GMAT Tip of the Week: Test Day Should Not Be Labor Day

GMAT Tip of the WeekAs we head into the Labor Day weekend here in the U.S., it seems a fitting time to talk about labor.  Precious few people consider the GMAT to be a labor of love; to most aspiring (and perspiring?) MBAs, the GMAT is a lot of hard work.  And while, to earn the score that you’re hoping for, it’s likely that you’ll have to put in a good amount of sweat and a few tears (but hopefully no blood…), it’s important to recognize that test day itself should not be a Labor Day!

Your hard work should take place well before you get to the test center, so that on test day you’re not overworking yourself.  Working too hard on test day takes time (which is a precious resource on the exam), saps your mental energy (which also tends to be in short supply as you get later into the test with only two 8-minute breaks to recharge), and leads to errors.  Accordingly, here are a few tips to help you take the heavy labor out of your test day:

1. Only do the math you absolutely have to do.

The GMAT rewards efficiency and ingenuity, and has been known to set up problems that can be awful if done “by the book” but relatively smooth if you recognize common patterns.  For example:

  • Answers are assets! If the math looks like it’s going to get messy, look at the answer choices.  If they’re really far apart, you may be able to estimate after just a step or two.  Or if the answer choices are really “clean” numbers (0, 1, 10…these are really easy numbers with which to perform calculations) you may be able to plug them into the problem and backsolve without any algebra.
  • Don’t multiply until you’ve divided. Working step by step through a problem, you may see that you have to multiply, say, 51 by 18.  Which is an ugly thing to have to do for two reasons: that calculation will take time by hand, and it will leave you with a new number that will be hard to work with for the following step.  But the next step might be to divide by 34.  If you save the multiplication (just call it (51)(18) and don’t actually perform the step), then you can divide by 2 and 17.  Which works out pretty cleanly: 51/17 is 3 and 18/2 is 9, so now you’re just multiplying 3 by 9 and the answer has to be 27.   The GMAT goes heavy on divisibility, so keep in mind that you’ll do a lot of division on this test…meaning that it usually makes sense to wait to multiply until after you’ve seen what you’ll have to divide by.
  • Think in terms of number properties. Often you can determine quickly whether the answer has to be even or odd, or whether it has to be positive or negative, or what the first or last digit will be.  If you’ve made those determinations, quickly scan the answer choices and see how many fit those criteria.  If only one does, you’re done.  And if 2-3 do but they’re easier to plug in to the problem or to estimate between, then you can avoid doing the actual math.

2. Don’t take too many notes.

Particularly with Reading Comprehension passages, GMAT test-takers on average take far too many notes.  This hurts you for two reasons: first, it’s time consuming, and on a question type that’s already time consuming by nature.  And second, very few of the notes that people take are useful. People tend to take notes on details – you generally write down what you don’t think you’ll remember – but the test will typically only ask you about one detail per passage.  And the passage stays on the screen the whole time, so if you need to find a detail it’s just as easy to find it on the screen as it is in your notes (plus you’ll want to read the exact way that it was written, which your notes won’t necessarily have).  So use your time wisely: use your initial read of the passage to get a feel for the general direction of the passage, and then you’ll know which area/paragraph to go back to if and when you do need to find the details.

3. Stay flexible.

The GMAT is a test that rewards “mental agility,” meaning that it often designs problems that look like they should be solved one way (say, algebra) but quickly become labor-intensive that way and then reward those who are able to quickly change approaches (maybe to backsolving or picking numbers).  When it looks like you’ve just set yourself up for a massive amount of work, take a quick step back and re-analyze.  At this point are the answer choices more helpful?  Should you abandon your number-picking and go back to doing the algebra?  Does re-reading the question allow you to set it up differently?  Generally speaking, if the math starts to get labor-intensive you’re missing a better method.  So let that be your catalyst for re-assessing.

As you sit down to take the GMAT (to get into a great business school to become a more valuable member of the labor force), those 4 hours you spend at the test center probably won’t be a labor of love.  But they shouldn’t be full of labor, anyway.  Heed this advice to lighten your labor and the GMAT just might feel like more of a day off than anything (like, you know, Labor Day).

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

By Brian Galvin

5 Reasons That Studying for the GMAT Sucks

GMATLet’s face it. Except for the folks who write the test and prepare you for the test, no one really loves the GMAT. Any anyone who tells you otherwise either scored an 800 with no prep or is lying.

But self-inflicted misery loves company, so in no particular order, let’s take a look at some of the things that suck and more importantly, how to cope:

 

  • Integrated Reasoning (IR) : It was introduced a few years ago, and even though multiple surveys and studies show it does correlate well with skills needed to succeed in business and the corporate world, schools still seem to have varying opinions on its value and how best to use it in the admissions process. For now, think of IR as the appetizer or warm-up. It’s tough, but it’s 30 minutes and can serve as a solid warmup before tackling the tougher ‘main course’ of quant and verbal. You wouldn’t start sprinting out of the gates in a race; treat the GMAT the same way, and if you bank some early points, that can’t hurt either.
  • AWA: Similar to IR, it doesn’t factor into your Total score, and schools differ on how they evaluate the essay. That being said, consider it a pre-pre-warm up, and more importantly, remember that schools can download a copy of your essay when they view your scores. So it’s important to put forth your best effort (now is NOT the time to challenge authority and write what you truly think of the GMAT or B school admissions process) and treat it as another writing sample that schools can use to evaluate your brilliance and creativity under pressure. Also, if English isn’t your first language, it’s absolutely going to be leveraged as an additional writing sample.
  • Data Sufficiency: This isn’t math, at least not in the sense that you’re used to seeing. What happened to the two trains leaving from separate stations and determining where they’ll meet? While that’s more problem solving, data sufficiency is important for schools to gauge your decision making abilities when you have limited or inaccurate information In a perfect world, you could make informed decisions with an infinite amount of time and all of the necessary details. But the world isn’t ideal, and like the cliché says, time is money. So data sufficiency quantifies what schools want to see: can you discern at what point do you have enough information to make an informed decision or at what point do you not have enough information and need to walk away.
  • Getting up early/Staying up late/Giving up Happy Hour aka Time Suck: We’ve all heard of FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” You’re likely going to have to make FOMO your new BFF while you’re preparing. In order to get the score you want, it’s important to put forth the effort. Just like training for a marathon or triathlon, you can’t take shortcuts or it’ll show on race day, and only you truly know the full measure of the effort you’re putting forth. So before you even start studying, make sure you’re mapping out a 3-4 month window where you know you can truly carve out time on a daily (regular!) basis to prepare, and more importantly, dedicate quality time to preparation.
  • Expenses!: The GMAT is expensive! And so is preparation! But if you think about it compared to the investment you’re about to make in your future and your long-term earnings potential, $250 for the test, $20 in bus fare/gas/transportation, and $50 for a celebratory steak after you crush it is a drop in the bucket. In life, there are absolutely times you should clip coupons, look for a better value and skimp on the extras. This is not one of them. Consider the GMAT the first step in a much larger investment in yourself.

It’s not rocket science (if it was, that might be the MCAT, not the GMAT), but it is important to recognize and embrace the challenges of this process. If it was easy, there would be far more individuals taking the GMAT every year (though nearly 250,000 is some decently sized competition). And one day while you’re studying, you’ll realize that while you don’t necessarily love it, the “studying for the GMAT sucks” factor is not quite as strong as it once was.   Take that as your reminder to keep your eye on the end game and keep plugging away. Your former self will thank you down the road.

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

By Joanna Graham

3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Crafting Your MBA Applications

Business SchoolApplying to business school is one of the most involved application processes in graduate education. Other programs focus on standardized tests, or your academic record and others your professional accomplishments but business schools evaluate all aspects of a candidate’s profile. With so much on the table for evaluation it can be easy for an applicant to come up short in one or more different areas.

However, often times what many candidates think their shortcomings are differs from the actual reality of how admissions teams view their applications. Applicants tend to obsess over GMAT scores and how senior their recommenders are but overlook a few simple application necessities.

Let’s focus on a few of these common MBA application mistakes that candidates make:

1) School Knowledge

You would think this would be an obvious area a candidate would focus on when committing so much time to an application, but this tends to be an area that is often neglected. The source of this typically comes from a few different places. The most common is time, when a candidate is applying to multiple schools, school research is one of the first areas that is neglected. When applying to business school a one size fits all approach is not the strategy a competitive applicant should take. MBA programs are looking for applicants who make a strong case for why their school is the ideal place to further their business education, so each application should be tailored appropriately from scratch.

2) Fit

A similar application mistake many candidates make is not showing enough fit with their target programs. Breakthrough candidates will not only select programs that make sense given their development goals but also curate an application that makes this fit obvious. If the school selection process is executed properly then the application creation should be much easier. Make sure to identify academic programs, coursework, clubs, and career opportunities that are unique to the target program.

3) Attention to Detail

This key area truly pervades every aspect of the application process and I would argue is one of the easiest ways to make a negative impression with the admissions committee. When creating an application, candidates should strive to make the best impression possible and anything that detracts from this diminishes the chance of admission. Issues like spelling mistakes, not following application directions, typos, and general carelessness create the wrong impression for a candidate in a very competitive process. Even candidates with great profiles can marginalize their chances by showing a lack of attention to detail which can turn an “admit” into a “waitlist” or “ding.”

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

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

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

Kellogg School of ManagementApplication season at the Kellogg School of Management is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

With all of your essays for Kellogg, treat your responses holistically and try to paint a complete picture of your candidacy within the school specific suite of essay questions.

 

Essay 1:

Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)

This is a hybrid “leadership” / “teamwork” essay that should come as no surprise coming from Kellogg. In fact this essay is similar to past incarnations at the notoriously teamwork driven program. One nuance to this reputation is that internally Kellogg views itself as a developer of leaders of teams not just team players, so this essay prompt strikes at the core of the mission of the program.

Historically, Kellogg has been as good as any other program at allowing students to tell their story with very specific and detailed essay prompts. Take the opportunity to share your perspective on a leadership story that has a little “bite” to it. Many candidates will share a leadership story and answer the individual questions as posed in the prompt. Breakthrough candidates will put the admissions committee right in the middle of the story via an introspective narrative that details the conflict inherent in any leadership challenge.

Also, a great essay will most definitely include references to people dynamics and how the candidate as a leader was able to evangelize the team. Just because there is not a direct individual question about teamwork in the prompt does not mean this should not be discussed – the first sentence of the prompt should be clue enough of your direction for this essay.

Essay 2:

Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)

This essay is Kellogg’s take on the common “Why MBA” / “Why School X” essay. But with Kellogg you should always expect to go a bit deeper. Kellogg is looking for you to share a bit about your past, present and future and what makes Kellogg such an integral part of your planned journey. Program specifics will be key here so make sure you do your research and identify professional, academic, and social aspects of the program that will be integral to you reaching your development goals.

Breakthrough candidates will be introspective throughout their response to this essay reflecting on how they have reached the point of applying to Kellogg and what the path forward looks like as a Kellogg MBA.

These are just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Kellogg, and hopefully they will help you get started. For more thoughts on the essays and deadlines for this year, click here for another post.

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

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

Thoughts on MIT Sloan’s Application Essay for 2015-2016

MITApplication season at MIT Sloan is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

There is only one essay question for MIT Sloan so it is critical that applicants make the most of the limited real estate available here.

Essay 1:

Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have? (500 words or fewer)

MIT Sloan’s only essay this year falls into the category of an “accomplishment” essay. However, this essay is a bit more multifaceted than the typical “accomplishment” essay so this is a prompt applicants should read through a few times before diving in.

First thing’s first, make sure you follow the rules of the prompt. Nothing turns the admissions committee off faster than a candidate who does not answer the question as prescribed. Sloan is looking for a RECENT success so avoid examples that are too far in the past no matter how impressive. The subsequent clarifying questions in the prompt should signal the method by which Sloan is looking to hear your response.

Don’t fall into the trap of just telling the admissions committee how the success happened. Breakthrough candidates will show not tell the process behind the identified success. Your goal should be to have the reader feel like a “fly on the wall” in the story of your success. Bring the reader into the moment and your thought process as you introspectively recount the relevant business challenges and situations encountered during this experience.

Also, as you move to wrap this essay up try to quantify your impact as much as possible. For some accomplishments it will be easier than others, but a school like Sloan is looking for real impact so don’t shy away from the numbers here if possible. Why a specific accomplishment is relevant to you may not be immediately clear to the reader so make sure to highlight the significance of your recent success.

Finally, your essay topic along with all other elements of your application package should be aligned with the core values of the Sloan MBA. Review these tenets before you finalize your topic and make sure you are crafting your response to this essay with these values in mind.

These are just a few thoughts on the essay from MIT. Hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Sloan’s deadlines and essays, check out another post here.

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

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

The Importance of Estimation on the GMAT

SciNotationIn the first session of every new class I teach, I try to emphasize the power and effectiveness of estimating when dealing with potentially complex calculations. No one ever disputes that this is a good approach, but an unspoken assumption is that while you may save a bit of time by estimating, it isn’t absolutely crucial to do so. After all, how long does it take to do a little arithmetic? The problem is that, under pressure, hard arithmetic can cause us to freeze. To illustrate this, I’ll ask, “quick, what’s 1.3 divided by 3.2?” This is usually greeted by blank stares or nervous laughter. But when I ask “okay, what’s 1 divided by 3?” they see the point: trying to solve 1.3/3.2 won’t just be time-consuming, but can easily lead to a careless mistake prompted by arithmetical paralysis.

I didn’t make up that 1.3/3.2 calculation. It comes directly from an official question, and it’s quite clearly designed to elicit the panicked response it usually gets when I ask it in class. Here is the full question:

The age of the Earth is approximately 1.3 * 10^17 seconds, and one year is approximately 3.2 * 10^7 seconds. Which of the following is closest to the age of the Earth in years?

  1. 5 * 10^9
  2. 1 * 10^9
  3. 9 * 10^10
  4. 5 * 10^11
  5. 1 * 10^11

Most test-takers quickly see that in order to convert from seconds to years, we have to perform the following calculation: 1.3 * 10^17 seconds * 1 year/3.2 * 10^ 7 seconds or (1.3 * 10^17)/(3.2 * 10^ 7.)

It’s here when many test-takers freeze. So let’s estimate. We’ll round 1.3 down to 1, and we’ll round 3.2 down to 3. Now we’re calculating or (1* 10^17)/(3 * 10^ 7.) We can rewrite this expression as (1/3) * (10^17)/(10^7.) This becomes .333  * 10^10. If we borrow a 10 from 10^10, we’ll get 3.33 * 10^9. We know that this number is a little smaller than the correct answer, because we rounded the numerator down from 1.3 to 1, and this was a larger change than the adjustment we made to the denominator. If 3.33 * 10^9 is a little smaller than the correct answer, the answer must be B.  (Similarly, if we were to estimate 13/3, we’d see that the number is a little bigger than 4.)

This strategy will work just as well on tough Data Sufficiency questions:

If it took Carlos ½ hour to cycle from his house to the library yesterday, was the distance that he cycled greater than 6 miles? (1 mile = 5280 feet.)

  1. The average speed at which Carlos cycled from his house to the library yesterday was greater than 16 feet per second.
  2. The average speed at which Carlos cycled from his house to the library yesterday was less than 18 feet per second.

The fact that we’re given the conversion from miles to feet is a dead-giveaway that we’ll need to do some unit conversions to solve this question. So we know that the time is ½ hour, or 30 minutes. We want to know if the distance is greater than 6 miles. We’ll call the rate ‘r.’ If we put this question into the form of Rate * Time  = Distance, we can rephrase the question as:

Is r * 30 minutes > 6 miles?

We can simplify further to get: Is r > 6 miles/30 minutes or Is r > 1 mile/5 minutes?

A quick glance at the statements reveals that, ultimately, I want to convert into feet per second. I know that 1 mile is 5280 feet and that 5 minutes is 5 *60, or 300 seconds.

Now Is r > 1 mile/5 minutes? becomes Is r > 5280 feet/ 300 seconds. Divide both by 10 to get Is r > 528 feet/30 seconds. Now, let’s estimate. 528 is pretty close to 510. I know that 510/30 is the same as 51/3, or 17. Of course, I rounded down by 18 from 528 to 510, and 18/30 is about .5, so I’ll call the original question:

Is r > 17.5 feet/second?

If we get to this rephrase, the statements become a lot easier to test. Statement 1 tells me that Carlos cycled at a speed greater than 16 feet/second. Well, that could mean he went 16.1 feet/second, which would give me a NO to the original question, or he could have gone 30 feet/second, so I can get a YES to the original question. Not Sufficient.

Statement 2 tells me that his average speed was less than 18 feet/second. That could mean he went 17.9 feet/second, which would give me a YES. Or he could have gone 2 feet/second, which would give me a NO.

Together, I know he went faster than 16 feet/second and slower than 18 feet/second. So he could have gone 16.1 feet/second, which would give a NO, and he could have gone 17.9, which would give a YES, so even together, the statements are not sufficient, and the answer is E.

The takeaway: estimation isn’t simply a luxury on the GMAT; on certain questions, it’s a necessity. If you find yourself grinding through a host of ungainly arithmetical calculations, stop, and remind yourself that there has to be a better, more time-efficient approach.

*GMATPrep questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

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

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

Our Thoughts on the Harvard Business School Application Essay for 2015-2016

Harvard Business SchoolApplication season at Harvard Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

There is only one essay question for HBS so it is critical that applicants make the most of the limited real estate available here.

Essay 1:

It’s the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your “section.” This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting.

Introduce yourself. (No word limit)

The dreaded open-ended essay prompt has caused many sleepless nights for MBA applicants, couple that with the inherent pressure that results from applying to HBS and this essay may be viewed as one of the more nerve-wracking questions of the application season. Many students struggle with how to tackle this type of essay question and I’m here to tell you to relax and just stay structured.

With seemingly open-ended prompts like this one, the key is to stay structured. Typically, with more detailed essay prompts that have more individualized components within the question the outline of the essay almost writes itself. An open-ended essay like this one requires the applicant to more formally structure the response upfront to ensure the narrative is clear for the AdComm.

However, before diving into the structure, topic selection is critical. This will involve a good deal of introspection both in selecting the anecdotes as well as in the context of your actual writing. Aligning your narrative around a personal or professional passion is a powerful approach to telling your story. The more authentic this passion is the better it will be received by admissions.

Painting a vivid narrative of how the current incarnation of you has manifested will separate the mundane essay from the truly breakthrough essay. It’s about showing and not telling here so highlight the unique experiences that have brought you to this point. With HBS, the pressure to impress tends to be very high but focus less on the outlier stories from your competition (climbed a mountain, sold a start-up, ran a marathon) and focus on letting your own unique personality shine through amidst the anecdotes you share.

This essay honestly at its core is about getting to know you so don’t miss the opportunity by trying to craft the perfect answer for the admissions committee.

These are just a few thoughts on the new essay from HBS. Hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Harvard’s deadlines and essay, check out another post here.

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

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

A Secret Shortcut to Increase Your GMAT Score

Ron Point_GMAT TipsThe GMAT is an exam that aims to test how you think about things. Many people have heard this mantra when studying for the GMAT, but it’s not always clear what it means. While there are many formulae and concepts to know ahead of taking the exam, you will be constantly thinking throughout the exam about how to solve the question in front of you. The GMAT specializes in asking questions that require you to think about the solution, not just to plug in numbers mindlessly and return whatever your calculator tells you (including typos and misplaced decimals).

There are many ways the GMAT test makers ensure that you’re thinking logically about the solution of the question. One common example is that the question will give you a story that you have to translate into an equation. Anyone with a calculator can do 15 * 6 * 2 but it’s another skill entirely to translate that a car dealership that’s open every day but Sunday sells 3 SUVs, 5 trucks and 7 sedans per day for a sale that lasts a fortnight (sadly, the word fortnight is somewhat rare on the GMAT). Which skill is more important in business, crunching arbitrary numbers or deciphering which numbers to crunch? (Trick question: they’re both important!) The difference is a computer will calculate numbers much faster than a human ever will, but being able to determine what equation to set up is the more important skill.

This distinction is rather ironic, because the GMAT often provides questions that are simply equations to be solved. If the thought process is so important, why provide questions that are so straight forward? Precisely because you don’t have a calculator to solve them and you still need to use reasoning to get to the correct answer. An arbitrarily difficult question like 987 x 123 is trivial with a calculator and provides no educational benefit, simply an opportunity to exercise your fingers (and they want to look good for summer!) But without a calculator, you can start looking at interesting concepts like unit digits and order of magnitude in order to determine the correct answer. For business students, this is worth much more than a rote calculation or a mindless computation.

Let’s look at an example that’s just an equation but requires some analysis to solve quickly:

(36^3 + 36) / 36 =

A) 216
B) 1216
C) 1297
D) 1333
E) 1512

This question has no hidden meaning and no interpretation issues. It is as straight forward as 2+2, but much harder because the numbers given are unwieldy. This is, of course, not an accident. A significant number of people will not answer this question correctly, and even more will get it but only after a lengthy process. Let’s see how we can strategically approach a question like this on test day.

Firstly, there’s nothing more to be done here than multiplying a couple of 2-digit numbers, then performing an addition, then performing a division. In theory, each of these operations is completely feasible, so some people will start by trying to solve 36^3 and go from there. However, this is a lengthy process, and at the end, you get an unwieldy number (46,656 to be precise). From there, you need to add 36, and then divide by 36. This will be a very difficult calculation, but if you think of the process we’re doing, you might notice that you just multiplied by 36, and now you’ll have to divide by 36. You can’t exactly shortcut this problem because of the stingy addition, but perhaps we can account for it in some manner.

Multiplying 36 by itself twice will be tedious, but since you’re dividing by 36 afterwards, perhaps you can omit the final multiplication as it will essentially cancel out with the division. The only caveat is that we have to add 36 in between multiplying and dividing, but logically we’re adding 36 and then dividing the sum by 36, which means that this is tantamount to just adding 1. As such, this problem kind of breaks down to just 36 * 36, and then you add 1. If you were willing to multiply 36^3, then 36^2 becomes a much simpler calculation. This operation will yield the correct answer (we’ll see shortly that we don’t even need to execute it), and you can get there entirely by reasoning and logic.

Moreover, you can solve this question using (our friendly neighbour) algebra.  When you’re facing a problem with addition of exponents, you always want to turn that problem into multiplication if at all possible. This is because there are no good rules for addition and subtraction with exponents, but the rules for multiplication and division are clear and precise. Taking just the numerator, if you have 36^3 + 36, you can factor out the 36 from both terms. This will leave you with 36 *(36^2 + 1). Considering the denominator again, we end up with (36 *(36^2 + 1)) / 36. This means we can eliminate both the 36 in the numerator and the 36 in the denominator and end up with just (36^2 + 1), which is the same thing we found above.

Now, 36*36 is certainly solvable given a piece of paper and a minute or so, but you can tell a lot from the answer by the answer choices that are given to you. If you square a number with a units digit of 6, the result will always end with 6 as well (this rule applies to all numbers ending in 0, 1, 5 and 6). The result will therefore be some number that ends in 6, to which you must add 1. The final result must thus end with a 7. Perusing the answer choices, only answer choice C satisfies that criterion. The answer must necessarily be C, 1297, even if we don’t spend time confirming that 36^2 is indeed 1,296.

In the quantitative section of the GMAT, you have an average of 2 minutes per question to get the answer. However, this is simply an average over the entire section; you don’t have to spend 2 minutes if you can shortcut the answer in 30 seconds. Similarly, some questions might take you 3 minutes to solve, and as long as you’re making up time on other questions, there’s no problem taking a little longer. However, if you can solve a question in 30 seconds that your peers spend 2 or 3 minutes solving, you just used the secret shortcut that the exam hopes you will use.

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

Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice for success on your exam.  After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.

How to Evaluate the Entire Sentence on Sentence Correction GMAT Questions

Ron Point_GMAT TipsAs the Donald Trump sideshow continues to dominate American news, politics is again being pushed to the forefront as the country gears up for an election in 15 months. The nominees are not yet confirmed, but many candidates are jockeying for position, trying to get their names to resonate with the American population. This election will necessarily have a new candidate for both parties, as Barack Obama will have completed the maximum of two elected terms allowed by the Constitution (via the 22nd amendment).

This means that we can soon begin to discuss Barack Obama’s legacy. As with any legacy, it’s important to look at the terms globally, and not necessarily get bogged down by one or two memorable moments. A legacy is a summary of the major points and the minor points of one’s tenure. As such, it’s difficult to sum up a presidency that spanned nearly a decade and filter it down to simply “Obamacare” or “Killing Bin Laden” or “Relations with Cuba”. Not everyone will agree on what the exact highlights were, but we must be able to consider all the elements holistically.

On the GMAT, Sentence Correction is often the exact same way. If only a few words are highlighted, then your task is to make sure those few words make sense and flow properly with the non-underlined portion. If, however, the entire sentence is underlined, you have “carte blanche” (or Cate Blanchett) to make changes to any part of the sentence. The overarching theme is that the whole sentence has to make sense. This means that you can’t get bogged down in one portion of the text, you have to evaluate the entire thing. If some portion of the phrasing is good but another contains an error, then you must eliminate that choice and find and answer that works from start to finish.

Let’s look at a topical Sentence Correction problem and look for how to approach entire sentences:

Selling two hundred thousand copies in its first month, the publication of The Audacity of Hope in 2006 was an instant hit, helping to establish Barack Obama as a viable candidate for president.

A) Selling two hundred thousand copies in its first month, the publication of The Audacity of Hope in 2006 was an instant hit, helping to establish Barack Obama as a viable candidate for president.
B) The publication in 2006 of the Audacity of Hope was an instant hit: in two months it sold two hundred thousand copies and helped establish Barack Obama as a viable candidate for president.
C) Helping to establish Barack Obama as a viable candidate for president was the publication of The Audacity of Hope in 2006, which was an instant hit: it sold two hundred thousand copies in its first month.
D) The Audacity of Hope was an instant hit: it helped establish Barack Obama as a viable candidate for president, selling two hundred thousand copies in its first month and published in 2006.
E) The Audacity of Hope, published in 2006, was an instant hit: in two months, it sold two hundred thousand copies and helped establish its author, Barack Obama, as a viable candidate for president.

An excellent strategy in Sentence Correction is to look for decision points, significant differences between one answer choice and another, and then make decisions based on which statements contain concrete errors. However, when the whole sentence is underlined, this becomes much harder to do because there might be five decision points between statements, and each one is phrased a little differently. You can still use decision points, but it might be simpler to look through the choices for obvious errors and then see if the next answer choice repeats that same gaffe (not a giraffe).

Looking at the original sentence (answer choice A), we see a clear modifier error at the beginning. Once the sentence begins with “Selling two hundred thousand copies in its first month,…” the very next word after the comma must be the noun that has sold 200,000 copies. Anything else is a modifier error, whether it be “Barack Obama wrote a book that sold” or “the publication of the book” or any other variation thereof. We don’t even need to read any further to know that it can’t be answer choice A. We’ll also pay special attention to modifier errors because if it happened once it can easily happen again in this sentence.

Answer choice B, unsurprisingly, contains a very similar modifier error. The sentence begins with: “The publication in 2006 of the Audacity of Hope was an instant hit:…”. This means that the publication was a hit, whereas logically the book was the hit. This is an incorrect answer choice again, and so far we haven’t even had to venture beyond the first sentence, so don’t let the length of the answer choices daunt you.

Answer choice C, “helping to establish Barack Obama as a viable candidate for president was the publication of The Audacity of Hope in 2006, which was an instant hit: it sold two hundred thousand copies in its first month” contains another fairly glaring error. On the GMAT, the relative pronoun “which” must refer to the word right before the comma. In this case, that would be the year 2006, instead of the actual book. Similarly to the first two choices, this answer also contains a pronoun error because the “it” after the colon would logically refer back to the publication instead of the book as well. One error is enough, and we’ve already got two, so answer choice C is definitely not the correct selection.

Answer choice D, “The Audacity of Hope was an instant hit: it helped establish Barack Obama as a viable candidate for president, selling two hundred thousand copies in its first month and published in 2006” sounds pretty good until you get to the very end. The “published in 2006” is a textbook dangling modifier, and would have been fine had it been placed at the beginning of the sentence. Unfortunately, as it is written, this is not a viable answer choice (you are the weakest link).

By process of elimination, it must be answer choice E. Nonetheless, if we read through it, we’ll find that it doesn’t contain any glaring errors: “The Audacity of Hope, published in 2006, was an instant hit: in two months, it sold two hundred thousand copies and helped establish its author, Barack Obama, as a viable candidate for president.” The title of the book is mentioned initially, a modifier is correctly placed and everything after the colon describes why it was regarded as a hit. Holistically, there’s nothing wrong with this answer choice, and that’s why E must be the correct answer.

Overall, it’s easy to get caught up in one moment or another, but it’s important to look at things globally. A 30-word passage entirely underlined can cause anxiety in many students because there are suddenly many things to consider at the same time. There’s no reason to panic. Just review each statement holistically, looking for any error that doesn’t make sense. If everything looks good, even if it wasn’t always ideal, then the answer choice is fine. It’s important to think of your legacy, and on the GMAT, that means getting a score that lets you achieve your goals.

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

Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice for success on your exam.  After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.

A Breakdown of Columbia Business School Essay Questions for 2015-2016

columbia-mba-admissions-guideApplication season at Columbia Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

There are three essay questions for Columbia, which is a high number in these days of essay consolidation at most other business schools. With so many essays it is critical that applicants present their candidacy in a clearly aligned fashion.

Essay 1:
Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (Maximum 500 words)

Columbia’s first essay falls into the category of your typical “career goals” essay and is double the word count of the other essays so the school is expecting a fully fleshed out path forward. Avoid spending much time detailing your past as the prompt clearly has taken account of your past professional career. This is purely a future-oriented career essay.

With that said, clear articulation and alignment of your short-term and long-term career goals will be key to executing a successful essay here. Probably even more important, given the ubiquity of the career goals portion of the prompt, is the fit portion of the essay. Breakthrough candidates will cite specific references to Columbia’s professional, academic, and extra-curricular programs that will support the applicant’s development goals. With so much competition amongst similar institutions it is critical to make a bold case for a strong fit with the program.

Essay 2:
Columbia Business School’s location enables us to bridge theory and practice in multiple ways: through Master Classes, internships, the New York Immersion Seminars, and, most importantly, through a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)

Again keeping in mind the totality of the three essays, it may make sense to reserve the NY specific advantages until essay two. Essay one presents a clear opportunity to do this but doubling down here would make more sense. With so few words to work with you want to get right to the point in this essay.

Columbia outlines a few of the potential advantages the school offers in the prompt, so you want to get specific on what the relationship between the school and the “Big Apple” can offer you. Breakthrough candidates will personalize this essay right from the start and structure the essay around specific aspects of the Columbia Business School experience relevant to the candidate’s personal and professional development.

Essay 3:
CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)

This is a great opportunity to let your personality shine through. The first two essays cover career goals and fit and interest in Columbia, but this essay is a bit more open. These types of essays tend to be the greatest opportunities for candidates to differentiate themselves, so don’t miss out on this chance!  As you choose which topic to discuss keep in mind what would engage your classmates and it goes without saying but whatever you share should actually be something not immediately obvious to the Admissions Committee. Breakthrough candidates will leverage their research into the Columbia culture to frame a response that is not only unique but also compelling to the admissions team.

These are just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Columbia Business School. Hopefully these thoughts will help you get started.

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

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

1 Strategy That Will Lead You to Better Pacing on the GMAT

Keep the PaceLet’s look at a vastly important testing issue that is largely misunderstood and its seriousness under-appreciated.  Throughout multiple years of tutoring, this has been one of the most common and detrimental problems that I have had to work to correct in my students.  It pertains to the entire GMAT exam, but is typically more relevant to the quant section as students often struggle more with pacing during quant.

No single question matters unless you let it.

Reflect on that for a second, because it’s super important, weird, true, and again…important.  The GMAT exam is not testing your ability to get as many questions right as you can.  You can get the exact same percentage of questions right on two different exams and end up getting very different scores as a result of the complicated scoring algorithm.  Mistakes that will crush your score are a large string of consecutive incorrect answers, unanswered questions remaining at the end of the section (these hurt your score even more than answering them incorrectly would), and a very low hit rate for the last 5 or 10 questions.  These are all problems that are likely to arise if you spend way too much time on one/several questions.

Each individual question is actually pretty insignificant.  The GMAT has 37 quantitative questions to gauge your ability level (currently ignoring the issue of experimental questions), so whether you get a certain question right or wrong doesn’t matter much.  Let’s look at a hypothetical example and pick on question #17 for a second (just because it looked at me wrong!).  If you start question 17, realize that it is not going your way, and ultimately make an educated guess after about 2 minutes and get it wrong…that doesn’t hurt you a lot.  You missed the question, but you didn’t let it burn a bunch of your time and you live to fight another day (or in this case question).

Now let’s look at question 17 again, but from the perspective of being stubborn.  If you start the question and are struggling with it but refuse to quit, thinking something like “this is geometry, I am so good at geometry, I have to get this right!”, then it will become very significant.  In a bad way.  In this example you spend 6 minutes on the question and you get it right.  Congratulations!  Except…you are now statistically not even going to get to attempt to answer two other questions because of the time that you just committed to it (with an average of 2 minutes per question on the quant section, you just allocated 3 questions’ worth of time to one question).

So your victory over infamous question 17 just got you 2 questions wrong!  That’s a net negative.  Loop in the concept of experimental questions, the fact that approximately one-fourth of quant questions don’t count, and therefore it is entirely possible that #17 isn’t even a real question, and the situation is pretty depressing.

Pacing is critical, and your pacing on quant questions should very rarely ever go above 3 minutes.  Spending an excess amount of time on a question but getting it right is not a success; it is a bad strategic move.  I challenge you to look at any practice tests that you have taken and decide whether you let this happen.  Were there a few questions that you spent way over 2 minutes on and got right, but then later in the test a bunch of questions that you had to rush on and ended up missing, even though they may not have been that difficult?  If that’s the case, then your timing is doing some serious damage.  Work to correct this fatal error ASAP!

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

Brandon Pierpont is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep. He studied finance at Notre Dame and went on to work in private equity and investment banking. When he’s not teaching the GMAT, he enjoys long-distance running, wakeboarding, and attending comedy shows.

Find Time-Saving Strategies for GMAT Test Day

Ron Point_GMAT TipsI’ve often heard from people studying for the GMAT that they would score much higher on the test if there were no time limit to each section. The material covered on the exam is not inherently complicated, but the combination of subtle wordplay and constant stress about time management creates an environment where test takers often rush through prompts and misinterpret questions. Unfortunately, time management and stress management are two of the major skills being tested on the GMAT, so the time limit isn’t going away any time soon (despite my frequent letters to the GMAC). Instead, it’s worth mastering simple techniques to save time and extrapolate patterns based on smaller samples.

As an example, consider a simple question that asks you how many even numbers there are between 1 and 100. Of course, you could write out all 100 terms and identify which ones are even, say by circling them, and then sum up all the circled terms. This strategy would work, but it is completely inefficient and anyone who’s successfully passed the fourth grade would be able to see that you can get the answer faster than this. If every second number is even, then you just have to take the number of terms and divide by 2. The only difficulty you could face would be the endpoints (say 0 to 100 instead), but you can adjust for these easily. The next question might be count from 1 to 1,000, and you definitely don’t want to be doing that manually.

Other questions might not be as straight forward, but can be solved using similar mathematical properties. It’s important to note that you don’t have a calculator on the GMAT, but you will have one handy for the rest of your life (even in a no-WiFi zone!). This means that the goal of the test is not to waste your time executing calculations you would execute on your calculator in real life, but rather to evaluate how you think and whether you can find a logical shortcut that will yield the correct answer quickly.

Let’s look at an example that can waste a lot of time if you’re not careful:

Brian plays a game in which he rolls two die. For each die, an even number means he wins that amount of money and an odd number means he loses that amount of money. What is the probability that he loses money if he plays the game once?

A) 11/12
B) 7/12
C) 1/2
D) 5/12
E) 1/3

First, it’s important to interpret the question properly. Brian will roll two die, independently of one another. For each even number rolled, he will win that amount of money, so any given die is 50/50. If both end up even, he’s definitely winning some money, but if one ends up even and the other odd, he may win or lose money depending on the values. The probability should thus be close to being 50/50, but a 5 with a 4 will result in a net loss of 1$, whereas a 5 with a 6 will result in a net gain of 1$. Clearly, we need to consider the actual values of each die in some of our calculations.

Let’s start with the brute force approach (similar to writing out 1-100 above). There are 6 sides to a die, and we’re rolling 2 dice, so there are 6^2 or 36 possibilities. We could write them all out, sum up the dollar amounts won or lost, and circle each one that loses money. However, it is essentially impossible to do this in less than 2 minutes (or even 3-4 minutes), so we shouldn’t use this as our base approach. We may have to write out a few possibilities, but ideally not all 36.

If both numbers are even, say 2 and 2, then Brian will definitely win some money. The only variable is how much money, but that is irrelevant in this problem. Similarly, if he rolls two odd numbers, say 3 and 3, then he’s definitely losing money. We don’t need to calculate each value; we simply need to know they will result in net gains or net losses. For two even numbers, in which we definitely win money, this will happen if the first die is a 2, a 4 or a 6, and the second die is a 2, a 4 or a 6. That would leave us with 9 possibilities out of the 36 total outcomes. You can also calculate this by doing the probability of even and even, which is 3/6 * 3/6 or 9/36. Similarly, odd and odd will also yield 9/36 as the possibilities are 1, 3, and 5 with 1, 3, and 5. Beyond this, we don’t need to consider even/even or odd/odd outcomes at all.

The interesting part is when we come to odds and evens together. One die will make Brian win money and the other will make him lose money. The issue is in the amplitude. Since we’ve eliminated 18 possibilities that are all entirely odd or even, we only need to consider the 18 remaining mixed possibilities. There is a logical way to solve this issue, but let’s cover the brute force approach since it’s reasonable at this point. The 18 possibilities are:

Odd then even:                                                                                                                Even then odd:

1, 2                         3, 2                         5, 2                                                         2, 1                         4, 1                         6, 1

1, 4                         3, 4                         5, 4                                                         2, 3                         4, 3                         6, 3

1, 6                         3, 6                         5,6                                                          2, 5                         4, 5                         6, 5

Looking at these numbers, it becomes apparent that each combination is there twice ((2,1) or (1,2)). The order may matter when considering 36 possibilities, but it doesn’t matter when considering the sums of the die rolls. (2,1) and (1,2) both yield the same result (net gain of 1), so the order doesn’t change anything to the result. We can simplify our 18 cases into 9 outcomes and recall that each one weighs 1/18 of the total:

(1,2) or (2,1): Net gain of 1$

(1,4) or (4,1): Net gain of 3$

(1,6) or (6,1): Net gain of 5$

Indeed, no matter what even number we roll with a 1, we definitely make money. This is because 1 is the smallest possible number. Next up:

(3,2) or (2,3): Net loss of 1$

(3,4) or (4,3): Net gain of 1$

(3,6) or (6,3): Net gain of 3$

For 3, one of the outcomes is a loss whereas the other two are gains. Since 3 is bigger than 2, it will lead to a loss.  Finally:

(5,2) or (2,5): Net loss of 3$

(5,4) or (4,5): Net loss of 1$

(5,6) or (6,5): Net gain of 1$

For 5, we tend to lose money, because 2/3 of the possibilities are smaller than 5. Only a 6 paired with the 5 would result in a net gain. Indeed, all numbers paired with 6 will result in a net gain, which is the same principle as always losing with a 1.

Summing up our 9 possibilities, 3 led to losses while 6 led to gains. The probability is thus not evenly distributed as we might have guessed up front. Indeed, the fact that any 6 rolled with an odd number always leads to a gain whereas any 1 rolled with an even number always leads to a loss helps explain this discrepancy.

To find the total probability of losing money, we need to find the probability of reaching one of these three odd-even outcomes. The chance of the dice being odd and even (in any order) is ½, and within that the chances of losing money are 3/9: (3, 2), (5, 2), and (5, 4). Thus we have 3/9 * ½ = 3/18 or 1/6 chance of losing money if it’s odd/even. Similarly, if it ends up odd/odd, then we always lose money, and that’s 3/9 * 3/9 = 9/36 or ¼. We have to add the two possibilities since any of them is possible, and we get ¼ + 1/6, if we put them on 12 we get 3/12 + 2/12 which equals 5/12. This is answer choice D.

It’s convenient to shortcut this problem somewhat by identifying that it cannot end up at 50/50 (answer choice C) because of the added weight of even numbers. Since 6 will win over anything, you start getting the feeling that your probability of losing will be lower than ½. From there, your choices are D or E, 15/36 or 12/36. Short of taking a guess, you could start writing out a few possibilities without having to consider all 36 outcomes, and determine that all odd/odd combinations will work. After that, you look at the few possibilities that could work ((5,4), (4,5), etc) and determine that there are more than 12 total possibilities, locking you in to answer choice D.

Many students struggle with problems such as these because they appear to be simple if you just write out all the possibilities. Especially when your brain is already feeling fatigued, you may be tempted to try and save mental energy by using brute force to solve problems. Beware, the exam wants you to do this (It’s a trap!) and waste precious time. If you need to write out some possibilities, that’s perfectly fine, but try and avoid writing them all out by using logic and deduction. On test day, if you use logic to save time on possible outcomes, you won’t lose.

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

Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice for success on your exam.  After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.

3 Ways to Write the Perfect Business School Application Essay

writing essayEssays are one of the most important aspects of the MBA application process. They are also one of the most challenging for many applicants to excel at. The essays are a critical opportunity for candidates to distinguish themselves from the hordes of similar applicants in the process. Admissions committees are looking for a surprisingly small list of things in these essays and executing on these elements is a step in the right direction for breakthrough candidates.

Now there is no such thing as a perfect business school essay but the three points below are necessary in executing a successful business school essay:

Relevance

Have you answered the question asked? Candidates would be surprised how often this very basic question goes unanswered at the end of an essay. Many applicants become so consumed with including every element of their past, present, and future into an essay that often times the most obvious aspect of the essay goes unnoticed. Not only is it important to ensure you have answered the question but also that the response selected is the most relevant to the question posed. It is important to step back and consider if there are any better anecdotes, stories, or examples that could be used for this essay.

Authenticity

Could anybody else have written this essay? Successful applicants present their authentic selves in a captivating and compelling fashion in each essay and the entire application as a whole. Don’t be afraid to explore uncomfortable themes and personal anecdotes that can amplify interpersonal elements of your candidacy. Remember it is easy to write the bland, impersonal essay that is commonplace with unsuccessful applicants. Dive deep and show the admissions committee what makes you unique and why you will be a valuable addition to their business school community.

Polish

There is no worse way to show you are not business school material than to submit an essay loaded with typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. Mistakes like this show an obvious lack of attention to detail and carelessness that can be disastrous for an applicant during such a competitive process. Take the extra time to earmark additional reviews from friends and trusted advisors like Veritas Prep to ensure come decision day minor typos do not stand in the way of an admit.

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

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

When You’ll Need to Bring Outside Knowledge to the GMAT

Ron Point_GMAT TipsIt is often said that outside knowledge is not required on the GMAT. The idea is that everyone should be on relatively equal footing when starting to prepare for this exam, minimizing the advantage that someone with a B.Comm might have over someone with an engineering or philosophy degree. Of course, it’s difficult to determine at what point does outside knowledge begin and end. Knowing that there are 26 letters in the (English) alphabet or that blue and red are different colors is never explicitly mentioned in the GMAT preparation, but the concepts certainly can come up in GMAT questions.

This statement “No outside knowledge is required on the GMAT” is true in spirit, but a fundamental understanding of certain basic concepts is sometimes required. The exam won’t expect you to know the distance between New York and Los Angeles (19,600 furlongs or so), but you should know that both cities exist. The exam will always give you conversions when it comes to distances (miles to feet, for example), temperatures (Fahrenheit to Celsius) or anything else that can be measured in different systems, but the basic concepts that any human should know are fair game on the exam.

If you think about the underlying logic, it makes sense that a business person needs to be able to reason things out, but the reasoning must also be based on tenets that people can agree on. You won’t need to know something like all the variables involved in a carbon tax or on the electoral process of Angola, but you should know that Saturday comes after Friday (and Sunday comes afterwards).

Let’s look at a relatively simple question that highlights the need to think critically about outside knowledge that may be important:

Tom was born on October 28th. On what day of the week was he born?

1) In the year of Tom’s birth, January 20th was a Sunday.
2) In the year of Tom’s birth, July 17th was a Wednesday.

A) Statement 1 alone is sufficient but statement 2 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.
B) Statement 2 alone is sufficient but statement 1 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.
C) Both statements 1 and 2 together are sufficient to answer the question but neither statement is sufficient alone.
D) Each statement alone is sufficient to answer the question.
E) Statements 1 and 2 are not sufficient to answer the question asked and additional data is needed to answer the statements.

Since this is a data sufficiency question, it’s important to note that we must only determine whether or not the information is sufficient, we do not actually need to figure out which day of the week it is. Once we know that the information is knowable, we don’t need to proceed any further.

In this case, we are trying to determine Tom’s birthday with 100% certainty. There are only 7 days in a week, but we need a reference point somewhere to determine which year it is or what day of the year another day of that same year falls (ideally October 27th!).

Statement 1 gives us a date for that same year. This should be enough to solve the problem, except for one small detail: the day given is in January. Since the Earth’s revolution around the sun is not an exact multiple of its rotation around itself, some years contain one extra day on February 29th, and are identified as leap years. The day of January 20th gives us a fixed point in that year, but since it is before February 28th, we don’t know if March 1st will be 40 days or 41 days away from January 20th.   Since this is the case, October 28th could be one of two different days of the week, depending on whether we are in a leap year, and so this statement is insufficient.

Statement 2, on the other hand, gives us a date in July. Since July is after the possible leap day, this means that the statement must be sufficient. Specifically, if July 17th was a Wednesday, then October 28th would have to be a Monday. You could do the calculations if you wanted to: there are 14 more days in July, 31 in August, 30 in September and 28 in October, for a total of 103 days, or 14 weeks and 5 days. The 14 weeks don’t change anything to the day of the week, so we must advance 5 days from Wednesday, taking us to the following Monday. Statement 2 must be sufficient, even if we don’t need to execute the calculations to be sure.

Interestingly, if you consider January 20th to be a Sunday, then you could get a year like 2013 in which the 28th of October is a Monday. 2013 is not a leap year, so July 17th is also a Wednesday and either statement would lead to the same answer. However, if you consider January 20th to be a Sunday, you could also get a year like 2008, which was a leap year, and then October 28th was a Tuesday. July 17th would no longer be a Wednesday, which is why the second statement is consistently correct whereas the first statement could lead to one of two possibilities. Some students erroneously select answer choice D, that both statements together solve this issue. While the combination of statements does guarantee one specific answer, you’re overpaying for information because statement 2 does it alone. The answer you should pick is B.

On the GMAT, it’s important that outside knowledge not be tested explicitly because it’s a test of how you think, not of what you know. However, some basic concepts may come up that require you to use logic based on things you know to be true.  You will never be undone on a GMAT question because “I didn’t know that,” but rather because “Oh, I forgot to take that into account.” The GMAT is primarily a test of thinking, and it’s important to keep in mind little pieces of knowledge that could have big implications on a question. As they say, knowing is half the battle (G.I. Joe!).

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

Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice for success on your exam.  After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.

4 Reasons MBA Students Love Management Consulting

Business SchoolManagement consulting is one of the most revered, sought-after, and difficult to crack industries in the world. Prestigious firms like Bain & Co, McKinsey, and the Boston Consulting Group commonly rank at the top of many Vault employer lists of top companies to work for.

Candidates applying to business school and entering students alike have made management consulting one of the most popular post-MBA industries. At top schools like Kellogg, Wharton, and Booth, upwards of 40% of the graduating class have been known to join the ranks of the consulting elite in a given year. With numbers this high why do students still continually gravitate to this mysterious industry in droves? The answer is as multi-faceted as the industry itself.

Let’s look at a few aspects of the industry that make it particularly attractive to MBA students:

1. Prestige

Management consulting is a glamor industry, from the high profile clients to the high impact relationships and even the complicated frameworks; a career in the industry is a high point on any professional’s resume. Consultants often enjoy senior level positions in industry at top firms after their consulting days are over, making this a coveted career for MBAs.

2. Travel

Nobody loves to travel like MBAs, so a career in consulting is a natural alignment. Now, the travel is primarily business oriented and not for leisure, but this aspect of the industry still feeds into the natural wanderlust of many MBAs.

3. Salary

One of the more tangible perks of a career in consulting is the high salary. Management consulting is one of the highest paying post-MBA careers, which has long been part of the attraction of the industry. Additional financial perks like generous signing bonuses and tuition reimbursement make consulting a much-pursued industry.

4. Skill Development

It’s not all just about the perks as a consultant; the industry provides unparalleled opportunities to develop analytical, creative, and interpersonal skills. Consultants become experts in programs like Excel and PowerPoint making them hot commodities in the workforce. Many students see a short-term career in management consulting as a finishing school of sorts that can set them up for the rest of their professional career.

A career in consulting offers many perks that align well with what students are looking for post-MBA.

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

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

5 Things to Do Once MBA Application Essay Topics are Released

writing essayOne of the most anxious days for many candidates is the release of applications for their target schools. Candidates nervously obsess over all aspects of what to expect from a school’s yearly changes in the application process. So when the new applications are released it is an exciting day and signals the official start of a school’s application season.

Even if applications aren’t quite released, you can still start thinking about how to get rolling once applications are live.

Now there is no one size fits all approach to making the most of those summer months but see below for some things to consider as you start mapping out your game plan:

1. Develop Mini-Stories

One of the most helpful aspects to have prepared before essays are released is your mini-stories. The focus of these mini-stories is to highlight your strongest and most in-depth personal, professional, and extra-curricular life experiences. These anecdotes will feed right into the essays once topics are released allowing you to mix and match appropriately.

2. Confirm School List

Prior to the kickoff of application season, your school list should be basically set. Many candidates waste valuable time once applications are released wavering on school selection and starting applications for programs that they will eventually not apply to. Get ahead of this by starting your school research in advance of application season, so once applications are released you can hit the ground running.

3. Complete School Research

Now that your school list is set, it is time to dive deeper into your school research and really begin to identify the elements at each individual MBA program that are uniquely attractive to you.

4. Outline School Specific Essays

With the details set of your specific interest in your target program it’s time to align your mini-stories with school specific essays. Remember each individual essay should be created from scratch but use the details developed via your mini-stories as a launching point.

5. Write and Review Essays

All the hard work has been done so now it’s time to actually write the essay. If the other steps are completed properly then the actually process should be very easy. A key aspect of the writing process is the review process. Utilize a team of trusted eyes to help you review your hard work.

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

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

Interpreting the Language of the GMAT

Ron Point_GMAT TipsEveryone who writes the GMAT must speak English to some degree. Since English is the default language of business, the GMAT is administered exclusively in that language. Some people feel that this is unfair. If you take an exam in your mother tongue, you tend to do better than if you took the exam in your second, third or even fourth language (I consider Klingon as my fourth language). However, even if you’re a native English speaker, the GMAT offers many linguistic challenges that make many people feel that they don’t actually speak the language. (¿Habla GMAT?)

There are different ways of asking the same thing on the GMAT. Sometimes, the question is simply: Find the value of x. Other times, you get a convoluted story that summarizes to: Find the value of x. While these two questions are essentially the same, and both have the same answer, the first scenario is easier for most students to understand than the second scenario. This is because the second question is exactly the first question but with an extra step at the beginning (watch your step!), and if you don’t solve the first step, you never even get to the crux of the question.

Consider the following two problems. The first one simply asks you to divide 96 by 6. Even without a calculator, this question should take no more than 30 seconds to solve. Now consider a similar prompt: “Sally goes to the store to buy 7 dozen eggs. When she leaves the store, she accidentally drops one carton containing 12 eggs. Unable to salvage any, she goes back into the store and buys two more cartons of 12 eggs each. Once home, she separates the eggs into bags of 6, in order to save space in the fridge. How many bags of eggs does Sally make?”

The second prompt is exactly the same as the first question, but takes much longer to read through, execute rudimentary math of (7 x 12 – 12 + 24) / 6, and yield a final answer of 16. Anyone who can solve the first question should be able to solve the second question, but fewer students answer the second question correctly. Between the two is the fine art of translating GMATese (patent pending) to a simple mathematical formula. Even for native English speakers, this can be difficult, and is often the difference between getting the correct answer and getting the right answer to a different question.

Let’s look at such a question that looks like it needs to be deciphered by a team of translators:

“X and Y are both integers. If X / Y = 59.32, then what is the sum of all the possible two digit remainders of X / Y?”

A) 560
B) 616
C) 672
D) 900
E) 1024

While this question may appear to be giving you a simple formula, it’s not that easy to interpret what is being asked. One integer is being divided by another, and the result is a quotient and a remainder. The remainder is then only one of multiple possible remainders, and all these possible remainders must be summed up to give a single value. The GMAT isn’t giving us a story on this question, but there’s a lot to chew on.

First off, the quotient doesn’t actually matter in this equation. X / Y = 59.32, but it could have been 29.32 or 7.32 or any other integer quotient, the only thing we care about is the remainder. This means that essentially X/Y is 0.32, and we must find possible values for that. Clearly, X could be 32 and Y could be 100, thus leaving a remainder of 32 and the equivalent of the fractional component of 0.32 in the quotient. This could work, and is two digits, which means that it’s one possible remainder on the list that we must sum up.

What could we do next? Well if 32/100 works, then all other fractional values that can be simplified from that proportion should work as well. This means that 16/50, which is half of the original fraction, should work as well. If we divide by 2 again, we get 8/25. This value satisfies the fraction of the quotient, but not the requirement that it must be two digits. We cannot count 8 as a possible remainder, but this does help open up the pattern of the remainders.

The fraction 8/25 is the key to solving all the other fractions, because it cannot be reduced any further. From 8/25, every time we increase the numerator by 8, we can increase the denominator by 25, and we will maintain the same fractional value. As such, we can have 16/50, 24/75, 32/100, 40/125, etc, without changing the value of the fraction. How far do we need to go? Well the question is asking for 2-digit remainders, so we only need to increase the numerator by 8 until it is no longer 2-digits. The denominator can be truncated, because when it comes to 40/125, all the question wants is 40.

Once we understand what this question is really asking for, it just wants the sum of all the 2-digit multiples of 8. There aren’t that many, so you can write them all down if you want to: 16, 24, 32, 40, 48, 56, 64, 72, 80, 88 and 96. Outside this range, the numbers are no longer 2-digits. This whole question could have been rewritten as: “Sum up the 2-digit multiples of 8” and we would have saved a lot of time (more than last month’s leap second brouhaha).

Solving for our summation is simple when we have a calculator, but there is a handy shortcut for these kinds of calculations. Since the numbers are consecutive multiples of 8, all we need to do is find the average and multiply by the number of terms. The average is the (biggest + smallest) / 2, which becomes (96 + 16) / 2 = 56. From there, we wrote out 11 terms, so it’s just 56 x 11 = 616, answer choice B.

It’s worth mentioning that there’s a formula for the number of terms as well: Take the biggest number, subtract the smallest number, divide by the frequency, and then add back 1 to account for the endpoints. This becomes ((96 – 16) /8) + 1, or (80 / 8) + 1 or 10 + 1, which is just 11.  If you only have about a dozen terms to sum up, it’s not hard to consider writing each one down, but if you had to sum up the 3-digit multiples of 8, you wouldn’t spend hours writing out all the different values (hint: there are 112). It’s always better to know the formula, just in case.

On the GMAT, you’re often faced with questions that end up throwing curveballs at you. Interpreting what the question is looking for is half the difficulty, and solving the equations in a relatively short amount of time is the other half. If all the questions were written in straight forward mathematical terms, the exam would be significantly easier. As it is, you want to make sure that you don’t give away easy points on questions that you know how to solve. On test day, the exam will ask you: “¿Habla GMAT?” and your answer should be a resounding “¡si!”

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

Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice for success on your exam.  After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.

Attack Data Sufficiency GMAT Questions from the Weakest Point

Study for the GMATIt is a common axiom that the best strategy in any competition is to attack your opponent at his weakest point. If you’ve been studying for the GMAT for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that not all Data Sufficiency statements are created equal. At times the statements are mind-bendingly complex. Other times we can evaluate a statement almost instantaneously, without needing to simplify or calculate.

Anytime you’re confronted with a question that offers one complex statement and one simple statement, you’ll want to attack the question at its weakest point and start with the simpler of the two. Evaluating the easier statement will not only allow you to eliminate some wrong answer choices, but will offer insights into what might be happening in the more complex statement. (And generally speaking, whenever you’re confronted with this dynamic, it is more often than not the case that the complex statement is sufficient on its own.)

Let’s apply this strategic thinking to a complex-looking official problem*:

Data Sufficiency 1

You can see immediately that the first statement is a tough one. So let’s start with statement 2. In natural language, it’s telling us that ‘x’ is less than 5 units away from 0 on the number line. So x could be 4, in which case, the answer to the question “Is x >1?” would be YES. But x could also be 0, in which case the answer to the question would be NO, x is not greater than 1. So statement 2 is not sufficient, and we barely had to think. Now we can know that the answer cannot be that 2 Alone is sufficient and it cannot be Either Alone is sufficient.

Now take a moment and think about this from the perspective of the question writer. It’s obvious that statement 2 is not sufficient. Why bother going to the trouble of producing such a complex statement 1 if this too is not sufficient? This isn’t to say that we know for a fact that statement 1 will be sufficient alone, but I’m certainly suspicious that this will be the case.

When evaluating statement 1, we’ll use some easy numbers. Say x = 100. That will clearly satisfy the statement as (100+1)(|100| – 1) is greater than 0. Because 100 is greater than 1, we have a YES to the question, “Is x >1?” Now the question is: is it possible to pick a number that isn’t greater than one, but that will satisfy our statement?  What if x = 1? Plugging into the statement, we’ll get (1+1)(|1| – 1) or (2)*(0), which is 0. Well, that doesn’t satisfy the statement, so we cannot use x = 1. (Note that we must satisfy the statement before we test the original question!) What if x = -1? Now we’ll have: (-1+1)(|-1| – 1) = 0. Again, we haven’t satisfied the statement. Maybe you’d test ½. Maybe you’d test -3. But you’ll find that no number that is not greater than 1 will satisfy the statement. Therefore x has to be greater than 1, and statement 1 alone is sufficient. The answer is A.

Alternatively, we can think of statement 1 like this: anytime we multiply two expressions together to get a positive number, it must be the case that both expressions are positive or both expressions are negative. In this statement, it’s easy to make (x+1) and (|x| – 1) both positive. Just pick any number greater than 1. However, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, we can immediately see that x=1 will make the second term 0, and x = -1 will make the first term 0. Multiplying 0 by anything will give us 0, so we can rule those options out. Moreover, we can quickly see that any number between -1 and 1 (not inclusive) will make (|x| – 1) negative and make (x+1) positive, so that range won’t work. And any term less than -1 will made (x+1) negative and (|x| – 1) positive, so that range won’t work either. The only values for x that will satisfy the condition must be greater than 1. Therefore the answer to the question is always YES, and statement 1 alone is sufficient to answer the question.

The takeaway: this question became a lot easier once we tested statement 2, saw that it obviously would not work on its own, and became suspicious that the complex-looking statement 1 would be sufficient alone. Once we’ve established this mindset, we can rely on our conventional strategies of picking numbers or using number properties to prove our intuition. Anytime the GMAT does you the favor of giving you a simple-looking statement, take advantage of that favor and adjust your strategic thinking accordingly.

*GMAT Prep question courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

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

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

Should You Go to Business School?

Business SchoolPursuing an MBA can be one of the toughest decisions a young professional has to make, some rush the decision and realize they are not quite ready for showtime come application season or even worse during their time in b-school.

Self-assessment is the key when it comes to making this decision.

Consider the four aspects listed below as you decide whether you should pursue an MBA right now:

Maturity:

Are you personally and professionally ready to make the most of an MBA? This question is not the same as could you get into business school, but is right now the ideal time for you and your career. MBA programs are looking to admit mature candidates who know exactly what they want out of the experience. So make sure you take personal inventory of your situation before you make a decision. Keep in mind age is not the only indicator of maturity, however; the average age of admits ranges between 27-30 so programs are looking for experienced applicants.

Accomplishments:

MBA programs are looking for the best and the brightest young professionals from around the world, so competition is stiff! Do you have the accomplishments befitting a top flight MBA admit? This is the time when you must honestly assess your candidacy. This involves looking at your academic, professional, and civic accomplishments and ascertaining the interpersonal skills you have developed and impact you have made thus far in your career.

Financial:

Are you financially ready to take on the commitment of business school? With tuition from many programs well into the six figures, the cost of an MBA is rising year after year. Options like student loans, scholarships, and fellowships do exist so make sure to factor these into any potential projections. Also, make sure your decision to pursue admission is based on holistic reasons and not simply to make more money.

Time:

Do you have the time to put together a compelling application? The entire business school application process is very time intensive. From school research to GMAT prep to writing those pesky essays, applying to business school is a major commitment.

Utilize the tips above to help you decide if right now is the best time for you to apply to business school.

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

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

Should I Retake the GRE?

studying_GRECan you retake the GRE? This is one of the many questions we hear from our students at Veritas Prep. Even if a student hasn’t yet taken the test, they want to know if there is an option to improve on a score. The simple answer to that question is yes. But this leads to another important question: “Should I retake the GRE?”

At Veritas Prep, we offer thorough prep courses online that provide students with valuable strategies to help them to perform well on the GRE. Take a look at some information that students should keep in mind as they decide whether to retake the GRE.

Should I Retake the GRE?

Students who retake the GRE must pay the substantial test fee a second time and invest more hours and effort into the preparation process. So it’s a good idea for a student to have several solid reasons before retaking the GRE. One example of a valid reason for retaking the test is that the student was ill on test day. If a student was suffering from the flu or a bad cold and had a lot of trouble focusing on the test questions, these circumstances could lead the student to earn low scores on the GRE.

Another valid reason for retaking the GRE is a lack of preparation. If a student takes the GRE without completing any practice tests or dedicating any time to study, the student could earn very low scores due to this lack of preparation. If a student can take the test under different circumstances or make specific changes that affect test performance, then it’s worth it to retake the GRE. Students who want to feel prepared for every part of the GRE should sign up to study with a professional instructor at Veritas Prep. We offer valuable tips to students that they can utilize on every section of the test. Our instructors provide guided practice to students so they know how to approach each question on test day.

Researching College Admission Requirements

There is something else a student should do before registering to retake the GRE. They should check the specific admission requirements of the graduate schools they are interested in. In many instances, colleges and universities post the average GRE scores of their graduate students. Perhaps a student’s GRE scores on the first test are adequate for admission to the college they want to attend. If that’s the case, there is no valid reason to invest money and time into retaking the GRE.

How Often Can You Take the GRE?

Once a student decides to retake the test, they may wonder, how often can you take the GRE? Students are allowed to take the computer-based GRE one time every 21 days. Alternatively, if a student takes the paper-based GRE, they can take it whenever it is offered. Students who want to retake the GRE should allow themselves enough time to adequately prepare for the second go-round. This means addressing specific problems a student had the first time and taking steps to correct them.

How Many Times Can I Take the GRE?

Students interested in retaking this test may ask, “How many times can I take the GRE?” Students are able to take the GRE up to five times per year. This holds true even if a student decides to cancel their scores on a previous GRE. Of course, students should put forth their best performance the first time they take the test so they don’t have to go through the entire process again for the chance to earn better scores.

Can you retake the GRE with success? Yes.

Our team at Veritas Prep takes pride in providing students with a thorough program of GRE prep so they can perform at their best on the exam. Our instructors have experience with the test and can offer unique and practical advice to students. Those who want to know more about our program can find quick answers to common questions on our FAQ page. We are proud to use quality study resources to help students achieve their best scores on the GRE. Contact our staff today and get the advantage on the test with Veritas Prep!

We have an online GRE course starting in July! And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter.

How to Interpret GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions

Ron Point_GMAT TipsInterpreting what is being asked on a question is arguably the most important skill required in order to perform well on the GMAT. After all, since the topics are taken from high school level material, and the test is designed to be difficult for college graduates, the difficulty must often come from more than just the material. In fact, it is very common on the GMAT to find that you got “the right answer to the wrong question.” This phrase is so well-known that it merits quotation marks (and eventually perhaps its own reality show).

What does this expression really mean? (Rhetorical question) It means that you followed the logic and executed the calculations properly, but you inputted the wrong parameters. As an example, a problem could ask you to solve a problem about the price of a dozen eggs, but along the way, you have to calculate the price of a single egg. If you’re going too fast and you notice that there’s an answer choice that matches your result, you might be tempted to pick it without executing the final calculation of multiplying the unit price by twelve. While this expression is often used for math problems, the same concept can also be applied to the verbal section of the exam.

The question category that most often exploits erroneous interpretations of a question is Critical Reasoning. In particular, the method of reasoning subcategory appropriately named “Mimic the Reasoning”. These types of questions are reminiscent of SAT questions (or LSAT questions for some) and hinge on properly interpreting what is actually stated in the problem.

Let’s look at an example to highlight this issue:

Nick: The best way to write a good detective story is to work backward from the crime. The writer should first decide what the crime is and who the perpetrator is, and then come up with the circumstances and clues based on those decisions.

Which one of the following illustrates a principle most similar to that illustrated by the passage?

A) When planning a trip, some people first decide where they want to go and then plan accordingly, but, for most of us, much financial planning must be done before we can choose where we are going.
B) In planting a vegetable garden, you should prepare the soil first, and then decide what kind of vegetables to plant.
C) Good architects do not extemporaneously construct their plans in the course of an afternoon; an architectural design cannot be divorced from the method of constructing the building.
D) In solving mathematical problems, the best method is to try out as many strategies as possible in the time allotted. This is particularly effective if the number of possible strategies is fairly small.
E) To make a great tennis shot, you should visualize where you want the shot to go. Then you can determine the position you need to be in to execute the shot properly.

This type of question is asking us to mimic, or copy, the line of reasoning even though the topic may be totally different. The issue is thus to interpret the passage, paraphrase the main ideas in our own words, and then determine which answer choice is analogous to our summary. Theoretically, there could be thousands of correct answers to a question like this, but the GMAT will provide us with four examples to knock out and one correct interpretation (though sometimes it feels like a needle in a haystack).

Let’s look at the original sentence again and try to interpret Nick’s point. The first sentence is: The best way to write a good detective story is to work backward from the crime. This means that, wherever we want to go, we should recognize that we should start at the end and work our way backwards. This is a similar principle as solving a maze (or reading “Of Mice and Men”). The second sentence is: The writer should first decide what the crime is and who the perpetrator is, and then come up with the circumstances and clues based on those decisions. This means that, once we know the ending, we can layer the text with hints so that the ending makes sense to the audience. Astute readers may even guess the ending based on the clues (R+L = J), and will feel rewarded for their keen observations.

Summarizing this idea, the author wants us to start at the end and work our way backwards so that we end up exactly where we want. The next step is to apply this logic to each answer choice in turn:

For answer choice A, when planning a trip, some people first decide where they want to go and then plan accordingly, but, for most of us, much financial planning must be done before we can choose where we are going, the first part about choosing a destination is perfect. However, the second part goes off the rails by introducing a previously unheralded concept: limitations. The author was not initially worried about limitations, financial or otherwise, so answer choice A is half right, which is not enough on this test. We can eliminate A.

Answer choice B, in planting a vegetable garden, you should prepare the soil first, and then decide what kind of vegetables to plant. While this is good general advice, it has nothing to do with our premise. Starting with the soil is the very definition of starting at the beginning. A more correct (plant-based) answer choice would state that we want to start with which plants we want in the garden and then work backwards to find the right soil. This is incorrect, so answer choice B is out.

Answer choice C, good architects do not extemporaneously construct their plans in the course of an afternoon; an architectural design cannot be divorced from the method of constructing the building, changes the timeline (much like Terminator Genysis). We must consider both issues simultaneously, which is not what the original passage postulated. We can eliminate answer choice C.

Answer choice D is: in solving mathematical problems, the best method is to try out as many strategies as possible in the time allotted. This is particularly effective if the number of possible strategies is fairly small. This is not only incorrect, but particularly bad advice for aspiring GMAT students. In fact, the author is describing backsolving, because we are starting at the answer and working our way backwards. We are not proposing “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks”. Answer D is out.

This leaves answer choice E, to make a great tennis shot, you should visualize where you want the shot to go. Then you can determine the position you need to be in to execute the shot properly. Not only must it be the correct answer given that we’ve eliminated the other four selections, but also it perfectly recreates the logic of planning backwards from the end. Answer choice E is the correct selection.

For method of reasoning questions, and on the GMAT in general, it’s very important to be able to interpret wording. If you cannot paraphrase the statements presented, then you won’t be able to easily eliminate incorrect answer choices. Part of acing the GMAT is not giving away easy points on questions that you actually know how to solve. If you read carefully and paraphrase concepts as they come up, you’ll be interpreting a high score on test day.

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

Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice for success on your exam.  After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.

99th Percentile GMAT Score or Bust! Lesson 5: Procrastinate to Calculate

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

First, take a look at Lesson 1, Lesson 2, Lesson 3, and Lesson 4!

Lesson Five:

Procrastinate to Calculate: in much of your academic and professional life, it’s a terrible idea to procrastinate.  But on the GMAT?  Procrastination is often the most efficient way to do math.  In this video, Ravi will demonstrate why waiting until it’s absolutely necessary to do math is a time-saving and accuracy-boosting strategy. So whatever it is you would be doing right now, put that off for later and immediately watch this video. The sooner you learn that procrastination is your friend on the GMAT, the more time you’ll save.

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

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

By Brian Galvin

Why a Top 10 MBA Program Might Not Be Your Best Match

MBA“I want to go to HBS…” I want to go to Stanford…” “I want to go to Wharton…” These are the cries of MBA candidates around the world when contemplating what business schools they want to attend. But these venerable institutions and others like them can’t possibly accept all interested students for a variety of reasons that include space, qualifications, and fit. Every year many students are forced to reevaluate their target school list.

Applicants should approach the school selection process with an open mind and use this as the basis to conduct research on the programs that best align with their unique needs. For some students, profile limitations like GPA, GMAT, or work experience can restrict opportunities at higher ranked programs, so it makes sense to consider all alternatives.  Often lower-ranked schools are better aligned with the development needs of certain students. Some of the best programs for areas like entrepreneurship, operations, and supply chain management fall outside of the various rankings done every year. These programs can provide direct pipelines into career paths into these industries of interest.

Location should also be an area of note for aspiring MBAs. For some, targeting a specific location where the applicant wants to reside post-MBA is another smart strategy when identifying the ideal program. This is key because most schools have at the very least strong local recruiting within their geographic area. This strategy will increase the likelihood of landing at a target firm. These schools will often also have stronger alumni networks in their geographic region that trump higher ranked programs, so choose wisely.

A complimentary approach is identifying MBA programs close to target recruiters. For example if a career in Venture Capital is important then the west coast or Silicon Valley in particular should influence the school selection process. Interested in oil and gas? Then researching the local MBA programs in the state of Texas is a no brainer and would make more sense than pursuing admission at some higher rated programs outside the state.

Finally, some students just may not be academically equipped to perform or compete at certain MBA programs. Intense academic rigor, heavy workloads, and cumbersome pre-requisite coursework make some lower ranked programs a more comfortable academic environment.

Don’t be constrained by the various school rankings on the market. Create your own list that allows you to pick the program that makes the most sense for YOU!

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

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

GMAT or GRE: How Will MBA Admissions Officers View My GRE Score?

GRE vs. GMATOver the past five years or so, more business schools have been jumping on the GRE bandwagon by accepting either a GMAT or a GRE score. The percentage of candidates to top MBA programs who apply with only a GRE score is growing, but it’s still very small — less than 5% at most schools.

This leads many candidates to wonder how applying with a GRE score may be viewed by MBA admissions committees.

After speaking with dozens of admissions officers, I have a few insights that may be helpful:

  1. Feelings have changed over the past five years, so be careful that you don’t use outdated information. Countless blogs have been written over the years about whether to take the GRE. If they were not written in the past year, I would not put any stock in them. Attitudes have changed dramatically at many business schools over just the past year or two as they have greater experience in handling applicants with a GRE score in lieu of a GMAT score.
  1. Unless stated otherwise, almost all business schools genuinely do not have a preference between the GMAT and the GRE. While Veritas Prep believes that the GMAT exam offers a more accurate and nuanced assessment of the skills that business schools are looking for, according to feedback from admissions officers across the board and our independent analysis, the two exams are treated equally. Using data published by the business schools, trends clearly show that average GMAT scores and average GRE scores are nearly identical across the board. There is no inherent advantage or disadvantage to applying with a GRE score.
  1. Across the board, admissions officers use the official ETS score conversion tool to translate GRE scores into equivalent GMAT scores. Because so few candidates apply with a GRE score, the admissions committees don’t have a really strong grasp of the scoring scale. Every school we’ve spoken to uses ETS’ score conversion tool to convert GRE scores to GMAT scores so they may compare applicants fairly. You can use the same tool to see how your scores stack up.
  1. The GRE is not a differentiator. I get a lot of “traditional” MBA applicants with a management consulting or investment banking background who ask if they should take the GRE. They’re often nervous that their GMAT score won’t stack up against the stiff competition in their fields and hope that the GRE will differentiate them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. If anything, admissions officers may wonder why they chose to take the GRE even though all factors in their career path point toward applying to MBA programs and not any other graduate programs. There’s no need to raise any questions in the mind of the admissions reader when the GMAT is a clear option.
  1. The GRE isn’t easier, but it’s different. I also see a lot of applicants who struggle with standardized tests who seek to “hide” behind a GRE score because they believe that it’s easier than the GMAT. Even if the content may seem more basic to you, what matters is how you stack up against the competition. Remember that every Masters in Engineering and Mathematics PhD candidate will be taking the GRE, focused solely on the Quant sections. They’re going to knock these sections out of the park without even breaking a sweat. On the other side, English Lit majors and other candidates for humanities-related degrees will be focused exclusively on the Verbal sections, and their grammar abilities are likely to be much better than yours. This means that getting a strong balanced score (which is what MBA admissions officers are looking for) becomes extremely difficult on the GRE. Even if the content feels easier to you, remember that the competition will tough. That said, if you’re struggling with the way the GMAT asks questions, you might find the GRE to be a more straightforward way of assessing your abilities. This can be an advantage to some applicants based on their unique thought process and learning style, but it shouldn’t be seen as a panacea for all test-takers.
  1. Some schools are GMAT-preferred. For example, Columbia Business School now accepts the GRE, but its website and admissions officers clearly state that they prefer the GMAT. If you’re applying to any business schools that fall into this category, we highly recommend that you take the GMAT unless there’s a very compelling argument for the GRE. One compelling argument might be that you have already scored well on the GRE to attend a master’s program directly out of undergrad and you would prefer not to take another standardized test to now get your MBA. Or perhaps you’re applying to a dual-degree program where the other program requires the GRE. Without a compelling reason otherwise, you should definitely plan to take the GMAT.

Bottom line: We recommend that the GMAT remain your default test if you’re planning to apply to exclusively to business schools. If you really struggle with the style of questions on the GMAT, you might want to explore the GRE as a backup option. In the end, you should simply take the test on which you can get the best score and not worry about trying to game the system.

If you have questions about whether the GMAT or the GRE would be a better option for your individual circumstances, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 1-800-925-7737 or submit your profile information on our website for a free admissions evaluation. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Travis Morgan is the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep and earned his MBA with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He served in the Kellogg Student Admissions Office, Alumni Admissions Organization and Diversity & Inclusion Council, among several other posts. Travis joined Veritas Prep as an admissions consultant and GMAT instructor, and he was named Worldwide Instructor of the Year in 2011. 

The Importance of Recognizing Patterns on the GMAT

Ron Point_GMAT TipsIn life, we often see certain patterns repeat over and over again. After all, if everything in life were unpredictable, we’d have a hard time forecasting tomorrow’s weather or how long it will take to go to work next week. Luckily, many patterns repeat in recurring, predictable patterns. A simple example is a calendar. If tomorrow is Friday, then the following day will be Saturday, and Sunday comes afterwards (credit: Rebecca Black). Moreover, if today is Friday, then 7 days from now will also be Friday, and 70 days from now will also be Friday, and onwards ad infinitum (even with leap years). These patterns are what allow us to predict things with 100% certainty.

Some patterns are inexact, or can change dramatically based on external factors. If you think of the stock market or the weather, people often have a general sense of prediction but it is hardly an exact science. Some patterns are more rigid, but can still fluctuate a little. Your work schedule or the weekly TV guide tend to remain the same for long stretches of time, but are not always exactly the same year over year. Finally, there are patterns that never change, like the Earth’s rotation or the number of days in a year (accounting for the dreaded leap year). These patterns are rigid, and can be forecasted decades ahead of time.

On the GMAT, this same concept of rigid prediction is utilized to solve mathematical questions that would otherwise require a calculator. A common example would be to ask for the unit digit of a huge number, as something like 15^16 is far too large to calculate quickly on exam day, but the unit digit pattern can help provide the correct answer. Given any number that ends with a 5, if we multiply it by another number that ends with a 5, the unit digit will always remain a 5. This pattern will never break and will continue uninterrupted until you tire of calculating the same numbers over and over. A similar pattern exists for all numbers that end in 0, 1, 5 or 6, as they all maintain the same unit digit as they are squared over and over again.

For the other six digits, they all oscillate in predetermined patters that can be easily observed. Taking 2 as an example, 2^2 is 4, and 2^3 is 8. Afterwards, 2^4 is 16, and then 2^5 is 32. This last step brings us back to the original unit digit of 2. Multiplying it again by 2 will yield a unit digit of 4, which is 64 in this case. Multiplying by 2 again will give you something ending in 8, 128 in this case. This means that the units digit pattern follows a rigid structure of 2, 4, 8, 6, and then repeats again. So while it may not be trivial to calculate a huge multiple of 2, say 2^150, its unit digit can easily be calculated using this pattern.

Let’s look at a problem that highlights this pattern recognition nicely:

What is the units digit of (13)^4 * (17)^2 * (29)^3?

(A) 9
(B) 7
(C) 4
(D) 3
(E) 1

Looking at this question may make many of you wish you had access to a calculator, but the very fact that you don’t have a calculator on exam day is what allows the GMAT to ask you a question like this. There is no reasoning, no shrewdness, required to solve this with a calculator. You punch in the numbers, hope you don’t make a typo and blindly return whatever the calculator displays without much thought (like watching San Andreas). However, if you’re forced to think about it, you start extrapolating the patterns of the unit digit and the general number properties you can use to your advantage.

For starters, you are multiplying 3 odd numbers together, which means that the product must be odd. Given this, the answer cannot possibly be answer choice C, as this is an even number. We’ve managed to eliminate one answer choice without any calculations whatsoever, but we may have to dig a little deeper to eliminate the other three.

Firstly, recognize that the unit digit is interesting because it truncates all digits other than the last one. This means this is the same answer as a question that asks: (3^4) * (7^2) * (9^3). While we could conceivably calculate these values, we only really need to keep in mind the unit digit. This will help avoid some tedious calculations and reveal the correct answer much more quickly.

Dissecting these terms one by one, we get:

3^4, which is 3*3*3*3, or 9*9, or 81.

7^2, which is just 49.

9^3, which is 9*9*9, or 81 * 9, or 729.

The fact that we truncated the first digit of the original numbers changes nothing to the result, but does serve to make the calculations slightly faster. Furthermore, we can truncate the tens and hundreds digits from this final calculation and easily abbreviate:

81 * 49 * 729 as

1 * 9 * 9.

This result again gives 81, which has a units digit of 1. This means that the correct answer ends up being answer choice E. It’s hard to see this without doing some calculations, but the amount of work required to solve this question correctly is significantly less than what you might expect at first blush. An unprepared student may approach it by calculating 13^4 longhand, and waste a lot of time getting to an answer of 28,561. (What? You don’t know 13^4 by heart?) Especially considering that the question only really cares about the final digit of the response, this approach is clearly more dreary and tedious than necessary.

The units digit is a favorite question type on the GMAT because it can easily be solved by sound reasoning and shrewdness. In a world where the biggest movie involves Jurassic Park dinosaurs and a there is a Terminator movie premiering in a week, it’s important to note that trends recur and form patterns. Sometimes, those patterns are regular enough to extrapolate into infinity (and beyond!).

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

Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice for success on your exam.  After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.

The GMAT Shortcut That Can Help You Solve a Variety of Quantitative Questions

GMAT StudyingOne thing I’m constantly encouraging my students to do is to seek horizontal connections between seemingly disparate problems. Often times, two quantitative questions that would seem to fall into separate categories can be solved using the same approach. When we have to sift through dozens of techniques and strategies under pressure, we’re likely to become paralyzed by indecision. If, however, we have a small number of go-to approaches, we can quickly consider all available options and arrive at one that will work in any given context.

One of my favorite shortcuts that we teach at Veritas Prep, and that will work on a variety of questions, is to use a number line to find the ratio of two elements in a weighted average. Say, for example, that we have a classroom of students from two countries, which we’ll call “A” and “B.” They all take the same exam. The average score of the students from country A is 92 and the average score of the students from country B is 86. If the overall average is 90, what is the ratio of the number of students from A to the number of students in B? We could solve this algebraically. If we call the number of students from county A, “a” and the number of students from country B “b,” we’ll have a total of a + b students, and we can set up the following chart.

Average Number of Terms Sum
Country A 92 a 92a
Country B 86 b 86b
Total 90 a + b 90a + 90b

 

The sum of the scores of the students from A when added to the sum of the scores of the students from B will equal the sum of all the students together. So we’ll get the following equation: 92a + 86b = 90a + 90b.

Subtract 90a from both sides: 2a + 86b = 90b

Subtract 86b from both sides: 2a = 4b

Divide both sides by b: 2a/b = 4

Divide both sides by 2: a/b =4/2 =2/1. So we have our ratio. There are twice as many students from A as there are from B.

Not terrible. But watch how much faster we can tackle this question if we use the number line approach, and use the difference between each group’s average and the overall average to get the ratio:

b              Tot       a

86——–90—-92

Gap:  4           2

Ratio a/b = 4/2 = 2/1. Much faster. (We know that the ratio is 2:1 and not 1:2 because the overall average is much closer to A than to B, so there must be more students from A than from B. Put another way, because the average is closer to A, A is exerting a stronger pull. Generally speaking, each group corresponds to the gap that’s farther away.)

The thing to see is that this approach can be used on a broad array of questions. First, take this mixture question from the Official Guide*:

Seed mixture X is 40 percent ryegrass and 60 percent bluegrass by weight; seed mixture Y is 25 percent ryegrass and 75 % fescue. If a mixture of X and Y contains 30% ryegrass, what percent of the weight of the mixture is X?

A. 10%
B. 33 1/3%
C. 40%
D. 50%
E. 66 2/3%

In a mixture question like this, we can focus exclusively on what the mixtures have in common. In this case, they both have ryegrass. Mixture X has 40% ryegrass, Mixture Y has 25% ryegrass, and the combined mixture has 30% ryegrass.

Using a number line, we’ll get the following:

Y          Tot             X

25—–30———40

Gap: 5             10

So our ratio of X/Y = 5/10 = ½. (Because X is farther away from the overall average, there must be less X than Y in the mixture.) Be careful here. We’re asked what percent of the overall mixture is represented by X. If we have 1 part X for every 2 parts of Y, and we had a mixture of 3 parts, then only 1 of those parts would be X. So the answer is 1/3 = 33.33% or B.

So now we see that this approach works for the weighted average example we saw earlier, and it also works for this mixture question, which, as we’ve seen, is simply another variation of a weighted average question.

Let’s try another one*:

During a certain season, a team won 80 percent of its first 100 games and 50 percent of its remaining games. If the team won 70 percent of its games for the entire season, what was the total number of games that the team played?

a) 180
b) 170
c) 156
d) 150
e) 105

First, we’ll plot the win percentages on a number line.

Remaining             Total           First 100

50—————70———-80

Gap           20                     10

Remaining Games/First 100 = 10/20  = ½.

Put another way, the number of the remaining games is ½ the number of the first 100. That means there must be (½) * 100 = 50 games remaining. This gives us a total of 100 + 50 = 150 games played. The answer is D.

Note the pattern of all three questions. We’re taking two groups and then mixing them together to get a composite. We could have worded the last question, “mixture X is 80% ryegrass and weighs 100 grams, and mixture Y is 50% ryegrass. If a mixture of 100 grams of X and some amount of Y were 70% ryegrass, how much would the combined mixture weigh?” This is what I mean by making horizontal connections. One problem is about test scores, one is about ryegrass, and one is about baseball, but they’re all testing the same underlying principle, and so the same technique can be applied to any of them.

Takeaway: always try to pay attention to what various questions have in common. If you find that one technique can solve a variety of questions, this is a technique that you’ll want to make an effort to consciously consider throughout the exam. Any time we’re stuck, we can simply toggle through our most useful approaches. Can I pick numbers? Can I back-solve? Can I make a chart? Can I use the number line? The chances are, one of those approaches will not only work but will save you a fair amount of time in the process.

*Official Guide questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

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

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

7 Tips for your Application to the Chicago Booth MBA Program

So you’ve decided to try the presentation for the Booth MBA application.  Now what?

A simple question accompanied by a blank canvas to start with can be daunting.  It helps to have a structured process in place to put your ideas together, while still leaving plenty of room for creativity.  When I work with my clients, I take them through a very simple process to help them think about the content for the pages that will ultimately answer the question “Who are you?”

There are two parts to the process.  First, you need to determine what you want to say to the Admissions Committee?  And second, figure out how you want to say it?

There are no real right or wrong answers to these two questions.  Each individual will have his or her own story and style.  And that is what makes this application so fun.  It gives candidates the opportunity to truly be unique.

What to write:

Answering the question “Who are you?” is not easy for most people.  To make it simple, I have my clients write down a list of bullet points that will act like the Table of Contents in a book about your life.  If someone were to write a biography about your life, what would the main chapters be about?  What would those defining characteristics and moments be that make it into your story?  What are the things that are important to you and what are things that you like and enjoy?  Don’t be afraid to get personal.

Once you’ve created your list, ask yourself: do those chapters accurately capture the person that you are?  Few of the chapters by themselves will differentiate you, but when you add them all together, you get…you.

There are no rules about what can or cannot be included as part of your story.  This simply means that you should not be limited by time or age or by things that haven’t happened yet.  In other words, can your dreams be part of your story?  Absolutely.  Your dreams are part of who you are, right?

Who you are encompasses everything: your past, your present, and your future.

How to share your story:

While you’re coming up with your outline and your Table of Contents for your own personal story, you will need to think about ways you can present your story to the Admissions Committee.

I recommend that you try to use a ‘theme’ that is personal to you.  What could a theme be?  It can be anything, really.  I’ve seen candidates who have used a children’s book as the backdrop to their story, their favorite magazine or newspaper, baseball cards and sports, or technology.  The possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination (and Booth’s minimal requirements: it can’t have animation, and it has to be under 16 MB in size).

I always recommend that my clients open this challenge up to their friends and family members.  What would be an interesting, creative, and personal way to share your story?  The more ideas you have from the people who know you, the greater the chances are that you’ll have a good idea that is unique to you.

Putting it together:

Once you’ve got your outline and have identified your theme, it’s time to start putting your presentation together.  A few guiding principles that I like to offer to my clients:

Be efficient with your words.
You don’t want to write a lot if you’re developing a presentation.  While there is no word limit, a good rule of thumb is that your presentation shouldn’t have more than 750 words in it on the high end. It’s definitely possible to have an effective presentation with more words, but it all depends on the format you end up going with (e.g., using a newspaper theme might require more text compared to a shopping catalog, for example).

Use images and visuals to enhance your story.
It’s always good to include images from your life in your presentation, but they are by no means necessary.  I’ve seen plenty of great presentations that don’t have personal images but instead use hand-drawn pictures or visuals created in tools like Photoshop.  Whatever you choose, try to use images that demonstrate the full spectrum of your personality, your interests, and the story you’re trying to tell.

Pay attention to the details.
The details can be a lot of fun.  If you’re using a theme that would be recognizable to others, put the effort into making it as authentic as possible, and use your creativity to incorporate your own personal style into the presentation.  For example, you may want to rename a newspaper to make it personal to you and Booth (for the record, I don’t recommend using a newspaper theme because you won’t be the only one doing it, but it’s an easy example to demonstrate with).

Review, review, review.
Ask your friends and family for feedback and input.  You’ll be surprised by how many good ideas they will have and how willing they will be to invest in your success.  The presentation is a way for you to stand out from the crowd, so make sure it is capturing the story that you want to tell to Booth.

Have fun with it.
The process of developing the presentation is often one of the most rewarding experiences for business school candidates.  I have had many tell me that the Booth application was their favorite because it challenged them to think outside the box and forced them to think about questions they don’t normally think about.  Many have surprised themselves by how creative their presentations ended up being, and everyone has had fun doing it.  And that’s the point.  This process of self-discovery and creativity is intellectually stimulating – and that’s one of the reasons you’re applying to Booth in the first place, right?

If you get stuck, we’re here to help.

Good luck!

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Rich Williams is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His specialties include consulting, finance, and nonprofit applicants. 

4 Common Types of Teaching Methods in Business School

In ClassOne of the more commonly overlooked aspects by candidates during the school selection process is teaching methods at their target schools. Given that business school is in fact “school” and students spend a lot of time in the classroom, this area should warrant a lot more attention.

Teaching methods at certain schools like Harvard Business School and UVA’s Darden School, where the case method dominates, are core to the entire MBA experience for students, so it is important to know what you may be opting into. Most schools do not take as homogenous of an approach to teaching methods as these programs, so expect more of a mix from the majority of other schools.

The four types listed below are the most common teaching methods you will find in MBA programs.

Lecture:

Lectures are probably the most common teaching method found in business schools. With this format, students are typically greeted by slides via a PowerPoint presentation during the lecture and engage with content through this mechanism. Lectures tend to be more of a “lean back” or passive experience that is driven more by the professor. This teaching method will be the most natural to students as it is very similar to the way many undergraduate classes are structured.

Case Study:

The case study format involves a professor leading students through a historical analysis of a business situation. The “cases” are largely the product of Harvard Business School, which has pioneered the use of the case method. In case studies, students are expected to come up with a solution to some of history’s toughest business problems. Cases are commonly used as the driver for interactive classroom discussions and there is an expectation of strong class participation from all students.

Experiential Learning:

One of the more truly immersive teaching methods is experiential learning. This method allows students to operate within a specific topical area or industry of interest. Classes ending with the moniker “lab” fall into this bucket. Think your global lab, venture lab, asset management practicums, and many entrepreneurship classes. Also, many internship programs fall into this category. This method is all about learning while doing, a trend that continues to grow in many MBA programs.

Simulation:

Simulations are probably one of the least common, but still prevalent, teaching methods. This teaching method primarily uses technology recreations of common business scenarios. One of the most popular is the “MarkStrat” simulation used in marketing strategy courses.

The teaching methods at MBA programs are as diverse as the programs themselves, so do your research and make sure you are choosing the program that is right for you.

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

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

The GRE Scoring Range: Where Does Your Score Fall?

99Students who plan to apply to graduate school must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). At Veritas Prep, one of the first things our students ask us about is the scoring process for the exam. They are curious about the GRE scoring range for each of the three sections. Interestingly, in August of 2011, the GRE revised its scoring scale to paint a clearer picture of a student’s performance.

Look at some facts about this exam that can help students to determine where their results fall on the GRE scoring scale.

Learning About the GRE Scoring Process
The GRE is divided into three parts; verbal reasoning, quantitative, and analytical writing. There is a range of possible scores for each section. For example, a student can score anywhere from 130 to 170 points on the verbal reasoning section of the exam. The GRE score range for the quantitative section also goes from 130 points up to 170. The verbal reasoning and quantitative sections are scored in one point increments. As for the analytical writing section, a student can earn a score ranging from 0 to 6 points. This section is scored in half point increments. There are some graduate schools that look at a composite score for the GRE, but many look at a student’s scores on the individual sections of the test.

Evaluating GRE Scores
As with other standardized tests, there are excellent, good, and average scores on the GRE. For instance, if a student’s verbal reasoning results fall into the GRE score range of 160 to 170 points, then he or she has achieved an excellent score on that section. A score of 155 points to 159 on the verbal reasoning section qualifies as a good score. On the quantitative section of the exam, a score of 163 points or more is excellent. A score in the mid-150s is a good score on this section. As for the analytical writing section, someone who scores a 6.0 would be in the 99th percentile. A score of around 5.0 is a good score for a student to earn for this section.

The Key to Achieving an Impressive Score on the GRE
In order to achieve the score they want, students must thoroughly prep for the GRE. One of the most effective ways to do this is to take practice exams. Taking a sample exam gives students the chance to learn about the format of the test as well as what types of questions they will encounter. Students who feel anxious about the GRE are likely to feel more at ease after getting a sneak preview of what they’ll see on test day. Plus, students can put the techniques and tips they learn at Veritas Prep into action as they work through sample questions. Students who walk into the test location feeling confident in their abilities are sure to achieve results that fall on the high end of the GRE scoring range.

Researching Test Score Requirements for Specific Schools
One thing students can do to get a better idea of what score to achieve on the GRE is to research the admission requirements of the graduate schools they are interested in. In many cases, colleges and universities post GRE scores and other statistics on their website to give visitors an idea of what they expect of their students. A college or university may even display a range of GRE scores that are acceptable on an admissions application. At Veritas Prep, our instructors are experts at conveying strategies and tips that are useful to students on any section of the exam. Students receive individualized attention, so they can get help with the skills that require improvement. We use proven study materials and resources that give students the tools they need to submit their best performance on this challenging test. Our students appreciate the opportunity to study for the GRE with professional instructors who are both supportive and encouraging.

Our team at Veritas Prep is proud to provide effective online classes that can help you to achieve your highest score on the GRE! Contact us at Veritas Prep to start studying today!

Want to jump-start your GRE preparation? Register to attend one of our upcoming free online GRE Strategy Sessions or check out our variety of GRE Course and Private Tutoring options. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

The Easiest Type of Reading Comprehension Question on the GMAT

Ron Point_GMAT TipsReading comprehension questions on the GMAT are primarily an exercise in time management. If you gave yourself 30 minutes to complete a single Reading Comprehension passage along with four questions, you would find the endeavour very easy. Most questions on the GMAT feature some kind of trap, trick or wording nuance that could easily lead you astray and select the wrong answer. Reading Comprehension questions, while occasionally tricky, are typically the most straightforward questions on the entire exam.

So why doesn’t everyone get a perfect score on these questions? Often, it’s simply because they are pressed for time. Reading a 300+ word passage and then answering a question about the subject matter may take a few minutes, especially if English isn’t your first language or you’re not a habitual reader (you’ve only read Game of Thrones once?). Add to that the possibility of two or three answer choices seeming plausible, and you frequently waste time re-reading the same paragraphs over and over again in the passage.

Luckily, there is one type of question in Reading Comprehension that rarely requires you to revisit the passage and search for a specific sentence. Universal questions ask about the passage as a whole, not about specific actions, passages or characters. I often define universal questions as the “Wikipedia synopsis” (or Cliff’s notes for the older generation) of the passage. The question is concerned with the overarching theme of the passage, not about a single element. As such, it should be easy to answer these questions after reading the passage only once as long as you understood what you were reading.

Let’s delve into this further using a Reading Comprehension passage (note: this is the same passage I used previously for function, specific and inference questions).

Nearly all the workers of the Lowell textile mills of Massachusetts were unmarried daughters from farm families. Some of the workers were as young as ten. Since many people in the 1820s were disturbed by the idea of working females, the company provided well-kept dormitories and boarding-houses. The meals were decent and church attendance was mandatory. Compared to other factories of the time, the Lowell mills were clean and safe, and there was even a journal, The Lowell Offering, which contained poems and other material written by the workers, and which became known beyond New England. Ironically, it was at the Lowell Mills that dissatisfaction with working conditions brought about the first organization of working women.

                The mills were highly mechanized, and were in fact considered a model of efficiency by others in the textile industry. The work was difficult, however, and the high level of standardization made it tedious. When wages were cut, the workers organized the Factory Girls Association. 15,000 women decided to “turn out”, or walk off the job. The Offering, meant as a pleasant creative outlet, gave the women a voice that could be heard by sympathetic people elsewhere in the country, and even in Europe. However, the ability of the women to demand changes was severely circumscribed by an inability to go for long without wages with which to support themselves and help support their families. The same limitation hampered the effectiveness of the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (LFLRA), organized in 1844.

                No specific reform can be directly attributed to the Lowell workers, but their legacy is unquestionable. The LFLRA’s founder, Sarah Bagley, became a national figure, testifying before the Massachusetts House of Representatives. When the New England Labor Reform League was formed, three of the eight board members were women. Other mill workers took note of the Lowell strikes, and were successful in getting better pay, shorter hours, and safer working conditions. Even some existing child labor laws can be traced back to efforts first set in motion by the Lowell Mill Women.

The primary purpose of the passage is to do which of the following?

(A) Describe the labor reforms that can be attributed to the workers at the Lowell mills
(B) Criticize the proprietors of the Lowell mills for their labor practices
(C) Suggest that the Lowell mills played a large role in the labor reform movement
(D) Describe the conditions under which the Lowell mills employees worked
(E) Analyze the business practices of early American factories

The most frequent universal question you’ll see is something along the lines of “what is the primary purpose of this passage”. In essence, it’s asking you to summarize the 300+ word passage into one sentence, and that is difficult to do if you don’t remember anything about the passage. Ideally, you retained the key elements during your initial read. If need be, you can reread the passage, noting the main point of each paragraph in about five words. The synopsis of each paragraph, especially the last one, should give you a good idea about the overall goal of the passage.

In this passage, each paragraph is talking about the labour strife at the Lowell textile mills of Massachusetts in the 1820s. The first paragraph describes the conditions at the mill and sets the stage, the second paragraph describes the worker strike and subsequent resolution, and the third paragraph discusses the legacy of these workers. The overall theme has to capture the spirit of the entire passage, which is often summarized in the final paragraph (often the author’s conclusion). Pay special attention to that paragraph in order to determine why the author wrote this text and what he or she wanted you to learn from it.

Let’s look at the answer choices in order. Answer choice A, describe the labor reforms that can be attributed to the workers at the Lowell mills, is a popular incorrect answer. The goal of the passage is to shed light on these events, and describing the labor reforms attributed to these workers seems like a good conclusion, but it is specifically refuted by the first line of the third paragraph: “No specific reform can be directly attributed to the Lowell workers…” This means that answer choice A, while tempting, is hijacking the actual conclusion of the passage, as we cannot describe things that do not exist, and is therefore incorrect.

Answer choice B, criticize the proprietors of the Lowell mills for their labor practices, seems like something the reader could agree with, but is completely out of the scope of the passage. The mill is not being scrutinized for their labor practices; rather, the efforts of certain people are being underlined. If anything, the text suggests that the conditions at this mill were better than most at the time (and still today in certain countries). Answer choice B is somewhat righteous, but ultimately wrong in this passage.

Answer choice C, suggest that the Lowell mills played a large role in the labor reform movement, is supported by what is being said in the final paragraph. The legacy of the Lowell mills is being discussed, and since other workers were inspired by the events that transpired at these mills, the Lowell mills played a significant part in the larger labor reform movement. While this answer focuses somewhat on the third paragraph, don’t forget that the final paragraph has the most sway in the majority of passages, just as the last section of a movie is usually the most important section (the denouement, in proper English). Answer choice C is correct here, as the passage is primarily discussing the legacy of these events.

Let’s continue on for completion’s sake. Answer choice D, describe the conditions under which the Lowell mills employees worked, focuses on one small portion of the first paragraph, and even then the conditions are not covered in great detail. It’s a big stretch to try and claim that this is the primary focus of the entire passage, and thus can be eliminated fairly quickly.

Answer choice E, analyze the business practices of early American factories, is an answer choice that seems to bring some larger context to the passage, but is even more out of scope than answer choice B because it’s much broader. Only one mill is being examined in the passage, and its business practices were not even the main focus of the passage, so broadening the scope to all American factories is certainly incorrect. Answer choice E can also be eliminated, leaving only answer choice C as the correct selection.

Generally, universal questions do not require a rereading of the passage as the questions are primarily concerned with the broad strokes of the passage. If you didn’t grasp the major facets of the passage when reading through it, you probably didn’t understand the passage at all. If you understand the major elements of the passage as you read through it the first time, noting the primary purpose of each paragraph as you go along, you’ll be ready for any question in the universe.

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

Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice for success on your exam.  After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.

Set Up a Consistent and Manageable Study Schedule to Succeed on Test Day

procrastinationWhen I ask my students how their studying is going, the response is often to give an embarrassed smile, and admit that they just haven’t found as much time as they would have liked to devote to GMAT problems. This is understandable. Most of them have full-time jobs. Many serve on the boards of non-profit organizations. Others have young families. Preparing for a test as challenging as the GMAT can often feel like taking on a part-time job, and when piled on top of an already burdensome schedule, the demands can feel overwhelming and unreasonable.

Consequently, whenever they do find time to study, they tend to cram in as much work as they can, forsaking little things like socializing, exercise, and sleep. In an earlier post, I discussed why it can be counterproductive to engage in marathon study sessions, so in this one, I want to explore strategies for consistently finding small blocks of time so that our study regimens will be less painful and more productive.

The good news is that while we all feel incredibly busy, research shows that, in actuality, we’re a good deal less saturated with responsibilities than we think we are. In Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No Has the Time, Brigid Schulte discusses how our sense of having too much to do is, in a sense, a self-fulfilling prophesy. When we feel as though there’s too much to do, we tend to procrastinate, and part of this procrastination involves lamenting to others about how overwhelmed we are. Of course, while we’re complaining about our busy schedules, we’re not exactly models of productivity, and so we fall even further behind, which compounds our overriding sense of helplessness, compelling us to complain even more, a cycle that deepens as it perpetuates itself.

So then, how do we break this cycle?

First, we need to identify the biggest productivity-killers that trigger our procrastination tendencies in the first place. It will surprise no one to hear that email is a major culprit. What is surprising, at least to me, is how much of our idea was devoted to responding to emails. According to a study conducted by Mckinsey, we spend, on average, 28% of our workdays on email.

If you’re working a 10-hour day, as many of my students are, that’s nearly three hours of pure email time. If they can cut this down to 2 hours, well, that’s an hour of potential GMAT study time.  A few simple strategies can accomplish this. This Forbes article offers some excellent advice.

The most salient recommendations are pretty simple. First, set up an auto-responder. Unless an email is urgent, the sender will not expect to hear back from you right away. Second, get in the habit of sending shorter emails. If complicated logistics are involved, make a phone call rather than going back and forth over email. Also, make judicious use of folders to prioritize which messages are most important. And last, do not, under any circumstances, send an email that is mostly about how you don’t have any time to do things like, well, sending recreational emails.

Next, during those times when we’d otherwise have been on our phones complaining how much we have to do, we can instead use our phones to sneak in a bit of extra study time. Many of my students take the subway or commuter rail to work. While I don’t expect anyone to crack open their GMAT books in this environment, there’s no reason why they can’t use a good app on their phones to sneak in a good 20-minute session each day. And if you were wondering, yes, Veritas Prep has an excellent app for precisely such occasions.

The hope is that simple strategies, like the ones outlined above, will allow you to make your study regimen both consistent and manageable, diminishing the need to over-study when you finally have a block of free time on the weekend. If you’re able to do something more restorative on the weekend and feel refreshed when you begin the following work week, you’ll find you’ll be more productive that week and more inclined to stick with your study plan without running the risk of burnout. In time, you’ll feel less busy, and paradoxically, will be able to get more done.

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

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

Are Brain Training Exercises Helpful When Studying for Standardized Tests?

StudentIn the last two classes I’ve taught, I’ve had students come up to me after a session to ask about the value of brain-training exercises. The brain-training industry has been getting more attention recently as neuroscience sheds new light on how the brain works, baby-boomers worry about cognitive decline, and companies offering brain-improvement software expand. It’s impossible to listen to NPR without hearing an advertisement for Lumosity, a brain-training website that now boasts 70 million subscribers.  The site claims that the benefits of a regular practice range from adolescents improving their academic performance to the elderly staving off dementia.

The truth is, I never know quite what to tell these students. The research in this field, so far as I can tell is in its infancy. For years, the conventional wisdom regarding claims about brain-improvement exercises had been somewhat paradoxical. No one really believed that there was any magic regimen that would improve intelligence, and yet, most people accepted that there were tangible benefits to pursuing advanced degrees, learning another language, and generally trying to keep our brains active. In other words, we accepted that there were things we could do to improve our minds, but that such endeavors would never be a quick fix. The explanation for this disconnect is that there are two different kinds of intelligence. There is crystalized intelligence, the store of knowledge that we accumulate over a lifetime. And then there is fluid intelligence, our ability to quickly process novel stimuli. The assumption had been that crystallized intelligence could be improved, but fluid intelligence was a genetic endowment.

Things changed in 2008 with the release of a paper written by the researchers Susanne Jaeggi, martin Buschkuehl, John Jonides, and Walter Perrig. In this paper, the researches claimed to have shown that when subjects regularly played a memory game called Dual N-Back, which involved having to internalize two streams of data simultaneously, their fluid intelligence improved. This was ground-breaking.

This research has played an integral in role in facilitating the growth of the brain-training industry. Some estimates put industry revenue at over a billion dollars. There have been articles about the brain-training revolution in publications as wide-ranging as The New York Times and Wired. This cultural saturation has made it inevitable that those studying for standardized tests occasionally wonder if they’re shortchanging themselves by not doing these exercises.

Unfortunately, not much research has been performed to assess the value of these brain-training exercises on standardized tests. (A few smaller studies suggest promise, but the challenge of creating a true control group makes such studies extraordinarily difficult to evaluate). Moreover, there’s still debate about whether these brain-training exercises confer any benefit at all beyond helping the person training to improve his particular facility with the game he’s using to train.  Put another way, some say that games like Dual N-Back will improve your fluid intelligence, and this improvement translates into improvements in other domains. Others say that training with Dual N-Back will do little aside from making you unusually proficient at Dual N-Back.

It’s hard to arrive at any conclusion aside from this: the debate is seriously muddled. There are claims that the research has been poorly done. There are claims that the research is so persuasive that the question has been definitively answered. Obviously, both cannot be true. My suspicion is that the better-researched exercises, such as Dual N-Back, confer some modest benefit, but that this benefit is likely to be most conspicuous in populations that are starting from an unusually low baseline.

This brings us to the relevant question: is it worth it to incorporate these brain-exercise programs into a GMAT preparation regime? The answer is a qualified ‘maybe.’ If you’re very busy, there is no scenario in which it is worthwhile to sacrifice GMAT study time to play brain-training games that may or may not benefit you. Secondly, the research regarding the cognitive benefits of aerobic exercise, mindfulness meditation, and social interaction is far more persuasive than anything I’ve seen about brain-training games.

However, if you’re already studying hard, working out regularly, and finding time for family and friends, and you think can sneak in another 20 minutes a day for brain-training without negatively impacting the other more important facets of your life, it can’t hurt. Just know that, as with most challenging things in life, the shortcuts and hacks should always be subordinated to good, old-fashioned hard work and patience.

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

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

Mapping Out Your Summer Before Applying to Business School

Business School CalendarAs with most things in life, preparation is key. The more time you have to prepare for something the better the result tends to be. Applying to business school is no different. The majority of candidates will wait to the last month before the deadlines to begin preparing to complete their applications.

Don’t make this mistake! Take advantage of the summer months preceding application season and set yourself up for success.

Leveraging the summer months to start planning your application is not only one of the best things to increase your chances of success but also one of the most difficult to do. For starters, who wants to spend the summer cooped inside thinking about school? Getting started on your application during one of the most social times of the year can be very challenging for the typical outgoing, enterprising, future MBA.

Now there is no one size fits all approach to making the most of these summer months but see below for some things to consider as you start mapping out your game plan:

June

June is the ideal month to kick off your application season. This month should be used to set the baseline for the underlying strategy behind your applications. Consider using June to conduct research on target MBA programs and eventually identify which schools will be on your application list. Conducting research now will save you time later in the process during those critical fall months during application season.

Another key area to begin if not already addressed is the GMAT. Many applicants prep for the GMAT while writing their essays, which can equate to a very stressful and intense period during the fall. Utilize this time to provide a buffer if subsequent tests are needed. The GMAT tends to be the number one hang-up for most students so take advantage of some additional time to secure the score you need!

July

July is a great month to start thinking about your essays. As an integral part of the application process, this is one of the areas that additional prep can make a major difference. Utilize personal mini-stories which are select stories that you choose to reflect the 4 dimensions of Leadership, Innovation, Teamwork and Maturity emphasized by many MBA programs that you can later apply to the specific essay questions asked from each school.

August

August is a critical month to make progress on your application and at this point most MBA programs will have released their essay topics and applications. Leverage your work in July with the mini-stories to create some truly compelling essays. Also, now that school is back in session, this is a good time to consider completing your school research. Class visits are integral to understanding the MBA experience at your target programs and can add some nuanced context to your application package.

Use this high-level timeline to make the most of your summer and set yourself up for a successful application season.

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

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

6 Things You Need to Know About Taking the GRE

ChecklistStudents who are planning to apply to graduate school have a long list of things to do. One item on that list is to take the Graduate Record Examination, also known as the GRE. Many graduate schools require students to include these test results with their application. Look at some information on how to sign up for the GRE. Also, learn how our professional instructors at Veritas Prep help students prepare to excel on this critical exam.

1. Creating an Account

The first stop for a student who wants to sign up for this exam is the website of the Educational Testing Service or the ETS. A student must create an account on this site in order to sign up for the GRE. Also, students are able to look at their test scores via this account. It’s important that a student uses his or her full name when creating an account. This same name should be used when a student signs up for the test. Any discrepancy such as the use of an abbreviated name may cause a delay in the registration process. Also, if the name on a student’s registration form is different than the one on his or her identification, the student may not be allowed to take the GRE on test day.

2. Choose a Testing Location and a Test Date

Once a student creates an account on the ETS website, it’s a wise idea to check the various deadlines for test registration. A student must register by the deadline in order to avoid paying a fee. After noting the test deadlines, it’s time to find a testing location. A student should begin the search by clicking on his or her country, state and city. After entering the appropriate information, there may be several test locations to choose from. After clicking on a nearby testing location, a student is able to choose a test date and see if there are any seats available at that location. The GRE sign-up process is simple if students follow all of the steps involved in choosing a date and location.

3. Paying the Test Fee

The fee to take the GRE is $195.00. This fee is paid during the GRE sign-up process. Students should keep in mind that there are additional fees for services such as changing to another test center or another test day. There is the option of getting a fee reduction certificate if a student meets all of the eligibility requirements. Our experienced team at Veritas Prep understands the financial investment that a student makes in the GRE. That’s why we offer online GRE prep courses that give students the tools they need to master this exam. Students learn simple test-taking strategies and put them into practice under the guidance of an instructor. We instill our students with the confidence they need to achieve their best scores on the GRE.

4. Learn What to Bring and What Not to Bring on Test Day

Students should bring valid identification on test day. The name on the ID should match the name the student used to register for the test. Also, students should have their test admission ticket. The admission ticket bears the testing location, the test date, and the colleges that will receive test results. There are no electronic devices or phones allowed in the testing area.

5. Dressing for the Test

Students taking the GRE will be at the testing location for a little over three hours. The total testing time may be longer if students are allowed to take breaks that last more than a few minutes. One valuable tip is to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing to the testing location. Students may want to bring a sweater in case the room is cold. Not surprisingly, a student’s level of comfort during the test does have an effect on their performance.

6. Sending Test Results to Colleges

The test fee includes the option of sending GRE score results to up to four colleges. Those who want to arrange to send additional score reports to other colleges must pay a fee. Students can also look at their test scores via their account on the ETS website. A student’s scores on the GRE are valid for five years.

Our expert instructors use effective resources to help you ace the GRE! Contact our staff at Veritas Prep and start prepping for the GRE today.

We have an online GRE course starting in July! And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

The Importance of Sorting Answer Choices on the GMAT

Ron Point_GMAT TipsOn the GMAT, as in life, you have multiple choices you can make at every juncture you face. On the standardized test, your choices are limited to only five, which is more manageable than the plethora of choices you encounter every day. However, even five answer choices can cause a lot of frustration for people who have difficulty differentiating among them.

The good news is, the exam is mandated to have five different answer choices on every question, but some of these answer choices are redundant. While you won’t actually see the same answer choice twice on the test (unless you’re seeing double), many answer choices don’t differ from another answer choice in a meaningful way.

As an example, if you’re looking for the product of two even integers, such as 4 and 6, you know the product can never be odd. So while one answer choice may be 25 and another may be 33, they can both be eliminated for the same reason, greatly streamlining your task if you’re eliminating possible answer choices based on sound reasoning. Sometimes, a question may have two or three answer choices you can eliminate without having to do any math, as long as you can sort multiple answers into the same bucket (think Gryffindor).

Let’s look at such a question and how we can consider eliminating answer choices without actually calculating them longhand:

If x^4 > x^5 > x^3, which one could be the value of x?

A) -3

B) -2

C) -2/3

D) 2/3

E) 3

This question seems complicated because it is very abstract. We’re dealing with some unknown variable x raised to various uncomfortable powers. A great strategy here would be to try and make it easier to understand by using actual numbers. This will allow us to better visualize what is actually happening in the problem.

Let’s begin with the base case. Say we set x to be a simple positive integer, such as 2. If we square 2, we get 4. If we multiply by 2 again, we get 8. This is 2^3. We can continue by multiplying by 2 again and getting 16 for 2^4, and one final time to get 32 for 2^5. It should come as no surprise that the variable gets bigger as the powers increase.

However, this situation does not satisfy our original premise of x^4 > x^5 > x^3 because x^5 is the biggest value. Beyond eliminating the number 2 from contention, we can eliminate 3, 4, and every other positive integer bigger than 1. This is because all positive integers greater than one will increase in amplitude as the powers increase. Knowing this, we can eliminate answer choice E, which follows the same mould.

The remaining answer choices seem to either be negative, fractional or both. We might also recognize that numbers smaller than 1 will follow a different pattern, because successive increases in power will make the number smaller and smaller. Furthermore, negative numbers can break the pattern as well, as they will oscillate between positive results for even powers and negative results for odd powers. In fact, these two axes will be the only determining factors in identifying the correct result. The answer will be only one of the following structures: positive and less than 1, negative and less than 1, positive and more than 1, or negative and more than 1. Our job is to sort these out (like the sorting hat at Hogwarts).

We have already observed that positive and greater than 1 doesn’t satisfy the given inequality, so let’s look at positive and less than 1. We can take ½ as an example and extrapolate that to any result 0 > x > 1. If we square ½, we get ¼. If we continue to multiply by ½, we get 1/8, 1/16 and 1/32 respectively. Unsurprisingly, these are the reciprocals of the values found for x = 2. This batch doesn’t satisfy the inequality either, as x^3 is actually the biggest number here. This eliminates answer choice D. If it’s not obvious, the relative sizes of the exponents are easier to see if we use the number line:

___________________________________________________________________

0     1/32           1/16                      1/8                                                                                                             1

x^5            x^4                      x^3

Now that we’ve eliminated two possibilities (Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw), let’s look at the remaining choices: -3, -2 and -2/3. At this point, it should make sense that all negative numbers with absolute value greater than 1 will behave the exact same way in this inequality. This means that the answer cannot be either -3 or -2, as they are indistinguishable inputs on this question (also both Slytherin). Thus, if -2 worked, so would -3, and vice versa. Since only one answer choice can be correct, neither of these will be correct, and the answer must be -2/3. Let’s go through the calculation to confirm, but we already know it must be correct.

When we square a negative number, we are multiplying a negative by a negative and yielding a positive. When we multiply that number by a negative again, we revert to negative numbers. Thus, every odd numbered power will be negative and every even numbered power will be positive. Knowing this, we can easily calculate that x = -2/3, then x^2 = 2^2/3^2. Multiplying by -2/3 again, we get -2^3/3^3 for x^3. The next values will be 2^4/3^4 for x^4 and -2^5/3^5 for x^5. If it’s easier to see, you can calculate each of these values and get:

x^2 = 4/9

x^3 = -8/27

x^4 = 16/81

x^5 = -32/243

Using the number line again as a visual aid (roughly to scale):

________________________________________________________________________

-1                                           -8/27                    -32/243        0                   16/81                                                      1

x^3                       x^5                                      x^4

This confirms that x^4 is the biggest (most to the right) value while x^3 is the smallest and x^5 is the middle value. This also highlights the issue that -2 and -3 would have, as the amplitude increases, x^5 would be much smaller than x^3. Of the choices given, the only value that works is answer choice C: -2/3.

On the GMAT, one of the five answer choices must always be correct, but the other four can give you insight into what you should consider to solve the question. Oftentimes, you can figure out what the key issues are by perusing the choices provided. And more often than not, you can eliminate swaths of answer choices based on a logical understanding of the question. On test day, you don’t want to waste time considering answer choices that are obviously incorrect. If you can sort through the various answer choices quickly, you’ll end up in the house of your choice (I’d opt for Gryffindor).

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

Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice for success on your exam.  After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.

How to Select the Best Business School for You

Harvard Business SchoolSelecting the right schools for you can appear to be a simple and straightforward task.  Pick among the top ranked schools and choose 4, 5 or 6.  Add some online research, maybe attend an information session and you think you might have enough material to convincingly explain why school X is a great fit for your career goals.

I am not saying this approach cannot be successful for a select few, but there are a number of reasons why you would want to be more thorough in your school selection approach.  After all, you will spend 2 years of your life on campus, invest a significant amount of money, forgo salary and be part of the school’s brand and alumni network for life.  More importantly, without more thorough research you will not gain the necessary understanding of how a particular MBA program will help your career.  Hence, your essays will suffer and that is something you cannot afford.

The ranking lists are indeed a good starting point. They do act as a proxy for brand and network, among other things.  Rankings should, however, not serve as the tiebreaker for any of your MBA admissions decisions, whether putting together the initial school list, or selecting between schools once you have been admitted.

Applying a geographical filter is helpful in the early stages.  Do you want to be on the west coast? East coast?  Somewhere in between?  International campus? Urban or rural campus?

At this initial stage, you should aim to produce a list of 8-10 schools.  The eventual goal is to get the list down to 4-6 schools.  Be careful not to exclude schools at this point based on preconceived notions, e.g. you don’t think you would like Chicago as a city, but have never visited and hence don’t see yourself applying to either Booth or Kellogg.

Next you need to determine a few key things. First, you need to understand how well each school’s resources fit your career gap, i.e. how well do the curriculum, individual classes, extracurriculars, practical learning resources and alumni network prepare you for your short-term and long-term career goals?  Keep in mind that your career goals could change over time so you want to understand the flexibility offered in switching paths as well as the support available after graduation.  Ultimately, the strength of the alumni network is extremely important.  If you see yourself working globally, or returning to your home country, you want to understand the strength of the alumni network in that part of the world.

Second, you need to understand the culture of the schools. What are the students like?  What is the spirit of the school like? Collaborative, cut-throat, proactive, supportive, other?  This is harder to pinpoint and will rely on your interactions with current students, alumni, campus visits and interactions with admissions office.  It is the kind of thing where you will get a sense for where you fit in the best.

Using a spreadsheet or other ranking system to track the career gap analysis and cultural fit is a good idea.

For both the career gap analysis and cultural fit you should attempt to have at least one meaningful interaction with the following: current student, alumnus/a, professor or administrator outside of admissions office, admissions committee member, and a club officer of a club you are considering.

First time applicants can afford to be more selective, and might not include any real safety schools (where chances of admissions are very high).  Reapplicants should typically include one safety school.  Obviously, we know from working with our clients that there are many other professional and personal factors that could be considered, but these initial thoughts should get you moving in the right direction.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Marcus D.  Read more articles by him here, and find the expert who’s right for you here!  Visit our Team page today.

99th Percentile GMAT Score or Bust! Lesson 4: Think Like a Lawyer on Critical Reasoning

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

 

Lesson Four:

Think Like a Lawyer.  Your natural inclination is to just click “I agree” to the iTunes Terms & Conditions, but to lawyers each word in that agreement is carefully chosen to build a case.  Thankfully, on the GMAT the Critical Reasoning problems you see will be 99% shorter than those Terms & Conditions, but you’ll need to train yourself to think like a lawyer and notice how carefully chosen those words in the prompt are.  In this video, Ravi will demonstrate how his law degree has helped him become a master of GMAT Critical Reasoning, and how you can summon your inner Elle Woods (or Johnnie Cochran) to conquer CR, too.

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

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

By Brian Galvin

Do Grades Really Matter in Business School?

studyingSo you’ve finally made it on-campus and after all of those strenuous and nerve-wracking months applying to the MBA program of your dreams it’s time for you to kick up your feet and enjoy the two-year vacation that is business school. Since grades don’t matter you have nothing to worry about, right?

Except there is one small problem, for almost all MBA students this is not true. There has been a long held position that business school grades don’t matter, but any MBA alum will tell you this topic is a bit more complicated than it seems.

The basis of this discussion most likely stems from grade disclosure. Grade disclosure is the school specific policy in which students are “allowed” to share grades with recruiters. At some schools this policy is even voted on by the student body, which may surprise some who would assume most students would want the freedom of grade non-disclosure. Reasons some programs cite for disclosure include: maintaining academic commitment from students, distinguishing students in recruiting, and the perceived weakening of academic standards. These policies are not permanent at most schools, so make sure to stay updated on where your target school stands on the topic.

Now the term “allowed” should be taken with a grain of salt as the official policy and what actually happens can be quite different, especially when it comes to recruiters in specific industries. Some recruiters don’t always care to abide by official grade disclosure policies. In the recruiting process some of the biggest MBA feeder industries like consulting and finance are the most apt to request grades. This tends to be a more common request during the internship recruiting process, so for most students the 1st semester grades are the ones to pay the most attention to. Performance during this time can influence getting on a “closed list,” which is an invite only interview list for a particular recruiter. There are other factors like GMAT, work experience, and fit that influence the composition of this list, but for these competitive career tracks, your GPA will certainly factor in.

Another reason grades do matter is more personal in nature. Most MBA students are high achievers and tend to take personal stock in their own performance in the classroom. This nuance leads most students to realize that they will get out of the business school experience what they put into it.

For the few and far less altruistic, academic team assignments have become a big part of the MBA curriculum. In these situations, students work to collaborate on a class assignment, project, or deliverable and are often graded by their peers at the completion of the group work. This measure of accountability often keeps most students focused on not letting down their classmates and thus avoiding a negative reputation amongst their peers.

Attending business school is a transformative educational experience for most students. Whether your school has grade disclosure or not, or your recruiters demand it or not, make the most of your time in business school and take your academics seriously!

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

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

The Perfect GRE Score

GMATMost students who sign up with Veritas Prep to study for the Graduate Record Examination, or the GRE, have a lot of questions. One typical question is, “What is the highest score on the GRE?” Many students want to know the top GRE score so they can set their own personal goals for this exam. Students are also curious about the individual sections on the test and the type of material they will encounter.

Check out some facts about the subject matter on the GRE and take a look at the highest GRE score a student can earn.

The Three Sections of the GRE

Before thinking about scores, a student should learn about the various sections of the GRE. There are three sections that test a student’s verbal reasoning, quantitative, and analytical writing skills. The verbal reasoning section contains questions that measure a student’s reading comprehension abilities. For the text completion questions, a student must choose the most suitable word based on the context of a passage. Students must have an expansive vocabulary in order to choose the appropriate word for both the text completion and sentence equivalence portions of the verbal reasoning section.

The quantitative or math section of the GRE gauges a student’s abilities in the areas of arithmetic, basic algebra, basic geometry, and data interpretation. The questions in both the verbal reasoning and quantitative sections are in multiple-choice form. The analytical writing section of the GRE asks students to write two essays. One is an issue essay, and the other is an argument essay. These essays reveal how well a student can express, defend, and organize their ideas.

What Is the Highest Score on the GRE?

The highest GRE score a student can earn on the verbal reasoning section is 170 points. A perfect GRE score on the quantitative section is 170 points as well. The scoring scale for the verbal reasoning and quantitative sections ranges from 130 to 170 possible points. These two sections are scored in one-point increments. The highest GRE score possible on the analytical writing section is six points. The scoring scale for this section ranges from one to six points and is scored in half-point increments.

Some students add their verbal reasoning and quantitative scores together to get a single total. However, most graduate school admissions officials look at each of the scores separately. This gives them a clearer picture of a student’s specific abilities. At Veritas Prep, our talented instructors help students to achieve their best on the GRE. We offer online GRE prep classes that are convenient for busy students who want to learn the practical strategies they need to earn a GRE top score.

Earning a Good Score on the GRE

A student doesn’t have to achieve a perfect GRE score to gain admission into a prominent graduate program. Not surprisingly, GRE score requirements vary from school to school. Speaking generally, a score of 163 to 167 is considered a good total on the verbal reasoning section of the test. Furthermore, 164 to 168 points is a good score for the quantitative section. As for the analytical writing section, a score of 5.0 is a good total. One of the most useful things students can do before taking the GRE is to visit the websites of colleges they are interested in. In most cases, a college or university’s website will post statistics in the admission section that include the average GRE scores of its students. This can give a potential applicant an idea of what they need to score on the GRE to impress the admissions committee.

Veritas Prep’s professional instructors take pride in helping students to perform at their best on the GRE. We use study resources that give students the tools they need to tackle any question on the GRE. Our tutors provide individualized instruction and practical tips to students so they can strengthen the skills they need to improve in preparation for the test.

Students who work with Veritas Prep enjoy an advantage over their peers on test day. Our knowledgeable team gives students first-rate instruction and practice that instills them with confidence in their test-taking abilities. Call or email us today to start prepping for the GRE.

We have an online GRE course starting in July! And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

The Differences Between the GMAT and the GRE

GMAT vs. GREA student’s application to graduate school contains a lot of information about the individual, their grades, and their test scores. Most students who plan to pursue a graduate degree know about the Graduate Record Examination or the GRE. Students who want to pursue a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) are likely to know about the Graduate Management Admission Test, or the GMAT. Is it necessary for a student to take both tests? If not, should a student take the GMAT or GRE? Consider some information about both tests that can help students to make a decision regarding which one to take.

The Choice Between the GRE or GMAT for MBA Degree Programs

One important decision for students who want to apply to business school is whether to take the GRE or GMAT. For MBA candidates, it used to be a requirement to take the GMAT. Today, an increasing number of business schools accept GRE results from applicants. The best course of action for students interested in earning an MBA is to look at the specific requirements of the schools they are interested in attending. This is a simple way for students to decide whether to take the GMAT or GRE before applying to a business school. At Veritas Prep, we offer courses that help students study for the GMAT and the GRE. Students can benefit from working with skillful instructors who have experience with these tests. We offer both online and in-person classes that make preparing for the GMAT or GRE convenient for busy individuals.

The Content of the GMAT and the GRE

Learning about the content of each test can help students to achieve their highest possible scores. Both of these tests share similar content. For instance, both contain reading comprehension questions in the verbal section. Also, there is a quantitative section on the GMAT as well as on the GRE. The main difference between these two tests is that the GMAT has a section on integrated reasoning while the GRE does not. In addition, students taking the GMAT are required to write just one argument essay for the analytic writing section. The GRE requires students to write both an argument essay and an issue essay for the analytical writing section. Our Veritas Prep instructors are experts at providing students with practical strategies they can use to answer even the most challenging questions on these tests. We specialize in giving students tips that simplify test questions to make them more manageable for students.

The Duration and Cost of Both Tests

It takes a little over three hours to complete the GRE, whereas it takes about three and a half hours to complete the GMAT. The GMAT lasts a little bit longer due to its integrated reasoning section. Of course, the total amount of time a student spends at a test location also depends on the number of breaks students are given between sections. When it comes to the fee a student pays to take the test, there is a big difference between the GRE and the GMAT. Students pay $195.00 to take the GRE and they pay $250.00 to take the GMAT. The results of the GRE and the GMAT are valid for five years.

The Benefits of Studying with Veritas Prep

Along with being taught by the professional instructors at Veritas Prep, students also prepare for the GRE or the GMAT using quality study resources and materials. We provide students with individualized attention so they have their specific needs addressed. We help our students to pinpoint and strengthen their weaker skills so they can study with time-saving efficiency. Our students appreciate the encouragement and support they receive as they progress through our GRE and GMAT prep courses. We know that it can be a stressful time for students as they try to figure out which graduate schools to apply to. So, we work to instill our students with a sense of confidence about their performance on test day. Experienced instructors partner with students as they practice for these critical exams.

Whether you decide to take the GRE or the GMAT we can help you prepare to put forth your best performance on test day. Call or email us today and let our team of talented instructors guide you to success on the test!

We have an online GRE course starting in July! And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!