# Complexities of Parallelism – Part I

Parallelism is one of the most common errors tested on GMAT, and debatably, one of the most tricky too! At times, due to the complexity of the sentence, we may not realise that elements should be in parallel; at others we may not realise that they should NOT be in parallel! (discussed in a previous post)

We see parallelism in many cases in GMAT. Some of them are:

• A list of elements
• Co-ordinating and correlative conjunctions such as “and”, “but”, “both … and…”, “either … or…” etc
• Stating a comparison such as “compared to A, B”
• Idioms involving elements in parallel such as “consider A B”

On the face of it, it seems quite simple and straight forward – all acting verbs or all nouns etc, but if a GMAT question focusses on it, it is bound to be more complicated than that. Parallelism depends on both, the form and the function of the words. Also, it is important to decipher the logic of the sentence – should the elements be in parallel in the first place? If yes, then which elements should be in parallel?

We also need to worry about when to repeat a particular word in all parallel elements and when not to. We know the thumb rule – either repeat in all or use only once in the beginning. But when is it a good idea to repeat the word in all elements?

Yes, it isn’t that simple after all!

But let’s answer all these questions using a couple of examples.

Question 1: It is no surprise that Riyadh, the Saudi capital where people revere birds of prey and ride camels regularly, is home to the world’s largest hospital for falcons, a place where falcons from all over the world are treated in operating rooms, an ophthalmology department, and a pox area, and to the largest veterinary clinic for desert mammals, a place where camels and other desert species are expertly cared for.

(A) an ophthalmology department, and a pox area, and to the largest veterinary clinic for desert mammals, a place where camels and other desert species are expertly cared for.

(B) an ophthalmology department, a pox area, and the largest veterinary clinic for desert mammals, where camels and other desert species are expertly cared for.

(C) an ophthalmology department, to a pox area, and to the largest veterinary clinic for desert mammals, a place where camels and other desert species are expertly cared for.

(D) to an ophthalmology department, and to a pox area and the largest veterinary clinic for desert mammals, a place where camels and other desert species are expertly cared for.

(E) an ophthalmology department and a pox area, and the largest veterinary clinic for desert mammals, a place where camels and other desert species are expertly cared for.

Solution: There are lots of commas and lots of different elements in the sentence.

Logically, we see that Riyadh is home to the largest hospital for falcons and to the veterinary clinic for desert mammals. It can’t be home to operating rooms, an ophthalmology department, and a pox area! These are places inside a hospital!

So then, here is the structure of the sentence:

It is no surprise that Riyadh, …, is home to A and to B.

A and B should be in parallel.

Within A, we have a list of elements too.

A – the world’s largest hospital for falcons, a place where falcons from all over the world are treated in X, Y and Z

X – operating rooms

Y – an ophthalmology department

Z – a pox area

B – the largest veterinary clinic for desert mammals, a place where camels and other desert species are expertly cared for

Therefore, to show parallelism between A and B, we have used “to” with both to show the beginning of the parallel elements. This separates them from the other set of parallel elements – X, Y and Z.

Note that only option (A) satisfies these conditions and hence is the correct answer here.

Takeaways

• The first thing to do is to figure out the logic of the sentence to see which elements should be in parallel and which shouldn’t.
• After that, put those that need to be in parallel. We might need to repeat certain words to signal the start of parallel elements when we have other intertwined lists too.

We will leave you with a question now. We will discuss it in detail in our next post.

Question 2: Geologists believe that the warning signs for a major earthquake may include sudden fluctuations in local seismic activity, tilting and other deformations of the Earth’s crust, changing the measured strain across a fault zone, and varying the electrical properties of underground rocks.

(A) changing the measured strain across a fault zone, and varying

(B) changing measurements of the strain across a fault zone, and varying

(C) changing the strain as measured across a fault zone, and variations of

(D) changes in the measured strain across a fault zone, and variations in

(E) changes in measurements of the strain across a fault zone, and variations among

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: To Learn To-Infinitives

In our previous posts, we have discussed two types of Verbals (a verb that acts as a different part of speech) – Gerunds and Participles. Today we will take a look at the third type – to-Infinitives

Note that the infinitive is the base form of a verb. The infinitive has two forms:

• the to-infinitive = to + base

• the zero infinitive = base

We will discuss the to-infinitive form, a verbal. It can work as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb

The to-infinitive form is used in many sentence constructions, often expressing the purpose of something or someone’s opinion about something. The to-infinitive is used following a large collection of different verbs as well such as afford, offer, refuse, prepare, undertake, proceed, propose, promise etc

The function of a to-infinitive in a sentence could be any of the following:

I. To show the purpose of an action: In this case “to” has the same meaning as “in order to” or “so as to”. It follows a verb in this case.

For Example: She has gone to complete her homework.

II. To indicate what something can or will be used for: It follows a noun or a pronoun in this case.

For Example: I don’t have anything to wear. This is the right thing to do.

For Example: I am happy to be here.

IV. The subject of the sentence

For Example: To visit Paris is my lifelong dream.

V. With adverbs: It is used with the adverbs too and enough to express the reasoning behind our satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The pattern is that too and enough are placed before or after the adjective, adverb, or noun that they modify in the same way they would be without the to-infinitive. We then follow them by the to-infinitive to explain the reason why the quantity is excessive, sufficient, or insufficient.

For Example: He has too many books to carry on his own.

VI. With question words: The verbs ask, decide, explain, forget, know, show, tell, & understand can be followed by a question word such as where, how, what, who, & when + the to-infinitive.

For Example: I am not sure how to use the new washing machine.

We are likely to see infinitive phrases in GMAT sentence correction questions. An infinitive phrase is made up of the infinitive verb with its object and modifiers.

Let’s take a look at how we could see an infinitive in a GMAT question.

Question: Twenty-two feet long and 10 feet in diameter, the AM-1 is one of the many new satellites that is a part of 15 years effort of subjecting the interactions of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces to detailed scrutiny from space.

(A) satellites that is a part of 15 years effort of subjecting the interactions of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces

(B) satellites, which is a part of a 15-year effort to subject how Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces interact

(C) satellites, part of 15 years effort of subjecting how Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces are interacting

(D) satellites that are part of an effort for 15 years that has subjected the interactions of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces

(E) satellites that are part of a 15-year effort to subject the interactions of Earth’s atmosphere, ocean, and land surfaces

Solution:

First let’s try to understand the basic structure of the sentence.

… AM-1 is one of the many new satellites “that/which clause”

“that/which clause” modifies the noun “satellites” in four of the given five options. Note that “satellites” is plural so we need to use the verb “are”. So options (A) and (B) are out.

(C) is also incorrect. It looks like “part of 15 years … from space” is a bad attempt at writing an absolute phrase. Absolute phrases modify the entire clause but here we need to modify “satellites” only. Satellites are a part of a 15 year effort to subject A to detailed scrutiny and hence we should use a that/which clause.

(D) is incorrect too. It uses another “that clause” – that has subjected the interactions …

This “that clause” modifies the noun “effort”, not “15 years”. The effort has subjected A to detailed scrutiny.

There is a better way of writing this sentence such that the “that clause” comes immediately after “effort”

(E) is correct. Note how it uses the infinitive form immediately after the noun “effort” to indicate how the effort is being used. It is being used to subject A to detailed scrutiny.

Hope now you will be able to recognise the different verbals and use them correctly.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# Planning for the “Plan” Questions on the GMAT Critical Reasoning Section

At Veritas Prep, we are often asked to discuss how to handle the “plan” Critical Reasoning questions test takers are asked on the GMAT. Here is how these questions are different from your regular strengthen/weaken questions – instead of a conclusion, we are given situations and plans to remedy a particular problem. We are then asked to evaluate the success of the plan or identify a weakness in the plan or an assumption of the plan.

Note that a plan question is very similar to a strengthen/weaken/assumption question. The main difference between them is that instead of being given a conclusion, you are asked to strengthen/weaken the possibility of a plan working out or an assumption made in the plan (looking at a few example questions will make this clearer). Let’s look at some examples of each of the three types of “plan” questions you are likely to come across on the GMAT exam:

Example 1 (the most common one): Which of the following will help us in evaluating the success of the plan?

In the country of Bedenia, officials have recently implemented a new healthcare initiative to reduce dangerous wait times at emergency rooms in the country’s hospitals. This initiative increases the number of available emergency nurses and doctors in urban settings: scholarships and no-interest loans are being offered to prospective students in these fields if they work in major city hospitals, relocation packages to urban centers are being offered for current emergency practitioners, and immigration rules are being changed to enable foreign emergency doctors and nurses to more easily move to Bedenia’s major cities.

Which of the following would be most important to determine in assessing whether the initiative will be successful?

(A) What percentage of current nurses and doctors work in emergency medicine.
(B) Which hospitals in Bedenia have dangerous wait times in their emergency rooms.
(C) Whether a career in emergency medicine pays substantially less than other types of medicine.
(D) Whether wait times could be reduced by means other than increasing the number of available nurses and doctors.
(E) Whether many foreign doctors and nurses are currently not allowed to enter Bedenia.

Plan: Reduce the dangerous wait time by increasing the availability of emergency nurses and doctors in urban settings by providing scholarships, offering relocation packages and changing immigration rules.

We need to find out whether this given plan will actually reduce wait time. Note that we are not worried about what else could reduce the dangerous wait time or what else this plan could do. The only point of concern for us is whether this plan will reduce the wait time.

This plan intends to increase the availability of emergency nurses and doctors in urban settings, so ask yourself this question: is this actually what is required? Do the urban hospitals have dangerous wait times? What if only rural hospitals have wait times and that is where the impetus is required? Answer choice B addresses exactly this question and, hence, will allow us to determine whether or not the initiative will be successful. Therefore, the answer is B.

Now look at our second example:

Example 2: Which of the following provides an argument against the plan?

In the last two years alone, nearly a dozen of Central University’s most prominent professors have been lured away by the higher salaries offered by competing academic institutions. In order to protect the school’s ranking, Central University’s president has proposed increasing tuition by 10% and using the extra money to offer more attractive compensation packages to the most talented and well-known members of its faculty.

Which of the following provides the most persuasive argument against the university president’s proposed course of action?

(A) It is inevitable that at least some members of the faculty will ultimately take jobs at other universities, regardless of how much Central University offers to pay them.
(B) Other universities are also looking for ways to provide higher salaries to prominent members of the faculty.
(C) Central University slipped in the last year’s ranking of regional schools.
(D) The single most important factor in ranking a university is its racial and socioeconomic diversity.
(E) The president of Central University has only been in office for 18 months and has never managed such a large enterprise.

Plan: Protect the school’s ranking by retaining its most prominent members by increasing their compensation.

We need to find a persuasive argument against the given plan – something that leads us to believe the plan should not be implemented. Here, test takers often become confused between options B and D. Let’s break down each answer choice in detail to determine which one is correct:

(B) Other universities are also looking for ways to provide higher salaries to prominent members of the faculty.

This option supports the given plan. It is a reason to actually implement the plan since if more disparity gets created, more prominent professors will leave. Remember, we are looking for an option that is against the plan, so B cannot be our answer.

(D) The single most important factor in ranking a university is its racial and socioeconomic diversity.

This is an argument against the plan. It states that the single most important factor in ranking is “racial and socioeconomic diversity,” so trying to retain prominent professors is not likely to retain ranking. Hence, the correct answer would be D.

Now let’s look at our final example:

Example 3: Which of the following is an assumption of the plan?

The general availability of high-quality electronic scanners and color printers for computers has made the counterfeiting of checks much easier. In order to deter such counterfeiting, several banks plan to issue to their corporate customers checks that contain dots too small to be accurately duplicated by any electronic scanner currently available; when such checks are scanned and printed, the dots seem to blend together in such a way that the word “VOID” appears on the check.

A questionable assumption of the plan is that

(A) in the territory served by the banks the proportion of counterfeit checks that are made using electronic scanners has remained approximately constant over the past few years.
(B) most counterfeiters who use electronic scanners counterfeit checks only for relatively large amounts of money.
(C) the smallest dots on the proposed checks cannot be distinguished visually except under strong magnification.
(D) most corporations served by these banks will not have to pay more for the new checks than for traditional checks.
(E) the size of the smallest dots that generally available electronic scanners are able to reproduce accurately will not decrease significantly in the near future.

Plan: To deter counterfeiting, issue checks that contain dots too small to be accurately duplicated (which will form the word VOID) by any electronic scanner currently available.

We need to find an assumption that this given plan makes. Note that the plan is based on the capabilities of the currently available scanners and assumes that their capabilities will not improve in the near future. Hence, E is an assumption.

Some test takers get confused with  answer choice C:

(C) the smallest dots on the proposed checks cannot be distinguished visually except under strong magnification

This option is actually not an assumption. Even if the dots can be distinguished visually, they don’t form the word VOID. Only when current scanners scan the checks and then we print them do the dots merge to form the word. Thus, our answer is E.

We hope you have understood how to handle various “plan” questions on the GMAT. The most important aspect of such questions to remember is to first identify the plan and what one hopes to achieve through it.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# The Importance of Context in Verb Tenses

In our last post, we looked at verb tenses and noted that there is no restriction on how many tenses we can use and mix within a sentence, as long as they are appropriate for the context of the sentence. The problem is that sometimes the context can be a bit complicated to crack. We may think that a tense shift is required when it is actually not.

Let’s take a look at an official GMAT question to better understand this concept:

A recent study has found that within the past few years, many doctors had elected early retirement rather than face the threats of lawsuits and the rising costs of malpractice insurance.

(A) had elected early retirement rather than face
(C) have elected retiring early instead of facing
(D) have elected to retire early rather than facing
(E) have elected to retire early rather than face

So the first decision point is “have” vs. “had”. What is correct here? We know that we use past perfect tense when there are two actions in the past. So do we have two actions in the past here – “finding” and “electing” – of which, it may seem, “electing” would have happened before “finding?” Sure, we have two actions but here is the catch – we use past perfect only when the previous action takes place completely before the recent past action. Here, we know that “within the past few years” implies the recent years. The study shows that most probably, doctors are still electing early retirement. So the use of past perfect is incorrect here. In this context, we will use present perfect only.

The other error that helps us to arrive at the right answer is lack of parallelism. “retire” and “face” need to be parallel while rising should not be parallel to them because it is a sub-list under “face”.

They elected to retire … rather than face A and B.

A – the threats
B – the rising costs

“[R]ising” is a present participle that is modifying the noun “costs” in the non underlined part. So our verbs “retire” and “face” should not be in the -ing form. Answer choice E satisfies all these criteria and hence is the right answer.

Note that the correct answer uses present perfect for both verbs since the context requires us to.

Let’s look at a rewrite of this question:

A recent article in The Economic Times reported that many recent MBA graduates had decided on taking a job rather than face the uncertainty of entrepreneurship.

(A) had decided on taking a job rather than face
(C) have decided to take a job instead of facing
(D) had decided to take a job rather than facing
(E) have decided to take a job rather than face

How does the solution change now? Again we have two verbs “report” and “decide”. The reporting has already happened so the simple past “reported” has been used in the non-underlined part. Which tense will we use with “decide”? Again, the concept is still the same. We are talking about recent MBA graduates and it shows a trend. It is something that is not completely over, hence the use of past perfect is not justified. We should use the present perfect tense only though it may seem a bit counterintuitive since “report” is in the past tense.

“take” and “face” should be parallel to each other so out of (C) and (E), (E) fits. This is the reason making sweeping statements in grammar is dangerous – a lot depends on the context.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# Is It Incorrect to Use Multiple Verb Tenses in a Sentence?

Some GMAT test-takers wonder whether it is grammatically correct to use multiple tenses in a single sentence. Today we will discuss the cases in which this is acceptable and those in which this is not. The bottom line is this: there is no restriction on what tenses we can use and mix within a sentence, as long as they are appropriate for the context.

Take a look at this example sentence:

I have heard that Mona left Manchester this morning, and has already arrived in London, where she will be for the next three weeks.

Here, we have present perfect tense, simple past tense and simple future tense all in the same sentence, but they all make sense together to create a logical sequence of events.

The confusion over using multiple verb tenses in one sentence probably arises because we have heard that we need to maintain verb tense consistency. These two things are different.

Tense Consistency – We do not switch one tense to another unless the timing of the action demands that we do. We do not switch tenses when there is no time change for the actions.

Let’s take a look at some examples to understand this:

Example 1: During the match, my dad stood up and waved at me.

These two actions (“stood” and “waved”) happen at the same time and hence, need to have the same tense. This sentence could take place in the present or future tense too, but both verbs will still need to take on the same tense. For example:

Example 2: During my matches, my dad stands up and waves at me.
Example 3: During the match tomorrow, my dad will stand up and wave at me.

On the other hand, a sentence such as…

Example 4: During the match, my dad stood up and waves at me.

This sentence is grammatically incorrect. Since both actions (“stood” and “waves”) happen at the same time, we need them to be in the same tense, as shown in the variations of this sentence above. Consider this case, however:

Here, the two actions (“reached” and “eaten”) happen at different times in the past, so we use both the simple past and past perfect tenses. The shift in tense is correct in this context.

Takeaway: The tenses of verbs in a sentence must be consistent when the actions happen at the same time. When dealing with actions that occur at different points in time, however, we can use multiple tenses in the same sentence.

Let’s look at an official GMAT question now to see how multiple tenses can be a part of the same sentence:

For the farmer who takes care to keep them cool, providing them with high-energy feed, and milking them regularly, Holstein cows are producing an average of 2,275 gallons of milk each per year.

(A) providing them with high-energy feed, and milking them regularly, Holstein cows are producing
(B) providing them with high-energy feed, and milked regularly, the Holstein cow produces
(C) provided with high-energy feed, and milking them regularly, Holstein cows are producing
(D) provided with high-energy feed, and milked regularly, the Holstein cow produces
(E) provided with high-energy feed, and milked regularly, Holstein cows will produce

This is a very tricky question. Let’s first shortlist our options based on the obvious errors.

The non-underlined part of the sentence uses the pronoun “them” to refer to the cows, so using “the Holstein cow” (singular) as the antecedent will be incorrect. The antecedent must be “Holstein cows” (plural) – this means answer choices B and D are out.

Also, we know for sure that “provide” and “milk” are parallel elements in the sentence, so they should take the same verb tense. Hence, answer choice C is also out.

Let’s look at A now. If we assume this option is correct, “providing” and “milking” act as modifiers to “keep them cool”. That certainly does not make sense since “providing with high energy feed” and “milking regularly” are not ways of keeping cows cool.

This means the correct answer is E, but we need to see how.

For the farmer who takes care to keep them cool, provided with high-energy feed, and milked regularly, Holstein cows will produce an average of 2,275 gallons of milk each per year.

Let’s break down the sentence:

For the farmer who takes care to keep them…

• cool,
• provided with high-energy feed,
• milked regularly,

…Holstein cows will produce an average of 2,275 gallons of milk each per year.

Note that we use two different tenses here: “For the farmer who takes care…” and “cows will produce…”. The word “takes” is the present tense while “will produce” is the future, but that does not make this sentence incorrect. The context of the author could very well justify the use of the future tense. Perhaps the farmers have obtained Holstein cows recently, and hence, will see the produce of 2,275 gallons in the future, only.

A shift in the tense certainly doesn’t make the sentence incorrect. When you’re presented with multiple verbs in various tenses in a problem, check to determine whether the verbs convey a logical sequence of events.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# How to Answer GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions Involving Experiments

There are certain themes that crop up in Critical Reasoning questions so often that it’s worthwhile to treat these problem types as their own sub-categories. One category that shows up with greater frequency in each new edition of the Official Guide is one that I’ll christen, “The tainted experiment.”

The logic of these arguments is always rooted in the notion that we can only trust the results of the experiment if we have a legitimate control group, and there aren’t any other confounding variables that we’ve failed to account for. Spoiler alert: typically in GMAT questions, we will find such confounding variables tainting the experiment’s predictive value.

Imagine, for example, that you’re testing a drug designed to alleviate headaches. You have two groups of subjects: a control group that takes a placebo and an experimental group that receives the drug. The results of the experiment show that the control group has a higher rate of headaches than the group receiving the medication. Time to rejoice, notify the delighted shareholders, and move this drug to market as quickly as possible? Well, maybe.

But now imagine that the control group consisted largely of stressed-out, sleep-deprived college students living near construction sites, and the experiment group consisted of retired yoga instructors. Suddenly we’ve got other variables to contend with. Yes, it’s possible that the effectiveness of the drug is what accounts for the differential in headache incidence between the two groups. But it’s just as likely that other environmental factors are responsible. A good experiment would have controlled for these factors.

The upshot: whenever you see a question that involves an experiment with a control group, always ask yourself if there are variables that the experimenters have failed to account for.

Here’s a good example of such an argument:

In Colorado subalpine meadows, nonnative dandelions co-occur with a native ﬂower, the larkspur. Bumblebees visit both species, creating the potential for interactions between the two species with respect to pollination. In a recent study, researchers selected 16 plots containing both species; all dandelions were removed from eight plots; the remaining eight control plots were left undisturbed. The control plots yielded significantly more larkspur seeds than the dandelion-free plots, leading the researchers to conclude that the presence of dandelions facilitates pollination (and hence seed production) in the native species by attracting more pollinators to the mixed plots.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously undermines the researchers’ reasoning?

A) Bumblebees preferentially visit dandelions over larkspurs in mixed plots.
B) In mixed plots, pollinators can transfer pollen from one species to another to augment seed production.
C) If left unchecked, nonnative species like dandelions quickly crowd out native species.
D) Seed germination is a more reliable measure of a species’ ﬁtness than seed production.
E) Soil disturbances can result in fewer blooms, and hence lower seed production.

This is a classic experiment argument. There are two populations: plots that contain both dandelions and larkspurs, and plots that have had all the dandelions removed, and thus contain only larkspurs. We’re told that the plots containing both types of flowers produced more larkspur seeds than the plots containing only larkspurs, thus validating the contention that the presence of dandelions has a positive benefit on larkspur seed yields.

Fortunately, the GMAT is pretty predictable. If we’re trying to weaken the conclusion derived from an experiment comparing two populations – a control group and an experimental group – we’re looking for a confounding variable. The initial hypothesis is that the presence of dandelions promotes seed production in larkspurs. An alternative hypothesis is that an environmental factor we haven’t yet considered accounts for the differential in larkspur seed production in the two groups, so that’s what we’re on the lookout for when we examine each of the answer choices.

A) Which flower bees prefer sheds no light on the validity of the experiment. A is out.

B) This answer option would be entirely consistent with the hypothesis that dandelions promote larkspur seed production. We’re trying to weaken the argument. B is also out.

C) This answer choice makes no sense. We’ve already been told that the plots containing both types of flower produce more larkspur seeds – we never want to contradict a premise. C is no good.

D) This tells us nothing about whether it is the presence of dandelions that’s helping promote larkspur seed production. D gets kicked to the curb.

E) If removing the dandelions disrupts the soil, perhaps it’s the disrupted soil, rather than the absence of dandelions, that accounts for the lower larkspur production in the plots where the dandelions have been removed. We’ve got our confounding variable – E is the answer.

Takeaway: On Critical Reasoning questions on the lookout for the tainted experiment. If you’re trying to weaken an argument regarding an experiment containing a control group and an experimental group, the key will be determining which answer choice provides a confounding variable, and thus, an alternative explanation for the conclusion given.

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

# Select Your Section Order on the New GMAT

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

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

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

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

### THE ANALYSIS

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

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

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

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

### YOU SHOULD TAKE THE AWA LAST

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

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

### REASONS TO DO YOUR STRONGER SECTION (Q vs. V) FIRST

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

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

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

### REASONS TO DO YOUR WEAKER SECTION (Q vs. V) FIRST

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

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

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

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

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

### CAN’T DECIDE? THE CASE FOR DOING VERBAL FIRST

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

### SUMMARY

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

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

# Using “Few” vs. “A Few” vs. “Quite a Few” in a GMAT Verbal Question

On quite a few occasions, we at Veritas Prep find ourselves explaining the difference between the terms “few” and “a few” – a subtle, but very important distinction which has, on occasion, completely changed the meaning of a sentence. Hence, we realized that a post on this difference is warranted.

“Few”, when used without a preceding “a”, means “very few” or “none at all”. “Few” is a negative, which puts the quantity of what you are describing near zero.

On the other hand, “a few” is used to indicate “not a large number”. “A few” also indicates a small approximate number, but it is positive nonetheless.

The difference between the two is subtle, yet there are instances where the two can mean completely opposite things. For example, “I have a few friends” is the same as saying “I have some friends”. “I have few friends”, however, implies that I have only very few friends (as opposed to many). It can also imply that I don’t feel very well about it, and I wish I had more friends.

Also, note that there is a very common expression, “quite a few”, which looks like it could mean “rather few” or “very few”, but it does not. It actually means the exact opposite: “a large or significant number” or “many”. So saying, “I have quite a few friends,” is the same as saying “I have quite a lot of friends”.

Here are a few other simple examples:

• A few people think that red wine is healthy.
• This implies some people think that red wine is healthy.
• Few people think that red wine is healthy.
• This implies only very few people, a very small number, think that red wine is healthy; most think that it is not.
• Quite a few people think that red wine is healthy.
• This implies many people, a large number, think that red wine is healthy.

Let’s examine an official Critical Reasoning question in which confusion among these terms could lead to an incorrect answer:

Until now, only injectable vaccines against influenza have been available. They have been primarily used by older adults who are at risk for complications from influenza. A new vaccine administered in a nasal spray form has proven effective in preventing influenza in children. Since children are significantly more likely than adults to contract and spread influenza, making the new vaccine widely available for children will greatly reduce the spread of influenza across the population.

Which of the following, if true, most strengthens the argument?

(A) If a person receives both the nasal spray and the injectable vaccine, they do not interfere with each other.
(B) The new vaccine uses the same mechanism to ward off influenza as injectable vaccines do.
(C) Government subsidies have kept the injectable vaccines affordable for adults.
(D) Of the older adults who contract influenza, relatively few contract it from children with influenza.
(E) Many parents would be more inclined to have their children vaccinated against influenza if it did not involve an injection.

Let’s break down the argument of this passage first. We are given following premises:

• Until now, only injections of the influenza vaccine were available.
• These injections were primarily used by older adults.
• Now nasal sprays are available that prevent influenza in children.
• Children are more likely to contract and spread influenza.
• Conclusion: If nasal sprays are made available for children, it will greatly reduce the spread of influenza across the population.

Does something come to mind when you read this conclusion? What initially came to my mind was that if children are most likely to contract and spread influenza, they should have just been given the injections and that would have prevented the spread of disease across the population. Why is it that the availability of a nasal spray will prevent the spread of influenza but injections have not been able to do this?

We need to strengthen the argument, so we should focus on our conclusion and find out what will strengthen it the most. Let’s go through each of the answer choices:

(A) If a person receives both the nasal spray and the injectable vaccine, they do not interfere with each other.

If a person has already been given an injection, he or she is immune to influenza – taking the nasal spray on top of this will not have any impact on his or her immunity. This option is irrelevant to the argument, thus A cannot be our answer.

(B) The new vaccine uses the same mechanism to ward off influenza as injectable vaccines do.

This answer choice only says that the nasal sprays work in the same way the injections do. We are not told exactly why injections could not prevent the spread of influenza while the nasal spray will, so this option is also not correct.

(C) Government subsidies have kept the injectable vaccines affordable for adults.

This option tells us that the subsidies have kept injections affordable for all older adults, but it doesn’t say anything about the cost of the nasal spray. If, instead, this option stated, “Injections are very expensive but nasal spray is a cheap alternative”, it might have made a stronger contender, however we do not know whether cost is a factor that parents consider at all when getting their children vaccinate (to make this option the correct answer, we might even have to add something like, “Parents are not willing to get their kids immunized if the vaccine is very expensive”). As is, however, this answer choice is not correct.

(D) Of the older adults who contract influenza, relatively few contract it from children with influenza.

Here is the trick – many test takers feel that this option is like an assumption, and hence, it certainly strengthens the conclusion. “Few” is assumed to be “some”, so it seems to them that this option is saying, “Some older adults do contract influenza from children”. It certainly seems to be an assumption, since that is how the spread of influenza will reduce across the population of older adults.

We know, however, that “few” actually means “hardly any” or “near zero”. If few (near zero) older adults catch flu from children, it doesn’t strengthen the conclusion. If anything, it has the opposite effect since the older adults will be unaffected, and hence, it is unlikely that the spread of influenza will reduce across the population. Because of this, option D is not correct.

(E) Many parents would be more inclined to have their children vaccinated against influenza if it did not involve an injection.

Now this is what we are looking for – a reason why parents don’t give influenza shots to their kids but will be willing to give them nasal sprays. Parents don’t like to give shots to their kids (could be due pain associated with a shot or whatever, the reason why doesn’t really matter here), but now that a nasal spray version of the vaccine is available, they will be more inclined to get their kids vaccinated. This will probably help prevent the spread of influenza across the population. The correct answer, therefore, is E.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# Tackling GMAT Critical Reasoning Boldface Questions

For some reason, GMAT test takers automatically associate boldface questions with the 700 level, but this fear is unfounded, honestly!

We have often found that one strategy, which is very helpful in other question types too, helps sort out most questions of this type, though not in the same way. That strategy is – ‘find the conclusion(s)’

The conclusion of the argument is the position taken by the author.

Boldface questions (and others too) sometimes have more than one conclusion – One would be the conclusion of the argument i.e. the author’s conclusion. The argument could mention another conclusion which could be the conclusion of a certain segment of people/ some scientists/ some researchers/ a politician etc. We need to segregate these two and how each premise supports/opposes the various conclusion. Once this structure is in place, we automatically find the answer. Let’s see how with an example.

Question: Recently, motorists have begun purchasing more and more fuel-efficient economy and hybrid cars that consume fewer gallons of gasoline per mile traveled. There has been debate as to whether we can conclude that these purchases will actually lead to an overall reduction in the total consumption of gasoline across all motorists. The answer is no, since motorists with more fuel-efficient vehicles are likely to drive more total miles than they did before switching to a more fuel-efficient car, negating the gains from higher fuel-efficiency.

Which of the following best describes the roles of the portions in bold?

(A)The first describes a premise that is accepted as true; the second introduces a conclusion that is opposed by the argument as a whole.

(B)The first states a position taken by the argument; the second introduces a conclusion that is refuted by additional evidence.

(C)The first is evidence that has been used to support a position that the argument as a whole opposes; the second provides information to undermine the force of that evidence.

(D)The first is a conclusion that is later shown to be false; the second is the evidence by which that conclusion is proven false.

(E)The first is a premise that is later shown to be false; the second is a conclusion that is later shown to be false.

Solution: As our first step, let’s try to figure out the conclusion of the argument:

The author’s view is that “purchases of fuel efficient vehicles will NOT lead to an overall reduction in the total consumption of gasoline across all motorists.”

This is the position the argument (and author) takes.

The argument gives us another conclusion: these purchases will actually lead to an overall reduction in the total consumption of gasoline across all motorists.

Some people take this position (implied by the use of “there has been debate”)

This is our second bold statement. It introduces the opposing conclusion.

Let’s look at our options now.

(A) The first describes a premise that is accepted as true; the second introduces a conclusion that is opposed by the argument as a whole.

The first bold statement: Recently, motorists have begun purchasing more and more fuel-efficient economy and hybrid cars that consume fewer gallons of gasoline per mile traveled.

This is a premise and has been accepted as true. We know it has been accepted as true since the last line ends with – “…negating the gains from higher fuel-efficiency”

We have seen above that the second bold statement tells us about a conclusion that the argument opposes.

So (A) is correct. We have found our answer but let’s look at the other options too.

(B) The first states a position taken by the argument; the second introduces a conclusion that is refuted by additional evidence.

The first bold statement is a premise. It is not the position taken by the argument. Let’s move on.

(C) The first is evidence that has been used to support a position that the argument as a whole opposes; the second provides information to undermine the force of that evidence.

This option often confuses test-takers.

The evidence is – “Recently, motorists have begun purchasing more and more fuel-efficient economy and hybrid cars that consume fewer gallons of gasoline per mile traveled.”

That is, “the motorists have begun purchasing fuel efficient cars that give better mileage.”

The second bold statement does not undermine this evidence at all. In fact, it builds up on it with – “This brings up a debate on whether it will lead to overall decreased fuel consumption?”

Hence (C) is not correct.

(D)The first is a conclusion that is later shown to be false; the second is the evidence by which that conclusion is proven false.

The first bold statement is not a conclusion. So no point dwelling on this option.

(E)The first is a premise that is later shown to be false; the second is a conclusion that is later shown to be false.

The premise is taken to be true. The argument ends with “… the gains from higher fuel-efficiency”. Hence, this option doesn’t stand a chance either.

We hope you see how easy it is to break down the options once we identify the conclusion(s).

Keep practicing!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Beware of Assumption in GMAT Critical Reasoning Options

Sometimes, while evaluating the answer choices in in strengthen/weaken questions, we unknowingly go beyond the options and make assumptions about what they may imply if we were to have additional pieces of data. What we have to remember is that we do not have this additional information – we have to judge each option on its own merits, only. Let’s discuss this in detail with one of our own practice GMAT questions:

In 2009, a private school spent \$200,000 on a building which housed classrooms, offices, and a library. In 2010, the school was unable to turn a profit. Therefore, the principal should be fired.

Each of the following, if true, weakens the author’s conclusion EXCEPT:

(A) The principal was hired primarily for her unique ability to establish a strong sense of community, which many parents cited as a quality that kept children enrolled in the school longer.
(B) The new library also features a seating area big enough for all students to participate in cultural arts performances, which the head of school intends to schedule more frequently now.
(C) The principal was hired when the construction of the new building was almost completed.
(D) A significant number of families left the school in 2010 because a favourite teacher retired.
(E) More than half of the new families who joined the school in 2010 cited the beautiful new school facility as an important factor in their selection of the school.

This is a weaken/exception question, so four of the five answer choices will weaken the argument, while the fifth option (which will be the correct answer) will either not have any impact on the argument or it might even strengthen it. As we know, such questions require a bit more effort to answer, since four of the five options will definitely be relevant to the argument. The important thing is to focus on what we are given and not assume what the various answer options may or may not lead to. Let’s understand this:

The gist of the argument:

• Last year, a lot of money was spent to construct a new building with many amenities.
• This year, the school did not see a profit.
• Hence, fire the principal.

Based on the two given facts – “a lot of money was spent to make the building in 2009” and “the school did not see a profit in 2010” – the author has decided to fire the principal. Many pieces of information could weaken his stance. For example:

• It was not the principal’s decision to construct the building.
• The school’s revenue in 2010 took a hit because of some other factor.
• The school’s losses reduced by a huge amount in 2010 and the probability of it seeing a profit in 2011 is high.

Information such as this could improve the principal’s case to stay. We know that for this particular question, there will only be one option that does not help the principal.

You will have to choose the answer choice which, with the given information, does not help the principal’s case. Let’s look at the options now:

(A) The principal was hired primarily for her unique ability to establish a strong sense of community, which many parents cited as a quality that kept children enrolled in the school longer.

With this answer choice, we see that the principal was hired not to increase school profits, but for another critical purpose. Perhaps the school’s finance department is in charge of worrying about profits, and so the head of that department needs to be fired! This answer choice makes a strong case for keeping the principal, and hence, weakens the author’s argument.

(B) The new library also features a seating area big enough for all students to participate in cultural arts performances, which the head of school intends to schedule more frequently now.

If true, this statement would have no impact on whether or not the principal should be fired. It describes an amenity provided by the new building and how it will be used – it neither strengthens nor weakens the principal’s case to stay, hence, this is the correct answer choice. But let’s look at the rest of the options too, just to be safe:

(C) The principal was hired when the construction of the new building was almost completed.

This tells us that the new building was not her decision. So if it did not have the desired effect, she cannot be blamed for it. So it again helps her case.

(D) A significant number of families left the school in 2010 because a favourite teacher retired.

This answer choice shows that there was another reason behind the school’s loss in profit. The construction of the building could still be a good idea that leads to future profits, which the principal’s case and weakens the author’s argument.

(E) More than half of the new families who joined the school in 2010 cited the beautiful new school facility as an important factor in their selection of the school.

For some reason, this is the answer choice that often trips up students. They feel that it doesn’t help the principal’s case – that because the new building attracts students, if there are losses, it means that the loss is due to a fault with the new building, and thus, the principal is at fault. But note that we are assuming a lot to arrive at that conclusion. All we are told is that the new building is attracting students. This means the new building is serving its purpose – it is generating extra revenue. The fact that the school is still experiencing losses could be explained by many different reasons.

Since the author’s decision to fire the principal is based solely on the premise that a lot of money was spent to construct the new building, which now seems to serve no purpose (because the school experienced losses), this answer choice certainly weakens the argument. The option tells us that the principal’s decision to make the building was justified, so it helps her case to stay with the school.

After examining each answer choice, we can see that the answer is clearly B. Remember, in Critical Reasoning questions it is crucial to come to conclusions only based on the facts that are given – creating assumptions based on information that is not given can lead you to fall in a Testmaker trap.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# GMAT Tip of the Week: Keep Your GMAT Score Safe from the Bowling Green Massacre

The hashtag of the day is #bowlinggreenmassacre, inspired by an event that never happened. Whether intentionally or accidentally (we’ll let you and your news agency of choice decide which), White House staffer Kellyanne Conway referenced the “event” in an interview, inspiring an array of memes and references along the way.

Whatever Ms. Conway’s intentions (or lack thereof; again we’ll let you decide) with the quote, she is certainly guilty of inadvertently doing one thing: she didn’t likely intend to help you avoid a disaster on the GMAT, but if you’re paying attention she did.

Your GMAT test day does not have to be a Bowling Green Massacre!

Here’s the thing about the Bowling Green Massacre: it never happened. But by now, it’s lodged deeply enough in the psyche of millions of Americans that, to them, it did. And the same thing happens to GMAT test-takers all the time. They think they’ve seen something on the test that isn’t there, and then they act on something that never happened in the first place. And then, sadly, their GMAT hopes and dreams suffer the same fate as those poor souls at Bowling Green (#thoughtsandprayers).

Here’s how it works:

The Quant Section’s Bowling Green Massacre
On the Quant section, particularly with Data Sufficiency, your mind will quickly leap to conclusions or jump to use a rule that seems relevant. Consider the example:

What is the perimeter of isosceles triangle LMN?

(1) Side LM = 4
(2) Side LN = 4√2

A. Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is insufficient
B. Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is insufficient
C. BOTH statements TOGETHER are sufficient, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient
D. EACH statement ALONE is sufficient
E. Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient

When people see that square root of 2, their minds quickly drift back to all those flash cards they studied – flash cards that include the side ratio for an isosceles right triangle: x, x, x√2. And so they then leap to use that rule, inferring that if one side is 4 and the other is 4√2, the other side must also be 4 to fit the ratio and they can then calculate the perimeter. With both statements together, they figure, they can derive that perimeter and select choice C.

But think about where that side ratio comes from: an isosceles right triangle. You’re told in the given information that this triangle is, indeed, isosceles. But you’re never told that it’s a right triangle. Much like the Bowling Green Massacre, “right” never happened. But the mere suggestion of it – the appearance of the √2 term that is directly associated with an isosceles, right triangle – baits approximately half of all test-takers to choose C here instead of the correct E (explanation: “isosceles” means only that two sides match, so the third side could be either 4, matching side LM, or 4√2, matching side LN).

Your mind does this to you often on Data Sufficiency problems: you’ll limit the realm of possible numbers to integers, when that wasn’t defined, or to positive numbers, when that wasn’t defined either. You’ll see symptoms of a rule or concept (like √2 leads to the isosceles right triangle side ratio) and assume that the entire rule is in play. The GMAT preys on your mind’s propensity for creating its own story when in reality, only part of that story really exists.

The Verbal Section’s Bowling Green Massacre
This same phenomenon appears on the Verbal section, too – most notably in Critical Reasoning. Much like what many allege that Kellyanne Conway did, your mind wants to ascribe particular significance to events or declarations, and it will often exaggerate on you. Consider the example:

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

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

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

The key to most Critical Reasoning problems is finding the conclusion and knowing EXACTLY what the conclusion says – nothing more and nothing less. Here the conclusion is the last sentence, that “ancestors of modern humans lived” in this region at this time. When people answer this problem incorrectly, however, it’s almost always for the same reason. They read the conclusion as “the FIRST/EARLIEST ancestors of modern humans lived…” And in doing so, they choose choice C, which protects against humans having come before the ones related to the bones we have.

“First/earliest” is a classic Bowling Green Massacre – it’s a much more noteworthy event (“scientists have discovered human ancestors” is pretty tame, but “scientists have discovered the FIRST human ancestors” is a big deal) that your brain wants to see. But it’s not actually there! It’s just that, in day to day life, you’d rarely ever read about a run-of-the-mill archaeological discovery; it would only pop up in your social media stream if it were particularly noteworthy, so your mind may very well assume that that notoriety is present even when it’s not.

In order to succeed on the GMAT, you need to become aware of those leaps that your mind likes to take. We’re all susceptible to:

• Assuming that variables represent integers, and that they represent positive numbers
• Seeing the symptoms of a rule and then jumping to apply it
• Applying our own extra superlatives or limits to conclusions

So when you make these mistakes, commit them to memory – they’re not one-off, silly mistakes. Our minds are vulnerable to Bowling Green Massacres, so on test day #staywoke so that your score isn’t among those that are, sadly, massacred.

By Brian Galvin.

# How to Answer GMAT Questions That are About an Unfamiliar Topic

Usually, GMAT questions that are based on your field of work or interests are simple to comprehend and relatively easy to answer correctly. But what happens when, say, an engineer gets a question based on psychiatry? Is he or she bound to fail? No.

Remember that the GMAT offers a level playing field for test takers from different backgrounds – it doesn’t matter whether your major was literature or physics. If you feel lost on a question about renaissance painters, remember that the guy next to you is lost on the problem involving planetary systems.

So how can you successfully handle GMAT questions on any topic? By sticking to the basics. The logic and reasoning required to answer these questions will stay the same no matter which field the information in the question stem comes from.

To give an example of this, let’s today take a look at a GMAT question involving psychoanalysis:

Studies in restaurants show that the tips left by customers who pay their bill in cash tend to be larger when the bill is presented on a tray that bears a credit-card logo. Consumer psychologists hypothesize that simply seeing a credit-card logo makes many credit-card holders willing to spend more because it reminds them that their spending power exceeds the cash they have immediately available.

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the psychologists’ interpretation of the studies?

(A) The effect noted in the studies is not limited to patrons who have credit cards.
(B) Patrons who are under financial pressure from their credit-card obligations tend to tip less when presented with a restaurant bill on a tray with credit-card logo than when the tray has no logo.
(C) In virtually all of the cases in the studies, the patrons who paid bills in cash did not possess credit cards.
(D) In general, restaurant patrons who pay their bills in cash leave larger tips than do those who pay by credit card.
(E) The percentage of restaurant bills paid with given brand of credit card increases when that credit card’s logo is displayed on the tray with which the bill is prepared.

Let’s break down the argument:

Argument: Studies show that cash tips left by customers are larger when the bill is presented on a tray that bears a credit-card logo.

Why would that be? Why would there be a difference in customer behavior when the tray has no logo from when the tray has a credit card logo? Psychologists’ hypothesize that seeing a credit-card logo reminds people of the spending power given by the credit card they carry (and that their spending power exceeds the actual cash they have right now).

The question asks us to support the psychologists’ interpretation. And what is the psychologists’ interpretation of the studies? It is that seeing a logo reminds people of their own credit card status. Say we change the argument a little by adding a line:

Argument: Studies show that cash tips left by customers are larger when the bill is presented on a tray that bears a credit-card logo. Patrons under financial pressure from credit-card obligations tend to tip less when presented with a restaurant bill on a tray with credit-card logo than when the tray has no logo.

Now, does the psychologists’ interpretation make even more sense? The psychologists’ interpretation is only that “seeing a logo reminds people of their own credit card status.” The fact “that their spending power exceeds the cash they have right now” explains the higher tips. If we are given that some customers tip more upon seeing that card logo and some tip less upon seeing it, it makes sense, right? Different people have different credit card obligation status, hence, people are reminded of their own card obligation status and they tip accordingly.

Answer choice B increases the probability that the psychologists’ interpretation is true because it tells you that in the cases of very high credit card obligations, customers tip less. This is what you would expect if the psychologists’ interpretation were correct.

In simpler terms, the logic here is similar to the following situation:

A: After 12 hours of night time sleep, I can’t study.
B: Yeah, because your sleep pattern is linked to your level of concentration. After a long sleep, your mind is still muddled and lazy so you can’t study.
A: After only 4 hrs of night time sleep, I can’t study either.

Does B’s theory make sense? Sure! B’s theory is that “sleep pattern is linked to level of concentration.” If A sleeps too much, her concentration is affected. If she sleeps too little, again her concentration is affected. So B’s theory certainly makes more sense.

(E) The percentage of restaurant bills paid with given brand of credit card increases when that credit card’s logo is displayed on the tray with which the bill is prepared.

This option supports the hypothesis that credit card logos remind people of their own card – not of their card obligations. The psychologists’ interpretation talks about the logo reminding people of their card status (high spending power or high obligations). Hence, this option is not correct.

Now let’s examine the rest of the answer choices to see why they are also incorrect:

(A) The effect noted in the studies is not limited to patrons who have credit cards.

This argument is focused only on credit cards, not on credit cards and their logos, so this is irrelevant.

(C) In virtually all of the cases in the studies, the patrons who paid bills in cash did not possess credit cards.

This option questions the validity of the psychologists’ interpretation. Hence, this is also not correct.

(D) In general, restaurant patrons who pay their bills in cash leave larger tips than do those who pay by credit card.

This argument deals with people who have credit cards but are tipping by cash, hence this is also irrelevant.

We hope you see that if you approach GMAT questions logically and stick to the basics, it is not hard to interpret and solve them, even if they include information from an unfamiliar field.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# GMAT Sentence Correction: How to Tackle Inverted Sentence Structures

One of the challenges test-takers encounter on Sentence Correction questions is the tendency of question writers to structure sentences in a way that departs from the way we typically write or speak. Take a simple example: “My books are on the table,” could also be written as “On the table are my books.” If you’re like me, you cringe a little bit with the second option – it sounds starchy and pretentious, but it’s a perfectly legitimate sentence, and an example of what’s called “inverted structure.”

In a standard structure, the subject will precede the verb. In an inverted structure, the subject comes after the verb. The tipoff for such a construction is typically a prepositional phrase – in this case, “on the table,” followed by a verb. It is important to recognize that the object of the prepositional phrase, “table,” cannot be the subject of the verb, “are,” so we know that the subject will come after the verb.

Let’s look at an example from an official GMAT question:

The Achaemenid empire of Persia reached the Indus Valley in the fifth century B.C., bringing the Aramaic script with it, from which was derived both northern and southern Indian alphabets.

(A) the Aramaic script with it, from which was derived both northern and
(B) the Aramaic script with it, and from which deriving both the northern and the
(C) with it the Aramaic script, from which derive both the northern and the
(D) with it the Aramaic script, from which derives both northern and
(E) with it the Aramaic script, and deriving from it both the northern and

The first thing you might notice is the use of the relative pronoun “which.” We’d like for “which” to be as close to as possible to its referent. So what do we think the alphabets were derived from? From the Aramaic script.

Notice that in options A and B, the closes referent to “which” is “it.” There are two problems here. One, it would be confusing for one pronoun, “which,” to have another pronoun, “it,” as its antecedent. Moreover, “it” here seems to refer to the Achaemenid Empire. Do we think that the alphabets derived from the empire? Nope. Eliminate A and B. Though E eliminates the “which,” this option also seems to indicate that the alphabets derived from the empire, so E is out as well.

We’re now down to C and D. Notice that our first decision point is to choose between “from which derive” and “from which derives.” This is an instance of inverted sentence structure. We have the prepositional phrase “from which,” followed immediately by a verb “derive or “derives.” Thus, we know that the subject for this verb is going to come later in the sentence, in this case, the northern and southern alphabets.  If we were to rearrange the sentences so that they had a more conventional structure, our choice would be between the following options:

C) Both the northern and the southern Indian alphabets derive from [the empire.]

or

D) Both northern and southern Indian alphabets derives from [the empire.]

Because “alphabets” is plural, we want to pair this subject with the plural verb, “derive.” Therefore, the correct answer is C.

Takeaway: anytime we see the construction “prepositional phrase + verb,” we are very likely looking at a sentence with an inverted sentence structure. In these cases, make sure to look for the subject of the sentence after the verb, rather than before.

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

# Assumption vs. Strengthen Critical Reasoning Questions: What’s the Difference?

I had a discussion with a tutoring student the other day about the distinction between Assumption and Strengthen questions in the Critical Reasoning section. The two categories feel similar, after all. They are different, however, and the difference, as with most Critical Reasoning questions, lies mainly in the texture of the language that would be most appropriate for a correct answer in either category.

To illustrate, let’s take a simple argument: Dave opens a coffee shop in Veritasville called Dave’s Blends. According to surveys, Dave’s Blends has the best tasting coffee in the city. Therefore, Dave’s Blends will garner at least 50% the local market.

First, imagine that this is a simple Strengthen question. In order to strengthen this somewhat fanciful conclusion, we’re going to want strong language. For example: Virtually all coffee drinkers in Veritasville buy coffee daily from Dave’s. That’s a pretty good strengthener. The statement increases the likelihood that Dave’s Blends will dominate the local market. But an answer choice such as, “Some people buy coffee at Dave’s,” would be a lousy choice, as the fact that Dave’s has at least one customer is hardly a compelling reason to conclude that it will get to at least a 50% market share.

Now imagine that we take the same argument and make it an Assumption question. The first aforementioned answer choice is now much less appealing. Can we really assume that virtually everyone in town will get their coffee at Dave’s? Not really. If Dave’s has 51% of the market share, it doesn’t mean that virtually everyone gets their coffee there. But now consider the second answer choice – if we’re concluding that Dave’s will get at least half of the local market, we are assuming that some people will purchase coffee there, so now this would be a good answer.

The difference is that in a Strengthen question, we’re looking for new information that will make the conclusion more likely. In an Assumption question, we’re looking for what is true based on the conclusion.  Put another way, strong language (“virtually everyone”) is often desirable in a Strengthen question, whereas softer language (“some people”) is usually more desirable in an Assumption question.

Let’s see this in action with a GMAT practice question:

For most people, the left half of the brain controls linguistic capabilities, but some people have their language centers in the right half. When a language center of the brain is damaged, for example by a stroke, linguistic capabilities are impaired in some way. Therefore, people who have suffered a serious stroke on the left side of the brain without suffering any such impairment must have their language centers in the right half.

Which of the following is an assumption on which the reasoning in the argument above depends?

(A) No part of a person’s brain that is damaged by a stroke ever recovers.
(B) Impairment of linguistic capabilities does not occur in people who have not suffered any damage to any language center of the brain.
(C) Strokes tend to impair linguistic capabilities more severely than does any other cause of damage to language centers in the brain.
(D) If there are language centers on the left side of the brain, any serious stroke affecting that side of the brain damages at least one of them.
(E) It is impossible to determine which side of the brain contains a person’s language centers if the person has not suffered damage to either side of the brain.

First, let’s break this argument down:

Conclusion: People who suffer a stroke on the left side of the brain and don’t’ suffer language impairment have language centers in the right half of the brain.

Premises: Most people have language centers on the left side of the brain, while some have them on the right. Damage impairs linguistic capabilities.

This is an Assumption question, so we’re looking for what is be true based on the way the premises lead to the conclusion. Put another way, softer language might be preferable here. Now let’s examine each of the answer choices:

(A) Notice the extreme language, “No part…ever recovers“. Can we really assume that? Of course not – some portion might recover. No good.

(B) We don’t know this. Imagine someone has a part of his or her brain removed and this part of the brain doesn’t contain a language center. Surely we can’t assume that this person will have no language impairment at all. No good.

(C) Again, notice the extreme language, “…more severely than other cause. Can we assume that a stroke is worse than every other kind of brain trauma? Of course not. No good.

(D) Now we’re talking. Here, we are given more generous language: damages at least one of them. “At least one” is a pretty low bar. Remember that the conclusion is that someone who suffers a left-brain stroke and doesn’t have language impairment must have language centers on the right side. Well, that only makes sense if there’s some damage somewhere on the left. This answer choice looks good.

(E) Notice again the extreme language, “…it is impossible“. There may be some other way to assess where the language centers are. No good.

Takeaway: Strengthen questions and Assumption questions are not identical. In a Strengthen question, we want a strong answer choice that will make a conclusion more likely. In an Assumption question we want a soft answer that is indisputable based on how the premises lead to the conclusion. Attention to details in the language (some vs. most vs. all) is the key.

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

# Online GMAT Verbal Practice: Samples and Questions to Guide Your Test Prep

The Verbal section of the GMAT measures your ability to comprehend what you read, evaluate arguments, and change elements of sentences to make them correct. One way to prep for this section is to complete sample GMAT Verbal questions. Sample questions give you an idea of what you can expect when you sit down to take the exam. Learning the different types of problems you might encounter will help you to study for Verbal GMAT questions.

GMAT Verbal practice questions in the Reading Comprehension section require you to read a passage that’s followed by several multiple-choice questions. These questions may ask you to draw an inference or make a conclusion about what you read. Also, there are questions that gauge how well you understood statements made within the passage. A question on a GMAT Verbal practice test might start with, “The primary purpose of the passage is to …” or, “The author is critical of X for the following reasons … .” It’s important to carefully read and evaluate the passage before delving into the questions so you have the information you need to make the right choice.

Taking a GMAT Verbal practice test online is an excellent way to become familiar with the format as well as the content of these questions. Plus, tackling practice questions helps you to get into the habit of reading with the purpose of finding out just what the author is trying to say.

The Critical Reasoning Section
The Critical Reasoning section on the GMAT measures your ability to analyze and evaluate an argument. Practice questions on this topic may include a short argument or one that is several sentences long. There are several multiple-choice options for each question that follows the argument. One example of a typical question might start with, “This argument assumes that … .” Another example of a question you’ll likely encounter starts with, “This argument conveys the following … .” You’ll have to look closely at the points of an argument to determine what the author is trying to convey.

The Sentence Correction Section
To do well on GMAT Verbal practice test questions that deal with Sentence Correction, you must have a grasp of proper grammar and sentence structure. You must also recognize a sentence that conveys meaning in an effective way. Each question starts with a passage that includes an underlined portion. Your job is to consider each of the five options and choose the one that best completes the sentence. This requires you to look at various elements throughout the passage, such as verb tenses and noun usage as well as the use of “like” or “as.” The answer option you select must agree with the elements in the rest of the passage.

Preparing for the Verbal Section With a Professional Tutor
Completing lots of GMAT Verbal practice questions is one way to prepare for this portion of the test. Another way is to study with a tutor who scored in the 99th percentile on the exam. That’s exactly what we offer at Veritas Prep. Our talented instructors prep you for the test using our thorough GMAT curriculum. We teach you how to apply the facts and information you’ve learned so you arrive at the correct answer for each question. We also provide you with strategies, tips, and lessons that strengthen your higher-order thinking skills. These are skills you will need well after you conquer the GMAT. We move way beyond memorization of facts – we teach you to think like a business executive!

Wondering where to begin? You can take one of our GMAT practice tests for free. The results can highlight the skills you’ll need to work on before you sit down to take the actual computer-based test. Our GMAT prep courses are ideal if you want to interact with other students who are as determined as you are to master the exam. Or, if you prefer, you can take advantage of our private online tutoring services. We know you have a busy work schedule as well as family obligations, so we make it easy to study with an expert on the Verbal section as well as all of the other sections on the GMAT. Get in touch with us to begin preparing for the GMAT the right way!

# Evaluating “Useful to Evaluate” Critical Reasoning Questions – Part II

Last week we looked at how to handle “useful to evaluate” questions in the Verbal section, and we left you with a tricky “useful to evaluate except” question. Let’s take a look at that problem today. “Except” questions are usually more difficult to deal with since we need to find four “correct” options (which we are not as used to). So, let’s take a look at this question:

Following several years of declining advertising sales, the Greenville Times reorganized its advertising sales force two years ago. Before the reorganization, the sales force was organised geographically, with some sales representatives concentrating on city center businesses and others concentrating on different outlying regions. The reorganization attempted to increase the sales representatives’ knowledge of clients’ businesses by having each sales representative deal with only one type of industry or of retailing. After the reorganization, advertising sales increased.

In assessing whether the improvement in advertising sales can properly be attributed to the reorganization, it would be helpful to find out each of the following EXCEPT:

(A) Two years ago, what proportion of the Greenville Times’ total revenue was generated by advertising sales?
(B) Has the circulation of the Greenville Times increased substantially in the last two years?
(C) Has there been a substantial turnover in personnel in the advertising sales force over the last two years?
(D) Before the reorganization, had sales representatives found it difficult to keep up with relevant developments in all types of businesses to which they are assigned?
(E) Has the economy in Greenville and the surrounding regions been growing rapidly over the last two years?

Let’s first break down what the argument says:

• The paper reorganized the advertising sales team two years back.
• Advertising sales increased after reorganisation.

Now, we want to figure out whether the increase actually happened due to the reorganization; in other words, we need to evaluate what else could have caused the increase in sales, if not the reorganization. Say the lead of the sales team changed two years back – it is possible that he is responsible for the increase in revenue. Four of the five answer choices will raise similar questions, while the leftover option (which will be our answer) will not. Let’s take a look at each of the answer choices:

(A) Two years ago, what proportion of the Greenville Times’ total revenue was generated by the advertising sales?

The proportion of advertising sales as a part of the total revenue is immaterial to us – we only need to evaluate why the advertising sales have increased. It is possible that the revenue from other sources has increased much more than the revenue from advertising sales, and hence, advertising sales could be a smaller proportion of the overall revenue now, however this doesn’t matter at all. This option has nothing to do with the increase in advertising sales, and hence, is the correct answer.

Let’s take a look at all the other options too, just to be safe:

(B) Has the circulation of the Greenville Times increased substantially in the last two years?

This answer choice can be evaluated in two ways:

1. Yes, it has increased – If the circulation increased substantially in the last two years, that could have led to the increase in advertising sales.
2. No, it has not increased – If the circulation hasn’t increased substantially, then there must be another reason for the increase in advertising sales. In that case, the reorganization could be the reason.

These two answers affect the argument differently, and hence, this option will be useful in evaluating the argument.

(C) Has there been a substantial turnover in personnel in the advertising sales force over the last two years?

Again, the answer choice can be evaluated in two ways:

1. Yes, there has – If there has been a substantial turnover in personnel, it is possible that more capable people have been hired, which could have led to higher advertising sales.
2. No, there hasn’t – If there hasn’t been a substantial turnover in personnel, then there would need to be another reason for the increased advertising sales. In that case, the reorganization could be the reason.

The two answers affect the argument differently, so this option will also be useful in evaluating the argument.

(D) Before the reorganization, had sales representatives found it difficult to keep up with relevant developments in all types of businesses to which they are assigned?

This option can also be evaluated in two ways:

1. Yes, they did find it difficult – Did reorganization make it easier to keep track of relevant developments? If yes, then the reorganization could be responsible for the increase in sales.
2. No, they did not find it difficult – If they did not find it difficult to keep up with relevant developments, then we cannot say whether the reorganization was responsible for the increase in sales or not.

These two responses affect the argument differently. Hence, this option will be useful in evaluating the argument.

(E) Has the economy in Greenville and the surrounding regions been growing rapidly over the last two years?

Answer choice E can also be evaluated in two ways:

1. Yes, it has – If the economy has been growing rapidly over the past two years, it could be the reason for higher advertising sales. Then we may not be able to attribute the improvement in advertising sales to the reorganization.
2. No it has not – If there has been no such growth in the economy, then reorganization could be the reason for higher advertising sales.

Again, the two responses affect the argument differently, so this option will also be useful in evaluating the argument.

We see that B, C, D and E are all useful in evaluating the argument. Therefore, our answer is A. We hope you will find it easier to handle such questions in the future!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# Evaluating “Useful to Evaluate” Critical Reasoning Questions on the GMAT

In today’s post, we will look at how to answer “useful to evaluate” Critical Reasoning questions in the Verbal section of the GMAT. Arguably, this is one of the toughest question types for test-takers to tackle (perhaps right after boldfaced questions).

To answer this type of question, all you will need to do is follow these six simple steps:

1) Identify the conclusion.
3) Answer it with a “yes” and figure out whether it affects the conclusion.
4) Answer it with a “no” and figure out whether it affects the conclusion.
5) Repeat this for all other answer choices.
6) Only one option will affect the conclusion differently in the two cases – that is your answer.

Let’s illustrate this concept with a problem:

In a certain wildlife park, park rangers are able to track the movements of many rhinoceroses because those animals wear radio collars. When, as often happens, a collar slips off, it is put back on. Putting a collar on a rhinoceros involves immobilizing the animal by shooting it with a tranquilizer dart. Female rhinoceroses that have been frequently re-collared have significantly lower fertility rates than uncollared females. Probably, therefore, some substance in the tranquilizer inhibits fertility.

In evaluating the argument, it would be most useful to determine which of the following?

(A) Whether there are more collared female rhinoceroses than uncollared female rhinoceroses in the park.
(B) How the tranquilizer that is used for immobilizing rhinoceroses differs, if at all, from tranquilizers used in working with other large mammals
(C) How often park rangers need to use tranquilizer darts to immobilize rhinoceroses for reasons other than attaching radio collars
(D) Whether male rhinoceroses in the wildlife park lose their collars any more often than the park’s female rhinoceroses do
(E) Whether radio collars are the only practical means that park rangers have for tracking the movements of rhinoceroses in the park

First, we need to break down the argument to find the premises and the conclusion:

• Many rhinoceroses wear radio collars.
• Often, collars slip.
• When a collar slips, the animal is shot with a tranquilizer to re-collar.
• The fertility of frequently re-collared females is less than the fertility of uncollared females.
• Conclusion: Some substance in the tranquilizer inhibits fertility.

Let’s take a look at each answer choice:

(A) Whether there are more collared female rhinoceroses than uncollared female rhinoceroses in the park.

Even if there are more collared female rhinoceroses than uncollared females, this does not affect the argument’s conclusion. This answer choice talks about collared females vs. uncollared females; we are comparing the fertility of re-collared females with that of uncollared females. Anyway, how many of either type there are doesn’t matter. So, whether you answer “yes” or “no” to this question, it is immaterial.

(B) How the tranquilizer that is used for immobilizing rhinoceroses differs, if at all, from tranquilizers used in working with other large mammals.

This option is comparing the tranquilizers used for rhinoceroses with the tranquilizers used for other large mammals. What the conclusion does, however, is compare collared female rhinoceroses with uncollared female rhinoceroses. Hence, whether you answer “very different” or “not different at all” to this question, in the end, it doesn’t matter.

(C) How often park rangers need to use tranquilizer darts to immobilize rhinoceroses for reasons other than attaching radio collars.

This answer choice can be evaluated in two ways:

• Very Often – Tranquilizers are used very often for uncollared females, too. In this case, can we still say that “tranquilizers inhibit fertility”? No! If they did, fertility in uncollared females would have been low, too.
• Rarely – This would strengthen our conclusion. If tranquilizers are not used on uncollared females, it is possible that something in these tranquilizers inhibits fertility.

(D) Whether male rhinoceroses in the wildlife park lose their collars any more often than the park’s female rhinoceroses do.

This answer choice is comparing the frequency of tranquilizers used on male rhinoceroses with the frequency of tranquilizers used on female rhinoceroses. What the conclusion actually does is compare collared female rhinoceroses with uncollared female rhinoceroses. Hence, whether you answer this question with “more frequently” or “not more frequently,” it doesn’t matter.

(E) Whether radio collars are the only practical means that park rangers have for tracking the movements of rhinoceroses in the park.

This option is comparing radio collars with other means of tracking. What the conclusion does is compare collared female rhinoceroses with uncollared female rhinoceroses. Hence, whether you answer this question with “there are other means” or “there are no other means,” again, it does not matter.

Note that only answer choice C affects the conclusion – if you answer the question it raises differently, it affects the conclusion differently. Option C would be good to know to evaluate the conclusion of the argument, therefore, the answer must be C.

Now try this question on your own:

Following several years of declining advertising sales, the Greenville Times reorganized its advertising sales force two years ago. Before the reorganization, the sales force was organized geographically, with some sales representatives concentrating on city-center businesses and others concentrating on different outlying regions. The reorganization attempted to increase the sales representatives’ knowledge of clients’ businesses by having each sales representative deal with only one type of industry or of retailing. After the reorganization, advertising sales increased.

In assessing whether the improvement in advertising sales can properly be attributed to the reorganization, it would be helpful to find out each of the following EXCEPT:

(A) Two years ago, what proportion of the Greenville Times’ total revenue was generated by advertising sales?
(B) Has the circulation of the Greenville Times increased substantially in the last two years?
(C) Has there been a substantial turnover in personnel in the advertising sales force over the last two years?
(D) Before the reorganization, had sales representatives found it difficult to keep up with relevant developments in all types of businesses to which they are assigned?
(E) Has the economy in Greenville and the surrounding regions been growing rapidly over the last two years?

We hope you will find this post useful to evaluate the “useful to evaluate” questions!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# GMAT Tip of the Week: 6 Reasons That Your Test Day Won’t Be A Labor Day

As the northern hemisphere drifts toward autumn, two events have become just about synonymous: Labor Day and Back to School. If you’re spending this Labor Day weekend getting yourself ready to go back to graduate school, you may well labor over GMAT study materials in between barbecues and college football games. And if you do, make sure you heed this wisdom: GMAT test day should not be Labor Day!

What does that mean?

On a timed test like the GMAT, one of the biggest drains on your score can be a combination of undue time and undue energy spent on problems that could be done much simpler. “The long way is the wrong way” as a famous GMAT instructor puts it – those seconds you waste, those extra steps that could lead to error or distraction, they’ll add up over the test and pull your score much lower than you’d like it to be. With that in mind, here are six ways to help you avoid too much labor on test day:

QUANTITATIVE SECTION
1) Do the math in your order, only when necessary.
Because the GMAT doesn’t allow a calculator, it heavily rewards candidates who can find efficient ways to avoid the kind of math for which you’d need a calculator. Very frequently this means that the GMAT will tempt you with calculations that you’d ordinarily just plug-and-chug with a calculator, but that can be horribly time-consuming once you start.

For example, a question might require you to take an initial number like 15, then multiply by 51, then divide by 17. On a calculator or in Excel, you’d do exactly that. But on the GMAT, that calculation gets messy. 15*51 = 765 – a calculation that isn’t awful but that will take most people a few steps and maybe 20 seconds. But then you have to do some long division with 17 going into 765. Or do you? If you’re comfortable using factors, multiples, and reducing fractions, you can see those two steps (multiply by 51, divide by 17) as one: multiply by 51/17, and since 51/17 reduces to 3, then you’re really just doing the calculation 15*3, which is easily 45.

The lesson? For one, don’t start doing ugly math until you absolutely know you have to perform that step. Save ugly math for later, because the GMAT is notorious for “rescuing” those who are patient enough to wait for future steps that will simplify the process. And, secondly, get really, really comfortable with factors and divisibility. Quickly recognizing how to break a number into its factors (51 = 3*17; 65 = 5*13; etc.) allows you to streamline calculations and do much of the GMAT math in your head. Getting to that level of comfort may take some labor, but it will save you plenty of workload on test day.

2) Recognize that “Answers Are Assets.”
Another way to avoid or shortcut messy math is to look at the answer choices first. Some problems might look like they involve messy algebra, but can be made much easier by plugging in answer choices and doing the simpler arithmetic. Other times, the answer choices will lead themselves to process of elimination, whether because some choices do not have the proper units digit, or are clearly too small.

Still others will provide you with clues as to how you have to attack the math. For example, if the answer choices are something like: A) 0.0024; B) 0.0246; C) 0.246; D) 2.46; E) 24.6, they’re not really testing you on your ability to arrive at the digits 246, but rather on where the decimal point should go (how many times should that number be multiplied/divided by 10). You can then set your sights on the number of decimal places while not stressing other details of the calculation.

Whatever you do, always scan the answer choices first to see if there are easier ways to do the problem than to simply slog through the math. The answers are assets – they’re there for a reason, and often, they’ll provide you with clues that will help you save valuable time.

3) Question the Question – Know where the game is being played.
Very often, particularly in Data Sufficiency, the GMAT Testmaker will subtly provide a clue as to what’s really being tested. And those who recognize that can very quickly focus on what matters and not get lost in other elements of the problem.

For example, if the question stem includes an inequality with zero (x > 0 or xy < 0), there’s a very high likelihood that you’re being tested on positive/negative number properties. So, when a statement then says something like “1) x^3 = 1331”, you can hold off on trying to take the cube root of 1331 and simply say, “Odd exponent = positive value, so I know that x is positive,” and see if that helps you answer the question without much calculation. Or if the problem asks for the value of 6x – y, you can say to yourself, “I may not be able to solve for x and y individually, but if not, let’s try to isolate exactly that 6x – y term,” and set up your algebra accordingly so that you’re efficiently working toward that specific goal.

Good test-takers tend to see “where the game is being played” by recognizing what the Testmaker is testing. When you can see that a question is about number properties (and not exact values) or a combination of values (and not the individual values themselves) or a comparison of values (again, not the actual values themselves), you can structure your work to directly attack the question and not fall victim to a slog of unnecessary calculations.

VERBAL SECTION
4) Focus on keywords in Critical Reasoning conclusions.
The Verbal section simply looks time-consuming because there’s so much to read, so it pays to know where to spend your time and focus. The single most efficient place to spend time (and the most disastrous if you don’t) is in the conclusion of a Strengthen or Weaken question. To your advantage, noticing a crucial detail in a conclusion can tell you exactly “where the game is being played” (Oh, it’s not how much iron, it’s iron PER CALORIE; it’s not that Company X needs to reduce costs overall, it’s that it needs to reduce SHIPPING costs; etc.) and help you quickly search for the answer choices that deal with that particular gap in logic.

On the downside, if you don’t spend time emphasizing the conclusion, you’re in trouble – burying a conclusion-limiting word or phrase (like “per calorie” or “shipping”) in a long paragraph can be like hiding a needle in a haystack. The Testmaker knows that the untrained are likely to miss these details, and have created trap answers (and just the opportunity to waste time re-reading things that don’t really matter) for those who fall in that group.

5) Scan the Sentence Correction answer choices before you dive into the sentence.
Much like “Answers are Assets” above, a huge help on Sentence Correction problems is to scan the answer choices quickly to see if you can determine where the game is being played (Are they testing pronouns? Verb tenses?). Simply reading a sentence about a strange topic (old excavation sites, a kind of tree that only grows on the leeward slopes of certain mountains…) and looking for anything that strikes you as odd or ungrammatical, that takes time and saps your focus and energy.

However, the GMAT primarily tests a handful of concepts over and over, so if you recognize what is being tested, you can read proactively and look for the words/phrases that directly control that decision you’re being asked to make. Do different answers have different verb tenses? Look for words that signal time (before, since, etc.). Do they involve different pronouns? Read to identify the noun in question and determine which pronoun it needs. You’re not really being tasked with “editing the sentence” as much as your job is to make the proper decision with the choices they’ve already given you. They’ve already narrowed the scope of items you can edit, so identify that scope before you take out the red marking pen across the whole sentence.

As the Veritas Prep Reading Comprehension lesson teaches, stop at the end of each paragraph of a reading passage to ask yourself whether you understand Scope, Tone, Organization, and Purpose. The top two time-killers on Reading Comprehension passages/problems are re-reading (you get to the end and realize you don’t really know what you just read) and over-reading (you took several minutes absorbing a lot of details, but now the clock is ticking louder and you haven’t looked at the questions yet).

STOP will help you avoid re-reading (if you weren’t locked in on the first paragraph, you can reread that in 30 seconds and not wait to the end to realize you need to reread the whole thing) and will give you a quick checklist of, “Do I understand just enough to move on?” Details are only important if you’re asked about them, so focus on the major themes (Do you know what the paragraph was about – a quick 5-7 word synopsis is perfect – and why it was written? Good.) and save the details for later.

It may seem ironic that the GMAT is set up to punish hard-workers, but in business, efficiency is everything – the test needs to reward those who work smarter and not just harder, so an effective test day simply cannot be a Labor Day. Use this Labor Day weekend to study effectively so that test day is one on which you prioritize efficiency, not labor.

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

By Brian Galvin.

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: How to Negate Assumption Answer Choices on the GMAT

Most GMAT test-takers come across the Assumption Negation Technique at some point in their preparation. It is one of the most effective techniques for assumption questions (which are usually fairly difficult) if you learn to apply it successfully.

We already know that many sentences are invalidated by negating the verb of the dominant clause. For example:

There has been a corresponding increase in the number of professional companies devoted to other performing arts.

becomes

There has not been a corresponding increase in the number of professional companies devoted to other performing arts.

Recently, we got a query on how to negate various modifiers such as “most” and “a majority”. So today, we will examine how to negate the most popular modifiers we come across:

• All -> Not all
• Everything -> Not everything
• Always -> Not always
• Some -> None
• Most -> Half or less than half
• Majority -> Half or less than half
• Many -> Not many
• Less than -> Equal to or more than
• Element A -> Not element A
• None ->  Some
• Never ->  Sometimes

Let’s take a look at some examples with these determiners:

1) “All of the 70 professional opera companies are commercially viable options.”
This becomes, “Not all of the 70 professional opera companies are commercially viable options.”

2) “There were fewer than 45 professional opera companies that had been active 30 years ago and that ceased operations during the last 30 years.”
This becomes, “There were 45 or more professional opera companies that had been active 30 years ago and that ceased operations during the last 30 years.”

3) “No one who is feeling isolated can feel happy.”
This becomes, “Some who are feeling isolated can feel happy.”

4) “Anyone who is able to trust other people has a meaningful emotional connection to at least one other human being.”
This becomes, “Not everyone who is able to trust other people has a meaningful emotional connection to at least one other human being.”

5) “The 45 most recently founded opera companies were all established as a result of enthusiasm on the part of a potential audience.”
This becomes, “The 45 most recently founded opera companies were not all established as a result of enthusiasm on the part of a potential audience.”

6) “Many of the vehicles that were ticketed for exceeding the speed limit were ticketed more than once in the time period covered by the report.”
This becomes, “Not many of the vehicles that were ticketed for exceeding the speed limit were ticketed more than once in the time period covered by the report.”

7) “The birds of prey capture and kill every single Spotted Mole that comes above ground.”
This becomes, “Not every single Spotted Mole that comes above ground is captured and killed by the birds of prey.”

8) “At least some people who do not feel isolated are happy.”
This becomes, “No people who do not feel isolated are happy.”

9) “Some land-based mammals active in this region, such as fox, will also hunt and eat the Spotted Mole on a regular basis.”
This becomes, “None of the land-based mammals active in this region, such as fox, will also hunt and eat the Spotted Mole on a regular basis.”

10) “No other animal could pose as significant a threat to the above-ground fruits as could the Spotted Mole.”
This becomes, “Some other animals could pose as significant a threat to the above-ground fruits as could the Spotted Mole.”

We hope the next time you come across an assumption question, you will not face any trouble negating the answer choices!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# GMAT Tip of the Week: The EpiPen Controversy Highlights An Allergic Reaction You May Have To GMAT Critical Reasoning

It is simply the American way to need a villain, and this week’s Enemy #1 is EpiPen owner Mylan, which is under fire for massive price increases to its EpiPen product, a life-saving necessity for those with acute allergies. The outcry is understandable: EpiPens have a short shelf life (at least based upon printed expiration date) and are a critical item for any family with a risk of life-threatening allergic reactions.

But perhaps only a pre-MBA blog could take the stance “but what is Mylan’s goal?” and expect the overwhelming-and-enthusiastic response “Maximize Shareholder Value! (woot!)” Regardless of your opinion on the EpiPen issue, you can take this opportunity to learn a valuable lesson for GMAT Critical Reasoning questions:

When a Critical Reasoning asks you to strengthen or weaken a plan or strategy, your attention MUST be directed to the specific goal being pursued.

Here’s where this can be dangerous on the GMAT. Consider a question that asked:

Consumer advocates and doctors alike have recently become outraged at the activities of pharmaceutical company Mylan. In an effort to leverage its patent to maximize shareholder value, Mylan has decided to increase the price of its signature EpiPen product sixfold over the last few years. The EpiPen is a product that administers a jolt of epinephrine, a chemical that can open airways and increase the flow of blood in someone suffering from a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Which of the following, if true, most constitutes a reason to believe that Mylan’s strategy will not accomplish the company’s goals?

(A) The goal of a society should be to protect human life regardless of expense or severity of undertaking.
(B) Allergic reactions are often fatal, particularly for young children, unless acted on quickly with the administration of epinephrine, a product that is currently patent-protected and owned solely by Mylan.
(C) Computer models predict that, at current EpiPen prices, most people will hold on to their EpiPens well past the expiration date, leading to their deaths and inability to purchase future EpiPens.

Your instincts as a decent, caring human being leave you very susceptible to choosing A or B. You care about people with allergies – heck, you or a close friend/relative might be one of them – and each of those answer choices provides a reason to join the outcry here and think, “Screw you, Mylan!”

But, importantly for your chances of becoming a profit-maximizing CEO via a high GMAT score, you must note this: neither directly weakens the likelihood of Mylan “leveraging its patent to maximize shareholder value,” and that is the express goal of this strategy. As stated in the argument, that is the only goal being pursued here, so your answer must focus directly on that goal. And as horrible as it is to think that this might be the thought process in a corporate boardroom, choice C is the only one that suggests that this strategy might lead to lesser profits (first they buy the product less often, then they can’t buy it ever again; fewer units sold could equal lower profit).

The lesson here? Beware “plan/strategy” answer choices that allow you to tangentially address the situation in the argument, particularly when you know that you’re likely to have an opinion of some sort on the topic matter itself. Instead, completely digest the specifics of the stated goal, and make sure that the answer you choose is directly targeted at the objective. Way too often on these problems, students insert themselves in the larger topic and lose sight of the specific goal, falling victim to the readily available trap answers.

So give your GMAT score a much-needed shot of Critical Reasoning epinephrine – focus on the specifics of the plan, and save your tangential angst for the social media where it belongs.

By Brian Galvin.

# How to Improve Your GMAT Verbal Score

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dedicate More Time to Outside Reading

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

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

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Attacking Gerunds on the GMAT!

A few weeks back, we talked about participles and how they are used on the GMAT. In that post, we had promised to discuss gerunds more in depth at another time. So today, as promised, we’ll be looking at gerunds. Before we do that, however, let’s examine Verbals.

A Verbal is a verb that acts as a different part of speech – not as a verb.

There are three types of verbals:

• Infinitives – these take the form of “to + verb”
• Gerunds – these are the “-ing” form of the verb
• Participles – these can take the “-ing,” “-ed,” “-en” etc. forms

Gerunds end in “-ing” and act as nouns in the sentence. They can act as a subject, direct object, subject complement or object of a preposition. For example:

Running a marathon is very difficult. – Subject
I love swimming. – Direct object
The activity I enjoy the most is swimming. – Subject complement
She thanked me for helping her. – Object of a preposition

You don’t have to identify the part of speech the gerund represents in a sentence; you just need to identify whether a verb’s “-ing” form is being used as a gerund and evaluate whether it is being used correctly.

A sentence could also use a gerund phrase that begins with a gerund, such as, “Swimming in the morning is exhilarating.”

Let’s take a look at a couple of official questions now:

A recent study has found that within the past few years, many doctors had elected early retirement rather than face the threats of lawsuits and the rising costs of malpractice insurance.

(A) had elected early retirement rather than face
(C) have elected retiring early instead of facing
(D) have elected to retire early rather than facing
(E) have elected to retire early rather than face

Upon reading the original sentence, we see that there is a gerund phrase here – “rising costs of malpractice insurance” – which is parallel to the noun “threat of lawsuits.”

The two are logically parallel too, since there are two aspects that the doctors do not want to face: rising costs and the threat of lawsuits.

Note, however, that they are not logically parallel to “face.” Hence, the use of the form “facing” would not be correct, since it would put “facing” and “rising” in parallel. So answer choices B, C and D are incorrect.

Actually, “retire” and “face” are logically parallel so they should be grammatically parallel, too. Answer choice E has the two in parallel in infinitive form – to retire and (to is implied here) face are in parallel.

Obviously, there are other decision points to take note of here, mainly the question of “had elected” vs. “have elected.” The use of “had elected” will not be correct here, since we are not discussing two actions in the past occurring at different times. Therefore, the correct answer is E.

Take a look at one more:

In virtually all types of tissue in every animal species dioxin induces the production of enzymes that are the organism’s trying to metabolize, or render harmless, the chemical that is irritating it.

(A) trying to metabolize, or render harmless, the chemical that is irritating it
(B) trying that it metabolize, or render harmless, the chemical irritant
(C) attempt to try to metabolize, or render harmless, such a chemical irritant
(D) attempt to try and metabolize, or render harmless, the chemical irritating it
(E) attempt to metabolize, or render harmless, the chemical irritant

Notice the use of the gerund “trying” in answer choice A. “Organism’s” is in possessive form and acts as an adjective for the noun verbal “trying.” Usually, with possessives, a gerund does not work. We need to use a noun only. With this in mind, answer choices A and B will not work.

The other three options replace “trying” with “attempt” and hence correct this error, however options C and D use the redundant “attempt to try.” The use of “attempt” means “try,” so there is no need to use both. Option E corrects this problem, so it is our correct answer.

Unlike participles, which can be a bit confusing, gerunds are relatively easy to understand and use. Feeling more confident about them now?

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# GMAT Tip of the Week: The Overly Specific Question Stem

For most of our lives, we ask and answer relatively generic questions: “How’s it going?” “What are you up to this weekend?” “What time do the Cubs play tonight?”

And think about it, what if those questions were more specific: “Are you in a melancholy mood today?” “Are you and Josh going to dinner at Don Antonio’s tonight and ordering table-side guacamole?” “Do the Cubs play at 7:05 tonight on WGN?” If someone is asking those questions instead, you’re probably a bit suspicious. Why so specific? What’s your angle?

The same is true on the GMAT. Most of the question stems you see are relatively generic: “What is the value of x?” “Which of the following would most weaken the author’s argument?” So when the question stem get a little too specific, you should become a bit suspicious. What’s the test going for there? Why so specific?

The overly-specific Critical Reasoning question stem is a great example. Consider the problem:

Raisins are made by drying grapes in the sun. Although some of the sugar in the grapes is caramelized in the process, nothing is added.
Moreover, the only thing removed from the grapes is the water that evaporates during the drying, and water contains no calories or nutrients.
The fact that raisins contain more iron per food calorie than grapes do is thus puzzling.

Which one of the following, if true, most helps to explain why raisins contain more iron per calorie than do grapes?

(A) Since grapes are bigger than raisins, it takes several bunches of grapes to provide the same amount of iron as a handful of raisins does.
(B) Caramelized sugar cannot be digested, so its calories do not count toward the food calorie content of raisins.
(C) The body can absorb iron and other nutrients more quickly from grapes than from raisins because of the relatively high water content of grapes.
(D) Raisins, but not grapes, are available year-round, so many people get a greater share of their yearly iron intake from raisins than from grapes.
(E) Raisins are often eaten in combination with other iron-containing foods, while grapes are usually eaten by themselves.

Look at that question stem: a quick scan naturally shows you that you need to explain/resolve a paradox, but the question goes into even more detail for you. It reaffirms the exact nature of the paradox – it’s not about “iron,” but instead that that raisins contain more iron per calorie than grapes do. By adding that extra description into the question stem, the testmaker is practically yelling at you, “Make sure you consider calories…don’t just focus on iron!” And therefore, you should be prepared for the correct answer B, the only one that addresses calories, and deftly avoid answers A, C, D, and E, which all focus only on iron (and do so tangentially to the paradox).

Strategically speaking, if a Critical Reasoning question stem gets overly specific, you should pay particular attention to the specificity there…it’s most likely directing you to the operative portion of the argument.

Overly specific questions are most helpful in Data Sufficiency questions (and that same logic will help on Problem Solving too, as you’ll see). The testmaker knows that you’ve trained your entire algebraic life to solve for individual variables. So how can a question author use that lifetime of repetition against you? By asking you to solve for a specific combination that doesn’t require you to find the individual values. Consider this example, which appears courtesy the Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review:

If x^2 + y^2 = 29, what is the value of (x – y)^2?

(1) xy = 10
(2) x = 5

Two major clues should stand out to you that you need to Leverage Assets on this problem. For one, using both statements together (answer choice C) is dead easy. If xy = 10 and x = 5 then y = 2 and you can solve for any combination of x and y that anyone could ever ask for. But secondly and more subtly, the question stem should jump out as a classic way-too-specific, Leverage Assets question stem. They asked for a really, really specific value: (x – y)^2.

Now, immediately upon seeing that specificity you should be thinking, “That’s too specific…there’s probably a way to solve for that exact value without getting x and y individually.” That thought process alone tells you where to spend your time – you want to really leverage Statement 1 to try to make it work alone.

And if you’re still unconvinced, consider what the specificity does: the “squared” portion removes the question of negative vs. positive from the debate, removing one of the most common reasons that a seemingly-sufficient statement just won’t work. And, furthermore, the common quadratic (x – y)^2 shares an awful lot in common with the x^2 and y^2 elsewhere in the question stem. If you expand the parentheses, you have “What is x^2 – 2xy + y^2?” meaning that you’re already 2/3 of the way there (so to speak), since they’ve spotted you the sum x^2 + y^2.

The important strategy here is that the overly-specific question stem should scream “LEVERAGE ASSETS” and “You don’t need to solve for x and y…there’s probably a way to solve directly for that exact combination.” Since you know that you’re solving for the expanded x^2 – 2xy + y^2, and you already know that x^2 + y^2 = 29, you’re really solving for 29 – 2xy. Since you know from Statement 1 that xy = 20, then 29 – 2xy will be 29 – 2(10), which is 9.

Statement 1 alone is sufficient, even though you don’t know what x and y are individually. And one of the major signals that you should recognize to help you get there is the presence of an overly specific question stem.

So remember, in a world of generic questions, the oddly specific question should arouse a bit of suspicion: the interrogator is up to something! On the GMAT, you can use that to your advantage – an overly specific Critical Reasoning question usually tells you exactly which keywords are the most important, and an overly specific Data Sufficiency question stem begs for you to leverage assets and find a way to get the most out of each statement.

By Brian Galvin.

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Using Prepositional Phrases on the GMAT

In previous posts, we have already discussed participles as well as absolute phrases. Today, let’s take a look at another type of modifier – the prepositional phrase.

A prepositional phrase will begin with a preposition and end with a noun, pronoun, gerund, or clause – the “object” of the preposition. The object of the preposition might have one or more modifiers to describe it.

Here are some examples of prepositional phrases (with prepositions underlined):

• along the ten mile highway…
• with a cozy blanket…
• without worrying…

For example:

• The book under the table belongs to my mom. Here, the prepositional phrase acts as an adjective and tells us “which one” of the books belongs to my mom.
• We tried the double cheeseburger at the new burger joint. Here, the prepositional phrase acts as an adverb and tells us “where” we tried the cheeseburger.

Like other modifiers, a prepositional modifier should be placed as close as possible to the thing it is modifying.

Let’s take a look at a couple of official GMAT questions to see how understanding prepositional phrases can help us on this exam:

The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.

(A) The nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.
(B) To the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote two letters, being the only eyewitness accounts of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
(C) The only eyewitness account is in two letters by the nephew of Pliny the Elder writing to the historian Tacitus an account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.
(D) Writing the only eyewitness account, Pliny the Elder’s nephew accounted for the great eruption of Vesuvius in two letters to the historian Tacitus.
(E) In two letters to the historian Tacitus, the nephew of Pliny the Elder wrote the only eyewitness account of the great eruption of Vesuvius.

There are multiple prepositional phrases here:

• of the great eruption of Vesuvius (answers “Which eruption?”)
• in two letters (tells us “where” he wrote his account)
• to the historian Tacitus (answers “Which letters?”)

Therefore, the phrase “to the historian Tacitus” should be close to what it is describing, “letters,” which makes answer choices B and C incorrect.

Also, “in two letters to the historian Tacitus” should modify the verb “wrote.” In options A and D, “in two letters to the historian Tacitus” seems to be modifying “eruption,” which is incorrect. (There are other errors in answer choices B, C and D as well, but we will stick to the topic at hand.)

Option E corrects the prepositional phrase errors by putting the modifier close to the verb “wrote,” so therefore, E is our answer.

Let’s try one more:

Defense attorneys have occasionally argued that their clients’ misconduct stemmed from a reaction to something ingested, but in attributing criminal or delinquent behavior to some food allergy, the perpetrators are in effect told that they are not responsible for their actions.

(A) in attributing criminal or delinquent behavior to some food allergy
(B) if criminal or delinquent behavior is attributed to an allergy to some food
(C) in attributing behavior that is criminal or delinquent to an allergy to some food
(D) if some food allergy is attributed as the cause of criminal or delinquent behavior
(E) in attributing a food allergy as the cause of criminal or delinquent behavior

This sentence has two clauses:

Clause 1: Defense attorneys have occasionally argued that their clients’ misconduct stemmed from a reaction to something ingested,

Clause 2: in attributing criminal or delinquent behavior to some food allergy, the perpetrators are in effect told that they are not responsible for their actions.

These two clauses are joined by the conjunction “but,” and the underlined part is a prepositional phrase in the second clause.

Answer choices A, C and E imply that the perpetrators are attributing their own behaviors to food allergies. That is not correct – their defense attorneys are attributing their behavior to food allergies, and hence, all three of these options have modifier errors.

This leaves us with B and D. Answer choice D uses the phrase “attributed as,” which is grammatically incorrect – the correct usage should be “X is attributed to Y,” rather than “X attributed as Y.” Therefore, option B is our answer.

As you can see, the proper placement of prepositional phrases is instrumental in creating a sentence with a clear, logical meaning.  Since that type of clear, logical meaning is a primary emphasis of correct Sentence Correction answers, you should be prepared to look for prepositional phrases (here we go…) *on the GMAT*.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Some GMAT Questions Using the “Like” vs. “As” Concept

Today we will look at some official GMAT questions testing the “like” vs. “as” concept we discussed last week.

(Review last week’s post – if you haven’t read it already – before you read this one for greater insight on this concept.)

Take a look at the following GMAT Sentence Correction question:

As with those of humans, the DNA of grape plants contains sites where certain unique sequences of nucleotides are repeated over and over.

(A) As with those of humans, the DNA of grape plants contains sites where
(B) As human DNA, the DNA of grape plants contain sites in which
(C) As it is with human DNA, the DNA of grape plants, containing sites in which
(D) Like human, the DNA of grape plants contain sites where
(E) Like human DNA, the DNA of grape plants contains sites in which

Should we use “as” or “like”? Well, what are we comparing? We’re comparing the DNA of humans to the DNA of grape plants. Answer choice E compares these two properly – “Like human DNA, the DNA of grape plants…” DNA is singular, so it uses the singular verb “contains”.

All other options are incorrect. Answer choice A uses “those of” for DNA, but DNA is singular, so this cannot be right. B uses “as” to compare the two nouns, which is also incorrect. C is a sentence fragment without a main verb. And D compares “human” to “DNA”, which is not the “apples-to-apples” comparison we need to make this sentence correct. Therefore, our answer must be E.

Let’s try another one:

Like Auden, the language of James Merrill is chatty, arch, and conversational — given to complex syntactic flights as well as to prosaic free-verse strolls.

(A) Like Auden, the language of James Merrill
(B) Like Auden, James Merrill’s language
(C) Like Auden’s, James Merrill’s language
(D) As with Auden, James Merrill’s language
(E) As is Auden’s the language of James Merrill

Here, we’re comparing Auden’s language to James Merrill’s language. Answer choice C correctly uses the possessive “Auden’s” to show that language is implied. “Like Auden’s language, James Merrill’s language …” contains both parallel structure and a correct comparison.

Answer choices A, B and D incorrectly compare “Auden” to “language,” rather than “Auden’s language” to “language,” so those options are out. The structure of answer choice E is not parallel – “Auden’s” vs. “the language of James Merrill”. Therefore, the answer must be C.

Let’s try something more difficult:

More than thirty years ago Dr. Barbara McClintock, the Nobel Prize winner, reported that genes can “jump,” as pearls moving mysteriously from one necklace to another.

(A) as pearls moving mysteriously from one necklace to another
(B) like pearls moving mysteriously from one necklace to another
(C) as pearls do that move mysteriously from one necklace to others
(D) like pearls do that move mysteriously from one necklace to others
(E) as do pearls that move mysteriously from one necklace to some other one

This is a tricky question – it’s perfect for us to re-iterate how important it is to focus on the meaning of the given sentence. Do not try to follow grammar rules blindly on the GMAT!

Is the comparison between “genes jumping” and “pearls moving”? Do pearls really move mysteriously from one necklace to another? No! This is a hypothetical situation, so we must use “like” – genes are like pearls. Answer choices B and D are the only ones that use “like,” so we can eliminate our other options. D uses a clause with “like,” which is incorrect. In answer choice B, “moving from …” is a modifier – “moving” doesn’t act as a verb here, so it doesn’t need a clause. Hence, answer choice B is correct.

Here’s another one:

According to a recent poll, owning and living in a freestanding house on its own land is still a goal of a majority of young adults, like that of earlier generations.

(A) like that of earlier generations
(B) as that for earlier generations
(C) just as earlier generations did
(D) as have earlier generations
(E) as it was of earlier generations

Note the parallel structure of the comparison in answer choice E – “Owning … a house… is still a goal of young adults, as it was of earlier generations.” It correctly uses “as” with a clause.

Answer choice A uses “that” but its antecedent is not very clear; there are other nouns between “goal” and “like,” and hence, confusion arises. None of the other answer choices give us a clear, parallel comparison, so our answer is E.

Alright, last one:

In Hungary, as in much of Eastern Europe, an overwhelming proportion of women work, many of which are in middle management and light industry.

(A) as in much of Eastern Europe, an overwhelming proportion of women work, many of which are in
(B) as with much of Eastern Europe, an overwhelming proportion of women works, many in
(C) as in much of Eastern Europe, an overwhelming proportion of women work, many of them in.
(D) like much of Eastern Europe, an overwhelming proportion of women works, and many are.
(E) like much of Eastern Europe, an overwhelming proportion of women work, many are in.

Another tricky question. The comparison here is between “what happens in Hungary” and “what happens in much of Eastern Europe,” not between “Hungary” and “much of Eastern Europe.” A different sentence structure would be required to compare “Hungary” to “much of Eastern Europe” such as “Hungary, like much of Eastern Europe, has an overwhelming …”

With prepositional phrases, as with clauses, “as” is used. So, we have two relevant options – A and C. Answer choice A uses “which” for “women,” and hence, is incorrect. Therefore, our answer is C.

Here are some takeaways to keep in mind:

• You should be comparing “apples” to “apples”.
• Parallel structure is important.
• Use “as” with prepositional phrases.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Using “Like” vs. “As” on the GMAT Verbal Section

If you have seen the Veritas Prep curriculum, then you know we frequently highlight the strategy of “Think like the Testmaker” to answer GMAT questions. Recently, we had a student question the grammatical validity of this construct – this brought the “like” vs. “as” debate to mind, so we decided to tackle it this week.

When should you use “like” and when should you use “as” in a sentence?

Both words can be used in comparisons, however the structure of the sentence will be different in the two cases. This is because traditionally, “like” is a preposition and “as” is a conjunction – a preposition takes the form of an object while a conjunction takes the form of a clause. Therefore:

Using “like,” we compare nouns/pronouns (including gerunds). Usually, a single verb will be used.

Using “as,” we compare actual actions. There will be two verbs used when we compare using “as.”

So, this is how we are going to compare “like” and “as”:

• He runs like a madman. – A single verb, “runs.”
• He runs as a madman does. – Two verbs, “runs” and “does” (which is equivalent to “does run”).

In the same way, both of the following sentences are correct:

• Think like the Testmaker.
• Think as the Testmaker does.

But beware – “as” used with a noun or pronoun alone does not mean that this usage is incorrect. “As” can also be used to show a role or capacity. For example, in the sentence, “She works as a consultant,” the word “as” means that she works in the capacity of a consultant. There is no comparison here, but the sentence is still grammatically correct.

Also, we usually use “like” in the case of hypothetical comparisons. Take, for instance, the sentence, “She screams like a banshee.” Here, it would be odd to say, “She screams as a banshee does,” because we don’t really know how a banshee screams.

Let’s look at a few GMAT Sentence Correction questions now:

Like many self-taught artists, Perle Hessing did not begin to paint until she was well into middle age.

(A) Like
(B) As have
(C) Just as with
(D) Just like
(E) As did

In this sentence, the word “like” is correctly comparing “Perle Hessing” to “many self taught artists.” There is no clause after “like” and we are using a single verb. Hence, the use of “like” is correct and our answer is A.

Not too bad, right? Let’s try another question:

Based on recent box office receipts, the public’s appetite for documentary films, like nonfiction books, seems to be on the rise.

(A) like nonfiction books
(B) as nonfiction books
(C) as its interest in nonfiction books
(D) like their interest in nonfiction books
(E) like its interest in nonfiction books

This sentence also has a comparison, and it is between “appetite” and “interest” and how they are both are on a rise. Answer choice E compares “appetite” to “interest” using “like” as a single verb. None of the answer choices have “as” with a clause so the answer must be E.

These were two simple examples of “like” vs. “as.” Now let’s look at a higher-level GMAT question:

During an ice age, the buildup of ice at the poles and the drop in water levels near the equator speed up the Earth’s rotation, like a spinning figure skater whose speed increases when her arms are drawn in

(A) like a spinning figure skater whose speed increases when her arms are drawn in
(B) like the increased speed of a figure skater when her arms are drawn in
(C) like a figure skater who increases speed while spinning with her arms drawn in
(D) just as a spinning figure skater who increases speed by drawing in her arms
(E) just as a spinning figure skater increases speed by drawing in her arms

There is a comparison here, but between which two things? Answer choice A seems to be comparing “Earth’s rotation” to “spinning figure skater,” but these two things are not comparable. Option E is the correct choice here – it compares “speed up Earth’s rotation” to “skater increases speed.” Therefore, our answer is E.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# How to Use Pronoun Substitution to Answer GMAT Sentence Correction Questions

It was around the time my daughter was born that my wife and I began to have pronoun fights. A certain amount of ambiguity is hard-wired into all language, so when you combine the complexity of English with a healthy dose of sleep deprivation, commands like “put it over there,” become intolerable. What is “it?” Where is “there?” (And why are we fighting over pronoun ambiguity when there’s a screaming child we’re not attending to?)

Lest you fear for the stability of our marriage, rest assured, dear reader, these fights were not hard to resolve – all we had to do was substitute the noun we intended the pronoun to refer to, and suddenly the intolerably vague directive became an unmistakable clear request. There’s a lesson here for the GMAT.

Because pronouns are so common, there’s no avoiding their usage on Sentence Correction questions, and the best way to avoid getting thrown off by them is to substitute in whatever noun or noun phrase these pronouns appear to be referring to. This has two benefits: first, we’ll be better able to assess whether the pronoun is used correctly, should it appear in the underlined portion of the sentence. And secondly, it will help us to understand the meaning of the sentence so that we can properly evaluate whether whatever we choose is, in fact, logical.

Take the following question, for example:

According to public health officials, in 1998 Massachusetts became the first state in which more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than under it.

(A) than
(B) than born
(C) than they were

Notice that this sentence ends with the pronoun “it.” Because the “it” is not part of the underlined portion of the sentence, test-takers will often pay the word scant attention. This is certainly true of many students who have brought this sentence to my attention. Pretty much all of them selected B as the correct answer and were astonished to learn they were wrong.

So, let’s look at the relevant clause with answer choice B: more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than born under it. This sounded fine to the students’ ears. When I asked them what “it” referred to, however, they quickly recognized that “it” refers to the preceding noun phrase “the age of thirty.” I then asked them to reread the clause, but this time, to substitute the referent in place of the pronoun. The phrase read as follows: more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than born under [the age of thirty.]

The problem was immediately apparent. This clause compares babies born to women over the age of thirty to babies born under the age of thirty! Hopefully, it goes without saying that the writer did not intend to persuade the reader that some population of babies were under the age of 30 when they were born.

Clearly, B is incorrect. Once we substitute the referent for the pronoun, we can quickly see that only answer choice, A, makes any logical sense: more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than under the [age of thirty.]  We’re simply comparing the number of babies born to women in two different age groups. Not only is A the shortest and cleanest answer choice, it’s also the most coherent option. So, we have our answer.

Let’s try another one:

In 1979 lack of rain reduced India’s rice production to about 41 million tons, nearly 25 percent less than those of the 1978 harvest

(A) less than those of the 1978 harvest
(B) less than the 1978 harvest
(C) less than 1978
(D) fewer than 1978
(E) fewer than that of India’s 1978 harvest

Notice the “those” in the underlined portion. What is “those” referring to? It must be referring to some plural antecedent, so our only real option is “tons.” Let’s take a look at the sentence with “tons” in place of “those.”

In 1979 lack of rain reduced India’s rice production to about 41 million tons, nearly 25 percent less than [the tons] of the 1978 harvest.

Do we want to compare the rice production in 1979 to the “tons” in 1978? Of course not. We want to compare one year’s production to another year’s production, or one harvest to another.

C and D both compare one year’s production to a year, rather than to the production of another year, so those are both wrong.

E gives us another pronoun – this time we have “that,” which must have a singular antecedent. It seems to refer to “rice production,” so let’s make that substitution.

In 1979 lack of rain reduced India’s rice production to about 41 million tons, nearly 25 percent fewer than [the rice production] of India’s 1978 harvest.

Well, this makes no sense – we use “fewer” to compare countable items, so we certainly wouldn’t say that one year’s production is “fewer” than another year’s production. So, E is also out.

This leaves us with answer choice B, which logically compares one year’s harvest to another year’s harvest.

Takeaway: Anytime you see a pronoun in a Sentence Correction sentence, always substitute the referent in place of the pronoun. This practice will clarify the meaning of the sentence and prevent the kind of ambiguity that leads to both incorrect answers and marital discord.

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

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Are Official Answers Debatable on the GMAT?

Let’s begin with the bottom line: no, they are not. If you are thinking along the lines of, “This official answer cannot be correct! How can the answer be A? It must be C, or C is at least just as valid as A,” then you are wasting your time. The answer given is never debatable. What you should be thinking instead is, “The answer given is A, but  I thought it was C. I must find out where I made a mistake.”

The point is that since you are going to take GMAT, you must learn to think like the GMAT testmakers. The answers they give for these questions are the correct answers, so need to accept that – this way, the next step of figuring out the gap in your understanding will be far easier. Today, let’s take a look at an official question that is often debated:

The average hourly wage of television assemblers in Vernland has long been significantly lower than that in neighboring Borodia. Since Borodia dropped all tariffs on Vernlandian televisions three years ago, the number of televisions sold annually in Borodia has not changed. However, recent statistics show a drop in the number of television assemblers in Borodia. Therefore, updated trade statistics will probably indicate that the number of televisions Borodia imports annually from Vernland has increased.

Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?

(A) The number of television assemblers in Vernland has increased by at least as much as the number of television assemblers in Borodia has decreased.
(B) Televisions assembled in Vernland have features that televisions assembled in Borodia do not have.
(C) The average number of hours it takes a Borodian television assembler to assemble a television has not decreased significantly during the past three years.
(D) The number of televisions assembled annually in Vernland has increased significantly during the past three years.
(E) The difference between the hourly wage of television assemblers in Vernland and the hourly wage of television assemblers in Borodia is likely to decrease in the next few years.

First, let’s look at the premises of the argument:

• The hourly wage of assemblers in Vernland is much lower than that in Borodia.
• 3 years ago, Borodia dropped all tariffs on TVs imported from Vernland.
• The number of TVs sold annually in Borodia is same.
• However, the number of assemblers in Borodia has decreased.

The conclusion is that the trade statistics will probably indicate that the number of televisions Borodia imports annually from Vernland has increased.

This conclusion might look logical, but it is full of assumptions.

Why does this conclusion seem so logical? Wages in Vernland are lower, so it would seem like TVs should be cheaper here. Borodia dropped all tariffs on imported TVs, which means there will be no artificial inflation of Vernland TV prices. Finally, the number of TVs sold in Borodia has not dropped, but number of assemblers in Borodia has dropped, which makes it look like fewer TVs are getting made in Borodia.

An onlooker might conclude that Borodia is importing more TVs from Vernland because they are cheaper, but here are some assumptions that come to mind:

• The cost of a TV in Vernland is lower because assembler’s wage is lower. What if the raw material cost is higher in Vernland? Or other costs are higher? The cost to produce a Vernland TV could actually be higher than the cost to produce a Borodia TV.
• Fewer TVs are getting made in Borodia, but that does not mean that Borodian assemblers have not become more productive. What if fewer assemblers are needed because they can actually complete the assembly process much faster? The number of TVs sold is the same, however, if each assembler is doing more work, fewer assemblers will be needed. In this case, the number of TVs made in Borodia might not have changed even though the number of producers dropped.

Coming to our question now: Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?

We are looking for an assumption, i.e. a NECESSARY premise. We have already identified some assumptions, so let’s see if any of the answer choices gives us one of those:

(A) The number of television assemblers in Vernland has increased by at least as much as the number of television assemblers in Borodia has decreased.

This is the most popular incorrect answer choice. Test takers keep trying to justify why it makes perfect sense, but actually, it is not required for the conclusion to hold true.

The logic of test takers that pick this answer choice is often on the lines of, “If the number of workers from Borodia decreased, in order for Borodia to show an increased number of imports from Vernland, Vernland must have increased their number of workers by at least as much as the number of workers that left Borodia.”

Note that although this may sound logical, it is not necessary to the argument. There are lots of possible situations where this may not be the case:

Perhaps number of TVs being manufactured in Vernland is the same and, hence, the number of assemblers is the same, too. It is possible that out of the fixed number of TVs manufactured, fewer are getting locally bought and more are getting exported to Borodia. So, it is not necessarily true that number of TV assemblers in Vernland has increased.

(B) Televisions assembled in Vernland have features that televisions assembled in Borodia do not have.

This is also not required for the conclusion to hold – the TVs could actually be exactly the same, but the TVs assembled in Vernland could still be cheaper than the TVs assembled in Borodia due to a potentially lower cost of assembly in Vernland.

(C) The average number of hours it takes a Borodian television assembler to assemble a television has not decreased significantly during the past three years.

This is one of the assumptions we discussed above – we are assuming that the reduction in the number of assemblers must not be due to an increase in the productivity of the assemblers because if the assemblers have got more productive, then the number of TVs produced could be the same and, hence, the number of TVs imported would not have increased.

(D) The number of televisions assembled annually in Vernland has increased significantly during the past three years.

This is not required for the conclusion to hold. Perhaps the number of TVs being sold in Vernland has actually reduced while more are getting exported to Borodia, so the overall number of TVs being made is the same.

(E) The difference between the hourly wage of television assemblers in Vernland and the hourly wage of television assemblers in Borodia is likely to decrease in the next few years.

This is also not required for the conclusion to hold. What happens to the hourly wages of assemblers in Vernland and Borodia in the future doesn’t concern this argument – we are only concerned about what has been happening in the last 3 years.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# What to Do When You Find a Weighted Average Question In the Verbal Section of the GMAT

Weighted averages show up everywhere on the GMAT. Most test-takers are prepared to see them on the Quantitative Section, but they’ll show up on the Integrated Reasoning and Verbal Sections, as well.  Because it is such an exam staple, we want to make sure that we have a thorough, intuitive understanding of the concept.

In class, I’ll typically start with a simple example. Say you have two solutions, A and B. A is 10% salt and B is 20% salt. If we combine these two solutions to get a composite solution that is 14% salt, do we have more A or B in this composite solution? Most students eventually see that we’ll have more of solution A, but it doesn’t always feel instinctive. If we had had equal quantities of both solutions, the combined solution would have been 15% salt – equidistant from 10% and 20%. So, if there is 14% salt, the average skews closer to A than B, and thus, there must be more of solution A.

I’ll then give another example. Say that there is an intergalactic party in which both humans and aliens are present. The humans, on average, are 6 feet tall. The aliens, on average, are 100 feet tall. If the average height at the party is 99 feet, who is dominating the party? It isn’t so hard to see that this party is packed with aliens and that the few humans present would likely spend the evening cowering in some distant corner of the room. The upshot is that it’s easier to feel the intuition behind a weighted average question when the numbers are extreme.

Take this tough Critical Reasoning argument for example:

To be considered for inclusion in the Barbizon Film Festival, a film must belong either to the category of drama or of comedy. Dramas always receive more submissions but have a lower acceptance rate than comedy. All of the films are either foreign or domestic. This year, the overall acceptance rate for domestic films was significantly higher than that for foreign films. Within each category, drama and comedy, however, the acceptance rate for domestic films was the same as that for foreign films.

From the cited facts it can be properly concluded that

(A) significantly fewer foreign films than domestic films were accepted.
(B) a higher proportion of the foreign than of the domestic films submitted were submitted as dramas.
(C) the rate of acceptance of foreign films submitted was the same for drama as it was for comedies.
(D) the majority of the domestic films submitted were submitted as comedies.
(E) the majority of the foreign films submitted were submitted as dramas.

Okay. We know that dramas had a lower acceptance rate than comedies, and we know that the overall acceptance rate for domestic films was significantly higher than the acceptance rate for foreign films. So, let’s assign some easy numbers to try and get a handle on this information:

Say that the acceptance rate for dramas was 1% and the acceptance rate for comedies was 99%.

We’ll also say that the acceptance rate for domestic films was 98% and the acceptance rate for foreign films was 2%.

The acceptance rate within both domestic and foreign films is a weighted average of comedies and dramas. If only dramas were submitted, clearly the acceptance rate would be 1%. If only comedies were submitted, the acceptance rate would be 99%. If equal amounts of both were submitted, the acceptance rate would be 50%.

What do our numbers tell us? Well, if the acceptance rate for domestic films was 98%, then almost all of these films must have been comedies, and if the acceptance rate for foreign films was 2%, then nearly all of these films must have been dramas. So, domestic films were weighted towards comedies and foreign films were weighted towards drama. (An unfair stereotype, perhaps, but this is GMAC’s question, not mine.)

We can see that answer choice A is out, as we only have information regarding rates of acceptance, not absolute numbers. C is also out, as it violates a crucial premise of the question stem – we know that the acceptance rate for dramas is lower than for comedies, irrespective of whether we’re talking about foreign or domestic films.

That leaves us with answer choices B, D and E. So now what?

Let’s pick another round of values, but see if we can invalidate two of the three remaining options.

What if the acceptance rate for domestic films was 3% and the acceptance rate for foreign films was still 2%? (We’ll keep the acceptance rate for dramas at 1% and the acceptance rate for comedies at 99%.) Now domestic films would be mostly dramas, so option D is out – the majority of domestic films would not be comedies, as this  answer choice states.

Similarly, what if the acceptance rate for domestic films was 98% and the rate for foreign films was 97%? Now the foreign films would be mostly comedies, so option E is also out – the majority of foreign films would not be dramas, as this answer choice states.

Because the acceptance rate is lower for dramas than it is for comedies, and foreign films have a lower acceptance rate than do domestic films, the foreign films must be weighted more heavily towards dramas than domestic films are. This analysis is perfectly captured in option B, which is, in fact, the correct answer.

Takeaway: certain concepts, such as weighted averages, are such exam staples that will appear in both Quant and Verbal questions. If you see one of these examples in the Verbal Section, assigning extreme values to the information you are given can help you get a handle on the underlying logic being tested.

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

# Help! 100% of the GMAT Sentence Correction Question is Underlined!

Imagine, you are plugging along in your Verbal Section on the GMAT, and then it pops up – the dreaded Sentence Correction question where every single word is underlined. The golden strategy for Sentence Correction is typically to evaluate decision points, as in determining what two or three spots in the sentence are evaluated in the answer choices. Consider a question where not all of the sentence is underlined:

A recent research study of worldwide cellular penetration finds that there are now one mobile phone for every two people, more than twice as many than there were in 2005.

(A) there are now one mobile phone for every two people, more than twice as many than there were
(B) there is now one mobile phone for every two people, more than twice as many than there were
(C) there is now one mobile phone for every two people, more than twice as many as there were
(D) every two people now have one mobile phone, more than twice as many than there were
(E) every two people now has one mobile phone, more than twice as many as there were

The first step we take is to cut away the junk, getting to the core of the Sentence Correction question – by ignoring “of worldwide cellular penetration,” we uncover that the subject of the sentence, “a study finds that,” makes it clear with the usage of “that” that the second portion of the sentence it set up to be a new clause with its own subject/verb relationship. This is the first decision point.

We should also know that there “is,” not “are,” one phone, which definitely puts answer choice A out of the running. Another decision point is our comparison phrase – it should be “twice as many as,” not “twice as many than,” which eliminates options B and D. Quickly, with these decision points, we are down to two remaining answers. E seems to inference that two people share one mobile phone (seems a little tough logistically, right?) aka, an illogical structure to the sentence. That leaves us with the correct answer, C.

Easy enough, right? But what do we do if everything is, indeed, underlined?

Our strategy is not going to be all that different, but instead, we will need to focus more on decision points from the answer choices and then use process of elimination when it is not entirely apparent what needs adjusting within the question sentence itself. Take a similar example (but one that is completely underlined):

Unlike cellular phones and personal computers, there is a difficulty on the part of many people to adapt to other modern technologies.

(A) Unlike cellular phones and personal computers, there is a difficulty on the part of many people to adapt to other modern technologies.
(B) Unlike cellular phones and personal computers, which many people are comfortable using, they have difficulty adapting to other modern technologies.
(C) Unlike cellular phones and personal computers, other modern technologies bring out a difficulty for many people to adapt to them.
(D) Many people, though comfortable using cellular phones and personal computers, have difficulty adapting to other modern technologies.
(E) Many people have a difficulty in adapting to other modern technologies, while they are comfortable using cellular phones and personal computers.

Looking at our answer choices, a clear decision point is “unlike” versus “many.” “Unlike” ends up comparing people to cellular phones and personal computers, and while Apple’s Siri can be pretty wise, there are (at least, for now) huge differences between people and those technologies. “Unlike” doesn’t work, and now we’ve have quickly narrowed it down to two answer choices: D and E. “Difficulty in adapting” gives us another decision choice in option E, leaving us with D as the correct answer.

When coming across completely underlined Sentence Correction questions, the first course of action is to not freak out. Stick with the strategy, and the correct answer will come easier than you think.

By Ashley Triscuit, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston.

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Why Critical Reasoning Needs Your Complete Attention on the GMAT!

Let’s look at a tricky and time consuming official Critical Reasoning question today. We will learn how to focus on the important aspects of the question and quickly evaluate our answer choices:

Tiger beetles are such fast runners that they can capture virtually any nonflying insect. However, when running toward an insect, a tiger beetle will intermittently stop and then, a moment later, resume its attack. Perhaps the beetles cannot maintain their pace and must pause for a moment’s rest; but an alternative hypothesis is that while running, tiger beetles are unable to adequately process the resulting rapidly changing visual information and so quickly go blind and stop.

Which of the following, if discovered in experiments using artificially moved prey insects, would support one of the two hypotheses and undermine the other?

(A) When a prey insect is moved directly toward a beetle that has been chasing it, the beetle immediately stops and runs away without its usual intermittent stopping.
(B) In pursuing a swerving insect, a beetle alters its course while running and its pauses become more frequent as the chase progresses.
(C) In pursuing a moving insect, a beetle usually responds immediately to changes in the insect’s direction, and it pauses equally frequently whether the chase is up or down an incline.
(D) If, when a beetle pauses, it has not gained on the insect it is pursuing, the beetle generally ends its pursuit.
(E) The faster a beetle pursues an insect fleeing directly away from it, the more frequently the beetle stops.

First, take a look at the argument:

• Tiger beetles are very fast runners.
• When running toward an insect, a tiger beetle will intermittently stop and then, a moment later, resume its attack.

There are two hypotheses presented for this behavior:

1. The beetles cannot maintain their pace and must pause for a moment’s rest.
2. While running, tiger beetles are unable to adequately process the resulting rapidly changing visual information and so quickly go blind and stop.

We need to support one of the two hypotheses and undermine the other. We don’t know which one will be supported and which will be undermined. How will we support/undermine a hypothesis?

The beetles cannot maintain their pace and must pause for a moment’s rest.

Support: Something that tells us that they do get tired. e.g. going uphill they pause more.

Undermine: Something that says that fatigue plays no role e.g. the frequency of pauses do not increase as the chase continues.

While running, tiger beetles are unable to adequately process the resulting rapidly changing visual information and so quickly go blind and stop.

Support: Something that says that they are not able to process changing visual information e.g. as speed increases, frequency of pauses increases.

Undermine: Something that says that they are able to process changing visual information e.g. it doesn’t pause on turns.

Now, we need to look at each answer choice to see which one supports one hypothesis and undermines the other. Focus on the impact each option has on our two hypotheses:

(A) When a prey insect is moved directly toward a beetle that has been chasing it, the beetle immediately stops and runs away without its usual intermittent stopping.

This undermines both hypotheses. If the beetle is able to run without stopping in some situations, it means that it is not a physical ailment that makes him take pauses. He is not trying to catch his breath – so to say – nor is he adjusting his field of vision.

(B) In pursuing a swerving insect, a beetle alters its course while running and its pauses become more frequent as the chase progresses.

If the beetle alters its course while running, it is obviously processing changing visual information and changing its course accordingly while running. This undermines the hypothesis “it cannot process rapidly changing visual information”. However, if the beetle pauses more frequently as the chase progresses, it is tiring out more and more due to the long chase and, hence, is taking more frequent breaks. This supports the hypothesis, “it cannot maintain its speed and pauses for rest”.

Answer choice B strengthens one hypothesis and undermines the other. This must be the answer, but let’s check our other options, just to be sure:

(C) In pursuing a moving insect, a beetle usually responds immediately to changes in the insect’s direction, and it pauses equally frequently whether the chase is up or down an incline.

This answer choice undermines both hypotheses. If the beetle responds immediately to changes in direction, it is able to process changing visual information. In addition, if the beetle takes similar pauses going up or down, it is not the effort of running that is making it take the pauses (otherwise, going up, it would have taken more pauses since it takes more effort going up).

(D) If, when a beetle pauses, it has not gained on the insect it is pursuing, the beetle generally ends its pursuit.

This answer choice might strengthen the hypothesis that the beetle is not able to respond to changing visual information since it decides whether it is giving up or not after pausing (in case there is a certain stance that tells us that it has paused), but it doesn’t actually undermine the hypothesis that the beetle pauses to rest. It is very possible that it pauses to rest, and at that time assesses the situation and decides whether it wants to continue the chase. Hence, this option doesn’t undermine either hypothesis and cannot be our answer.

(E) The faster a beetle pursues an insect fleeing directly away from it, the more frequently the beetle stops.

This answer choice strengthens both of the hypotheses. The faster the beetle runs, the more rest it would need, and the more rapidly visual information would change causing the beetle to pause. Because this option does not undermine either hypothesis, it also cannot be our answer.

Only answer choice B strengthens one hypothesis and undermines the other, therefore, our answer must be B.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# GMAT Tip of the Week: Death, Taxes, and the GMAT Items You Know For Certain

Here on April 15, it’s a good occasion to remember the Benjamin Franklin quote: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Franklin, of course, never took the GMAT (which didn’t become a thing until a little ways after his own death, which he accurately predicted above). But if he did, he’d have plenty to add to that quote.

On the GMAT, several things are certain. Here’s a list of items you will certainly see on the GMAT, as you attempt to raise your score and therefore your potential income, thereby raising your future tax bills in Franklin’s honor:

Integrated Reasoning
You will struggle with pacing on the Integrated Reasoning section. 12 prompts in 30 minutes (with multiple problems per prompt) is an extremely aggressive pace and very few people finish comfortably. Be willing to guess on a problem that you know could sap your time: not only will that help you finish the section and protect your score, it will also help save your stamina and energy for the all-important Quant Section to follow.

Word Problems
On the Quantitative Section, you will certainly see at least one Work/Rate problem, one Weighted Average problem, and one Min/Max problem. This is good news! Word problems reward repetition and preparation – if you’ve put in the work, there should be no surprises.

Level of Difficulty
If you’re scoring above average on either the Quant or Verbal sections, you will see at least one problem markedly below your ability level. Because each section contains several unscored, experimental problems, and those problems are delivered randomly, probability dictates that every 700+ scorer will see at least one problem designed for the 200-500 crowd (and probably more than that). Do not try to read in to your performance based on the difficulty level of any one problem! It’s easy to fear that such a problem was delivered to you because you’re struggling, but the much more logical explanation is that it was either random or difficult-but-sneakily-so, so stay confident and move on.

Data Sufficiency
You will see at least one Data Sufficiency problem that seems way too easy to be true. And it’s probably not true: make sure that you think critically any time the testmaker is directly baiting you into a particular answer.

Sentence Correction
You will have to pick an answer that you don’t like, that doesn’t catch the ear the way you’d write or say it. Make sure that you prioritize the major errors that you know you can routinely catch and correct, and not let the GMAT bait you into a decision you’re just not qualified to make.

You will see a passage that takes you a few re-reads to even get your mind to process it. Remember to be– get enough out of the passage to know where to look when they ask you a specific question, but don’t worry about becoming a subject-matter expert on the topic. GMAT passages are designed to be difficult to read (particularly toward the end of a long test), so know that your competitive advantage is that you’ll be more efficient than your competition.

Critical Reasoning
You will have the opportunity to make quick work of several Critical Reasoning problems if you notice the tiny that each argument provides, and if you’re able to notice the subtle-but-significant words that make conclusions extra specific (and therefore harder to prove).

Few things are certain in life, but as you approach the GMAT there are plenty of certainties that you can prepare for so that you eliminate surprises and proceed throughout your test day confidently. On this Tax Day, take inventory of the things you know to be certain about the GMAT so that your test day isn’t so taxing.

By Brian Galvin.

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Be Tolerant Towards Pronoun Ambiguity on the GMAT

We encounter many different types of pronoun errors on the GMAT Verbal Section. Some of the most common errors include:

Using a pronoun without an antecedent. For example, the sentence, “Although Jack is very rich, he makes poor use of it,” is incorrect because “it” has no antecedent. The antecedent should instead be “money” or “wealth.”

Error in matching the pronoun to its antecedent in number and gender. For example, the sentence, “Pack away the unused packets, and save it for the next game,” is incorrect because the antecedent of “it” is referring to “unused packets,” which is plural.

Using a nominative/objective case pronoun when the antecedent is possessive. For example, the sentence, “The client called the lawyer’s office, but he did not answer,” is incorrect because the antecedent of “he” should be referring to “lawyer,” but it appears only in the possessive case. Official GMAT questions will not give you this rule as the only decision point between two options.

But note that the rules governing pronoun ambiguity are not as strict as other rules! Pronoun ambiguity should be the last decision point for eliminating an option after we have taken care of SV agreements, tenses, modifiers, parallelism etc.

Every sentence that has two nouns before a pronoun does not fall under the “pronoun ambiguity error” category. If the pronoun agrees with two nouns in number and gender, and both nouns could be the antecedent of the pronoun, then there is a possibility of pronoun ambiguity. But in other cases, logic can dictate that only one of the nouns can really perform (or receive) an action, and so it is logically clear to which noun the pronoun refers.

For example, “Take the bag out of the car and get it fixed.”

What needs to get fixed? The bag or the car? Either is possible. Here we have a pronoun ambiguity, but it is highly unlikely you will see something like this on the GMAT.

A special mention should be made here about the role nouns play in the sentence. Often, a pronoun which acts as the subject of a clause refers to the noun which acts as a subject of the previous clause. In such sentences, you will often find that the antecedent is unambiguous. Similarly, if the pronoun acts as the direct object of a clause, it could refer to the direct object of the  previous clause. If the pronoun and its antecedent play parallel roles, a lot of clarity is added to the sentence. But it is not necessary that the pronoun and its antecedent will play parallel roles.

Let’s look at a different example, “The car needs to be taken out of the driveway and its brakes need to get fixed.”

Here, obviously the antecedent of “its” must be the car since only it has brakes, not the driveway. Besides, the car is the subject of the previous clause and “its” refers to the subject. Hence, this sentence would be acceptable.

A good rule of thumb would be to look at the options. If no options sort out the pronoun issue by replacing it with the relevant noun, just forget about pronoun ambiguity. If there are options that clarify the pronoun issue by replacing it with the relevant noun, consider all other grammatical issues first and then finally zero in on pronoun ambiguity.

Let’s take a quick look at some official GMAT questions involving pronouns now:

Congress is debating a bill requiring certain employers provide workers with unpaid leave so as to care for sick or newborn children.

(A) provide workers with unpaid leave so as to
(B) to provide workers with unpaid leave so as to
(C) provide workers with unpaid leave in order that they
(D) to provide workers with unpaid leave so that they can
(E) provide workers with unpaid leave and

The answer is (D). Why? The correct sentence would use “to provide” (not “provide”) and “so that” (not “so as to”), and should read, “Congress is debating a bill requiring certain employers to provide workers with unpaid leave so that they can care for sick or newborn children.” In this sentence, “they” logically refers to “workers.” Even though “they” could refer to employers, too, after you sort out the rest of the errors, you are left with (D) only, hence answer must be (D).

Let’s look at another question:

While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they are potentially devastating for homeowners, whose equity – in many cases representing a life’s savings – can plunge or even disappear.

(A) they are potentially devastating for homeowners, whose
(B) they can potentially devastate homeowners in that their
(C) for homeowners they are potentially devastating, because their
(D) for homeowners, it is potentially devastating in that their
(E) it can potentially devastate homeowners, whose

The correct answer is (A). The correct sentence should read, “While depressed property values can hurt some large investors, they are potentially devastating for homeowners, whose equity – in many cases representing a life’s savings – can plunge or even disappear.” The pronoun “they” logically refers to “depressed property values.” Both the pronoun and its antecedent serve as subjects in their respective clauses, so the pronoun antecedent is quite clear.

One more question:

Although Napoleon’s army entered Russia with far more supplies than they had in their previous campaigns, it had provisions for only twenty-four days.

(A) they had in their previous campaigns
(C) they had for any previous campaign
(D) in their previous campaigns
(E) for any previous campaign

The correct answer is (E). The correct sentence should read, “Although Napoleon’s army entered Russia with far more supplies than for any previous campaign, it had provisions for only twenty-four days.”

The pronoun “it” logically refers to “Napolean’s army” and not Russia. Both the pronoun and its antecedent serve as subjects in their respective clauses, so the pronoun antecedent is quite clear. Note that the pronoun and its antecedent are a part of the non-underlined portion of the sentence so we don’t need to worry about the usage here but it strengthens our understanding of pronoun ambiguity.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# Are There Set Rules for Answering GMAT Sentence Correction Questions?

The other day I was working with a tutoring student on Sentence Correction when she expressed some understandable frustration: when we did Quantitative questions together, she said, she felt like she could rely on ironclad rules that never varied (the rules for exponents don’t change depending on the context of the problem, for example), but when we did Sentence Correction, the relevant rules at play in a given question seemed less obvious.

Was there a way, she wondered, to view Sentence Correction with the same unwavering consistency with which we view Quantitative questions? While I understand her frustration, the answer is, alas, an unqualified “no.” English is far too complex for us to boil down Sentence Correction to a series of stimulus-response reflexes. Context and logic always matter.

To see why we can’t go on autopilot during Sentence Correction questions, consider the following problem:

Not only did the systematic clearing of forests in the United States create farmland (especially in the Northeast) and gave consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but it also caused erosion and very quickly deforested whole regions.

A) Not only did the systematic clearing of forests in the United States create farmland (especially in the Northeast) and gave consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but it also

B) Not only did the systematic clearing of forests in the United States create farmland (especially in the Northeast), which gave consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but also

C) The systematic clearing of forests in the United States, creating farmland (especially in the Northeast) and giving consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but also

D) The systematic clearing of forests in the United States created farmland (especially in the Northeast) and gave consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but it also

E) The systematic clearing of forests in the United States not only created farmland (especially in the Northeast), giving consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but it

If you fully absorbed the class discussion about the importance of parallel construction, you probably noticed an indelible parallel marker here: “not only.” Okay, you think. Any time I see not only x, I know but also y should show up later in the sentence.

This isn’t wrong, per se, but the construction “not only/but also” is only applicable in certain circumstances. So before we jump to the erroneous conclusion that this is the construction that is called for in this sentence, let’s examine its underlying logic in more detail.

Take the simple example, “On the way to work, I not only got stuck in traffic, but also….” Think about your expectations for what should come next in this sentence – getting stuck in traffic was the first unfortunate thing to happen to this hapless subject, and we’re expecting a second unfortunate event in the latter part of the sentence. Not only/but also is appropriate when we’re talking about similar things.

Now consider the construction. “On the way to work, I got stuck in traffic, but…” Now our expectations are markedly different – the second half of the sentence is going to contrast with the first. We’re expecting something different.

Let’s go back to our GMAT sentence. We’re comparing the consequences of the clearing of forests. First, the clearing “created farmland and gave consumers inexpensive houses” (good things). However, it also “caused erosion and deforested the region” (bad things). Because we’re comparing two very different consequences, the construction “not only/but also” – which is used to compare similar things – is inappropriate. Now we can safely eliminate answers A, B and E.

That leaves us with C and D. First, let’s examine C. Notice there’s a participial modifier in the middle of the sentence set off by commas, and a sentence should still be logical if we remove these modifiers. We would then be left with, “The systematic clearing of forests in the United States, but also caused erosion and very quickly deforested whole regions.” This clearly doesn’t work – the initial subject (the systematic clearing) has no verb, so C is wrong. This leaves us with answer choice D, which is the correct answer.

Takeaway: though noticing common constructions on Sentence Correction problems can be helpful, we can never go on autopilot. Ultimately, context, logic, and meaning will always come into play. Before you select any answer, always ask yourself if the sentence is logically coherent before you select it. If you want to ace the GMAT, turning off your brain is not an option.

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

# GMAT Tip of the Week: Verbal Is About The Beat, Not The Lyrics

On our final Friday of Hip Hop Month here in the “GMAT Tip of the Week” space, let’s take a moment to appreciate the unsung (or at least non-singing) heroes of hip hop. Did you like Snoop and Tupac in the early 90s, or Eminem in the late 90s? They spit the rhymes, but what you likely enjoy most through your Beats By Dre are Dr. Dre’s classic beats.

A fan of Jay-Z and Cam’ron in the early 2000s? There’s no H to the Izzo or Heart of the City without Kanye West’s beats behind them. More recently, Kane Beatz and DJ Khaled have been the masterminds behind those bangers that you know as Drake, Lil’ Wayne, or Nicki Minaj hits.

So, ok The Game without Kanye behind him, and 50 Cent would be in da club cleaning the bathrooms without that classic beat by Dre. But what does this have to do with your GMAT score?

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a GMAT examinee is to see the question for its subject matter (“it’s about crime rates” or “it’s about antihistamines”) and not for its structure (“it’s a wordplay difference” or “that’s classic generalization”). The subject matter is the lyrics that tend to get the glory, but the standardized-format structure is the beat. Even though you may find the lyrics “Go Shorty, it’s your birthday…” in your head, that’s not at all what you like about that song. It’s the epic beat. The same is true for GMAT verbal questions: what makes them tick, and what you should keep your focus on, is the structure behind that content.

Consider two examples, which may look entirely different but are actually the exact same question:

Example #1: The city of Goshorn has a substantial problem with its budgeting process for public works projects. Last year’s Sullivan Park expansion ran nearly 50% over budget, for example, and the city has gone from running an annual budget surplus for nearly two decades straight to now facing prohibitive budget deficits.

Which of the following, if true, most strengthens the argument that Goshorn has a substantial problem with its budgeting process?

(A) The Sullivan Park expansion project featured the smallest cost-above-budget percentage of all Goshorn’s public works projects.
(B) Goshorn’s budgeting process for public works has not been updated in nearly 20 years.
(C) A new hiking and jogging trail in Goshorn cost more than twice as much to construct as did a similar project completed just ten years earlier.
(D) Goshorn’s revenue from property taxes has decreased markedly since the height of the real estate boom five years earlier.
(E) The city of Goshorn does not receive any federal or state funding for its public works projects, although several nearby cities do.

————————————————————
Example #2: The introduction of a new drug into the marketplace should be contingent upon our having a good understanding of its social impact. However, the social impact of the newly marketed antihistamine is far from clear. It is obvious, then, that there should be a general reduction in the pace of bringing to the marketplace new drugs that are now being created.

Which one of the following, if true, most strengthens the argument?

(A) The social impact of the new antihistamine is much better understood than that of most new drugs being tested.
(B) The social impact of some of the new drugs being tested is poorly understood.
(C) The economic success of some drugs is inversely proportional to how well we understand their social impact.
(D) The new antihistamine is chemically similar to some of the new drugs being tested.
(E) The new antihistamine should be next on the market only if most new drugs being tested should be on the market also.

In each case, exactly one example is provided as evidence that there is an overall, general problem going on. In the first, that example is Sullivan Park, a project that ran over budget, leading to the conclusion that “the city has a substantial problem with its budgeting process.” In the second, exactly one new antihistamine is known to be poorly understood, leading to the conclusion that there should be a “general reduction” in the pace of bringing drugs to market (since, as the argument states, drugs should be well understood before they’re brought to the marketplace).

This is classic generalization, a common theme in Critical Reasoning problems. One example is given and a much broader conclusion is drawn, which is a flawed argument because you just don’t know whether that example is an outlier or the norm. In each of these two problems, your job is to strengthen the argument, so you want to employ the “Strengthen a Generalization Error” strategy – you want to find evidence in the answer choice that the single piece of evidence is indicative of the majority of data points.

With the first example, Answer Choice A does that by showing that Sullivan Park was actually the best-budgeted project (the smallest cost-above-budget percentage). If that poorly-budgeted project is the best, then all the other projects must be worse, and THEN you have a substantial problem overall. In the second example, again Choice A serves the exact same purpose: if the one antihistamine we know about is better understood than most, then most drugs are less-understood, meaning that the majority of drugs are poorly understood. And if that’s the case, then yes, we can draw that general conclusion.

The overall lesson?

GMAT verbal problems can be about anything under the sun: elections in fake countries, the heights of trees in the Galapagos, warranty claims on heavy duty trucks, the visibility of particles breaking off from comets…but that’s not what the test is about. Focus on the beats, and not the lyrics. And the common Critical Reasoning beats are:

1) Generalization
Like you saw here, if a general/universal conclusion is drawn from one data point, you want to either show that that data point is indicative of most/all (Strengthen) or that it’s an outlier (Weaken).

2) Correlation/Causation
Just because two things occur together (For example, “It’s dark so it must be nighttime.”) does not mean that one causes the other (What about an eclipse, or the fact that your hotel room has blackout shades?).

3) Clever Wordplay
This is the most common type of logical error in Critical Reasoning, in which one premise uses a (for example “arrests”) to the term that another premise and/or the conclusion uses (“crimes committed”). When you identify that those two things are close but not quite the same, then your job is clear: find an answer choice that links them together (in a Strengthen question) or one that shows that they’re clearly not the same thing (Weaken).

4) Statistics and Data Flaws
When statistics are used in Critical Reasoning problems, look to make sure that the proper type of statistic is used (does an absolute number make sense, or should it be a percentage?) and that the statistic to the conclusion (much like the “Clever Wordplay” strategy).

Most importantly, recognize that the content of these problems is more or less a necessary evil: the problems have to be about something, but that’s not what they’re really testing. They’re testing your understanding of the underlying logic and structure. So in honor of all the great DJs that have gotten your shoulders shaking and toes tapping over the years, remember that to beat the GMAT, you’ll have to do it with the beats.

By Brian Galvin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By.

# GMAT Tip of the Week: Verbal Answers Are Like Donald Trump

In the winter/spring of 2016, Donald Trump is everywhere – always on your TV screen, all over your social media feeds, on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and, yes, even lurking in the answer choices on your GMAT verbal section.

Why are verbal answer choices like Donald Trump? Is it that they’re only correct 20% of the time? That they’re very often a lot of boastful verbiage about nothing? Hackneyed comedy aside, there’s a very valid reason and it’s one that Ted Cruz and learned just last night:

Verbal choices, like Donald Trump, simply MUST be attacked. If you saw last night’s debate (or read any coverage of it) you saw how the two closest challengers changed tactics immensely, verbally attacking Trump all night. The rationale there is that if you let Trump go unchecked, he’s going to attack you and he’s going to get away with his own stump speeches all night. The exact same thing is true of GMAT verbal answer choices. If you don’t attack them – if you’re not actively looking for reasons that they’re wrong – they’ll both beat you tactically and wear you down over the test. You simply must be in attack mode throughout the verbal section.

Consider the example:

If Shero wins the election, McGuinness will be appointed head of the planning commission. But Stauning is more qualified to head it since he is an architect who has been on the planning commission for 15 years. Unless the polls are grossly inaccurate, Shero will win.

Which one of the following can be properly inferred from the information above?

(A) If the polls are grossly inaccurate, someone more qualified than McGuinness will be appointed head of the planning commission.
(B) McGuinness will be appointed head of the planning commission only if the polls are a good indication of how the election will turn out.
(C) Either Shero will win the election or Stauning will be appointed head of the planning commission.
(D) McGuinness is not an architect and has not been on the planning commission for 15 years or more.
(E) If the polls are a good indication of how the election will turn out, someone less qualified than Stauning will be appointed head of the planning commission.

Here there’s a lot to like about a lot of answer choices:

A seems plausible. We know that McGuinness isn’t the most qualified, so there’s a high likelihood that a different candidate could find someone better (maybe even Stauning). B also has a lot to like (and it’s actually ALMOST perfect as we’ll discuss in a second). And so on. But you need to attack these answers:

A is fatally flawed. You don’t know for certain that a different candidate would appoint anyone other than McGuinness, and you really only know that one person is more qualified (and does he even want the job?). This cannot be concluded. B has that dangerous word “only” in it – remove it and the answer is correct, but “only if the polls are a good indication” is way too far to go. What if the polls are flawed and the underdog candidate just appoints McGuinness, too? The same logic invalidates C (there’s nothing guaranteeing that a different candidate wouldn’t pick McGuinness), and the word “and” makes D all the harder to prove (how do you know that McGuinness lacks both qualities?).

The lesson? Much like John Kasich may find on that same stage, the nicer and more accommodating you are, the more the GMAT walks over you. If you want to give each answer a fair chance, you’ll find that many answers have enough reason to be tempting. So follow the new GOP debate strategy and always be attacking. You didn’t sign up for the GMAT to make friends with answer choices; you signed up to “win.”

By Brian Galvin.

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Circular Reasoning in GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions

Consider this argument:

Anatomical bilateral symmetry is a common trait. It follows, therefore, that it confers survival advantages on organisms. After all, if bilateral symmetry did not confer such advantages, it would not be common.

What is the flaw here?

The argument restates rather than proves. The conclusion is a  premise, too – we start out by assuming that the conclusion is true and then state that the conclusion is true.

If A (bilateral symmetry) were not B (confer survival advantages), A (bilateral symmetry) would not be C (common).

A (bilateral symmetry) is C (common) so A (bilateral symmetry) is B (confer survival advantages).

Note that we did not try to prove that “A is C implies A is B”. We did not explain the connection between C and B. For our reasoning, all we said is that if A were not B, it would not be C, so we are starting out by taking the conclusion to be true.

This is called circular reasoning. It is a kind of logical fallacy – a flaw in the logic. You begin with what you are trying to prove, using your own conclusion as one of your premises.

Why is it good to understand circular reasoning for the GMAT? A critical reasoning question that asks you to mimic the reasoning argument could require you to identify such a flawed reasoning and find the argument that mimics it.

Continuing with the previous example:

Anatomical bilateral symmetry is a common trait. It follows, therefore, that it confers survival advantages on organisms. After all, if bilateral symmetry did not confer such advantages, it would not be common.

The pattern of reasoning in which one of the following arguments is most similar to that in the argument above?

(A) Since it is Sawyer who is negotiating for the city government, it must be true that the city takes the matter seriously. After all, if Sawyer had not been available, the city would have insisted that the negotiations be deferred.
(B) Clearly, no candidate is better qualified for the job than Trumbull. In fact, even to suggest that there might be a more highly qualified candidate seems absurd to those who have seen Trumbull at work.
(C) If Powell lacked superior negotiating skills, she would not have been appointed arbitrator in this case. As everyone knows, she is the appointed arbitrator, so her negotiating skills are, detractors notwithstanding, bound to be superior.
(D) Since Varga was away on vacation at the time, it must have been Rivers who conducted the secret negotiations. Any other scenario makes little sense, for Rivers never does the negotiating unless Varga is unavailable.
(E) If Wong is appointed arbitrator, a decision will be reached promptly. Since it would be absurd to appoint anyone other than Wong as arbitrator, a prompt decision can reasonably be expected.

We’ve established that the above pattern of reasoning has a circular reasoning flaw. Let’s consider each answer option to find the one which has similarly flawed reasoning.

(A) Since it is Sawyer who is negotiating for the city government, it must be true that the city takes the matter seriously. After all, if Sawyer had not been available, the city would have insisted that the negotiations be deferred.

Here is the structure of this argument:

If A (Sawyer) were not B (available), C (the city) would have D (insisted on deferring).

Since A (Sawyer) is B (available to the city), C (the city) does E (takes matter seriously).

Obviously, this argument structure is not the same as in the original argument.

(B) Clearly, no candidate is better qualified for the job than Trumbull. In fact, even to suggest that there might be a more highly qualified candidate seems absurd to those who have seen Trumbull at work.

Here is the structure of this argument:

A (people who have seen Trumbull at work) find B (Trumbull is not the best) absurd, therefore B (Trumbull is not the best) is false.

This is not circular reasoning. We have not assumed that B is false in our premises, we are simply saying that people think B is absurd. This is flawed logic too, but it is not circular reasoning.

(C) If Powell lacked superior negotiating skills, she would not have been appointed arbitrator in this case. As everyone knows, she is the appointed arbitrator, so her negotiating skills are, detractors notwithstanding, bound to be superior.

Here is the structure of this argument:

If A (Powell) were not B (had superior negotiating skills), A (Powell) would not have been C (appointed arbitrator).

A (Powell) is C (appointed arbitrator), therefore A (Powell) is B (had superior negotiating skills).

Note that the structure of the argument matches the structure of our original argument – this is circular reasoning, too. We are saying that if A were not B, A would not be C and concluding that since A is C, A is B. The conclusion is already taken to be true in the initial argument, so we can see it is is also an example of circular reasoning.

Hence (C) is the correct answer. Nevertheless, let’s look at the other two options and why they don’t work:

(D) Since Varga was away on vacation at the time, it must have been Rivers who conducted the secret negotiations. Any other scenario makes little sense, for Rivers never does the negotiating unless Varga is unavailable.

Here is the structure of this argument:

If A (Varga) is B (available), C (Rivers) does not do D (negotiate).

A (Varga) was not B (available), so C (Rivers) did D (negotiate).

This logic is flawed – the premise tells us what happens when A is B, however it does not tell us what happens when A is not B. We cannot conclude anything about what happens when A is not B. And because this is not circular reasoning, it cannot be the answer.

(E) If Wong is appointed arbitrator, a decision will be reached promptly. Since it would be absurd to appoint anyone other than Wong as arbitrator, a prompt decision can reasonably be expected.

Here is the structure of this argument:

If A (Wong) is B (appointed arbitrator), C (a decision) will be D (reached promptly).

A (Wong) not being B (appointed arbitrator) would be absurd, so C (a decision) will be D (reached promptly).

Again, this argument uses brute force, but it is not circular reasoning. “A not being B would be absurd” is not a convincing reason, so the argument is not strong as it is, but in any case, we don’t have to worry about it since it doesn’t use circular reasoning.

Take a look at this question for practice:

Dr. A: The new influenza vaccine is useless at best and possibly dangerous. I would never use it on a patient.
Dr. B: But three studies published in the Journal of Medical Associates have rated that vaccine as unusually effective.
Dr. A: The studies must have been faulty because the vaccine is worthless.

In which of the following is the reasoning most similar to that of Dr. A?

(A) Three of my patients have been harmed by that vaccine during the past three weeks, so the vaccine is unsafe.
(B) Jerrold Jersey recommends this milk, and I don’t trust Jerrold Jersey, so I won’t buy this milk.
(C) Wingz tennis balls perform best because they are far more effective than any other tennis balls.
(D) I’m buying Vim Vitamins. Doctors recommend them more often than they recommend any other vitamins, so Vim Vitamins must be good.
(E) Since University of Muldoon graduates score about 20 percent higher than average on the GMAT, Sheila Lee, a University of Muldoon graduate, will score about 20 percent higher than average when she takes the GMAT.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# GMAT Tip of the Week: Stay In Your Lane (In The Snow And On Sentence Correction)

As the east coast braces for a historic winter storm (and Weezer fans can’t get out of their heads), there’s a lesson that needs to be taught from Hanover to Cambridge to Manhattan to Philadelphia to Charlottesville.

When driving in the snow:

• Don’t brake until you have to.
• Don’t make sudden turns or lane changes, and only turn if you have to.
• Stay calm and leave yourself space and time to make decisions.

And those same lessons apply to GMAT Sentence Correction. Approach these questions like you would approach driving in a blizzard, and you may very well earn that opportunity to drive through blustery New England storms as you pursue your MBA. What does that mean?

Just as quick, sudden jerks of the steering wheel will doom you on snowy/icy roads, sudden and unexpected decisions on GMAT Sentence Correction will get you in trouble. Your “lane” consists of the decisions that you’ve studied and practiced and can calmly execute: Modifiers, Verbs (tense and agreement), Pronouns, Comparisons, Parallelism in a Series, etc. It’s when you get out of that lane that you’re prone to skidding well off track. For example, on this problem (courtesy the Official Guide for GMAT Review):

While Jackie Robinson was a Brooklyn Dodger, his courage in the face of physical threats and verbal attacks was not unlike that of Rosa Parks, who refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

(A) not unlike that of Rosa Parks, who refused
(B) not unlike Rosa Parks, who refused
(C) like Rosa Parks and her refusal
(D) like that of Rosa Parks for refusing
(E) as that of Rosa Parks, who refused

Your “lane” here is to check for Modifiers (Is “who refused” correct? Is it required?) and for logical, clear meaning (it is required, because otherwise you aren’t sure who refused to move to the back of the bus). But examinees are routinely baited into “jerking the wheel” and turning against the strange-but-correct structure of “not unlike.” When you’re taken off of your game, you often eliminate the correct answer (A) because you’re turning into a decision you’re just not great at making.

2) Don’t Turn or Brake Until You Have To
The GMAT does test Redundancy and Pronoun Reference (among other things), but those are error types that are dangerous to prioritize – much like it’s dangerous while driving in snow to decide quickly that you need to turn or hit the brakes. Too often, test-takers will slam on the Sentence Correction brakes at their first hint of, “That’s redundant!” (like they would for “not unlike” above) or “There are multiple nouns – that pronoun is unclear!” and steer away from that answer choice.

The problem, as you saw above, is that often this means you’re turning away from the proper path. “Not unlike” may scream “double-negative” or “redundant” to many, but it’s a perfectly valid way to express the idea that the two things aren’t close to identical, but they’re not as different as you might think. And you don’t need to know THAT, as much as you need to know that you shouldn’t ever make redundancy your first decision, because if you’re like most examinees you’re probably not that great at you…AND you don’t have to be, because the path toward your strengths will get you to your destination.

Similarly, this week the Veritas Prep Homework Help service got into an interesting email thread about why this sentence:

Based on his experience in law school, John recommended that his friend take the GMAT instead of the LSAT.

has a pronoun reference error, but this sentence:

Mothers expect unconditional love from their children, and they are rarely disappointed.

does not. And while there likely exists a technical, grammatical reason why, the GMAT reason really comes down to this: Does the problem make you address the pronoun reference? If not, don’t worry about it. In other words, don’t brake or turn until you have to. If you look at those sentences in GMAT problem form, you might have:

Based on his experience in law school, John recommended that his friend take the GMAT instead of the LSAT.

(A) Based on his experience in law school, John

(B) Having had a disappointing experience in law school, John

(C) Given his experience in law school, John

Here, the question forces you to deal with the pronoun problem. The major differences between the choices are that A and C involve a pronoun, and B doesn’t. Here, you have to deal with that issue. But for the other sentence, you might see:

Mothers expect unconditional love from their children, and they are rarely disappointed.

(A) Mothers expect unconditional love from their children, and they are

(B) The average mother expects unconditional love from their children, and are

(C) The average mother expects unconditional love from their children, and they are

(D) Mothers, expecting unconditional love from their children, they are

Here, the only choice that doesn’t include the pronoun “they” is choice B, but that choice commits a glaring pronoun (and verb) agreement error (“the average mother” is singular, but “their children” is plural…and the verb “are” is, too). So you don’t need to worry about the “they” (which clearly refers to “mothers” and not “children,” even though there happen to be two plural nouns in the sentence).

Grammatically, the presence of multiple nouns doesn’t alone make the pronoun itself ambiguous, but strategically for the GMAT, what you really need to know is that you don’t have to hit the brakes at the first sign of “unclear reference.” Wait and see if the answer choices give you a chance to address that, and if they do, then make sure that those choices are free of other, more binary errors first. Don’t turn or brake unless you have to.

3) Stay calm and leave yourself space to make decisions.
Just like a driver in the snow, as a GMAT test-taker you’ll be nervous and antsy. But don’t let that force you into rash decisions! Assess the answer choices before you try to determine whether something outside your 100% confidence interval is right or wrong in the original. You don’t need to make a decision on Choice A right away, just like you don’t need to change lanes simply for the sake of doing so. Have a plan and stick to it, both on the GMAT and on those snowy roads this weekend.

By Brian Galvin.

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Keeping an Open Mind in Critical Reasoning

Today we will discuss why it is important to keep an open mind while toiling away on your GMAT studying. Don’t go into test day with biases expecting that if a question tells us this, then it must ask that. GMAC testmakers are experts in surprising you and taking advantage of your preconceived notions, which is how they confuse you and convert a 600-level question to a 700-level one.

We have discussed necessary and sufficient conditions before; we have also discussed assumptions before. This question from our own curriculum is an innovative take on both of these concepts. Let’s take a look.

All of the athletes who will win a medal in competition have spent many hours training under an elite coach. Michael is coached by one of the world’s elite coaches; therefore it follows logically that Michael will win a medal in competition.

The argument above logically depends on which of the following assumptions?

(A) Michael has not suffered any major injuries in the past year.

(B) Michael’s competitors did not spend as much time in training as Michael did.

(C) Michael’s coach trained him for many hours.

(D) Most of the time Michael spent in training was productive.

(E) Michael performs as well in competition as he does in training.

First we must break down the argument into premises and conclusions:

Premises:

• All of the athletes who will win a medal in competition have spent many hours training under an elite coach.
• Michael is coached by one of the world’s elite coaches.

Conclusion: Michael will win a medal in competition.

All of the athletes who will win a medal in competition have spent many hours training under an elite coach.

Are you wondering, “How does one know that all athletes who will win (in the future) would have spent many hours training under an elite coach?”

The answer to this is that it doesn’t matter how one knows – it is a premise and it has to be taken as the truth. How the truth was established is none of our business and that is that. If we try to snoop around too much, we will waste precious time. Also, what may seem improbable may have a perfectly rational explanation. Perhaps all athletes who are competing have spent many hours under an elite coach – we don’t know.

Basically, what this statement tells us is that spending many hours under an elite coach is a NECESSARY condition for winning. What you need to take away from this statement is that “many hours training under an elite coach” is a necessary condition to win a medal. Don’t worry about the rest.

Michael is coached by one of the world’s elite coaches.

It seems that Michael satisfies one necessary condition: he is coached by an elite coach.

Conclusion: Michael will win a medal in competition.

Now this looks like our standard “gap in logic”. To get this conclusion, the necessary condition has been taken to be sufficient. So if we are asked for the flaw in the argument, we know what to say.

Anyway, let’s check out the question (this is usually our first step):

The argument above logically depends on which of the following assumptions?

Note the question carefully – it is asking for an assumption, or a necessary premise for the conclusion to hold.

We know that “many hours training under an elite coach” is a necessary condition to win a medal. We also know that Michael has been trained by an elite coach. Note that we don’t know whether he has spent “many hours” under his elite coach. The necessary condition requires “many hours” under an elite coach.

If Michael has spent many hours under the elite coach then he satisfies the necessary condition to win a medal. It is still not sufficient for him to win the medal, but our question only asks for an assumption – a necessary premise for the conclusion to hold. It does not ask for the flaw in the logic.

Focus on what you are asked and look at answer choice (C):

(C) Michael’s coach trained him for many hours.

This is a necessary condition for Michael to win a medal. Hence, it is an assumption and therefore, (C) is the correct answer.

Don’t worry that the argument is flawed. There could be another question on this argument which asks you to find the flaw in it, however this particular question asks you for the assumption and nothing more.