GMAT Tip of the Week: Larry Rudner is not Candy Crowley. Timing Matters!

There’s a lot you can learn about your GMAT preparation everywhere you look… even in the cutthroat world of American politics. Yes, even watching two Harvard grads snarl at each other can help you become a better GMAT student and, ultimately, a higher score on the exam.

If you watched the U.S. Presidential Debate this week, you hopefully saw a lot of similarities between you and the candidates:
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WANTED: Tech Ninja!

Do you love technology — particularly web technology? Are you a strong student with an analytical mind? Are you looking to supplement your education with real-world experience? Veritas Prep is looking for a smart and motivated student to work in our IT department as a summer intern — with the potential to extend to part-time work when school resumes.

What do we do at Veritas Prep?
We provide elite GMAT preparation and graduate school admissions consulting to students around the world. We train the brightest minds to get into the best schools in order to create and manage the world’s most successful businesses. We believe that technology should be leveraged to improve access to educational content, and we strive to provide students with the best educational experience.
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GMAT Tip of the Week: Meaning Matters (But Maybe Not The Kind of Meaning You Think)

If you have not yet encountered the term “intended meaning” in your GMAT study, you are free -and encouraged – to skip this post! But if you have, this point is worth learning. While many GMAT books and websites – including the Official Guide for GMAT Review in some of its solutions – provide as rationale for eliminating answer choices that they “distort the intended meaning” of the sentence, beware that the concept of “intended meaning” is dangerous if you use it to solve problems. Consider, as evidence, the following answer choices from an official GMAT problem:

(A) Using a Doppler ultrasound device, fetal heartbeats can be detected by the twelfth week of pregnancy.
(E) Using a Doppler ultrasound device, a physician can detect fetal heartbeats by the twelfth week of pregnancy. (CORRECT)

Using the concept of “intended meaning”, one might argue that, while grammatically preferable, choice E distorts the meaning by adding “a physician” to the sentence. But that argument misses the point of this exercise; choice A is incorrect because the modifier “Using a Doppler ultrasound device” needs to describe an actor who can use such a device. And the sentence as written does not supply a logical actor, whereas the corrected choice E does. E changes – or at least “adds to” – the meaning of choice A, but that is perfectly acceptable. Do not ascribe any “incumbency” to choice A – if A is illogical then the correct answer must change the meaning.

The problem with the concept of “intended meaning” is that it seems to suggest that a sentence can mean something other than what it explicitly says. In fact, the dominant strategy for Sentence Correction is to recognize that each sentence means exactly what it says, and so if that meaning is illogical the sentence must be changed. Your job on the GMAT is not to play mind reader and try to interpret what a sentence might mean; your job is to judge each sentence on what it says, and to eliminate illogical meanings.

In contrast, Illogical Meanings are incredibly problematic. Consider the difference between:

A) Needing a transfusion after this morning’s accident, John informed the nurses that his blood type was O-positive
B) Needing a transfusion after this morning’s accident, John informed the nurses that his blood type is O-positive

What’s the difference? Meaning – and the fact that A is illogical. John’s blood type has not changed – there’s no justification for saying “was” O-positive. It is, and will continue to be, O-positive.

Remember that meaning is critical in Sentence Correction – and that while there is no “intended” or incumbent meaning, illogical meanings are to be eliminated!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Integrated Reasoning, It's All Relative

Like high school seniors across the country, we at Veritas Prep are already well within our countdown-to-June period as we anxiously await the unveiling of the GMAT’s new Integrated Reasoning (IR) section (less than four months to go! Seniors/GMAT enthusiasts whoooo!) If you’re similarly-minded and thinking about the IR section already, the following should help you set your mathematical mind to the right frequency. Remember this: while the numbers in many IR problems might be large and specific, the math is all relative.

On the IR section, you will face 12 “problems”, each with more than one “question”, in 30 minutes. Using Relative Math (the theme for this post), you can determine that you’re looking at around a minute or so per question… which isn’t all that much time to interpret the question, perform lengthy calculations, and (discount) double-check your answer. Even with the use of the relatively-primitive IR calculator — one that does not recognize order-of-operations, so you will need to keep track of values by hand — these calculations will take time and leave potential for error. In most situations, you will want to avoid technical calculations unless they are absolutely necessary. Instead, you will want to employ Relative Math:

  • Determine which values are relevant to a correct answer
  • Estimate those values whenever possible
  • Calculate values only when the estimates are too close to call
  • Remember that the logical setup for the values is typically the crux of the question, not the calculation itself

As an example, consider the question:

City Amount Saved Total Budget
Andersonville $8,225 $47,975
Bronxtown $16,750 $142,950
Chadwick $3,925 $20,325
Dodgeville $3,350 $16,275
Edgewater $13,100 $51,675

The table above shows the 2010 annual budget for the Sanitation Departments of five cities, and the amount of money that each was able to save over that budget for the 2011 fiscal year. Which city had the lowest percentage savings on the basis of the previous year’s budget?

  1. Anderson
  2. Bronxtown
  3. Chadwick
  4. Dodgeville
  5. Edgewater

Note that a calculator might be tempting in this case, but that each calculation requires you to key at least nine digits — a time-consuming process that raises your potential for typo-based error. An eye for both logical setup and Relative Math can guide you through this process efficiently and confidently. First, note the correct relationship — the lowest percentage savings, or the lowest savings-to-budget ratio. Your goal, then, is to test the ratios of left column to right, looking for the smallest ratio. Your “baseline” for Andersonville is approximately 8/48 or 1/6. And in relation to 1/6, you know that the numerator is a little over 8 and the denominator is a little less than 48, so the overall ratio is going to be slightly greater than 1/6. You can denote this quickly on your noteboard with a + sign or a > sign to help you recognize the direction of your estimates.

  1. >8/48, so >1/6
  2. <20/140, so <1/7 (the current “leader” in smallest ratio)
  3. <4/20, so <1/5
  4. >3/16, and since you’re comparing against 1/7 (or 3/21) you know that this is greater
  5. >13/52, so >1/4

The answer must be B, and if you’ve employed the above estimates you won’t have had to perform any true calculations to get there. Bronxtown had the lowest percentage savings.

Are you getting ready to take the GMAT? Take a look at some of the Integrated Reasoning sample problems our our site. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Gut Check

The GMAT is a difficult test. But you knew that — that’s probably why you’re reading this, because you’re looking for insight. One important insight is to accept and recognize that it’s a hard test and that you have to earn most correct answers, as there is little value to business schools in a GMAT question that does not separate the elite candidates from the simply-above-average applicants.

How can you become part of that elite group? One way is to not just accept that the GMAT is hard, but to use that fact to your advantage. Knowing that the GMAT is a hard test, you can train your gut to recognize when an answer choice just seems too easy, and accordingly use your problem solving skills to root out the reason why.

Consider the Data Sufficiency question:

Given that x and y do not equal 0, what is the value of x/y?

(1) 9y/x = 2/x – 4

(2) 12x/y + 27 = 12/2y

Even a quick glance at the statements could alert you to the fact that neither alone looks to be sufficient. The -4 term in statement 1 and the +27 term in statement 2 won’t allow themselves to be expressed in terms of x or y – you’re stuck with an extra numerical value that won’t break into that x/y ratio.

Should you even break them down, you’ll note that, for statement 1:

9y = 2 – 4x (multiply both sides by x)

For statement 2:

12x + 27y = 6

Again, you should note that you won’t be able to get to an x/y term because of the presence of those numerical terms (now 6 and 2).

So if A and B are eliminated as answer choices, C looks pretty obvious, right? 2 equations and 2 variables, which you could see from the beginning should allow you to solve for both. But this is a hard test! Cs don’t come easy, so you should be a little leery of that 2 statements, 2 equations, 2 variables setup.

One incredibly clever trick that the GMAT has up its sleeve is to provide you with two statements that are mathematically identical, so when you do feel that twinge of “too easy” anxiety, that’s a great spot to double check. Express each statement in the same way and you’ll find that they are:

9y = 2 – 4x

27y = 6 – 12x

Look familiar? You know that the GMAT has a preference for factoring, so it makes sense to factor out common terms in any equations or fractions. Each term in statement 2 is divisible by 3, so divide out the 3s to find:

9y = 6 – 12x

In the end, you only have one unique equation, and the correct answer is E.

Axioms like “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is” and “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” pervade the business world for good reason – good managers will recognize situations that look promising on the surface but have significant flaws underneath. Demonstrate to business schools that you have exactly that instinct – when a Data Sufficiency question seems to offer you an easy answer, investigate further!

Need to prepare for the GMAT and don’t have much time? Our first two-day Essentials Course starts next weekend. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Law School Applicants Willing to Brave Gloomy Job Market

This morning we released the results of a comprehensive survey of law school applicants that we recently conducted. Our first annual law school applicant survey — conducted in partnership with Law School Podcaster and PreLaw Magazine — uncovered some interesting insights behind what drives today’s law school applicants.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how some law schools mislead potential applicants by overstating their post-graduation career prospects. Are law school hopefuls aware of the bleak job market, disappearing six-figure jobs, and the heavy student loan debt associated with leading law schools? More importantly, do they care? The answers may surprise you.

The short answer to the question of, “Would today’s law school applicants still apply even if they knew their job prospects would be bleak upon graduation?” is YES, most of them would in fact still apply. And, many of these seem just as concerned about their long-term career prospects as they are with the question of what job they’ll land right out of law school.

Here’s what we found in our survey of more than 100 law school applicants:

  • 81% of respondents said they would still apply to law school now even if a significant number of law school graduates were unable to find jobs in their desired fields, while 12% said they would postpone applying until placement rates improved. Only 4% said they would not apply to law school.
  • Respondents are equally concerned with finding an appealing long-term career path and maintaining a healthy work/life balance once they start working (79%). Other key concerns include finding a job that allows them to pay off their student loan debt (72%) and using their law degree to make a positive impact on their community (69%).
  • 44% of respondents indicated a reasonable desired base salary upon law school graduation to be $75,000-$100,000, while 29% expect $100,000-$145,000. 11% of respondents anticipate base salaries over $145,000.

So why are they applying to law school in the first place? The majority of respondents said they want to go to law school because they are interested in the law and the way it shapes society and business (75%). Some admitted to having more practical reasons: 35% of respondents believe they will always be able to find some kind of job if they have a JD.

We’ve written a lot about”helicopter parents,” and we know that a lot of these parents are behind their children’s push to get into law school. However, only 13% of respondents are going to law school because their parents want them to attend. (Some of us wonder if the real number is in fact higher, but no 21-year-old wants to admit it.)

Finally, we wondered how much affordability factored into these applicants’ decision-making. According to our survey results, it’s only important to 54% of respondents in the law school selection process. Student loans (38%) and grants/scholarships (21%) were the two most common financing strategies for law school, while 14% of respondents indicated parental support will help them finance the degree. So, despite all of the chatter these days about runaway student loan burdens, it seems that the majority of those who do apply just accept the high costs as a fact of life.

Getting ready to apply to a top-ranked law school this year? Call us at (800) 925-7737 and speak with a law school admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

How MBA Admissions Is Like Fantasy Football (Part 1)

If you’re like half of us here at Veritas Prep HQ, this is the time of year when you suddenly care a great deal about NFL players and teams that you don’t normally follow. You’ve got the fantasy football bug, and have signed on for at least 14 weeks of ups and downs generated by the motley assortment of players on your fantasy football team.

Back in August, you seemed to have it all figured out: You picked up an elite, top=tier, no-doubt-about it running back in the first round of the draft, got a top-five wide receiver with your second pick, and the rest just fell into place. Heck, you were even amazed by how great BOTH of your quarterbacks were, prompting yourself to wonder, “Just how competitive is this league that I’m in?”

Then, reality hit. Your “can’t miss” running is now in a platoon situation, your two best wide receivers have just one touchdown between them (and are tweeting about their lack of playing time), and your quarterback just suffered his third concussion in three years. Now, you wonder, “Do I even stand a chance in this league?”

So what do you do? You make adjustments.

You start trolling the waiver wires for possible replacements. You give some of the guys on the bench (that “depth” you were crowing about just several weeks earlier) a shot to fill in for your big-name players. You somehow find a way to field a full starting roster every week, and you manage to stay competitive. (After all, your opponents are probably dealing with the same challenges.)

So what does this have to do with MBA admissions? The lesson to take away is that your plans will inevitably change between the very start of the process and when you click “Submit” on your last business school application. Maybe you didn’t leave yourself enough time for the GMAT, and on September 24 you got a 650, and the HBS Round 1 deadline was only a week away. Or, after five weeks of coaching one of your recommendation writers, it started to become apparent that you weren’t going to get a recommendation (or at least a good one) from him in time. Or, maybe you learned that you were just weeks away from receiving a large promotion, potentially making your candidacy stronger after the promotion, and maybe even giving you second thoughts about applying now and walking away from such a great opportunity.

In every case, you have to step back and plan again. Didn’t get the GMAT score that you wanted? Then you consider taking the GMAT again, knowing that you’re better off applying with a 700 in Round 2 than a 650 in Round 1. (Perhaps you enroll in our new Essentials Course.) Or you hurry up and enlist the help of your “Plan B” recommendation writer, who ends up writing a better recommendation for you than anyone else does. Or you strategically wait a few weeks and let that promotion come through, so that you can show the big step up in job title (and salary) on your application data sheets.

In every case, things didn’t turn out the way you expected, and you smartly took a step back and asked, “What should I do differently to compensate for (or take advantage) of this new situation?” That ability to assimilate and act on new information not only makes for a great fantasy football manager, but it also happens to make for a great business manager, which is what MBA admissions officers are looking for to begin with.

Stay tuned for Part 2, when we’ll compare MBA admissions and fantasy football in an entirely different way, but one that will shed even more light on how to think about your business school candidacy strategically.

Thinking about applying to a top-ranked MBA program this year? Download our Annual Reports, 15 free MBA admissions guides to the world’s top business schools. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Five Tips for the GMAT Self-Study Student

While Veritas Prep is obviously in the business of getting paid to provide GMAT preparation services, we know that a lot of our fans have chosen the self-study path for their GMAT prep. In fact, most of us here at Veritas Prep HQ chose the self-study route when we took the GMAT (and the rest have taken a Veritas Prep course!).

Do-it-yourself GMAT prep can be very effective, but it can also lead to a great deal of frustration if you do it without a plan or start off with some bad advice. We do believe that most people can do well on the GMAT by studying on their own, but many students sabotage themselves with bad study habits or a lack of understanding about the GMAT itself. To help you, today we present five tips for those of you who choose to prepare for the GMAT on your own:

Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
We often see students boasting in public forums about how many Official Guide problems they complete every week, or how they have run out of questions to do because they’re just on fire with their GMAT prep. Unfortunately, many of them focus on the wrong thing — while you’re studying, it’s not a question of how many problems you can do (or how quickly you can do them), but rather what you’re learning with each question. If you hit a sticking point with a problem, take a step back and ask yourself, “What are they testing here? What in my toolkit will help me answer this question?” and make a note of what your GMAT toolkit may be missing. That’s a far more effective approach to preparation than burning through problem after problem, possibly reinforcing bad habits along the way.

Balance Is Key
We often see students fall into two camps: They either tend to gravitate towards the problems that they like (“Oh good, a distance/rate problem. I can do these.”), or they develop an obsession with what they can’t do well (“I need to find 500 geometry questions NOW.”). The reality is that you will encounter both kinds of questions on test day, and you need to be able to get good at the hard stuff while staying nimble and error-free with the easier stuff. In any one sitting, make sure you cover some of both: Work on the stuff you like as well as the material you hate.

Don’t Look Things Up!
This advice runs contrary to what Mom and Dad told us when we were kids: “How do you spell pterodactyl?” / “Look it up!” While that’s a terrific habit for a seven-year-old to get into, it’s a terrible one for a GMAT student to practice. If you encounter problem for which you don’t have an obvious plan of attack (such as knowing an algebraic formula or remembering a grammar rule), DON’T look it up in the moment? Students who are obsessed with pacing (more on that in a minute) especially fall prey to this, since they’re trying to get through problems as quickly as possible. The problem is that you won’t be able to do that on test day. What will you be able to do on the big day? Figure out the problem with what you DO know, even if you don’t know the easiest way to solve the problem. Even if it takes you five minutes during your GMAT practice, you will emerge better prepared in the long run. Afterward, definitely make a note and go back and learn (or re-learn) the thing you may have missed, but in the moment, solve the problem another way.

Practice the Way You’ll Play
This may seem like a mundane point, but this is a subtle prep strategy that can earn you a few extra points on the verbal section on the big day: In any one GMAT study session, make a point of finishing on some verbal questions. Why? Because that’s how you will do it on the real GMAT. As we’ve written before, the GMAT will throw meaty Reading Comprehension questions and tricky Sentence Correction problems at you after you have already been working for three hours… Don’t let mental fatigue get in the way at that point. When you’re about ready to hang it up for the night after a couple hours of studying, force yourself to do a few more verbal questions, and practice the skill of staying focused on them when you’re starting to get tired.

Be Mindful of Pacing
Yes, we’ve already made point here of not obsessing over pacing too much in your GMAT studies. However, you do need to make sure that you’re setting yourself up to finish each section of the exam, and the best way to do that is with regular “check ins” to see how you’re doing on pacing. While some students do 2,000+ practice problems and then take a couple of timed tests just before sitting for the real exam, we advise timing yourself earlier and more often. After you have mastered the basics, get in the habit of timing yourself once a week. It doesn’t need to be a full practice test every time — trying to do 30 problems in 60 minutes is more than enough — but it should be enough to get a feel for how you’re tracking. Don’t save this until right before the test, because if you find that you’re working too slowly, it may be too late to fix it. You don’t need to be obsessed with pacing at every turn, but time yourself from time to time.

Need a little more guidance but not sure if you need a seven-week prep course? Our newest GMAT course format, the Essentials Course, is the perfect way to start your GMAT preparation! Enrollment costs just $700 for in-person courses and only $550 for live online.

Our first course runs Saturday and Sunday, October 30-31, from 10 AM to 6 PM EDT, and will be taught by Brian Galvin and David Newland, two of Veritas Prep’s most distinguished instructors (and two of the brains behind the new course). Click here to learn more and to enroll!

And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and to follow us on Twitter!

Photo courtesy of TheTruthAbout, under a Creative Commons license.

Business School Bonding: Austin City Limits

“Business School Bonding” is a new series debuting today on the Veritas Prep blog. From time to time we’ll dig deep into an MBA program’s culture, looking at student groups, on-campus activities, and other things around town that students enjoy doing during their two year in business school. We’ll even check in with some past Veritas Prep clients to get the inside scoop on the fun things to do at their schools! Our first installment was penned by our own Mike Miller here at Veritas Prep HQ:

Business school is going to be two of the most influential and important years of your life. It also will probably be two of the most fun. Today, we want to start talking about a very important and often overlooked side of the business school experience –- making friends. Specifically, we want to focus on the opportunities that schools provide to have shared experiences and develop life-long friendships. And we are not talking about networking mixers — we’re talking about real bonding experiences.

We start this week with the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business. Currently (and consistently) ranked about 16th in US News and World Report, McCombs is a legitimate top 20 business school with a history of developing influential business leaders. They pride themselves in offering a flexible curriculum, renowned faculty, hands-on learning opportunities with industry leaders, and very collaborative MBA culture. However, their strongest selling point may be their location in Austin — a city that is frequently praised as “America’s Most Innovative City” and recently proclaimed as “The Best City of the Next Decade.” Austin is also home to an event loved by McCombs MBAs and the rest of the local community -– Austin City Limits Musical Festival.

Austin City Limits just ran from October 8th to the 10th, attracted more than 70,000 attendees each day, and filled the city of Austin with music from 130 of the world’s most entertaining live acts. This year, I had the pleasure of listening to MUSE, The Black Keys, Miike Snow, LCD Soundsystem, Vampire Weekend, The Strokes, Phish, MIA, Yeasayer, Local Natives, Band of Horses, The XX, The Temper Trap, The Flaming Lips, DeadMau5, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Silversun Pickups, and Eagles… if you have ever heard of them.

And I am just one man, but I can tell you that most of the McCombs community was in attendance and this is an event that they will always remember from their business school experience. Late night project work proves to your classmates that you are committed, loyal, and capable of getting things done as a professional, but events like this build lasting friendships. Who could forget being 10 feet from stage with your friends as MUSE plays Newborn and green lasers swirl around your head? Who would not feel closer to a classmate after belting out Hotel California with The Eagles on a 75 degree night overlooking the Austin skyline?

Not me. And not you, if you decide to attend this great program. So today, as someone who has visited McCombs, met the students, explored the city, and attended one of the world’s great music festivals, I can confidently say that McCombs is a school that can offer what I call, “Some serious b-school bonding.”

In an effort to learn more about the University of Texas, Austin, and this music festival, we open the floor to you.

McCombs MBAs, what were your favorite non-academic experiences at the University of Texas? We want to know about the best restaurants, places to go out, and other events that have brought you closer to your classmates. Maybe someone has been to South by Southwest? It’s time to represent McCombs and let prospective Texas MBAs know what you, your school, and your city have to offer.

Non-MBAs, did you go to the show? Who was your favorite band? What did you love about the festival? What do you love about Austin? Why are you considering going to McCombs?

Thinking about applying to a top-ranked MBA program this year? Give us a call at (800) 925-7737 to speak with an MBA admissions consultant today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Data Sufficiency the Katy Perry Way

She may be too racy for Sesame Street, but we’re all adults here, right? The lesson that Katy Perry was trying to teach Elmo in her canceled cameo on the long-running children’s show is one that is essential for you as you approach Data Sufficiency questions on the GMAT. So just as the beat of California Gurls might, embarrassingly enough, inspire you to pick up your pace at mile 22 of a marathon, the lyrics of Hot n Cold can spur you to success on the GMAT. Admit it, you know the words:

You’re hot then you’re cold, you’re yes and you’re no, you’re in and you’re out, you’re up and you’re down.

Katy Perry, ever unlucky in love (seriously…Russell Brand?), is describing a relationship that is not sufficient, and in doing so providing you with a blueprint to determine whether a mathematical statement is not sufficient: Get both answers – if “you’re yes and you’re no”, you’re insufficient.

Consider this example:

Does the product of integers a, b, c, and d equal 1?

1) ab/cd = 1

2) a + b > b + c

By plugging in numbers consistent with statement 1, it’s fairly easy to get an answer to the overarching question; something like 4*2/8*1 does indeed equal 1, but the product of those numbers is 64 and the answer is NO. But like the relationship in Katy Perry’s song, this “NO” answer could be subject to change in a unique situation, so our goal should be to find a way to get the answer “YES”. How can that be done? Should all variables equal 1, that ought to do it: 1*1/1*1 = 1, and 1*1*1*1 is also 1, so by choosing numbers carefully – with a goal of getting the answer “YES” to counterbalance the “NO” we already have – we can prove that statement 1 is not sufficient.

Statement 2 should seem to preclude that “all = 1” situation, however. We could still use 8, 1, 4, and 2 as our a, b, c and d variables* to get the answer “NO” as above, but trying to find the answer “YES” gets tougher as now the possibility of having all the same variables is no longer allowed. However, if our goal is to find “YES”, we’re inspired to find a way, and there’s one way to do it: 1, -1, -1, 1. That gives us a + b = 0 and b + c = -2, so a + b > b + c, but the product would cancel the two negatives to give exactly 1, so there’s our “YES”.

Taken together, our demonstration of “YES” in statement 2 is consistent with the terms of statement 1, so we can show that even with both statements the possibilities of both NO (8, 1, 4, 2) and YES (1, -1, -1, 1) still exist, so we don’t have enough information to answer the question and the correct answer is E.

* – please note for strategic value – when picking numbers you can save time by using your numbers for either “YES” or “NO” from statement 1 when you attempt statement 2, as long, obviously, as the numbers you picked are consistent with statement 2. Because often after 1 is not sufficient you’ll need to try both statements together, it’s helpful in practice to get in the habit of seeing if your first set of numbers will work as your plug in values for your second set so that you’ve already done half of the work that you may need to do when you consider 1 and 2 together.

Like a Katy Perry song, Data Sufficiency questions often hinge upon your ability to get conflicting answers. Get a yes and a no and you can prove that the statement is insufficient…it’s so easy that even a Muppet should be able to do it!

If you plano n taking the GMAT soon, see how our new Essentials Course can get you up to speed on the fundamentals of the GMAT in just one weekend. (The first one starts October 30th!) And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Challenge Question: Solve This Stats Problem, Stat!

Set A consists of integers -9, 8, 3, 10, and J; Set B consists of integers -2, 5, 0, 7, -6, and T. If R is the median of Set A and W is the mode of set B, and R^W is a factor of 34, what is the value of T if J is negative?

(A) -2
(B) 0
(C) 1
(D) 2
(E) 5

Please include your answers in the comments field and we’ll be back later today with the solution!

UPDATE: Solution.

This problem demonstrates a helpful note about statistics problems – quite often the key to solving a stats problem is something other than stats: number properties, divisibility, algebra, etc. The statistics nature of these problems is often just a way to make a simpler problem look more difficult.

Here, the phrase “factor of 34” should stand out to you, as there are only four factors of 34, so you can narrow down the possibilities pretty quickly to 1, 2, 17, and 34. And because the number in question must be an exponential term that becomes a factor of 34, it’s even more limited: 2, 17, and 34 can only be created by one integer exponent – “itself” to the first power.

The base of that exponent is going to be the median of Set A, and because we know that the median of Set A will be 3 (a negative term for variable J means that 3 will be the middle term), the question becomes that much clearer. 3^W can only be a factor of 34 if it’s set equal to 1, and the only way to do that is for W to be 0. REMEMBER: anything to the power of 0 is equal to 1, a great equalizer on the GMAT!

Therefore, the correct answer is 0.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? See how Veritas Prep’s GMAT prep courses can help you break 700. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

How to Pay for Grad School? Consider Public Service

If you’re already wondering how you will be able to pay for that MBA or JD that you’re pursuing, earlier this year the federal government made an announcement that might be of interest to you. Under the government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, you may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on your eligible federal student loans after you have made 120 payments on certain loans while employed full time by certain public service employers.

This is terrific news for anyone who has considered an MBA a JD as a path to a public service career, but who has been intimidated by the levels of student loans they would need to take on in order to make their advanced degrees a reality.

As usual, there are all sorts of rules and stipulations. Only loans made under the William D. Ford Direct Loan Program are eligible for loan forgiveness, including:

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loans (Direct Subsidized Loans)
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans (Direct Unsubsidized Loans)
  • Federal Direct PLUS Loans (Direct PLUS Loans)- for parents and graduate or professional students
  • Federal Direct Consolidation Loans (Direct Consolidation Loans)

Only payments made on the Direct Consolidation Loan will count toward the required 120 monthly payments. And, you need to have been making your loan payments on time for the past 120 months — deadbeats need not apply. But, the savings can be significant, resulting in more than $100,000 in loans being forgiven, depending on the exact program for which you qualify.

There’s a lot of fine print to read, but this is a terrific option for anyone who’s thought about going into public service. You can learn more at the U.S. Department of Education’s web site.

Thinking about applying to graduate school this year? Give us a call at (800) 925-7737 to speak with an admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Introducing Our New GMAT Essentials Course!

For the past eight years we have helped tens of thousands of students prepare for the GMAT. Not only have we helped students by knowing the GMAT better than anyone, but also by constantly staying innovative with our GMAT prep curriculum. That innovative spirit is behind our newest course format, The Essentials Course.

A team of our top GMAT instructors has collaborated over the past several months to develop an entirely new way to train for the GMAT. The Essentials Course, as the name implies, covers what you absolutely MUST need to know in order to succeed on the GMAT, and does it over 15 hours in one weekend.

This isn’t a seminar or a general overview of the GMAT. Rather, it is an in-depth, rigorous course designed to teach you the higher-order thinking skills that the GMAT is designed to test. After the course finishes, you will 12 months of access to all of Veritas Prep’s online prep tools, including 15 practice tests, seven in-depth diagnostic tests, and the entire Veritas Prep on Demand™ pre-recorded online course. Also, you will receive one year of unlimited homework help from expert Veritas Prep GMAT instructors.

If you’re asking yourself, “Where do I begin?” or need some professional help to get into the 700+ range, the Essentials Course is the perfect way to start your GMAT preparation! Enrollment costs just $700 for in-person courses and only $550 for live online.

Our first course runs Saturday and Sunday, October 30-31, from 10 AM to 6 PM EDT, and will be taught by Brian Galvin and David Newland, two of Veritas Prep’s most distinguished instructors (and two of the brains behind the new course). Click here to learn more and to enroll!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? A Veritas Prep GMAT prep course is just what you need. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and to follow us on Twitter!

GMAC to Host Virtual MBA Fair in November

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) has announced that it will host an online admissions fair featuring admissions representatives from dozens of top MBA programs next month, on November 22 and 23. The GMATCH Virtual Fair, which will take place entirely online, is being billed as the “the first truly global virtual fair” for business school applicants and admissions officers.

GMAC has lined up a rather extensive list of MBA programs around the world for the event, including London Business School, INSEAD, UVA (Darden), Georgetown (McDonough), UCLA (Anderson), the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Nanyang Business School.

To quote the GMAC web site:

The innovative GMATCH concept employs a rich graphical interface featuring virtual booths and a multimedia auditorium stocked with material about each participating school’s programs as well as management education in general. Participants will be able to use webcams to enable face-to-face interaction.

In some ways the “virtual” interface of the event reminds us of earlier attempts by some schools to capitalize on the popularity of online worlds such as Second Life to promote their schools and even teach courses. We have yet to see this “virtual world” concept (as opposed to a more straightforward lecture-and-slides-on-a-computer-screen format) take off in these scenarios, although we credit GMAC for giving it another go.

More important than the format is the content of the event itself — this is a great way for you to interact with admissions officers from programs that you might never have considered, simply because they’re on the other side of the globe and your chances of being able to visit the school are remote. We recommend using the GMATCH Virtual Fair as a chance to go outside your comfort zone (after all, you’re in the comfort of your own home!) and explore some programs that you might not have otherwise considered.

You can register for the event here.

Thinking about applying to a top-ranked MBA program this year? Give us a call at (800) 925-7737 to speak with an MBA admissions consultant today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Let ‘er Rip

10-10-10. The date has been plastered all over the streets of Chicago on billboards, storefront signs, flyers and posters. On that repetitive date, approximately 40,000 people will take part in one of the world’s most repetitive activities — the Chicago Marathon. A marathon is not unlike the GMAT — a task for which you prepare for months, agonize the night before, and hope to complete successfully in under four hours, for many. And, on both the GMAT and the marathon, the worst thing that you can do is think too much.

Your author will be among the 40,000 runners, so in a break from journalistic norm I may switch to first-person here. (As a side note, I took the opportunity last night to visit our Chicago GMAT course and picked up a memorable quote from instructor extraordinaire Frankie Beecroft: “You have to get as good at taking this test as they are at making it.” Brilliant.) In any marathon that I’ve ever run, the smartest thing I did was turn my conscious mind off, and I’m convinced that it’s the best way to take the GMAT.

Like the marathon, the GMAT is a repetitive activity — you’re studied for hours, taken multiple practice tests, and turned yourself into a creature of habit, subconsciously performing operations like “it’s a weaken question so I’ll focus on finding the conclusion and the logical flaw” or “that sentence leads with a description so the modifier may be misplaced.” But on test day, just as marathoners tend to do on race day, you’ll be tempted to think about anything and everything other than the problem in front of you: “This question looks too easy, so I must be doing poorly”; “I need to calculate my pace-per-question”; “What’s the shortcut that I read about a month ago, and does it even apply to this problem?” Your conscious mind, if let to run free, will overwhelm your subconscious — the part of your mind that already knows what to do.

My worst ever marathon experience was the first six miles of the Boston Marathon, a race that I had trained for years to qualify for and for which I had subsequently trained harder than for any other I had done. This was a dream come true…and for those first six miles I thought of nothing else other than calculating split times, worrying about where the next mile marker would come, second-guessing my hydration and nutrition strategies, etc. It was excruciating…at the end of hundreds of miles and several months of training, I was thinking about this race like I were a toddler taking his first step, completely overthinking and overanalyzing each step and each breath. Finally in the sixth mile, I had to take control of my conscious mind and put it in its place — a well-conditioned athlete in the first quarter of the race, I stopped and walked for a full minute to get control of my mind and start fresh.

I had to let my body do what I had trained it to, because at that point frantic thinking could only hurt me.

On the GMAT, you’ll likely need to do the version of the same. You’ve trained your mind to recognize common problem types and concepts, and you probably can do them in your sleep (admit it — we’ve all dreamed in Data Sufficiency form at least once). Let yourself do that — rely on your internal pacing clock that you’ve developed over several practice tests and do a self-check every 10 problems or so to make sure that you’re on pace. Relax and keep your conscious thought solely on the areas that you’ve preordained to be important — double-checking common mistakes, interpreting problems that look unique, etc.

Ultimately, test day, like race day, is just the final lap of a long process — by that point, the best thing you can do is to stay out of your own way and let your mind and body do what you’ve trained them to do. If you do find yourself thinking too much about anything and everything other than the problem, take a mental “walk” and remind yourself that your training needs to take over. Save your conscious stress for truly difficult decisions, like “Harvard or Wharton?”

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? See how Veritas Prep’s GMAT prep courses can help you reach your maximum potential on the test. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Columbia Business School Announces New EMBA Saturday Program

Continuing a string of Columbia Business School-related news, last week the school announced its new EMBA Saturday, a new variety of Columbia’s popular executive education program. The school’s existing program, now called the EMBA Friday-Saturday program, remains.

What’s the difference? As the names imply, one key difference is in when the classes meet. The Friday-Saturday program runs for 20 months, while EMBA Saturday runs over 24 months. In making this move, Columbia has acknowledged that there are some very good, high-potential managers who have not considered a Columbia EMBA because even missing some Fridays at work is not feasible for everyone.

One other key difference is that, while the traditional Friday-Saturday program requires employer sponsorship of time, the Saturday-only program does not. This makes sense, since students in the Friday-Saturday program miss one full day or work every other week. Employer sponsorship is still “welcome,” however. While the admissions game for EMBA programs is quite different from that of full-time MBA programs, we strongly recommend that you get your company to sponsor you (even if it’s just in spirit, not money) if you can. When a company does that, it sends a strong signal that you’re the kind of high-potential manager that Columbia looks for.

We recommend the interview that The Wall Street Journal did with Ethan Hanabury, Columbia’s senior associate dean for degree programs. In the interview Hanabury lays out the rationale by the school’s introduction of the new program and provides some hints as to what types of applicants Columbia looks for. Most importantly, note his comments about how the program was not designed with career switchers in mind.

Applying to Columbia this year? Take a look at our Columbia Annual Report, one of 15 free business school admissions guides written and edited by Veritas Prep’s team of admissions experts. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Henry Kravis Pledges $100 Million to Columbia Business School

Henry Kravis, a Columbia MBA (Class of 1969), made headlines yesterday when he announced a gift of $100 million to Columbia Business School. The donation will help fund the construction of Columbia Business School’s new facilities in Manhattanville, just north of the Columbia’s Morningside Campus.

Of course, when a man gives $100 million (the largest gift in the school’s history), the school has to put his name on something. Accordingly, one of the school’s two new buildings will be named The Henry R. Kravis Building in recognition of his gift. The new building will open “in about six years,” according to Dean Glenn Hubbard.

Henry Kravis is one of the most successful men on Wall Street. He is the co-founder, co-chairman, and co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), the noted private equity and buyout firm. Kravis and his partners, as much as anyone else, pioneered the use of leveraged buyouts in the 1980s to tap into companies’ unrealized potential. All of the MBAs who rushed into private equity over the past 15 years have Kravis and his friends to thank for blazing that trail before them.

Kravis is no stranger to involvement at his alma mater, currently serving as the co-chair of the Columbia Business School’s Board of Overseers. He’s also been very active with his undergraduate school — donated $75 million in 2008 to Claremont McKenna College in 2008, which led to opening of that school’s new Kravis Center.

This is a real win for Columbia. Also the business school had already been slated to move into a new building in Manhattanville, the entire project (a very ambitious one) has already taken a long time to get off the ground, and the financial crisis of the past two years hasn’t helped. Uris Hall has long been one of our least favorite buildings (maybe our absolute least favorite) among top MBA programs’ facilities, and while you should choose a school for more than just its facilities, it’s been hard to overlook Uris Hall and its cramped setup. Even Dean Hubbard himself has acknowledged that the building has been a constraint for the school.

Who’s left? We’re still waiting for Kellogg to announce more definitive plans for its new building. By then, we will have completed the new (or at least significantly improved) building renaissance at nearly every top MBA program in the United States.

Applying to Columbia or other top business schools? Call us at (800) 925-7737 to speak with an MBA admissions expert and learn about how we can help you. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

“Diversity” in the MBA Sense of the Word

Recently we asked Debbie Rosenbaum, a recent Harvard JD/MBA graduate and one of our expert admissions consultants, for her thoughts on what “diversity” means in the classroom. What follows are Debbie’s thought on the best way to think about diversity as it relates to assembling an interesting and productive cohort of people from different walks of life:

“Diversity” has become a recent buzz word among business schools. Institutions have accepted the idea that diversity serves not only as a strategic differentiation between increasingly similar business school curricula, but its effect also creates a more robust academic and social experience for students.

As a Latina woman who recently graduated from a top 10 business school, I have been impressed with schools’ efforts to create more statistically diverse faculties and student bodies while fostering increasingly inclusive environments. However, I will admit that business school (in addition to being the only place where the line for the ladies restroom is shorter than the line for the men’s restroom) is the only place to date where I have felt like a minority.

Traditionally, MBA programs have been dominated by white males–a trend not driven by some national conspiracy to deny women and minorities opportunities for achievement. This bias previously made sense: C-level positions were overwhelmingly filled with individuals who had access to education, wealth and opportunity. Today, however, business schools have slowly adjusted the statistics of their students, faculties and administrations, as women and racial minorities have begun to shatter the glass ceiling at the highest echelons of corporate America.

Businesses that continue to promote discriminatorily for top-level positions, in order to maintain the “good ol’ boys” atmosphere, are finding themselves at a competitive disadvantage; tangentially, business schools are learning that applicants are actively seeking the diversity that is becoming standard in professional life. In short, what started as a legal effort to ensure equal protection has shifted into the policy that diversity is actually also “good for business.”

Diversity Among Business School Students and Faculty
85 Broads, a global women’s business network, notes women make up approximately half of the population and only about 30 percent of top MBA programs. Minorities–especially African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans–make up about a third of the population of the United States and yet only 7 percent of top MBA programs. Surely, the low numbers for women and minorities is in part due to the historical and social factors described above. But given the genuine efforts business schools have put forward to create more inclusive and diverse environments, the continued lack of representation remains troublesome. It is possible that these groups continue not to have the same access to opportunity; it is also possible that, as the National Society of Hispanic MBAs argues, the discrepancy is at least in part due to the lack of role models and financing.

Business school faculties suffer from the same lack of diversity, as indicative by the recent announcement by five Massachusetts business schools, which have formed a collaborative to increase their ranks of minority professors, mainly African-American and Hispanics.

Diversity of Gender, Race… and Thought
Despite these shortcomings, many business schools have recently made concerted efforts to rectify the gender and racial divergence, not because they legally have to, but rather because they find it in their best interest to do so. Diverse student bodies serve a variety of purposes. First, diversity in the classroom creates a more robust the academic experience. For schools that rely on faculty-led student discussions to teach subjects like leadership and marketing, a mixed student body helps illuminate minority views and perspectives that might not otherwise be addressed. Students from different backgrounds are also critical in providing exposure to real-world situations.

Outside the classroom, diversity also plays an important role in the business school experience. Interacting socially with individuals who come from different backgrounds and different points of view creates a more interesting social environment for students looking to expand their personal and professional networks beyond their already existing circles. At the end of the day, the real value of diversity is not in the statistical percentage of minorities; but rather in the product that diversity engenders: diversity of thought.

As institutions begin to take diversity seriously, we can only hope that the proverbial glass ceiling continues to shatter in corporate America as well.

Thinking about applying to a top-ranked business school this year? Take a look at our Annual Reports, 15 free admissions guides to the world’s top MBA programs. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Top 10 Business Songs of All Time

This morning a debate broke out at Veritas Prep HQ over Blender Magazine’s 50 Worst Songs Ever list. There was definitely some fierce debate over whether a song such as “I Wanna Sex You Up” is truly terrible, or really just belongs on another “What were we thinking at the time?” list.

That got us talking, and, well, when we start talking, we tend to come up with lists. This conversation turned into a “Top 10 Business Songs of All Time” list. We use the term “business” loosely here — we picked our favorite ten songs that relate to working, making money, and investing in yourself. And we had some fun.

Without further ado, here is Veritas Prep’s Top 10 Business Songs of All Time:

10. 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton) — What better way to start this list than with a song devoted to the drudgery of dragging yourself into a job that you absolutely can’t stand? When you’re just a step on the boss man’s ladder, what could sound better than getting that fat envelope from Harvard Business School and escaping out from under Dabney Coleman’s thumb?

9. Gin and Juice (Snoop Dogg) — Alas, the Mad Men days of constant cocktails at work may be over, but the true lesson of Snoop Dogg’s 1993 (pronounced “nine-trizay”) anthem is that it’s important to keep “my mind on my money and my money on my mind.” Only then can one truly understand the definition of laid-back: when you have a sound balance sheet (and when your mama ain’t home), you can party all the way ’til six in the morning.

8. I Want to Be Rich (Calloway) — Perhaps no song lyric captures the mentality of a hedge fund manager quite like “I want money; lots and lots of money; so don’t be asking me why I want to be rich.” In finance, the why is the what – you want money because…it’s money.

7. The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades (Timbuk3) — While the actual meaning of this song may be a darker hint an impending nuclear holocaust, we prefer to interpret it in a more sunny sense. If you’re lucky enough to get into a top-ranked business school, one of the best times of your life will be that period between when you get in and when your last day on the job. You’re still making money, you don’t have too much pressure, and your future looks awfully bright. Savor it. Will you make “50 thou a year” and be able to buy a lot of beer? Oh yes, and then some.

6. Money (Pink Floyd) — It’s ironic that a song about the evils of money can make a band so much money, but that’s the reality of the business world. Make enough cash and you can complain about it from the comfort of your beachfront vacation home while using it to light your cigar.

5. If I Had No Loot (Tony! Toni! Toné!) — Contrary to popular belief, this band actually had no one named Tony in it. But they did manage to craft this catchy reminder that many so-called “friends” only want you for your money. Remember this when you blow up with your graduate degree and your sweet job at McKinsey.

4. Money for Nothing (Dire Straits) — It could be worse than being rich and wondering if your friends like you or your money. You could be like the guy in this song, who learned too late in life the lesson that we teach our GMAT prep students every week — it’s not just how hard you work, but also how smart you work. The falsetto cameo by Sting and the mind-blowing-for-the-mid-80s computer graphics in the video help the lesson go down a little more smoothly, though.

3. Mo Money Mo Problems (Notorious B.I.G.) — In the ultimate CEO doubletalk style, Biggie, Puffy, and Mase spit rhymes about how wonderful their money-filled lives are, breaking only long enough for the refrain to remind listeners that more money creates more problems. Sadly, the hook would turn prophetic as Biggie would be killed months after this record was released, but mo’ problems meant mo’ money for Puffy, as his subsequent Bad Boy Records albums created even more intrigue in light of Biggie’s passing.

2. Take the Money and Run (Steve Miller Band) — This song may betray a theme on this countdown – at this point nearly half of the tunes on this list seem to treat money as a hassle. The protagonists of this tale, even after a grand heist “are still running today”, looking over their shoulders even after a great financial score. The lesson? Obtain your wealth legally and outside of the public eye. That’s the lure of business school: avoid legal hassles and extraneous hangers-on and you should be able to enjoy your money.

1. Takin’ Care of Business (Bachman Turner Overdrive) — This staple of the Iowa wedding dance floor circuit seems to be a fun-loving tribute to everything you love about the corporate rat races: alarm clocks, waiting for trains, working overtime followed by guitar solos. What’s not to love? What BTO actually means to demonstrate is the lure of owning your own business, at which point you can “work at nothing all day.” Entrepreneurship is the name of the game, because it’s the work that we avoid when we’re all self-employed. Want to TCB like BTO? Consider an MBA ASAP.

Want to earn an MBA and start making some serious, song-inspiring money? Take a look at our industry-leading GMAT prep classes, or aall us at (800) 925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Photo courtesy of sam_churchill, under a Creative Commons license.

GMAT Tip of the Week: Punting For Field Position

What a weekend this will be! (Author’s note: you’re looking at about a paragraph of pure football content; not a fan? You can probably skip a paragraph and just pick up the GMAT tips, but trust me when I say that this paragraph is going somewhere). Perhaps the Ali-Frazier of the current era will take place tomorrow evening in Tuscaloosa, with #1 Alabama taking on #7 Florida.

Just down the dial, two of the early-season’s most impressive teams, Oregon and Stanford, will do battle in the Pac 10’s matchup of the season. Stanford’s coach, Jim Harbaugh, will take part in a weekend that prominently features several members of Quarterback U, Michigan: Heisman frontrunner Denard Robinson will get back on track after an injury-shortened game last week, and the NFL’s Monday Night Football showcase will feature Robinson’s predecessors Tom Brady and Chad Henne quarterbacking their respective teams. Are you excited yet?

The answer may well be no, as if you’re applying to business schools this fall you may be swamped in applications (perhaps to Stanford itself, with the deadline coming next week) and GMAT preparation. But if you’re looking for an excuse to take a study/essay break and watch some football this weekend, the slate of huge games can actually teach you a valuable strategic lesson as you ready yourself for battle with the GMAT:

Sometimes you have to punt for field position.

The term “punt” has become synonymous, at least in some connotations, with “quit”, but in football (as it can be on the GMAT) it’s actually a very strategic type of quitting. Coaches will elect to punt the ball away to the opposing team in order to gain valuable field position — the space that the team will need in order to be able to score on the next possession.

This strategy can work wonders for you on the GMAT, a test that quite often limits its version of “field position” — in this case time — giving you precious little of the resource that you may need most. In at least some cases, you’ll likely need to guess (“punt”) and move on so that you have time available for future questions. Punting on the GMAT can take on at least a couple of strategic forms:

Necessary Punting
There will almost certainly be questions that you simply cannot solve in 2-3 minutes, and after that duration of time you’ll need to cut your losses, guess, and save your time and mental energy for the next question. At an average of 2 minutes per math question and 1:45 for each verbal question, wasting an extra minute per question on a handful of questions can severely impact your ability to finish the exam on time. In addition to the severe penalties for leaving questions blank (it’s almost always worse than guessing), you’re losing opportunities to answer questions that you could likely answer correctly. What’s even more troubling is the impact that running behind on time can have on multiple questions – when you rush, you’re exponentially more likely to make careless mistakes and miss questions that you should answer correctly.

Accordingly, you’ll want to develop an internal clock – much like that of a top quarterback like Brady or Henne – that lets you know when you’re starting to approach that 2-minute mark (taking practice tests is crucial for developing this skill). Then, when your internal clock lets you know that you’re starting to push that 2-minute threshold, take a second to analyze your situation. If you think that within 30 seconds or so you’ll have the right answer – it’s just a matter of finishing the calculations or double-checking your work – then by all means finish the question…it’s like 4th-and-short in the opponents’ territory! However, if you assess that it’s more than likely that you’ll still be working without a finish line – you’re in 4th-and-long territory – you’ll want to make an educated guess, punt, and save your time for the remaining questions.

Quick Punt
This type of punting – you’ll see it in college football when a quarterback lines up in the shotgun on a makeable 4th down but then punts out of that formation to catch the defense without a returner – can be more strategic and a little less intuitive.

The “quick punt” strategy is one that you should consider employing if you know that timing will be a significant factor for you on the test. If you’re resigned to having to rush, the quick punt strategy can help you win the “field position” or time battle. Here’s how you can employ this strategy:

– Plan to “punt” on a predetermined number of questions (1 out of every 10 or 1 out of every 12…basically 1/4 or 1/3 of the test) and consider those punts to be assets – you own them and can feel free to use them at your discretion.

– When you see a question that looks difficult or time-consuming, use your punt within the first 30 seconds or less of looking at it so that you can bank nearly the full two minutes to spread over the rest of that section. This way, you have more time available for the questions that you know you can answer correctly. And because you’ve already predetermined that you’d guess, you psychologically don’t have to feel like you’ve quit or failed – you’ve just strategically deployed an asset.

– The advantages? That extra time will allow you to relax a bit and not worry about pacing. You’ll reduce your stress level and give yourself extra time to avoid those working-too-quickly errors. And because of the adaptive nature of the GMAT, it’s quite likely that the questions you identify as “puntworthy” are those that you would have answered incorrectly, anyway. You’re sacrificing minimal accuracy and giving yourself extra time. Furthermore, there’s a 20% chance or more that you’ll get that question right based on your guess, and a not-insignificant chance that that question is an unscored, experimental question, so you may not lose at all on this strategy.

As has been discussed in this space previously, the GMAT tests not only your ability to answer individual questions correctly but also your ability to manage the entire project of taking the test. By strategically electing to punt on a handful of questions, you can demonstrate your capacity for managing aggressive deadlines and workloads, and those skills are highly sought by business schools and employers. Punting isn’t always “quitting” — it’s a part of the game, and if you learn to play it effectively you can maximize your chances of winning.

Do you want to reach your maximum potential on the GMAT? A Veritas Prep GMAT prep course is just what you need. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

MBA Programs Accept Younger Applicants, But Is It a Good Idea?

We’ve written many times about the trend at some top business schools toward accepting younger applicants. In some cases, these schools have even created specific programs to attract these candidates. But, a big question still looms: Does it make sense for someone to enter an MBA program with little or not full-time professional experience?”

A new Wall Street Journal article, explores this issue in some depth. The article doesn’t really choose a side, but raises some interesting questions about how attractive a younger candidate is when he graduates at 24 with a fancy degree and very little work experience.

The schools’ reason for trying to attract the candidates — as we have always said — is that even Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB feel the need to hustle to get their hands on high-potential young professionals before other graduate schools (not just MBA programs) do. Stanford GSB’s Derrick Bolton said as much in the article: “When you see really talented people, you want to lock them in.”

But does it do a service to the student to lock them in so early? For us, it really comes down to whether those candidates enter business school with any significant professional experience under their belt. The HBS 2+2 Program gives new admits a chance to gain two years of experience before matriculating (hence the “2+2” name)… This still feels a bit green to us, thinking back to our time in business school and who seemed “with it” and who still seemed a little young to be taken seriously. But, at least those first-year students will have some professional experience, usually from blue-chip firms.

Other programs mentioned in the article, such as Stanford, will (on rare occasions) let someone matriculate straight out of college. While the rare student who does this is undoubtedly a remarkable young person who has already achieved a lot and demonstrated unheard of potential, they often still bring a level of naïveté that will induce the occasional groan from other classmates. I know, because I have see it firsthand.

(I have even been on both sides of the argument. As an undergrad at MIT who took management classes at Sloan alongside full-time MBA students, I always resented those students for resenting my presence. Once I got to Kellogg as an MBA student with five years of work experience under my belt, I finally understood their point of view. As an undergrad with no full-time work experience, I wasn’t able to contribute to class discussions or team projects like they were, no matter how much potential I might have had.)

And, as the WSJ article points out, the other audience to consider are professional recruiters. Here schools imply need to be pragmatic about what works and what doesn’t. If a school Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business (a fine MBA program) can’t easily place 24-year-old grads in great jobs from Harvard and Stanford still can, then it may simply mean that the “younger MBA” formula will only work for schools with strong enough brands.

At the end of the day, despite Harvard’s seeming push to get younger, we almost always advise an young applicant to wait an extra year or two before applying. That person’s application story will be stronger, his academic experience in business school will be richer, and his job candidacy will almost always be more appealing to future employers. Patience is a virtue, even in MBA admissions.

Thinking about applying to a top-ranked MBA program this year? Call us at (800) 925-7737 to speak with an MBA admissions consultant today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Photo courtesy of Foxtongue, under a Creative Commons license.

GMAT Challenge Question: Prime Time

It’s time again for another GMAT challenge question, and this one focuses on one of the quantitative section’s favorite themes: prime factors.

Please submit your answers in the comments field, and check back later today for the solution and a more-thorough explanation of prime factors!

What is the greatest prime factor of 12!11! + 11!10!?

(A) 7
(B) 11
(C) 13
(D) 17
(E) 19

UPDATE: Solution!

While it’s quite common for students to simply look at the numbers 12!, 11!, and 10! and recognize that the highest naturally-occurring prime number is 11, it’s important to recognize that this is an addition problem – the numbers 12!11! and 11!10! are combined to create a new number that may well have a higher prime factor than its factorial components.

When adding large numbers like factorials and exponents, as we discussed in this space last week, it’s often quite helpful to factor out common terms. In this case, it’s particularly important, because our entire goal is to break out the large sum into prime factors so that we can determine which is biggest. Each term has a common 11!, so by factoring that out we can get from:

12!11! + 11!10!

to

11! (12! + 10!)

Now, 12! includes a 10! – it’s essentially 12 * 11 * 10!, so we have a common 10! within the parentheses that can also be factored out, going from:

11! (12*11*10! + 10!)

to

11!10! (12*11 + 1)

At this point, the largest prime factor must be either the 11 outside the parentheses or a factor of the number within it, so it’s necessary to check the number within. 12*11 + 1 = 132 + 1 = 133. 133 is the product of 7*19, so 19 is a prime factor of 12!11! + 11!10!, and therefore the largest prime factor. Accordingly, E is the correct answer.

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Economist MBA Rankings for 2010

Recently The Economist released the 2010 edition of its global business school rankings. As the editors of The Economist noted in their introduction to this year’s rankings, “Usually, schools move up or down just a few places year on year. This time around, however, swings have been wilder.”

Why the big changes? Blame the global economy. Digging deeper into The Economist’s rankings methodology, you’ll see that the “Open new career opportunities” and “Increase salary” categories together make up more than half of the overall score a school earns. Naturally, as the rough economy meant that some schools had an especially hard time placing grads in high-paying jobs (or, in some cases, in any jobs at all), those programs took a hit in the rankings.

Without further ado, here are the top 20 schools in the rankings:

The Economist Business School Rankings – 2010

  1. University of Chicago – Booth School of Business
  2. Dartmouth College – Tuck School of Business
  3. University of California at Berkeley – Haas School of Business
  4. Harvard Business School
  5. IESE Business School – University of Navarra
  6. IMD – International Institute for Management Development
  7. Stanford Graduate School of Business
  8. University of Pennsylvania – Wharton School
  9. HEC School of Management, Paris
  10. York University – Schulich School of Business
  11. University of Virginia – Darden Graduate School of Business
  12. Columbia Business School
  13. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT Sloan School of Management
  14. New York University – Leonard N Stern School of Business
  15. Cranfield School of Management
  16. Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management
  17. Henley Business School
  18. University of Southern California – Marshall School of Business
  19. London Business School
  20. ESADE Business School

How to Use These Rankings
When you start researching your target MBA programs, of course it make sense to pay to the rankings. Simply by existing, the rankings influence other applicants, employers, faculty members, and other key people. However, trying to discern which is better of two programs when one program is ranked higher by U.S. News and the other ranks higher in The Economist’s rankings… Well, that’s not really the point. Use the rankings to help yourself get a feel for the “lay of the land,” to determine what level of program competitiveness you might have a shot at, and to spot programs with specific strengths you might otherwise have missed. Then, do your own research (our free Annual Reports can help you a great deal here) and decide what programs fit you best.

Plan on applying to a top MBA program this year? Veritas Prep gives you the ability to start working with an admissions consultant today and pay over time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Change You Can Believe In

If it’s the autumn of an even-numbered year, change is in the air, or at least in the hot air of the politicians seeking election in November. Noting, evidently, that most people are unhappy, politicians repeat the word change more than any other (with the exception of John McCain, who in 2008 used the word “Petraeus” slightly more than he used “change”, but it was close!). Browse the political ads and stump speeches on YouTube and you won’t get too specific an idea of what each candidate promises, but, by George, they’ll certainly repeat the word “change” until you want to change the channel.

If you’ve clicked off of the Brown-vs.-Whitman or O’Donnell-vs.-sanity ads long enough to view this post, you’re probably looking to change your GMAT score and your MBA candidacy. If so, you’re in luck, because if there’s one thing you can be sure of on the GMAT, it’s change. Ratios, mixtures, proportions — they’re all GMAT problem types that focus on change.

And if you focus on that change in each problem, the change becomes the key to unlocking the entire problem – literally change you can believe in and should depend on. And, with a nod to Hillary Clinton, yes, this change post is one you can certainly Xerox if you’d like to. We don’t mind.

How can an emphasis on change improve your GMAT score?

Consider the question:

The average of 5 numbers is 6.8. If one of the numbers is multiplied by a factor of 3, the average of the numbers increases to 9.2. What number is multiplied by 3?

(A) 1.5
(B) 3.0
(C) 3.9
(D) 4.0
(E) 6.0

As with any problem, you should start with what you know. You know that, if the average of 5 numbers is 6.8, then the sum of those numbers is 5*6.8 or 34. Similarly for the new total, if the average is 9.2, then the sum of those five numbers is 5*9.2 or 46.

So we have:

Old total: 34
New total: 46

When problems involve a change – ratio problems in which a certain number is added or subtracted and the ratio changes; mixture problems in which something is added to or subtracted from the solution and the mixture changes, etc. – the key to solving them is typically the change itself. Almost always, the change is expressed in two ways:

x is added and the new ratio becomes…
one of the numbers is multiplied by 3 and the average becomes…

When you’re given two ways to mathematically express that change, use those two ways to set up an equation – you can then solve for a variable that links the past to the present (or the present to the proposed future, depending on how the question is asked) and that solution will allow you to fill in the entire puzzle.

In this case, we know that “multiplying one number by 3” also “increases the sum by 12”. Since the only number that changes is that number that is multiplied by 3, we know that the multiplying by 3 is the same as adding 12 to that number. So, mathematically, we can say that:

3x = x + 12
2x = 12
x = 6

Therefore, the number in question – that which is multiplied by 3 and in doing so is also added to 12 – is 6, and the correct answer is E.

Use change as your “anchor” in problems that emphasize a change in ratios, proportions, or any other elements of a mixture. By expressing the change in two ways, you’ll have an equation that will translate to both the initial and the final mixtures, and therefore will be able to answer any question that the GMAT asks about any part of the relationship. If politicians can use change as their platform to try to get to Washington, you can certainly use change as your springboard to Boston, Palo Alto, Evanston, or the other b-school campus of your choice.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? Our online GMAT courses run all the time, to suit YOUR schedule. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

Veritas Prep GMAT Books Now on the iPad!

Veritas Prep GMAT Prep Books on iPadLike your iPad? Love doing well on the GMAT? You’re in luck… Veritas Prep’s industry-leading GMAT prep books are now available for download on the iPad! Now, test-takers can develop customized study programs using individual downloadable books from the most comprehensive GMAT prep course ever created.

Each book is rooted in our proven approach to GMAT prep, which focuses exclusively on higher order thinking — one’s cognitive ability to analyze, synthesize, and critically evaluate. To achieve optimal results, these books train you to solve problems like a talented manager, rather than memorize content.

Remember, the GMAT is not a test of how well you can memorize lists or regurgitate rules. As we wrote when GMAC announced the new Integrated Reasoning section for 2012, the skills that really matter in business school (and in the business world) are the ability to recognize relationships and draw inferences from limited data. Since 2002, we have trained tens of thousands of students how to do exactly these things.

First it was in our in-person courses in 2002, then in online classes a few years later. Earlier this year we announced the availability of our individual GMAT books (which previously were only available as a complete kit on our site, or on eBay or Craigslist) on Amazon and on our site. Now, we’ve taken it a step further, making them available electronically to anyone with an iPad. The next step: 3D GMAT prep, perhaps?

If you’re studying for the GMAT, be sure to compare us to other GMAT courses and see why more people choose Veritas Prep every year. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

The Economy, MBA Application Fence Sitters, And You

Recently the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) released its annual report analyzing admissions trends at business schools around the world. Interestingly, while most of us tend to associate a weak economy with ever-rising applicant numbers, that trend seems to have sputtered out for the current recession.

According to the GMAC report, half of the 665 graduate management programs surveyed reported an increase in application numbers, while about 40% actually reported a decrease in applications, compared to the previous year. So, have people finally given up on the MBA as a fallback option when the economy gets soft?

That may partly be true, although a more realistic answer is that, since this particular recession has lasted longer than most, it’s tapped out as a source for additional applicants. Normally the first year after a recession hits is when schools see the largest surge in applications, when a little “pent-up demand” for advanced degrees gets released and people look for additional options as the job market gets soft. At any given time, there are thousands of applicants who are one the fence about applying. Some of them keep saying “Maybe next year” and never actually apply, while some who were about to say “Maybe next year” see their job prospects getting worse and say, “I’d better take the GMAT and start working on applying to business school.”

As these “Maybe next year” applicants come off the sidelines, they pile on top of the normal wave of applicants that passes through business school every year — the typical young professionals who are three to five years out of college and are ready to pursue an MBA. Add it all up, and you have an abnormally large applicant pool. But, this pool of “fence sitters” only runs so deep, and it essentially gets tapped out after one or two application cycles. That’s probably what we’re seeing now.

This is especially true for more general two-year management programs, which are often the most inviting for “fence sitters.” According to the GMAC report:

More two-year full-time programs (49 percent) showed a decrease than an increase (41 percent) in application volume, continuing declines seen in 2009. In both the US and Asia-Pacific region, where most full-time programs are two-year, roughly four out of 10 full-time programs saw increases. Fifty-three percent of US full-time programs reported application declines.

Meanwhile, more specialized programs, which tend to be less inviting to the more casual “Will I or won’t I?” applicant, reported a healthy rise in application numbers overall:

More than 60 percent of master-level programs in finance, accounting, and management, which traditionally draw younger students than MBA programs, reported application increases, with the average volume increasing last year by 20 percent or more.

If you’re applying to business school this year, what does this mean for you? Not a whole lot, as we wrote last month, although applicants always like to hear that they have less competition, not more. As the economy eventually (hopefully?!?) improves, application numbers will likely continue to decline, as that pool of “fence sitters” re-stocks itself for the next recession, which will come sooner or later.

Plan on applying to a top MBA program this year? Veritas Prep now offers the ability to start working with an admissions consultant today and pay over time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Last Chance to Meet MBA Admissions Officers in Your Hometown!

Are you applying to business school this fall? There’s still time to register for a QS World MBA Tour event in a city near you!

The QS World MBA Tour gives you the chance to meet face-to-face with admission officers from the world’s best business schools, attend GMAT seminars and participate in sample business school classes. This fall, the World MBA Tour will visit 72 cities on five continents including many North American cities (see below).

Not only will you get to meet with representatives from top MBA programs, but you will also be eligible for $1.6 million in exclusive scholarships from many of the schools in attendance. Veritas Prep is proud to partner with QS World MBA Tour and we look forward to seeing you at an event this fall. Make sure to reserve your spot and register here!

Time is running out, but here are the events remaining in North America this year:

Plan on applying to business school this year? Call us at 800-925-7737 and speak to a Veritas Prep MBA admissions consultant. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

INSEAD Application Essays for 2010-2011

Today we take a close look at INSEAD’s admissions essays for the coming application season. You can access these essay topics in INSEAD’s online application.

Note that INSEAD’s essay prompts have not changes for the past several years. When a school doesn’t change its essay topics, that suggests that the admissions committee is pleased with how applicants have been answering the questions. What makes for a good batch of responses? Essays that are clear and revealing, and that help the admissions committee identify who’s a good fit with the school. Pay close attention to what the schools asks in its essay prompts — they ask these things for a reason!

Here are INSEAD’s essays for 2010-2011, followed by our comments in italics:

INSEAD Admissions Essays

Job Essays

  1. Please give a detailed description of your job, including nature of work, major responsibilities; and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, number of clients/products and results achieved. (250 words)
    The goal of this essay is clear: You must succinctly help the admissions office understand exactly what you do on a day-to-day basis. As easy as it is to become consumed with your GMAT score and your extracurricular activities, at the end of the day, the most accurate predictor of your professional potential is what you have done in your career to date. Don’t be spooked by the fact that the school asks for the number of employees under your supervision and the size of the budget you manage — if you haven’t really managed a team or owned a budget yet, that’s okay. The school is just trying to understand exactly what it is you do in your present job. Also, note the emphasis on your PRESENT job. This is not a typical “career progression” essay; stick to what the question asks.
  2. Please give us a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words)
    Here is where you can provide some context around your career progression up until now. Of course, doing this in 250 words is a tough job, do you will really need to stick to the highlights in terms of what you have achieved and the reasons for the moves you have made. You will have to ditch most of the flowery prose in favor of clear, easy-to-follow facts. The second part of this question is interesting in that it pretty directly hits on something that INSEAD and any other top business school wants to know — that you’re interested in pursuing an MBA to turbocharge an already successful career, not to bail out of a stagnant one. Painting the picture of a successful young professional (in not many words, of course!) will be key here.

Personal Essays

  1. Give a candid description of yourself, stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors, which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (400 words)
    While the Job Essays above required you to really stick to the facts and simply summarize your resume, here is where you can start to provide more narrative. Many applicants see the word “weaknesses” and tense up, thinking, “Oh no! I need to come up with an innocuous weakness that won’t kill my candidacy!” But the admissions committee knows that no one is perfect. INSEAD truly wants to understand what you’re good at and where you need some work. The school wants to see evidence of strong self-awareness and a desire to build on your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. The seemingly natural place to go from here is to explain how INSEAD can help you with these areas, although note that this is not a “Why INSEAD?” essay prompt. Keep the focus mostly on you and what you have accomplished to date.
  2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date, explaining why you view them as such. (400 words)
    This is not very different from Harvard’s “three most substantial accomplishments” essay. Accordingly, our advice is pretty much the same: This gives you a great opportunity for you to spell out at least two main themes that you want to emphasize in your application. Remember, the “why” in your story is even more important than the “what,” so be sure to spell out why these accomplishments are so critical to describing you as an emerging leader. Also, don’t feel that both accomplishment need to come from your job. If you have a great achievement from outside of work — such as from your community service efforts or even from a hobby that you’re passionate about — that can also provide great material for this essay.
  3. Describe a situation taken from school, business, civil or military life, where you did not meet your personal objectives, and discuss briefly the effect. (250 words)
    Ack, a failure question! Time to run for the hills! Don’t worry — as stated above, INSEAD knows you’re not perfect. The question is how you are able to overcome your failures and grow as a result of them. INSEAD’s word choice in asking for the “effect” of your failure is odd; what the school really wants to hear is what you learned and how you improved (both as a professional and as a person) as a result. And, ideally, you can even work in an example of how you put what you learned to use when faced with another challenge. Of course, the word count is tight, but being able to work in this example shows that you’re not just talk.
  4. Discuss your career goals. What skills do you expect to gain from studying at INSEAD and how will they contribute to your professional career. (500 words)
    Now we’re really getting into the “Why an MBA?” and “Why this school?” questions. Note that, as important is it is to make a convincing case about your career goals and your reasons for wanting an MBA, you also really need to spell out why specifically INSEAD can help you achieve your goals. This is where you need to show that you’ve done your homework, and convince the school that you’re not only applying because INSEAD is a highly ranked program.
  5. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:
    a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What did it mean to you? (250 words)
    b) What would you say to a foreigner moving to your home country? (250 words)
    Both of these essay prompts try to help the admissions committee understand you a little bit better. While it’s easy to lump these questions into the “diversity” bucket, really what the school is trying to gauge is your emotional intelligence and cultural sensitivity. More than perhaps any other MBA program INSEAD truly is a melting pot of management education. You may be in study teams with people from four other continents — how well will you work with them at 3:00 AM when you have a tough final project due in six hours? A little bit of humor a humility can go a long way in answering these questions. Help the admissions committee be able to envision you sitting in a study group on INSEAD’s campuses in Fountainebleu and Singapore.

Applying to INSEAD this year? Download our INSEAD Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Exponents the Denard Robinson Way

People talk about him the way they talk about Chuck Norris or the Most Interesting Man In The World:

When Denard Robinson scored a touchdown in the 2-minute drill the clock actually read 2:05*

Human reaction time can’t use a stopwatch fast enough to time Denard Robinson in the 40, so they have to time him in the 50. And his time is still zero.

Defenses have stopped trying to tackle Denard Robinson; they simply want to hug him.

Maybe it’s because Denard Robinson, quarterback of the Michigan Wolverines, is the most interesting man in the world. At least for now – in the past two weeks he’s vaulted to the top of nearly everyone’s Heisman Trophy rankings and topped the trends list on Google and Twitter. He broke several school records in his first game of the season, then broke them again in the second. With all due respect to the Dos Equis guy, sharks really should have a week dedicated to Denard Robinson. So, naturally, a guy like that should be able to teach you a thing or two about the GMAT, right?

(“If Denard Robinson took the GMAT, he’d score 801, but he doesn’t have to because any school lucky enough to admit him would waive that requirement and simply name their school the Robinson School of Business”)

It seems like every few years in college football there’s a player like Denard – Reggie Bush, Percy Harvin, etc. – who can play virtually any position on the field and is a constant threat to score each time he touches the ball. Maybe they line up at receiver, or go in motion. Maybe they line up in the backfield, or step up under center or take a direct snap. Wherever that player is, he’s dangerous – he’s versatile enough to hurt you running, catching, throwing, and the offense can hide him in different positions to keep you guessing.

For those players, the defense always has to look for where they line up as soon as the huddle breaks, calling out by jersey number “There’s 16” and ensuring that everyone knows where he is.

The GMAT has such a “player” — a game changer that is as versatile and easy to hide as the greatest college football players of all time. That number is 0, and much like a safety or middle linebacker, you should always be looking for where 0 lines up on any given question.

0 is a complete game changer:

  • Multiply anything by 0 and you get 0.
  • Divide 0 by anything and you get 0.
  • Add or subtract 0 and nothing changes.
  • You cannot divide by 0 because it’s undefined (although the Chuck Norris/Most Interesting
  • Man quotes will lead you believe that some special person can divide by 0)
  • Take anything to the exponent of 0 (e.g. 6^0) and you get 1.
  • 0 is the only number that is neither positive nor negative; multiply it by -1 and it stays 0.

0 is easy to hide:

  • 0 is neither positive nor negative, so “x is positive” excludes 0 but “x is non-negative” includes 0.
  • 0 is an even number, but the only even without an opposite (e.g. 2 and -2)
  • 0 is a multiple of every integer (that integer * 0 = 0)
  • 0 literally means “nothing”, so it’s easy to forget about.

Because of all this, 0 carries all the traits of a dominant college football multi-threat, and you should never fail to consider 0 on any problem. Yesterday’s challenge question in this space relied heavily on properties of 0:

For integers x, y, and z, if (3^x)(4^y)(5^z) = 3,276,800,000 and x + y + z = 15, what is the value of xy/z?

3,276,800,000 is clearly even, so it could definitely be a multiple of 4. And it ends in 0, so it is definitely divisible by 5. But the sum of its digits do not equal a multiple of 3:

3 + 2 + 7 + 6 + 8 + 0… = 26

So the number is NOT divisible by 3. In problems like these with multiple prime bases and exponents, finding a base that is not represented in the overall number is a godsend. Because that number is not divisible by 3, the 3^x term cannot equal a multiple of 3. The only way for that to happen is for x to be 0, as that would make that term 3^0, which equals 1. That factors out that term, leaving 4^y * 5^z = 3,276,800,000.

Now, solving that problem could still prove difficult (although there’s a way to do it fairly easily if you look at it the right way…more on that in a second), but we don’t need to. Because we know that x = 0, and the question asks for xy/z, that means that we have a 0 in the numerator:

0*y/z =

And that makes the entire term 0. Therefore, the correct answer is 0.

Two footnotes:

1) Even with 4^y * 5^z = 3,276,800,000 there is a quick way to solve it. In order to end with exactly five 0s, this number needs to be divisible by exactly five 10s (10^5). You could even write it as: 32,768 * 10^5. The only way to have exactly five 10s is to have exactly five pairings of 2*5 (the prime factors of 10), so z must equal 5.

2) Denard’s finishing the two-minute drill with 2:05 left means he runs faster than the speed of light. Think about it.

Learn to love (and respect) the number 0, and just like a football coach you can game plan to defend against the versatile-and-dangerous game changer that the GMAT loves to feature. As for Big Ten defensive coordinators…maybe you should consult your MBA students for tips on defending Denard Robinson. (Number of times he’s tied his shoelaces? Zero.)

Are you studying for the GMAT? Be sure to compare us to other GMAT courses and see why more people choose Veritas Prep every year. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Challenge Question: Your Opponent is the Exponent

It’s time again for another Veritas Prep Challenge Question. Once again you’ll find that exponents will play a fairly significant role in this question. Stay tuned to the GMAT Tip of the Week post tomorrow for an explanation of this question and a quick checklist for everything you need to know about GMAT exponents.

For integers x, y, and z, if (3^x) (4^y) (5^z) = 3,276,800,000 and x + y + z = 15, what is the value of xy/z?

(A) undefined
(B) 0
(C) 3
(D) 5
(E) 15

Please submit your answers in the comments field, and check back tomorrow morning for an explanation and some critical exponent strategies.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting around the world next week!. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Could an Executive MBA Be Right for You?

Executive MBA AdmissionsAs unemployment rates hover steady and industries that once supported the global economy attempt the slow climb of recovery, business professionals are far less likely to job-hop from corporation to corporation and are generally more inclined to invest in fast-tracking their career paths within their current organizations.

An advanced degree in business administration designed specifically for those who already possess extensive work experience, the Executive MBA (EMBA) cultivates management acumen, nurtures leadership prowess and erases any existing gaps in hard skills. Earning an EMBA from a leading program has the potential to shift one’s function within their organization from individual contributor or mid-level manager to company leader, poising talented professionals to move into executive leadership roles despite a sluggish economy.

Something for Almost Everyone
Contrary to popular belief, one does not have to be a senior executive to matriculate in an executive MBA program. Executive MBA programs are designed for people who want to be an executive, recognizing that additional education could serve them well in that career pursuit. Accordingly, the term “executive” in Executive MBA should serve as less of an admission requisite and more as a signal of one’s career goal upon degree completion.

So who is leveraging the EMBA degree to position themselves as viable candidates for executive leadership roles? According to the EMBA Council, a global degreed executive education advocacy organization, the average Executive MBA students is 36.3 years and possesses 12.7 years of work experience prior to enrollment. More specifically, business school admissions officials have reported the majority of EMBA applicants tend to fall into one of four distinct groups.

Training Ground for the C-Suite
The first EMBA applicant group is composed of senior executives being groomed for CEO positions, for whom an EMBA can help to fill in skill gaps and credentials to smoothly transition into a leadership position when the option of returning to school is simply not practical. The second group, director-level professionals in their late 30s, often view the advanced degree as critical to distinguishing oneself from numerous employees vying for limited corporate leadership positions.

Senior managers working in a single corporate function, such as finance or operations, comprise the third EMBA applicant cohort, for whom the degree cultivates and hones skills outside of their specialty areas. Lastly, senior managers who have plateaued in their positions and are seeking to assume a wider range of management responsibilities can benefit from the diversified skill set associated with the EMBA curriculum.

A Smart Investment in Yourself
Pursuing an EMBA could represent a practical means of gaining the necessary competitive edge management professionals need to transition into the c-level suite for employees that are happy with their current organizations, and likewise, whose employers values their corporate contribution. While the EMBA degree has historically been underutilized among professionals looking to achieve accelerated career potential, awareness of and changing attitudes about the Executive MBA can serve to cultivate increased acceptance of the degree and help professionals reach their career objectives despite a slow economic recovery.

Trying to decide if an EMBA is right for you? Call us at (800) 925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Photo courtesy of aweigend, under a Creative Commons license.

UCLA Anderson Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

UCLA Anderson Admissions GuideToday we dig into UCLA Anderson’s MBA admissions essays for the coming year. You will notice that Anderson has changed its essays pretty extensively this year. And, the school’s famous “video essay,” which is optional, returns for 2010-2011. Pay special attention to our advice regarding the video response, below.

Here are the school’s essay topics (for new applicants) for the coming season, followed by our comments in italics:

UCLA Anderson Application Essays

Required Essays

  1. What event or life experience has had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why? (750 words)
    This question is new, although it’s not radically different from last year’s first essay prompt. Really, the admissions committee is trying to dig deep into who you are and what makes you tick. We actually prefer last year’s wording, since this year’s version seems to put extra emphasis on a single event, which may create some pressure in applicants’ minds to come up with a dramatic single incident. In reality, the “or life experience” part of this year’s question still leaves it open-ended enough that you shouldn’t feel the need to focus on one single point in time. Try to answer this question with your personal development in mind. Your tendency will be to tie it right back to your career and why you’re pursuing an MBA, but consider this input from the admissions office: “Please be introspective and authentic in your responses. Content is more important than style of delivery. We value the opportunity to learn about your life experiences, aspirations, and goals.”
  2. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)
    This question carries over unchanged from last year, and should be approached the same as most other “Career Goals” / “Why an MBA?” essays. Note that the “Why an MBA?” component is very important, but you absolutely MUST demonstrate in this essay a knowledge of and a passion for UCLA Anderson. One way any school protects its admissions yield is by ferreting out those who don’t demonstrate enough enthusiasm for the program. Failing to answer the “how will UCLA Anderson help you achieve your goals” part of the question is a sure way to get ferreted out by the admissions committee.

Optional Essays

  1. You may respond to the following question via written essay, audio or video clip: What is something people will find surprising about you?
    It’s back! But, this year the school only gives you one answer option, rather than giving you a choice between a question about entrepreneurship and the one presented here. It’s easy to get too worked up over this video response. But, in short, we do recommend that our clients take advantage of it, despite the point that Anderson makes about not giving preference to those who submit one. Why? It’s simply easier for an admissions officer to envision you at the school if he or she can see your face and feel at least some connection with the real you. It’s simply human nature, despite their best efforts to remain objective. We think you should prepare well and make sure you deliver your answer smoothly, but a more impromptu-sounding response will sound warmer and more authentic than an overly scripted response. Lastly, have fun with this! Your response doesn’t need to be funny or wacky, but brightening the admissions committee’s day always helps.
  2. Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)
    Our advice for this type of question is always the same: Only use this question as necessary. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our UCLA Anderson Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

MIT Sloan Unveils Its New Building

Last week MBA students began streaming into MIT Sloan’s impressive new building on the eastern edge of MIT’s campus in Cambridge. Sloan, which until now had housed its classrooms and offices in a patchwork of new and old buildings, now has a single new building to call home.

Named E62 in MIT’s tradition of giving every building on campus an alphanumeric designation, the new 215,000 square-foot building will hold offices for Sloan faculty and administration, classrooms, a cafeteria, group study rooms, and more.

As impressive as E62 looks, what has impressed many visitors the most is the building’s energy efficiency. Much of the material that went into the building actually came from the old structures on the site. While E62 has a great deal of glass on its exterior, that glass is heavily glazed and reflective, so that it lets in a great deal of light without creating the need for constant air conditioning to keep the building cool. The roof is covered in plantings to keep it shady, and it will eventually hold solar panels to partly power the building. MIT Sloan plans to apply for LEED gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

MIT Sloan is just the latest top MBA program to unveil a new building in the past decade (Businessweek ran a piece about this trend recently). Yale and Stanford are coming up next, Columbia has talked about a new building, and Kellogg has already picked the site for its new building, sitting on the Lake Michigan shore. It’s not unlike the wave of new baseball parks that started after the Baltimore Orioles opened Camden Yards in 1992. Who’s next?

Applying to MIT Sloan this year? Download our MIT Sloan Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Remainder

Chances are that you haven’t used a remainder in years. Remainders in division are pretty much just placeholders for kids who haven’t yet learned about mixed numbers or decimals yet; as soon as you learn what to do with the remainder, you tend to never explicitly touch a remainder again…until you take the GMAT.

Consider the problem 11/3. 3*3 is 9, but then there are 2 left over that won’t divide evenly. So in this case, 11/3 = 3 remainder 2.

But by now you’ve figured out that you can divide that remaining 2 by 3, either as a mixed number:

3 2/3

Or as a decimal:

2/3 = .6667, so 11/3 = 3.6667

As with many concepts the GMAT tests, your ability to use all three ways of dealing with numbers that are not evenly divisible will be important — you’ll need to stay mentally flexible to see problems from multiple angles, and often times the GMAT will test the conceptual (e.g. remainders) applications of these problems more so than it will test the “calculational” (decimals), plug-and-chug methods to which you’ve become accustomed. To celebrate Back-To-School week for most school districts around the US, let’s take you back to elementary school to show you how the GMAT will test remainders.

Sometimes the GMAT will simply test the concept of a remainder. Consider the question:

If 13,333 – n is divisible by 11, and 0 <> n is the remainder of that problem

Now, because we don’t care about the quotient of this problem — the question solely asks for the remainder, we simply need to determine what’s left over when we divide 13333 by 11. The fastest way to do that is to simply subtract large multiples of 11 from 13333 to see what’s left. We can do this because of the rule a (x + y) = ax + ay. If we’re trying to divide a number like, say 51 by 3, we can break apart that 51 into 21 and 30 so that we have 7*3 + 10*3, which equals 3(7+10) = 3*17 = 51. In this case, we can break apart 13,333 by taking off large multiples of 11:

13333 – 11000 = 2333
2333 – 2200 = 133
133 – 121 = 12
12 – 11 = 1

The remainder, then, is 1.

Another way that the GMAT will test remainders goes back to the concept at the beginning of this post. The remainder of a division problem is what you would typically just divide back into the problem to determine the decimals:

25/4 = 6 remainder 1.
Divide that 1 back by 4 to get .25, so the answer is 6.25. The remainder provides the data after the decimal point, and the quotient gives you the number to the left of the decimal point.

Consider this problem (which appears courtesy of GMAC):

When positive integer x is divided by positive integer y, the remainder is 9. If x/y = 96.12, what is the value of y?

(A) 96
(B) 75
(C) 48
(D) 25
(E) 12

Going back to the concept of the remainder, the remainder of 9 is what will give us that .12 after the decimal place. The answer to the division problem x/y is either:

96 remainder 9
or
96.12

Therefore, when the remainder of 9 is divided back over y, we get .12. Mathematically, this means that:

9/y = .12
9 = .12y
900 = 12y (multiplying both sides by 100 to eliminate the need to deal with decimals can make calculation much easier!)
900/12 = y
300/4 = y (factor out the 3)
75 = y

The correct answer is B.

The GMAT is famous for testing you on concepts that you’ve long forgotten, and remainders are a favorite example of that. Understanding the concept of remainders — what they are, how they’re calculated, and how they can be turned into fractions/decimals — can be quite useful on this test, so as you study take a glance back at your elementary school years and hopefully your knowledge of remainders will remain.

Are you studying for the GMAT? Be sure to compare us to other GMAT courses and see why more people choose Veritas Prep every year. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

New MBA Applicant Research Results Revealed!

As reported in Bloomberg Businessweek this morning, we have just released the initial results from our 2010 MBA applicant survey. Some of the results are surprising.

More than 1,700 applicants and current MBA students responded to this year’s survey, giving us a nice cross-section of applicants from various careers and walks of life. Among some of the more notable findings we’ve uncovered:

  • The Bad Job Market Hasn’t Discouraged These Applicants:If a significant number of business school graduates were unable to find jobs in their desired fields, 73% of respondents would still apply, while 13% would postpone applying until placement rates improved. Only 5% of respondents indicated that they would not apply under these circumstances. Half of respondents are concerned about finding a job upon graduation from business school.
  • Quality of Life Matters, Too: Leading concerns among current and prospective business school students include finding a long-term career path that appeals to them (68%) and maintaining a healthy work/life balance once they start working (60%).
  • Applicants Apparently Care Most about Saving the World: We were surprised by this one. A prestigious, high-paying job was not a motivator for any respondents. Rather, an interest in business and the way it shapes society (66%) and the desire to affect positive change in the world (50%) were the most common reasons. (Really? No one cares about a high-paying job? Some of us have to take this response with at least a minor grain of salt! This may at least partly be an example of the pressure some applicants seem to feel to say what they think admissions officers want to hear.)
  • Yet Prestige Does Matter When Picking an MBA Program: Prestige and ranking (80%) were overwhelmingly the key factors in identifying business schools of choice, followed by networking opportunities and alumni base (77%).
  • Career Switching Is a Huge Reason to Pursue and MBA: 64% of respondents hope to leverage an MBA to switch careers, while only 19% plan to use the degree to bolster their performance in their current career.

Some very interesting insights here,which will dig into more in this space and in the full report, which will come out in the next few weeks. In the meantime, what do you think of the results? Do you really believe the large number of applicants who say that affecting positive change in the world matters more than finding a high-paying job?

If you plan on applying to business school, call us at 800-925-7737 and speak to a Veritas Prep admissions consultant. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

London Business School Admissions Deadlines for 2010-2011

Today we look at London Business School’s deadlines for the 2010-2011 admissions season.

Here are the deadlines, followed by our comments in italics:

London Business School Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 6, 2010
Round 2: January 5, 2011
Round 3: March 2, 2011
Round 4: April 20, 2011

Note that LBS has left its deadlines virtually unchanged vs. last year. Among top MBA programs, LBS has one of the longer admissions cycles, accepting applications for nearly seven months out of the year. Although the school has four rounds of deadlines (vs. the more normal three), we still advise that you aim for Round 1 or Round 2. Great applicants can certainly still get into LBS in the last two rounds, but if you’re ready, there’s no reason to wait and risk finding yourself in a situation where London Business School simply doesn’t have enough open seats to accommodate you.

Plan on applying to LBS and other top MBA programs this year? Call us at (800) 925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Prep Courses Start This Week!

GMAT PrepIf you’re applying to business school this year, hopefully by now you have a great GMAT score under your belt. If not, there’s still time to properly prepare for the exam, get a competitive score, and complete your business school applications this year. But, you’d better start your test preparation now to give yourself enough time.

You’re in luck. This week we have GMAT prep classes starting all over the world. Whether you’re looking for an in-person class, an accelerated or weekend course, online GMAT prep, we’ve got you covered.

Taking our 42-hour, seven-week Full Course (our most popular option) will leave you with plenty of time to take the GMAT by November, setting up the calendar for you beautifully to prepare strong applications for the Round 2 deadlines in January. If you still have Round 1 in mind, you can enroll in a one-week Accelerated Course and be ready to take the GMAT before the end of this month. Or, enroll in Veritas Prep on Demand, our self-paced online GMAT prep option, and tackle the material as quickly as you want.

And, no matter which class you choose, you’ll have access to our online resources — including 15 computer-adaptive practice tests, seven diagnostic exams, and GMAT homework help from real GMAT instructors — for 12 full months. No one offers you more GMAT prep, period.

Ready to dig in and reach your maximum potential on the GMAT? Compare GMAT courses and see why thousands of applicants choose Veritas Prep every year. Then, find a GMAT course near you and get enrolled. If you enroll late, don’t worry… We’ll work with you to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so that you don’t miss a beat in the worlds of GMAT prep and MBA admissions!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Data Sufficiency the Newton Way

Few two-syllable proper nouns connote brilliance quite like Newton: Sir Isaac, obviously; the Newton Hills along the Boston Marathon course that lead to Boston College; the Newton unit of force; even Las Vegas lounge singer Wayne Newton is supposedly quite intelligent.

Perhaps, however, no Newton has displayed the kind of GMAT brilliance that Nabisco brought us with the introduction and expansion of the world’s most beloved Newton:

The Fig Newton.

The beloved Fig Newton has been a staple of the snack-and-light-dessert market for nearly a century (and is based on an ancient recipe that has been delicious for centuries). It has inspired a great many spinoffs, including the not-quite-as-good play-on-words competitor from Newman’s Own, the Fig Newman.

Fig Newtons have grown into one of the most powerful brand names in the snack food industry, and as such are something for any aspiring brand manager to consider. How, specifically, can Fig Newtons help you on the GMAT?

Data Sufficiency questions rely on your ability to consider all of the potential options. Consider the question:

Is x > y/z?

1) xz > y

2) x^2 > y/z

Statement 1 looks awfully tempting, as one could simply divide by z on both sides to arrive at exactly x > y/z. However, this is not necessarily the case — if z were negative, then dividing by z would require the > inequality sign to be flipped to <. Accordingly, the statement can give either answer: Yes or No. Plugging in quick numbers can demonstrate this point even more clearly. If x = 3, y = 2, and z = 1, then statement 1 yields: Is x >y/z?
3 > 2/1 —-> YES

But if x and z were negative, statement 1 is still satisfied (-3 * -1 = 3, which is greater than 2), and that would yield:

-3 <> NO

We need to consider the possibility of negative numbers (and nonintegers, and 0…numbers with unique properties) whenever looking at Data Sufficiency questions. Which is what the brand managers at Fig Newton did to expand that brand significantly. Is there anything particularly spectacular about the Fig? Or was it the packaging, the cookie type, the size and texture, etc. that drove such demand? Nabisco rolled out Apple Newtons (a natural with the Newton tie-in), Strawberry Newtons, Raspberry Newtons, and did so to substantial success. The Newton family considered all of the options and didn’t allow itself to be pigeonholed into one type of Newton, the same way that you, on Data Sufficiency questions, need to consider all allowable numbers and not allow yourself to focus specifically on one type.

Statement 2, similarly, does not guarantee a positive or negative value for x, and continues to allow itself to support both answers. The answer to this question is thus E — even given both statements, we cannot eliminate the possibility of negative values for x, y, and z, and therefore need to recognize that both answers to the main question are possible.

Learn from the experts at Fig Newton — when you consider the entire array of possibilities, you enable yourself to be capable of higher success…be it on Data Sufficiency questions, in the snack food markets, or in physics.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have classes starting worldwide next week! Be sure to compare us to other GMAT courses and see why more people choose Veritas Prep every year. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

GMAT Challenge Question: Too Many Twos

Right at this second it’s September 2nd, with 2 days until the college football season starts, once again with too many teams in the Big Ten. In honor of all of these twos and toos, we present you a GMAT problem that features too many twos:

What is the value of 2 + 2 + 2^2 + 2^3 + 2^4 + 2^5 + 2^6 + 2^7 + 2^8?

(A) 2^9
(B) 2^10
(C) 2^11
(D) 3(2^10)
(E) 3(2^11)

Please post your answers in the comments field and we’ll post the solution later today!

Afternoon Update:

Great solutions, everyone. This question brings up an important point about exponents – we only have a few “core competencies” when it comes to performing with algebra, and those are:

-Multiplying/dividing exponents with common bases
-Finding patterns (units digits, relationships between adding/subtracting common terms, etc.)
-Setting common bases equal to equate exponents

Outside of that, there’s very little that we can do without the use of a calculator. So, in order to take advantage of what we do well, we should find ways when we see exponents to:

-Find common bases
-Multiply (using factorization to turn addition/subtraction into multiplication)

Here, we’re asked to add several terms together…that’s not something that we do well with exponents. However, by blending our abilities to factor terms (to get to multiplication) and to see patterns, we can attack this question relatively efficiently:

2 + 2 + 2^2 + 2^3 + 2^4 + 2^5 + 2^6 + 2^7 + 2^8

Combine the 2s to be 4, or 2^2, and you have:

2^2 + 2^2 + 2^3 + 2^4 + 2^5 + 2^6 + 2^7 + 2^8

Now we can add them together, and we have 2(2^2), or 2^3, simplifying the entire statement to:

2^3 + 2^3 + 2^4 + 2^5 + 2^6 + 2^7 + 2^8

Notice that we’ll be able to combine two more terms, the two 2^3 terms, to be 2(2^3) or 2^4, leaving:

2^4 + 2^4 + 2^5 + 2^6 + 2^7 + 2^8

By now hopefully you’ve seen a pattern (patterns come up frequently in exponent questions) – the first two terms will add to the third, and then adding those will add to the fourth:

2^4 + 2^4 (the first two) = 2^5 (so now we have two of the third term):

2^5 + 2^5 + 2^6 + 2^7 + 2^8

Do that again and we’ll have:

2^6 + 2^6 + 2^7 + 2^8

If we repeat the pattern, we’ll end up with:

2^8 + 2^8 = 2(2^8) = 2^9. Therefore, the correct answer is A.

When approaching exponent problems, keep your core competencies in mind: factor, multiply, find common bases, and look for patterns. These strategies will help you turn complicated problems into efficient solutions.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting around the world next week!. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

MBA Admissions Officers Coming to a City Near You!

Are you applying to business school this fall? The QS World MBA Tour gives MBA applicants the opportunity to meet admission officers from the world’s best business schools, attend GMAT seminars and participate in sample business school classes. This fall, the World MBA Tour will be visiting 72 cities on five continents including many North American cities.

In addition to meeting representatives from the MBA programs, all registrants are eligible for $1.6 million in exclusive scholarships from many of the schools in attendance. Veritas Prep is proud to partner with QS World MBA Tour and we look forward to seeing you at an event this fall. Make sure to reserve your spot and register here!

Take a look at the QS World MBA Tour schedule to see when it will come to a town near you:

Plan on applying to business school this year? Call us at 800-925-7737 and speak to a Veritas Prep MBA admissions consultant. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!