GMAT Tip of the Week: Making Your GMAT Score SupeRIOr to Ryan Lochte’s

GMAT Tip of the WeekWhat’s the worst thing that can happen on your GMAT exam? Is it running out of time well before you’re done? Or blanking on nearly every math formula you’ve studied?

Whatever it is, it can’t be nearly as bad as being pulled over by fake cops – no lights or nothing, just a badge – then being told to get on the ground and having a gun placed on your forehead and being like, “whatever.” So your big event of 2016 will already go a lot better than Ryan Lochte’s did; you have that going for you.

What else do you have going for you on the GMAT? The ability to learn from the most recent few days of Lochte’s life. Lochte’s biggest mistake wasn’t vandalizing a gas station bathroom at 4am, but rather making up his own story and creating an even larger mess. And that’s a huge lesson that you need to keep in mind for the GMAT:

Don’t make up your own story.

Here’s what that means, on three major question types:

DATA SUFFICIENCY
People make up their own story on Data Sufficiency all the time. And like a prevailing theory about Lochte (he didn’t connect the vandalism of the bathroom to the men coming after him for restitution; he really did think that he had been robbed for no reason), it’s not that they’re intentionally lying. They’re just “conveniently” misremembering what they’ve read or connecting dots that weren’t actually connected in real life. Consider the question:

The product of consecutive integers a, b, c, and d is 5040. What is the value of integer d?

(1) d is prime
(2) d < c < b < a

Once people have factored 5040 into 7*8*9*10, they can then quickly recognize that Statement 1 is sufficient: the only prime number in that bunch is 7, so d must be 7. But then when it comes to Statement 2, they’ve often made up their own story. By saying “d is the smallest, and, yep, that’s 7!” they’re making up the fact that these consecutive integers are positive. That was not specifically stated! So it could be 7, 8, 9, and 10 or it could be -7, -8, -9, and -10, making d either -10 or 7. And the GMAT (maybe like an NBC interviewer?) makes it easy for you to make up your own story.

With Statement 1, prime numbers must be positive, so if you weren’t already thinking only about positives, the question format nudges you further in that direction. The answer is A when people often mistakenly choose D, and the reason is that the question makes it easy for you to make up your own story when looking at Statement 2. So before you submit an answer, always ask yourself, “Am I only using the facts explicitly provided to me, or am I somehow making up my own story?”

CRITICAL REASONING
Think of your friends who are good storytellers. We hate to break it to you, but they’re probably making at least 10-20% of those stories up. Which makes sense. “It was a pretty big fish,” is a lot less compelling than, “It was the biggest fish any of us had ever seen!” Case in point, the Olympics themselves.

No commentator this week has said that Michael Phelps, Lochte’s teammate, is “a really good swimmer.” They’re posing, “Is he the greatest athlete of all time?” because words that end in -st capture attention (and pageviews). Even Lochte was guilty of going overly-specific for dramatic effect: there was, indeed, a gun pointed at his taxi, but not resting on his forehead. His version just makes the story more exciting and dramatic…and you may very well be guilty of such a mistake on the GMAT. Consider:

About two million years ago, lava dammed up a river in western Asia and caused a small lake to form. The lake existed for about half a million years. Bones of an early human ancestor were recently found in the ancient lake bottom sediments on top of the layer of lava. Therefore, ancestors of modern humans lived in Western Asia between 2 million and 1.5 million years ago.

Which one of the following is an assumption required by the argument?

(A) There were not other lakes in the immediate area before the lava dammed up the river.
(B) The lake contained fish that the human ancestors could have used for food.
(C) The lava under the lake-bottom sediments did not contain any human fossil remains.
(D) The lake was deep enough that a person could drown in it.
(E) The bones were already in the sediments by the time the lake disappeared.

The correct answer here is E (if the bones were not already there, then they’re not good evidence that people were there during that time), but the popular trap answer is C. Consider what would happen if C were untrue: that means that there were human fossil remains that pre-date the time period in question.

But here’s where Lochte Logic is dangerous: you’re not trying to prove that the FIRST humans lived in this period at this time; you’re just trying to prove that humans lived here during that time. And whether or not there were fossils from 2.5 million or 4 million years ago doesn’t change that you still have this evidence of people in that 2 million-1.5 million years ago timeframe.

When people choose C, it’s almost always because they made up their own story about the argument – they read it as, “The earliest human ancestors lived in this place and time,” and that’s just not what’s given. Why do they do that? For Lochte’s very own reasons: it makes the story a little more interesting and a little more favorable.

After all, the average pre-MBA doesn’t spend much time reading about archaeology, but if some discovery is that level of exciting (We’ve discovered the first human! We’ve discovered evidence of aliens!) then it crosses your Facebook/Twitter feeds. You’re used to reading stories about the first/fastest/greatest/last, and so when you get dry subject matter your mind has a tendency to put those words in there subconsciously. Be careful – do not make up your own story about the conclusion!

READING COMPREHENSION
A similar phenomenon occurs with Reading Comprehension. When you read a long passage, your mind tends to connect dots that aren’t there as it fills in the rest of the story for you. Just like Lochte, who had to fill in the gap of, “Hey what would I have said if someone pointed a gun at me and told me to get on the ground? Oh right…’whatever’ is my default answer for most things,” your mind will start to fill in details that make logical sense.

The problem then comes when you’re asked an Inference question, for which the correct answer must be true based on the passage. For example, if two details in a passage are:

  1. Michael swam the fastest race of his life.
  2. Ryan’s race was one of the slowest he’s ever swam.

You might answer the question, “Which of the following is a conclusion that can be drawn from the passage?” with:

(A) Michael swam faster than Ryan.

Your mind – particularly amidst a lot of other text between those two facts – wants to logically arrange those two swims together, and with “fastest” for Michael and “slowest” for Ryan, it kind of seems logical that Michael was faster. But those two races are never compared directly to each other. Consider that if Michael and Ryan aren’t Phelps and Lochte, but rather filmmaker Michael Moore and Olympic champion Ryan Lochte, then of course Lochte’s slowest swim would still be way, way faster than Moore’s fastest.

Importantly, Reading Comprehension questions love to bait unwitting test-takers with comparisons as answer choices, knowing that your mind is primed to create your own story and draw comparisons that are probably true, but just not proven. So again, any time you’re faced with an answer that seems obvious, go back and ask yourself if the details you’re using were provided to you, or if instead, you’re making up your own story.

So learn a valuable lesson from Ryan Lochte and avoid making up your own story, sticking only to the clean facts of the matter. Stay true to the truth, and you’ll walk out of the test center saying “Jeah!”

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

By Brian Galvin.

How to Improve Your GMAT Verbal Score

books_stackedIn order to get into business school, applicants have to fulfill a number of requirements. One of those requirements is to submit a GMAT score. Perhaps you’ve taken the GMAT and you’re dissatisfied with the score you received on the Verbal section of the test. Naturally, you want to do everything possible to achieve your best score on every section of the test. Check out some tips on how to improve GMAT Verbal score results and impress admissions officials:

Complete a Timed Practice Test for the Verbal Section
People who want to learn how to improve Verbal GMAT scores can benefit from taking practice tests. You’re given 75 minutes to complete 41 questions in the Verbal section. This seems like a long time, but the minutes can disappear quickly if you spend too much time on one question.

Perhaps you missed some questions while rushing to finish on time. A timed practice test can help you to get into the habit of answering each question within a certain number of minutes. Once you establish a test-taking rhythm for the verbal section, you can focus on each question instead of worrying about the clock. At Veritas Prep, you can practice for the GMAT by taking our free test. We provide you with a performance analysis and score report that can help you determine which skills need the most improvement.

Think Like a Professional in the Business World
It can be helpful to examine your approach to the questions in the Verbal section. Someone who takes the GMAT is on a path to earning an MBA and working in the business world. Successful business people know how to evaluate a problem as well as possible options to find the most effective solution. They also know how to disregard information that doesn’t serve any purpose in the problem-solving process. Having the mindset of a business professional can help you successfully answer each question in the Verbal section. Our online and in-person prep courses teach students a new way to approach questions so they can improve GMAT Verbal scores.

Read the Passages for the Reading Comprehension Questions
Some test-takers look at the Reading Comprehension questions in the Verbal section and decide to save time by skimming through the passages. When you do this, it’s difficult to get an understanding of what the author of the passage is trying to convey. Furthermore, many Reading Comprehension questions relate to the main idea, tone, and structure of a passage. Consequently, it’s worth putting aside time to thoroughly read each passage so you can get a clear picture of what the author is trying to convey. Students who work with a Veritas Prep tutor learn what to look for and what to disregard when reading passages in this section.

Look for the Logic in Critical Reasoning Questions
Those who want to know how to improve GMAT Verbal score results may want to focus some attention on their Critical Reasoning skills. Looking for logic is the key to arriving at the correct answers to these questions.

At first glance, many of the answer options can seem like the correct choice. Some of the answer choices may even contain words that are in the passage. But the presence of those words doesn’t necessarily mean that an option is correct. Look for an answer option that follows the same line of logic as the passage itself. It is also helpful to rule out answer options that definitely do not follow along with the argument in the passage. Careful evaluation of each answer option can help to improve GMAT verbal scores.

Dedicate More Time to Outside Reading
Spending some of your free time reading financial magazines and newspapers can help you boost your score on the Verbal section. Reading these materials gives you the opportunity to practice the same skills you’ll use on Reading Comprehension questions. Also, it helps you get into the habit of becoming an active reader and drawing conclusions as you go. In addition, reading financial publications adds to your overall knowledge of the business world.

Many prospective MBA students who want to know how to improve verbal GMAT scores turn to the experienced instructors at Veritas Prep. Why? Because we hire instructors who scored in the 99th percentile on the test. Students learn how to raise their scores from tutors who have hands-on experience with this challenging exam. Contact our offices at Veritas Prep today and let us guide you to your best performance on the GMAT.

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Answer ACT Reading Questions By Matching the Author’s Tone to the Answer Choices

ReflectingOne of the best ways to attack the Reading Section on the ACT is to look for reasons to eliminate answer choices. In other words, rather than try to find evidence for each answer choice to determine whether or not it is correct, you can identify reasons as to why you can eliminate answer choices because they are incorrect.

In this post, I’ll be covering one easy trick you can use to eliminate at least one answer choice on a surprisingly high number of questions in the ACT Reading Section – matching the author’s tone to the choices. Quickly read the following excerpt:

Russian author Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, perhaps better known as Leo Tolstoy, is largely considered the most prolific Russian novelist in history. Most famous for his two long novels War and Peace, which he penned in 1869, and Anna Karenina, which he wrote in 1877, Tolstoy was a master of realistic fiction. While not the beginning of his literary career, his rise to prominence began when he accounted his experiences in the Crimean War with Sevastopol Sketches, his first acclaimed work. Soon after, between 1855 and 1858, he published a self-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, recounting through fictional characters his own childhood with a sentimentality he later rebuffed as poor writing. Toward the end of his life, Tolstoy became more of a moral thinker and social reformer, transitioning from poplar novelist to evangelical essayist.

Even after a quick read-through, you should be able to describe the author’s tone. (And if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, now is the time to start!) That is, you should be able to ask yourself, “Is the author’s tone laudatory? Is it critical? Is it neutral? Is it persuasive?” and so on. In short, you should have a general sense of whether or not the author has a positive, negative, or neutral stance towards their subject, and you should also have a sense of the degree – i.e. is the author strongly critical, or do they just have some reservations?

Now, go ahead and write down what you think the author’s tone is in the above excerpt.

In this case, the author’s tone is laudatory, as the author calls Tolstoy “prolific” and  a “master of realistic fiction.” So, keep in mind that descriptive terms – adjectives, descriptive phrases, and the like – will clue you in on what the author’s tone is.

Now that we’ve identified the author’s tone, take a look at the following question*:

According to the passage, it could be concluded that the novel War and Peace was:

(A) The first of Leo Tolstoy’s works to be published.
(B) Leo Tolstoy’s last novel of any cultural or literary significance.
(C) Written by Leo Tolstoy after he wrote his self-autobiographical trilogy.
(D) Written by Leo Tolstoy using inspirations from his experience in the Crimean War.

Without rereading the passage, I can immediately eliminate one of the answer choices. Why?  Because it is distinctly different than the author’s tone. The author is praising Tolstoy, so answer choice B, which comes off as critical (Saying that the book is Tolstoy’s last novel of any cultural or literary significance is pretty dang snarky!), couldn’t be the correct answer.

Let’s use this strategy again on a few more questions. First, read the following excerpt and identify the author’s tone:

“A handicapped child represents a qualitative different, unique type of development… If a blind child or a deaf child achieves the same level of development as a normal child, then the child with a defect achieves this in another way, by another course, by another means; and, for the pedagogue, it is particularly important to know the uniqueness of the course along which he must lead the child. This uniqueness transforms the minus of a handicap into the plus of compensation.”

That such radical adaptions could occur demanded, Luria thought, a new view of the brain, a sense of it not as programmed and static, but rather as dynamic and active, a supremely efficient adaptive system geared for evolution and change, ceaselessly adapting to the needs of the organism – its need, above all, to construct a coherent self and world, whatever defects or disorders of brain functions befell it. That the brain is minutely differentiated is clear: there are hundreds of tiny areas crucial for every aspect of perception and behavior. The miracle is how they all cooperate, are integrated together, in the creation of a self.

In this passage, the author’s tone is positive. The author uses the words  “dynamic,” “active” and “miracle,” and cites another author (in the first paragraph) who uses the word “unique.” Thus, these descriptive phrases allow me to conclude that the author takes a positive tone towards his or her subjects of handicaps and the brain.

Now, let’s take a look at some questions. The goal of this exercise is simply to notice what answer choices we can eliminate (not what the correct answers are) without rereading by simply noticing which tones of the answer choices does not match the tone of the author.

The author’s main purpose in the second paragraph is to show:

(A) how he has come to think differently about the brain.
(B) why sickness often causes a contraction of life.
(C) when he had made new discoveries about the brain.
(D) which of his subjects helped him redefine the term “norm.”

With just a quick look at this question, I can immediately eliminate answer choice B. This option takes a negative tone towards sickness, which is clearly out of line with the author’s tone.

Simple enough! Let’s try another question:

The quotation in the first paragraph is used in this passage to support the idea that:

(A) children with handicaps should be studied in the same way as children defined by physicians as “normal.”
(B) deficits need to demonstrate intactness in order to be judged acceptable.
(C) neural or sensory mishap occurs in children as well as adults.
(D) development of children with handicaps may proceed in positive yet quite distinctive ways.

Once again, you will notice that the tone of one of the answer choices stands out as distinctly different from the author’s tone: answer choice B is unusually harsh in tone (judging a deficit “acceptable” comes off as rather cold, if not outright inhumane), so I can make the decision, even without rereading the quote, to eliminate B.

The more adept you get at noting the author’s tone, the more naturally this strategy will come to you. So, next time you do a practice reading section, try incorporating this strategy into your studies.

*Note that I can use the matching tone strategy on these questions because they all reference the purpose of the author (namely, they begin with the phrases “according to the passage,” “the author’s main purpose,” “the quotation is used in this passage to support,” etc.). However, if the questions had asked about a different point of view than the author’s, I wouldn’t be able to use this strategy.

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By Rita Pearson

GMAT Tip of the Week

Practice The Way You Play

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

Sports Illustrated ran an interesting article this week about Barack Obama and the influence that the game of basketball has had on his political career. The implication — and some theorize one of the reasons that he won in the hoops-heavy states of Indiana and North Carolina — is that he governs the way he plays: getting others involved, playing defense with discipline, making the smart play, etc.

What does this mean for your GMAT preparation? You, too, can learn to be more effective by taking a lesson from the game of basketball. One of the most important disciplines in basketball (sorry, Shaq) is shooting free throws, as most close games are decided at the end at the foul line. For this reason, basketball coaches everywhere adhere to the practice that the best time for players to practice free throws is at the end of practice, after running sprints. At this point, they can simulate the feeling of shooting those important late-game shots – when they’re tired, their hands are sweaty, their legs are heavy, and their heart rate is pounding. It simply doesn’t make a great deal of sense to practice free throws at the beginning of practice while they’re fresh and energized, as the most important such shots they will take just won’t take place in that environment.

On the GMAT, you will face Reading Comprehension passages only near the end of the exam — after you’ve written AWA essays for an hour and spent 75 minutes grinding through the Quantitative section. At least one difficult Reading Comprehension passage will face you after you have been testing for over three hours, at which point you will need to be able to focus on a dense, four-paragraph essay on quasars, or a comparative study of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, or an analysis of the history of vaccination. At this point, simply staying focused may be your biggest challenge, as your mind will have been stretched in multiple directions throughout the course of the exam.

This is why it is important to take a lesson from the all-time great basketball coaches and practice the way that you’ll perform on test day. Study Reading Comprehension at the end of your normal study sessions – after you’ve worked through an hour or two of Data Sufficiency or Sentence Correction. Sure, it may seem almost enjoyable to pick up a Reading Comprehension book on a lazy Sunday morning in an easy chair with a fresh cup of coffee (perhaps with Lionel Richie’s “Easy Like Sunday Morning” in the background), but you won’t receive the same benefit of needing to stay focused while exhausted and distracted. If you discipline yourself to practice GMAT Reading Comprehension questions while tired, you will develop skills to read effectively under duress, and by doing so feel much more comfortable when you face tedious passages late in the exam on test day.

For more help on the GMAT, visit Veritas Prep to find a prep course near you.