GMAT Tip of the Week: What Test-Takers Should Be Thankful For

GMAT Tip of the WeekIf you’re spending this Thanksgiving weekend studying for the GMAT in hopes of a monster score for your Round 2 applications, there’s a good chance you’re feeling anything but grateful. At the very least, that practice test kept you inside and away from the hectic horror that has become Black Friday, but it’s understandable that when you spend the weekend thinking more about pronouns than Pilgrims and modifiers than Mayflowers, your introduction to the holiday season has you saying “bah, humbug.”

As you study, though, keep the spirit of Thanksgiving close to your heart. Those who made the first pilgrimage to New England didn’t have it easy, either – Thanksgiving is about being grateful for the small blessings that allowed them to survive in the land of HBS, Yale, Sloan, and Tuck. And the GMAT gives you plenty to be thankful for as you attempt to replicate their journey to the heart of elite academia. This Thanksgiving, GMAT test-takers should be thankful for:

1) Answer Choices

While it’s normal to dislike standardized, multiple-choice tests, those multiple choices are often the key to solving problems efficiently and correctly. They let you know whether you can get away with an estimate, allow you to backsolve or pick numbers to test the choices, and offer you insight into how you should attack the problem (that square root of 3 probably came from a 30-60-90 triangle if you can find it). On the Verbal Section, they allow you to use process of elimination, and particularly on Sentence Correction, to see what the true Decision Points are. A test without answer choices would mean that you’d have to do every problem the long way, but those who know to be thankful for answer choices will often find a competitive advantage.

2) Right Triangles

Right triangles are everywhere on GMAT geometry problems, and learning to use them to your advantage gives you a huge (turkey?) leg up on the competition. Right triangles:

  • Provide you with side ratios, or at least the Pythagorean Theorem
  • Make the base-height combination for the area of a triangle easy (just use the two sides adjacent to the right angle as your base and height)
  • Allow you to use the Pythagorean Theorem to solve for the distance between any two points in the coordinate plane
  • Let you make the greatest difference between any two points in a square, rectangle, cylinder, or box the hypotenuse of a right triangle
  • Help you divide strange shapes into easy-to-solve triangles

Much of GMAT geometry comes down to finding and leveraging right triangles, so thankful that you have that opportunity.

3) Verbs

When there are too many differences between Sentence Correction answer choices, it can be difficult to determine which decision points are most important. One key: look for verbs. When answer choices have different forms of the same verb – whether different tenses or singular-vs.-plural – that’s nearly always a primary decision point and a decision that you can make well using logic. Does the timeline make sense or not? Is the subject singular or plural? Often the savviest test-takers are the ones who save the difficult decisions for last and look for verbs first. Whenever you see different versions of the same verb in the answer choices, be thankful – your job just got easier.

4) “The Other Statement”

Data Sufficiency is a challenging question type, and one that seems to always feature a very compelling trap answer. Very often that trap answer is tempting because:

A statement that didn’t look to be sufficient actually is sufficient.

A statement that looked sufficient actually isn’t.

And that, “Is this tricky statement sufficient or not?” decision is an incredibly difficult one in a vacuum, but the GMAT (thankfully!) gives you a clue: the other statement. When one statement is obvious, its role is often to serve as a clue (“you’d better consider whether you need to know this or not when you look at the other statement”) or a trap (“you actually don’t need this, but when we tempt you with it you’ll think you do”). In either case, the obvious statement is telling you what you need to consider – why would that piece of information matter, or not? So be thankful that Data Sufficiency doesn’t require you to confirm your decision on each statement alone before you get to look at them together; taking the hint from one statement is often the best way to effectively assess the other.

5) Extra Words in Critical Reasoning Conclusions

If you spend any of this holiday weekend watching football, watch what happens when the offense employs the “man in motion” play (having one of the wide receivers run from one side of the offense to the other). Either the defensive player opposite him follows (suggesting man coverage) or he doesn’t (suggesting zone). With the “man in motion”, the offense is probing the defense to see, “What kind of defense are you playing?”. On GMAT Critical Reasoning, extra words in the conclusion serve an almost identical purpose – if you’re looking carefully, you’ll see exactly what’s important to the problem:

Country X therefore has to increase jobs in oil refinement in order to avoid a surge in unemployment. (Why does it have to be refinement? The traps will be about other jobs related to oil but not specifically refinement.)

Therefore, Company Y needs to cut its marketing expenses. (Why marketing and not other kinds of expenses?)

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. (Solely? You can weaken this conclusion by finding just one alternate reason)

For much of the Verbal Section, the more words you have to read, the more difficult your job is to process them all. But on Critical Reasoning, be thankful when you see extra words in the conclusion – those words tell you exactly what game the author is playing.

6) The CAT Algorithm

For many test-takers, the computer-adaptive scoring algorithm is something to be angry or frustrated about, and certainly not something to be thankful for. But if you look from the right angle (and you know we’re already thankful for right angles…) there’s plenty to be happy about, including:

  • You’re allowed to miss questions and make mistakes. The CAT system ensures that everyone sees a challenging test, so everyone will make mistakes. You don’t have to be perfect (and probably shouldn’t try).
  • You get your scores immediately. Talk to your friends taking the LSAT and see how they feel about turning in their answer sheet and then…waiting. In an instant gratification society, the GMAT gives you that instant feedback you crave. Do well and celebrate; do worse than you thought and immediately start game-planning the next round while it’s fresh in your mind.
  • It favors the prepared. You’re reading a GMAT blog during your spare time… you’ll be among those who prepare! The pacing is tricky since you can’t return to problems later, but remember that everyone takes the same test. If you’ve prepared and have a good sense of how to pace yourself, you’ll do better than those who are surprised by the setup and don’t plan accordingly. An overall disadvantage can still be a terrific competitive advantage, so as you’re looking for GMAT-themed things to be thankful for, keep your preparation in mind and be thankful that you’re working harder than your competition and poised to see the rewards!

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.

Happy Thanksgiving from Veritas Prep!

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the past year, give thanks for all the good that is in your life… and be completely stressed out. Between gathering ingredients to roast the perfect turkey, formulating your plan of attack for Black Friday shopping, arranging your holiday decorations (Didn’t we just finish Halloween?), and mentally preparing yourself to interact with family members you may or may not be excited to see, add to that the stress of preparing for your educational future.

Whether you are studying to take the GMAT, GRE, SAT or ACT, or are tweaking your dream school application for the tenth time, the holidays are most certainly not the most relaxing time of the year.

At Veritas Prep, we’d like to make your holidays just a little less stressful by offering you our biggest discounts of the year for Black Friday: starting November 27, for an entire week, you can save up to $1,000 on test prep and admissions consulting services from Veritas Prep! This sale won’t last forever, so check out our discounts here and take advantage of the savings before it’s too late!

From everyone at Veritas Prep, we’d like to take this opportunity to express how thankful we are for our amazing students, instructors, admissions consultants, and staff that we are fortunate to be able to work with every day. We hope that wherever you are in the world, that you have a wonderful holiday weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!


What We’re Thankful For

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For whatever reason, there seems to be a little more emphasis on people pausing at Thanksgiving to truly consider what we’re thankful for this season. This is great news. While we all can get caught up in the stress of trying to get ahead at work or (if you’re reading this blog) trying to get into a world-class graduate school, it’s healthy to stop now and then and realize just how good most of us have it.

Whether you’re young or old, big or small, you probably have something in your life that makes you want to give thanks. Do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes to think about it before you enter a tryptophan-induced coma today.

Earlier this week my two-year-old daughter’s daycare lady asked her what she’s thankful for, and she answered, in the following order:
  1. Toys
  2. School
  3. Daddy
  4. Mommy

In my case, I’m just thankful that I made the list, although my wife was less thankful for coming in fourth. “Hey, you made the list!” I told her. She didn’t answer. I guess I’m thankful I didn’t end up sleeping on the couch.

Anyway, as a father I’m thankful for my healthy young family. And as a member of the Veritas Prep team, I’m thankful for the hundreds of amazing GMAT instructors and admissions consultants that we have all over the world. While I don’t get to see most of them very often, I know that they care about helping our GMAT students and admissions consulting clients as much as I do, and I’m thankful that they’re there to get the job done.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

GMAT Tip of the Week

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Cleanse Your Palate

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

If you’re one of our many American readers, you’re most likely salivating at the though of Thursday’s Thanksgiving meal, already planning how to make room on your plate for a drumstick, a scoop of potatoes carefully depressed in to a self-containing gravy bowl, a portion-and-a-half of Aunt Joan’s sweet potato casserole, and enough vegetables to round out the plate to not appear entirely unconcerned with eating healthy. Ultimately, your carefully planned plate will all blend together in to one pile of mashed-everything, with gravy running in to cranberry sauce that is essentially a paste holding together kernels of corn and pieces of marshmallow from the already-devoured sweet potatoes.

GMAT Tip of the Week

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

Happy Thanksgiving! Today marks, hopefully, at least for the economy’s sake, the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States, complete with hectic parking lots, long lines, and potentially-significant savings. In fact, it’s a lot like your GMAT test date will be – stressful and frantic with the hope of a big payoff…but also with the potential to waste a lot of time and energy for naught.

On test day you’ll have multiple opportunities to waste your time where there is a decreasing potential return on certain questions, just as you may find this morning that you can wait in line for hours for a “Doorbuster Special” only to find that the fine print “while supplies last” caveat was met long before you reached the front.

Timing on the GMAT can be crucial, so let your internal clock conscience help you realize when to cut a failing investment of time. Perhaps the easiest clock management error one can make is to sink 5-6 minutes in to an incorrect answer, only to realize by the next question that the ticking clock is now a major factor for the rest of the exam. To combat this, once your conscience kicks in to tell you that “you’ve spent a long time on this question”, mentally fast-forward approximately 30 seconds. In that time, do you see yourself solving the problem or arriving at a correct answer? Or do you think that you could give yourself twice that time and still be unsure of where you stand?

If it’s the former, even if you’ve already invested too much time, finish the question and know that you’re at least investing that time in a correct answer to a probably-difficult problem. If you’re that close to a correct answer, don’t cut your losses…you can still win! If it’s the latter, know that an educated guess at that point is still a 33 or 50% chance of a correct answer, and that the next question should be well within your reach if you’ve saved enough time to work through it.

Overall, to achieve a proper personal pacing strategy, you should plan to take several practice tests. At the very least, know that you can afford to sink some time in to questions you’ll ultimately answer correctly, but that you can’t lose time on questions that you just won’t get.