to simplify a weighted average. Just as important as what we did do, is what we avoided doing – a lot of grinding calculation.

We cannot emphasize this enough: the Quant section is not a math test. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate fluid thinking under pressure. So when you’re doing practice questions, work on employing every tool in your Swiss army knife of strategies. By the day of the test, the more fluidly you can switch from one tool to another, the better you’ll be able to handle even the most challenging problems.

*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.

Get Ahead: Steps to Success for Early College Applications

AdmissionStudents around the country are jumping into the college application process – selecting schools, writing essays and requesting letters of recommendation. There are many steps involved, and the entire process gets condensed into an even shorter timeframe when you plan to submit early applications.

If you plan on applying to any schools for early deadlines, keep reading for some helpful information and tips for success! First, there are two different kinds of early applications:

Early Decision

  • This is a binding application, which means that if you are accepted, you are obligated to enroll there for your freshman year.
  • You can only apply to one school under an Early Decision deadline.
  • You may apply to additional schools, but if you are accepted to a school through Early Decision, you should withdraw your applications to other schools.
  • A great choice for students who have a clear choice for their top school and want to find out sooner than later if they are admitted.

Early Action

  • You can apply to more than one school through Early Action.
  • This is not a binding application, which means that if you are admitted, you can choose to accept or deny the offer.
  • A great choice for students who want to indicate to a few different schools that they are his/her top choice, but don’t want to commit to an Early Decision application at just one school.

Now that we’ve gone over the types of early applications, let’s dive into some steps to success for submitting early applications.

  1. Do your research & finalize your college list. First things, first. You should finalize your list of top choice schools and do some research to find out which schools accept early applications. Then, you need to dig deeper. Go on a college tour if you are able and haven’t already! Learn as much as you can about each of your top schools. If you are submitting early applications, it means you really want to attend that school, so do your due diligence to determine if each of your top schools are places you can truly see yourself next year.
  1. Make a plan. This is a tedious, but necessary step. Take a look at the early applications you are submitting and all of the required elements for each application. Make a plan for tackling these applications so that you aren’t crunched for time a week before the deadline.
  1. Get moving! It’s time to make things happen! Since you are going to be on a tighter timeframe than regular deadlines, you should start moving down your checklist with vigor! Reach out to the people who you’d like to write your recommendations and get them started on that process. Make sure you’ve built a good relationship with the college counseling department at school so you have no trouble obtaining official transcripts. Double-check to make sure that all of your test scores have been submitted to your top schools.

Good luck!

Need help prepping your early college applications? 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.

How to Network Properly to Help Get You Into Business School

NetworkingEvery touchpoint in the MBA application process can have an impact on a candidate’s results. Leveraging interpersonal relationships or outreach for access, awareness and information is a great way to improve your chances at gaining admission.

Taking advantage of the various touchpoints during business school application season – such as information sessions, open houses, and school visits – is a value-added strategy. The key with all of these interactions is to go beyond the typical levels of engagement and work towards cultivating a real relationship with the relevant party. Let’s explore a few different stakeholders that could help you improve your odds of admission into your dream school:

Admissions:

Developing a relationship with a representative from admissions is a great way to secure some valuable information about the application process – this information can help you optimize your application when it comes time to pull together your package for submission. Alternatively, developing a relationship with members of the admissions team that you may have met can help you secure a valuable advocate among the decision makers during the review period. Creating an honest and open dialogue about your interest in the program is key to making this happen. Patience is paramount – types of relationship do not appear over night so try and bridge the gap with admissions as early in your admissions journey as possible.

Current Students:

Always a good source of info, as they have already achieved exactly what you are striving to do – lean on them for their knowledge. Current students can also provide the most current references to life on-campus, so make sure you leverage these conversations to inform the content and reference points utilized in your essays and interviews. Also, in some instances the admissions team will connect with current students on their feelings on an applicant. This usually stems from on-campus events where admissions is able to track prospective applicants and current students who have attended the event.

Alumni:

Networking with alumni is often the easiest of the stakeholders to gain access to. Depending on your location and the size of the school’s network, many alumni can even be found right in the corporate directory of your current employer. Leveraging friends and other members of your personal network to connect you with graduates of your school of interest is another strategy that can help you source this network. Alumni often remain big program cheerleaders years after leaving campus and can add tons of value by providing insight into the culture of the program. Depending on the nature of your relationship with the alumni they are often very helpful when it comes to essay reviews as well.

Make the most of your personal and professional relationships during MBA application season and add an insider’s perspective to your application.

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

Complicated GMAT Work-Rate Questions Made Easy!

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday, we will take up a gem of a work-rate question from our own curriculum. Its basics lie in a post on joint variation that we discussed many weeks ago. Here is a quick recap of the actual methodology:

If 10 workers complete a work in 5 days working 8 hours a day, how much work will be done by 6 workers in 10 days working 2 hours a day?

Here is what it looks like:

 

10 workers……………..5 days …………….. 8 hours ……………1 work

6 workers………………10 days …………… 2 hours …………… ? work

We need to find the amount of work done, so we start with the work done in the first case and then multiply it by the respective ratios:

Work done = 1 * (6/10) * (10/5) * (2/8) = 3/10

We multiply by 6/10 because number of men decreases from 10 to 6. The work done will reduce, so we multiply by 6/10 (the fraction less than 1).

We also multiply by 10/5 because number of days increases from 5 to 10. Because of this, the work done will increase, so we multiply by 10/5 (the fraction more than 1).

We also multiply by 2/8 because number of hours decreases from 8 to 2. Because of this, the work done will decrease, hence, we multiply by 2/8 (the fraction less than 1).

So the process is super simple – start with what you need to find out, say x, and multiply it by the ratio of each thing that changes from A to B. Whether you multiply by A/B or B/A depends on whether with this change increases or reduces x. If x increases, you will multiply by the fraction that is greater than 1, however if x decreases, you will multiply by the fraction that is less than 1.

On this same concept, let’s look at the question:

16 horses can haul a load of lumber in 24 minutes. 12 horses started hauling a load and after 14 minutes, 12 mules joined the horses. Will it take less than a quarter-hour for all of them together to finish hauling the load?

Statement 1: Mules work more slowly than horses.

Statement 2: 48 mules can haul the same load of lumber in 16 minutes.

Let’s see what data we have in the question stem:

16 horses …….. 24 mins ………. 1 work

12 horses …….. 14 mins ………. ? work

Work done = 1*(14/24)*(12/16) = (7/16)th of the work

We multiply by 14/24 because if the time taken to do the work decreases, the work done will also decrease. 14/24 is less than 1 so it will decrease the work done.

We also multiply by 12/16 because if the number of horses decreases, the work done will also decrease. 12/16 is less than 1 so it will decrease the work done.

All in all, we now know that 12 horses complete 7/16th of the work in 14 mins. So there is still 1 – 7/16 = 9/16 of the work left to do.

Now let’s review the two statements.

Statement 1: Mules work more slowly than horses.

This statement doesn’t give us any figures, so how can we analyse it mathematically? What we can do is find the range in which the time taken by all the horses and mules together will lie according to this statement.

Case 1: When mules work at a rate that is infinitesimally smaller than the rate of horses.

In this case, 12 mules are equivalent to 12 horses. So we have a total of 12 + 12 = 24 horses working together to complete (9/16)th of the work.

16 horses …….. 24 mins ………. 1 work

24 horses ……… ? mins ………. 9/16 work

Time taken = 24*(16/24)*(9/16) = 9 mins

Since the mules are slower than the horses, the time taken to complete the work will be more than 9 minutes. How much more than 9 minutes, we do not know. Now look at the flip side:

Case 2: When the mules work at a rate close to 0.

If the mules work slower, time taken will be more till the point when mules work so slowly that they do almost no work.

16 horses …….. 24 mins ………. 1 work

12 horses ……… ? mins ………. 9/16 work

Time taken = 24*(16/12)*(9/16) = 18 minutes

Therefore, depending on how fast/slow the mules are, the time taken to do the rest of the work could be anywhere from 9 minutes to 18 minutes. Therefore the time taken could be either less or more than 15 minutes – this statement alone is not sufficient.

Statement 2: 48 mules can haul the same load of lumber in 16 minutes.

We now know exactly how fast the mules are, so this must be sufficient to say whether the time taken to do the rest of the work was less or more than 15 minutes – we don’t need to actually find the time taken here – therefore, the answer is B, Statement 2 alone is sufficient.

However, if you would like to find out for practice, just find the equivalence between the horses and the mules first.

To haul the load in 16 minutes, we need 48 mules

To haul the load in 24 minutes, we need 48 * (16/24) = 32 mules

So 32 mules are equivalent to 16 horses (because 16 horses haul the load in 24 minutes). This means that 2 mules are equivalent to 1 horse, and 12 mules are, therefore, equivalent to 6 horses.

So now, in effect we have a total of 12 + 6 = 18 horses, and the situation now becomes this:

16 horses …….. 24 mins ………. 1 work

18 horses ……… ? mins ………. 9/16 work

Time taken = 24*(16/18)*(9/16) = 12 minute – less than a quarter-hour to finish the work.

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

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

GMAT Tip of the Week: Percents Are Easy, Words Are Hard

GMAT Tip of the WeekPop quiz: 1) Your restaurant bill came to exactly $64.00 and you want to leave a 20% tip. How much do you leave? 2) You’re running a charity half-marathon and your fundraising goal is $6000. You’ve raised $3300. What percent of your goal have you reached? 3) Your $20,000 investment is now worth $35,000. By what percent has your investment increased in value?

[Answers: $12.80; 55%; 75%]

 

If that was easy for you, good. It better have been. After all, you’re applying to graduate school and that’s maybe 6th grade math in three real-life contexts. Percents are not hard! But percent problems can be. And that’s what savvy GMAT test-takers need to learn:

On the GMAT, percent problems aren’t hard because of the numbers. They’re hard because of the words.

Consider two situations:

1) A band sells concert t-shirts online for $20 each, and in California, web-based sales are subject to a 10% sales tax. How much does a California-based purchaser pay in sales tax after buying a t-shirt?

2) At a concert in California, a band wants to sell t-shirts for $20. For simplicity’s sake at a cash-only kiosk, the band wants patrons to be able to pay $20 even – hopefully paying with a single $20 bill – rather than having to pay sales tax on top. If t-shirts are subject to a 10% tax on the sale price, and the shirts are priced so that the after-tax price comes to $20, how much will a patron pay in sales tax after buying a t-shirt?

So what are the answers?

The first, quite clearly, should be $2. Take 10% of the $20 price and there’s your answer. And taking 10% is easy – just divide by 10, which functionally means moving the decimal point one place to the left and keeping the digits the same.

The second is not $2, however, and the reason is critical to your preparation for percent questions above the 600 level on the GMAT: the percent has to be taken OF the proper value. Patrons will pay 10% OF the before-tax price, not 10% of the after-tax price. $20 is the after-tax price (just as $22 is the after-tax price in the first example…note that there you definitely did not take the 10% of the $22 after-tax price!). So the proper calculation is:

Price + 10% of the Price = $20

1.1(P) = 20

P = 20/1.1 = 18.18

So the price comes out to $18.18, meaning that $1.82 is the amount paid in tax.

While the calculation of 20/1.1 may have been annoying, it’s not “clever” or “hard” – the reason that many people will just say $2.00 to both isn’t that they screwed up dividing $20 by 1.1, but instead because they saw a percent problem with two numbers (10% and $20) and just “calculated a percent.” That’s what makes the majority of GMAT percent problems tricky – they require an attention to detail, to precision in wording, for examinees to ensure that the (generally pretty darned easy) percent calculations are taking the percent of the proper value.

They’re logic puzzles that require a bit of of arithmetic, not simple arithmetic problems that just test your ability to divide by 10 absent critical thought. So as you approach GMAT percent problems, remember that the math should be the easy part. GMAT percent problems are often more about reading comprehension and logic than they are about multiplication and division.

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

By Brian Galvin.

College Decisions And Neapolitan Ice Cream

Neapolitan Ice CreamIf you’re anything like me, the world is full of too many universities to choose from. I investigated hundreds of colleges in my research, contacted thirty, visited twenty, and eventually applied to ten. I spent months determining the proper formula of schools to apply to: how many was too many? Did I apply to enough options?

With all of these thoughts running through my mind, I developed a formula to assemble the perfect range of colleges on your application list and, borrowing a metaphor from my favorite college admissions guidebook – it’s as simple as Neapolitan ice cream. First though, you need to understand what the “Middle 50%” means.

THE MIDDLE 50%

These are statistics provided by every university that can be found online or on their admissions page. It represents the average range for ACT/SAT scores of accepted students. It’s also an extremely useful tool for determining the likelihood of your admission. For instance, my score on the ACT was a 33. One of my safety schools was the University of Washington (click on the “Achievement” tab to view Middle 50%); I knew it was a safety school, because most accepted students had an ACT score between 25 and 31. My score was higher, so I knew that my chances of admission were higher. Some schools might offer variations on this statistic. I also applied to Reed College, whose average ACT score is 31. This was close to my number, so I knew that it classified as a compromise school for me. Now, let’s have some ice cream!

CHOCOLATE = REACH SCHOOLS. The Middle 50% of admitted students’ test scores are higher than your own OR the admissions rate is at/below 15%. These are the colleges that everyone and their sister want to attend. It’s a highly desirable academic environment with competitive admissions. Scholarships might be difficult to receive given the high volume of applicants.

VANILLA = COMPROMISE SCHOOLS. The Middle 50% of admitted students’ test scores match your own.

These are colleges are still great schools that anyone would be happy to attend, but they’re slightly less competitive and less prestigious than reach schools. Scholarships are handed out to students of merit more frequently.

STRAWBERRY = SAFETY SCHOOLS. The Middle 50% of admitted students’ test scores are lower than your own. These colleges are significantly less competitive in their admissions and most often large public schools or small, local private schools. Depending on your interests, this might also be a community college. Merit-based scholarships are more readily available to students with competitive applications.

Use these classifications to balance your college application list. Aim to perfectly divide your options into thirds between chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry schools. If you apply to three schools, hit one of each. If you apply to nine schools, include three of each.

Strawberry schools are extremely important to pay attention to, and perhaps one of the most important elements of your college search. In April, they’ll give you a variety of options with better financial aid (at least in my experience) than your vanilla and chocolate choices. Too many students apply to strawberry schools that they aren’t really interested in attending; this is a fatal mistake.

The goal is to have a wide array of options when it is time to make the final decision and ample choices to find the closest (and most realistic) fit of financial aid, academic rigor, class sizes, location, and personal interest— so it’s possible to attend the best university for you. Best of luck with your applications!

Do you need help crafting your college applications to your chocolate schools? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Madeline Ewbank now happily attends Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Her favorite things about her college decision are its proximity to improv theater, free student admission to the Art Institute of Chicago, and the opportunity to teach ACT 36 classes just 5 minutes from campus. She is excited to help students achieve their college a

Do You Know the 5 Ways to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen?

junk foodI didn’t exactly pick up the freshman fifteen—the weight gain that so many new students experience in their first semester of college—but I did certainly gain at least a freshman seven or ten, and didn’t shake it off until halfway through my sophomore year.

I was luckier than many of my classmates in that I am naturally thin and I actually like working out, but there are still plenty of things I wish I had done in order to stay fit. Here are 5 different ways to avoid those extra pounds your first year of college:

1. Recognize that just because you’re at a buffet doesn’t mean you have to try every item on the menu. Meal plans mean dining halls, and dining halls mean food set up to feed thousands of students quickly and cheaply. Eating everything you see behind the counter is tempting, but all that will accomplish is 1) expanding your waistline, and 2) getting you more tired of the food earlier in the semester.

2. Sign up for a physical education class, if it’s available. Two out of my three workouts every week are scheduled P.E. courses that I’m getting graded for. If I wasn’t in those classes, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gotten beyond a single workout each week. They’re short, free (usually), worth an easy (if small) GPA boost, and great motivation to actually haul your tail to the gym.

3. Find out if your university gives you a free gym membership. If so, use it—even if only because affordable gym memberships are hard to come by.

4. Put mealtimes into your schedule, and stick to it. College schedules are often less regular than high school schedules, so the shift away from regular mealtimes can be jarring for both your routine and your metabolism. Eating constantly is hard habit to notice, an even harder habit to break, and an easy way to eat far more than you mean to.

5. Buy healthy choices. For any meals you eat outside of the dining halls: Healthy food is both worth paying for and worth walking to the grocery store for. Buying five bags of Cheetos for dinner from your in-dorm stop-n-shop does not count as dinner, and deep down you definitely know that.

Be sure to keep these things in mind, and you’re bound to stay clear of those extra (sneaky) lbs freshman year. Happy snacking!

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 “Back to the Future” Can Help Your GMAT Score!

Back to the FutureAs a social media user, you’re probably very away that today – October 21, 2015 – is “The Future,” the day from Back to the Future II when Marty McFly and Doc Brown (along with a sleeping Jennifer) visit Hill Valley 30 years in the future. And while we don’t yet have hoverboards and while the bold prediction that the Cubs will have just won the World Series seems to be slipping away, the Back to the Future trilogy does offer some incredibly valuable GMAT lessons. How can Marty McFly help you better understand the GMAT and increase your score?

1) The Space-Time Continuum

Throughout the Back to the Future series, Doc Brown was keenly aware of the impacts that any slight alteration to the past would have on the future (as it turns out, stopping your parents from meeting or allowing the scores of all future sporting events to fall into the hands of your family’s mortal enemy could have disastrous results!). The GMAT works on a similar premise: because the GMAT is adaptive, each question impacts the future questions you will see – the events are connected and sequential. Which means:

A) You can’t go back and change your answers. That would violate the “Space-Time Continuum” nature of the GMAT (changing #5 would mean that questions 6-37 would all be different, so it’s just not an option). And THAT means that you have to make good decisions in real-time – you need to double-check for careless errors before you submit, because if you realize later that you blew it, that question is gone.

B) You can’t afford a disastrous start. It’s not that the first 10 questions matter exponentially more (as the old myth goes), but they are slightly more important if only for this reason: a strong early performance means that you’re seeing harder questions once you’re in your groove, and a poor early performance means that you’re seeing easier questions and have a much lower margin for error. Throughout each section you’ll make a few mistakes and you’ll hit a lucky guess or two.

If you’ve done well and avoided careless mistakes early, then your mistakes and lucky guesses will be on harder questions. If you haven’t, then those mistakes come on easier questions and pull down your score all the more. It *is* possible to recover from a poor start…it just requires you to be a lot closer to perfect and that can be hard to do on test day. Please note: you don’t need to get all 10 right to consider it a good start!  6 or 7 will probably put you on a track you’re happy with; the key is to just make sure you’re not making too many silly mistakes early and missing the questions that you should get right.

2) Save the Clock Tower! 

Back to the Future taught a generation the importance of timeline, and that’s critical on the GMAT. You need to be mindful of time and ensure that you have enough to finish each section. Just like in the movies, where mismanagement of time and unforeseen events created precarious situations (would Doc get the wire connected before lightning struck? Would Marty get to that point at the proper time? Would Doc reach Clara before the train tumbled off the cliff?), the GMAT offers you plenty of opportunities to waste time and get off schedule (and maybe your score falls off a cliff, or you’re the one stuck in the past…an era when master’s degrees were far from the norm).

You need to conserve time on the test so that you don’t find a catastrophe waiting at the end. Which means that sometimes you have to let a hard problem go so that it doesn’t suck up several minutes of your time (even if the hard problem seems to be calling you “chicken”!). Like Marty should have done in most time-travel situations, have a plan for how you’ll address events in a timely fashion and stick to it. If you want to have 53 minutes left after 10 questions and you have 51, know that you’ll probably have to guess soon to get back on track.

3) Find Your Skateboard

1985 was easy for Marty, like a 400-500 level GMAT problem. If he needed to quickly get from one place to another, he’d hop on his skateboard and grab the back of a truck. But 1955 and 2015 were quite different – there weren’t conventional skateboards for him to use, so he had to improvise either by breaking a scooter in two or learning how to handle a hoverboard.

The GMAT is similar: the tools you’ll use to solve problems (find skateboard, let a Tannen chase you, veer off at the last second leaving him to crash into a pile of manure) are extremely similar, but just different enough that it may not be obvious what to do at first. Your job as you study is to learn how to look for that “skateboard.”

On exponent problems, for example, the key is almost always getting the given information to a point where you can perform the rules you know. And since those rules are almost always requiring you to deal with exponents with the same base and that the terms are being multiplied or divided, your “finding the skateboard” process usually involves factoring non-prime bases into prime factors and factoring addition and subtraction into multiplication. Much like Marty McFly in a new decade, you’ll find yourself seeing slightly-familiar, but yet totally different situations on the test – your job is to focus more on the similarity and seek out a couple steps to get it to where the rest is rote.

4) Be a Man (or Woman) of Action

In the original Back to the Future, you saw how the entire future changed with just one action: the ever analytical and incredibly intelligent George McFly just wasn’t a confident or action-oriented man, and so despite Marty’s best efforts to talk him up to Lorraine and to get him to be a bit more debonair, the McFly family future was fading quickly. Until…George had the opportunity to stop analyzing and just “do,” telling Biff to “get your damn hands off” Lorraine and ultimately punching Biff in the mouth. From that point on, the George-and-Lorraine romance was on (again?) and the future was just a matter of density. I mean…destiny.

If you’re reading a blog post about the GMAT you’re certainly not the type that Principal Strickland would call a slacker, but there’s a good likelihood that you’ll perform on test day like the “old” George McFly: intelligent and capable, but timid and over-analytical. Particularly with the timed nature of the GMAT, you often just have to go with an instinct and try it out, whether that means writing down an equation and then double checking that you like your math (as opposed to reading the question again and again) or testing your theory that you’re allowed to cross-multiply there (test it with small numbers and see if you get the answer you should).

The biggest mistake that the truly-capable make on the GMAT is one of paralysis by analysis; they’re afraid to put pen to paper to “try something” and then they become acutely aware of the time ticking past them and panic all the more. Avoid that trap! Be willing to try, to take action, and you’ll find that – like the owner of  DeLorean time machine – you have plenty of time.

On this 30th anniversary of Marty’s journey to the future, plan for your future 30 years down the road. The way you study for the GMAT, the way you manage your time and confidence on the test – they could have a major impact on what your future looks like. Heed the lessons that Doc and Marty taught you, and you could leave the test center saying, “Roads? Where I’m going, we don’t need roads,” of course because most elite b-school campuses are all about sidewalks.

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

By Brian Galvin.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Choose and Use Essay Examples (Like “The Hunger Games”)

SAT Tip of the Week - FullI’ve decided that I want to use The Iliad and One Hundred Years of Solitude as essay examples. What’s the best way to apply these to prompts?

I can’t give you detailed, example-specific help with your question for two reasons:

1) I have not read The Iliad.

2) I have not read One Hundred Years of Solitude.

 

Fortunately, for the purposes of your SAT essay, that doesn’t really matter. Because you don’t know exactly what question you’ll be asked on your official test day, it doesn’t make sense to use up your study time coming up with specific ways to apply two specific essay examples. You’ll prepare yourself much more effectively by developing your ability to apply several examples to many different prompts in many different ways.

Let’s take The Hunger Games, a trilogy I’m pretty sure you’re at least reasonably familiar with, as an example. (Warning: spoilers!)

The first step is to check that you know your example in pretty deep detail. Do you know all the character’s names? Do you remember all the major plot points? Do you know the title and the author? If the answer to any of these questions is no, consider choosing a different example.

The second step is to check whether your example is “rich” enough to apply flexibly. For instance, if you tried to use “Humpty Dumpty” as an example, you’d quickly find that the story just doesn’t give you enough interesting material to work with. (Yes, from the nursery rhyme with a crown and king’s men and a wall. Yes, I know you wouldn’t actually use this as an example. That’s not the point.)

Humpty falls off a wall and can’t be fixed – and that’s all that ever happens. You can’t learn anything substantial about privacy, community responsibility, honesty, the value of work, the implications of changing technology, or the importance of education from Humpty’s story. The Hunger Games, by contrast, is remarkably rich: the story touches on countless themes including class, poverty, work, determination, honesty, secrets, selflessness, love, hate, family, technology, good and bad decisions, and community. You have plenty to write about.

The third step is to decide whether the example is tone-appropriate. Definitely avoid examples that are highly controversial or potentially offensive. Then, steer away from pop culture and personal anecdotes unless you’re confident that you can discuss them seriously. In most cases, classic books just sound more impressive as examples than young adult fiction novels. (Note: In a real essay, I wouldn’t recommend using The Hunger Games as an example. I’m just using it here because it’s so widely known.)

All that’s left is to get good at applying your chosen example flexibly. Recognize that a rich story can be applied to many different SAT prompts in many different ways, since SAT prompts are vague and rich stories give you so much material to work with. Here are some past official SAT prompts that The Hunger Games could fit into:

Should people pay more attention to the opinions of people who are older and more experienced?

No. President Snow was older and more experienced than Katniss, however his opinions about how the world should work were selfish and unjust.

Is it better to be idealistic or practical?

Idealistic. Panem would never have changed if the rebels had not clung to their ideas about how the world SHOULD be, instead of how the world WAS. Ideals led them to victory and to a better society.

Should books portray the world realistically or idealistically?

Idealistically. The Hunger Games isn’t realistic at all, but we learn a lot from it — the value of honesty, the importance of friends and family, the benefits of hard work, etc.

Are people too materialistic?

Yes. Materialism in The Capitol blinded Capitol citizens to what really matters: justice, community, morality, and humanity.

 Is learning the result of experiencing difficulties?

Yes. Through all the obstacles she faced, Katniss learned a lot about herself — how gentle and kind she really was, what kind of significant other she needed in her life, etc.

Is creativity the result of closed doors? 

Absolutely. Katniss learned to hunt as a result of a serious obstacle she faced growing up (lack of food).

Can dishonesty be appropriate in some circumstances?

Yes. It would have been counterproductive and foolish for Katniss to reveal to the districts of Panem how traumatized, emotionally broken, and fearful she was. Her “lie” to the people of Panem enabled a revolution that brought about a better society.

Is success the result of being extremely competitive?

No. The revolution survived because the rebels were desperate to create a more equal and compassionate society, not because the rebels wanted bragging rights for having won a war.

I could fill pages and pages with more examples. To answer a prompt about privacy, all I need to do is think of an instance in The Hunger Games in which someone kept a secret. To answer a prompt about adversity, I just need to think of a single instance in which a Hunger Games character was faced with a problem. There are so many secrets and so many conflicts/problems in the trilogy that I should have no trouble finding plenty of examples of both.

There is no single perfect way to apply an example to a prompt, and there is no single perfect example for a prompt. A rich storyline can adapt to almost any prompt – the trick is just to choose examples with rich content, and to recognize just how broad and vague SAT topics really are.

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!

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.