Select Your Section Order on the New GMAT

New SATGood news! Starting July 11, 2017 the GMAT will allow you to select the order in which you take the sections of the test (from a menu of three options). This new “Select Section Order” feature gives you more control over your test-day experience and an opportunity to play to your strengths.

The bad news? Now in addition to the 37 Quant questions, 41 Verbal questions, 12 Integrated Reasoning questions, and Essay, you have one more question you have to answer. But don’t stress – here’s an analysis of how to make this important decision:


Most importantly: statistically, the order of the sections on the GMAT does not matter. GMAC ran a pilot program last year and concluded that reordering the sections of the exam had no impact on scores. So there is no way you can make this decision “wrong” – choosing Quant first vs. Verbal first (or vice versa) doesn’t put you at a disadvantage (or give you an advantage). The only impact that this option will have on your score is a psychological one: which order makes you feel like you’re giving yourself the best shot.

Also hugely important: make sure you have a plan well before test day. Select Section Order has great potential to give you confidence on test day, but you don’t want the added stress of one more “big” decision on test day or even the day before. Make your plan at least a week before test day, take your final practice test(s) in the exact order you’ll use on the real thing, and save your decision-making capacity for test questions. A great option for this is the Veritas Prep practice tests, which are currently the only GMAT practice tests in the industry that let you customize the order of your test like the real exam.


And now for the ever-important question on everyone’s mind: in what order should I take the sections? Make sure that you recognize that you only have three options:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal (original order)
  2. Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  3. Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

Note that you don’t have the option to split up the AWA and IR sections, and that the AWA/IR block comes either first or last: Quant and Verbal will remain adjacent no matter what order you choose, so you can’t plan yourself a nice “break” in between the two.

Also, recognize that all test-takers are different. As there is no inherent, universal advantage to one order versus the other, your decision isn’t so much “Quant vs. Verbal” but rather “stronger subject vs. not-as-strong subject.” You can fill in the names “Quant” and “Verbal” based on your own personal strengths. For this analysis, we’ll use “Stronger” and “Not as Strong” to refer to your choice between Quant/Verbal, and “AWA/IR” as the third category.


Traditionally, one of the biggest challenges of the GMAT has been related to stamina and fatigue: it’s a long test, and by the end people are worn out. And over the last 5 years, the fast-paced Integrated Reasoning section has also proven a challenge – very few people comfortably finish the IR section, so it’s quite common to be a combination of tired and demoralized heading into the Quant section. Plus, let’s be honest: the IR and AWA scores just don’t matter as much as the Quant/Verbal scores, so if stamina and confidence are potentially limited quantities, you want to use as much of them as possible on the sections that b-schools care about most.

Who should take AWA/IR first?
Non-native speakers for whom the essay will be important. The danger of waiting until all the way at the end of the test to write the essay is that doing so increases the difficulty of writing clearly and coherently: you’ll just be really tired. If you need your AWA to shine and you’re a bit concerned about it as it is, you may want to attack it first.
Not-morning-people with first-thing-in-the-morning test appointments. If you got stuck with a test appointment that’s much earlier than the timeframe when you feel alert and capable, AWA/IR is a good opportunity to spend an hour of extended warmup getting into the day. If you have a later test appointment and still want a warmup, though, you’re better served doing a few practice problems before you head to the test center.


1) You like a good “warmup” to get started on a project. At work you typically start the day by responding to casual emails or reading industry news, because you know your most productive/creative/impactful work will come after you’ve taken a bit of time to get your head in the game. Playing to your strength first will let you experience early success so that your mind is primed for the tougher section to come.

2) You want to start with a confidence booster. Test-taking is very psychological – for example, studies show that test results are significantly impacted when examinees are prompted beforehand with reasons that they should perform well or poorly. Getting started with a section that reminds you that “you’re good at this!” is a great way to prime your mind for success and confidence.

3) You need your stronger section to carry your overall score. Those with specific score targets often find that the easiest way to hit them is to max out on their better score, gaining as many points as possible there and then hoping to scrounge up enough on the other section to hit that overall threshold. Doing your strength first may help you hit it while you’re fresh and gather up all those points before you get worn down by other sections. (Be careful, though: elite schools tend to prefer balanced scores to imbalanced scores, so make sure you consider that.)


1) You’re a fast starter. If like to hit the ground running on projects or workdays, you may want to deal with your biggest challenge first while you’re freshest and before fatigue sets in.

2) You hate having stress looming on the horizon. Similarly, if you’re the type who always did your homework immediately after school and always pays your bills the day you get them, there mere presence of the challenge waiting you could add stress through the earlier sections. Why not confront it immediately and get it over with?

3) Your test appointment is late in the day. If you’ve been waiting all day to get the test started, you’ve likely been anxious knowing that you have a major event in front of you. Warm up with some easier problems and review in the hour before the test and attack it quickly.

4) You’re retaking the test to specifically improve that section. In some cases, students are told that they can get off the waitlist or will only be considered if they get a particular section score to a certain threshold. If that’s you, turn that isolated section into a 75-minute test followed by a couple hours of formality, instead of forcing yourself to wait for the important part.

5) You crammed for it. We’ve all been there: your biology midterm is at 11am but you have to go to a history class from 9-10:30, and all the while you’re sitting there worried that you’re losing the information you memorized last night. If you’re worried about remembering certain formulas, rules, or strategies, you might as well use them immediately before you get distracted. Note: this does not mean you should cram for the GMAT! But if you did, you may want to apply that short-term memory as quickly as possible.


If the above reasons leave you conflicted, Veritas Prep recommends doing the Verbal section first. The skills required on the Verbal section are largely about focus – noting precision in wording, staying engaged in bland reading passages, switching between a variety of different topics – and focus is something that naturally fades over the course of the test. The ability to take the Verbal section when you’re most alert and able to concentrate is a terrific luxury.
Ultimately it’s best that you choose the order that makes you personally feel most confident, but if you can’t decide, most experts report that they would personally choose Verbal first.


Because, statistically, the order of the sections doesn’t really matter, the only thing that matters with Select Section Order is doing what makes you feel most confident and comfortable. So recognize that you cannot make a bad decision! What’s important is that you don’t let this decision add stress or fatigue to your test day. Make your decision at least 2 practice tests before the real thing, considering the advice above, and then don’t look back. The section selection option is a great way to ensure that your test experience feels as comfortable as possible, so, whatever you choose, believe in your decision and then go conquer the GMAT.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? Prepare for the exam with a computer-adaptive Veritas Prep practice test – the only test in the industry that allows you to practice section selection like the real exam! And as always, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter for the latest in test prep and MBA admissions news.

GMAT Integrated Reasoning Practice: Sample Questions and Prep Tips

QuestioningOn one section of the GMAT, you’ll encounter Integrated Reasoning questions. These questions test your ability to solve problems using several forms of data. Though you’ve found plenty of advice on studying for the GMAT, you may feel a little concerned about these particular questions. Consider some information about the nature of these questions, then learn how to prep for them with our help.

Take a Timed Practice Test
One way you can get GMAT Integrated Reasoning practice is to take a timed practice test. When you take the entire test or a set of GMAT Integrated Reasoning practice questions, you get an idea of what to expect on test day. More importantly, your results will reveal which skills need improvement.

Timing yourself is an important factor when taking a practice test. You get just 30 minutes to complete the 12 Integrated Reasoning questions on the GMAT. Establishing a reasonable testing pace can lower your stress level and help you to finish all of the questions in the allotted time. At Veritas Prep, we have a free GMAT test that you can take advantage of for this purpose.

Get Into the Mindset of a Business Executive
Taking the GMAT is one of the steps necessary on your path to business school, so it makes perfect sense that the GMAT gauges your skills in business. One of the best prep tips you can follow is to complete all GMAT Integrated Reasoning sample questions with the mindset of a business executive. Think of the questions as real-life scenarios that you will encounter in your business career. Taking this approach allows you to best highlight your skills to GMAT scorers.

Become Familiar With the Question Formats
As you tackle a set of GMAT Integrated Reasoning sample questions, you’ll see that there are a few different question formats – Graphics Interpretation, Two-Part Analysis, Multi-Source Reasoning, and Table Analysis are the different types of questions on the GMAT.

The Graphics Interpretation questions feature a chart, graph, or diagram. For instance, you may see a question that features a bar chart that asks you to answer two questions based on the data in the chart. Other graphics you may see include scatterplots, pie charts, bubble charts, and line charts.

Two-Part Analysis problems involve a chart with three columns of data and accompanying questions. One tip to remember about these questions is that you have to answer the first question presented before you tackle the second one because the answers will work together in some way. Multi-Source Reasoning questions contain a lot of data. These questions test your ability to combine the data contained in different graphs, formulas, and diagrams to arrive at the correct answer choice. Table Analysis questions ask you to look at a table that may contain four or more columns of data. You have to examine this data closely to answer the questions.

Practice Working With Different Types of Graphs and Diagrams
Effective GMAT Integrated Reasoning practice involves learning the details about the different types of graphs, charts, and diagrams featured on the test. Financial magazines and newspapers are great resources for different graphics that you may see on the GMAT. Take some time to make sure you understand the purpose behind various graphs and charts so you feel at ease with them on test day.

Work With a Capable Tutor
When studying for the section on Integrated Reasoning, GMAT practice questions can be very useful. Another way to boost your preparation for this section is to partner with an experienced tutor. The instructors at Veritas Prep follow a thorough GMAT curriculum as they prep you for Integrated Reasoning questions as well as the other questions on the exam. We provide you with proven test-taking strategies and show you how to showcase what you know on the GMAT. With our guidance, you can move through each section of the test with confidence.

The professional tutors at Veritas Prep have the skills and knowledge to prepare you for the section on Integrated Reasoning. GMAT questions in all of the sections are easier to navigate after working through our unique GMAT curriculum. We offer both online and in-person courses, so you can choose the option that best suits your schedule. Contact our offices today and get first-rate prep for the GMAT!

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

GMAT Hacks, Tricks, and Tips to Make Studying and Preparing for the GMAT Simpler

GoalsThe GMAT measures four general types of knowledge: Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. The entire test takes about three hours and 30 minutes to complete.

Preparing for this important exam may seem like a daunting task, but you can simplify the process with the help of some GMAT tips and tricks.

Use Mnemonics to Learn Vocabulary Words
Making a GMAT cheat sheet complete with mnemonics simplifies the process of learning vocabulary words for the Verbal section. Word pictures can help you to retain the words you’re learning. For instance, suppose you’re trying to learn the word “extricate.” “Extricate” means to free something or someone from a constraint or problem. You may pair the word with a mental picture of a group of people being freed from a stuck elevator by a technician. Creating mnemonics that relate to your life, family, or job can make them all the more memorable.

Look for Vocabulary Words in Context
Studying a GMAT cheat sheet full of words and mnemonics shouldn’t be the end of your vocabulary studies. It’s just as important to be able to recognize those words in context. If you’ve signed up to take the GMAT, there’s a good chance that you already read several business publications, so keep an eye out for the words used within those resources. Reading financial newspapers, magazines, and online articles that contain GMAT vocabulary words helps you become more familiar with them. After a while, you’ll know what the words mean without having to think about them.

Learn the Test Instructions Before Test Day
When you read the instructions for each section before test day arrives, you’ll know what to expect on the actual day. This can make you feel more relaxed about tackling each section. Also, you won’t have to use your test time reading instructions because you will already know what you’re doing.

Always Keep Some Study Materials Close By
When it comes to GMAT tips and strategies, the easiest ones can sometimes be the most effective. Even busy working professionals have free moments throughout the day. It’s a smart idea to use those moments for study and review. For instance, you can work on some practice math problems during a lunch or coffee break. If you have a dentist or doctor’s appointment, you can use virtual flashcards to quiz yourself on GMAT vocabulary words while you’re sitting in the waiting room. Taking a few minutes each day to review can add up to a lot of productive study time by the end of a week.

Set a Timer for Practice Tests
If you’re concerned about completing each section of the GMAT within the allotted number of minutes, one of our favorite GMAT hacks is to try setting a timer as you begin each section of a practice test. If the timer goes off before you’re finished with the section, you may be spending too much time on puzzling problems. Or perhaps you’re taking too much time to read the directions for each section rather than familiarizing yourself with them ahead of time.

Timing your practice tests helps you establish a rhythm that allows you to get through each section with a few minutes to spare for review. At Veritas Prep, we provide you with the opportunity to take a free exam. Taking this practice exam allows you to get a clear picture of what you’ll encounter on test day.

Get Into the Habit of Eliminating Wrong Answer Options
Another very effective GMAT strategy is to eliminate answer options that are clearly incorrect. With the exception of the analytical essay, this can be done on every portion of the test. Taking practice tests gives you the chance to establish this habit. By eliminating obviously incorrect answer options, you are making the most efficient use of your test time. Also, you are making the questions more manageable by giving yourself fewer answers to consider.

Here at Veritas Prep, our GMAT instructors follow a unique curriculum that shows you how to approach every problem on the test. We teach you how to strengthen your higher-order thinking skills so you’ll know how to use them to your advantage on the test. Contact our offices today to take advantage of our in-person prep courses or our private tutoring services. Learn GMAT hacks from professional instructors who’ve mastered the test!

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

Kickstart Your GMAT Prep: How to Start Preparing for the GMAT

GMAT PracticeAnyone who has ever applied to business school knows that there are several requirements to fulfill. One of those requirements is to submit a GMAT score. Naturally, you want to do your best on the GMAT to increase your chances of getting into a preferred business school, but where should you begin? Consider some tips on how to start preparing for GMAT questions:

Increase the Amount of Reading You Do
You may wonder how to start preparation for GMAT questions in the Verbal section. As someone who wants to pursue an MBA, you probably read finance-related materials such as newspapers and magazines – you may even be part of an online organization that gives you the latest financial news. Increasing the amount of reading you do can help you prep for Reading Comprehension questions on the exam.

By reading a variety of finance-related materials, you expose yourself to vocabulary words that may appear on the test. Also, reading financial articles and books can get you thinking like a business executive, which is the mindset you should have as you sit down to take the exam. Absorbing the information contained in finance-related materials can contribute to your performance on the GMAT, as well as serve you in your future career.

Complete Practice Questions for the GMAT
When thinking about how to start preparing for GMAT questions, you should certainly put a practice test on your to-do list. A practice GMAT serves you in several ways – for one, you’ll become familiar with the types of questions you’ll encounter on test day. Secondly, you’ll get an idea of how quickly you have to work in order to finish each section of the test before your time is up. In addition, you can use the results of your practice test to create a study schedule that allows you to dedicate the largest amount of time to your weakest subjects.

A free GMAT practice exam is available to you from Veritas Prep. We provide you with a performance analysis as well as a score report so you know what you have mastered and what needs a little work. Once you dive into your studies, it’s a good idea to take follow-up practice tests to gauge your progress.

Create and Follow a Study Schedule
Anyone who is wondering how to start their GMAT preparation must recognize the importance of a study schedule. As with most other exams, gradual study is the best path to success on the GMAT. You may want to study for two or three hours, five or even seven days per week.

The appearance of your study schedule is going to reflect the results of your practice tests. For example, say you need to sharpen your geometry and algebra skills. You may create a schedule that dedicates an hour to geometry on Tuesdays and Thursdays and an hour to algebra on Mondays and Wednesdays. If you find that you need to improve your Reading Comprehension skills, then you may carve out time on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to work on that. Creating a varied study schedule is an effective way to stay organized and keep up with your study goals.

Learn Strategies to Master the Exam
As you learn how to start your GMAT preparation, it may surprise you to discover that memorizing facts and word definitions is not the key to mastering this exam. You have to take the right approach to the GMAT by thinking like the people who created the test. You have to know how to apply the knowledge that you possess.

Our curriculum shows you what you need to do to successfully navigate your way through the questions on the GMAT. Our instructors teach you how to avoid jumping to the seemingly obvious answer and falling into traps set by the creators of the test. We have several instructional options that allow you to choose the most convenient way to start preparing for GMAT questions. We hire instructors who have teaching experience and practical experience with the GMAT. You’ll be learning from professional instructors whose scores on the GMAT put them in the 99th percentile.

If you’ve been wondering how to start preparation for GMAT questions, Veritas Prep can help. Get in touch with our offices today and begin your journey to success on the GMAT!

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

GMAT Probability Practice: Questions and Answers

Roll the DiceThe Quantitative portion of the GMAT contains questions on a variety of math topics. One of those topics is probability. GMAT questions of this sort ask you to look for the likelihood that something will occur. Probability is not as familiar to many as Algebra, Geometry, and other topics on the test. This is why some test-takers hesitate when they see the word “probability” on a summary of the GMAT. However, this is just another topic that can be mastered with study and practice.

You may already know that there are certain formulas that can help solve GMAT probability questions, but there is more to these problems than teasing out the right answers. Take a look at some advice on how to tackle GMAT probability questions to calm your fears about the test:

Probability Formulas
As you work through GMAT probability practice questions, you will need to know a few formulas. One key formula to remember is that the probability equals the number of desired outcomes divided by the number of possible outcomes. Another formula deals with discrete events and probability – that formula is P(A and B) = P(A)*P(B). Figuring out the probability of an event not occurring is one minus the probability that the event will occur. Putting these formulas into practice is the most effective way to remember them.

Is it Enough to Know the Basic Formulas for Probability?
Some test-takers believe that once you know the formulas related to probability for GMAT questions, then you have the keys to success on this portion of the test. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. The creators of the GMAT are not just looking at your ability to plug numbers into formulas – you must understand what each question is asking and why you arrived at a particular answer. Successful business executives use reason and logic to arrive at the decisions they make. The creators of the GMAT want to see how good you are at using these same tools to solve problems.

The Value of Practice Exams
Taking a practice GMAT can help you determine your skill level when it comes to probability questions and problems on every other section of the test. Also, a practice exam gives you the chance to become accustomed to the amount of time you’ll have to finish the various sections of the test.

At Veritas Prep, we have one free GMAT practice test available to anyone who wants to get an idea of how prepared they are for the test. After you take the practice test, you will receive a score report and thorough performance analysis that lets you know how you fared on each section. Your performance analysis can prove to be one of the most valuable resources you have when starting to prepare for the GMAT. Follow-up practice tests can be just as valuable as the first one you take. These tests reveal your progress on probability problems and other skills on the GMAT. The results can guide you on how to adjust your study schedule to focus more time on the subjects that need it.

Getting the Right Kind of Instruction
When it comes to probability questions, GMAT creators have been known to set subtle traps for test-takers. In some cases, you may happen upon a question with an answer option that jumps out at you as the right choice. This could be a trap.

If you study for the GMAT with Veritas Prep, we can teach you how to spot and avoid those sorts of traps. Our talented instructors have not only taken the GMAT; they have mastered it. Each of our tutors received a score that placed them in the 99th percentile. Consequently, if you study with Veritas Prep, you’ll benefit from the experience and knowledge of tutors who have conquered the GMAT. When it comes to probability questions, GMAT tutors at Veritas Prep have you covered!

In addition to providing you with effective GMAT strategies, tips, and top-quality instruction, we also give you choices regarding the format of your courses. We have prep classes that are given online and in person – learn your lessons where you want, and when you want. You may want to go with our private tutoring option and get a GMAT study plan that is tailored to your needs. Contact Veritas Prep today and dive into your GMAT studies!

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

GMAT Math Cheat Sheet: Formulas and Tips for Success

ChecklistAn individual who is creating a study plan for the GMAT knows that math must be a part of the equation. Though many people love all sorts of math, there are some who become worried about the Quantitative portion of the exam.

If you’re concerned about the math questions on the GMAT, it can be useful to become more familiar with the specific content in this section. Find out about the types of problems in the Quantitative section and consider some GMAT geometry formulas. Also, check out a gathering of tips on how to prep in an effective way:

What is in the Quantitative Section?
Data Sufficiency and Problem-Solving are the two types of questions in the Quantitative section. The Problem-Solving questions are multiple-choice and test your skills in algebra, basic arithmetic, and geometry. The basic arithmetic questions involve decimals, positive and negative integers, fractions, percentages, and averages. The problems you find in this section are on par with the level of material taught in high school math classes. Though many of the questions on the exam involve basic arithmetic, it’s helpful to have a GMAT formula sheet to refer to when preparing for algebra and geometry problems.

GMAT Formulas for the Math Section
Your GMAT math formulas cheat sheet should include the Pythagorean Theorem. This formula helps you to find the measurement of the third side of a right triangle when given the measurements of the other two sides. Another item on your GMAT math cheat sheet should be A = 1/2 bh, which is the formula for finding the area of a triangle. Distance = rate*time is a very helpful formula to know, too. Find the area of a rectangle in fast fashion by using the formula A = lw. The formula A = s2 will help you discover the area of a square.

Moving Beyond Memorization

A GMAT math formulas cheat sheet is an effective study tool, but it’s equally important to know which formula to apply to a problem, so you should spend time practicing problems that employ each of those formulas. This way, on test day, you’ll be familiar with the formulas and feel comfortable using them. The easiest way to do this, of course, is to let us help you.

The expert instructors at Veritas Prep partner with students to help them learn and to practice these formulas for the Quantitative section. We hire tutors who have excellent teaching skills as well as GMAT scores in the 99th percentile. When you study with us, you know you’re learning from the best! Our instructors work through practice math problems with you to ensure that you understand how to solve them in the most efficient way.

Get the Timing Right
Test-takers are given 75 minutes to tackle the 37 questions in the Quantitative section. This sounds like a long time, but if you get hung up on one question for several minutes, you could end up running out of time for this section. In order to avoid this, you should take timed practice tests. Taking timed tests allows you to establish a rhythm for solving problems and answering questions. Once you establish a rhythm, you don’t have to be so concerned about running out of time before you finish all of the problems.

More Tips for Mastering the Quantitative Section
Studying with a GMAT math cheat sheet is one way to prepare for the test. Another way to save test time and make questions more manageable is to eliminate answer options that are clearly wrong – this allows your mind to focus only on the legitimate choices. Estimating the answer to a problem as you read through it is another way to save test time and arrive at answers more quickly.

Our GMAT curriculum teaches you how to approach questions on the separate math topics within the Quantitative section. Our strategies give you the tools you need to problem-solve like a business professional! We are proud to provide both online and in-person courses that prepare you for the GMAT. Veritas Prep instructors offer solid instruction as well as encouragement to individuals with the goal of acing the GMAT and getting into a preferred business school. Let us partner with you on the road to GMAT success! Contact us to talk with one of our course advisers today.

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

Invest in Your Success: Preparing for the GMAT in 3, 2, 1 Months

stopwatch-620Are you planning to pursue your MBA? If so, you probably know that most business schools take special notice of applicants who have high scores on the GMAT. In order to perform well on the GMAT, you have to dedicate a reasonable amount of time to study. This brings up the question, “How long does it take to prepare for the GMAT?” Check out some tips to consider when creating your study plan for the GMAT:

Things to Consider Before Starting the Study Process
Before estimating your GMAT preparation time, it’s a good idea to look at the application deadlines for the business schools you’re interested in. Ideally, you want to submit your GMAT scores by a school’s application deadline. For example, a business school might have an application deadline of Oct. 5. Taking the GMAT in August would allow you enough time to retake the test if you’re not satisfied with your score. And if you’re taking the GMAT in August, you could also start studying in May to allow yourself three months of GMAT preparation time.

When you study with our instructors at Veritas Prep, you’ll learn how to approach the questions on the GMAT. Our GMAT curriculum zeros in on each subject within the four sections. We reveal subtleties of the test that can help you avoid common mistakes and achieve a high score.

How to Prepare for the GMAT in 3 Months
Three months is an optimal amount of time to prepare for the GMAT. Naturally, many prospective MBA students want to know the specifics of how to prepare for the GMAT in 3 months. Of course, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to a study schedule. Some people study for three hours per day, five days a week, while others study for two hours a day, seven days a week.

After looking at your practice test results, you may see that you did well on algebra and basic arithmetic questions but need to work on geometry and Data Sufficiency problems, so a two-hour study period on one day may begin with 30 minutes of quizzing yourself with geometry flashcards and 30 minutes of practice problems. The second hour could be dedicated to Data Sufficiency study – this involves evaluating Data Sufficiency questions to practice weeding out unessential information.

During each week of the three-month period, you could work on Quantitative skills for two days, Verbal skills for two days, Integrated Reasoning skills for two days, and Analytical Writing for one. Varying a study schedule helps you cover all of the skills you need to practice and keeps you from growing tired of the routine.

Two Months to Prepare for the Test
Perhaps you’re wondering how to prepare for the GMAT in 2 months. Two months is a relatively short time to study for the GMAT, but it can work, especially if you get impressive results on your practice tests.

One tip is to study for two or three hours several days a week. If your test results reveal that you need to strengthen your Reading Comprehension skills, try increasing the amount of reading you do. Reading financial magazines and newspapers can give you practice with evaluating an author’s intentions and finding the main ideas. Alternatively, if your practice test reveals the need to work on basic arithmetic, you can spend 30 minutes each study period with flashcards containing fractions, percentages and probability problems. Let your practice test results guide your study to make it efficient.

One Month to Prepare for the Test
But what if you’re short on time and need to know how to prepare for the GMAT in 1 month? Once again, your practice test results should guide you in your studies. If you have just one month to prepare, it’s best to study for two or three hours each day of the week.

If you need to strengthen your Analytical Writing skills, find some high-scoring GMAT essays to study. These will help you to see what elements you need to include in your own practice essays. If you find that you run out of time on a practice test in the Quantitative section, work on establishing a pace that allows you to finish in time. Most importantly, create a study schedule ahead of time and follow it closely throughout the month so you give each subject enough attention.

Veritas Prep’s instructors stand ready to help, no matter how many months you have to prepare for the GMAT. Our prep courses are available both online and in person. Contact our offices today to start studying for the GMAT!

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

Help! My Practice Test Score Seems Wrong!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compounding that is:

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

And then of course there is the fact that:

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

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

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

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

What does that mean for you?

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

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

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

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

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

By Brian Galvin and Scott Shrum.

Breaking Down Changes in the New Official GMAT Practice Tests: Unit Conversions in Shapes

QuadrilateralRecently, GMAC released two more official practice tests. Though the GMAT is not going to test completely new concepts – if the test changed from year to year, it wouldn’t really be standardized – we can get a sense of what types of questions are more likely to be emphasized by noting how official materials change over time. I thought it might be interesting to take these practice tests and break down down any conspicuous trends I detected.

In the Quant section of the first new test, there was one type of question that I’d rarely encountered in the past, but saw multiple times within a span of 20 problems. It involves unit conversions in two or three-dimensional shapes.

Like many GMAT topics, this concept isn’t difficult so much as it is tricky, lending itself to careless mistakes if we work too fast. If I were to draw a line that was one foot long, and I asked you how many inches it was, you wouldn’t have to think very hard to recognize that it would be 12 inches.

But what if I drew a box that had an area of 1 square foot, and I asked you how many square inches it was? If you’re on autopilot, you might think that’s easy. It’s 12 square inches. And you better believe that on the GMAT, that would be a trap answer. To see why it’s wrong, consider a picture of our square:






We see that each side is 1 foot in length. If each side is 1 foot in length, we can convert each side to 12 inches in length. Now we have the following:

DG blog pic 2






Clearly, the area of this shape isn’t 12 square inches, it’s 144 square inches: 12 inches * 12 inches = 144 inches^2.

Another way to think about it is to put the unit conversion into equation form. We know that 1 foot = 12 inches, so if we wanted the unit conversion from feet^2 to inches^2, we’d have to square both sides of the equation in order to have the appropriate units. Now (1 foot)^2 = (12 inches)^2, or 1 foot^2 = 144 inches^2.  So converting from square feet to square inches requires multiplying by a factor of 144, not 12.

Let’s see this concept in action. (I’m using an older official question to illustrate – I don’t want to rob anyone of the joy of encountering the recently released questions with a fresh pair of eyes.)

If a rectangular room measures 10 meters by 6 meters by 4 meters, what is the volume of the room in cubic centimeters? (1 meter = 100 centimeters)

A) 24,000
B) 240,000
C) 2,400,000
D) 24,000,000
E) 240,000,000

First, we can find the volume of the room by multiplying the dimensions together: 10*6*4 = 240 cubic meters. Now we want to avoid the trap of thinking, “Okay, 100 centimeters is 1 meter, so 240 cubic meters is 240*100 = 24,000 cubic centimeters.”  Remember, the conversion ratio we’re given is for converting meters to centimeters – if we’re dealing with 240 cubic meters, or 240 meters^3, and we want to find the volume in cubic centimeters, we’ll need to adjust our conversion ratio accordingly.

If 1 meter = 100 centimeters, then (1 meter)^3 = (100 centimeters)^3, and 1 meter^3 = 1,000,000 centimeters^3. [100 = 10^2 and (10^2)^3 = 10^6, or 1,000,000.] So if 1 cubic meter = 1,000,000 cubic centimeters, then 240 cubic meters = 240*1,000,000 cubic centimeters, or 240,000,000 cubic centimeters, and our answer is E.

Alternatively, we can do all of our conversions when we’re given the initial dimensions. 10 meters = 1000 centimeters. 6 meters = 600 centimeters. 4 meters  = 400 centimeters. 1000 cm * 600 cm * 400 cm = 240,000,000 cm^3. (Notice that when we multiply 1000*600*400, we can simply count the zeroes. There are 7 total, so we know there will be 7 zeroes in the correct answer, E.)

Takeaway: Make sure you’re able to do unit conversions fluently, and that if you’re dealing with two or three-dimensional space, that you adjust your conversion ratios accordingly. If you’re dealing with a two-dimensional shape, you’ll need to square your initial ratio. If you’re dealing with a three-dimensional shape, you’ll need to cube your initial ratio. The GMAT is just as much about learning what traps to avoid as it is about relearning the elementary math that we’ve long forgotten.

*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 written by him here.

GMAT Tip of the Week: Your Mind Is Playing Tricks On You

GMAT Tip of the WeekOf all the song lyrics of all the hip hop albums of all time, perhaps the one that captures the difficulty of the GMAT the most comes from the Geto Boys:

It’s f-ed up when your mind is playing tricks on you.

The link above demonstrates a handful of ways that your mind can play tricks on you when you’re in the “fog of war” during the GMAT, but here, four Hip Hop Months later in the middle of yet another election season that has many Millennial MBA aspirants feeling the Bern, it’s time to detail one more. Consider this Critical Reasoning problem:

Among the one hundred most profitable companies in the United States, nearly half qualify as “socially responsible companies,” including seven of the top ten most profitable on that list. This designation means that these companies donate a significant portion of their revenues to charity; that they adhere to all relevant environmental and product safety standards; and that their hiring and employment policies encourage commitments to diversity, gender pay equality, and work-life balance.

Which of the following conclusions can be drawn based on the statements above?

(A) Socially responsible companies are, on average, more profitable than other companies.
(B) Consumers prefer to purchase products from socially responsible companies whenever possible.
(C) It is possible for any company to be both socially responsible and profitable.
(D) Companies do not have to be socially responsible in order to be profitable.
(E) Not all socially responsible companies are profitable.

How does your mind play tricks on you here? Check out these statistics from the Veritas Prep Practice Tests:

Socially responsible

When you look at the two most popular answer choices, there’s a stark difference in what they mean outside the context of the problem. The most popular – but incorrect – answer says what you want it to say. You want social responsibility to pay off, for companies to be rewarded for doing the right thing. But it’s the words that don’t appeal to your heart and/or conscience that are the most important on these problems, and the justification for “any company” to be both socially responsible and profitable isn’t there in the argument.

Sure, several companies in the top 10 and top 100 are both socially responsible and profitable, but ANY company means that if you pick any given company, that particular company has to be capable of both. And it may very well be that in certain industries, the profit margins are too slim for that to be possible.

Say, for example, that in one of the commodities markets there simply isn’t any brand equity for social responsibility, and the top competitors are so focused on pushing out competition that any cost outside of productivity would put a company into the red. It’s not a thought you necessarily want to have, but it’s a possible outcome given the prompt, and it invalidates answer (C). Since Inference answers MUST BE TRUE, C just doesn’t meet that standard.

Which brings you to D, the correct but unpopular answer. That’s not what your heart and conscience want to conclude at all – you’d love for there to be a world in which consumers will reject any products from companies that aren’t made by companies taking the moral high ground, but if you look specifically at the facts of the argument, 3 of the top 10 most profitable companies and more than half of the top 100 are not socially responsible. So answer choice D is airtight – it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s definitely true based on the argument.

The lesson? Once you get that MBA you have the opportunity to change the world, but while you’re in the GMAT test center doing Critical Reasoning problems, you can only draw conclusions based on the facts that they give you. Don’t let your outside opinions frame the way that you read the problem. If you know that you have some personal interest in the topic, that’s a sign that you’ll need to be even more literal about what’s written. Your mind can play tricks on you – as it did for nearly half of test-takers here – so know that on test day you have to get it under control.

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

By Brian Galvin.

Success Story Part 3: "The Final Days, and (*eek*)… Results."

(This is the third in a series of blog posts in which Julie DeLoyd, a Veritas Prep GMAT alumna-turned-instructor, will tell the story of her experience through the MBA admissions process. Julie will begin her MBA program at Chicago Booth this fall. You can also read Part 1 and Part 2 to learn Julie’s whole story.)

I had invested 42 hours of summer evenings learning about the ins and outs of the GMAT, and the time finally came for me to do the work on my own. I booked my test date for 5 weeks after my class ended, giving me enough time to go on tour one last time before I really hunkered down.

My band toured the Midwest for about 10 days, driving on vegetable oil fuel and breaking a lot of strings along the way. While another girl was driving, I’d pull out my Veritas Prep books and work on a few problems each day. I wasn’t absorbing too much, honestly, but it was good to keep my GMAT brain active. When I dropped off the girls at the airport, it was time to really get down to business. I set up a study schedule for myself for the last 3 weeks.

21 days to go, with 4 practice tests completed, my schedule looked something like this:
Monday Morning: Sentence Correction
Monday Afternoon: Practice Test

Tuesday Morning:
Go over results of Practice Test
Tuesday Afternoon: Geometry

Wednesday Morning:
Reading Comp
Wednesday Afternoon: Practice test

Thursday Morning:
Go over results of Practice Test
Thursday Afternoon: Critical Reasoning

Friday Morning: Combinatorics and Probability
Friday Afternoon: Problem Solving

Saturday Morning: Practice Test
Saturday Afternoon: Go over results

Sunday: Eat good food, Ride my bike, Spend time with dogs and lovey

Yes, it was a little intense, but it wasn

GMAT Tip of the Week

Make No Mistake

(This is one of a series of GMAT tips that we offer on our blog.)

If you’re serious about GMAT preparation, you have undoubtedly taken (or will take) a series of practice tests to replicate the test experience and work on pacing, stamina, etc. (At Veritas Prep, we offer our students 15 CAT exams, and you can access a free GMAT practice exam on our web site). Most tests have some useful diagnostic features that will demonstrate the time you took on each question, your performance on major question categories, etc. But as you have read in this space previously, one true key to peak performance is to be aware of the errors that you tend to make in particular, and the software isn’t quite advanced enough to highlight those for you.

To better understand your own mistakes in your own way, a simple activity is to go back through 2-3 practice tests that you’ve taken and label each of your mistakes with 4-6 keywords of your own. Examples could include “Data Sufficiency, didn’t forget first statement” or “Strengthen argument, misread conclusion”. The tests themselves may alert you to the fact that you missed, say, 6 of 15 Data Sufficiency questions, but with closer inspection you can determine just which errors you’re making when you do miss them. Then, if you scan those keywords to find repeats (Microsoft Excel can do this pretty easily for you), you’ll have a better idea of just which mistakes you’re prone to making, and you can focus your attention on them.

Your strategy for GMAT success should certainly include become more comfortable with the various skills and question types required, but you’ll likely find that you can increase your score just as significantly by minimizing the errors you tend to make most commonly. Minimize your errors, and maximize your score!

More more help on the GMAT, take a look at Veritas Prep’s GMAT preparation course options.